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Every small business needs a helping hand, but it can be difficult to know whether the market is stable enough to borrow a substantial amount of money to fund your business ventures. Matt Robinson, Commercial Director at Ping Finance, believes that now is the right time for SMEs to borrow, and takes us through the reason why.
Low Interest Rates
In the UK, interest rates are still incredibly low. Despite a 0.25% increase back in August 2018, bringing the interest rate up to 0.75%, the UK interest rate is still way below the average that it has been in the past, and this is only a good thing for those borrowing.
At one time, during the Thatcher leadership, interest rates rose to a staggering 17% to combat inflation. Interest rates continued to rise into the late 1980s due to the pressure of increasing house prices. The election of Tony Blair in 1997 gave the control of setting the base interest rate to an independent Bank of England. Interest rates then began to steadily decline, hitting 3.75% in 2003, before increasing again up to 5.5% in 2007. Since then, interest rates have dropped drastically due to the impact of the global financial crisis, falling all the way to 0.5% in March 2009, and then a further drop to 0.25% in 2016.
After the recent rise to 0.75% in August, Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, said there would be ‘gradual and limited’ interest rate rises in the future. With Brexit uncertainty on the horizon, predictions for the next couple of years are speculative at best. Therefore, there has never been a better time for the likes of SMEs to borrow. Even with the slight increase, we are currently experiencing one of the lowest interest rates in the UK’s history, and with the likelihood of increases on the way in the next couple of years, borrowing right now is a smart move.
There Have Never Been More Options
Nowadays, SMEs have the luxury of being able to be as picky as ever when it comes to their financing options. The alternative finance market has exploded since banks began to withdraw following the recession; traditional loans are no longer the only option for small businesses looking to borrow.
Crowdfunding, for example, can be an effective way to raise capital by allowing people to make small investments in a project or business. Online lenders can be contacted via online applications, and funds can be transferred into accounts in as little at 24 hours. Peer-to-peer lending creates a form of borrowing and lending between individuals without a traditional financial institution being involved and can turn out to be a cheaper alternative to borrowing from a bank or building society.
Financial technology, asset-based lending, invoice finance and challenger banks are some other alternatives to traditional high street bank lending. These alternative lenders use algorithms and data manipulation to streamline the loan approval process from weeks down to days at most. With so many viable financial services available, there has never been a better time for SMEs to take advantage of all these different options.
Competition Between Lenders
In a similar vain to there being so many different financial options, there is also heavy competition between lenders. With so many lenders vying for your business, they are doing everything possible to make their services seem more appealing to potential clients. Lower interest rates in conjunction with reduced fees or no fees are just some of what’s being offered by many lenders in a bid to secure your business.
From the perspective of an SME, you have the power to shop around and discover the best deal for you. With so many lenders competing to provide the most enticing offers, SMEs can take advantage of this and get a better deal than they would if they had to go with the first offer they were quoted.
More Business Support
It has never been easier to start a business than right now. There is a lot more guidance and knowledge out there to help people bring their ideas and ambitions to life, and most of it can be accessed for free online.
One of the biggest barriers to starting a business has always been start-up cash, and whilst that is still the case, it’s not as much of a problem as it used to be. Online platforms not only create a global marketplace for SMEs, but it’s easier than ever to contact investors and lenders and start generating cash flow to get your business off the ground.
Obtaining funding is not the only barrier to starting a business; general business support is crucial for SMEs to become successful and be able to pay back their loans. Networking, paid mentorship, free courses, government led schemes, books and the wealth of information on the internet can all be utilised by SMEs to help grow a successful business.
Since the market crash in 2008, there has been a shift in attitudes when it comes to lending. There is a greater focus on lenders to look after borrowers, stamping out shady practices and creating a better environment for those who want to borrow. As 2008 becomes a distant memory, lenders’ appetites for risk has increased, and SMEs can take advantage of this current culture of encouraged lending.
According to digital guru, Andy Martinus, there are two tribes when it comes to marketing automation, those that have heard the term bandied around, unsure what it quite means but thinking that they are missing a trick if they aren’t doing it; and then those that are actively running marketing automation programmes.
The truth is, many people have been running some form of marketing automation for years without really knowing they had. MailChimp, Marketo, Eloqua, Act-On, HubSpot, Click Dimensions and Dot Mailer are some of the many businesses and software that sits in this space to varying degrees.
