Archive for September, 2012

Organise, delegate and outsource business start-up

How to organise yourself, delegate and outsource as a business start up

The most-repeated comment I hear from new business start ups “There are so many things to do!”. And it is so true – standing back and taking an objective look, the list is daunting:

Ø On Your Marks! – research market, do feasibility forecasts (am I likely to make money?), identify market, make business plan, identify how much capital is required and raise it (as cheaply as possible!),

Ø Get Set! – decide branding and get design work done, website creation, create marketing materials, identify suppliers, negotiate terms, open bank account, prepare detailed marketing plan, contact advertisers, financial budgets

Ø GO! – Sell, network, advertise, build brand awareness, keep on top of accounting and VAT, reforecasts……

STOP NOW! This list is endless and overwhelming. And it is dangerous. Why? Because if our expectations of ourselves are that by becoming a business owner we also become, apparently over-night, a marketeer cum salesperson cum financial controller cum graphic-designer cum copy writer, then we set ourselves up to fail.

Be realistic – you are the ring-master, not the whole show

It is your job to run the business which means your days will be spent in a combination of generating sales, marketing your business and supplying the product/service. (The time dedicated to each of these activities will depend on the nature of your specific business and how much you can delegate to someone else.)

You cannot and should not try to do everything. Your focus must always be on business-building. If you spend a day doing book-keeping, who is making sales? (Your competitors, that’s who.)

So the advice is – organise yourself, delegate and outsource

Go ahead and make that “To Do” list, then work your way through it, delegating tasks where possible. Be realistic. Outsource recurring tasks that would divert your focus if you were to take them on (book-keeping is a good example). If you need an expert for a task (e.g. marketing logo design), ask friends for recommendations and hire one.

Outsourcing is a facility that makes expertise available to you as and when you require it. Invest in another person’s expertise and experience and save yourself the learning curve that means wasted time and money. Remember, while the outsourced expert completes a task far more quickly, accurately and completely than you could, you are out generating the long-term sales contacts that your business relies on, and which will ultimately more than pay for the cost of your outsourcing.

So many things to do? There certainly are. But not all by you.

Author: Dara McGovern from JumpStart for Business. Dara is an experienced chartered accountant and ex-Finance Director of a large multi-national. She now runs her own Business Finance consultancy, DM Solutions, around her busy family life. DM Solutions is part of the JumpStart4Business strategic alliance which came into being to support business start-ups, providing easy access for new business owners to a range of relevant expertise and experience.

JumpStart4Business runs regular, informative workshops, supporting and encouraging new entrepreneurs, see for news on the next event 

The first things you need when starting a business

The first things you need when starting a business

My first question is: which of the three little pigs would you rather be? Yes, you have probably heard the story of ‘The Three Little Pigs’ but you might be wondering what it’s got to do with starting a business.

Just to recap on the story (and explain it if you don’t know it),….

The Three Little Pigs have been sent out into the world by their mother, to ‘seek their fortune’. The first Little Pig builds his house out of straw but a wolf blows it down and the pig runs to this brother’s house. The second Little Pig builds a house out of sticks but the wolf blows that down too. The brothers run to the third Little Pig’s house which is made of hard bricks. The wolf tries, but fails to blow this house down. The wolf tries several times to trick the Little Pigs into leaving the brick house, but each time, the pigs outsmart him. Finally, the wolf decides to come down the chimney. What he doesn’t know is that the Three Little Pigs have outsmarted him again and he falls into a pot of boiling water and is cooked.

So what has this story got to do with starting a business? You can build your business out of ‘straw’ or ‘sticks’ but it won’t take much for the ‘wolves’ to blow it down. If you build your business out of bricks and with a strong foundation, it will withstand any attempts that the ‘wolves’ might make to blow it down.

So what makes up a strong, solid foundation for your business and how can you make sure the ‘bricks’ you use to build it, are the strongest around?

When starting a business, the first thing you need to have is a clear and detailed PLAN. Do make sure the plan includes these five key ingredients. 

1. Create a business plan, even if you are the only one who will see it

It will give you a map of where you want to go, supported with information of how you are going to achieve it.
Starting a business without a plan is like embarking on a journey to somewhere foreign without working out the full costs, the time scales, the language you need to speak when you arrive and the route you need to take to get there safely.
Have enough MONEY in your ‘start up pot’

It can take up to 6 months to really start making a profit to cover your costs, so make sure you have enough to launch your business, buy equipment, buy products (if applicable), market it and pay yourself during that time.

