Is The Fate of Small Business in the Hands of Suppliers?

How Can We Save Small Businesses?

Did you know… in 2017, 5,855 High Street shops closed for business? (Source: The Guardian) The internet has changed our lives for good, bringing benefits and drawbacks to us all. One drawback is the loss of livelihood for the business owners and staff of retail outlets that simply couldn’t survive. If we are to save more small businesses from the same fate, something has to change.

Stock Management to Increase Sales

Years ago, I was a Content Writer for a small toy business. In the beginning we were a team of three, my list of responsibilities quickly grew. Ordering, Buying, Stock Control and more all became part of my job, I wrote about it here. Truthfully, I loved being responsible for the transformation in the business’s performance and I rapidly developed a bad case of ‘stock management OCD’, order what sells, stop ordering what doesn’t, experiment with new lines and make sure what people asked for was in stock. It’s that last bit that I want to talk about today.

Discounts for the ‘Big Boys’, Penalties for Small Businesses

I managed to significantly increase the margin, but some lines put a dent in it. Take for example the Rubik’s cube. Rubik’s Cube was available on Amazon for just less than the price the supplier charged us. In fact, walk round the corner to WH Smith and it was on sale for at least £4 less than our price. The suppliers penalise small businesses for buying in small quantities. We would need to make a loss if we were to be anywhere close to ‘competitive’. Our customers had a choice to either:

  • Pay more out of loyalty
  • Take their custom elsewhere

What would you do?

Rubik's Cube on stand Stock Control Small Business Support

Tricky to get it right but it can be done

Predictably, it became a viscious circle, the games we ordered in small quantities were priced too high (even when making little or no margin for the business) so sales were rare, people associate ‘small business’ with ‘expensive’.

Suppliers Could Support Small Businesses

We watched as toy shop after toy shop closed its doors, they simply couldn’t compete. Did suppliers do anything to help? No, they watched too. What could they have done? They could have levelled the playing field and sold to small businesses at an equally favourable rate. I know these businesses were never going to be able to buy in the same quantities as the supermarket giants but is it not a little short-sighted of them to stick rigidly to their policy of charging more for items ordered in low quantities? The result is they are not selling to those businesses in any quantities now, ‘lose-lose’. Come on suppliers, rather than forcing them out of business, do your bit to support small businesses, it’s a more sustainable solution for everyone.   

 

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Business – When is it Time to Pull the Plug?

When Should a Business Throw in the Towel?

In a departure from my usual posts, I wanted to talk about when (or if) it is time for a business to ‘throw in the towel’. In spite of the negative title, the post is aiming to be supportive, and positive, helping your business to be successful.

Small Business Support

I support small businesses, it is what I do, I strongly believe in their importance to the fabric of society as well as to the economy. We are all observing a dramatic shift in the retail sector as businesses small and large fall prey to the predator that is online shopping. In recent years I, like you, have watched businesses cease to trade, in some cases this was a ‘fait accompli’ resulting from a catalogue of mistakes, in other cases there were factors outside the owner’s control.

Recognise the Signs

Yesterday I was contacted by a local business owner to thank me for the support I had provided as a customer. I had gladly written reviews and provided social media content for the business owner to use. He worked long and hard to make his business a success, and it grew. What happened next was a classic cliché, his work life balance became unbalanced and the negative consequences began to appear. There simply were not enough hours in a day and every hour added to his working day was an hour he couldn’t spend with his young family. He realised the cost and took action, he has sold his business.

‘Get Real’

In the early stage of growth there is often a lag as costs rise but revenue falls behind. It’s a precarious position, I have heard of cases where business owners borrow money in the belief they will be in a position to repay it, only to find they hadn’t done the research or understood the figures, their ambitions were little more than pipe-dreams.

What Could Have Happened?

Crucially as a business grows, owners need to release themselves from the tasks that could (and should) be carried out by others. ‘Free up’ the time to run the business and steer it in the right direction and play to your strengths.

  1. Have a solid plan based on actual results and realistic projections, it is a safer foundation to build upon.
  2. Set regular time aside to get all the free advice and support you can via forums, websites, meetups and local business networks.
  3. Timing is everything, know the right moment to recruit help
  4. Employ people with the expertise your business needs and/or the expertise you lack.
  5. Consider apprenticeships, a cost-effective solution
  6. Consider sharing employees with other businesses
  7. Manage time effectively

What’s the Take-Home?

My take home message is, no business is worth the sacrifice of your health and well-being, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Do everything you can to run your business well, take all the support you are offered, beware of people who promise the earth and charge accordingly, mistakes are OK, but learn from them. If you have a quality offering that is in demand you have the fundamentals in place. It is now a case of getting all your ducks in a row ready to fly.  I wish you every success.

