Business Answers
Business Answers is a place where HP in the UK can engage with owner-managers in small and medium-sized companies. It embraces this blog, a vibrant LinkedIn group, Twitter and YouTube videos. We hope you find this useful and that you will share your thoughts with us by leaving comments and sharing articles you like with your colleagues.

Displaying articles for: September 2010

Best of the web 1 October 2010

Introducing Web 3.0. 

Adam has written a lengthy article for Blogtrepreneur about Web 3.0 which noted that the earliest reference he can find to Web 3.0 was when Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, was asked about it at a conference on August 2, 2007. He also noted that the predictions for Web 3.0 call for significant improvements in all internet searches plus plenty of other noticeable improvements for web users. 

 

6 Reasons to Buy a .Co Domain Name Today 

Renee Oricchio has written an article for Inc. Magazine listing six reasons you should by a .co domain name for your business. The six reasons she mentioned and wrote in detail about included: 1) the fact that it ends in “co” as in company, 2) you should register it before someone else does, 3) you don't want a competitor to build a site at yourbusinessname.co, 4) its relatively cheap at about US$30 a year, 5) your company web site should always have multiple addresses and 6) many domain names serving other countries already have a .co in their web address.

 

Flexible Electronics 

Charlie Bess, whose the Next Big Thing blog is part of the HP blog community, has noted that the July/August MIT Technology Review has an article entitled Inexpensive, Unbreakable Displays that discussed some of the efforts at HP to create a process for roll-to-roll silicon electronics on plastic. The article goes into plenty of detail about the process itself as well as some of the potential and very useful applications for consumers and businesses alike.

 

Cyber Risk and Cyber Defense

Charlie Bess of the Next Big Thing blog has also mentioned that he was recently at The Open Group conference where there was an interesting presentation by Larry Clinton of the Internet Security Alliance who pointed to two recent publications that can be downloaded: 1) The Financial Impact of Cyber Risk (50 questions Every CFO should ask) and 2) The Financial Management of Cyber Risk (an implementation framework for CFOs). Both publications are well worth reading as they identify how you can protect your small business from potential cyber risks or threats.

 

Easy to Use Excel Spreadsheets and PowerPoint Templates to Plan a Session or Meeting 

Tim Berry, the President and founder of Palo Alto Software and the Founder of bplans.com, has written a post for his bplans.com site where he showed how to make useful Excel spreadsheets plus PowerPoint templates to help plan a session or a meeting. He also included a link on his site where some of these templates can be downloaded. 


Review of Clutterpad: Online Small Business Project Collaboration

TJ McCue has posted a review of Clutterpad, a collaborative platform for small business owners who are looking for a simple-to-use workspace where employees can keep track of a project or customer. He noted that while Clutterpad is not a full-blown customer relationship management (CRM) solution, it does give users a great way to manage conversations and customer contacts and it could be a useful project management tool for small business owners to consider.

 

Using SMS To Market Your Business And Boost Revenue

On June 11, 2010, Smallbiztechnology.com produced 12HoursOfTech as part of Internet Week. The event, which was hosted by Microsoft NYC and sponsored by Net@Work, brought together speakers from Ez Texting, Kutenda, Infusionsoft, Orange Soda, Net@Work, Constant Contact, Vertical Response, IT2Max, Tap11, Affect Strategies, Pattie Stone, Odesk, Hill Data Management, Yelp, RatePoint and Antonio Neves. One segment that might interest small business owners in general was hosted by Shane Neman, the CEO EZ Texting, who discussed how to use SMS to market your business and boast revenue.

 

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right 

Pierre DeBois, the founder of Zimana, a consultancy which provides strategic analysis to small and medium sized businesses, has posted a review on the Small Business Trends website of the book The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande. Gawande’s book focuses on the need to better manage the required steps in patient safety in a surgery setting and the end result was a search for the best checklist that could cover all the bases. DeBois concluded that if you are a business owner addressing complexity, this book will aide you to make better upfront decision-making because it’s very clear thanks to the story that the book weaves.

