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Sole Proprietorship: Advantages & Disadvantages

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Do you dream of leaving your current job and opening your own business? Do not worry, there are a lot of us in the same boat as you who ponder investing in ourselves and launching our own venture. There are many legal formats out there that one can adopt when considering what kind of entity to open.

For instance, there are partnerships, sole proprietorships, corporations, limited liability companies and much more. Your decision will depend on a range of variables such as the nature of your business, the number of stakeholders involved etc.

A sole proprietorship is a business endeavor owned by one individual. It is the easiest form of business to commence and to operate. The United Kingdom is home to almost three million sole proprietorships. One person alone bears the costs of liabilities and benefits from any profit potentials as well.

If there are any structural transformations or process upgrades, the owner alone implements them. The owner also bears all of any associated business risk. It is because of this that authorities are not as stringent in regulatory laws with sole proprietorships as compared to other classes of business.

As with any kind of corporate category, a sole proprietorship comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Under this umbrella, you will be the single possessor of all assets and associated profits of your business. If you choose to function as a sole trader in the United Kingdom, then you are required to register as “self-employed” with HM Revenue & Customs. An annual self-evaluation of your business position, standing and performance will be submitted for declaration purposes of taxes.

Advantages

Control

As the single owner, you will be accountable only to yourself and have complete creative independence in how to run your venture. All decisions pertinent to human capital, budgeting, marketing, and growth will be within your scope of control. If you have experienced extremely bureaucratic environments where the decision making power lies with a couple of senior individuals at the top-then this characteristic of a sole proprietorship will greatly appeal to you.

Not only that, you will be able to build the kind of culture you want and steer your company in the direction that your vision entails. There will be no shareholders, board of directors or C-level executives to inhibit you from achieving your mission.

Flexibility

Given the flexible structure that a sole proprietorship offers, you will be able to adapt to environmental changes quickly. For example, if a certain trend goes viral on social media (such as the Mannequin Challenge did a couple of years ago), you can incorporate that in your own digital promotional strategies and link a value offering to it.

Apart from increasing your business responsiveness, you will also be able to enjoy a certain degree of flexibility on a personal level. Being your own boss means you can decide your own working hours and your own projects.

The fun part is that you can also pick where you work from (unless you are the more grounded type who has rented and can afford to rent an office) and take a walk in the middle of a sunny, clear day if you like. There will be no three-piece suit to adorn nor any restrictions on your lunch break.

Lower Capital Injections

Generally, the scope of operations under a sole proprietorship is limited in nature and does not require a massive capital investment. There will be no need to hire a large workforce nor lease a huge office space. Fixed costs can be kept at a minimum by working from home with the assistance of a reliable, fast internet connection and your trusty laptop.

Straightforwardness

The beauty of establishing a sole proprietorship is that it can be done quite simply. There are no complicated procedures or paperwork to submit to any authority nor does it necessitate the need to recruit a lawyer. Usually, you can indicate any losses and profits as part of your annual personal income tax return.

Customized Service

As stated, the relative size of your business will allow you to be more responsive to changes. It will also act as a proponent of offering more personalized service to your clients and help you build a loyal customer base. Not only that, overall brand loyalty will increase as well.

As a sole trader, you will be able to design a product or service tailored to cater to the specific needs of individual customers. It will definitely become your unique selling point, especially if you are in the service industry (event planning, clothes designer etc)

Disadvantages

Liability

The greatest drawback of incorporating a sole proprietorship is that the owner is personally liable for the performance of his venture. As there are no legal boundaries between him and his business, creditors can sue him for his personal assets and properties if he is unable to pay his dues. This means that your personal home, valuables and savings can be jeopardized if your business gets into any kind of trouble.

Access of Finance

Sole business owners may encounter significant challenges when attempting to raise funds. Banks are reluctant to provide loans as there is no legal separation between the owner and commercial operations. Repayment becomes a huge concern if the person in question passes away or if the business suffers. Prospective investors will also feel that there is too large a risk involved in placing their funds in a new business model.

Lone Decision Making

Whilst a sole proprietorship’s flexibility and independence is appealing, it does come with a cost. All the burden of achieving business success rests on one person’s shoulders as there is only self-accountability. With nobody to answer to, all the key decisions will be made by you.

Reverse Economies of Scale

Larger companies are able to benefit from sales promotions, trade discounts and bulk buying. As a small operation, you may not be able to procure items at lower unit costs as compared to corporations or multi-nationals.

7 Ways You Can Give Your Undivided Attention

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Continuous innovation in communication and technology has become a norm in international, modern societies. The advancements in fiber internet technology has revolutionized the way mankind interacts with each other. Smartphones, laptops, desktops, tablets, and such have become common household items and placed the world at our fingertips. It has opened the floodgates to a sea of never-ending information.

As communication patterns and styles have adapted accordingly, so have our minds’. Studies have demonstrated that general attention spans have decreased over the last ten years as compared to preceding studies. The interesting thing to note is that we are not to be blamed.

With countless entities, brands and individuals competing for our attention, it is no surprise that our concentration levels have suffered an adverse impact. Who is not trying to capture your attention? Your family, your phone, your colleagues. It is challenging enough to manage your time. In today’s day and age, you may have to be a little creative and brainstorm some ways to help you give your undivided attention to the task or person at hand.

Turn That Ringer Off

When you go to a cinema to watch a movie, you are requested to switch off your cellular device. Why? Simple, so that you can truly take in the scenes, acting and storyline of the movie and enjoy it to its fullest potential. And that is mostly what happens (unless the movie is of poor quality and failed to win you over!).

