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Archive for the ‘Start-up’ Category

Are you lacking digital skills?

2014 saw the 25th anniversary Tim Berners Lee’s World Wide Web, and with 2.4 billion users across the globe, it is still growing every day.

The 2015 UK Digital Index released this week by Lloyds Bank shows that now 77% of small and medium sized enterprises have basic digital skills[1] partly due to increasing accessibility; getting online is easier now that ever.

Technological advances have made it much easier to get an affordably, high quality tablet or smartphone on the high street, which will allow you to connect your database of business files to the internet, using cloud based technologies. You have access to Skype, to conduct business meetings remotely, and you can connect with your target market and monitor trends through social media platforms.

The Business Digital Index describes the future of these schemes, “Go ON UK will extend its network to a wider group of partners from all sectors, coordinating a nationwide effort to reduce digital exclusion.

Government will support this role and, together with public, private and VCSE (Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise) partners, will sign up to the UK’s Digital Inclusion Charter and actively support each local programme.”[2]

There is a focus on the community, and on establishing networks of start-ups and small business locally that will benefit individuals, highlighting area for improvement in digital capability and putting into place steps to achieve goals in getting your business online. “Saving time is a key benefit to organisations who adopt digital, but those who are less digital are missing out through reluctance to appreciate the benefit or invest the time to gain the longer term efficiencies.”[3]

Once you have developed core skills in becoming digitally literate, your opportunities expand and you will be able to negotiate the World Wide Web to save you time and allow you to focus on other parts of the business.

However, with all the successes of the last 25 years, there are still more than 1 million people who lack the skills and confidence to get their business online. The success of regional schemes such as Go ON UK, a partnership organisation that offers advice, online forums, community groups and events has inspired a new push for digital inclusion nationally in business. The resources on the website cater for every size of team, allowing you to pinpoint the tools and informations most useful to you and your business. This network of support exists to highlight the benefits of being online.

Other schemes include BT’s Get IT Together campaign, which works with those who have not had access to the internet. Their advice is tailored to individual needs, with informations and skills training through Citizen’s Advice to give all many people as possible new opportunities to use the internet. The guide to getting online can be downloaded and printed off, allowing you to take in the internet at your own speed. The programme also offers support in online safety to make sure you protect your personal details.

Government run schemes such as The Business Exchange offer a platform for linking startups and large corporations. “By making it easier for the small business community to understand and take advantage of the range of pledges on offer from big businesses, this site will open up a whole new world of opportunity to british entrepreneurs.”[4]  These pledges can include financial support and investment or guidance and assistance in how to grow your business.

The internet is a tool for you to use to your advantage in which ever ways is most suited to your business. These schemes allow you to see the potential for building your business online and give you the motivation to look into the future of the possibilities for growth. Even if you only choose to host your business profile online so that customers and find you easily and contact you hassle-free, it will have a huge impact on your business. This wealth of knowledge at your fingertips means that you can see what everyone else is doing, monitoring the market to adapt your own products and services to stay on top. Connecting with community business networks can offer advice and services of local people that will save you time and money later on.

The internet will continue to grow. New developments in conducting business online are opening up opportunities and new platforms for trade are emerging. It is an exciting time to be in business and as much as you need the internet, it also needs you. Without new, interesting ideas the world of online

How much do you need to start a business?

A key question for people setting up in business is how much capital you need to start.

Well, like most answers to business questions, it depends. In this case it depends on things like:

  • Are you leaving a job and taking clients with you?
  • How good are you at sales and marketing?
  • What price point are you going to market with?
  • What is your personal network like?
  • How good is your idea?
  • How strong is your personal brand?
  • What are the set-up costs?


All of these questions determine how much money you will need but so does your goals.

For example, at one extreme you maybe a highly regarded market research consultant who has many years experience and lots of business contacts. A simple Website, some business cards and some LinkedIn messages maybe enough to get you to the position where you are making the same as what your salary.

But, if you want to create a leading edge Market Research Agency then the funding required will probably be very different. This is because you will need to consider winning business outside personal network which will require a significant commitment and investment in marketing.

As well as the marketing you will need to fund employing people to do the service delivery (because you can’t do it all), premises, equipment and administration costs.

As a rule of thumb I think £25,000 is required. This may not be all on day one, and you can test the market before you leave any job, but at some point you will need to go full time. And, at that time you will probably not have enough money to cover all the business costs and your wages.

If you are thinking of setting up in business and want to work out how much you’ll need then our Get Set service will help you.


Learning from your customers

Most businesses fail and  most new products fail to sell or make a profit.

When it comes to small businesses the main reason for the failure is a lack of understanding of EXACTLY what the customer wants and how much they are prepared to pay.

The key cause of this lack of understanding is the mindset of the business owner. They maintain the employee mentality of if they put the time and effort in they will get paid.

The typical approach is to launch a business or product that the business owner wants, or believes is good for the target market. They may be right but that approach doesn’t guarantee the market will find the offer interesting, let alone compelling.

But, it doesn’t need to be that way; you can test before you bet the business. And, the fastest way to test is to talk with prospective customers.  Nothing will get you up to speed as quick as talking to real people who have real needs.

The truth is that most of us sit in our Ivory Towers behind our computers and telephones thinking. However, as it turns out our prospective customers will tell us for free what they want and how much they are willing to pay.

The key is asking questions like:

  • What is your biggest fear or frustration?
  • What effect is that having on the business and you?
  • What is your dream result?
  • What would you be prepared to pay to get the result you want?


The key is to listen carefully and make lots of notes. The words used by the market are the words you should use to market.

The problem is this requires two things:

First, we need to acceptance that we do not have all the answers, our customers do.

Second, we need to face our internal fears of rejection and shyness.

Everyone of us has deep seated fears and apprehensions. We have fear of confrontation and do not want to annoy or upset anyone. We think it is best to sit on our own and figure things out ourselves because we are not brought up to go and ask people these types of questions.

That may be good social behaviour but that is not going to get anyone motivated enough to pay you money.

So, the first thing to do is to get over our internal issues and we can do this by reading books, listening to audio programmes and attending networking events.  We need to be comfortable outside our comfort zone.

The trick is to understand that our long-term success depends on this. And, understand that doing this now is much easier than waiting because the fear will grow.

We absolutely must understand exactly what is driving our customers and what they want. When we know this “word for word” our marketing will be very powerful.

The answers we get from the questions we ask may not be what we expect and are likely to be irrational. But, you will start to see things more clearly.

For example, a lawyer can say “I help people with divorce” or they can say “I help women who are going through a divorce get their husband back and save their marriage”.

I do not say “I help people with their accounts”, instead I say that “I help business owners gain financial independence”.

Keep in mind that our negative feelings of asking questions are because we have been taught it is rude. That is great in the sense you are playing the role of a good member of society but you are robbing yourself of the knowledge you need to help people.

If people think they will get what they want they will answer questions and be very open. However, they won’t talk about their biggest fears and frustrations if they don’t think talking with you will get them closer to what they want.

People will do anything to get what they really want. They will be glad to answer your questions. They will be pleased that someone is listening to them.

So, talk to at least one person a day, preferably three.