 

How to Relocate Your Small Business Furniture and Equipment 

Ivan Widjaya has written a short article for Noobpreneur listing several tips for how to relocate your small business furniture and other equipment hassle free. His tips focused around visiting mover directories and short-listing candidates, the renting a storage unit, reading and keeping your contract in a safe place and how to pack your items well.

Confessions of an Intel IT manager

If you ever wondered what life was like actually managing IT in a big company, check out Gareth Williams's post on Intel IT Galaxy UK. Here's a snippet:

 

If, like me, you believe that the hardware is just metal to run your great apps on, you might find it difficult to believe that I’m one of the IT managers here in Intel. I look after the IT needs of part of our sales force in Europe, the guys who bring you our embedded products and the engineers who work hand-in-hand with customers through the design process. My colleagues and I take care of our supply line systems, sales information tools, marketing sites and apps, as well as tangibles like smartphones, laptops, desktops and servers.

 

Read the rest here.

Tags: Intel

The 60-second business insider videos from Microsoft

Check out these videos on Microsoft Showcase. They have great, short video clips showing you how to get the most from Microsoft products, including:

 

 

  • Restore previous versions of yoru files
  • Back up without fuss
  • Access your files and programs anywhere
  • Make presentations on the go
  • Find more, search less with Windows 7
  • Fix problems quickly with Windows 7

 

How to get a paperless office

610i8033C4525BDB8621Kevin Garcia has written a great article for Inc. Magazine with a number of tips for turning your office into a paperless office. Kevin began by noting that the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper every year and if you multiply that figure by the number of employees you have, its easy to see how a paperless office can save your business money. Moreover, Kevin noted that electronic records are far cheaper to store than paper records and far easier to search through, saving you time.

 

However, Kevin then pointed out that one of your biggest challenges will be to figure out what to do with all of your existing paper records as it will be important to determine how many of these records actually need to be stored due to certain retention requirements or for other reasons. Kevin also pointed out that the second big challenge will be getting all employees to buy into the process as employee support will be the key in deciding what paperwork is important to your business and what paperwork is not important.

 

Kevin then came up with the following suggested timeline to turn your office into a paperless one:

  1. Set a deadline.
  2. Hire an outside firm and buy new equipment.
  3. Replace your invoices.
  4. Store key documents.
  5. Identify your "super-users."

At the end of the article, Kevin noted that switching to a paperless office can be a daunting task and it will also need to be a company wide initiative. Hence, he noted the importance of identifying tech-fluent employees in each and every department who can help ease the transition for their less tech-fluent coworkers. Finally, Kevin ended his article by noting two great resources for paperless offices:

 

How to ask the right questions

609i935345120BA37C56Asking good questions can lay the groundwork for effective collaboration.

 

The most effective and empowering questions create value in one or more of the following ways:

 

  1. Create clarity 
  2. Construct better working relations 
  3. Help people think analytically and critically 
  4. Help people to see things in fresh, unpredictable ways
  5. Encourage breakthrough thinking
  6. Challenge assumptions
  7. Create solutions

The Seven C’s of effective communication:

 

 

  1. Control – Control the topic and avoid big digressions.
  2. Conversational - Ask about thoughts and motivations - don't just ask about events. Be inquisitive and ask about topics that are important to the person that you're speaking to.
  3. Confident - Present yourself with confidence, ask follow-up questions to get more detail– don’t always accept the first answer that you get.
  4. Competent – Ensure that your facts are up to date, being prepared that allows you to anticipate the questions that your collaborators might ask.
  5. Calm – If you start calm, you are more likely to both calm down others.
  6. Clear – State exactly what you want people to do, or why they should follow you.
  7. Concise – Do not waste valuable time.

 

 

Questions to avoid


Leading questions: seek a specific answer they inhibit direct reports from answering candidly and stifle honest discussion:

 

  • You wanted to do it by yourself, didn't you?
  • Everyone else on the team thinks that this is a bad idea. What about you?

Closed questions: require specific answers and can be a good way to open and close a conversation. However, a whole string of them in a row can make colleagues feel interrogated:

 

  • Is this a good time to talk?
  • What time is the meeting?
  • How many people are coming?
  • Who else will be there?
  • When will the report be ready?

Provocative questions can be effective

While leading and closed questions can intimidate respondents into providing useless answers, provocative questions can stimulate people to think more deeply about an issue.

