Business Strategy

3 easy ways to use more technology in your business

2020-02-01T15:48:29+01:00 May 20th, 2019|Categories: Entrepreneur, startupgold, TheStartUpGold|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Let’s face it. In 2019, if you are not riding the wave of technology, chances are your business is missing out on a world of opportunity. From sales through to operations, technology is simplifying traditional ways of working and improving efficiency. Interestingly it is still not a favourite topic for a lot of female entrepreneurs.  

An investment in technology can make all the difference in your business. I am not just talking Facebook and Instagram. Today, ease of use and flexibility for small business are key focus areas for tech providers when building their products. So we have less excuses not to embrace tech and many more reasons to love it.

Companies that use technology for competitive advantage will win in today’s fast-paced business environment

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Enrollment now open for businesses that need the skills to build confidence and attract their ideal customer, convert them to fee paying clients and build customer loyalty.

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If you like what you hear about technology but not sure how to get more of it in your business, here are some ideas.

#1 Hire a tech savvy person on your team.

You don’t have to go with a full time person if you’re just starting up. You can hire a freelancer on sites like Upwork, Fiverr or Freelancer. A part time virtual assistant with a tech background will do for a start. Task them with researching what tools are in the market and how your competitors are using them. If you like the results the tools can provide, make the investment and get your techie to integrate it into your business. With so much competition in the tech market, you can get tools at competitive prices, a lot of providers also offer flexible payment plans.

#2 Always default to automation first

Automation can save you a  lot of time and money. The golden rule is as long as it is a repetitive task, it can be automated, you don’t need to hire a dedicated person for the job. Today there are easy to use tools that automate almost every part of the business process. Marketing funnels, scheduled advertising, email, messaging, billing and payments automation, there are lots of options to choose from. So think of your end to end business process and and research the areas you can automate. The first thing you and your team should consider when you start a new project is how you can automate.

#3 Attend conferences and exhibitions.

One of the best ways to adopt the newest and brightest tech trends in your business is to attend industry events . You will find enthusiatic exhibitors keen to tell you about their products and how they can help your business grow. You also gain insight from other business owners in your niche who can share what works for them.

If you are thinking, “well my business runs as a service which I deliver myself, I don’t need technology”. As a business owner you should continuously think of how to grow and technology can help you do that. Think of how many more customers you can reach if you are advertising your services online and building an email list of clients interested in your services. Today the world is digital and there are so many tech tools that will help you achieve better results faster.

Smart entrepreneurs keep up with the times and use what works to serve their market. Technology works

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5 things to do when bootstrapping your Startup

2020-02-01T15:46:08+01:00 April 30th, 2019|Categories: Entrepreneur, startupgold, TheStartUpGold|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Pitch decks, Venture Capitalists, Angel Investors are almost synonymous with Startups today. Now these are great ways to get funds but when you are starting your business, you probably do not need half a million pounds right away to grow. You may find that through self funding you can raise a good portion of the money you need to setup and get your first clients through the door.

Bootstrapping a startup business is the concept of using existing resources, what is already have in hand, to achieve a goal.

Is it easy? no it is not, particularly if you don’t have a regular source of income.

A lot of new business owners are already rockstars at doing the most with minimal resources (hands up mums in the house) The same applies when starting up your business. Don’t go pitching to investors just yet or procrastinate on starting your business because you have written up a startup valuation that seems out of reach.

Try these bootstrapping tips first.

Cut back on splurging

I guess this goes without saying. If you need the money then cut back on spend. That Fendi Baguette, or pair of Balmain boots will have to wait.

Build a business portfolio you can take to the bank first then you can splurge on luxuries later.

As you start to build the business keep an eye on expenses.

Surround yourself with inspiring and driven people

Ever felt like you needed some shopping therapy and then your girlfriend comes round to remind you – You Only Live Once? So you hit the stores and head into Soho for dinner, willing your savings goal to come back. Sadly a vision of Shrimp and Lobster with spicy lemon dressing for dinner at Nobu’s wins.

Ditch your goal-less friends while you bootstrap to grow your business. Find yourself some new friends that will keep you motivated.

Always go for the Best and Final Offer

Corporate giants do this stuff all the time.