So, what exactly is marketing automation? By definition, marketing automation is a subset of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) which focusses on the definition, segmentation, scheduling and tracking of marketing campaigns.
What does that mean exactly? By aligning people, processes and technology, marketing automation allows a business to do a lot more with a lot less. By automating a number of processes in your marketing (using marketing automation software) a business can test and learn, optimise and segment their clients based on their interests and actions.
There are three main categories of marketing automation software; marketing intelligence, marketing automation, and advanced workflow automation.
Marketing Intelligence uses pixels and codes added to social media, email, webpages and apps to monitor and track the behaviour of anyone that might be interested in a specific product or service to gain a measure of intent towards a purchase. This form of marketing automation allows a business to accurately respond to a site visitor with relevant content and an approach that can nurture them along the sales funnel.
Marketing Automation focuses on moving leads along the marketing sales funnel from top of funnel awareness through to becoming ‘sales-ready’ leads. Prospects are giving a score based on their interactions with a business and receive targeted content and specific messaging, to encourage them to move further along the sales funnel. At its core, this category of marketing automation is the marriage of email technology and a highly structured sales process.
Advanced Workflow Automation as the term suggests is the automation of internal marketing processes. This can include budgeting, planning, internal project management, workflow and approvals, and pretty much everything in between that can be completed by software. Typically, advanced workflow automation requires CRM
Marketing automation is a business enabler in many instances, helping a company achieve their marketing goals in a number of ways. These ways include:
Building an online community for your business
In 2019, the power lays firmly in the hands of consumers; they decide what they want to engage with, when they want to do it and to what degree. Marketing automation allows businesses to track behaviour and interactions across multiple channels to understand who customers are and also what they are looking for
Optimising your email marketing efforts
Email marketing can be laborious and time consuming if not managed efficiently. Having an optimised email marketing strategy is of critical importance to the success of many businesses; understanding when to post, how to make it engaging, and what to write about underpins any strategy. Marketing automation can provide the framework and personalisation features to improve your marketing activities
Customising the user journey and personalising what is offered
Historically, marketing campaigns and nurture flows have been one dimensional, with focus on large demographic groups (e.g. age, location, education etc) without much personalisation in terms of journey or offer. Marketing automation software allows web visitors actions and activities to be benchmarked and as a result respond to data and action in real time with content that is personalised to each individual web user.
Building a nurture flow with prospective customers
Your sales funnel can be as complicated or as simple as you wish. However, even the simplest sales funnel requires three stages; awareness, consideration, and purchase. An overwhelming majority of leads that enter at the top of the sales funnel won’t directly convert to a sale. A good marketing automation system provides an ability to measure the ROI on marketing activities and campaigns.
Qualifying potential clients and opportunities through lead scoring
Understanding where a prospect sits on the sales funnel goes a long way to qualifying their readiness to buy. Marketing automation provides a platform (and process) to build out a lead scoring system to allow sales and marketing teams to easily identify marketing qualified and sales qualified leads.
Test and learn
There is no, one-size-fits-all approach to marketing or lead generation. Automation and marketing automation software allows business to create templates and campaign logic that can then be tested with different targeting, images, copy and even the call to action. These options can be tested along the sales journey, from email opening rates, to landing page analytics and timing. Marketing automation allows for a large amount of testing to find the optimal processes and journey for any business.
Advanced measurement and analytics
Marketing automation provides sophisticated tracking analytics that highlight which channels, campaigns, landing pages and activities. Reporting can be as complicated as you need it, from top line business goals and sales targets that activity can be benchmarked against, through to individual marketing campaign landing pages. Automated reports can be generated, and ROI aligned to the most effective programmes at the touch of a button.
There are many other benefits to marketing automation outside of those listed above. Businesses of all sizes can take advantage of the technology with a variety of options, from free versions all the way through to enterprise scale highly sophisticated software.
If you are just starting out with your marketing automation efforts or considering introducing it to your wider sales and marketing activities, we would love to hear your experiences and discuss how we might help.
According to Jason Lark, Managing Director at Celerity, marketing has become more and more focused on reaching consumers on every device, SMS has often been misconstrued as one of the more outdated, limited and perhaps even invasive strategies. Some businesses feel they get a better bang for their buck focusing on TV advertising, social media, or email marketing campaigns where their messaging can be more expansive.