 

Don’t be afraid to ask:

  • What new technology would make our product obsolete?
  • What new legislation could potentially ruin our business?
  • How might we generate an income while giving away our products free?

Irrespective of what kind of questions you are asking and in what context, the golden rule is always to ask questions that will increase your knowledge. Respecting your collaborators and seeking constructive information is always the best strategy.

10 ways to tell if your PC needs replacing

This is a guest post from our friends at Intel IT Galaxy.

 

593i034E87F0F9488861I don't work for Intel as a staff member; I just get the inside track! My day job is working for a large media company, and so I don't get to enjoy the latest and greatest technology.

 

Like many people in large organisations I hotdesk; some days I get to work on zippy, modern machines while others I am stuck with machines that are at the end of their natural lifespan.

 

Many large organisations tend to have a phased approach to IT rollout, and sometimes that can mean a department won't get a refresh of desktops all at the same time.

 

And the same is true of my department. In the last few days IT have been in replacing some machines with newer, sleeker, Core i5 powered machines and the difference is startling.

 

The problem is I can't get my hands on these machines every day. But I've been haranguing IT about the state of one particular machine that I often end up using, and I wanted to share my 10 tips to convince IT that they need to replace your machine.

 

Here goes....

 

1. It takes longer than 15 minutes to boot from cold. Yes, starting work each day means turn on, stand up and go and have a coffee while your machine starts

 

2. You keep thinking the fan on your machine sounds like the office air conditioning

 

3. It's always you that gets stuck on the slow machine. It's because your colleagues have nabbed the fast beasts

 

4. You take your life in your own hands when opening up more than one application at a time

 

5. You know the first names of the IT support guys

 

6. IT support know your name from your extension number

 

7. You have a separate folder in Outlook for calls logged with IT support

 

8. You once looked in System Information and it reminded you of the late 1990s

 

9. It's quicker to open a webpage on your smartphone than it is on your desktop

 

10. You've broken at least one keyboard with frustration

Tags: productivity

25 must-read email etiquette tips

In today’s internet age, email is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it can quickly relay information. However, email can also quickly damage or destroy reputations if it is not used properly.

 

Hence, Lindsay Silberman has recently written a great article for Inc. Magazine listing 25 must read email etiquette tips. Some of the great email etiquette tips mentioned by Lindsay that are worth repeating again included the following: 

 

  • Briefly introduce yourself. Never assume the person who you are emailing actually remembers meeting you. Hence, include a simple yet brief reminder as to who you are.
  • Be clear in your subject line. Remember that many email boxes are being clogged by hundreds of emails per day. Hence, your email subject line must be straight to the point as anything that isn’t will probably get trashed. 
  • Only use an auto-responder when necessary. An automatic response is a great way to tell a spammer that your email address is real. Moreover, it’s a great way of telling stangers personal information that you may not want them to have. 
  • Your e-mail is a reflection of you. Every single email you send will impact your reputation. Hence, an email that is disorganized and filled with errors will negatively impact your reputation.
  • Pick up the phone. If a topic is complicated or it needs to be negotiated, simply pick up the phone. Moreover, never use email for last minute cancellations of meetings, lunches, interviews and for devastating news as a phone call is better.
  • Don't get mistaken for Spam. An email with a subject line that is in all caps or all lower case or includes URLs or exclamation points will tend to look like spam and be treated as such by a recipient or their email software.

 

Hence and if you are a heavy user of email but you are not sure if you are using email properly, Lindsay’s entire article is a must read. 

How to choose the best desk

592iA40A2A82ADD97023If you are setting up a small business or a home office, you will need to invest in a personal computer, peripherals (such as a printer, copier, scanner, fax machine and so forth), an office desk and office supplies. However and while technology is constantly changing and there is plenty of advice out there to help you when making a technology purchase, there is little advice out there to help you select the right office desk. 

 

Hence, a recent post on Small Biz Bee by Lloyd Burrell, an expert in office desk furniture and the publisher of a leading office desk review website, is well worth reading as he wrote about how you should go about selecting an office desk. Lloyd began his post by noting that you will need to keep in mind every single aspect of your business when you are selecting the right office desk. These aspects include how much time you will be spending at your desk, what tasks you will be doing at your desk and what your relationships with your customers and other employees will be.