Add in a contingency because things will go wrong, mistakes will be made and unforeseen problems will arise.

2. Have a clear MARKETING Plan

Make sure you have identified at least 5 different ways to attract your perfect client before you launch your business. These can include direct mail, networking, display advertising, email campaigns and telemarketing.

Take time to research what will work for your business. Take a look at what your competitors are doing.

Work out WHO your perfect client is, HOW they like to be communicated with and then WHERE they spend their time – keep these in mind when working out your marketing plan.

3. Get your WEBSITE and SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE sorted before you launch your business

How many times do you go and check out a business online before you make the decision to buy from them? Your potential clients will do the same. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

Make sure you have the Twitter, Facebook and Website domain names for your business as soon as you know what that name is.

Create an account on LinkedIn too.

Get an easy to navigate, attractive website up and running before you officially launch your business. Ensure you have calls to action on your site so you can capture information for your database.

If you feel brave and confident enough, get some videos done to post on your website.

Have an e-newsletter ready to go onto it too.

4. Make sure everything is LEGAL and your business is protected

Let HMRC know as soon as possible that you have started your business.You have 3 months to let them know or you will have to pay a fine

Check which class of National Insurance Contributions you need to pay.

If you are going to hold data on customers or prospects, you need to register with Data Protection. It’s an annual cost of £35.

If you are planning on setting up as a partnership, ask for professional help from an accountant and solicitor. You may be friends at the beginning but as we all know, it can all change.

5. Protect the TECHNOLOGY that is essential for your business

Most businesses need at least one computer to operate successfully, even if it’s just for ‘doing the books’. Always make sure you regularly backup your data and computer configuration. It’s not difficult or expensive. If you lost all of the information on your computer, would you business survive?


I hope you found this article useful. If you have any questions that we can help with, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Author: Alida Ballard, from Surrey Accounting Services, Alida offers small businesses a proactive accountancy service that will work closely with you to help you grow your business. They offer on-going business support, which includes setting targets and helps you be more in control. You can also get help with services such as  bookkeeping, payroll, credit control and monthly reports that help you run your business more profitably., 01932 353146, 07595 924644


This article was first published on Fabulous Women, and is kindly published with their permission. If you would like to read more articles from Alida and other small business experts, do check it out.




Mid Life Career Change – Unlocking Your Full Potential

Mid Life Career Change – Unlocking Your Full Potential

I have always been passionate about what I do, and that’s why I do it. Even from the beginning of my career I made a pact with myself, that the day that I don’t enjoy what I do, is the day I’ll do something else. Even if that would be a mid-life career change, or an end life one for that matter.

My philosophy is and has always been, do what you’re passionate about, what you love. Tap in to what your real life purpose is and pursue it and you will feel totally fulfilled.

How many people do you know that absolutely love what they do? That can’t wait for Monday mornings?

Or should I ask: How many people do you know that ‘hate’ or ‘don’t enjoy’ what they do and can’t stand Mondays?

It’s interesting, when I look back over my 17 years as a Career Development specialist I have assisted over 50,000 people from all walks of life move forward in their career. Each time I would always ask the question: ‘what do you love about what you do’ I discovered approx 85% of people said; they didn’t really enjoy the work they did however it paid the bills. It enabled them to pay the rent/mortgage, kids school fees, car etc.

So in effect they felt trapped by the life they’d created, caught in a safety net of better the devil you know, the security it held. So they often sacrificed what they really wanted to do because they felt they were doing the right thing for their partner/children/parents, but not for themselves.

What if we looked at doing the right thing and turned it on its head. What if doing the right thing is to follow your heart, do what’s right for you, live life full-out, and teach your partner/kids and all that you can create anything that you set your mind to, and that you can live life full-out, a life without limits. If you stay trapped doing something that you hate what message are you giving to your children and the rest of the world?

So many of us get handcuffed into a career, or a stay-at-home choice, that we don’t really enjoy, spend 2/3 of our life, from the age of 21 through to 60, approximately 40 years, 40 years doing something we hate; why? When did we decide to settle? When did we give up on the dream life? At 5 years old the sky is the limit; ask a 5 year old what they want to be when they grow up and just listen to what they say. There’s no limits. They’ll say things like they want to be a footballer, an astronaut, a rock star, an actor or a doctor. At what point did we shrink our dream to fit our circumstances?

