Tag: Business advice

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.

 

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!

INSPIRE GROW CELEBRATE – York Business Week is BACK

York business week 2

York Business week 1

The York Business Week Team is bringing you a selection of carefully crafted events focused around four key themes. From showcasing ‘World Class York’ to helping you take the practical steps to start your business with a bang, we will help you take your business to the next level. As well as our own core events we have partnered with some of the city’s brightest businesses and support organisations to bring you a series of insightful and inspirational hosted events.

It’s set to be a fantastic week – Check out York Business Week for full information, but here are a few highlights!

CONFERENCE

On the 13th of November, there is a TOP CLASS business conference on the theme of ‘World Class York’. There is an excellent line-up of speakers in and the event will be hosted by Jon Hammond, former BBC journalist and Governor at York St John University our speakers will include:

William Derby, Chief Executive, York Racecourse , Richard Harpin, Founder and CEO, Homeserve, Noirin Carmody, Co-Founder and COO, Revolution Software, Tim Leigh, Marketing Director, Stage One, Andrew Swift, CEO FERA Science Ltd, Lee Statham, Global Innovation Lead Confectionary R&D, Nestle, Peter Cowling, Director Digital Creativity Labs, Isabel Jago, Product and Communications Lead, York Instruments, Mark Christie, CTO Piksel, and James Browne, Managing Director, Hiscox Direct UK.

You can find the full details here.

START UPS

For newer businesses, there is the Business Growth Showcase…from start up to scale up. Learn how to start, fund and scale your business! York Business Week have teamed up with Make It York, York & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce & AD:VENTURE to bring you an exciting showcase event focused on all you need to know to start up and grow your early stage business.

Taking place at the recently refurbished De Grey Rooms, the event will feature inspirational talks from founders and business leaders and a series of panel sessions designed to give you all the information and encouragement you need to go away and do it yourself.

Our speakers will include David Kerfoot, Chair of York, North Yorkshire & East Riding LEP who built up a hugely successful North Yorkshire business. He will share ‘Kerf’s Top Ten Tips’ illustrated by stories and mistakes he made but learnt from along the way. You will also hear from Dr John Park, a serial technology entrepreneur and award-winning academic who has successfully developed and launched products with some of the world’s biggest companies including Procter & Gamble and PepsiCo.

Our panel sessions will provide you with a wealth of expertise, business advice, featuring a range of York based businesses alongside experts from Business Enterprise Fund and the AD:VENTURE Start-up programme, amongst others.

OPEN DAYS

Through the week, 10 companies have ‘open days’ to showcase their business and offer an insight to how they work : You can find more details here.

TEDX

There’s also a TedX event, two themed days (business growth and skills) and a whole range of other events to participate in.