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Basepoint Business Centre Blog by Basepoint Business Centres - 8M ago

It’s an old problem facing owners of small businesses – is it worth keeping the office open between Christmas and the New Year? Can you afford to give your staff a well-earned break, or do you stay open for the benefit of your customers and your bottom line?

Basepoint, as one of the leading serviced office providers in the UK, takes a keen interest in all issues affecting small businesses. Here we look at six of the key factors to consider when deciding on your opening hours over the holiday period.

What About Your Customers?

If your customers aren’t likely to be buying your products, or your supply chain isn’t operating, there isn’t much point in you staying open. It depends on the nature of your business. For some SMEs, particularly in retail, this is a critical sales period, when you can get rid of old stock and get in new lines.

Whatever you decide, announce it in good time, preferably via social media and the internet. Customers are unlikely to begrudge you the days off provided they know your opening hours well in advance.  According to the old saying, it takes 20 years to build up a good reputation and five minutes to ruin it.

What About Your Staff?

Your employees may be expecting a break, as Christmas is traditionally a time for visiting family or friends. They won’t thank you if you insist on them coming into work, particularly if there is little to do. It may be simpler to close rather than try to keep the business going with a skeleton staff. Rewarding employees with extra days off won’t go unnoticed or unappreciated, particularly if the weather is bad.

If your business needs to open between Christmas and New Year, it is important to be fair and consistent with all staff about who works and when. If possible, offer them the choice of what days to come in.  Families with young children might want more time off over Christmas, while single people might prefer to leave the New Year free. Again, don’t leave this decision until the last minute.

Watching the Finances

There are usually financial implications to staying open over Christmas. Depending on their employment contracts, staff are often entitled to be paid more on any Bank Holidays they work, so it may be more cost-effective to shut down.

SMEs can also run up other additional expenses over the festive period, such as staff parties and bonuses, while some companies pay the December salary a week early – in time for Christmas Day. Staying open between December 25 and January 1 might become necessary to improve the company’s cash flow.

Either way, it is essential to have an accurate assessment of your company’s financial position before you make your decision.

The Growth of Technology

You may be able to work from home over the festive period because of the rapid growth in technology. Cloud-based software means it is easy to access your work emails to deal with any outstanding problems, although there may still be issues which you can only deal with in person.

Basepoint Business Services can offer a range of telephone services, including call forwarding and programmed diverts, all tailored to your individual requirements.

Staying Safe and Secure

While closing over Christmas may be appreciated by your staff, widely advertising this to your customers may not go unnoticed by burglars and thieves. Opening for a day or two will also help avoid a build-up of mail – another tell-tale sign that the premises are unoccupied.

If you do shut, make sure that the premises are safe and secure. Put lights on timers to create the impression that the office is still occupied, and that any valuable equipment and records is safely stored away.

At Basepoint, you don’t have to worry about a lot of these issues. Our service charges include a manned reception area during business hours, a secure door entry system with keys for all occupiers/tenants, CCTV coverage and an alarm system.

A Chance to Take Stock

If you don’t come in from Christmas Eve until January, you could be facing a huge backlog of issues to deal with, with lots of emails and voice mails to answer and mail to open. If you aren’t going to do much actual business, this period is the ideal time to take stock, in all senses of the phrase.

As well as checking on your actual levels of stock and assets, you can use this time to review the progress of your business, set goals for the year ahead, and even give the premises a new lick of paint.

Basepoint Business Centres – Serviced Offices in the UK

Basepoint Business Centres has more than 30 serviced offices in the UK, with Luton, Ipswich and Swindon among the locations. Follow the link above to find your nearest Basepoint centre.

We offer a variety of flexible office solutions depending on the needs of your business, all benefitting from full technical and IT support. If you sign up with us, you become part of a big business network, with our regular special events providing lots of opportunities for networking.

If you want to work from home, then one of our virtual office packages may be just what you need. With this you can have mail collection, a phone/fax number, a telephone answering service and access to a meeting room, depending on your needs.

