Member Articles

Crowdfunding models explained

With all the hype surrounding crowdfunding, it is at times difficult to know what are the different methods and the benefits of crowdfunding your project. Chris Buckingham from minivation, a Winchester based crowdfund research house and consultancy, takes us through the models available using the acronym DREIM (Donation, Reward, Equity, Interest and Mixed).

The definition of crowdfunding is expanding, reaching out to encompass all sorts of fundraising models. At a debate in London’s Tech Hub recently there was even a small debate about crowdfunding being too generic a term, people preferring to talk about ‘online investment vehicles’ instead.

While I agree it’s becoming ever more widely used as new business models emerge, the term crowdfunding is, in my opinion, appropriate for the sector.

But now that crowdfunding means lots of things, what are the models available for anyone wanting to crowdfund for a project?

To help you navigate your way around the different models, minivation has come up with the acronym D.R.E.I.M. This stands for:

    Donation (philanthropy)
    Reward (pre-tailing)
    Equity (shares)
    Interest (debt)
    Mixed.

Donation
Of the five, perhaps the simplest to understand is the donation model. This works on basic philanthropy, whereby people give money towards a good cause. They are left with the warm glow of knowing they have done something positive, normally with some kind of social value.

Within the arts, this has traditionally been represented by the concept of the sponsor, or patron, of a certain artist or field of creative work.

There are many of these in crowdfunding, perhaps the most well-known being JustGiving. Another includes Spacehive, which is dedicated to social or community causes. For authors there is Unbound, a special model where you can ask the crowd if they would like to see your book idea turned into a reality.

Reward
This is the model which most comes to mind when people think about crowdfunding. The crowd makes a pledge to the project for some money, and the project offers them something in return – like a poster or a piece of merchandise.

The reward model is represented well on both sides of the Atlantic by Kickstarter and Indiegogo. But there are plenty of our own home grown UK sites, like Bloom Venture Catalyst in Edinburgh and Crowdfunder in Exeter. These support many varied fields from artists to zoos (yes, minivation recently got asked if they could crowdfund a zoo!).

Equity
In this model, the project’s management offers a share of the profits to the crowd. Once money is made or the project gets sold, the investors receive a share of the profits. Or that’s the idea!

This is risky as start-ups often fail, so companies like Seedrs, which specialise in this model, require you to pass a test before you can invest through their site. But the good news for investors (and the entrepreneurs using this model) is that the government has introduced the SEIS and EIS scheme which offers tax breaks for investor. There are restriction and the best place to learn about this is on the HMRC web site (http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/eis/index.htm).

Generally speaking equity means you may need to ‘give away’ some the control you have over a project. If you are specialising in, for example, a craft that you are passionate about, it could be difficult for you to give up control. So this model of crowdfunding needs careful consideration.

When you offer equity, you will also need legal help to ensure everything is correct for you and the investors. This costs money and takes time to organise. Investors will generally be looking for growth businesses that they can scale up and sell at some future time. A small craft producer that works from their garage is not the kind of business these investors will normally consider.

Interest
This model is like getting a loan from the bank. Except here you get the loan from the crowd, and it is on your terms, rather than a banks.

But as with equity, you may find a real lack of enthusiasm in your business unless you can prove it has the potential for major growth.

Another problem here is that the rates of interest may be a little higher than the high street. The headline numbers might look the same, but you need to consider fees charged by the crowdfunding platform and the payment processor. This all adds up.

Mixed
Mixed is just as it sounds: a mix of models. For example, the Crowdbnk platform offers you the chance of a reward or an equity campaign. But again, all the above issues need to be considered before you crowdfund your project through them.

Plus you need to check they are FSA regulated, which Crowdbnk is. This will ensure that you are covered should they go bankrupt or find out a campaign is fraudulent.

Peer-to-peer consumer lending
To squeeze a last model in, there are also peer-to-peer consumer lending platforms, like Zopa and Ratesetter. These are available for an individual to borrow money for personal use, like buying a new car, which they then pay back with interest.

Rates on these sites are normally in line with high street banks, and to borrow or lend money you will need to be credit checked and identified to prevent fraud.

This model of crowdfunding also gets a little more controversial with payday loan companies offering crowdfunding facilities (although at present PiggyBank is now a closed system - not open to the crowd and The Lending Well is not accepting the crowds money). Both offer short-term loans for very high rates of interest. A more recent entry is the eMoneyUnion platform that is open for business.

These are often used by individuals who may struggle to get finance from high street banks and need a relatively small amount of cash to tie them over.

