Category: Advice Blog

Northern Max 3 Hits the halfway point on virtual delivery and top marks on results!

The Northern Max 3 programme is now over half-way, having just delivered its 6th workshop, 3rd masterclass and 2nd ‘speed dating’ meeting.  The programme is taking the 15-strong cohort through a very intensive workshop schedule where there has been a lot of self-assessment and analysis resulting in some startling revelations about themselves!

The cohort have been working collectively throughout the programme and have already developed relationships that will continue post the 10-week programme.

Week 3 delivered by Sara Scott focused on route to markets and the core elements that make up, influence and affect a business’ brand.

Alison Bull, Founder of Tandem Agency delivered week 4’s workshop and built on the foundations of Sara’s session looking at profiling the customer.

Lisa Grogan, co-CEO of Overlap Associates addressed the cohort from Canada about user-centred design to develop strategies, plans and a way of solving problems and the principles of how she started and grew her business as well as juggling a family life.

Week 5 featured Paula Finch talking about people and resources, where she led the group through a shared understanding of the principles of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and how this is critical to building work teams.

Week 6 started with Sankar Sivarajah, Head of School of Management at Bradford University talking all things circular economy, partnerships and the importance of inclusive strategies.  Annabelle Beckwith followed the masterclass with her session on Partnerships and Collaborations and the importance of finding the right business partner – along with the horror stories!

Initial feedback from participants has all been positive, some highlights below:

“It helped me to think about what my audiences are looking for and how to speak to them in a way that will make them take action”

“the presentation skills really made me think about my own development and how I can look to improve how I interact with people”

Northern Max 3, is a specialist business support programme for digital and technology firms in the Leeds/Bradford area.  This fully funded business support programme, running across a period of ten weeks, started on 23 April.  Northern Max 3 is being delivered virtually by Greenborough Business Management’s 10×10 accelerator programme in partnership with Bradford Council and AD:VENTURE, a business support programme for new businesses in North and West Yorkshire funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). It forms part of AD:VENTURE’s pledge to continue to support businesses using online tools despite the pandemic.

For more details on the Northern Max 3 programme, visit https://ad-venture.org.uk/northernmax3

USEFUL DIGITAL PRODUCTS FOR BUSINESS OWNERS AND STARTUPS

UPDATED – 29.4.2020 with new events

I think it’s fair to say all of us are feeling the strain of the changes we’ve had to make recently. The personal and emotional sacrifices made to help our loved ones and NHS staff stay safe, and the phenomenal challenges this outbreak has presented to businesses.

For those just starting out in business (and I talk to a lot of you amazing, passionate and inspirational people on a daily basis), it’s harder than ever.

How do you progress in these circumstances? How can you still work on your business and do something practical.

How do you stay motivated to even do that?

One way to look at this is much like we have all been doing in our personal lives. How many people have you spoken to who’ve learned something new over the past few weeks? As a nation we’ve learned to home school the kids, learnt to bake, learnt to use virtual technology to stay in touch with our families and colleagues, learnt new ways to exercise. I’ve taught my mother to use Whatsapp on facetime to 4 people. She’s delighted!!

So, I guess my point here is that as difficult as all of this is, a challenge presents an opportunity.

In my work as AD:VENTURE marketing and communications manager, I’ve found or been sent some useful digital products for business owners and start ups over the last week or so that you can use to develop yourself and your business.

All of it is free, and it could help you to work on areas of your business or your skills that will put you in a stronger position as we enter the recovery stages.

So, in no particular order, here they are:

  • AD:VENTURE BUSINESS SUPPORT

It would be remiss of me not to mention that our support provision is still available, for anyone starting or scaling a business from 0-3 years trading.

If you want to talk to an advisor and get some hands on advice and support you can register at www.ad-venture.org.uk/register

Our first series of Webinars are now available to book!

AD:VENTURE Webinar Events

May 2020

6 May Reviewing and re-setting your marketing strategy and activity during the COVID-19 outbreak

7 May Business Resilience 

12 May Pitching your Business

14 May Mapping & Maximising your Customer Journey Part 1 

15 May Mapping & Maximising your Customer Journey Part 2 

19 May LinkedIn 

20 May Effective negotiation and closing

22 May Reviewing and re-setting your marketing strategy and activity during the COVID-19 outbreak

27 May Power of the telephone Part 1 

28 May Power of the telephone Part 2

Keep an eye on upcoming events HERE

  • PAPI

The workshop programme consists of 2 days delivery, they are happening on the 5th/13th May, and then conclude during the week of 18th May.