 

Lloyd then gave the following tips to help you select the right office desk:

  • If you will be meeting customers on a regular basis, having a traditional executive desk in Mahogany, Walnut or Cherry veneer will give you instant credibility.
  • If you are managing a small business that is run largely online or a completely virtual business, then your top priority will be having an office desk that is functional.
  • If you need to save money, a plain-looking contemporary office desk that is packed full of features would be a good investment.
  • If you will be spending long hours at your office desk, it will be important to find a desk that actually fits your body type. 

Lloyd concluded by writing that you will need to take your time to find the right office desk that will fit both your needs and the needs of your business – advice definitely worth heading. 

Best of the web 20 September 2010

Garage Based Innovation 

Phil McKinney, the Vice President and CTO of HP’s Personal Systems Group, recently gave a speech at one of the Stanford Breakfast Briefings about the topic of “Garage Based Innovation” with a special emphasis on the personal ability to innovate. He has also included the PowerPoint presentation from his speech.   

 

Why the PC is Not Going to Go Away 

Charlie Bess has noted on The Next Big Thing that Infoworld has an article on 10 reasons why the PC is here to stay. Charlie noted that the PC is not dead just because slimmed down iPADs and smartphones provide a more focused and reduced functionality set but rather they provide a different perspective of the same problem set. He also noted that the article brought up some interesting points about the evolutionary pressures and the nature of where personal computing is headed.

 

Four Awesome Office Coffee Makers 

Inc. Magazine had a recent article reviewing four awesome office coffee makers that will surely boast the energy of you and your employees. These office coffee makers were the Keurig B155 Single-Cup, Jura Impressa C5, Fetco Extractor CBS-2021EG and Technivorm Moccamaster. Prices range from US$250 to over US$1,000.

 

Improve Your Bottom-line Results by Not Using Nine Words 

Mairead Kelly has written a post for Bloggertone listing nine words that you should remove from your vocabulary in order to improve you results. These words are: 1) Can’t, 2) Should/must/have to, 3) Never, 4) Try or (I’ll try), 5) Someday, 6) But, 7). Soon or later, 8) If and 9) Don’t forget.

 

How Bad is Email For Your Health? 

Frank Bradley, a social media analyst, has noted on Bloggertone that he had listened to a recent This Week in Tech podcast where one of the guests spoke about the concept of Email Apnea – a temporary absence or suspension of breathing and/or or shallow breathing while doing email (after doing a little bit of research, he also found another article entitled Just Breathe: Building the case for Email Apnea). Hence, Frank then listed several tips to reduce the impact of your daily email volume.

 

How to Relocate Your Small Business 

Noobpreneur has a great article listing several tips to help you when you need to relocate your small business to a better market, better location or a place with better local regulations. Tips included how to avoid scams, finding out about any local moving regulations, notifying the right authorities about your address change and setting up a moving budget. 

A brief history of time management

591i54249B2349F7632CYour approach to time plays a powerful role in how you interact with others – especially when collaborating across cultures. Often entrepreneurs have different attitudes to time than employees. Understanding these differences can help to surmount them.  The anthropologist Edward Hall coined the terms “polychronic” and “monochronic” to describe how entire cultures think about time.

 

Monochronic cultures


  • Work sequentially,
  • Concentrate on the job at hand
  • Take their schedules and deadlines seriously
  • Adhere to plans
  • Accustomed to short-term relationships

In Hall’s thesis, the United States, Canada and Germany, Switzerland, Scandinavia, Japan are monochronic cultures.

 

Polychronic cultures


  • Multi-tasking
  • Flexible
  • Commitments are to relationships rather than tasks
  • Tendency to build long-term relationships
  • Time is thought of as being cyclical

According to Hall, France, Italy, Greece, Latin America, the Arab part of the Middle East and sub-Sahara Africa are all polychronic cultures. Understanding your own approach to time and that of your team members will help you collaborate more effectively.