The controversy is over the rates they charge. There is definitely a clear demand for this model, but some people argue that their higher rates take advantage of people that are already in financial difficulty.

To learn more about crowdfunding contact Chris at minivation for a chat:
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
077 99 16 66 19

From Start up to Growth!

As small business owners, we all know and accept that we must make money in order to succeed. We get into business in the hope of a better work-life balance and more importantly, financial security for the twilight years.

Often however, many of us will fall into the trap of excessive loans, too much overhead, or poor business development. Fortunately, it is possible to find a balance and make it to the other side.

Below I have outlined some areas that we can work on to improve the sustainability of our businesses.
Surviving the competition

It is important to try and sell a unique product or service in your community. Know your competition and ensure that any competitive approach is bold and innovative. Try something new, if you are struggling for business. Find a niche and run with it.

Business survival depends on the business and its approach to the market. Try to stand out from the crowd in a positive fashion. With time, customers will return and the business reputation will be known in the community.
It's the economy stupid!

Recessions are especially hard on small businesses. Few small firms have the resources to stay the course and wait out the bad times. Credit is scarce, and budget cutting difficult.

In a small operation, there are not that many places to cut. But there are things that we can do to improve the odds of success. By being aware of both risks and opportunities and by paying attention to long-term strategy, we can successfully navigate a recession and sometimes emerge from the bad times stronger than before.

Try and focus on keeping existing customers. Sometimes this means holding down prices by cutting costs.
Business development

Another mistake that I have found with many small businesses is not paying enough attention to keeping and increasing the customer base. You do not need a large advertising budget. Try to get on local radio shows or to pitch story ideas to newspapers. Stay visible by attending community functions. Sometimes it's just a matter of being the number one promoter of your business.

Serving your customers
Paying attention to customers means focusing on services. Even if you're a company that sells goods -- safety gloves, fire extinguishers, clamps, or tools, the service that you provide along with the product can be the key differentiator between you and your competitors. By providing the best services you can to your customers, you enhance the likelihood you'll be able to keep them.

When being small is an advantage
While recessions are rarely good news for any business, they can present opportunities, especially for firms that can take the long view. In a recession, there is always some panic, and businesses withdraw from markets. People who see those openings can capitalize on them.

The niches that these opportunistic businesses occupy may be small, but markets can grow as the economy recovers. The customers are still there. They may not be buying as much as they were before but they're still buying.
Another feature of recessions is layoffs. And an employee shed by one firm can be a valuable pickup for another. You have an opportunity to attract into your business some skills and abilities you would not normally be able to. People are willing to work for a smaller or more risky ventures.

Small businesses also have an important advantage over large firms. Unburdened by large bureaucracies, they can shift strategies more quickly and adapt in a changing environment.

Bigger companies typically can cut costs more steeply and more quickly than small firms. But as larger companies focus on cost, smaller companies have the opportunity to differentiate what they offer.

Bottom Line:
• In a recession, small businesses need to step back and assess their long-term strategies. This often means resisting impulses to slash jobs, inventories, and marketing.

• Focusing on providing high quality services is an important strategy for small businesses. Good services can separate a business from its competitors and help it to retain customers.

• Small business owners and managers must stay visible and positive. Keeping communications open with employees, suppliers, lenders, and customers builds the trust and cooperation needed to overcome challenges.

• Recessions can present opportunities for small businesses. Some firms will vacate markets when hard times hit, and these openings can be filled by other companies. Also, small businesses can hire talented people who have lost their jobs at larger firms.

About The Author:
Mrs Matunga Barwell is a business adviser and consultant at Maokwa Management Consultants. Follow us on twitter @maokwa or visit our website on www.maokwa.com

I shot the Deputy

Over the years, I have done a lot of work with larger organisations with teams of over 50 people and I have noticed that something strange happens when a business gets to that sort of size.  Suddenly from nowhere, assistants and deputies start to appear. In some cases, organisations seem to have more of these than they do actual managers.

Now you might wonder what the problem is with this as it’s quite normal – even schools have deputy heads and classroom assistants.  Well, from my experience, it is one of the early signs that the organisation has started to lose its way, to become more inefficient, slower to respond, bureaucratic and a less than enjoyable place to work.

So how do I come to this conclusion?  To answer this, let’s go back and consider a smaller business in a high growth phase.  In any organisation, you will generally have a hierarchical structure with one manager overseeing a group of people who are doing the work.  However, as this is still a relatively small business, that manager has multiple roles, e.g. a sales manager might well be looking after marketing, incoming sales, outgoing sales, customer service, administration etc.  To wear all these hats, this manager needs to be pretty skilful.