There is a similar principle behind the same phone conduct in a business meeting, a coffee date, a proposal design or when preparing for a presentation. You will not be distracted by any chirp, ding or chime that will come from your mobile phone. Make sure you turn off its vibrator as well along with any notifications from other applications that appear on your screen. We promise you it will be the best decision you ever make-especially when you have a crazy deadline coming up!

Multi-task? Let’s Not!

So, we are not implying that we think you cannot handle doing two things at the same time-we just do not recommend it. In order to ameliorate your scope of attention, we advise you to engage in one task at a time. It is easy to get caught in the web of variant projects and get confused. As you switch from one task to another, you may even feel that you are not accomplishing half as much as you should be. To avoid this feeling, fulfil the requirements of one work chore and then move on to the next.

This way, you can dedicate your full and undivided attention to the venture in question and not create additional work for yourself. You may actually turn out to be more efficient and productive if you apply this methodology.

Another additional tip is to never multi-task whilst having a conversation with someone. It does not matter whether you are on the phone or in person. If it is face to face, he may pick it up through your body language and other subtle clues. And if on the phone, the person at the other end may be able to deduce it from the tone of your voice.

Lists, lists and more lists!

Sure, we do love lists as much as the next person as they serve as a snapshot of pending projects. However, too many lists can get too confusing! Think really hard about the tasks that you are responsible for. If possible, try to create categories and place them under the associated heading.

For instance, if you are a Marketing Manager and have daily tasks (social media scheduling, website stats review, sales check etc), and strategic level ones (defining your brand plan for the coming year or evaluating a recent campaign etc), then you can classify your duties accordingly.

Perhaps use Monday afternoons to create your social media plan and schedule your posts across all your platforms. Be stern with yourself and do not let anyone convince you to divert your efforts otherwise (unless it is a super emergency or priority task).

Social Media Recluse

If you are addicted to your social media accounts and keep refreshing Facebook or Instagram every few minutes, do the obvious and log out! If that still can’t keep you under control, talk to your IT administrator and ask him to block the sites for a certain number of hours a day where you are your most productive.

Feeling comfortable because you have your phone on you? Switch it off and confine it within the vicinity of a drawer a few metres away from your working cubicle so you are not as tempted to check it or have access to it.

Don’t Forget Your Coffee

Guess what, your morning cup of coffee won’t serve as your morning stimulant-but may help you narrow your focus as well. Hey, if it is tea that you desire, go for it! The Journal of Alzheimer’s shared a study performed by Astrid Nehlig, a French physiologist. She placed a strong link between caffeine and cognition.

Unfortunately, the former is not a magical liquor that will make us concentrate automatically and allow us to complete our work-but will augment our physiological awareness. This will decrease overall distractions and will increase our focus.

Hot or Cold?

An interesting find occurred in a study conducted at Cornell University. It established that employees commit fewer mistakes when the temperature within the atmosphere ranges from 68-77 degrees. This notion was further strengthened at the Helsinki University of Technology in Finland through a study which placed the most productive temperature at 71 degrees.

Take a Break

The trick is to slowly train your brain into improving its attention span. The way to do that is to get up from your screen or task in question and take a walk. Stretch those legs and get some fresh air. Or just spend ten minutes engaging in something that captivates your interest-be it checking out football scores or reading the news. 

How freelancers can revolutionise your small business or startup

startup - How freelancers can revolutionise your small business or startup

Are you starting up in business?

If so, do you have huge pots of money or swollen bank accounts you can dip into any time you need to take on another member of staff.

No, of course you don’t. And frankly, even if you did, spending that money on one dedicated member of staff might not be the right thing to do anyway. Freelancers can bring a new level of flexibility to your startup – and lets face it, that’s what you need when you’re getting out of the blocks.

We’ll walk you through how freelancers can be the painkiller you need when startup headaches kick in…  and a few hints to make sure you get the most from the ones you choose…

One less worry

If there’s one thing I’m certain of it’s that starting up means you’ve got enough on your plate without thinking about hiring a logo design company and getting recruitment and payroll into place.

For that reason alone freelancers can look like an appealing option – they come to the table with a massive range of boxes ticked, in fact, you need to do little more than transfer them the amount of money they invoice.

For the busy entrepreneur this can be a lifesaver. Sure, you might be paying more on an hourly basis than you would an employee, but when you factor in the support you need to have in place around employment you’ll almost certainly come out ahead.

No fixed cost

Fixed costs when you’re getting up and running can be a killer – and are often the thing that sends new businesses under.

By taking on freelancers you bring talent to the table without committing to a monthly spend – and in doing so, keep some business agility should money become tight again.

Responsibility

The above point about fixed costs makes a lot of sense when you’re starting up, but can sometimes be met with jeers from people who think it’s more ethical to take on paid staff members.

I’m going to suggest the opposite. Your enthusiasm for your new venture might be massive, but that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed success – and since business certainly is lacking, why would you take someone onboard who you might have to let go in a matter of months owing to the changing need of the company?

Freelancers have made a lifestyle decision – and they make a decision again when they agree to work for you. They have the schedule they want and make allowances for jobs that might come and go quickly.

If the same can be said for a payroll employee then great, but that’s rarely the case.

Scalability

You could be forgiven for thinking we’ve got a negative view of startups when you look at the points we’ve just covered – but we don’t, you just need to think about agility in both directions when you’re approaching business realistically.

With that in mind you need to think about what would happen if your business exploded tomorrow, a huge client, a development breakthrough, a change in the law – these are just a few of a huge number of things that could inspire massive activity for your business starting tomorrow morning.

Were it to happen could you scale quickly enough with traditional staff? Considering there’s every chance they’d need to be interviewed (at least twice) before they even consider giving their month (or more) of notice to their current employer – the answer is probably no.