The 2 day events will still be focussed on business innovation and include the following content:

  • Leading business growth advice, support & expertise specific to you & your business, via one-to-one & small group sessions online
  • A small mastermind community of like-minded entrepreneurs & environment of mutual support
  • Focused, practical online sessions – designed for you – on topics such as:
  • Financing your business, cashflow and available support – inc. product & process innovation grants
  • Making decisions that are right for now & the future
  • When & how to pivot
  • and much more…

The programme will be facilitated by Dr Jo North, all delegates will receive tailored support and coaching from Jo throughout the process. The structure of day 2 will be a “pick and mix” approach and consist of a variety of workshops on business innovation topics

Register your interest here:
Register your interest – 5th May
Register your interest – 13th May
If you would like more information, please contact us at papi-innovation@york.ac.uk.

  • BT BUSINESS SUPPORT

BT have created a series of webinars to help small business owners and their employees on a wide range of topics including digital marketing, using collaboration tools and how to get a business online. These have been developed by BT alongside partners including Small Business Britain and Google Digital Garage.  List of webinars and registration link below

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/bt-skills-for-tomorrow-26823592931

  • AD:VENTURE DIGITAL LEARNING HUB

AD:VENTURE is working with Leeds Beckett University to provide free online resources to businesses during the coronavirus outbreak.

The content has been developed by academics from Leeds Beckett’s Business School and covers business planning, sales, leadership skills, marketing and pricing. Each masterclass contains a 15-minute video tutorial and provides suggested tasks to complete to put the learning into practice. To access just drop us an email and we will send you log in details

  • DIGITAL KNOWLEDGE EXCHANGE

The Digital Knowledge Exchange (DKE) has launched a new (fully-funded) webinar series for businesses in the Leeds city region. The webinars will provide expert insights on the use of digital solutions to increase productivity and competitiveness during the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown. The series has been designed to support businesses striving to become best placed when the nation returns to business as usual.

Phase one (April – May) will deliver webinar content based on trending topics within four main categories:

  • Customer Engagement
  • Business Resilience
  • Content Marketing
  • Digital Marketing Strategy

During each webinar, you will be able to communicate with fellow guests via a live chat feed, take away exclusive insights from our expert speakers and have any questions you may have answered.

To view the full webinar series and to book online, please visit www.digitalenterprise.co.uk/digital-knowledge/events/  or call a member of the DKE team on 0113 426 0535.

  • OPEN UNIVERSITY COURSES

Many Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are facing their toughest challenges to date due to Covid-19. Study these free business courses to help improve your skills and knowledge.

All of  courses are FREE and you can start them when you want, studying at your own pace.

Seriously, there are loads on here covering so many different topics that are business essentials, from marketing, strategy, innovation, resilience, finance.

Link HERE

  • BUSINESS AND IP CENTRE

Business & IP Centre Leeds is a one-stop source for all your business and intellectual property needs. They have some really useful events and their IP knowledge is extensive!

They draw on a wide range of resources and have extensive experience in dealing with business and intellectual property enquiries. They are members of the Europe-wide PATLIB network, the British Library’s Business & IP Centre network, and work closely with the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce and other partners.

  • Wednesday 6th May 5.30pm – 7pm Social Media for your business (delivered by Liz Cable) Webinar Book your free place:

    www.bipcleeds.eventbrite.co.uk

     

    After booking you will be sent a link to access the webinar

     

    free
    Monday 11th May 4pm – 5pm Finance for new business  (delivered by Gareth Allen, Red Sky Finance) Webinar Book your free place:

    www.bipcleeds.eventbrite.co.uk

     

    After booking you will be sent a link to access the webinar

     

    free
  • FREE BUSINESS COACHING SESSIONS – Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership

Thanks to a team of business professionals that have volunteered their time, we are offering SMEs FREE business coaching sessions to help with contingency planning for this period and beyond. Coaches will work with businesses to diagnose issues affecting them at the moment including people, suppliers and customers, finance and premises.

Interested? Email businesssupport@the-lep.com

  • INVESTOR READINESS FINANCE SEMINARS

The LEP’s Investment Readiness programme is working with our partners to provide additional support during Covid-19 via free of charge webinar sessions. The sessions include topics such as ‘Accessing Business Interruption Loans’ and ‘Tracking and Managing your Cash Flow’.