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One of the UK’s leading accountancy firms, PwC, announced recently that it was getting rid of landline telephones on all office desks, with all staff being expected to use mobiles by the end of the summer.

Is this an option for SMEs, however?  Basepoint Business Centres, one of the leading providers of virtual offices in the UK, take a keen interest in all matters which affect the small business community. Here we look at the extent to which the use of landline phones has declined – and why dispensing with your company landlines may not be a good idea.

The Decline in Traditional Telephone Calls

In 2010, UK businesses racked up almost 38 million minutes of calls. Last year, this figure had more than halved to 18.8 million minutes.

Eight years ago, there were more than 10 million business landline numbers. By the end of 2017, this number had fallen to 6.4 million. The number of residential phone line numbers has increased, but this is mainly because most homes need a landline for their broadband services. The amount of domestic phone calls has also fallen, by more than 50%.

This shows the extent to which we rely on our mobile phones and other internet-based forms of communication such as emails. PwC already supplies all its staff with mobiles, and it believes that dispensing with landlines is “a more efficient way of working.”

Although it can seem tempting to dispense with landlines, there are several excellent reasons for keeping them, especially for businesses which are smaller than the accountancy giant.

Permanence – A landline gives the suggestion of a physical presence in the community. Most numbers have a code which confirm the business’s locality which can be important to some customers. It also suggests you employ staff rather than being just a ‘one-man band’ which can put some prospective customers off.

In a recent experiment by one virtual phone service provider, two otherwise identical advertisements were placed online, differing only in the phone number to respond to – one advert had a mobile number, the other a landline. The latter received four times as many enquiries from prospective customers.

Technical Reasons – Landlines won’t be as badly affected by a poor signal. You won’t want to miss out on an important order because you can’t hear the other person clearly, or because you have been cut off.

Many of the newer alternatives to landlines, such as VoIP (voice-over internet protocol), also rely on a high-quality internet connection. This can be a problem in many parts of the UK, particularly rural areas.

Cost – You may feel that if you are facing expensive rental charges, this may not be a price worth paying if you don’t use your landlines much. The reality is that customers and business owners prefer to call landlines as they are usually less expensive than a mobile. In many cases, telecoms companies need a landline to supply their customers with an internet connection.

‘On Call’ – Although mobiles allow you to carry on your business wherever you are, the flipside is that you never get a chance to relax, unless you have one mobile for business calls and another for domestic calls.

With landlines, you can limit the times you are accessible to your clients, with out-of-hours calls from customers going to voicemail.

At Basepoint Business Centres, both our flexi offices and office space rentals come with digital phones and broadband services all configured for the needs of your business. This means you can have call forwarding, programmed diverts, conference calls and voicemail, and all at highly competitive rates. Our broadband services are delivered through a dedicated 100mb line, and all our centres benefit from full technical and IT support.

Virtual Offices from UK Provider Basepoint

We are also one of the leading suppliers of virtual offices in the UK, with three levels of service, which can help you keep your home and business life separate. With our mailbox service, we provide you with an address, mail collection and invites to all our networking events.

The next option up is our virtual office, which gives you a phone and fax number, a telephone answering service, and access to our network of business lounges.

Our top-of-the-range service is our virtual office plus package, which gives you all the above plus five days’ access to a centre of your choice.

Basepoint Business Centres have more than 30 affordable office centres across southern England and into Wales, including bases in Swindon, Bournemouth, Ipswich and Havant. If you would like to know more about our range of services and products, including our virtual office packages, follow the link above to find our nearest centre. For more general enquiries, ring our head office on 0208 0689158.

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Budgeting can be a dirty word for small businesses, with many owners claiming they don’t have the time or the resources to do it properly. But SME budgets should be relatively quick and easy to set, and the benefits far outweigh any time and money spent.

Basepoint Business Centres is a leading supplier of fully serviced offices throughout southern England and Wales, including in Southampton, Crawley, Dartford and Winchester. Here we identify five key benefits budgeting can bring to small businesses.

