How Play can improve the Bottom Line for Business.

How often do you get up in the morning and think to yourself ‘I really can’t be bothered going to work today’, I’m one of those people for sure. For many people across the UK and indeed the world they are not very happy at work. This is because we see work as a chore, a tedious but necessary task to pay the bills, pay our mortgages and put food on the table. We clock in leave our brains at the door and plug away for the next 8 hours, hoping that time goes by fast so we can pick up our brains and go home.

Work should be fun.

It shouldn’t be like this, work should be fun, enjoyable and we should be able to have a laugh and get on with our co-workers rather than complaining about the boss or moaning it’s all just work, work, and work. However a radical new solution is now being adapted across Britain to tackle this problem, with innovative bosses now introducing the work and play scheme, yes this sounds strange at first but studies have shown that happier workers generally work harder. Therefore the company’s productivity increases which is good for both employer and employee.

The Science.

The science behind this is that playing or playtime releases endorphins and serotonin into the brain, these pleasure chemicals help to reduce the stress and anxiety many of us associate with work. By reducing these factors our brains become more productive, our focus is sharpened and the imagination stimulated. This all leads to more creative thinking, better problem solving skills and our general sense of wellbeing.

The Solution.

Taking inspiration from the big American companies like Google, LinkedIn and skype, many forward thinking British companies are now introducing games rooms in to the work place. According to one games room specialist at Home Leisure Direct purchases of pool tables, table tennis and foosball machines have increased significantly not by the general public but by company directors who want to create a fun but workable environment for their employees. Some employers have even gone as far as setting up tournaments or competitions with rewards and bonuses for the winners to encourage healthy competiveness between co-workers. This brings staff closer together through bonding which spills over in to the work place making it more productive and happier place to be.

5 Ways to Prepare for Launching Your Own Company

The Nestle Company was formally launched after Henri Nestle discovered how to remove water from condensed milk, making it possible to create milk chocolate. Caterpillar was formed to meet the needs of farmers who struggled to plow the fertile grounds of Stockton. Every company’s origin lies in trying to do something better than the rest of the market. The reason they last is because the founders have a vision for the business.

Starting your own company is not an easy undertaking, but it’s the dream of almost everyone who works a desk job. How many times have you been sitting at your desk, doing the same task you’ve done many times before, and thinking that you could do it better and more efficiently? That drive is part of what keeps entrepreneurs focused, they see a need in the market and they try to fill that void. The trouble is that some of us don’t take the time we need to plan things properly.

By the time you’re finished checking off every point in this list, you’ll be five steps closer to starting a company that will last.

Prepare a Rock-Solid Plan

The Small Business Administration recommends you start with the simplest method: a business plan. A business plan might feel quaint in today’s age of startup-everything, especially in industries that move quickly. What a business plan offers you is stability.

Four years from now, after you’ve grown some of your client base and developed a moderate income, you’re going to consider how to scale. There will come a time when there is too much work for you and one other person to handle, so you’ll need to expand. That expansion time is where companies sometimes lose focus.

In the case of Groupon, the expansion nearly killed its business model. Sales worked hard to sell the product, but they sold to anyone without thought of who might benefit the most from it. This tarnished the brand, which still exists today, but it seems clear that they drifted somewhat from their initial ideas of sustainable bargains meant to grow businesses.

A business plan helps solve those problems. It gives you space to plot out what your company will look like, who will manage it, how you’ll sell your products. You must also do some market analysis, and make some predictions on the first few years of your company’s life. When you are ready to expand, make sure you return to this model and update it to match your current goals.

Keep Finances Seperate

It’s likely that many who are reading this will begin their business life as a sole proprietor. During this time, it’s tempting to keep your professional and personal accounts together. It’s easy to see why this looks simple, but it’s actually working against you. According to Lexington Law, you need to consider how your personal liabilities might get wrapped up in the expenses of a failing business.