For more information on how to register for the webinars https://www.the-lep.com/business-support/growth-support/investment-readiness/

  • NORTHERN MAX PROGRAMME

Northern Max 3, will now be delivered online, and technology-oriented companies less than three years old are invited to take part.

The free business support programme will take place over ten weeks, starting on 23 April. It includes one-to-one mentoring alongside workshops and masterclasses led by experienced business coaches. Topics covered will include preparing a business plan, setting targets, profiling target customers and marketing. There will also be a focus on helping companies exploit opportunities when the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, as well as an opportunity to pitch for potential investment at the end of the programme.

For more details on the Northern Max 3 programme, visit https://ad-venture.org.uk/northernmax3

There you go!

Hopefully you will find some of this helpful. Do let me know if you have seen anything I’ve missed!

In addition to all of this, I strongly encourage you to look on LinkedIn and see what else is being shared – Lots of businesses are stepping up and offering their services for free to support each other in these difficult times.

A reminder also that there is a range of wider Government support available for businesses, self-employed individuals and charities.

The Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership are acting as a key point of contact for businesses in Leeds City Region.

You can find out latest updates and contact details if you have a question at https://www.the-lep.com/business-support/covid-19-support-for-businesses/

Feel free to contact me at daneile.moore@leeds.gov.uk or our team at AD:VENTURE on at support@ad-venture.org.uk

Stay safe, and try and stay positive,

Daneile Moore / AD:VENTURE

Managing the challenges of working from home!

Kate Betts runs Capital B Media, a PR and communications agency which is usually based in an office. Here she looks at the challenges of working from home.

 

A lot of us are finding ourselves suddenly flung out into this strange world of home-working. And it is a completely different world.

I have been running a business for over 15 years, but this is all new for me. It will be new for you; it is new for everyone.

It doesn’t matter where your business is on its journey; established or start up, we are all learning as we go along and helping each other along the way.

 

If you are normally in an office with others, before too long you will find yourself at home and it will be different.

In the office we have co-workers to discuss what we are watching on Netflix, now we have the cat, and possibly the partner and kids too, for company.

Where we might have had a cupboard full of stationery and a printer that worked, we now find ourselves scribbling notes on the back of a random scrap of paper.

And realising that your internet connection at home is about as fast as the proverbial yoghurt pot and piece of string is enough to test the patience of anyone.

There are upsides. You don’t have to commute (thus saving money) and you can sit there in a scruffy T-shirt and jeans. Please no pyjamas; especially in these days of video conferencing!

I work in an office now where there are five of us. But in the past I worked from home and at remote offices for years, both while working as a ‘district’ reporter for radio and newspapers, and in the early days of Capital B Media. My colleagues on the other hand are fairly new to this game and already we have had some teething problems.

So, a few pointers:

  • If possible, do a dry-run. It might be that you have been forced already to work from home, or you are planning it within the next few days. If you haven’t already embarked on the adventure, then what about a practice first?

Everyone can work from home to try it out. Then you go back to the office for a day (if you can) and collect all the little things you forgot. So far our list at Capital B Media includes: highlighter pens, paper for the printer, the office mobile, the office calculator, the spare printer, numerous documents and an ethernet cable. It is amazing what you take for granted!

  • Keep the routine as much as you can. We are trying to keep some semblance of normality by continuing to work 9 to 5 and having a catch-up online every morning to discuss what tasks we are working on.

 

  • Remember your internet at home might not be as good as that in the office. So, don’t expect to be downloading, and particularly uploading, big files at any speed. If you do need to work with large files, can you compress them? Video in particular is a bit of a nightmare.

 

If you have an IT support company talk to them about what the system’s limits are – and then factor in that there are several dozen people trying to get on to your server and several million people also working from home. So, patience is a virtue, as is an ethernet cable – at least being wired is quicker than Wi-Fi.

 

  • Think about where you are going to sit. Most of us don’t have the luxury of an office at home, so we end up perched at the kitchen table. But how is that for your back? And are you constantly interrupted by the rest of the family? Or are you stuck in a room with limited natural light? Try out different locations – and chairs.

 

  • Give yourself a break. It is easy to feel guilty about the 20-minute walk with the dog or watching the lunchtime news while eating scrambled egg. But remember you take formal, and informal, breaks in the office too. How many mornings does it actually take a good quarter of an hour for people to start work because of an office conversation about football/ the latest film/ their journey? And then part way through the morning you all get lost in a conversation about some random TV programme and then you spend ten minutes in the afternoon looking at cat videos…. It is ok to take breaks in the office and at home.