When making a purchase to start your business, ask the seller for their best and final offer before placing an order. Do the same with other sellers then go for the most competitive price.

In other words, haggle like your life depends on it (professionally of course) If procurement teams at large corporates do this to save business costs, how much more your humble self? There is no shame in negotiating. Make your money work for you as you build your business.

One thing to be mindful of though is not to compromise quality for cost. Verify the quality of what the seller is offering before committing to the sale.

Use your vision board

Have a vision of what you want to achieve. If you don’t have a board that’s pinned up on your wall, keep a mental visual of what success feels like. Use this as your motivation when you feel like giving up.

Keep your big vision in mind. Fix your eyes on the prize – Always.

Get some assistance

Perhaps bank of mum and dad might be generous, or you have friends who believe in your idea and can support. Crowdfunding might be another way to go. Think of some alternative sources of raising money and use as many channels as you have available to you within your inner circle to secure your business funds.

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A guide for business growth

2020-02-01T15:38:19+01:00 April 16th, 2019|Categories: Entrepreneur, startupgold|Tags: , , , , , , |

Deciding what is next for your business can be very confusing.

A growth model developed by Larry Greiner depicts phases every business must go through as it grows. The age and size of a business are variables that influence the growth rate. Over time new knowledge and resource is acquired, ideas are tried and tested and businesses learn from their mistakes and failures hence enabling their growth.

Understanding where your business sits in the model might provide some clarity for the next step on your growth journey. Our adaption of Greiner’s model applies five stages of growth and encourages you to understand what stage  your business is at.

1. Growth through creativity: In this early growth phase, you are likely launching a shiny new product or service to the market. As the business leader, you are involved in almost everything. You have the ideas and while you can do with some professional support you know just about enough of what to do to meet your objectives. To move from this stage to your next level of growth you will need to consider hiring some added hands to get more done.

2. Growth through direction: At this point your products have been launched,  you are hiring and directing a team to manage all the admin and support that comes with running a business. You now need those professionals you weren’t keen on in your creative phase to help you see the wood for the trees and get the business running productively and efficiently.

3. Growth through delegation: You may find it hard to let go of control and allow your delegates do their job. Worse still your delegates may actually be rubbish at their job and so you aren’t actually realising the benefits of the stage. Either way, you have a team and as your business continues to grow, delegation becomes a  crucial part of giving the founder and management capacity to focus on the bigger picture and determine the next initiatives.

4. Growth through coordination: In this stage, more emphasis is put on getting you and your delegates working in harmony to add more value to the business. As you look to enhance your business systems and processes, investments may also be made to facilitate growth.

5. Growth through collaboration: In its simplest term, collaboration is working together with groups or individuals to a common purpose in order to achieve a business benefit. When your business has gone through all other growth phases, collaboration either internally or externally can  facilitate growth. You birth new ideas and project through new alliances, networking, mergers, outsourcing or partnerships.

The phases are not meant to follow a linear approach. You may need to revisit a previous phase to be successful on the next. Businesses that cycle through these growth phases are constantly in a state of evolution as they prepare and position for their next stage of growth. It is worth noting that after each phase there may be a calm evolutionary period as the business realises success and moves to its next stage of growth or there may be a crisis that requires the business to stabilise and restrategise to move to its next level.

An adaptation of Larry Greiner growth model for businesses.

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Business Feature – Ade Hassan of Nubian Skin

2020-02-01T15:17:52+01:00 March 7th, 2019|Categories: Entrepreneur, startupgold, TheStartUpGold|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

I am not entirely sure where to start with this post.

I could start by describing the excitement when  I finally bought hosiery in my skin tone. I could start by describing how inspiring it is seeing a woman of colour redefine the marketplace in an industry. Maybe I should begin by describing the thrill when I learnt Ade was going to share some business insights with me…. I was so chuffed.

I’ll just get right to it.

Ade Hassan, a member of the order of the British Empire, Fashion Entrepreneur of the year and UKs favourite British designer of the year award winner is the founder at Nubian Skin, a company with a carefully edited collection of Lingerie and hosiery providing the essential underwear needs of women of colour. Available at Nordstrom, House of Fraser, Bravissimo and other big brand stockists in the UK and Internationally. Nubian Skin has gone from strength to strength since it officially launched in 2014 and has received interest from celebrities like Beyonce, Thandie Newton and Beverly Knight.