Businesses don’t have credit accounts to begin with, so your personal credit is crucial for some of the initial financing you might need. Once you’ve become a legal entity (more on that in a moment), your business does get a credit account. As a sole proprietor, it may be best to either bootstrap or discuss your next move with a financial advisor.

Whichever route you choose, keep your business expenses separate by asking creditors to report charges under your business name. Of course you should still check every credit report related to you or your business to be sure there are no fraudulent charges on file.

Develop a Pitch

If you want to seek funding, you’re going to need a solid elevator pitch. When written out, your elevator pitch should not exceed more than two lines. Think about how you would tweet your business idea to someone.

Investors are busy people. A lunch meeting usually doesn’t mean lunch, you may be one in a  string of people that investor needs to meet with or call that day. Before you even get to that meeting, you’ll need to come up with some way to hook the investor into hearing more about the project. That’s where the pitch comes in. It’s your chance to communicate exactly what you want to do, but it’s different from a mission statement. Statements of corporate goals or missions tend to be philosophical, and a bit abstract. You need concrete benefits and a summary of exactly what you aim to do.

One technique to help finalize is writing them all out, standing in front of a mirror and deciding which pitch feels the most confident.

Find Your First Customer

Before you quit your job, find a customer for yourself. It’s not just a way to get some cash on the side, it’s a big affirmation that you’re working on an idea people will care about.

You can even start this process before you get a business plan. Your first customer will teach you a lot about the skills you’ll need to manage a business. You’ll have to have the gumption to work on a project outside of work hours, you’ll need to budget for that project, report to your superior and learn how to manage client expectations. It’s a big sales process, and it can be fun and financially rewarding.

Register a Business Name and Tax Info

Another recommendation from the SBA is to register all of your applicable tax information. You’ll need an EIN, which takes just a few minutes to apply for, and then you will be able to register with your state and the federal government. Keep in mind that you’ll need to pay small business taxes each year, so it’s a good idea to secure a tax person who can help you out with your new financial burdens.

The business name is the final piece of the puzzle, and how you’ll successfully move into a legal entity. It’s up to you what kind of corporation you’ll run, but being a legal company has several benefits. It’s easier to claim expenses for the company, because all of your expenses are separate, and you can set up payroll accounts to expand and grow.

Ready To Grow Your Business? Look To Your HR Department

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a dedicated department that helped your business grow? In fact, you already do. Whether your HR department is one person who carries out HR functions alongside their other tasks, or a dedicated team, their focus is on keeping everything pertaining to your employees running smoothly. That means they have access to the information, people resources, and insights that can help your business grow strong. Here are some of the ways in which HR supports the growth of your business.

Retaining your top talent

HR can help you keep your top talent, making sure your business holds on to assets that it doesn’t want to lose. By using the latest HR software, HR can track employee performance and training, giving you a clear overview of who is doing the most for your business, and who you can nurture for even better results.

HR can also be instrumental in getting hold of the best employees in the first place, using a combination of networking and intimate knowledge of your business to seek out the perfect people for your team.

Managing disputes

No matter how well your team gets along, there will always be disputes. From those two employees who are brilliant alone but just can’t work together, to the frustrated employee who didn’t get paid on time, dispute resolution can take a lot of time and energy. HR can help resolve problems and smooth ruffled feathers.

HR software means that your HR department can keep track of everyone and note down what has been done to resolve conflicts, helping to prevent them recurring.

Keeping things efficient

It can be easy to lose sight of business growth if you’re caught up in the daily stress of making sure everyone is paid on time, all departments are covered during absences, and everyone’s training is up to date. That’s where your HR department comes in. HR can keep things running like clockwork, freeing you up to focus on growing your business.

HR departments can also make use of HR software to schedule everything from training to meetings to payroll and holidays, keeping things running smoothly.

Communicating your vision

Having a strong shared vision is important for business success. The more employees understand about the company aims and how they fit into them, the better placed they are to work towards those aims. HR has a vital role to play in this, making sure that your vision is clearly communicated during recruitment and training.