 

  • Keep in touch. It is a lonely world, especially if you don’t have anyone else in your home. (And if you do, it might be worth reminding them you are working.) Regular contact with your colleagues can keep up the team spirit. Set up a WhatsApp group, chat on Microsoft Teams, email random thoughts. We are all in this together.

 

Market Your Business Better in 2020

Want to make a commitment to market your business better? Here Daneile Moore, Communications and Marketing Officer for Leeds City Region AD:VENTURE Programme, looks at what you might do differently in 2020.      

The New Year has is now a fading memory and January been and gone (Was it just me or was that the longest month!) but, there is still plenty of time to make a firm resolution to grow your business through marketing.

This time of year is a perfect time to start something new or do things differently. So, how about taking a good look at how you market your business?

Did you draw up a marketing plan way back in the mists of time? Are you still doing what you have always done, wondering why your sales have stagnated? Are your competitors starting to creep ahead of you, even though you know your product or service is better than theirs?

Or maybe you have never actually planned how you market your business. Maybe it has been down to luck so far. Well done if so, but I guarantee with a few select tactics, you can increase your business visibility and growth.

So now is the time to draw up a plan. For the purposes of this blog I am going to assume that what you sell is good and there is a demand for it. If not, you’ll need to go back to the drawing board with that before you can even think about selling it (Fear not though, help is available if you think that’s where you are at, and I strongly advise you take it before going any further! I’ve included a few links at the end of the blog)

The plan does not need to be a huge strategy. Keep it simple and focus on some key basics initially. You can then build on the areas you see success in.

It needn’t cost money to market your business. Many early stage businesses take the boot strap approach, and if planned well, it can be hugely successful. I want to focus on the ways you can get your name out there without paying over the odds for advertising or loads of leaflets.

Start by working out who you want to sell to. That might be in terms of: business or consumer, geographical reach, age of customer and economic status.

Then work out where those people inhabit. Are they on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIN or Twitter? Are they reading the business press or hanging out at networking or trade events? Then target those areas. It might mean getting up to go to breakfast networking events or putting together a press release to send to business reporters.

The great thing about press releases is that they do still get used by reporters, even if this age of digital news and social media. Journalists like a story that they can just use rather than write, especially as they are usually spread quite thinly and it saves them time. When you write a press release, it needs to be a story. Basically, you are trying to get the reporter to run it like they would run a story they would write. Take a look at the style they write in and copy that.

New products, recruitment, charity work or new contracts are always good stories to share. Remember to always provide a high res image too. Pictures really do say a thousand words, and it’s more likely to get your story featured. Make sure it’s relevant and well shot. A smartphone camera will work just fine.

People work well, but make it interesting (Not just a person on a boring backdrop!) and try and include your products and branding. It can mean you getting a nice big spread in your local paper and getting featured on their website. That has a lot of kudos as it looks like someone else is saying you are good. Far more powerful than paying for an advert.

Lots of people will tell you you must use social media. But which do you use? There is a bit of a myth that you must be out there posting and tweeting on all platforms. So, again, stop and think; where is your audience? Are they on Facebook or are they the sort of people who get involved in debates on LinkedIn? Go where they are, rather than spreading yourself too thin. Following hashtags that are key to your industry are a great way to keep an eye on conversations and topics that you could comment on and add your expert input to.

Time is a huge challenge for a growing business, and it can feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to think about these things. Give yourself a set amount of time and dedicate that to posting, sharing or creating content. You don’t have to be on it all the time, but do keep an eye for notifications and respond if your customers engage on social. There is nothing worse than being out there and not interacting!

Try mixing selling messages with useful content. If you constantly sell, your users will disengage. Instead share industry relevant content, other user content and also keep an eye on special dates or weeks that you can integrate into your messaging. There is a “day” for everything now (mainly invented by marketing teams / social media!) so what’s the day your business should be shouting about?

There are also lots of useful free or low cost tools you can use to help reduce the time it takes to post messages, allowing you to schedule a number of messages in one go, across multiple platforms keeping your feed active over the upcoming weeks without requiring you being on it every day.

Buffer is great for straightforward social media scheduling. Hootsuite is my recommendation for starting out, is easy to use and has a decent free offer. It works well for all-in-one social media scheduling, monitoring, and analytics. Iconosquare is a favorite for managing Instagram business accounts and Sendible a great tool for lead generation. There are more, and many are free to a certain level of use.

Whichever method you use, just remember: I can’t buy your goods or services if I don’t know you exist. So, get out there and get selling!