However, this line of thought is far from accurate. Recently, Google published a report indicating that 89% of consumers believe a positive mobile brand experience would encourage them to recommend or engage further with a brand. However, companies should also keep in mind that 46% of users claim they would not purchase from a brand again after an overly interruptive mobile experience.
This indicates that the need to finetune and personalise SMS marketing communications is more important than ever – if done correctly, it can be one of the most effective ways to engage consumers, drive conversions, and increase sales.
But complex SMS marketing campaigns aren’t easy to get off the ground – especially for smaller companies. Here are a few best practices to improve your performance.
Make SMS work with your other channels
We never recommend using a single strategy or medium to reach your target audience. Instead, use SMS marketing to augment other parts of your campaign strategy. For example, a simple text can be used to send a link to an app, or the store where the end-user can install it. You can also send enticing offers such as discount codes to re-engage old customers – or send information on sales and special rewards to ensure that loyal customers stay with you.
Consider the example of Lacoste, which offers direct message rewards within its loyalty program. The brand sends a message to check the customer has received a gift of reward points, provides a link to its website to provoke sales, and suggests that they can earn more rewards if they share the information on social media. Here, SMS is just the first step in a multichannel journey.
This isn’t just the future of mobile marketing – it’s the future of marketing. Using data-driven tools, you can track the customer journey across multiple channels, identify potential friction points, and use analytics to refine the personalisation of your messaging and develop more specific and targeted audience segments. Get it right, and you can learn more about the customer and offer them detailed, tailored information.
Provide specific, high-value offers
If a consumer is going to hear from you across multiple channels, you need to put in the work of developing that interaction into a meaningful long-term relationship. This means more than just a message about a new product. When your SMS goes out, you need to consider the target’s interests, requirements, and your ability to satisfy their needs and desires. Even for quick wins, you must keep all of this in mind.
The best way to do this? Be specific. You want to establish a single customer view of your target’s preferences and behaviours across all brand interactions and touch points – personalising your communications as deeply as you possibly can.
Don’t treat your consumers like a hive or a crowd. A user who gets a message from you that fits into their week at just the right moment is far more likely to engage. For example, if you are selling food, a 10am or 11am text just before lunch with a promotion may get that hungry worker strolling out of their office to your doors. But that same text might be less useful to a segment of customers that are not bound by office hours or the work week, like retirees.
Remember that you also are competing with several other brands, so whatever your message is, it has to be enough to get them to act and focus on your organisation. Consider what will make the user click through on your message and end up on your website, your app, message you back, or visit your store. Give that to them.
Nudge your customers (without annoying them)
Use the impulsive nature of text messages to your advantage. The immediacy of the medium allows you to use timing to create compelling messages.
Let’s say you’re developing a customer loyalty program. If your consumer is close to the next level or earning a reward, a text message might be just the nudge they need to get them spending again. You are just reminding them of how close they are, making your marketing informative and useful.
Another option is to give your texts a sense of urgency. Don’t just tell them that their favourite item is restocked – let them know that if they don’t get it this week, it may go out of stock again. This encourages an immediate reaction, and works best for customers who have existing relationships with your brand.
Develop distinct CTAs
Text messages need to be short and snappy in order to keep the customer’s attention – so be direct. Don’t just use a call-to-action (CTA): make the entire message your CTA.
And this CTA should be specific. Buy this. Redeem this. Visit us for before 5pm for a 50% off sale. This kind of messaging can get an audience inundated with advertising and marketing to actually engage and behave in whatever way you want towards your brand. Keep it simple, clean, and easy to follow.
These four tactics will lead to quick and easy wins for your SMS marketing. But they are just the tip of the iceberg. So, as you begin your mobile marketing campaigns, make sure you are gathering data and using analytics to help finetune your strategy. The more you listen to your customers, the more you can personalise.
With Brexit looming it’s easy to see why many SMEs are shying away from the limelight and burying their heads in the sand trying to pretend Brexit won’t affect them. The reality is Brexit will have an impact on your business regardless of whether you export or not. So you can either wait it out and miss out on massive opportunities or you can plan to use Brexit to your advantage.
Now is the perfect time to export. It’s in the news all the time, and as a nation, we are getting serious Brexit fatigue, BUT it’s time to carpe diem. Right now as there has never been a better time to export.
The whole world is waiting to trade with the UK but we have spent a long time chasing Europe for opportunities rather than thinking strategically about the best ROI for our businesses. The World Trade Organisation rules are clear and there are opportunities waiting for you. If you’re not familiar with World Trade Organisation rules now is the time to get acquainted. You can create a major competitive advantage for your business by researching and understanding the compliance issues that affect your ability to do business overseas.