 

Using technology to experience the best of both worlds


HP Virtual Rooms helps the monochronic members of your team to stay organised and on schedule and allows polychronic collaborators to be flexible and build relationships. 

Agony Aunt: How do I increase web traffic?

I have set up a blog but I’m not getting many visitors. How do I increase the traffic to my site?


Let’s start by assuming you are writing something on your blog that your ideal readers would find interesting, if only they knew about it, and that you are updating the site regularly. So, how do you promote your blog? First, you need to make sure it is visible to search engines. Register it with search engines such as Bing, Google, dmoz and Yahoo! and – the process is free but takes a bit of time. Second, submit the site and good posts to social bookmarking sites. For example, StumbleUpon, Digg, reddit, Delicious and so on. These sites help people find and share great content. Third, and most important, research a list of blogs that your ideal readers might already like. Read these blogs every day, submit comments, offer to write guest posts and generally join in the broader conversation about your particular specialist topic. Each time you do this, you create a link back to your site for other readers and blog owners. Over time, this will increase traffic to your site and, more importantly, you’ll get the readers you value. Don’t expect a big bang or a magic solution – blog marketing takes time and effort but a few minutes every day adds up very quickly. Check out our articles on Web 2.0 for business.

Tags: Agony Aunt| SEM| SEO

Build your own brand in the social media age

This is a guest post from our friends at Intel IT Galaxy

 

562iF5707A1A37784D8DYou've got your personal and professional social media profiles separates and clearly defined? Check

Facebook page for your company or projects? Check

Twitter feed? Check

Flickr account? Check

LinkedIn profile? Check

 

Perhaps you've gone one stage further and connected these accounts. Perhaps you are using services like Plancast to organise and broadcast your plans, or Dopplr to highlight your foreign work trips.

 

There's little doubt that social media is a great tool in your professional armoury. But how well are you using these tools to promote yourself, to get promoted or to find new work?

 

When was the last time you updated your professional social network profile? Or used some of the more advanced features?

 

 Last century job hunting was a mixture of “what you know” and “who you know” but the social networking revolution has extended that to “what you know” as well as  “who do the people who know people who know people… etc know?”

 

The birth of six degrees of separation in the digital age means we can leverage the connections  between us because professional social networks, such as Viadeo and LinkedIn, expose the relationships we didn't know we have.

 

PSNs are a high-profile shop window for people who want to advertise their skills and knowledge.  With more than 150 million professional members on LinkedIn and Viadeo every possible sector is represented - from archeology to zoology.

 

And the evidence is that these services are used increasingly by head hunters and recruitment firms because they can use the built in tools to hone in on the right fit for a particular role. 

 

The key thing to remember is that these services are not an online CV database – they are a place to share knowledge and exchange ideas. And it is that commitment to sharing expertise and making your skills visible that will ultimately attract employers.

 

 

So here are our tips to maximising your professional social network profile

 

 

  1. Visibility - create a fulsome profile to explain who you are and what you have done. Link to evidence of work you've done in the past. Make sure you've added a professional looking photo.
  2. Connectivity - each time you meet someone in your professional life connect with them and maintain contact.  This could be at events, seminars, friends in the industry etc. 
  3. Activity - post interesting industry news with your network to show you are keen and stay up-to-date with what is going on. Adding commentary and insight adds value. 
  4. Proactivity - when approaching a company use the network to research who works there, what they say about themselves and the company. 
  5. Flexibility - Set-up job alerts based on what you are looking for to keep you informed about what's happening and potentially update your status message to say that you are in the market for jobs. 

 

 

Finally, remember that there is no single magic bullet in social media. LinkedIn and Viadeo both allow connections to services like Twitter. Building bridges between the different social media services you use will only amplify your profile.

 

The social media age means we can as individuals become brands - with our own online presence which reflect the best of who we are and what we do. 

15 social media marketing challenges and frustrations

Jeff Bullas, the blogger behind the JeffBullas.com site about web marketing and utilising internet mediums in social media, has written a great post about the top 15 social media marketing challenges and frustrations that people experience. Jeff began by noting that social media marketing is now a powerful new tool for use in marketing communications plans. However, he then noted that there is still plenty of learning plus trial and error still occurring among agencies, companies, consultants and marketing professionals as they determine how to best use the major social media platforms like blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.