If you want any more advice and support over how to market your business, if you are less than 3 years trading, and primarily supply B2B? Get in touch with AD:VENTURE today at www.ad-venture.org.uk If your business has been established longer, don’t worry, there is also a huge amount of support available from the LEP Growth Service, The Skills Service and Digital Enterprise to name a few!

Why Do I Need Terms & Conditions?

To T&C or not to T&C…that is the question ?

When people say the immortal words to me “do I need terms & conditions?”, after I’ve recovered from my initial shock, my reply is ……………………..

well, read on to find out.

Over the years Business owners have said various things to me on the topic of Terms & Conditions, such as:

“my customers are people that I know and have worked with for years, so I don’t need any contracts in place” or

“I’ve not had any problems getting paid in the past, so I don’t need any”

If only things were that simple for business owners. Nobody has a crystal ball and the ability to foresee what will happen in the future. Business relationships can unfortunately turn sour for various reasons. For example, client’s changing their mind on what goods or services they ordered, customers failing to make payments in time as they feel another company’s invoice is more important, or clients disputing the goods that are delivered and fitted, claiming it’s not what they wanted. The list could go on.

It’s the reality of modern day business, and the difference is that companies in 2019 know far more about their rights than they did in years gone by.

So, let’s delve a bit deeper and explore  some of the many  benefits of Terms & Conditions. From a legal perspective the benefits are huge:

  • They provide certainty in terms of what you are offering;
  • They help cashflow by setting out explicit payment terms;
  • They  specify the consequences of not paying on time and what the penalty can be;
  • They can increase cashflow;
  • They can help minimise disputes;
  • If a dispute should happen to arise, they provide a basis to resolve them swiftly;
  • They set out your client’s obligations and what you require from them in order to provide your service;
  • They provide protection for you when handling client data;
  • And last but not least, they form a legally binding contract between you and your client(s).

Again, I could go on, but these give you an indication of some of the many benefits.

Other business owners I speak to are in a different predicament, and one which they think is more beneficial. They already have Terms & Conditions in place, but they have used a template. Templates can be good but only when they are adapted properly. It is the substance that is added to the template that makes it binding, suitable for your specific requirements and legally binding. A template alone cannot be fit for purpose as, by its very nature, it is a generalised document that needs specific information adding to it.

Another scenario which is  a bit similar to this, is when I’m advised by business owners that they ‘borrowed’ their Terms & Conditions from a friend. Now, this is all well and good if  their friends’ business is in the same industry, providing exactly the same goods and services with the same payment terms etc. As this is very unlikely, the chances are the Terms & Conditions are not fit for purpose, and are therefore not binding.

If you have current Terms & Conditions it is important to keep them up to date to ensure that they cover the Goods and Services you supply, your payment terms and to keep termination clauses up to date with how your company operates. To accompany this, it is essential that any laws and regulations which need to be stated within the Terms & Conditions are accurate and legal. One of the first things I look at when asked to review current Terms & Conditions, is to see how up to date the document is, and I can generally spot this instantly when looking to see if there is a GDPR clause included. If this is not included, then they are at least 1 ½ years out of date and this aspect alone needs updating.

So, in answer to the question at the outset, the answer is a resounding YES!

If you are a company that provides Goods and/or Services, you need Terms and Conditions, and I would always recommend a bespoke set which specifically meet the needs and requirements of your company. That way you can be sure that they are legally binding and will work for your company. To ensure that these are drafted correctly, I would recommend that you seek advice and assistance from a professional who specialises in contracts, such as a Solicitor, as they will have the benefit of the knowledge to draft the document correctly for you.

Thanks to Michael Long at MJL Law for this straightforward and straight talking guide to T&C’s!

Wakefield Launches New Stimulating Strategic Marketing Series

Wakefield Council have been working closely with new businesses across the city and have heard the crucial calling for a comprehensive guide to Strategic Marketing in 2019 and beyond, and so here it is!

Market Me takes you right back to basics where you can either start from a blank slate, or build upon an early developed plan. Wherever your start-up business is in it’s marketing evolution, this 5 day series will educate, challenge and inspire your next steps in marketing your business and identify essential gaps that could expand your business to new levels of success.

Market Me is a strategic marketing series for new business who are serious about scaling.

Delivered by BrownDog Agency for AD:VENTURE, MarketMe will help Wakefield based start-ups and scale-ups who are trading B2B to take their products and services to market more effectively.