With freelancers you’ve access to the same skills – but the very real possibility that you could be starting work with them in the next couple of hours if you needed to.

A huge talent pool

If you think the job market has become crowded over the last few years you should take a glance at the freelance ‘gig’ market.

More and more people are freelancing as their chosen method of employment – and a huge number of people are freelancing to support another role, often with a less skilled job as their main source of income.

This leads to a massive pool of talent available on good freelancer sites. Whether you need a virtual assistant to keep your paperwork in order or a social media manager who’s going to completely handle your social marketing output, you’ll find someone with no problems.

It’s not just new media that’s covered either, you’ll find accountants, book keepers, HR people and much more too.

Predictability

You might have it in your mind that a freelancer is less likely to deliver the service you want when compared to an employed member of the team – but there’s every chance you’re wrong.

Being self-employed brings a heap of challenges for freelancers, not least the fact that sick days and time off means zero income – so motivation to work is often as high, if not higher, than someone who comes to your office each day.

Provided you check testimonials you’re likely to find extremely motivated and reliable freelancers who never fail to deliver, in fact, you always have the chance to incentivise delivery too – if you’ve got a particular project that needs to be signed off by tomorrow afternoon, then bumping the rate you’re paying in exchange for a guaranteed delivery can be a win/win situation.

Getting the most from freelancers

Follow these tips to make sure you maximise the working relationship with your chosen freelance team members…

Pay a reasonable amount

The cheap option often doesn’t represent the best value. Pay a reasonable amount and you buy professionalism and consistency.

Check portfolios

Make sure you can see beyond the self-written hype. Check portfolios to ensure the work on offer meets your standard.

Don’t expect something for nothing

If a price looks too good to be true there’s a chance that it is. Freelancers aren’t an opportunity to pull a fast one and get an incredible skill for next to nothing, so don’t expect to pay peanuts but get works of art.

Pay promptly

It can be really helpful for freelancers if you pay promptly – not only does it keep cashflow looking good for them, but it means you’re likely to earn a solid gold star when it comes to reaching out again for your next project.

How to write a recommendation letter for a friend

How to write a recommendation letter for a friend

A letter of recommendation can often be used as backup information to a more traditional employment or character reference.

Similar to a character reference which should show the person being spoken about in a positive and favourable way a recommendation letter written by a close friend should give a more personal outline than that of a co-worker, a neighbour, teacher or members of a mutual club or organisation.

A character reference can often be seen as being biased if written by family or very close friends but a recommendation letter from someone claiming to be just that can contain a different type of information and supplied in a much different tone. A recommendation letter is often expected to be a little biased because it has been written by those who care about you the most and this is their chance to show the letter’s recipient exactly why.

So who should you ask?

Ask someone who you know will present you in the strongest way possible. When making your choice you will want someone who will be able to reveal your best personal qualities with caring and kind examples of your behaviour. Too much information can obviously be cringe worthy and make the recipient feel uncomfortable so choose somebody who knows when to build you up and when to reel it in. They will need to create a harmonious balance between how close you are to them, how great they think you are, yet without any embarrassing details being revealed for either party.

How should you ask them?

When you’ve chosen a trustworthy candidate you should let them know why you need the recommendation and whom it’s going to be given to. You should provide them with a good outline of what you’d like them to say and any pertinent information they need to include. Try not to put any unwarranted pressure on them to keep them upbeat. You want them to reflect how happy they are to help you in the tone of what they write so don’t make it feel like a task or a chore, help them to feel like they’re doing you a kind favour and hopefully they’ll produce just the results you’re hoping for.

Tips on what to write

Follow a typical business letter format but write in a relaxed and friendly manner, you’re not their ex-boss or bank manager after all, so let that show.

Find out exactly why they need the letter and create content that is relevant. If they’re applying for a new role whether in paid employment or the voluntary sector, choose factors that will make them appear more than suitable for the role, and outline qualities that would make them perfect for the task at hand.

Obtain as much information as possible; if they have a CV ask to look at that for ideas or simply talk to them about what’s at stake and if they have specific details in their opinion of what will help swing the decision.

Explain the details of your relationship; how long you’ve known them, how close you are, and why you think you’re suitable to be making this recommendation over anybody else.

Be positive at all times. You want to help, that’s why you’re writing for them, so don’t be drawn into a character analysis, just keep it as upbeat as possible and always be honest. Be outspoken in your opinion of them but don’t make any promises that they can’t keep nor could they live up to.

Don’t get bogged down in too much detail. Focus on a few exceptional traits and instances. If you try too hard or write too much the recipient could easily lose interest or decide it’s too long to even start reading. Make your point concisely and quickly. Get to the point. Less is so often more in such cases.

You should give examples if you can of your friend’s morals and ethics (just make sure they’re positive and in line with the beliefs of the recipient!). You could give examples of their past experiences which have helped shape them into the person they are today, outline both their academic achievements and also their people skills, their manner in dealing with delicate situations and their level of charisma and the attractiveness of their personality.

An example letter layout

You can use the following as an example of how to put your letter together. You will have to consider the facts and details of your own subject but as an outline it will give you a good idea of how to get the ball rolling.

 

Dear [recipient’s name]

I’m writing this reference in support of [your friend’s or family member’s name].

I met [friend’s name] at [insert how you met if it feels relevant] and we have been friends for the past seven years. If you are looking for an amiable and sociable, talented individual, then [friend’s name] is just the person you’ve been looking for!