Ducks in a row Small Business Support

Get Your Ducks in a Row

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Link Building Like a Pro

Top Tips For Sustainable Link Building

Thankfully, gone are the days of creating spurious links from dubious directories in order to climb the Google charts. To reach page 1 of Google, you are competing in a field of millions. The take home message is, be good at what you do and offer a service or product that people want or need. I attended an excellent course in Cambridge last week organised by Optimisey, (slips in a well-earned and relevant link to Optimisey) I thought I would share some of the top tips provided by guest speaker Stacey MacNaught with you.

  1. Do not subscribe to free directories
  2. Write great features for reputable and relevant websites
  3. Make your product/service desirable
  4. Find out what relevant publications are going to focus on and offer useful/interesting/well-written articles at the right times for publication
  5. Research relevant keywords to work out what people are searching for
  6. Offer your suppliers a testimonial including a link to your site
  7. Keep it real/natural
Links in a chain Link building Business support for websites Cambridge

Photo by Kaley Dykstra on Unsplash

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Your Business From a New Perspective

Reinvigorate Your Business

We recently had a visit from a garden designer. From the moment I booked her I began to see my garden through a stranger’s eyes, it wasn’t a comfortable experience. In my defence, I am busy, but I must confess, since the moment I knew she was coming, the tidy up began. As I stood beside her discussing plans, the thought entered my head that inviting a fresh pair of eyes has caused me to look at my garden afresh. Imagine if businesses did the same.

Cast A Critical Eye

Remember Sir John Harvey Jones MBE? Imagine you have invited him in to act as ‘Troubleshooter’, as you prepare for his arrival, what do you see? This accountability and exposure certainly sharpens the senses. Suddenly you see the business from a new perspective. Issues you have accepted are no longer acceptable, problems on the back burner, flare up and add to the heat of the situation. You begin to find solutions. Why didn’t you do this when the problems first arose? Maybe it was easier to ‘let it ride’ thinking it could be dealt with when you had more time.

Critical eye on business Small Business Support Cambridge

Photo by Perchek Industrie on Unsplash

Speaking From Experience

I was invited in to a retail outlet by the owner of a small business to suggest and make changes. The changes were glaringly obvious to me, and to the owner as soon as I highlighted each one. Each change brought about an improvement in the business, so why hadn’t he done it before? He simply hadn’t stepped back and looked at his business with a critical eye, or invited anybody else to do it. We had a lot of fun doing it and the rewards were great.

How to Reinvigorate Your Business

  1. Choose an honest, straight talking person with appropriate knowledge / logical thinking
  2. Invite them to cast a critical eye, viewing things from the customers’ perspective.
  3. Be prepared to accept constructive criticism
  4. make changes, and track their effect on the business

More on ‘accountability’

Contact me here to chat more on this topic

 

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A Choice To Look

A Choice To Look, Life in Cambridge Revealed

‘A Choice to Look’ is a short film produced by Varsity’s Joe Cook and Abdullah Shah. This powerful film highlights issues faced by Cambridge residents brought about by the growing divide between ‘Town and Gown’. The effects are far more profound than mere lifestyle, there is a difference of 10 years in life expectancy between the rich and poor living in Cambridge. Residents and independent businesses cannot afford the high (and rising) rents demanded by the universities who own most of the land. The landscape is changing, and we can’t blame it all on Amazon.

Inequality of Opportunity

Waseem Yaqoob, Branch Secretary, Cambride University College Union Lecturer, describes May balls as ‘grotesque signifiers of the inequality of opportunity that exists in our society and in Cambridge’. He is right. The university is driving property prices higher than is achievable by all except the elite. While one in ten residents of Cambridge earn less than £150 per week, the average rent is £303 per week. Local food banks have seen a 50% increase in food given out since 2015.

It’s A Question of Choice

David Runciman, Head of Department of Politics and International Studies, refers to the ‘blind spots’ of things we don’t recognise and don’t see, admitting, ‘We are not as smart as we think we are’.  Julian Huppert, Director of Intellectual Forum at Jesus College, Cambridge tell us, ‘there are lots of things the university CAN do’. Yet thus far, in the main, they choose not to. Instead of focusing on developing relationships with huge organisations overseas purely for their own benefit, the universities could choose to look closer to home and improve the lives of those on their doorstep, in some cases, quite literally on their doorstep.

Homeless Person-black-and-white-Sleeping Rough

I’ll give the last word to Phil Allmendinger, ‘There has to be growth for everybody, not just for the university’.

 

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How To Make Your Pub Successful

How To Run A Successful Pub

The Bad news

Do you have a local? How is it doing? Chances are you may not know. As breweries squeeze tenants making it more difficult to survive, and lifestyles change, public houses are finding it increasingly difficult to survive. According to the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), the number of pubs in the UK has decreased by 17% since 2000. 10,500 pubs have closed their doors. CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) announced that during the second half of 2017, 18 pubs closed each a week in the UK.