As a business grows, there is obviously more and more work that needs to be done, so the manager gets busier and busier, until there comes a point when they are too busy to cope and they ask for help from their boss.  At this point,  the business owner says to themselves; “this person is valuable to the business, we need to support them and it would be great if we had another just like them, so let’s give them some help by employing an assistant/deputy.”

The manager is obviously relieved to have some help and the assistant is glad of a new job.  The manager then proceeds to pass on the low skill, low fun tasks that they don’t want to do to the assistant and for a short while, things seem to work OK.
The business of course continues to grow, but now it is the assistant that is overloaded as the manager keeps on delegating tasks to them and so they ask for help and another assistant is brought in and the low skill, low fun jobs are passed on down the line.

So now we have more assistants than managers and after a while, the keen young assistant starts to wonder why they cannot take on more responsibility and grow.  They are fed up with doing all the boring tasks and their performance and motivation start to ebb away.  By this time, the manager may be having quite a nice time at work.  They have got rid of all the nasty stuff to their deputy and naturally, might start to take things a bit easy.  When they are asked by their manager/business owner why performance is slipping, they start to blame their assistant and say they will get on to them.

So the assistant gets more pressure from above and is already doing work that is not enjoyable, therefore they become more de-motivated and finally leave, or worse they stay on but complain and moan about their situation to the rest of the team, who think it unfair and then they start to get de-motivated too, bringing performance levels down even further.  Now the business owner starts to despair and wonder why his once slick operation is now twice the size but half as efficient.

So where did it all go wrong?  Well, to blame the deputy or the manager would be unfair.  In fact, it all started to go wrong the moment the business owner thought “… it would be great if we had another person just like the manager, so let’s give them some help by employing an assistant.”

What the business owner missed was the fact that all organisations, large and small, are made up of a number of clearly defined roles, from the role of office cleaner, right up to the role of Managing Director.  In a small organisation, one person must carry out more than one role, but all the individual roles still exist.  A small business has a Finance Director role – it is not a full time role and the technical skill required for that role is lower than that of a company like ICI, but the role exists none the less.

So what the business owner should have said is “…let’s look at the roles the manager is responsible for and focus them on the ones they are really good at then employ somebody else specifically to take on the other roles.”

For example, if the person in charge of sales and marketing needed help, we might assess that their strengths lay in sales and people skills, rather than marketing and analytical skills and so we would split the sales and marketing roles and recruit a really good marketing person to take on that aspect.

This continual assessment of roles and who has responsibility for them and breaking them down and reallocating aspects of them as managers get busier is very important for the efficient functioning of an organisation.  It means that there will always be clear lines of responsibility and that commitment to goals and accountability for poor performance is made easier.  In this way, the organisation will remain lean and mean.

So go on, review your organisation chart, reallocate the roles and take Action to “shoot” those deputies!

ActionCOACH Southampton
Part of the World's #1 Business Coaching Firm
Tel: 02380 010855
E-Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web Site: www.abc-solent.co.uk

Take time to think!

Being a business owner is probably one of the toughest jobs there is and as a result, there’s always huge pressure on the business owner to get everything done during their working hours. I have experienced this myself in two ways: firstly, over the last ten years of running my own businesses, and secondly, more poignantly, as a child when my parents both ran their own businesses.

As a child, your perspective of life is rather different than as an adult. Children have a very simple view of life. If you are not having fun, then why would you bother doing something? As a child with self-employed parents, I found it annoying that my friends’ employed parents were always home by 6pm, were around all weekend to be with them, and that they went away on holiday to lovely places 2-3 times a year, when my own experience was very different.

My father had usually left for work before I went to school, and was not home again until late in the evening. Weekends were when he went in to the office to do the books, catch up on admin or finish an urgent job and holidays were at most a one week break in the UK, because he could not be away from work for too long. Luckily, we did not have email or mobile phones back then, so at least while we were away, our time was not interrupted by business issues.

So why is it that business owners experience such intense pressure on their time that they often allow the things that should be most dear to them to take a back seat? The truth is that in the early days of a business, they don’t have much choice. Getting a business started takes a lot of energy. Think of a big fly wheel that you have to turn by hand. To break the initial inertia, you have to put a lot of force into turning it, then as the wheel starts turning, that force can be reduced because it has its own momentum, but if you let the flywheel slow then you have to apply more force to get it going again.

The problem is that most business owners never get their business to a stage where it can create its own momentum, so they are always having to put in the force to keep it turning. So what are they missing? How can you get your business to create its own momentum?