I have helped over 500 British SME’s to gain clarity about their business vision and create a blueprint for international success which aligns their growth with the capacity to achieve it. I can help you too.
Vision: You’ve got to be able to imagine the endpoint
Values: What’s so super about you? What values make you extra special?
Fear: Don’t shy from them, they will help you succeed but you need to know them, face them, kick them into touch so they work for you
Power: Your USP, shout about it, rise to it, stop being the best-kept secret
Authority: Rise, show your worth, demonstrate your value
Legitimacy, dot the I’s and cross the T’s – be compliant
Thrive – You can succeed anywhere in the world – go for it!
I believe the key to be successful internationally is to be intentional. So many either fail to consider international opportunities and are leaving money on the table, or they respond rashly to the first bit of international interest they receive and take their business in a direction that is unsustainable and costly.
I show you a third way
Using my seven-step process you can get intentional about your aims and objectives and identify and pursue a strategy and route to market that is suitable for your business and will enable you to thrive.
With Brexit making headlines every day it’s easy to see why it dominates our thoughts but there is business to be had beyond Brexit that could help you ride out the uncertainty and flourish while others falter. All it takes is for you to be brave enough to look further afield, to ask the right questions, and to position yourself as an authority. I’ll help you to take these steps.
I’ve put together a 5-step summary to get you started right now:
Step 1: Introduce scenario strategizing into your business and actively plan for each Brexit possibility. (Jennifer offers start-ups a list of scenarios.) – what do you mean here by she offers scenarios, do you mean I offer scenarios)
Step 2: Export with purpose not by accident. Do your research, be strategic about which markets will maximize your opportunity to succeed. Make sure this is aligned with your capacity and resources – you don’t want to undermine your UK business in pursuit of overseas gains.
Step 3: Identify your fears linked to both Brexit and Exporting and generate a plan to overcome them.
Step 4: Don’t be overly concerned with what your competitor is doing. Focus on your own business and develop the most effective business model.
Step 5: Surround yourself with experts, now is the time to know your freight forwarder, your currency management team, your lawyer and your accountant. Renew your chamber of commerce membership. These teams will help you stay up to date with relevant information and be compliant as you deal with Brexit.
According to DR Zain Sikafi, CEO and CO-Founder of Mynurva, the UK is currently battling a mental health crisis. Large numbers of people across the country are suffering from symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress, but few are seeking the treatment or support they need. There are many reasons for this – some have singled out the limited resources of the NHS while others have rightly identified the negative stigma placed on those suffering from mental ill-health.
Public awareness initiatives such as World Mental Health Day and celebrity-led campaigns are bringing mental health issues into the spotlight for discussion. And while important progress is being made, poor mental health still continues to inhibit the daily lives of people.
Importantly, no one is immune to the symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression, be it a young mother struggling to cope with life’s daily pressures to an entrepreneur in the formative stages of their new business. Mental ill-health is a serious issue that does not discriminate, and that is why it should receive the same amount of attention as a physical illness.
To find out the true extent of the issue, HealthTech company Mynurva recently conducted a survey to see just how many people in the UK workplace have suffered from mental ill-health, and how many have sought treatment for their symptoms.
UK workers are suffering in silence
The responses to the survey were eye-opening; almost a third (32%) of all UK adults in full-time employment claimed to have suffered from mental health problems in the workplace. In real terms, that amounts to 7.5 million people across the country. Yet, despite the high prevalence of mental ill-health, an even higher proportion (37%) of those who are suffering – or have suffered in the past – have never sought any professional help.
Meanwhile, men are more likely to keep their mental health issues from colleagues. According to the research, 42% of working men dealing with a mental health symptom have never seen a mental health professional for their issue, compared with 32% of women. Sadly, stigma and misconceptions clearly continue to present obstacles to those dealing with mental ill-health – particularly for male professionals – despite strong efforts to break down the barriers and encourage people to speak out.
Exploring the specific reasons holding people back from seeking help, Mynurva found that more than half (55%) of working professionals fear that admitting their problems to a manager would hinder their chances of a promotion, while an even higher number (59%) think that if their problems became common knowledge then it would negatively impact their relationships with colleagues.
What can employers do to manage mental health at work?