On her immediate thoughts when her first photoshoot for Nubian Skin went viral – “I was shocked. I didn’t fully understand how it all worked because I wasn’t big on social media. At the time, Nubian Skin had a Tumblr and an Instagram page that had about fifty followers from random images. It was our first product photo. I didn’t think anything of putting up the image of the four girls wearing our product. I actually went on holiday directly after but my phone kept buzzing. I was shocked and amazed just to get one hundred followers. By the end of the week, we had a thousand followers. I started to feel anxious because I didn’t really understand what was happening. At the end of four weeks, we reached twenty thousand followers and the press started picking it up. Kerry Washington retweeted a post that Self Magazine had done on us and we were on DailyMail. And, all of a sudden, it was everywhere. And it was insane because we didn’t have products to sell yet. We didn’t even have a proper website up”

“My name is Ade Hassan and I’m the founder of Nubian Skin. I was born in the UK, but my family is Nigerian.  I grew up all over the world, in the UK, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and the US. After I finished my masters I ended up in Banking, which was something I had been interested in doing, but ultimately, I knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur.  Both my parents are entrepreneurs, so I guess it’s in my blood. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I’ve always had an affinity for fashion”

TSG: When you founded Nubian Skin, you were addressing a gap in the market for women of colour. How did you get past any reservations or concerns you had as to whether your idea would become successful? What sort of research did you do and what support did you have?

Ade: I did a lot of research and discovered that what I was looking for simply wasn’t available. This was a great starting point that validated my idea. After that I did a lot of testing and research amongst my friends and family. I also did a lot of research at make up counters that catered to women of colour to find out the most popular hues. Once I had that information, it was a huge process of refining these colours with the factories.  I had no idea how to find a manufacturer or how to break into the industry, so I hired a consultant who introduced me to tradeshows which was incredibly helpful.

TSG: What are the key areas you focus on in your business, in other words when you review your business metrics what areas are you concentrating on first before others?

Ade: Sales are incredibly important because that’s what really makes or breaks a business. We also take a look at our social media metrics, customer data and google analytics to get an idea of who our customers are, their behaviour and location etc. Another important area of focus is cost – it’s important to repeatedly analyse what you are paying for/whether it’s necessary/where it’s possible to reduce cost, because if there is a problem, you want to fix it immediately.

TSG: During your TEDx talk on “The reality of reaching your goal” you mentioned bored, frustrated and annoyed as really good motivators when you’re trying to figure out what to do next, a lot of women can relate to this, the question is when they figure out what to solve for, what do they do next?

Ade: For me it was figuring out what my end goal was (launching my e-commerce website) and then plotting backwards to where I was and figuring out every single step that was needed to get me to my goal.  Then it was a matter of putting one foot in front of another one step at a time.

TSG: You’ve talked about switching jobs when you figured out your business idea and moving into equity finance in the corporate world because you needed to save a lot of money. In a time where women aren’t getting a lot from venture capitalists, is bootstrapping the way to go and a more effective option for female entrepreneurs?

Ade: I moved from consulting into working for a private equity placement agent, which I really enjoyed and it enabled me to save a good amount. Bootstrapping worked for me, but it has its pros and cons.  I do think fundraising is also a very good option, and I think it’s important for women to keep seeking finance from angels and ventures because there are so many amazing ideas out there that are deserving of finance.

TSG: Obtaining Trademarks and Copyrights are essential to protecting your brand , in your experience at what point will you advise entrepreneurs to consider this and make it a top priority above everything else they must execute to scale their business?

Ade: It’s one of the first things you should do!

TSG: On manufacturing and bringing your product to life what advise will you give entrepreneurs when sourcing manufacturers and vendors for a product?

Ade: Figure out what is going to work for you.Do you need to do a smaller production run (which will be more expensive) or are you producing large quantities (which may be cheaper)? Find a vendor or manufacturer who you have good communication with because communication is key.  Finally, do your research, visit the factory to make sure it’s being produced in an ethical way.

 TSG: Nubian Skin is stocked in Europe, Africa, the US and Caribbean, what challenges have you had operating in International markets and how have you overcome them?