Not This Pub

On Friday, my husband arrived home early and took me out for lunch, nice huh. We  had heard good things about, The Green Man, Thriplow …Let me tell you about this pub.

The Green Man Thriplow Community Owned Pub

A place for the community, by the community

The sun was blazing, the staff were smiling, and the pub was packed. We bagged a table outside with a parasol for shelter from the ‘hellish rays’.  then I noticed these…

Pile of sombreros for pub customers to use

Some sombreros, shelter from the sun

As we wandered into the bar, I noticed these…

Basket of blankets for customer use Customer service excellence Business Support

Basket of blankets, help yourself

The friendly and cheerful staff behind the bar chatted with us as they poured our drinks and handed us the menu, then I noticed this…

A ‘Community Owned Freehouse’

The Good News

Do you support your local?  How about if you had a stake in it? The community surrounding this amazing pub got together and made a decision that closure was not going to be its fate, in 2012, they bought it. It gets better… Not only do they ensure the comfort of their guests (why would they then want to leave?), this pub is dog friendly, is in a beautiful village location, and, wait for it, it has a Land Rover available should you need a lift home at the end of the night.

Customer Service, How Customers Want To Be Served

From the quality of service, to the standard of food, this pub is a success. The members of the community who own it now understand what their customers want, because they are the customers. They  have made the experience as good as it could be, making people want to go there, and stay.  There are lessons to be learned from this lovely place, and I for one, will be back again, to continue my education, rude not to.

Tapas at the Green Man Thriplow Small Business Support Content Writer for Small business

Tapas anyone?

Wear a sombrero to protect from the sun Nicola Dunklin My Words Work For You

When in Thriplow…

 

 

 

 

If you find yourself in this neck of the woods, pop in and see for yourself.      01763 208855

Well done The Green Man & all who dine in her.

 

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SSL Certificate – Is Your Site Secure?

Secure Vs Non-Secure Sites

I am working with a client who is paying a sizeable monthly fee to a website hosting company. On investigation, this is the ‘Self-Managed’ package which includes only the hosting, no support, no frills. Yet it is not cheap!

For this money each month my client’s site has no SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate, it is therefore not secure. Google is now penalising such sites by preventing them from appearing in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). According to Google:

Beginning in July 2018 with the release of Chrome 68, Chrome will mark all HTTP sites as ‘not secure’

What This Means

An SSL certificate means that data entered will be encrypted, and therefore protected.  Google are right to penalise these sites, secure ones are far better for everyone. My client is in the process of a website overhaul. We need to come away from this dinosaur of a company and build a website worthy of her business. Part of showing potential customers that they can trust this eCommerce company will be demonstrating that their money is safe.

HTTPS_ Image Google Penalise unsecure sites

Would you trust this website?

  • As a customer, look for the green padlock in the browser, followed by the word ‘Secure’
  • As a business, get yourself on to Google and investigate reputable companies who provide SSL certificates, or build your website on a secure patform.

Secure Website Image Content Writer For Small Businesses in Cambridgeshire

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Life Without Marketing?

What Happens If I Don’t Market My Business?

Businesses today are caught up in the hamster wheel of endless marketing. The fear of losing customers, not gaining customers, not reaching the audience drives us forward like rats in a maze. What if we stopped? It’s preposterous, I know that, I am just mulling things over.

This week I am in Sete Cidades, a tranquil idyll nestled in the crater of a volcano on the island of Sao Miguel. The birdsong is deafening, flora and fauna beautiful and the views are breathtaking.

Sete Cidades Azores

Marketing by Smell

This place has some 700 residents, they all know each other, many are ambivalent towards visitors. The whole island is well maintained, a wealth of natural resources attract tourists but the local businesses are certainly not vying for their trade. We found the village bakery by smell alone, they produce delicious bread, one type, and will deliver. Opening hours are until sometime around 10 or 11am, when the bread has gone.

Village bakery Sete Cidades the Azores

Open for Business, if you can find us

Village bakery sete Cidades bread delivery

Bread Delivery

This relaxed way of living surely has its merits? Chatting with the locals (they all speak English), this is the life they choose. On investigation, the young have left for Canada or the USA, they are following the money. It is a place of contradictions, the people who live here don’t want to become rats in a maze, but they could certainly do with a bit more money in their pockets.

A Relaxed Approach

We have swum in thermal sea pools, visited a tea plantation, and a rum factory, climbed bell towers, hiked and more, all for free. We would have happily paid for all of these things to increase the workers’ income. I know the residents don’t earn enough to live on but that doesn’t seem to bother them. People here place relaxation above revenue, some struggle to pay for the bread at their door which cost the princely sum of 30 cents.

I am trying to think of a way to morph the two lifestyles into a perfect way of lifestyle balance.