Through all the time we’ve been friends, [friend’s name] has always been incredibly supportive and helpful. He’s been a great listener when I needed a true friend and he always backed up his words of support and encouragement with generous actions dictated by his helpful nature and loyalty.

He has always displayed the same characteristics throughout his working life. As far as I know he has continuously shown exceptional capabilities in each of his career roles, becoming a highly respected member of all the teams he has been a part of.

As a friend, he has been the best I could ask for. When I was going through my own troubled personal situations he was always one of the first people I would turn to. He never let me down and I consider myself very lucky to have him as one of my closest friends. He is a great example of how I would like to think other people see me.

All of his personal skills and the way he presents himself to those around him would enable him to excel in any task or position he would choose for himself in the future.

I honestly believe he would be an asset to any company, and I wholeheartedly recommend him. Please do not hesitate to be in touch if you have any further questions. 

Sincerely, 

[Your name here]

Trades That Make Good Money In 2018?

Right now the trades field is a great option for those who are seeking to make good money land a job quickly and easily and get to build with their hands 802x510 - Trades That Make Good Money In 2018?

We are part of a society that expects a fairly high standard of living; significantly higher than that of our parents or our parent’s parents. The days where a foreign holiday was considered a luxury for the elite are long gone and if you choose a ‘stay-cation’ over a cruise or even a budget beach holiday overseas then you really must be slumming it.

You only have one car in the driveway and you don’t have the latest iPhone? Well, the Jones’s next door must be doing a lot better than you.

Yet if you’re going to keep up with society’s elevated expectations then you’re going to need a salary to accommodate those needs and not just for you but your partner and your 2.3 children.

So how you might choose to do it?

The average wage

The average wage in the UK for a male according to jobsite Monster is £30,534; and for a woman it’s £25,140 (there’s another conversation just waiting to be had), and the list of available jobs and trades above and below that figure are many and diverse; but who are the highest paid and how can you join them?

The figures are obviously affected by geographical location; the average salary in London is between five and six thousand pounds higher than of other UK cities, and that’s before you start to look at the drop in the average salary in towns and villages.

The leading industries paying the best salaries are led by financial services, information technology and software development, coming in at around £5,000 more per year than in construction and manufacturing, and £10,000 per year more than in education or retail.

The high-fliers

As you’d expect airline pilots and flight engineers are up there as some of the top earners in the region of £100k. Marketing and sales is big business too with directors earning in excess of £80–90k. Legal professionals and finance directors aren’t too far off earning around £75k with IT company directors and medical practitioners only a few thousand behind them with average salaries of around £70k.

Also at around the £75k figure are our beloved MPs; and if you’ve got thick enough skin and you really want the job then how about earning £150k for being the Prime Minister?

Graduate positions

If you’ve spent your twenty- to thirty-something thousand pounds acquiring your degree you’ll want it to give you a distinct advantage when entering the world of employment. The following positions and their median average starting salaries were announced by the Institute of Student Employers in September 2017.

Gaining your qualification as an accountant will generally take three or four years with a suitable professional body, and most accounting firms will pay your examination fees and allocate you time for training if you’re studying in employment, but once qualified you can expect a starting salary at around £26,000. From qualification there is plenty of room to manoeuvre through the pay scale because in as little as six or seven years you can advance to become a chartered accountant with a salary up to £70k.

If you’re looking at qualifying as a solicitor any graduates joining the larger commercial companies can expect one of the highest starting salaries in the industry at around £38k.

A graduate starting in the field of IT can expect a starting salary anywhere between £25–40k depending on their field. The lower end salaries were with companies DSTL and BAE Systems and the higher salaries with Alfa and Meta-switch Networks. BT offer around £30,000 for their technology roles too.

Graduate engineers can look forward to a large salary if they’re lucky enough to start with any of the international oil companies at around £40,000 but as little as £18,000 with smaller regional companies; yet this can grow to the higher expected salary of between £40–50k for experienced workers in their field.

In civil and structural engineering the graduate salaries start at around £20–30k with some of the larger employers, but again with smaller regional businesses they could expect to start on significantly less.

A teacher will start on a minimum of £22,467 (and up to £28,098 in London) but private academies and independent schools will often offer more.

Although many of the public sector graduate roles offer a salary that will often match those of the private sector the highest paid of those is within the Metropolitan Police offering a starting salary of £29,000.

What if you don’t have a degree?

Don’t despair – just ask a host of the nations biggest entrepreneurs who didn’t finish (or even start) university and still ended up running some of the countries most profitable companies.

Here are a few options you might want to consider.

Traditional tradesmen’s salaries

According to the Office for National Statistics the average UK salary for an electrician is £30,444; a plumber isn’t too far behind on £29,136; with carpenters and bricklayers earning an average of around £25k too.

Other professional roles to consider

A construction manager can earn around £55k and wouldn’t necessarily need a degree to land the role. Neither would an air traffic controller whose average salary would be around the £48k mark.

Slightly lower salaries but still not to be sniffed at are maintenance managers or fitness managers both supporting salaries at around the mid- £30k mark; or how about becoming an executive assistant for only a few thousand a year less than that?

A hotel manager can command a salary of £27k or the often-detested estate agent who will never be short of work can also earn around a £26k salary. But when it comes to one of the most frowned upon careers (apart from traffic wardens who can earn anywhere between £15k and £30k) then the car salesmen can earn his £26k salary in an executive role.

Or if you’re looking for something more unusual

You can earn between £25–£50k in a career in the mining industry; a prison officer will start on £18k but can advance to a salary of around £33k; and testing IT companies systems will earn an ethical hacker between £36–90k.

The most unusual job spotted so far with a very healthy remuneration is a chicken sexer — if you’re patient, delicate and have great eyesight you can earn up to £40k but where you’d go about applying for the role I wouldn’t be sure!