Helping You Get Started

Even before you get started, you should create your first budget in the form of a business plan, to make sure your idea is financially viable. This should include all sources of projected income, whether this is from sales, contract work or retainers. You then need to offset expenses against this, including staff salaries, running costs such as utility bills, and other overheads such as office equipment and supplies.

An accurate, detailed budget forecast is essential if you are borrowing or taking out a loan to start up your new business. The investor will need to see some figures, and awareness of market trends, before they are persuaded to support your new venture.

Spending Your Profits….

When you are up and running, setting regular budgets are still essential for the good financial health of your business. Audits can show which product lines or areas of your business have been doing well, and so could benefit from further investment.

Budgets also give you a good overall picture of your business, so instead of simply reinvesting your profits, you could pay down some debt early, reward your staff with a pay rise, or put some money aside in reserve.

…and Cutting Back

If your business is not going so well, then a budget can help identify areas where you can cut back. For example, it will show you product lines or areas of business activity which could be discontinued as they have not performed as expected, and there seems to be no prospecting of them improving in the months ahead.

Are there any recurring costs which aren’t bringing any recognisable benefits, such as software subscriptions, and which you wouldn’t miss if you stopped paying them?

Looking Ahead

If you set out a budget in advance for the year ahead, then you can adjust your costs to smooth out any financial bumps. For example, if you know your utility supplier will be increasing the price of your electricity, consider switching to another company, if this is possible. If not, anticipate spending less on another area of expenditure such as office equipment.

This kind of forward planning enables you to anticipate problems ahead of time before they become major issues. Remember that your small business will operate on much tighter margins than a large multinational, so errors in forecasting sales and expenditure will have a much larger knock-on effect.

Relieving the Pressure

As the old saying has it, a problem shared is a problem halved, so don’t be afraid to share the results of your budgeting with your staff. This means they can appreciate why certain decisions like sales targets have been set, and for what reasons.

Putting everything down on paper also helps you as a business owner by crystallising the issues your company faces. Be prepared to ask for outside help from an accountant or small business adviser, who may be able to help you. Many of these are specialists in your company’s field.

Fully Serviced Offices at Basepoint Business Centres

At Basepoint Business Centres we provide a wide range of offices and flexi offices such as workshops, light industrial units and studios. If you sign up with us, we will take care of all the administrative and back-office issues, from Health and Safety compliance to cleaning and refuse collection, allowing you to concentrate on your own business.

Our tenants also have access to spacious meeting rooms for special occasions such as conferences, and our centres also play host to regular networking events and guest speakers.

If you would like to know more about our fully serviced offices, click here.

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Maternity leave is a subject that has hit the headlines when New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern became the first elected world leader to take maternity leave during her term of office. She announced that she would only be taking six weeks of leave and would effectively remain in charge of the country in the meantime.

The issue of how much time off mothers and fathers should take to bring up their new arrival is just as important for small businesses. Larger companies generally find it easier to cope with staff starting a family because of their greater resources.

However, dealing with the issue need not be an insurmountable challenge for even the smallest of companies. Here UK flexi office providers Basepoint look at how SMEs should manage all issues surrounding maternity leave.

Be Aware of the Law

There are so many aspects to the legislation now. Employers need to be aware of maternity leave and pay, pension and holiday entitlements, and other related issues including flexible working hours. Failure to fulfil your legal obligations could be extremely damaging to your company’s reputation, as well as costing you a lot of money.

Remember that help is available. When you can claim up to 92% of Statutory Maternity Pay back from the government – possibly more, depending on your level of National Insurance contributions. Many legal practices offer advice which will be tailored to your own circumstances, while ACAS has compiled a guide to the latest regulations, and advice on ‘best practice’.

Don’t Forget Both Parents

As from 2015, mothers and fathers are entitled to claim leave if they have a child, under what is called Shared Parental Leave. This means that the either parent can stay at home to look after their child, or both if they prefer. Parents are also entitled to return to work for part of the time and to resume their leave later. Remember that people who are adopting a child have rights too.

Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is essential to make the whole transition process as smooth as possible. The employee who is going to be taking leave needs to write down all their current responsibilities. Identify which – if any – members of your staff can take on any of these tasks. Work out if you will need to take on a temporary replacement.