Well, you have to look at the areas of the business that cause the most inertia, i.e. the areas that can slow a business down. The first is sales and marketing. Until a business has a robust sales and marketing plan in place, that is not reliant on the business owner, it will always be a cycle of: work hard to get the business, then work hard to do the business, then work hard to get more business and repeat ad infinitum.

What is needed is a marketing ‘machine’ that constantly brings in enquiries from genuinely interested people, who are in a position to buy your products or services. This machine should incorporate multiple marketing strategies, so that if one was not effective for a period, there are others that would be and therefore the leads would not dry up. The strategies should be systemised and delegated to other people, measured to prove a positive return on investment and improvements tested constantly.

In addition, there needs to be a systemised sales process that maximises the conversion of these enquiries that can be followed by well trained sales people. This will include scripts, standard letters and quotes and a follow up system that keeps in touch with people, even if they say “no, not now”.

The second area of inertia is people. I see a lot of business owners that would rather work 80 hours a week than employ somebody to do half of the work for them. There seems to be two common explanations or excuses for this. The first is that the business owner feels that they cannot afford to employ somebody and the second is that they think that they can do the work quicker and better themselves.

Both of these excuses stem from an erroneous belief that the day to day work they are doing is the most important work they can be doing as a business owner. Their challenge is that they are running a business with an employee mentality, not a business owner mentality.

From an employee’s point of view, it is working that brings in the money. They trade their time for money and they believe the mark of success is a certain annual salary or hourly rate. But a true entrepreneur thinks differently. They know that that it is not the work that brings in the money, but the ideas generated. One idea that happens in a flash and is successfully implemented can make hundreds, thousands, even millions of pounds. So the more time an entrepreneur has to THINK, the more money they can make. To this end, they have no choice but to learn how to delegate and build a team that will work IN the business so that they can work ON the business.

The added bonus is that great ideas happen best when you are relaxed and having fun, so making time to do the things you want to do, such as spend time with your family and pursue interests outside of work, has got to be the most valuable use of your time that there is. After all, nobody lays on their death bed and wishes that they had worked harder.
So go on, take ACTION and make time to think like an entrepreneur!

ActionCOACH Southampton
Tel: 02380 560833

E-Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web Site: www.abc-solent.co.uk

The environment celebrates as Sustainable Routes gets even more funding!

The extra funding will allow an additional  200 grants to be awarded to businesses across the South East. The funds were secured through the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) out of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Sustainable Routes is delivered by Ngage Solutions and is designed to identify ways in which businesses can cut down CO2 emissions through more efficient work and travel practices. Businesses with an ideal solution to their energy consumption levels can apply for a match funded grant from Sustainable Routes of up to £1,000 towards the cost of the items or services.
Dorothy Grobler, Contract Manager at DCLG was effusive in her praise for the scheme. “The project has been a huge success and we are delighted to allocate more funding towards it. The Ngage Solutions team have been tireless in their efforts to help businesses across the South East become more energy efficient, save money and improve their working practices. I am really excited that we can continue the funding for another 2 years.”

The programme has already delivered over 500 grants across the South East. One Hampshire business which benefited from a Sustainable Routes grant was Gosport-based STS Defence Ltd.

A match-funded £1,000 grant enabled the installation of bike shelters at STS Defence, something which has paid off in a big way. Sustainable Routes grants are able to capture the desire that a business has to be environmentally friendly. The grant that STS Defence received has helped to foster a legacy of sustainable travel as more staff now cycle into work than ever before.

“Until we received the grant, bikes were just untidily propped up around the car park, which leads onto a main road,” said Alan Mackinnon of STS Defence. “Now that they have a safe place to store their bikes, there has been an uptake in staff members cycling into work. Now around 15% of our 150 staff do just that.”

With the desire to implement changes, STS Defence needed an opening to enable them to do so. Sustainable Routes was that opening. “The process was so straightforward,” said Phil Currie, who liaised with the Sustainable Routes team on the application process, “we had no trouble in getting the grant.”

Other past applicants have used the grant for laptops to enable  flexible working, server upgrades for remote users to login, and bikes and bike racks for employees to cycle to work.

If you have a turnover of £75,000 and have been trading for over a year then register online today at www.sustainableroutes.co.uk. The project is scheduled to run until June 2015 but funds are limited and will be awarded on a first come first served basis.

To find out more contact Luke Faulkner, Project Manager of Sustainable Routes at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 01494 568956.