How to write a character reference letter

How to write a character reference letter

What is a character reference?

A character reference is a letter written for, and about, someone you know very well on a personal level. It’s often called a personal reference and differs from a more typical employment reference you may have provided by a current of previous employer. Where an employment reference will outline how you performed tasks and handled responsibility in your working role a character reference will outline your personality and all the positive traits you show in your personal life. It’s much more about who you are as a person and less about how you perform at work.

Who might it be for?

Often a character reference will be used in an application for work where the applicant doesn’t have a strong record of employment to offer references from previous employers. Alternatively it can be used as an additional recommendation to back up an employment reference with positive aspects of their personal life. This extra information could add value to an employer’s decision when considering the applicant for a position.

A character reference can also be utilised when making applications for non-employment roles; such as for volunteer posts or charity work; it could be used as part of an application for a university or educational course or post; or as part of the application process for a professional body or an important society membership.

Character reference letter for court

Another important and often required use for a character reference is if it is to be used as part of a court case. You may be asked to supply information regarding a friend or family member who is involved in a trial and this additional material may have an important bearing on the opinions of the judge and jury.

Who might write one?

In employment, association or voluntary position applications the reference would be ideally written by a close contact that holds some relevant information to whatever the reference pertains. You could choose a neighbour, a teacher, a group leader, your minister or priest, or somebody you already know who operates in a similar position to the one you’re applying for.

Generally a character reference shouldn’t be written by close family members or your best friends — these will often be assumed to be biased and may not be regarded as seriously as you would hope they might.

The exception to the family rule is for references written regarding court cases. These are often specifically required from family members and close friends, or from somebody who knows how the outcome of the case would affect the accused or of any special circumstances that may shed additional light on the behaviour of the person in question. This type of personal information is often only known by the closest people to the person on trial.

What should they say?

The reference should be full of the positive aspects of the person involved. It should speak of their personality including how trustworthy, loyal and ethical they are, activities they might undertake which show them in a good light such as any charity work, voluntary activities, babysitting, gardening, handyman help they’ve carried out for neighbours or friends, or of any time they might have gone above and beyond what was expected from them when you needed a friend or specific help in a particular situation.

You will also need to outline how you know this person, your relationship to them, how long you’ve known them and also your contact details in case the recipient requires any further information from you.

Preparation

First you should ask whom the reference is to be sent to and why they need it. The position or reason for this will often dictate specifics in how you will write the letter and what it should contain. A reference for a court judge and one for a voluntary position should contain quite different elements and should also be written in very different tones. The seriousness of the matter will determine how official or how palatable you should come across in your writing.

Whatever the reason make sure you include details that are relevant so they are of real use to the recipient.

If it relates to a court case then make sure you know how the person you’re writing the reference for feels about their position in the matter. Make sure you write material to support their feelings and hopes instead of potentially making the situation worse for them.

Try to find out whom the letter will be directed to — if you can personalise the letter in each case it will add to the quality of your information. It shows you have taken the matter more seriously than just creating a general address. If you are writing to a board of peers or an unknown group though you should begin your letter with ‘Dear Sir or Madam’.

Format

Your relationship

The opening paragraph should be background on how you know the person, how long for and your relationship with them. Outline whether you know them through work or pleasure, from a club or society or whether you do voluntary work together. It’s also important to mention how often you see the person and how much time you spend together. A reference won’t be taken too seriously if you barely spend time together and don’t appear to know each other all that well.

On some occasions it might be relevant to mention where you met and how you became friends. Try and decide if these matters are relevant, and if so, make sure to include them.

Their character

The second paragraph and any subsequent paragraphs required for further information should outline the positive aspects of their personality and behaviour. It should also contain the efforts and activities that will make the recipient view them more favourably than if they hadn’t previously known these factors.

All information should all be as positive as possible including achievements, goals, donations of time, money or goods, rewards, praise and acts carried out by them that in any way will add to the positive outline you hope to create for them.

Finish on a positive

You should close the letter with comments that make the recipient look at the details of this person in a respectful and a highly favourable manner. Only by achieving this have you fulfilled your purpose to whoever asked you to provide this information for them.

Be thorough

Once you’ve completed your letter make sure you re-read it and correct any grammar errors, spelling and punctuation. Check that it reads well or ask somebody with more proficient English skills than you to check through it if you’re in doubt to whether it comes across as literate and enlightening.

You should always confirm with the person you are writing for that it meets up to their needs and that you haven’t missed any important details that they’d hoped you would include.

6 Growth Strategies for Your Business

business growth strategy - 6 Growth Strategies for Your Business

Wouldn’t it be incredible if you could wave your magic wand and conjure up customers for your digital or offline business? If only we resided in such a utopian world. However, we can offer the closest thing to such a wondrous feat: strategies for your commercial set-up that will help it flourish.

With the advent of information technology and communication, companies have gained access to new markets at the fraction of the previous costs. It also has served as an opportunity for small and medium enterprises to thrive and expand. The technology revolution has decreased barriers to entry significantly and lowered international borders as well. Business owners tap into the potential by establishing an online presence and conducting their operations virtually. It is hard enough being a start-up a-in this day and age, competition is cut-throat. In order to not only survive but to become profit, following are 6 recommended strategies to grow your business.

Establish Your USP Clearly (Unique Selling Proposition)

To break through the clutter of never ending content and to get through to your audience, it is essential that you know what your USP is. It is your core competency that differentiates you in your industry and makes you stand out. The second step is to communicate it clearly to your customers and to let them know what your brand personality is. That will aid in incorporating the strategic direction for your firm as well.