A well organised HR department will use HR software to make sure employees get any training and other information they need now and in the future, keeping a strong line of communication and reiterating your values.

Planning for the future

HR has a wealth of information to draw on, from employee records to employee performance and appraisals. That makes HR a valuable resource for planning the future of your business. By including your HR people in strategic planning, you’ll open yourself up to insights that can help you make smarter decisions for your company.

As HR software becomes more and more prevalent, HR departments are able to use it to harvest plenty of useful data on your employees and their performance, which you can then combine with your plans for your business to create a bright future.

Your HR department isn’t just there to sort out payroll – it’s a valuable resource that can help your business to grow. Good HR software, like from,  can make all the difference to how useful your HR department is in terms of business growth. If your HR department would benefit from the best in HR software, for more information see here.


Getting performance management right

Kevin Lawrence is MD of Odyssey management training – on a mission to eradicate mediocrity Odyssey specialises in leadership and management development, change, executive team development and organisational development strategy.


When companies get performance management right, they see it as an ongoing process: a series of everyday conversations between managers and the teams they supervise. In these companies there’s still a place for observations and expectations to be ratified in annual or quarterly reviews: but a review functions as the ‘formal face’ of the ongoing communication, rather than being a stand-alone occurrence.


Sadly, in many companies, the annual or quarterly review has become the main or only forum for talking about performance. In these companies reviews tend to be wholly one-sided: managers hand down judgements about an employee’s performance. The emphasis is usually on things that have gone wrong, rather than what can be learned, so the reviews are backwards-looking, rather than pro-active. The result? The reviews have little value and can lead to employees becoming de-motivated. It’s this approach to performance management that has led to a wealth of articles asserting that the practice is broken. It’s not. What has broken is the company’s understanding of how to carry it out.

So how do companies get it right?

The answer starts with the corporate mindset. Managers need to see an individual’s performance as being the joint responsibility of that individual and the manager. That’s not to say that an individual bears no responsibility for their own performance, but it is to say that it is a manager’s responsibility to get the best out of the individuals and to create conditions in which they feel empowered to succeed.


Having that mindset automatically shifts the emphasis from judgement of the person to assessment of the situation. It also makes it imperative that performance management becomes something that is ongoing. If a manager feels that performance is slipping: and that they have a responsibility to alter that, they can’t leave the situation until the annual review comes around. Similarly, the responsiveness that comes with acknowledging responsibility means managers are more likely to acknowledge and praise effective work when they see it.


There is another positive. By responding to situations as they arise, small issues are dealt with and don’t (as readily) grow into big issues. Expectations are clear. It’s also more likely (although not a given) that team members will feel able to explain what isn’t working for them. Managers who want to help their employees achieve their best will be more open to hearing how their (the manager’s) own behaviour may be stopping their team from achieving. When managers are willing to listen and make changes to their own behaviour, it helps them to build stronger, loyal, teams.


These are not behaviours that every manager will find easy. It takes strength and self-confidence on a manager’s part to recognise that at times they may be part of the problem. It takes empathy and self-reflection to understand what different people may want from a manager – and how to support employees whose strengths and weaknesses are different from their own. Many managers  favour – consciously or not – people they understand and feel drawn to. But there is strong research evidence to show that the more diverse a team is, the greater its chances of success. So, to succeed, managers need to be comfortable working with a diverse range of people and getting the best out of them.

How is that done?

It’s a behaviour that needs to be modelled from the top down. When senior leaders create diverse teams and are seen to favour supportive communication and embrace different working styles (as long as those working styles are effective), a culture of strong performance management can grow.


It’s also imperative to openly acknowledge when things arent working: and to do so in the spirit of ascertaining why that should be and helping change the conditions that are causing the problem. When this happens it reassures the employees who are encountering the problem and other members of the team, who can see that their colleagues are being supported, rather than criticised.