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The Hardest Working Advert

Advertising – Reach New Heights

I have always advised clients to steer clear of advertising in newspapers and magazines. At prohibitive costs, that advert only stands a chance of working for you for the seconds that particular page is open AND if someone happens to focus on it. The moment the page is shut, your investment stops working, the end.

So What Media Works?

Attention now is on social media, it’s all about sharing, liking, commenting and viewing. It is worth considering how you could advertise at any place that is likely to be shared on social media. Clearly, it isn’t quite as straightforward as that, we can’t all go hanging banners across Niagra Falls. Think of somewhere that has some connection to your business that people are likely to photograph. Is there an opportunity to promote your business in a stand-out way?

Let Me Give You An Example

Let me explain… As I write, one of the clients I am working with is building the Obstacle Training Ground. People from all sectors of society will be turning up to pitch themselves against a frightening array of obstacles: walls, tyres, ramps, nets etc. etc. Meanwhile, and here’s the thing, their friends and family will photograph them as they conquer each obstacle. What’s the first thing they will do with those photos? Straight on to social media, we all like to show off the moment we conquered the 8 foot wall!

Climbing Wall Obstacle Small Business Support My Words Work For You

Advertising Reach -Scale New Heights

A Win-Win Situation

What an opportunity. We will contact local, relevant businesses and offer them the opportunity to sponsor an obstacle. Every visitor to the Obstacle Training Ground not only promotes the facility itself, but also the associated bussinesses who have a four foot x 2 foot banner in the shot.  Their banner will appear on the screens, and in the psyche of an ever increasing audience every time is it liked, shared, viewed and commented on.

Changing World

Gone are the days of paying hundreds, or even thousands of pounds for a prime spot in a magazine, we need to be thinking far more dynamically. Get people to do the work for you by sharing. For this physical fitness facility we will offer the opportunity to local businesses: sports shops, fitness centres, sporting event organisers, accountants, printers…in fact any businesses whose target audience is likely to visit this venue.

Get in touch if you would like to advertise, venue is opening at the end of the month.

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Privacy Policy

GDPR Deadline

The GDPR Deadline is this Friday, 25th May. Businesses that hold, process or use data about any EU citizen need to be aware of, and comply with, a new set of regulations put in place by the European Parliament. This is a good thing.

Step 1 – Privacy Policy

“Not another privacy policy” I hear you cry.

Don’t panic! This privacy policy is clear, concise, and honest, but maybe not ‘run-of-the-mill’. Every business should have one.

What Data is Stored

I am very fortunate, I don’t need to advertise, therefore I don’t need to capture and store any personal data for the purposes of marketing. Data stored is done so for:

  • The performance of contract for clients
  • To comply with legal obligations, or
  • For proportionate processing for a legitimate business interest.

E.g. I have a legitimate interest in storing clients’ contact information, namely to communicate, to invoice and for accounting purposes.

How I Store Data

For a number of clients, I carry out activities that mean I need to store personally identifiable data. These data are stored in password protected documents in a secure location that will only be accessible by myself and the client. If such documents need to be printed into hard copy they are anonymised beforehand, and shredded after use.

Where I Store Data

Well if I told everybody where I stored data that wouldn’t be very GDPR compliant. In the rare cases that I store data, it is stored securely in compliance with GDPR.

Locked gate Secure data storage Privacy Policy My Words Work For You

Cookies and Cream

I do not capture, use or store any information about individuals who visit my website, or read or comment on my blog posts. Similarly, posts published by me on other forums are not used to capture data about any individual who engages with them. I currently do not use Google Analytics or any other tool for analysis of personal data. You won’t find annoying pop-ups ‘tailoring your experience’, ‘enhancing your experience’, ‘ensuring advertisements are tailored/relevant to you’ or however else it is being dressed up, I simply don’t track what you do or how you do it, feel free to have a look around in peace.

Followers

My Words Work For You has a growing number of followers on WordPress and social media sites.  Each individual has chosen to do so, and to continue doing so, presumably they like my tales from the world of content writing, or they like me, whichever it is, I am grateful.

What Does GDPR mean To You?

For the general public, GDPR is a good thing, you are better protected and you have more rights. With an exponential growth in internet use, and businesses fighting for your attention, something had to be done to protect you and prevent misuse of your data. Check the ICO’s website for more information.

For businesses, this is a chance to ‘clean up & clear out’. A complete audit of what data you have, what you do with it, where it is stored and how it is stored is going to make you more streamlined. Clear out the data you don’t need or shouldn’t have and make yourself aware of exactly what you do have. Make sure the data you have is recognised and recognisable, safe, and GDPR compliant. If there is a breach you have 24 hours to report on it, could you? Don’t be fretting about multi-million Euro fines, just be taking steps to compliance.

Any future changes will be updated in my privacy policy. I feel a tweak coming on.

Contact me if you would like to know more

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