Remaining productive when you are travelling

In theory, when you travel with work, you should have time to focus on getting a few things done. In reality, it can be almost impossible to work in a busy airport or on a busy flight. Here are a few tips to help you to be more productive when you are on the road. 

Plan ahead

There is nothing worse than starting a piece of work and realising that you need WiFi because the document you need is in the cloud, or that your battery on your laptop is low. Staying productive while you are on the road is all about planning ahead. Download the files you need, take a power pack with you for your devices and hit send / receive in your inbox, when you are on WiFi. Try to avoid relying on in-flight WiFi – it is generally slow and frustrating.

Make the most of being away from the office

If you are in an airport lounge or on a busy flight, put on headphones. Listening to music can help to drown out distractions and allow you to focus. If you need to write a business plan, sometimes it can be good to do so while sitting on a plane, away from interruptions, phone calls or emails. If you are driving rather than flying, maybe you can do a few calls (hands-free of course).

Exercise

If you are jet-lagged or tired following time spent traveling, some gentle exercise will help to re-energise you and get you ready for the day ahead. Many hotels have a gym or pool. If not a morning jog is a good way to start your day.

Don’t forget to rest

Travel can be exhausting. Make the most of being away and get some sleep in a hotel room. If you are traveling through the night, try to get at least a nap. If you need to work, maybe focus on simple tasks like clearing email, when you are too tired to focus on anything complex

 


Creating a high performance organisation

High performance organisations stimulate more effective employee involvement and commitment in order to achieve increased profits, improved productivity and higher levels of customer loyalty.

We are living in uncertain times. The highest performing businesses will, by their very nature, ride out the storm more effectively than their competitors. So how do you create a high performance organisation?

A truly high performance business will deliver higher levels of productivity, customer satisfaction, sales and will have increased employee retention.

The backbone of a high performing business is a resilient workforce. You need to build a team that is highly motivated, high performing and consists of people who look forward to coming to work every day because they feel they are a part of the company and the bigger picture.

In addition to hiring the right people, you need to create a culture that allows your team to perform at a high level. It all starts with communication.

You need to communicate the vision, strategy, values and beliefs of your business in order to create a shared purpose. They need to buy into your vision for the company so that they feel invested in its future success.

Next, you need to empower your people. Set their high level objectives and communicate these to each member of your team. Explain how each objective contributes to the overall success of the business.

Now step back and give your people the space to get on with working towards those objectives. Be present and available for when they need to escalate issues. Set regular team meetings but never micro-manage. It is also important to create appropriate reward strategies so that your high performing people feel rewarded for their commitment, and remain motivated.

Remember, perfection is not attainable, not even in the very highest performing organisations. However, if you aim for perfection, you might just end up a notch below that, which is where a high performance business should be.


Building a data-led strategy

Businesses are capturing more information than ever before. The most successful firms are analysing that information and are focused on building their strategy around customer and market data.

Data management strategy

To create a data-driven business, you need to have a data management strategy. This needs to start with your culture and people. You need to encourage the right behaviours among your staff. It might help to create a training programme, which ensures your people are capturing data properly, on the right systems and in a way allows your business to gain useful insights from that data.

Analytics

There is no point in capturing data if you can’t analyse it. Your business needs to manage data well and it needs to value data analytics. Don’t jump straight into rolling out software and technology. Take the time to define the needs of the business and build your analytics systems around that. Define what you need to know in order to drive sales, increase profitability or retain existing clients. Then feed these questions into your data analytics strategy.

Your analytics should seek to provide answers to these questions in order to add value to your business.

Now that your people and systems are in place, your business will be in a better position to collect data, analyse it and use the outputs to improve company performance with data driven insights.

Look for opportunities to use data

Unless you have data, you are just another person with an opinion. Look out for ways to use data to improve your business. Use customer data to improve your business development and marketing efforts. You can use data to reduce costs or to manage your supply chain more efficiently. You can even use data driven insights to help improve cash-flow by improving your debtor days and cash management across your business.

Remember, most businesses (and therefore, most of your competitors) are not very good at managing their data. If you can capture, analyse and utilise data throughout your business more effectively than they can, you will have a significant competitive advantage

 


Second annual Small Business Conference is a success!

    

Over 100 people attended Nicholsons Chartered Accountants’ second annual Small Business Conference which was recently held at the Drill Hall in Lincoln.   The year’s theme was based on the ‘employees’ within a business.

The firm was pleased to have secured the internationally renowned freelance speaker and writer, Richard Askam to host the event. Richard writes on the topic of engagement and the art of lost conversation.

Small business software technology company XERO were also in attendance and talked about the ways SMEs can stay on top of their cashflow as well as advising on the tools available to help them keep up to date with their incomings and outgoings.

To help businesses deal with the many challenges they have to face today, Nicholsons brought together a number of business specialists who were able to help and advise small business owners and managers on key topics that are a concern for them. These ranged from cashflow, budgeting, legal issues, performance and retaining staff, cyber security, marketing, social media, technology, efficiency through processes and health & wellbeing, all factors that need to be considered when running a successful business.

The audience had an opportunity to interactive with our speakers by asking any questions at the end of each session.