Ade: Communication and figuring out logistics are important.  Some of it is trial and error, it’s just a matter of refining your methods and figuring out what works.

TSG: Looking back on your journey as an entrepreneur, what advice would you give to women starting their business journey today?

Ade: If you’ve got an idea you’d like to bring to life, it’s really important to research your idea to make sure that whatever it is, it’s valid. Make sure you really believe in the idea especially if you’re working in another job. If you’re up at 4:00 a.m. or 2:00 a.m. working on this, then you want to believe in it. You also need to be willing to work really hard. Everybody who is going to start something anticipates that it’s going to be difficult, and that it’s going to be hard, but it will be so much more difficult and so much harder than you can prepare yourself for. And also – have faith in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, then who will?

TSG: There are so many products and services out there today, the internet has made it easy for everyone to start a business, what marketing advise will you give to small business owners so they can rise above the crowd?

Ade: I would say that good imagery is key – make sure your photos stand out and are of the highest quality. There’s nothing worse than visiting a website with grainy, low-res images. I would also say it’s important to do your research, make sure your idea is valid and be prepared to work really hard!

Beyonce and her Formation World Tour dancers in undergarments made by Nubian Skin

TSG: Finally on collaborations and Partnerships, how has this helped your business and what advice can you share with budding female entrepreneurs looking to engage in partnerships that can help grow their business?

Ade: We occasionally collaborate with influencers and bloggers to create content. It’s really important that the people we work with appreciate our ethos and that the partnerships are as organic as possible. I would say that collaborations and partnerships can be a great way to widen your audience, but make sure that you also think about return on investment and whether the money you spend is going to be worthwhile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow Ade Hassan of nubianskin on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @nubianskin

To see more of Nubian Skin and place an order visit the Nubian Skin Website

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What to look for in a co-founder for your business

2020-02-01T15:00:53+01:00 February 18th, 2019|Categories: Entrepreneur, TheStartUpGold|Tags: , , , , , |

A day in the life of an entrepreneur is full of plots, twists, turns, wins, fails and everything in between. Two heads (or more) are better than one. Having a partner or co-founder allows you share ideas, risks, tasks…

When thinking of how to find a co-founder, you are looking for a business partner that is the Ying to your Yang. 

It is an option for entrepreneurs who want to propel their business growth rate quicker and have no qualms splitting the profits.

So what do you need to validate when seeking a partner for your business? 

Purpose

Investors put their money behind people as they do ideas so finding someone you have a shared sense of purpose with is a great starting point. You could identify this from your history of working together on a successful business or projects. It is fair to say most startup entrepreneurs may not have had this experience. Perhaps engage your potential business partner on a small or short project before you say I do. Get the feels on their passion and vibe before you form a partnership.

Skills and Ability

Find a partner with skills that are compatible and complementary to yours. The perfect marriage should be a blend of capabilities that form a cohesive pillar for the business. Qualifications aren’t enough to validate capabilities you want to see some experience to back it up.

Personality

Know enough about your partners character to understand what drives them? what makes them tick or buzz? Are they emotionally stable and can be relied upon to remain the voice of reason during rough periods or are they the sort to make the business a free for all to attack and defend?

Ambition

Think growth and everything that comes with it such as investment in building client relationships, putting in the hardworking to grow the business. How does your potential partner feel about it and is it something she will support and be diligent on?

Values

Verify if your partner operates with ethical standards and shares your values. For example can your partner be relied upon to act with honesty and integrity always? What other values are important to you and how does your partner feel about them?

A partner is a trusted advocate within your business. Ensure you do your diligence to find a suitable one.

Are there any other attributes worth knowing about a partner? What are your thoughts on how to find a co-founder? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Beyond Brexit – A guide for UK Businesses

2020-02-01T16:05:09+01:00 February 3rd, 2019|Categories: startupgold|Tags: , , , , , |

Change and Uncertainty remain apt synonyms to describe the impact of a ‘No deal’ Brexit on businesses. As the media purports more stories of gloom that comes with uncertainty perhaps there are reasons to be optimistic about the aftermath of Brexit afterall what is the point of entrepreneurship if not to seek opportunities and work with a growth mind set.