I guess it comes back to where in life are we settling?

  • Are you settling in your career? In your personal relationships? With your health & well-being? Or with your finances?

Chances are, if you settling in one aspect of your life, you’re more than likely settling in others

  • Ask yourself right now where am I settling in my life?

Get clear on where you’re settling and draw a line under it no matter how big or small it is. And then get clear on what you want to create for yourself in your life. Maybe it’s a new career, or relationship, or making more money or getting fit or losing weight or just having better health.

Whatever it is for you.

The good news is – it’s a decision you make. You can make decisions at any point to change your circumstances.

When you know what you want to create for yourself set a course, step by step and go after it. Engage back in life and live it on your terms.

Inspiring real-life stories of mid-life career changes

I thought it would be useful to share a few examples of where people have drawn a line under where they’re at and decided to go after what they love . I share these examples in the hope they can inspire you to go on and create whatever it is your heart desires.

Lola is a close friend of mine and I’ve known her for 15 years. In her early career she fell in to an accounts job and just drifted with it. She didn’t enjoy it however it was a job and paid the bills. We often talked about how unfulfilled she was, how she hated what she did and dreaded doing another reconciliation, financial analysis or credit control. She just felt it wasn’t the right space for her. As time went by she continued to work in accounts and felt the only way she could progress and make more money was to take an ACCA qualification and become professionally qualified. She did it. She moved jobs a few times, hoping new companies would inspire her on to greater things, it didn’t happen. It sapped her energy even more. Lola was now a professionally qualified accountant aged 35 with 14 years experience making a good income and still felt unfulfilled.

Lola had always wanted to be an Actor. She was passionate about it and knew it was what she really wanted to do. It was her dream.
For 14 years she parked her dream, she didn’t follow her heart she opted for a more conventional route.

Last week I got a call from her to say she had an audition for an Acting School. A few days later I got a call to say she got it. She has started her journey and couldn’t be happier.

Mary is from Croatia and educated in the US. She has a stellar education and 15 years track record of success in investment banking having worked with some of the world’s leading investment banks. When she graduated she didn’t really know what she wanted to do. She did a business & economics degree and did very well. She was hired by a top investment bank. Fifteen years later she didn’t know where the time had gone, it was a whirlwind. She had progressed well, worked out of Wall Street and the City in London and was making a lot of money however she didn’t feel fulfilled. Mary decided to take a career break, to “come up for air” to get clear on who she was and what she wanted to create for herself. She had never taken a break from her career before. It was the best thing she ever did. She soon realized that her high-end banking career was not what she wanted for the second part of her career. She wanted to work more one on one with people and really make a difference. Mary is now working successfully in a Business & Personal leadership business that transforms the lives of many.

My advice to you is don’t waste another second doing what you hate. Start creating the life you deserve. Go get your mid-life career change and take some action today.

Author: Helen Roberts – Career Development Expert 

Are you thinking about starting up your own business? Could it be for you? Why not join us at the BIG Business-get-ready and find out? All the experts you need will be there including: lawyers, accountants, photographers, business mentors and web developers, all working mums that made the step a few years ago. – BIG Business-get-ready, 3 October, Twickenham – School friendly timings, Free parking

Time is not the issue – says mum and senior manager Paula

Time is not the issue – says mum and senior manager Paula

Talking about being a working mum at the BBC ‘Women at the top’ programme triggered senior manager Paula Leach to think about female leadership and motherhood. This is what she learned about being a working mum in her own words.

Being a working mum for me the key challenges have come down to Time. I’m nearly 7 years into my parenting journey, with 2 beautiful daughters and a worklife balance many would envy, combining my part time senior management role with being an involved and present parent to my girls. So what’s the problem? Haven’t I ‘got it all’? Haven’t I ‘got the best of both worlds’? Well, it’s an interesting question, and one I have a bit of a constant wrestle with myself.

In a quest to try to work out why I feel like this, I recently tentatively took part in the filming of a BBC documentary which was examining the reasons why so few women are represented at the senior levels of management in business. Scary as it was to put myself ‘out there’ and actively join the debate, I wanted to share my perspectives, experience and optimism and learn as much as I could on the way.