Finally, it helps when managers actively ask for feedback about the ways in which their team could be better supported. It can be hard for employees to be honest with their line managers, unless they know that their managers are willing to listen.  So do listen, make sure you’ve understood what you’re being told and give it due consideration. If you’ve been told something which you cannot implement or which you don’t agree with, you still need to show that you’ve thought about it and give a clear explanation of why you can’t do it. The employee may not have the result they want but you’ve shown respect. Mutual respect is the foundation on which strong teams are built – and it underpins good performance management.

Celebrating Britain’s Entrepreneurial Talent with Vonage at the National Business Awards

There are several awards in the UK dedicated to celebrating the work of Britain’s brilliant entrepreneurs, but none more prestigious than the National Business Awards. Now into their 13th year, the National Business Awards are currently looking for entrants for their Duke of York New Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and the award’s new partner, Vonage, is incredibly fitting this year.

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Vonage is a VoIP service provider that has been helping small and home businesses and entrepreneurs get their companies up and running all over the globe. By providing incredibly low cost calls for businesses of all sizes, both locally, nationally and internationally, they’ve seen to it that Britain’s brightest entrepreneurs have as much capital in their pockets as possible by keeping communications expenses to a minimum.


With 2.4 million customers, Vonage certainly knows a thing or two about business growth, and they’re happy to share their enthusiasm for small businesses, as well as their knowledge and expertise through the National Business Awards this year. And it’s certainly an exciting year for entrepreneurs in the UK. According to Companies House, almost 500,000 new businesses started up here in 2013, with start-ups representing an amazing 95% of the UK’s business landscape.  So there promises to be plenty of competition for this year’s New Entrepreneur of the Year Award.


The award is now launched and is open to any first business founder that has been trading for 18 months or less on 1st April 2014. If you’re a new entrepreneur and would like to be considered for the award, simply enter online at the National Business Awards website before 23 May 2014.


This year the National Business Awards’ live judging event takes place as part of the International Festival for Business in Liverpool and will be staged at St George’s Hall. Each entrant gets to present a three-minute pitch on their business model, key achievements and their plans for future growth, with a panel of judges and a public vote deciding the winner who’ll be presented with their award at the NBA ceremony on 11 November.

Big Data for Small Businesses

UAB Master of Management in Information Systems

Business Loan Options for Those With Bad Credit Scores

Regardless of where your business is, you’ll need a boost in funding at some point. It might happen due to circumstances you find yourself in, or due to incorrect debt finance planning. Consequently, it may send you into a phase of bad credit, and as it is, you may face a challenge where getting business loans is concerned. Good news is, you can still get a business loan regardless of your credit history. But let’s learn the tweaks and tricks first.
Bad Credit for Business Loan

If you’re below 650, you already know how difficult it is to get approval from traditional financial institutions. But here’s why 80% of business loan applications get rejected: financial institutions club your personal credit history with other factors to gauge your payment capability. So your application is instantly rejected when you fall below the 650 mark.

Therefore, let us learn about a few personal steps you can take before applying for a business loan.

What You Should Do When Applying for a Business Loan

(a) If your score is under 650, separate your bad personal credit status from that of your business. The trick is – start an LLC or a Corporation.

(b) Establish a business profile using your acquired EIN. It tends to be separate from your personal credit history, so it won’t affect your application. In fact, this is the easiest way to build a strong business profile when you have a weak personal credit profile that needs attention.

(c) Your business financial statement should be totally independent from your personal financial statement. Make sure you separate these records.

If you’ve followed the above 3 steps, then you are safe to apply for a business loan even if you have a history of bad credit.

Substitute Loans and Trade Credit

Maybe you need a small amount of money, or funding for a small duration. You can apply for a loan with a relatively fair option of trade credit. These can be used for almost everything that a business loan can be used for, not limited to making purchases for raw assets and materials.

The good thing about trade credits is that they are often easy to acquire since they have minimal rules, plus they don’t conduct background credit checks.