Hence, here are Jeff’s 15 social media marketing challenges and frustrations that he has so far come across:

  1. Turning followers into customers.
  2. How to make money using social media marketing.
  3. Getting followers or friends on Twitter or Facebook.
  4. Getting subscribers to your blog.
  5. Getting traffic to your website, blog or Facebook page.
  6. Creating good quality online videos.
  7. How to create the best type of Facebook page or set up a blog.
  8. Choosing the right social media channels to use.
  9. How best to use and optimize the social media platforms such as LinkedIn and YouTube.
  10. How to use social media marketing to get great PR for my company.
  11. Creating postive noise and Buzz about your brand on social media.
  12. Managing your time and productivity.
  13. Creating content.
  14. Finding high quality social media marketing training and resources.
  15. Coming up with creative ideas for your social media marketing campaigns.

 

Jeff then asked for readers to post any additional challenges and frustrations that they have experienced in their attempts to use social media marketing. Hence, we would also love to hear about yours.

Agony Aunt: Can I buy a 'naked' HP laptop?

Hi HP,

 

I need a new laptop soon, but i don't use Windows, can i purchase a 'naked' laptop. Or one with Linux pre-installed?

 

- Curious

 

 

HP recommends Microsoft Windows 7 and it comes pre-installed on most HP Notebooks. We don't sell 'naked' PCs, meaning PCs without any pre-installed operating system. However, you can buy some models with SUSE Linux Enterprise 11, such as the new HP Mini 5103. However, it is pretty easy to install a Linux distribution, such as Ubuntu, in a dual-boot configuration, so that you have the option of choosing between Windows and Linux each time you boot up. In addition, many HP Notebooks come with HP QuickWeb, which is a stripped-down Linux-based operating system that lets you get online in seconds without booting your regular operating system.

Tags: notebooks

A tale of two servers

571i485CAFF1B5C391B9Here at Articulate Marketing, we installed a new server in January. It was (of course), a high-end HP ProLiant ML350 G6 running Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2008. Including two days of consulting and set up (from the smart cookies at EJC.IT), it cost more than £4,000.

 

There are cheaper HP servers, naturally, but we had experienced hardware failures before – mainly disk drives and power supply units – and we couldn’t afford to take a risk on a vital system. So we bought a very robust system that had RAID hard disks and multiple power supplies plus battery backup so that it was able to fail operational even in the event of a serious hardware problem. 

 

Server benefits


It’s a very powerful, resilient, flexible system that does a lot for the business:

 

  • Email server for the company
  • iPhone access to email, contacts and diaries
  • 1.5 TB of super-fast file storage
  • Protected against hardware failure and power cuts
  • Remote access to email and desktop PCs
  • Shared printing and faxing
  • Automatic backup
  • Company intranet

It will support the company’s growth for three or four years to come. Until recently, if you wanted these benefits, getting a server like this was your only option.

 

Online alternatives

Now, however, there are other ways to do a lot of these things. You can use an online service like Microsoft Online Services to provide online email and intranet hosting and online backup solutions like Mozy. Rather than paying up front, you rent these services and pay as you go. They don’t require any onsite hardware but you will still want some technical support getting them set up properly unless you are very geeky.

 

HP Data Vault

Hosted services still leave the file storage piece of the puzzle unsolved.  This is where the new HP X311 Data Vault comes in. Starting at just £329, it provides one terabyte of storage – that’s more than 1,000 gigabytes and ample storage for almost all small businesses. You can add more if you need it, both in the box and externally using USB and eSATA connectors.

 

You just plug it into your network and run some simple setup software. It lets you share data via a simple web address and automatically backup up to 10 PC and Mac computers. Managing the system is easy, thanks to  Microsoft Windows Home Server software.

 

For startups and smaller businesses, HP’s Data Vault is a great way to get many the benefits of a central file server for a fraction of the price.

Discover Bing

561i8698FE577F1D733BBing is Microsoft's web search engine. Steve Clayton, Microsoft's 'Geek in Disguise', recommends Discover Bing as a way to find out some of its cool tricks and capabilities. The site claims to reach 30 million UK users and it's worth checking it's advice for businesses - get yourself found on Bing.