Training courses

Have a look at the latest Southern Entrepreneurs training link click here

The training course, run by Jane Buswell, was held at The Sorting Office, a space for creative businesses in Eastleigh.

 

A Guide to Finding Good Tenants

Every landlords dream is a tenant who never has any complaints, looks after the property they are living in and always pays their rent on time. Unfortunately, not all tenants fit this description, but you can increase your chances of finding a good match.

1. Prepare your property and look at your competition
Before letting your property assess the rental market in your area and see what other landlords are offering, maybe a gardener or cleaner is included in the rent. Your property should be let in a good condition with little maintenance. The better condition your property is in, the more likely you are to attract better tenants.

2. Decide whether to use a letting agent or manage the rental yourself
If you are very busy, new to the market or just don't have the inclination to look for tenants yourself , a letting agent could be the answer. The services offered and prices charged vary greatly. If you don't want to pay someone else to find your tenants you can do it yourself or you may decide it is a better option just to choose the services you require and pay for them as and when you need them.

3. Viewings
When conducting viewings , either yourself or your agent, should know lots of information about your property, from the council tax, local amenities, schools ,to what days the bins are collected. This time is useful to meet and select suitable tenants face to face. Spend time chatting to the prospective tenants so you can get a feel of what they are like as people. It is difficult to tell instantly whether someone is reliable, but listen to your instincts. The first offer is not necessarily the correct one.

Always reference your tenant thoroughly before proceeding.
 

www.getsetlet.com
Tel: 02380 253134
Mobie: 07549 692976

How to help your business grow

 Advisory Article written by Laura Barton of Gosport Heating Services

All businesses want to grow; both economically speaking, and in order to better themselves. We at Gosport Heating Services have grown from being a small, family-run company 20 years ago, to the growing business that we are now, and in order to do that we have had to make many changes along the way. 

The first thing that we did was to create a new Marketing strategy,  that our newly appointed operations manager Marc Smith has implemented. Marketing  can include  more wide-spread advertising, a complete re-branding in order to give the company a sharper, more modern look and a more catchy title, for example we went from Gosport Heating Services Ltd (what a mouth-full!) to simply “GHS”), attending networking events in order to spread your business further, and cross-marketing of products to existing customers.

Innovation was another method that we used; don't get stuck in a  rut– always be thinking of new and creative ways to go about things– for example, create new products for customers, and new ways of working. We have completed re-invented the way that our office works in the past couple of years, implementing better procedures in the work place to ensure that everything is completed in an efficient and timely manner, we have re-jiggered our staff, moving people into positions more suited to their skills– e.g. redeploying engineers so that they are purely on the road doing jobs and not sitting in the office– the efficient office staff now deal with all customer enquiries and use our new database system to log jobs, therefor making it simple & efficient to create, update, complete & invoice jobs all in one quick simple step.

Another important tool is Training, we at GHS believe training to be one of the most important tools that a company can use; there are so many free, low-cost or government-funded training programmes available nowadays that you’d be daft not to take advantage of them! I strongly recommend to any growing business to look into the newly government-funded GrowthAccelerator Scheme– you can find more details here: www.growthaccelerator.com, but put simply, it offers companies who qualify a unique service tailored to your exact business needs, designed to help your company to grow and expand rapidly; they will help you create strategies that will bring you new customers (and keep them), they will provide bespoke training for managers, improving their leadership skills and ability to push the company forward, and they can help with funding as well, matching what you invest.

Last but by no means least, is Positivity– aim to create a positive, friendly, happy working environment for all of your staff, and then success will naturally follow. It has been proven that a happy working environment creates more efficient staff. When stress levels get too high, we shut down and simply cannot function. At GHS we aspire to have an excellent working relationship with all our employees and I think we do this by being honest, flexible, and most importantly by maintaining a fun, positive workplace. So unwind, have a laugh with your colleagues– think of fun things that you can all do together, whether it’s attending team– building activities, or just taking a minute out to have a cuppa and a quick chat about what you all did at the weekend… bottom line?

Follow these simple steps and stay positive :)
- Marketing
- Innovation
- Training
- Positivity

Gosport Heating Services

Tel: 01329 285993
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.gosportheatingservices.co.uk

How Google Thinks in 2013

The way Google thinks really influences how it looks at your website, and decides if it's worth ranking on page 1...or page 2 and beyond. Google also frequently changes its mind about what is good on the web, and what's not. In this article, I give my humble view on what Google is liking in 2013, and 3 changes business owners can make to their website to make it more Google- friendly.