The numbers from Mynurva’s research are staggering. So what can businesses take away from this research – and how can they improve their employees’ wellbeing? Clearly, there is a pressing need to devote time and resources to creating an open workplace where employees can not only access professional support, but also enjoy the freedom to openly discuss their concerns with managers and even colleagues.
Naturally, confidentially remains a key concern for many workers – 58% of employees worry that their mental health problems would not remain confidential if they were to discuss them in the workplace with their manager or HR team. To overcome this barrier, workplaces should be promoting alternative avenues of support, encouraging employees to speak to their GP if they experience any symptoms of mental ill-health in the workplace, rather than letting them suffer in silence.
Alternatively, live video counselling services like Mynurva offer discreet counselling sessions for those who struggle to find the time to arrange an appointment around their busy working schedule – or don’t feel comfortable physically visiting a healthcare professional. These alternative solutions provide the convenience of flexible appointment times outside of traditional work hours, allowing professionals to talk to a counsellor or therapist from the comfort of their own home.
Poor mental health affects not only the individual but also significantly impacts their performance in the workplace. Making mental health a priority is, therefore, key to fostering a healthier workplace culture and boosting employee wellbeing. While it’s great to see more public discussion about mental health issues, Mynurva’s research shows that a lot more still needs to be done to effectively tackle the UK’s growing mental health crisis, particularly in the workplace.
SMEs acutely understand the importance of retaining their best talent. But without having large pots to dip into for handsome pay rises, how can they hold onto employees that may be tempted to look elsewhere? According to Brett Hill, managing director at The Health Insurance Group, there is plenty that SMEs can offer without stumping up extra. It’s about making the most of what you have already got.
SMEs need to remind their employees about why it is a great place to work. By celebrating promotions within the company, making it known that career progression is possible, and highlighting cultural benefits – such as communicating the success of a recent charity bake sale or recent company five-a-side win – it can bring to the fore why it is a great place to work.
Is the same old company newsletter being wheeled out, without a consideration of whether employees are really engaging in the content? Communications need regular refreshing to keep the audience engaged and no truer is this than with employee benefits. SMEs that can revitalise their communications could benefit from greater engagement in employee benefits. Presenting quick facts about benefits, such as how much cash plans could save an employee money on things like dentistry and shopping each year, can grab the attention of the reader more effectively. Similarly, SMEs can invite benefits professionals in, to explain to employees face-to-face what is on offer. Invigorating communications could make the difference between a wavering employee applying to a different company or realising the benefits they have and deciding to stay.
The apathy trap
Research by YouGov found that even when incentivised, one in five people still failed to switch their banking current account due to the perceived hassle of doing so. And the same can be said for employee benefits. SMEs can fall into the apathy trap, not reviewing their benefits package – its value for money or appropriateness for their workforce demographic – as it’s perceived to be too much hassle. However, engaging with specialist providers and advisers can help SMEs ensure they are getting the most cost-effective and tailored package for their workforce. For SMEs that are competing to keep their talent, they can’t afford not to offer employees the best packages they can within their budgets.
There are many added-value benefits within existing benefits products that SMEs simply aren’t aware of and therefore aren’t making the best use of them. Businesses that offer private medical insurance, for example, can sometimes have access to additional benefits included, such as discounted gym membership and travel insurance. By thoroughly researching what is included in benefits packages, it can be another string to an SMEs’ bow in retaining their best people by offering more than initially realised.
The generation game
Finally, it is worthwhile looking at the different generations in the workplace and understanding what drives them – targeting benefits and communications effectively to aid retention. If an SME has a particularly young age demographic, for example, then this health and financially conscious generation may value discounted gym membership and shopping vouchers. Similarly, older generations tend to value healthcare benefits – such as money off dentistry and optical treatments.
The most effective way to understand what employees want though, is to find out directly. And SMEs are in a great position to do this as they are much more nimble than larger companies. Quite simply, it’s a good idea to ask staff, either through a survey or during meetings, and what kind of benefits and comms they prefer. Benefits and communications will then be relevant and help engagement.
SMEs can provide a plethora of reasons as to why talent should continue their careers with them, but without providing sweeteners and communicating benefits effectively – employees could be tempted to go elsewhere. But with a few small changes and a bit of refreshing, SMEs can revitalise their retention strategy and keep their best people.