Innovate UK’s essential tips for defining your USP 1 - 6 Growth Strategies for Your Business

Know Your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

A KPI is a calculable unit that allows a business to evaluate its performance against its objectives. By being able to measure your targets, you can amend or change your strategy if need be. Of course, this implies that resources will have to be switched around and reallocated as a response to the environmental changes. This will prove vital, especially if you are operating in a highly competitive market landscape.

Create a Customer Profile

Accurate identification of your target market will have an immense impact on your growth potential. It is the group of consumers that procure your product or service and differ from other clusters based on psychographic, demographic and behavioural variables. Knowing your buyer persona will allow you to direct all marketing and communication efforts there and maximize sales growth. By getting your message to the right customer in the right place at the right time, you can convey your brand essence and build brand equity.

You can run promotions such as the new range at atlas ceramics which we have featured below and gradually construct a steady profitable base by creating an emotional connect with your customer. That can only be done if you know who your customer is, what his lifestyle is, his income, his age, his family status, his traits and such. Once you are able to do this, your client base will become loyal to your specific brand and this will create steady sales revenue. As a business that

Monitor Your Competition

Conducting frequent competitive research should be a top business priority. By constantly monitoring the market and analysing industry trends, you will be well aware of what your competitors are doing. It will equip you to respond quickly and effectively if need be to any changes that they make. This includes both direct and indirect rival firms. For instance, if you are a car rental company, don’t just keep an eye out on fellow agencies, but also on alternative forms of transport (Uber etc). Another great benefit is that you can learn from your competitive firm’ errors and learn from its negative results. The relevant business story will serve as a guiding beacon to what pricing, selling, positioning, and distributing strategy to pursue. By ensuring that your competitive and market intelligence is updated and top of the line, you can also identify opportunities to expand and grow.

Recruit Talented Resources

It doesn’t matter whether your company has a large scale operation or a small one, the greatest asset it will have is its human capital. Your pool of talent will not just be the breathing spirit of your business, but its direct point of contact with your clients. Bringing in individuals who advocate and are stimulated by your value proposition are the ones who will go the extra mile to achieve company goals. Also, it is crucial that you compensate them well and have a welcoming open-door policy where they can address and solve their concerns. After all, happy employees are productive ones.

Spend Cautiously and Earn Freely

If you have a few different product categories, ascertain which has the highest profit margin and lowest cost of goods. This is one example of seeing how your business will sustain itself, provided one product class performs below expectations. It is advised to recognize all possible areas where additional income or revenue can be generated and to utilize it effectively.

Always do your market research and draft your budget with at least three tenders per expense. For instance, if you have a restaurant and want to introduce a new beef item on the menu-obtain bids from three different beef meat suppliers to evaluate factors such as beef quality, freshness, value for price, timely delivery etc. Developing a year long budget along with a long term business plan will give you a snapshot of where you stand. Conducting seasonal and quarterly reviews against your budget will also serve as a great way to ensure that you are running your business within costly parameters.

Value Your Relationships

Treat your business partners with respect and expect the same in return. By creating a strong, supportive business community, you can establish alliances with all your suppliers, partners, vendors, third party organizations, and customers. It will pave the way for smooth collaboration and growth. Invest your time and money in building your social capital as it may one day reward you. If ever there comes a time if you need an extension on a payable invoice, your supplier of ten years’ will definitely be more understanding than the vendor you just started ordering from three months ago. 

Using Drones for Professional Photography

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In the past, taking complex and alluring photographs would often mean a heavy investment, with no clue of how your pictures looked before they were developed. The innovation of the digital camera meant that many we quick to adopt photography as a pastime, and with so many social networks, taking pictures has become a way of live for many people.

Taking amazing photographs is no longer limited to professionals, and thanks to the technology available, people can now take professional photographs with a few simple clicks.

As photographers are keen to stand out, it’s not uncommon for them to instil other forms of technology to help them capture some truly mesmerising pictures.

What Drone is Best for Me?

There selection of drones available is vast, and much like like your photography equipment, the cost will often be based on your requirements and preferences. For example, if you’re looking for a drone that has a camera already included, then how much you pay will dictate how good the camera is. Similarly, if you already have camera equipment, then you only need a UAV, but you will need to ensure that it’s able to contend with the weight of the camera.

If you’re new to taking aerial photographs, then it ma be worth investing in a cheaper model initially, so you can get used to how they work and how it fits in with your current methods. Some may be wondering what are the best camera drones for beginners, well to being with it may be with checking out this walkera 320 in review but there is no one drone that suits every purpose. 

To determine which UAV is best suited to your needs, you should first consider some factors.

What Kind of Control?

It’s not only drones themselves that are evolving, but also the way they are controlled. While there are many models that offer the conventional control system, there are others that can be controlled via a smartphone or tablet. There are even options that allow you to use both methods in unison.

Where Will I Be Taking Pictures?

While drones are brilliant for taking unique pictures, we do need to make sure we’re aware of our surroundings. A drone hovering too close to someone’s property could raise problems, regardless of the intent. You also need to ensure that the drone is not likely to hit anything or anyone, especially if you’re in a area where there are a lot of small children or animals.

How Big?

The reason why there are so many options available in relation to UAVs is because of the unique designs available. Some drones could be mistaken for a UFO, while others can simply be folded away and put in your pocket.

If you’re going to be travelling to different locations, that how portable the drone is could be on of the major factors.

How Do I Ensure I Take the Perfect Shot?

Those new to the world of drones will expect a period of trial and error when learning the ropes, and this is only natural. However, as we become more experienced, we will want to know how to make the best of our drone, and capture shots easily. How this is achieved can vary on your goals, but there are some tips you can followed to ensure your better prepared should that perfect moment come along.