Richard Hallsworth, a director at Nicholsons says “The world that we work and live in is changing. Politically we are exiting the EU, economically new ways of working like the gig economy have changed the pattern of work, socially we are aware of the importance of good mental health and wellbeing and technology and automation are getting faster and cleverer.  Not adapting to the changes around us is not an option. We hope the conference has provided business owners and managers with the tools to make better decisions, to help their businesses go from strength to strength.”

During the morning delegates had the opportunity to visit the stands that were supporting the conference, giving them access to a wide range of services to enhance their business decision making.

Our thanks go to our speakers – Glen Foster from Xero, Richard Hallsworth from Nicholsons, Michael Squirrell from Wilkin Chapman, Anthony McGhie from Barclays, Chris Pickles from F1 Group, Alex Wright from Knapton Wright, Rachel Linstead from Firecracker and Andrew Tomlinson from Nicholsons HR Department and our host Richard Askam.

Our thanks go to our supporters – Lincoln College, DBS Internet Marketing, Reflect Recruitment, Systematic, Optimum Safety Management, St Barnabas Hospice, FSB, Thompson & Richardson, Lincolnshire Chamber and Positive Networking

 


Are you prepared for a Brexit storm?

A day doesn’t go past now without a news item about Brexit and with major talks scheduled for December it’s all very tense. The magnitude of work required to leave the EU seems to be hitting home. Talking to colleagues there is a feeling that it will work itself out. It has to, doesn’t it?

There are likely to be many more twists and turns and a deal will probably be done, but on what terms? As a business owner this uncertain future doesn’t help when you are trying to plan, especially when it’s combined with a fragile UK economy and unstable political environment.

There has been a lot of talk about the tariffs that may come into play if there is a hard Brexit, aka “no deal”. Tariffs are a protectionist measure countries adopt to enhance the competitiveness of industries in their economies. They work by applying what is effectively a mark up on goods entering the country thus making them more expensive compared to home made products.

Under World Trade Organisation rules, which the UK has signed up to, tariffs are not allowed to put at a disadvantage or advantage one country against another. So for example the UK government could not hit back at France for forcing a hard Brexit by applying a 70% tariff on cheese. Instead the tariff that applies to the “most favoured nation” i.e. the lowest must apply to all others. This is known as the MFN rate.

With the MFN weighted average of the EU in 2013 being around 2.3% you might argue that the benefit of being in the single market was reducing. But that’s not the whole story as the MFN tariff varies quite a lot on different products. On cars for example it’s around 10%. If the UK matched this rate on Brexit then cars imported from Europe would cost around 10% more on 1 April than 31 March 2019.

One other issue we need to be aware of is the reverse. Exporters whose goods are currently flowing into Europe tariff free may see the effective price of their goods rise if tariffs are added and therefore their competitiveness reduce against their EU competitors.

I guess that the silver lining is that it won’t come to this BUT what happens if it does? What impact will it have on your profits? How prepared are you?

As I was writing this, this Facebook advert popped up on my feed re-enforcing my view that we need to start planning now.

However, whilst planning might be difficult one thing you can do in preparation is research. Many of my clients have supply chains that stretch into Europe. Some buy directly from companies in France, Spain and Italy et al. others from companies in the UK who buy from Europe. Do you know where the goods you buy come from and what would you need to do if there were a 2.5%, 5.0% or 10% increase in prices because of the application of a tariff? Can you source goods from UK producers? Does your business model need to change? These are all questions I think you should have the answers to just in case.


Considering Business Acquisition for Business Growth

Want to grow your business fast? Considered a business acquisition?

Most business owners see the benefit in adopting a growth strategy. Sometimes though market forces make organic growth difficult and expensive. A much faster method of achieving growth targets is to bolt on other businesses through an acquisition.

You may choose a competitor whose sales you can absorb and strip out overheads. Your target might be complementary in that it offers something of use to your customers or vertically/ horizontally in your supply chain. Irrespective of the type for most a business acquisition offers the hope of growth. Many owner managers however, find the thought of an acquisition not appealing; too many problems, too much risk, too difficult to fund and too expensive.

At Nicholsons we partner with clients looking to acquire to help guide them through the purchase process every step of the way.

One piece of advice I often give is that deals don’t need to be Richard Gere in Pretty Woman style massive deals. I’ve recently worked on two acquisitions both with values of less than £25,000 but deals with values up to £100,000 can still generate good value.

Both of these recent deals offered integration benefits; sales and profit growth, customer cross selling opportunities, channel integration, economies of scale and a less than 3 year payback.

Smaller deals like this are often easier to complete. There are often smaller ego’s amongst the sellers (& their advisors) and whilst Due Diligence other pre purchase checks and legal documentation are still needed it can often be really focused on key areas which helps keep costs proportional to the deal size.

Sometimes buyer burnout in the deal process means that integration and day one planning is not effective. Smaller deals don’t drag on and there is plenty of energy left for integration planning. This is a real benefit of completing small deals because you can integrate them easily whilst keeping on top of the day job. Post purchase integration is where excellent business owners generate value and make acquisitions work so having more time on this area is a benefit.

So my advice would be. Don’t discount acquisitions as a means of achieving growth, but think smaller.