According to HSE, around 15.4 million working days are lost due to work-related stress in 2017 with 595,000 British workers suffering from Mental Health issues such as depression and anxiety over the last 12 months with 239,000 new cases. Further research by the CIPD and SimplyHealth found presenteeism had more than tripled from 26 per cent in 2010 to 86 per cent in 2018 and was associated with rising stress levels.
Following these recent statistics,Instant Offices shows what the early signs of suffering burnout and how to effectively avoid hitting rock bottom.
If your work and family life are consistently stressful, you’re almost certainly at risk of burnout. Most people only realise that they are truly burnt out when it’s too late and then they need to work towards eliminating the symptoms, often while still having to deal with the stresses that caused it in the first place.
But by keeping an eye out for warning signs can help you make changes proactively, making it easier to prevent burnout, while you still have the will and motivation to make the changes required.
Over-engagement is a symptom ofhigh stress levels. Going to sleep and waking up thinking about a problem or a deadline is a perfect example of over-engagement. When you start to disengage with your work or your personal problems by ignoring or avoiding them, burnout warning bells should start ringing.
Stress usually manifests as a sense of urgency, often resulting in hyperactivity. Anyone facing perpetual deadlines knows the feeling. Burnout, however, is characterised by helplessness and hopelessness. The feeling that nothing you do is going to have any effect on your situation, or drive any real change.
When under stress, you may find that your emotions are exaggerated and more difficult to control. You may become angry or upset far easier than usual. Blunted emotions are a symptom of burnout. You may feel that you do not have the energy to react emotionally to situations, or that you are unable to feel excited or worried at all.
If you’ve started exhibiting any of these symptoms, you may be approaching burnout. By taking action and making changes as soon as possible, you can minimise the severity and effect of burnout. The following are the most critical steps in addressing the issues that are leading to your burnout.
Acknowledge your problems
When one problem causes overwhelming levels of stress, it’s easy to ignore or downplay other issues in your life that may be contributing to your burnout. Make a list of all things you worry about on a daily basis, including the things you feel that you have no power to change. By ordering these bylevel of importance, you’ll know which issues you need to address first.
Actively address your problems
While this may feel like an impossible task, once you start to work toward actively making changes, you’ll find that many problems only exist because you haven’t had the strength or motivation to correct them. This is particularly important in the workplace, as most employers and team leaders would rather take drastic steps to help you through your burnout, rather than lose you. The following are the most important steps:
•Assert yourself and explain the reasons why you’re feeling like you do. Just speaking about the issue will start to eliminate some of your feelings of helplessness, and give your employer a chance to try to rectify the situation.
•Talk to your boss about new duties you could assume, or any training opportunities available. Getting out of the rut of doing the same thing every day is a great motivator and learning new skills, or augmenting those you have, may help to reignite your interest in what you do.
•Take some time off. Sometimes taking time off work is the only way to give yourself time to re-evaluate your priorities and get to the root of your stresses. Make a conscious decision to use this time to reflect on your situation and not simply evade it.
Slow it down
Feelings of being out of control, and the idea that everything is under severe time-pressure, are common symptoms of long-term stress. Take a few minutes each day to acknowledge your anxieties for what they are; irrational and exaggerated. Prioritise things like spending time with friends and family and outdoor activities. When listening to music or watching movies, make an effort to pay attention and don’t let your mind return to endless loops of stress.
John Williams, Head of Marketing & Research at The Instant Group concludes,
“Under stress, it’s easy to prioritise relatively meaningless aspects of your life, over those that contribute most to your happiness. If work stress is affecting your personal life, it’s time to moveon, or to change your thought patterns in order to be able to leave work stress at work. It’s vitally important to learn to create a mental divide between work and your life outside it, as it’s extremely unhealthy and unproductive to be thinking about work during “off time”.
“It’s importantto be honest with yourself during the onset of burnout and to acknowledge the stresses that you have surrendered to. Remember, these aresimplytips to help you improve your situation in the short term. Burnout has genuine health implications and we strongly recommend that you seek professional help in overcoming it. A mental health professional will provide you with tools to make your recovery simpler and easier to maintain.”
According to Karen Meager and John McLachlan, the co-founders of Monkey Puzzle Training, most organisations like to talk about their values, with designated sections on the company site that eagerly preach about the company ethos. Company leaders are also the first to tell prospective clients and new employees about their ‘kindness culture’ and ‘environmental awareness’ – but how much of this actually aligns with the company’s actions? Do you feel that your company fails to live up to its values? It is extremely easy to write your values down on a piece of paper, but in reality, they can be hard to implement and maintain, so companies are required to consistently review and revisit the extent to which these are actioned.