Combining interactive and thought-stimulating exercises with real world experience of the marketing mix, the series will take you from a start point of explaining your challenges, to matching your business to changing national and global circumstances,
carving out a point of difference for you to take to market, and equipping you with the most effective tactical skills and content with which to acquire new business.

 13 November Market Me – Session 1 Environment Mapping – Understanding our world

 20 November Market Me – Session 2 Who Are You? – Creating a stand-out Professional Profile

 28 November Market Me – Session 3 CO-STAR – Turning ideas into reality

 4 December Market Me – Session 4 Marketing Planning – Anticipating and Delivering Customer Wants, Profitably

11 December Market Me – Session 5 Content Marketing – The Mainstay of the Thought Leader

 

If you want to contact sector development managers Cara Brundle or Keith Evans directly, just drop them an email.

The AD:VENTURE programme is supported by the 2014 – 2020 European Regional Development Fund.

The AD:VENTURE programme delivers ERDF funded growth support to existing businesses in their first 3 years of trading and for people planning to start a business within the Leeds City Region.

How To Attract Customers As A Start Up

You run a fantastic company. You make amazing products or provide a brilliant service. So why are you not getting the customers?

The simple answer is: if people don’t know you exist, they can’t buy from you. And if your competitors are making more noise than you, they will get the business.

At AD:VENTURE we want to help people set up businesses and grow those businesses. And if you want to scale up your business you need to bring in customers. And to bring in customers you need people to know about you.

But all this costs money, you say. Well it doesn’t have to. There are ways and means of getting out there that don’t cost loads of money. They might cost time and effort, but they don’t need to cost you loads of dosh.

Yes, you can pay for advertising to tell people about your business. But there are other ways. Do you use social media? Do you go online and look at websites? And what about magazines, newspapers, radio and TV? You can use all of these channels and you don’t have to pay a lot to get your name out there.

Where to begin? Well, first of all, think about where your customers are and what media they are consuming. Are they on Facebook? Do they read the trade press? Are they local to your business? Or do you sell around the UK or the world?

Let’s start with social media. You don’t have to be on every platform, better to do one or two well than stretch across too many. The most important thing is where are your customers, or potential customers, hanging out?

It might be a LinkedIn group; it might be on Facebook, or maybe your business is very visual and they are on Instagram or Pinterest, or bouncing ideas off each other on Twitter. Wherever they are, go there!

But don’t sell to them; build a relationship. Nobody wants to be sold to, but people like interesting content and useful advice. Use that to your advantage. There is a theory that 80 per cent of your content should be interesting and then 20 per cent can be sales messaging.

People love visuals and particularly video. These days all phones can film video good enough to be used on social media. So how about using video? Or taking photos? But do remember that your online presence needs to reflect your brand values. So, if you are selling something high value, it doesn’t look good if your online presence looks amateurish. It might be tempting to give the social media management to the youngest member of the team, but you must keep in mind that, while it is social and personable, it also needs to be professional.

And what about the traditional press? You can get featured in there too. Journalists and producers are looking for stories to fill space. To put it bluntly they need content, and you can provide that content. So, what can you tell them about your company? It might be the new contract you have just won, the new member of staff you have just taken on or the new product you have developed.

The best way to approach the traditional media is by email and the best way to tell them the story is the good old-fashioned press release. It still works, even in these days of everything being online and connected. Basically, the press release is the story. Tell them who you are, what you are doing, where, when, why and how. That is the story!

Another way to get free publicity is to be an expert on a business topic. You might know all about finance or the law or dogs or exporting, or even just running a business. Whatever it is, journalists and producers may be interested in getting your opinion and your comments on stories. And you will be seen as the expert on that topic, and a person I can trust to do business with. And remember ultimately people do business with people.

And also remember AD:VENTURE is here to give you all the advice you need to grow your business, including how to market it.There are other support programmes out there; ones that are focussed on digital, manufacturing, innovation and productivity, and there are loads of events too to help you meet others and get inspiration. It’s worth a look at the Leeds City Region LEP website to get some more ideas and more support.

After all – you are worth it!

Avoiding Costly Legal Mistakes As A Start Up Or Growing Business

To help you early stage start-ups and scale-ups, Ison Harrison have written a helpful article for us to share with you on avoiding costly mistakes when starting up.

So, let’s get started!

When starting a business, and even over the first few years of business, there seems to be ever changing legal, financial and other issues which can arise which business owners need to deal with. This can be both daunting and exciting.

It is therefore understandable why many business owners overlook key legal and compliance issues which can, in some cases, create costly issues further down the line.