Google mobile device

Google is an Immature Teenager
Although Google started life in 1996, it didn't really become widely used until Yahoo! started using it as it's search engine in 2000. So that's only 13 years ago! And just like a 13 year old teenager, Google is still learning at an incredible rate, and is still going through growing pains and uncomfortable changes. Do you remember being 13 years old?!

Google Teenagers

Google is a Machine
We read much about Google in the media. Stuff like:
1. Google's mantra "do no evil" - Google hasn't mentioned it in years, but the press hasn't forgotten
2. Google makes x squillion in profits this year
3. Google privacy issues with various court cases
4. Google struggling with freedom of speech and its presence in China.
But away from all the blurb, the core of Google is a computer. A massive computer which scans ("spiders") all the websites it can find, analyses that data back at Google HQ, then ranks websites for different keywords. And that's what you see when you search for something on Google. Hugely simplistic, but essentially Google's raison d'etre is to provide searchers like you and me with the stuff we wanted to find. If they didn't keep doing that, and do it well, we'd go elsewhere. Right now, 91% of searchers in the UK use Google, so it's the main search engine of choice. But the key question is how does Google decide which websites should be listed first?

Google Listens
No-one knows exactly what factors (or signals) google uses to rank websites...except the guys at Google ! If they published this info, then every website owner would change their website to the exact recipe, and Google's rankings wouldn't then serve the best, most relevant results.
But the SEO (search engine optimisation) industry (multi-billion pound industry in its own right) knows that Google listens to 100's of signals from websites. And as soon as SEOs find a new signal they can trick or manipulate, this gets overused, Google don't like it, and they learn and change their listening strategy. Hence the analogy to a teenage who learns quickly, and changes their mind even more quickly!

So in the past, tricks like keyword cramming, where you put your keyword in as many places on your website as possible, worked. For a time. But have you ever searched for something, then Google found you a website just like this? Completely unreadable and makes you click back to Google and search again.

Google wants to keep you, the searcher, happy. So Google listens much less to things like keywords, which SEOs and website managers can change (the "techies"), and more to the website visitors. Why? It feels that if website visitors prefer one website over another, then it's highly likely that other people looking for the same thing will also prefer that website. So it moves the preferred website up the rankings. Sounds logical, but how does Google know what website visitors like and don't like?

Google Chrome
What browser do you open on your PC to access Google and the web? In Europe, it's split 3 ways pretty much between Internet Explorer (Microsoft), Firefox (Mozilla) and Chrome (Google). Why did Google develop a new free browser in 2008 called Chrome at huge cost, when there is no obvious financial gain? Simply put, as roughly a third of UK internet users use Chrome, they can track their behaviour on different websites. And then use this behaviour to decide how to rank websites.

Key data Google looks at (which you can see in your website's analytics) is:
1. bounce rate. how many visit a page, then exit back to where they were. A 90% bounce rate is bad - 60% is better.
2. average time on page. how long does the average visitor spend on each page.
If you have a web page which your visitors stay on for longer and bounce off less than your competitor, it's highly likely Google will rank that page higher in future. Can you see where this is leading yet?! If you have interesting stuff on your website that your visitors love reading, you'll get ranked higher and get even more visitors.
So it all comes down to getting great content on your website, be that blog posts, photos, videos, etc.

3 Tips to Get Ranked Higher on Google
1. Write Great Content
Think about writing stuff that doesn't sell you or your product/service. Think about your perfect client, and what interests them. So if you're a printer wanting to get more people printing their business cards, don't write an article pushing your printing services. Write about marketing for small businesses, and what branding/materials is important when first starting a business. If they like your article, they might click on the "contact us" link, and they might become a client. But don't sell upfront.

2. Enhance Your Current Content
If you look at your current content, what could be changed to hold people on the page longer? Here's some tips:
1. Add a photo - a photo can draw people into a page's content much quicker, and set the scene
2. Add a caption to the photo - people like being told about the photo. Studies show it holds people on a page longer
3. Break up the text - reams and reams of unbroken text bore people. Break it up as people scroll down with sub-titles, images, bullet points.
4. Write informally - people find natural informal language easier to read
5. Link to other pages - if you mention a subject within your prose which is explained more on another page, help your visitor find it - link to it.
6. Link to authority websites - if the visitor could be really helped out by a link to another website, don't be afraid to link. Sites like Wikipedia or BBC News are a great source of info, and Google will reward you for doing this (not penalise as used to be the case).

3. Get your Content Found
Google likes to be able to find an XML sitemap on your website. Sounds technical, but all it is an index of all the pages on your website. The XML format is used rather than normal HTML, as Google's crawler can scan it much more efficiently. And if you help Google find your pages with all this lovely interesting content on, then you maximise the chances of people finding those pages in the Google rankings.