This is by no means an attempt to downplay the effects of a “no deal” Brexit. If we read the data according to the UK Government – EU Exit long term economic analysis , it suggests Brexit will result in a reduction to GDP under all scenarios over a 15 year period, ranging from -2.5% in the modelled white paper to -9.3% in a ‘no deal’ scenario. The numbers suggest a higher likelihood of business closures in the event of a recession. So for smart businesses this is certainly a time to act on a contingency plan.

A 2 – 5 – 10 year review of a UK business’s strategy following Brexit should bolster efforts in areas where there are perceived risks and leverage potential opportunities. The Brexit contingency plan should consider the following:

  • Encouraging an agile culture and mind set within the business to deal with change. Entrepreneurs and small businesses have thrived during periods of instability by being more flexible than established firms to quickly adapt and respond to changes internally and in the market, this would prove useful following Brexit.
  • A lead person within the business capable, empowered and knowledgeable enough to make decisions concerning the Brexit planning, this might be an in-house personnel providing the required governance or a hired consultant supporting the contingency effort.
  • A risk register and documented plan that details risk areas with mitigations, action plans and owners against each area.

As you review your business strategy and contingency plans, consider the effects of Brexit on these areas in your business.

The Economy

A short term economic recession and volatility in value of the Sterling would impact stock markets following Brexit and may affect sales and business confidence in investment. High interest rates could be a deterrent to investment causing FDI to be deferred due to uncertainty following the UKs withdrawal from the EU single market as businesses in the EU observe the impact of new rules regarding the flow of capital and financial services between economies.

Currency fluctuations

This may lead to a higher cost of operation for businesses in the UK with the pound likely to be unstable over a period of time resulting in an inflation and an increased cost of imports for small businesses in the UK.  The requirement for upfront VAT  on all goods imported from the EU along with the actual costs of producing the product itself will have the knock on effect on cost of operations.

A fall in the value of the pound though could also encourage a fresh wave of inward investment as businesses capitalise on lower exchange rates hence creating avenues of growth for small businesses.

Customers

Businesses that have customers concentrated in the UK may see a decline in sales as customers minimise investments and spend. This presents an opportunity for UK businesses to pivot and diversify, expanding into emerging economies and international markets, engaging a new customer base.

Skills and staffing

Reduced EU migration may reduce available workforce in the UK and impact skills in areas such as hospitality, construction, academia, agriculture, and seasonal employment. This could create more opportunities for individuals and businesses inside the UK labour market. The UK has stated that any EU nationals settled in the UK as of 29 March 2019 will be able to apply for a settled status scheme in which the individual is able to live and work in the UK so long as they do not exit the UK for longer than a two year period.

Distribution and Supply chain

It may become longer and harder to ship products considering the higher costs of imports and possible delays at the borders as UK firms comply with the new EU rules. This presents a good time for importers and retail businesses in the UK to source other suppliers outside of the EU.

With over 40% of UK exports going into the EU in 2017, reduced inward investment from the EU could in turn lead to higher tariffs on exports.

Perception of UK business

Whilst there are reservations about the strength of an independent UK from the EU, the reality is there are countries within the EU experiencing staggered growth or a semi recession. The UK’s exit from the EU may encourage some countries to welcome the opportunity to now work with a UK brand that is independent of the EU and its regulations; this could lead to more international joint ventures and partnerships.

Business Support

As UK businesses adapt to the effects of Brexit, small businesses in consultancy and service driven businesses are likely to be winners due to a fast growing demand from corporates and large enterprises seeking help with coping with legislation and effects of Brexit.

Tax

It is anticipated that there will be no immediate changes on indirect and direct tax. As new tax laws come into play in the UK, this may take time to mature and develop.

Contracts

Renegotiations may become necessary on business and customer contracts as new rules come in play and impact service level agreements or cost of operations.

Security and Data Protection

Under GDPR, personal data can be shared between EU member states , as the UK exits the EU and becomes a “third country”, data exchange with the EU becomes more restricted, businesses may be required to review and comply with the UK’s own rules on data protection. By now businesses should have adequate policies in place for data protection, the policies would need to continue being enforced to show there are adequate measures in place to safeguard customer data.

Need help analysing the effects of Brexit on your business?  Contact Us to engage a consultant for a review and contingency plan for your business.

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