In some cases, trade credit can be obtained even without giving guarantees. However, the problem is, this process may not be very simple, so it may require external help. If you don’t have enough time and patience, then this might not be a viable option for you.

Elements of Loan Products Designed for Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs

Even though business owners with bad credit are often shunned, a good number of loan products have been tailored specifically for this category of business owners. These loan products come with terms such as comfortable payments, long maturity, lower installments, interest rates and down payment. One such example is online lender

Therefore, if you operate a business or are looking forward to start one, your options are endless. In fact, you’re almost guaranteed for approval as long as you’re genuinely seeking for a business loan to keep your business afloat. And the good thing is that you can always separate your bad credit records from your business loan application so that it doesn’t affect your outcome.


Remember that even though everyone else seems to be offering loans on the web, not all of them will provide cheap loans per say. They might be having better terms of service, i.e. such as not reporting your payment records to the credit bureau and so forth. Those claims may be true. However, when it comes to payments, you suddenly realize that the loan you were offered was too expensive, almost a rip-off. Therefore, shop wisely, and remember that bad credit history doesn’t always mean you can’t get a loan.



The Best Ways to Protect Your Money Online

Virtual banking and other online transactions have become commonplace in these modern times. In fact, there are many analysts who believe that the world of e-commerce will eventually overtake its more traditional counterpart. Like any new technology, there are some concerns which need to be taken seriously. For example, how can you be sure that your money is safe from prying eyes and theft? This is a logical question that should be answered in a bit more detail.


Use the Most Trusted Sites

Whether you are buying a toy through an online auction site or reviewing the personal details of your current life insurance policy, only choose to interact with providers that have a proven reputation. This will drastically limit the chances that your personal and financial details will fall into the wrong hands. If there are a substantial amount of negative reviews in regards to the company, it is always best to move on.


Use a Separate Email Address

It is wise to keep all of your financial transactions within an entirely different email than that which is used for more personal matters. This primarily arises from the fact that if your main email becomes hacked or corrupted, your extremely important information is much more likely to remain secure. Along these same lines, make certain that your password is different for each account. If your general email is compromised or the password stolen, your secondary address will still be intact.


Offline Storage

Always keep a backup of your financial records offline. Many consumers now only have their information contained within the “cloud” of computing. The danger here is that no cloud is completely secure. Thus, they can once again find themselves at risk of data loss. Whether you choose to store such details on a personal hard drive or even physically written down in a safe place, this aspect of redundancy is another very powerful step to take.


Understanding Encryption

In its most basic form, online encryption is a “code” which is used to pass information from one party to another. All details within a message are scrambled and can only be decoded by an authorised party. Even if an account or an email is compromised, it is highly likely that any information contained within will still not be deciphered. All of the most trusted sites will state that they are using what is known as “SSL” encryption. If this is not immediately apparent or if such a protocol is not employed, your finances may once again be in jeopardy.


Above all, it is critical to note that online security threats are continuing to evolve. Keeping ahead of these dangers through the steps mentioned above will help to limit the chances of information loss. In an age governed by light-speed interactions, prudence plays an important role in your overall financial privacy.

Current Trends in CRM for Insurance Companies


Insurance companies always look for ways to boost their businesses. They want more and more customers. The new entrants in the market have made it difficult for the companies to survive the competition.

Insurance companies work on their technologies, to get the best solutions for their customers. The new age customers are more informed and comfortable with the internet. Companies are looking for better technologies to connect with their customer while customers demand personalized solutions and better interactivity.

This rising demand has emerged the trend of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) among insurance companies. The CRM software provides database of the customer. It also helps to get a better understanding of the customer expectations and act accordingly with the insurance plans. With changing consumer needs, new trends have developed in the CRM. These trends are discussed as follows:

  • Social CRM: The new CRM is now focussing on the social habits of the consumer. They target Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites. The focus has shifted from data to content where conversations and people are given more importance. Customers are happier working with the people they know. CRM recognises their friends and partners, understands their preferences, and offers customized insurance schemes. This new trend helps re-enforces trust within the customers.