Google in a Nutshell
Google trusts website users much more than SEO webmasters to rank websites. And that's why great content on your website can make the biggest difference to your rankings. Surely that's how it should be, no?

Author: Geoff Roy
SEO Consultant, Leapfrog Internet Marketing
"Pulling more visitors into websites; Turning those visitors into warm leads"

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | 07771 778850 | leapfrogim.co.uk | LinkedIn  

Business Support Officer for Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service

The Business Support Officer is a brand new role to Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, after a successful trial last year the post has been rolled out with 6 Business Support Officers now working in Hampshire with four posts in Winchester, and a further two based in Basingstoke. Working within the Business Fire Safety Team the BSO role is to engage, educate and inform businesses about their responsibilities in relation to fire safety and to provide advice on other relevant matters where appropriate. This may include (but is not limited to) advice and information on:

·         Fire Safety in Businesses
·         Reducing the risk to businesses from arson
·         Preventing false alarms from automated fire systems
·         Lift maintenance and management
·         Road Safety
·         Business continuity
·         Community, or business resilience

The aim is to support businesses through providing advice and working with the business community to make Hampshire businesses safer and more resilient.

For more information contact: 

Chris Clements
Business Support Officer
Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service

Tel: 02392 855180
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web
: www.hantsfire.gov.uk

Avoiding the pitfalls of letting

When deciding to let your property there are many things that need to considered and organised in order to avoid pitfalls at a later stage.

Firstly, is your property ready to rent? 
The better the condition and more easily maintained your property is, the better tenants you are  are likely to attract. A minor make-over may pay dividends and a thorough clean of the property is essential.

Have you considered and set in place all the legal requirements?  Gas safety certificates, EPC, smoke alarms, Tenancy Agreements, Section 21 and deposit protection.
Are your tenants who they say they are? Referencing and credit checking your tenants is essential to reduce the likelihood of problems later.

Do you have an inventory? Just before the tenants take residency an inventory should be done to note the condition of the property. This detailed document is invaluable at the end of tenancy should any dispute arise regarding the condition of your property.

Your tenants have been welcomed to their new home and all relevant paperwork has been signed. Things have settled down and the rent is coming in. You can continue to relax when you know you that the property is being well looked after and the tenants are happy. The way to ensure this is by carrying out periodic inspections. Ideally carried out quarterly,  these visits assess the condition, any health and safety issues and maintenance needs of the property. They also identify signs of misuse sub-letting etc. One of the most common problems that can arise, especially in older houses, is the occurance of condensation and mould. If left unchecked it can build very quickly and be extremely difficult to erradicate. We use inspections as an opportunity to check for such issues and, where appropriate, give lifestyle advice to the tenants, often it is much easier if this is done by a third party to protect that delicate landlord /tenant relationship. Most importantly, documented periodic inspections provide evidence that you were aware of a problem and took appropriate action fullfilling your obligations.

Finally at the end of the tenancy a deposit release check should be carried out to highlight any difference in the property between the start and end of tenancy. It establishes, allowing for fair wear and tear, whether any of the deposit should be retained to compensate dilapidation caused by the tenants.

Letting a property to good tenants takes time, commitment and knowledge. If there are areas you are not enrtirely confident in seek help but do your homework when employing an agent, check how much of your rent they will want in exchange for their help. You will save pounds by paying only for the services that you require when, when you require them. Protect your precious profit.

For more information on letting contact Get Set Let
Phone: 07549 692976
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.getsetlet.com

Elevator Pitch

If you’d got into the lift on the 4th floor with Steve Jobs and couldn’t explain what you’d done for Apple before you reached the lobby you’d be fired, or so the story goes…

It’s unlikely you’d have a similar career changing conversation in a lift but there are many business success stories that began with a brief, chance meeting with an influential figure.
Imagine you and another passenger both get off the tube at the wrong station and strike up a conversation. He asks you “what is it that you do?” If you had half an hour you could eloquently describe your business but as soon as you see the next train is in one minute you’re totally stumped.

Instead wouldn’t it be nice to hear a brief, accurate and impressive description of your business and realise the words were coming out of your mouth!
So where do you start?

The quote often attributed to Mark Twain “I’d have written a shorter letter but I didn’t have the time” sums it up. A few well-chosen words require much more thought and effort, especially when your objective is to delight and intrigue the listener and invite them to find out more. An “Elevator Pitch” is exactly that, an opening gambit.