As training, coaching and development experts, we regularly come across businesses that ask us to help them implement their values. The issue that we encounter time and time again is the aspirational nature of these values; they represent a far away ambition rather than a tangible reflection of the company culture. It is not enough to say ‘people are our greatest asset’ – this has to be reflected in the way the company runs day to day, which can be precarious and difficult for company leaders.
To add to these complexities, these values have to be implemented at all levels of the company, from the CEO, to the managers, to the employees themselves and this is where things get complicated. Even if people like the values, it does not mean they will ‘do’ them. Cognitive bias tells us that human beings will often have greater expectations of other people than themselves. Therefore, people will believe it’s the company’s responsibility to ‘do’ the values and not make the link to their own individual behaviour, leading to significant values gaps across the organisation.
If you are a leader or HR professional struggling with this right now, take heart: you are not alone. Here are some top tips for getting your values back on track
Are your leaders embodying your values?
If not, you have no chance that other people will. The company’s leaders act as a guide for the behaviour of others, so it is imperative that they are setting an example that is in line with the organisation ethos. You may want to change some people in leadership positions if you feel they are not effectively advocating the company values. You can also have them take some personal development courses in order to improve their position, or alternatively, you may decide to change your values to suit the leadership.
Do your policies and processes support your values?
One of the key reasons organisations fail to uphold their values is because the company’s policies and processes do not support or embody the desired company culture. For example, if ‘Transparency’ is a value then make sure this is well defined and reflected in your processes. This could involve creating an ‘open door’ policy where employees are actively encouraged to speak openly with managers and regularly ask questions. This will enforce the transparency values, thus reducing the chance of a values gap.
Do your training and development programmes have your values at the forefront?
Ask Coaches to reference them in coaching sessions and facilitators to raise them at away days, this way employees are consistently being reminded of the company values, making them more likely to advocate these day-to-day. Additionally, introduce these values during employee inductions to ensure that they are instilled from the moment they join the company. If people are finding these difficult to understand, then get feedback; values that are discussed openly and contributed to are more likely to stick.
Values are a great way to bring people together and define a culture. Remember that the work required to integrate them into your organisation is so much more work than defining them in the first place (and that can be hard enough)
A perfect metaphor for teamwork is the V-shape of geese flying overhead, all working towards a common goal.
According to Karen O’Donnell from Toastmasters International, If our small businesses create a supportive environment, our teams have the potential to be actively engaged, adopt the organisation’s vision and purpose, and boost the bottom line.
A recent survey of business leaders, in the Harvard Business Review, showed that less than a quarter of employees are actively engaged; having a real sense of belonging and actively finding solutions to work challenges. More than a quarter are actively disengaged and the remaining 50% are simply turning up and blending in and might easily leave if they get a good offer elsewhere.
Clearly there is huge untapped potential that business owners can be doing something about; half your staff, if given the right environment and support, could be actively working towards the goals of the company. What’s needed is active communication and making them recognise that they are an important part of the team.
This will reduce employee turnover, increase productivity, improve customer retention and therefore significantly increase profits.
To enhance employee engagement, in your business, I recommend using the 3 Cs: communicate – collaborate – celebrate.
Make use of all the technical tools available for team communication and don’t forget the value of face-to-face meetings.
In your diary prioritise scheduling weekly one-on-one ‘conversations’ with your direct reports. Use the time to review progress from the prior week, and review priorities for the current week. Develop an interest in them as a person. There may well be times when they have personal challenges and for that week, they may not be able to give you 100%. Knowing this, you can organise support through the other team members. Showing empathy will be repaid in many ways
A good question to end the meeting is: What specifically do you need from me this week?
By maintaining this sense of ‘connection’ your team is more likely to expend less energy and complete projects more quickly. This translates to bottom line financial benefits.
Effective collaboration comes from each team member feeling as though they are an integral part of the success of the organisation.
Develop a business culture of listening. Brainstorm with your teams and you will uncover gems – this will ensure a high level of collaboration. When you encourage ‘idea sharing’ within your business, you empower employees to think creatively to generate new products and services for your organisation. They are also best equipped to come up with improvements on how they can be more efficient and effective. With genuine teamwork each member has a vested interest in the success of the business or specific project. This means they will collaborate.