Become One with Your Drone

It may sound like a line from a sci-fi movie, but the more comfortable you are with your drone, then the more daring you will be. For example, in the early days, you will probably feel threatened by obstacles in your flight path, but becoming more familiar with the controls, and the drone reacts, will mean that you’re willing to take chances, which means more opportunities to take a picture that’s bound to impress.

See Your Pictures in “Real Time”

If you’re flying a camera in to the sky on a wing and a prayer, then it’s likely you’re going to struggle when it comes to taking photographs that make an impression. The use of smartphones or tablets with drones has already been touched upon, but is an ideal solution for those looking to perfect their picture-taking technique.

Connecting the drone to your smartphone allows you to see what the camera sees, making it easier to set up your shots.

Be Aware of Your Legal Boundaries

Depending on where you live, there will be different restrictions in place in relation to flying your drone, regardless of why it’s being flown. In the UK, current legislation dictates that the UAV should remain in sight, and not go above 500 metres. Those looking to exceed the 500 metres need to seek permission from Civil Aviation Authority.

Users based in the US will have to conform with the Federal Aviation Administration regulations. This includes registering any drone that weighs between 0.55 and 55 pounds. Registration costs $5.00 and is good for three years.

As well as registering the UAV, you will also need to ensure that common sense is applied at all times. For example, you need to ensure that your drone isn’t flying near any airports. You also need to ensure that there is no potential for people to get hurt. As well as being painful when hit by a drone, the tiny blades can cause damages, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Taking photographs with a drone is a great hobby, and is even something you could introduce into your professional life. However, to ensure we fully enjoy the experience, we need to ensure that we follow the relevant guidelines, and ensuring we’re adhering to the regulations put in place.

The Main Legal Requirements Tech Start-Ups Need To Know About!

Soon More Tax Reductions For Startups in India and Failed Startups Can Exit in 3 Months - The Main Legal Requirements Tech Start-Ups Need To Know About!

Setting up a tech business can seem deceptively simple, in fact, you might even be able to set it up very quickly. This all sounds great, doesn’t it? But today’s entrepreneur should be very wary because it’s easy to make mistakes.

Tech entrepreneurs, in particular, can easily trip up and make mistakes without even realising it, at best this could just take a long time to correct which will stall your businesses development. But at worst it could end with you facing serious legal consequences.

Yes, this is a rare, worst-case scenario but it can happen! So, it’s important that today’s tech start-ups know what key legal issues they will need to work out first so they can ensure they don’t fall into any potential legal troubles.

There’s a lot to look at and consider but we can help, below we’ve listed the main key legal issues tech start-ups will need to work out. Remember this is complicated work by design so you don’t have to go it alone, there’s plenty of legal assistance and help available.

So, if you’re unsure which cause of action is best then make an appointment with a lawyer such as www.joneswhyte.co.uk or a business planner to get some professional advice and assistance. Now let’s take a look at the key legal issues for tech start-ups.

Naming Nightmares

One of the first steps of setting up your business is choosing your business name and your domain name, whatever you do don’t just pick the first thing that sounds good. You should make sure you thoroughly check out any names first to make sure you avoid anything problematic.

If you want to use an acronym of some kind make sure it doesn’t already stand for something else. Even if the name is not currently in use you should also run a check with the UK Intellectual Property Office because someone else could already hold the rights to it.

These checks can be done very quickly so there is really no excuse to not at least check things through first. Once you have got the name sorted you should register it as a trademark yourself, contrary to popular belief this isn’t something you actually need to do.

And many businesses choose not to do it straight away, however you should because it will ensure your business is protected. There is even a number of different ways you can go about registering your business if you utilise the services of a Companies House no one else will be able to register a business with the same name.

However, you won’t actually be trademarked, this means someone else could come along and trademark your business name for themselves. So, if you really want to ensure your business is protected make sure you get its name fully trademarked.

Non-Disclosure Agreements

Non-disclosure agreements are used in all kinds of businesses but when it comes to the tech industry they are even more valuable. Many tech start-up businesses will be developing new technologies and products which is why ensuring your data is safe and protected is of the utmost importance.

That is why many tech start-up businesses will want to utilise non-disclosure agreements (NDA) these documents will ensure (to some degree) that your employees won’t leak any information about your businesses products to your competition.

Yes, while you might understandably feel a little awkward asking your employees to sign an NDA there really is no need to. It’s a common document in the tech industry and really no one should have an issue with signing one. They offer you a great deal of protection and start-up businesses, in particular, will be sure to benefit from them.

Cookies and The Importance of Personal Data

If you have been keeping up with the news in the past few years, then you likely already know that there have been a few changes when it comes to the importance of cookies and collecting personal data. Regulations have changed when it comes to cookies and now websites have to be a lot more thorough.

Now your website will have to give much more detailed and comprehensive information about the cookies on the site and detail what data is collected and what it is used for. This might sound difficult but it’s basically a job that’s always been done now it just requires more detail.

Of course, this all also depends on what your business does, if you do collect data then you must comply with the Data Protection Act and ensure you are also registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office.

There are a lot of things you need to take into account when it comes to cookies and personal data but ensuring you are always protected and following the right guidelines is essential for both your protection and your users.

The Importance of Your Businesses Structure

Finally, the last area of importance is the structure of your business, a tech start-up can be structured in many different ways but one of the most popular is the limited company structure. In this model of business, you, your partners, employees and investors can hold shares in your business.

There are many advantages to this but the prime reason many people choose this structure is that it limits your level of personal liability. Your business will also effectively have a separate legal character of its own as well. 