The process of being filmed and trying to work out in my head what was my overriding perspective on the subject of combining motherhood and career, was all a bit of a new step in a new journey for me. Of course I was only going to be featured on the programme for 3 minutes or so, and I was happy with the footage (although I just find watching myself very uncomfortable …. Surely I don’t really look or sound like that??!!). However, the finished programme was one thing, the journey that asking these questions has started to send me on, is something else.

So …. Back to Time. I have always known, ever since I returned to work after my first daughter was about 1 year old, that it was about time. There are only so many hours in a day, and I was already madly busy with all my work commitments before I then had to fit in my new job as Mum. I’m super organised though, so went about the process of creating a jigsaw of childcare, greater efficiency, working different times of the day to make up for dashing out of the office early to get to a nursery pick up etc. We all do it- it’s how it works. And over that period where I have continued to make this jigsaw of activity squeeze into my 24 hours, I, like many other women I know (and probably countless more I don’t know), have felt various new emotions about my working and home life such as guilt, low-confidence and questioning what other people were thinking of me, feeling not quite as reliable as I always had been (or the risk that I wasn’t that reliable) amongst other things. A wise friend once told me, it takes 5 years to come to terms with the situation of this balance and feel at peace with it rather than trying to be everything you were at work before.

So, I am a reflector, and this has all got me reflecting a lot about Time. I actually know for a fact, that I am equally if not more capable at delivering in my chosen profession than I was 7 years ago. And I feel optimistic about those contributions. I simply am not in a position to work the same days and hours, or work between “9 – 5” in the accepted business tradition. Interestingly, where I have felt a dip in confidence or worried about my reliability or felt guilty …. Pretty much all of this is rooted in Time – or lack of it!

Coupled with that realisation, I was interested to explore whether this perceived issue of time was external or internal to myself. Generally, there is some expectation from others, but on the whole, my reflection leads me to conclude that most of the pressure I feel regarding time is actually pressure I am putting on myself.

Light bulb moment! (I had this a couple of years ago). Just forget about worrying about the time -what I can’t fit in that I used to, how to be like everyone else (or as I perceive everyone else) – and get on with the excellent outputs and contributions that I make, focusing on my energy and quality and creativity. Let go of that guilt and that lower confidence and see what happens – I would soon work out whether this was mostly me putting that pressure on, or whether it truly was real. Result: Yep – mostly me!

So, my feeling is really this: As a professional woman, I have certain expectations of myself which I literally could not replicate once time got squeezed. I wasn’t prepared to make the sacrifices so many women did a generation ago with regard to seeing their family grow up … surely they had no choice, but because they did that, it has paved the way for women and mums like me to have a choice and take on the mantle of the next challenge with confidence and energy! That challenge being the challenge of demonstrating that Time is Not the issue … having personal confidence, and the confidence of others, in output, creativity, leadership, quality – these are the things business should be really interested in and I for one plan to demonstrate that it doesn’t always need to matter that you are seen to be doing the 9 – 5.

Having confidence to do it my way will hopefully open the eyes of business that mums and business can work and can thrive, with a little open-mindedness on both sides to being flexible and focusing on the output. By having the confidence to be doing, delivering and succeeding, we can perhaps grow and open up the opportunities to work flexibly, be involved with our families at the times that we need to be during the 24 hours we have, and still achieve what we need to at work (and beyond!). I don’t see working flexibly as simply a temporary accommodation to ‘help’ me – I see it as a win-win for me and the business. I achieve everything that is required of my role and beyond. I cost less than a full-time resource. I am committed to making that work and being the most efficient that I can be. The biggest barrier I believe I truly have faced is actually my own personal perceptions and expectations limiting myself, so I am taking deep breaths and not apologising for working a different schedule – I am embracing it and demonstrating it’s value! And at the same time I am very present in my children’s lives and fully engaged in their school life and activities which is important for me.

Obviously I appreciate that I am fortunate to work with an enlightened employer where the foundational elements of flexible working and empowerment mean I can take responsibility for my own schedule and working my way to achieve success. Technology is such an enabler here to allow us to move forwards – so we don’t waste the talent that is out there with so many people who have chosen Motherhood. My mantra moving forwards … it is ‘Mum AND career’ not ‘Mum OR Career’!

And what about me ‘having it all’ already? …. Yep that’s all fine and maybe a perception could be that I do, but I have ambition to progress in my career, learn more, take on interesting challenges and add greater value – and I plan to do that still with only 24 hours in the day!