This article looks at some of the key factors business owners need to consider and, where appropriate, seek advice on.

  1. Ownership Relations

This is one of the areas that we see overlooked time and again, particularly amongst family and friends. It is important to understand, however, that when you go into business with another person, that relationship is a business relationship and whilst you may have the same goals and ambitions in the short term, over the mid-longer term things may change and this can cause conflict unless it is managed carefully.

It is therefore important that owners in a business document in a formal agreement, normally either a shareholders agreement or partnership agreement, matters such as extracting money from the business, restrictive covenants, duties in the business and what happens if one of the owners wants to leave. These are just some of the matters to consider.

Dealing with disputes between owners of a business can become extremely expensive and often can be avoided if proper contracts are in place from the outset.

  1. Terms of Business

Always ensure that you have documented terms of business in any sector where the transaction does not occur simultaneously. Obviously in a café or shop it would not be necessary to have terms of business but for any business where services or goods are provided over a period of time or where there is a delay in when you get paid, it is imperative that formal contracts are prepared.

Well drafted contracts can provide significant protection in the form of limitations of liability, terms as to when you are due to be paid and sanctions for failure to pay on time. In certain types of contracts, often those involving consumers, it is a legal requirement that contracts contain certain terms and failure to adhere to these requirements can render contracts unenforceable.

  1. Premises

Many business owners will lease premises for their business. It is important that business owners understand the agreement they are entering into as there is not the same level of protection in a commercial lease as there would be in a residential tenancy.

If business owners are not careful they can find themselves in positions where they can be personally liable for extensive costs, repairs and fees such as dilapidations and service charges or they can be tied into long term leases which are not fit for the purpose of the business.

  1. Compliance

Depending on the nature of your business, your business may be subject to a number of strict regulatory or licensing requirements and failure to adhere to these requirements could result in fines or criminal prosecutions.

General compliance requirements are faced by all businesses including obligations as to how they manage data under the General Data Protection Regulations and also managing health and safety risks.

However, some businesses may face more niche regulatory requirements such as licensing around waste management or the provision of certain services or products. Other businesses may require regulation, for instance from the Financial Conduct Authority. These requirements are not always obvious.

  1. Employees

There is significant compliance, legal and tax issues concerning the engagement of employees. To make matters more complex, many of the rules and regulations change frequently, sometimes every 6 months.

As a starting point, businesses must have written employment contracts and preferably a staff handbook detailing key policies. It is often useful to engage a law firm or HR consultant to provide ongoing support in respect of the changes which may affect your business.

Summary

Often there is a temptation or financial need to minimise costs in younger businesses and I have seen business owners who have either not done the above at all or have potentially tried to use downloadable templates or competitor documents without necessarily understanding the issues.

In many cases this often leads to business owners having to spend significant sums of money so as to undo earlier mistakes. The best advice is to simply seek professional advice to ensure that you are protected and understand your needs and obligations.

If you are unsure on any legal matters it is worthwhile speaking to a law firm and seeking to develop a relationship with them for ongoing advice and support.

Authored for AD:VENTURE by: Richard Coulthard – Partner & Head of Corporate, Ison Harrison Solicitors

Pitch with Confidence, a story of Human Spirit

When people discuss business support programmes the hot topic is usually grant funding and finance. Well, we have some news for you. The experience of start-ups who have accessed business support products show we shouldn’t underestimate the value and positive impact that the practical services delivered by professionals can have at those crucial stages in the growth journey.

Helen Nothard had come to a crossroads in her professional journey. With an 18-year career and as a Chartered Fellow in HR and having been offered a promotion that would see her travel the world, she realised that despite the benefits package, salary and status, she wanted to take the step and become her own boss and so launched Human Spirit Ltd.

Helen is an expert in her industry and had enjoyed a successful career, but actually launching a business was a daunting task and Helen hadn’t considered all of the additional processes, procedures and skills she would need to know.

Helen says: “I’d worked for someone else for 20 years and just didn’t have a clue about the things I needed to consider outside of my role. It wasn’t just about being the best at what I was offering my clients, it was about understanding how to register a company, knowing what paperwork needed filing and when!”

That was when Helen met AD:VENTURE advisor, Alan Thompson, who was able to explain about the programme and the huge range of support that it could offer to start-ups and scale-ups. 

Helen adds: “I worked with Alan to look at my business plan and he was very good at getting me to hone my message. Suddenly it made sense to focus on one thing rather than trying so hard to be all things to all people, a trap that I now realise lots of start-ups fall into.”