If you do choose to structure your business in this manner, then you need to ensure you have an official shareholders agreement set-up. This will govern what happens with the shares and protect any holders.

If you do decide to choose a different structure, then there are other documents you will need to go through. For example, if you decide to set-up your tech start-up as a partnership then you will need to set-up a partnership agreement.

So, that is a look at some of the prime legal matters you will need to consider when setting up your tech business. Remember while you might be able to go through the process quickly you’d be smarter to take your time to avoid any legal slipups.

Measuring Employee Productivity In The Workplace

Measuring Employee Productivity

The are many problems associated with trying to measure productivity in any business. Each member of staff is a completely different human and no two are the same. Some will excel while others struggle and often amongst the same members of your staff these areas can be interchangeable; Tony might be great on the phone and converting to sales but struggles with the administration which slows down his performance, where Mike might be the exact opposite, his admin skills are fantastic, if only he was good on the phone…

In a recent internal study by Creditfix they identified that there are so many outside influences it’s really quite a challenge to create a realistic measurement and a comparison to the industry you operate in. Illness, tardiness, enthusiasm, poor traffic, power cuts, family commitments, emergencies, breakages, personal and workplace accidents; any one thing can hold up performance, throw in four or five and you’re losing way more than you ever imagined you could.

So what should you measure productivity?

Performance

Ask yourself this about each member of your team; are they producing what they’re meant to? It doesn’t matter if it’s sales, manufacturing or lead generation, all that matters to you is are they fulfilling your expectations?

Next, you need to ask if they use the resources they have at hand as well as they can to maximise their efficiency?

And do they regularly look for and find ways to improve how they work in order to simplify their tasks or boost their output?

Measuring Productivity and efficiency

It’s not always simple but if you can you need to measure staff output. How many products do they make each day? How many calls do they answer and issues do they resolve? How many posts do they write or how many logos, brochures or leaflets are they designing? These will all help you gather information on their productivity.

Then you must take a look at the quality of the work to make sure that their efficiency matches up to their productivity. Without a good product or service it doesn’t matter how many units your staff are producing, they’re all going to get returned, complained about or rejected, and that won’t make you the profit you need to.

Attendance

Another measure of how effective your staff are is by their attendance. They might have some great numbers showing their productivity and efficiency but imagine how much more they could achieve if they weren’t constantly late or missing days ill or from other eventualities? And if they’re supposed to be answering telephone enquiries can you even estimate the amount of sales or leads you’ll have dropped if there’s nobody there to pick up the call?

Time-management

Time-management isn’t always a skill that will affect productivity but it can easily damage sales figures and cash flow if your staff are picking the wrong projects or part-projects to concentrate on. If they pick the work they prefer and keep missing deadlines for the tasks should have made a priority then that’s going to cost you too.

How to use this information to your advantage

By measuring and reviewing your staff performance you are in a better position to see how they perform against other team members, how they perform in the eyes of your clients and how much money and profit they bring into the business and what it costs you to employ them to do so. By monitoring these items you can make positive and accurate estimations of their worth to the company which you can then compare to other members of your business, and by looking at your team as a whole you can work out a forecast of the workload you could manage, against the workload you have processed. Also using this information, should you be able to find the matching sector of the industry you operate in, you will be able to compare yourselves to your competition and see how much better or worse you are doing than them by comparison.

You will also be able to use this regular reviewing to see where the strengths and weaknesses of the staff and business as a whole are, how you can improve them, and how in turn that will boost the productivity and efficiency of the business. Training and coaching, assistance and understanding will go a long way to improving not only your staff’s skillsets but also their moral and one of the biggest factors in staff productivity is their enthusiasm for the job; a happy employee works hard for his company, an unhappy employee will more than likely spend most of his day wishing they could go home.

Production and productivity tools

There are myriad tools to measure productivity today. Some of the best don’t even look like they’re measuring productivity. A good workflow application will not only give you an idea of who’s doing what and when but if they’re getting it done on time. It will also get your staff communicating effectively from wherever they are whether they have the time at that particularly moment to talk or not.

Tools such as Basecamp, Monday, DeskTime, iDoneThis, Trello, 15Five, Salesforce, Asana, Pipedrive, and many, many more all set up communications between staff about projects the business has to complete. Every project will include each of the members responsible for its completion. They can mark when they expect to carry each item out, the estimated time it will take to complete and any additional tasks they will need other team members to carry out to make it at all possible or to speed up the process. The manager can oversee all of this information at any time to see where any hold-ups are, where work isn’t getting done, who isn’t doing it so they can then explore why.

Basecamp users check off task when completed, Monday has apps available on iOS and Android so your staff can keep updated wherever they are, whether using the desktop software or on location using a mobile device. iDoneThis sends out an email reminder so each member can update their day’s achievements for the rest of the team to view the following day – like a team meeting first thing without the meeting! They are almost always cloud based so nobody is ever out of the office – even when they are!

And finally; outing the office slacker…

One last type of software that is worth considering amongst larger teams is the staff monitoring system.

Try WorkiQ, Veriato, SoftActivity or Kickidler. You can install software that secretly watches your employees’ computer activity. It watches for how much time they spend on productive work apps and software, relevant websites but also when they’re on social media, gaming sites, personal pages or non-productive websites when they should be working. Some systems utilise video to record the inappropriate use and key-logging to record information directly from your team’s keyboards to monitor what they have been typing when they should have been working; they use a whole host of ways to measure computer use to show if your staff are an efficient and honest working member of your team or whether it’s time to hand out those verbal, written or final warnings – and maybe even if they should