The secret is to know what you’d say in such situations and have a range of words and phrases that you feel so comfortable with you can unconsciously put them together making them sound fresh every time; but don’t imagine that those off the cuff remarks great speakers use haven’t been carefully thought through.

Whether it’s a chance meeting or a one minute description of your business at a networking event begin your preparation by deciding what you want the outcome to be and work back from there. In such a short space of time you can only hope to captivate the listener to the point that they’re eager to continue the conversation.

When delivering training I often ask participants for good and bad examples of the skill they’re learning. When I ask myself the same question near the top of my worst “pitch” list are people who sound like they’ve rehearsed their speech until it’s so polished it’s like a cheesy “ad” and it just doesn’t ring true. Of course I advise trainees to plan and rehearse what they’re going to say but to a point where they can be flexible and respond to the situation and the listener. It’s like the difference between watching a dancer who looks like they’ve practiced until they’re perfect but are somehow robotic or one who seems be completely natural and as one with the music.
So what are my tips for a great “elevator pitch”?

Do your research – what is it that clients find interesting and intriguing about what you do? Be fun and entertaining – an “elevator pitch” is the business equivalent of flirting so “catch their eye” and make them want to talk to you! Remember though that, as in all relationships, at some point you’ll have to be yourself so make sure what you say is really you.

Jo Cherry . Jo Cherry Training Ltd www.jocherrytraining.co.uk
01256 409005 · 07963 076 985 · This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

How is my Posture?

Having a good posture uses the least amount of effort from your body and places the least amount of stress on your ligaments and bones. It will place your bones and joints in the correct alignment so that the muscles will be used most efficiently which in turn results in less muscle fatigue, ligament strain and overuse problems. Maintaining good posture in everyday activities requires practice so that it becomes second nature. It may feel strange at first but once you have achieved a good posture you should notice a reduction your postural aches and pains.

Standing
The ideal standing posture is not actually standing straight like a soldier as this will increase the strain on your lower back. However, being too relaxed so that your chin is sticking forwards, your shoulders droop down and you are slouching forwards will also place extra work on your back muscles.

Incorrect Standing Posture Correct Standing Posture

The ideal standing posture will be having your head comfortably over your trunk and not poking forwards, your feet should be shoulder-width apart, your chest up and your knees slightly bent so that your hips are not pushed forwards. 

Sitting
Slouching when in a seated position is one of the most common causes of back ache. In the driving seat, it is important to be in a relaxed yet supported position for the back. Adjust the backrest of the seat so that your whole back is supported and move the seat to a position where you can reach the steering wheel without having to strain forwards and can have your elbows slightly bent. Some cars have a lumbar support built into the seat – this should be used to support the curve in your lower back.

If you do not have this feature, a small rolled up towel can be used to support the curve of the lower back. The knee should be at the same level or slightly higher than the hip and you should be able to reach and depress the pedals with your feet comfortably. The best knee angle is about 130°. To minimise whiplash injuries in case of accident, the top of the head rest should be level with the top of your head and no lower than eye level.

Lifting
Many back injuries occur from improper lifting techniques. This doesn't only include lifting objects that are too heavy but can also be caused by twisting your back when lifting, lifting objects that are too far away from the body and not using your leg muscles to help with the lift.

Incorrect lifting posture  Correct Lifting Posture

When lifting an object from the floor, position yourself close to the object with your feet apart and then bend your knees. Hold the object, tighten your stomach muscles and smoothly straighten your knees keeping your back straight as you lift up the object. Do not twist your back and do not lift the object with jerky movements. Hold the object close to your body with your arms bent. NEVER lift an object by bending at the waist with straight legs.

This article was submitted by Shirley Physiotherapy

www.shirleyphysioclinic.co.uk/
Tel: 023 8077 1596
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

New Articles Wanted

If you have a useful and informative article that you feel would benefit other members of Southern Entrepreneurs that you would like to be consider for inclusion in this section and the monthly e-newsletter, SE News, then please send them, in Word format with images supplied as individual jpegs, to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Please note that the article must be of value to other members and not an advert.

Mastering Small Talk

Mastering small talk will help you find common ground to create a mini-bond with new contacts. Small talk may feel trite and unimportant, but it's the small talk that leads to the big talk.

Read more...

Items to consider when designing a website!

We have found that more and more of our clients have been asking us about their website effectiveness.  Due to increasing demand for content management, emphasis on the importance of blogging and e-mail marketing, as well as image makeovers, more and more companies are either giving their site a facelift or starting from scratch.

Read more...