I have learnt so much about myself, and others, over the last few years having become a parent. Perhaps I may continue to progress my career because I have children, and not in spite of it.

Author: Paula Leach, She has 2 beautiful daughters aged 6 and 3 and works 3 1/2 days per week in a senior leadership role as Learning & Development Manager at a large Multi-National automotive organisation. Since having her daughters, she juggles her career with her family and is constantly striving towards achieving a balance which means she can be present and involved in her children’s lives, schooling etc, in addition to not only ‘holding down’ her role, but continuing to develop, grow and contribute professionally. As part of this journey, she recently took part in the filming of the BBC2 documentary ‘Hilary Devey’s Women at the Top’.


  • Looking for more tips, guidance and insights on Navigating your Career and Children? Why not join us for a high-impact fun workshop on 9 October in Central London. Speakers from Ernst&Young, Sapphire Partners and more

Flexible working and redundancy – two sides of the same coin

Flexible working and redundancy – two sides of the same coin

Mums working flexibly may feel more vulnerable to redundancy. However, in some cases, being prepared to work flexibly may save you your job. Find out how to avoid redundancy and why working flexibly could be to your advantage.

Requesting flexible working arrangements

The law gives the “right to request” flexible working to qualifying employees who are parents of children up to and including the age of 16, parents of disabled children up to 18, and carers of adult relatives. However, an employer can refuse on certain grounds, which are set out in various articles elsewhere on this website.

Will my employer agree to a flexible working arrangement, but blacklist me?

Those working flexibly may feel that the employer sees them as being less committed or “on the mummy track”. A new boss may inherit a flexible working arrangement and dislike it.

Many people opt for job-share arrangements. However, although such arrangements bring benefits for both employer and employee, they may be perceived to be more expensive for employers (and may actually be more expensive, for example, if two people work three days a week each, rather than one person working five). This may make such arrangements more vulnerable in economic times of woe.

However, although all these things can happen, redundancy criteria must be transparent and non-discriminatory. Any criteria that would be likely to affect flexible or part-time workers more than full-timers may be indirectly discriminatory on gender grounds and therefore potentially unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 as well as being an automatically unfair dismissal.

To put yourself in the best position possible, it’s stating the obvious to say “do a good job”. But you need to do more than that: you need to make sure other people know you are doing a good job. Make sure you keep evidence of your achievements and copy people into important e-mails (without being sucked into a “cc culture”).

Keep a diary of your work, your achievements and any important projects you have worked on. If anyone sends you an email saying that you have done a good job, make sure you file it somewhere safe. The more evidence you have, the more easily you can show that you are committed to your work and that the flexible working arrangement is working.

Could flexible working actually save my job?

While many women worry that they are vulnerable to redundancy, flexible working may actually save their jobs. Some employers have realised that flexible working can help them to retain good staff during the recession. It’s not all good news for employees, as it may mean reduced hours and pay.

You can refuse to change your working pattern, but then you may be at risk of redundancy. Thus, agreeing to work flexibly could help you to keep your job, and it may be preferable to earn 80% of your salary than 0% of salary. It also means that employers save on redundancy costs and the costs of recruiting and training new staff when the economic situation improves.

An example of this was in 2009, when it was reported  that City law firm Norton Rose was offering alternatives to redundancy. Staff were offered the option of working four-day weeks on 85% of pay or taking a sabbatical of up to 12 weeks on 30% of pay. By exploring these options with staff, the firm was able to retain more staff, along with their knowledge, skills and contacts.

As the economy improved, Norton Rose reinstated the five day week (although the author is not aware if anyone asked to keep their four day a week arrangements, and if so, whether it was permitted). It was held up in the legal press as a beacon of good practice when other law firms were making large numbers of people redundant, so such practices can lead to good publicity for employers.

KMPG carried out a similar process. Several of the UK-based car manufacturers have also used elements of flexible working (negotiated with the workforce) as a means of reducing the number of redundancies and thus retaining their skills base.

So, if you work for a company that is making redundancies and you feel flexible working is something they should consider you could suggest it to your employer. Reasonable measures must be taken to come up with alternatives to compulsorily making people redundant, so your employer must seriously consider such suggestions.

Author: Helen Hart was a practising lawyer for many years and spent the last four years working for a legal publishing company. She now works part-time in a public library as well as being a freelance writer and editor.