She had a strong network around her that could give her the expert advice she needed, and Helen also found that she could call upon her advisors to give her the additional confidence she needed when looking to pitch for larger contracts.

Helen comments: “Although I had previously dismissed tenders, Alan had real confidence in me and made me look at these opportunities slightly differently. There was a voice in my head saying ‘I can’t do this’ but we worked together to change that mindset and decided that I would look at this as a live practice and so that’s what I did.”

The outcome? Not only did Helen submit her tender but was invited to present and subsequently won the contract with a leading public sector organisation. Well done Helen!!!

She continues: “It I hadn’t had the support from AD:VENTURE I wouldn’t have had the courage to go for a tender. It’s not about my self-belief or knowing that I can deliver for my customers, it’s about taking steps that are very much outside of my comfort zone.

“Having a business can be isolating, especially when you’re used to working for big corporations, but with the support from AD:VENTURE I’ve had access to professional training sessions, advisors and a network of trusted partners, I can’t recommend the programme enough!”

So when you are launching a business, don’t dismiss the value of programmes like AD:VENTURE – Whether it’s accessing networks, pitching your product, having that honest, experienced critical friend, finding those crucial connections or understanding how to plan for growth, there is lots of help and support in addition to funding and finance.

BLOG SPOT – THERE’S NEVER BEEN A BETTER TIME TO START A BUSINESS

SME grants

It often takes people years to make the decision to start a company and even then, there is a lot of planning and preparation to make it a viable and profitable enterprise, however this shouldn’t put prospective business owners off, as there has never been a better time to start-up.

Focusing on the Leeds City Region, there is an abundance of support available to start-ups and young businesses including workshops, training sessions and seminars and many of them are free of charge!

Long gone are the days when people had to worry about how they would learn about finance, marketing, business planning and the necessary administrative skills that come with owning a business, a quick internet search will give you a lengthy list of professionals that you can turn to.

Practical help and advice from those that have a proven track record is incredibly useful when you start out and knowing that these sessions are often facilitated through universities or public sector funded bodies provides further credibility by association.

Launching a business should be exciting but it can often be surprisingly isolating too when you are working all of the hours to get your idea off the ground. Building on the practical support that is available locally, there are also strong networks which can be a real lifeline.

There are many networking groups throughout the Leeds City Region and so it is worthwhile trying them all at least once to see which suits you the best. There is no need to go along to something you don’t enjoy when you have an abundance to choose from, so consider your objectives and find the group that you feel will be of most use to you.

As well as accessing suppliers and possible customers, these organised gatherings can also give you the chance to meet with people that will become life-long friends, supporters and advocates of your business and this really can be invaluable.

Having the chance to develop trusted relationships and to speak to others that are likely to be in the same – or a similar position – will give you a platform to share your concerns, which can then be addressed in a group setting providing reassurance and advice.

Interestingly, in addition to practical support and strong networks, throughout the Leeds City Region there is also the opportunity to apply for grant funding. This can give young companies the chance to take their longer-term ideas and make them happen.

As well as focusing on short term goals, we all know it’s important to have a three or five-year plan in place and that is where grants can really come into play. Putting targets in place of what you hope to achieve is the first step and asking for funds to bring those forward is the next.

Some of the funding programmes that are available can be found in a previous article from Yorkshire Powerhouse here.

There is absolutely no reason why a business should struggle when there are programmes available that can offer professional support, networking and grants, it makes no sense what-so-ever. Taking advantage of the opportunities that are available will not only benefit your business but it’s what they are there for and the more people that use them, the more likely they are to continue.

If you want to make the most of the infrastructure that the Leeds City Region has to offer simply follow the suggestions below:

  1. Take five minutes to do a quick search on the internet to find local organisations that can provide you with practical support, for example AD:VENTURE is perfect for start ups with a growth focus!
  2. Think about the skills you are lacking and choose the course, sessions and seminars that will give you access to professionals that can help
  3. Look into networking groups and make it a priority to visit one a month – don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to do too much, it will be counter productive
  4. Write down what your short and longer-term plans are – if you haven’t already – and consider what you could achieve if funding was available
  5. Pick up the phone and speak to a dedicated business advisor about how you can get the best from the programmes in your local area

It is important to remember that unlike traditional businesses many of the organisations that are delivering support actually work together rather than competing so it’s fine to ask them if there are any other opportunities that you can capitalise upon.

They will put you in touch with other programmes that could take your business from standing start to success story.

So……what are you waiting for?