  • Self- service: This solution saves the customer’s time, money and efforts. He does not have to visit the office again and again thereby increasing the dependence on emails and web chats over phone calls and visits. CRM assists in insurance consulting and handles regular premium collections. Consumers can also get tailor-made solutions from the website.
  • Analysis: The new CRM provides in-depth analysis of the customer. It not only gives the data transaction updates but also, an overview of customer behaviour. Employees can get customer information in a single window. The CRM analytics help to strategize business decisions and gives insight of customer preferences.


  • Future predictions: With an analysis of past transactions, CRM assists to predict future customer behaviour. It helps the company chart out its future plans especially the ones with a million customers. This insurance business software helps the company to differentiate businesses. It gives a picture of those customers which can bring more business to the company and those which produce lesser profits. The company can then strategize to work on them separately.
  • Key performance indicators: This CRM trend helps to get the company’s performance status distinctly for departments, roles and individuals. It generates accurate results of the organization’s performance with respect to a specific customer. It measures the customer satisfaction level and also gives out the reasons why a particular customer stopped dealing with the organisation. This indicator can be very useful in developing strategies for retaining other customers.
  • Smartphones: The CRM can now be integrated into smartphones and other devices. This helps the members of the insurance company to access customer data from anywhere. It gives quick updates to them thereby helping customers with instant solutions. This increases the convenience of both, the insurer and the insured, and hence it is highly favoured.

The current trends in CRM in the insurance industries help to strengthen the bond with the customer. It understands their changing needs and helps the company to adapt to it. A customer is also happy to get the service on time and as desired. A satisfied customer is sure to bring more goodwill and business to the insurance company.

Click Here to learn more about Customer Relationship Management.


Agency PAYE vs umbrella company: Which is best for me?

When it comes to contracting, there are a number of ways you can operate as an independent worker. Although the most popular choices are undoubtedly through your own limited company or an umbrella company, there is also the option to work via an agency PAYE.

This basically means you will work through a particular agency as a part of their payroll – but only if they provide you with this option. If they do not then it’s either and umbrella company or a limited company.

Like an umbrella company, operating through an agency PAYE removes a considerable amount of hassle from your contracting life, but what are the main differences between the two?

Rates of pay

Generally, you’ll get a higher rate of pay working through an umbrella company than you would if chose to take a contract through an agency.


If you choose to work through an agency you will forfeit your ability to offset legitimate business expenses against your income. As an umbrella company employee you may be able to claim business expenses against your earnings, offering you more flexibility in this area.

Claiming expenses is part and parcel for a contractor and so it may be wise to consider the option which enables you to do this.

Before you decide on an umbrella company it is always wise to see what they can offer you in terms of expenses and their specific policies relating to this.

NICs and tax

Essentially, this works out the same whether you work through an agency PAYE or an umbrella company. In both instances, National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and tax are deducted at source and so there are no additional costs of charges.

When it comes to payroll calculations, both options will take care of this for you, leaving you more time to focus on your work or obtaining a better work/life balance.


The same applies as the above for invoices. In both cases your invoices should be raised and sent to the client on your behalf, removing the need for you to chase up the client once the invoice has been sent over to them.

Contractor insurance

Any good umbrella company will offer you a full insurance package which not only looks after your interests but also your client’s in the event of an accident where their property is left damaged.

Not only does this ensure that you are covered in the event of a problem onsite, it also means you don’t have to spend time looking for the right policies to cover yourself as it’s all done for you.

So which is best for me?

Overall, it is generally more beneficial for a contractor to use an umbrella company as opposed to an agency PAYE. While both remove a significant amount of hassle in terms of paper work, tax calculations and insurance procedures, the financial positives are far better with an umbrella company.

Higher rates of pay and the ability offset expenses against your income are two of the main reasons why most contractors take the umbrella route over agency PAYE.