When we are acknowledged and appreciated, we are more likely to help and co-operate with other team members.
Being acknowledged, even with micro-recognition, on a frequent basis triggers our intrinsic motivation and inspires us to work better, harder and more efficiently. This recognition happens “in-the-moment,” as a verbal appreciation of gratitude, and helps employees to draw immediate connections between the noteworthy behaviours they performed and the positive lift they feel from the instant recognition.
When thanking a team member, use the power of three: (1) say thanks, (2) specifically mention what they did that’s worthy of praise and (3) explain how it is in line with the company’s vision and goals.
Catch team members doing good things and celebrate even small achievements, Say, ‘thank you’ – two simple words that have an immediate impact. Saying it in front of others will magnify its impact.
Growth and employee engagement go hand in hand. By incorporating the 3 Cs with the underlying foundation of communication, you will have a fully engaged team where each employee believes in the direction the organisation is going, everyone feels they belong and that they are an integral part of the business. By actively encouraging communication, and by celebrating, even small achievements, each member will feel their input really matters; they will enthusiastically support fellow team members, assist customers and promote the brand.
If you are running a small business focus on the 3 Cs and develop a company culture where communication is given priority, where teamwork thrives and where profits build.
The term ‘side hustle’ was originally coined in the 1950s and is defined as ‘a way to make money from your passion, interest or hobby’. However, it’s said that the idea of supplemental work has been around for centuries, with freelance work dating back to the 18th century when the word was used to describe a mercenary for hire. Of course, these days a freelancer can pop up in pretty much any industry, especially thanks to technological advances.
But, it’s not quite as straight forward as picking what you want to work as and doing it. Here, we look at why side hustles are popular and what is needed if you want to set one up yourself.
Why are side hustles popular?
For some, a side hustle is a necessity. It can be a way of providing some much-needed extra income and almost a quarter of the UK believe the average monthly wage is not enough. The cost of living has continued to rise in the UK, with inflation year on year rising by three percent in the last few years. This has meant that many have looked for different avenues to top up their main wage in order to have a better quality of life.
It can also be an avenue into your preferred profession by either opening doors at an established company or by helping you to become your own boss. Many secondary roles are used as a way into a creative or technical sector because you can showcase your skills to many companies at the same time while enhancing your CV, all from the comfort of your own home. Graphic designers and writers are prominent in the freelance world, with sites such as UpWork and Fiverr providing a great platform in which to gain work. This can help you get noticed in your sector as well as helping you build up the contacts required to eventually start your own full-time business.
On the other hand, for some it is simply a way to make a little bit of extra money from their hobby. Again, this is where the aforementioned sites are great, as you can bid on jobs that are of interest to you and you aren’t committed to a certain style.
How to start a side hustle
Unfortunately, it’s not always as straight forward as just taking jobs. For certain roles there are legalities you must follow if you intend to start a side hustle and make it a success and for any source of regular income you must pay that dreaded thing we call tax!
While the trading allowance, which was originally set up to help sellers on sites such as eBay, can allow you to turnover up to £1,000 tax-free, anything over that is taxable. If you work as a freelancer, you are classed as self-employed and your extra funds that are earned will be taxable and it’s up to you to correctly pay these. According to a recent survey, 34% of those with a side hustle confessed to not declaring the earnings from their side projects.
Another key point to consider is that certain roles will require you to be insured. For example, dog walkers, which is one of the most popular side hustles in the UK behind making crafts and selling goods, must take out a dog walking insurance policy. While you may not automatically think of such cover when it’s just a side hustle, it can be crucial in protecting you if the dog gets hurt on your watch — after all, accidents do happen and the whole idea of the side hustle is to make money not lose it! Child care is another example of where insurance is a necessity.
The future of the side hustle
Currently, there are more than 16 million Brits using a side hustle to cover the cost of living, and if inflation continues to rise quicker than wages then this number is likely to rise further. Also, the days of ‘job loyalty’ appear to be coming to an end as we all strive to find our dream role and enhance our job satisfaction. Because of this, more people appear to be willing to begin a side hustle and this is having a major impact on careers across the globe as members of the workforce see this as a great way to starting their own business.
For many reasons, the side hustle is a key part of the UK’s working environment. It can be a great source of secondary income, while also helping small businesses complete tasks without the need of hiring a full-time member of staff. However, if you plan to set up a side hustle, it’s important to fully research what is legally required in your chosen sector.