This should all be done as quickly as possible after you learn about any pregnancy or adoption. This gives you more time to prepare, rather than forcing you to make rushed, last-minute decisions.

Treat Them Well

Realise that the people who are claiming this type of leave are going through a potentially life-changing time in their lives as well.  If you, and other members of staff, show them courtesy and respect, not only will you not fall foul of any legislation, but you are more likely to keep them on your workforce. This is especially important for smaller businesses where high-quality employees are so valuable.

Steps you can take include making sure your premises are a safe and welcoming place for pregnant women. And think about ways in which you can meet the new mother or father’s needs. Consider offering the employee flexible working hours after any birth.

Keep in Touch

It is a good idea maintain regular contact with employees during any period of maternity or paternity leave. It lets the worker know that you are thinking about them. Having a regular point of contact enables you to find out the employee’s thoughts are about returning to work. It also enables the person on leave to keep up to date about any developments at the company.

Keeping in touch, or KIT, is also the official name given to a part of the current legislation. It means that employees have the right to work up to 10 days during their maternity, adoption or additional paternity leave. It is optional, and days, pay and hours must be agreed in advance.

Basepoint – Flexi Office Providers in the UK

Basepoint is one of the leading providers of flexi offices in the UK. We offer many different types of managed office space in Shoreham, Swindon, Camberley and 28 other locations across southern England and Wales. Whether you want a workshop, a virtual office or a serviced meeting room, we can meet your needs. If you would like to know more about our range of services, follow the link above.

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Owners of SMEs may believe it is difficult to spare the time to put together an entry for a local or national business awards. Others may believe there is no chance of winning if you are up against much bigger competitors.

Basepoint Business Centres, who offer managed offices to let in more than 30 locations across southern England and Wales. Here identify five key potential benefits of entering business awards.

They’re a Great Place to Network 

Awards ceremonies can be a good place for networking. You meet other members of your business community, whether it is a local contest, or a national competition organised by a trade body. In both cases, you can share ideas and information, and meet potential new customers.

Just by entering and filling in any application forms, you will see the kinds of qualities which are considered important by the organisers. This will potentially highlight any weaknesses in your business plan and encourage you to refocus in a positive way.

Even if you don’t think you are at the right stage of your company’s development to enter or win, you may be able to consider sponsoring a category which will give you a reason to attend.

It’s Good Publicity

If you win, it is not just the awards organisers who will be recognising your achievement. Success stories will be picked up by local and national media, giving you plenty of positive coverage. Don’t under-estimate the power of social media either, as many people get their news and information from Twitter and Facebook these days.

And it’s all free – there should be no cost to your business at all, in contrast to a potentially expensive advertising campaign. Even if you don’t pick up first prize, you may still receive some publicity as a runner-up or category sponsor.

It Can Add More Customers

Studies have shown that winning awards has a beneficial effect on your bottom line. A report by the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management shows that seven out of 10 customers are influenced by awards success when it comes to buying products and services.

Winning trophies can also lead to beneficial partnerships with other businesses, and the recruitment of new, high-calibre members of staff.

It Improves Staff Morale

Attending awards ceremonies gives staff a chance to relax and enjoy themselves. Either individual or company-wide success will give them a huge morale boost, as it shows their work is valued not just within the company but also by other members of the business community too.

Managed Offices to Let at Basepoint

Basepoint recognise the importance of awards to the local business community. We have supported several competitions, including this year’s SME Bedfordshire Business Awards, which was sponsored by our serviced offices in Luton.

Also Creative company Noted in Style, who are tenants in our Folkestone office, won the 2017 Small Business Awards at the Ashford Business Awards in Kent, increasing their profile in the local community.

Basepoint’s managed offices to let offer a variety of services, including virtual offices, meeting rooms and flexi office space. We have 31 bases in southern England and Wales, including in Swindon, Basingstoke and Evesham. All have breakout areas where people can relax, and we organise many special events, with ample opportunities for networking. Click on this link for more information or fill in our online form and we will get back to you.

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