Tags: Microsoft| Search| SEO

Eight Business Bloggers

  1. Simon Thomas Pirie a furniture maker for private and corporate clients usually using English hardwoods, his work is a blend of contemporary form and classic elegance, combined with high quality craftsmanship.
  2. The Naked Entrepreneur  is Craig Dearden-Phillips’ ‘no holds barred account of life from the outside-track of the UKs third sector’ 
  3. Ozzy - the blog of an entrepreneur ,the blog of Richard Osborne, an Entrepreneur and the company director of Quick Formations - an award winning company registration tool.
  4. The English Cut, the blog of Savile row tailor Thomas Mahon. Thomas has over 20 years’ experience of hand tailoring in Savile Row, and his clients have included Prince Charles and Bryan ferry.
  5. SuperJam , the blog of Fraser Doherty - The Edinburgh schoolboy entrepreneur who at 16 started selling SuperJam, which became an overnight supermarket sensation.
  6. The Tinbasher is the award-winning company blog of Butler Sheetmetal Ltd UK, a small fabrication shop in the darkest recesses of North West England.
  7. Natasha Bailie Vintage Clothing Company has been showcased in Vogue magazine and specialise in women's vintage style. Natasha hand picks and sources vintage women's clothing from across the world.
  8. Mark Pentleton , the director of Radio Lingua Ltd, an educational media company producing award-winning language courses by podcast. Mark also runs Radio Lingua Schools, the educational branch of the company which offers content and workshops for schools.

Best of the web 10 September 2010

Here is this week’s summary of useful news for small businesses owners and entrepreneurs:

 

Is Your Business a Sellable Business? 

Mitch Biggs, the Vice President of Brokers for Bluestone Group, recently had an article he wrote reprinted on Noobpreneur.com where he discussed the three factors that savvy business buyers look for when they evaluate a business to buy. These key factors include:

1)      Is the business profitable?

2)      Will the business run well without the current owner?

3)      Are the financial records adequate?

Mitch also noted that you should begin serious preparation to sell your business 1 to 2 years in advance.

 

Two Reasons Business Owners Sell Their Businesses  

John Warrillow, the author of Built To Sell: Turn Your Business Into One You Can Sell, recently asked the head of mid-market M&A for an investment bank that specialized in selling companies as to why business owners sell their businesses. The reasons he was given:

  1. Unsolicited bid.
  2. Health scare.

John then noted that if you want to get the highest price for your business, you should not leave your exit planning up to somebody else or something else that don’t have control over.

 

5 Small Business Myths That Prevent You From Starting One 

Cath Lawson has posted an entry on her blog where she outlined five dangerous small business myths that put people off from starting a business. She then asked her readers if these myths had put them off from starting a business and already a number of them have posted their thoughts and opinions in the comments section.

 

5 Tips to Help You Save When Creating a Small Business Website

Arkadij Shkolnik, the PR director for SiteValley.com, has written a post for Small Biz Bee with several tips to help you build a small business website without wasting money. However, he noted that these tips should not be taken as a universal cure all as some projects may need a hi-end solution which cannot be free or done on the cheap.

 

The 200 Slide PowerPoint Solution 

Seth Godin has written an interesting post on his blog where he wrote that the next time you have to sit through a 40 minute presentation with slides, consider a radical idea: Have a presentation with a slide every 12 seconds and hence, 200 slides in all. At the end of his post, he wrote that he was hoping his exercise will help readers realise that you might not need any slides at all or having 50 or 100 slides might actually pick up your energy level and make your arguments more coherent.

 

The Top 5 Social Media Posts 

Jeff Bullas has noted on his blog what his readers believe to be the top five social media posts for the past 90 days. These top five social media posts were:

  1. 30 Things You Should Not Share On Social Media 
  2. The 7 Secrets to Ford’s Social Media Marketing Success 
  3. 20 Things You Should Share On Social Media 
  4. Twitter Reveals 11 New Facts on its Traffic and Usage
  5. How To Use Twitter For Business: 5 More Incredibly Interesting Case Studies 

He then asked his readers what other topics about social media that they would want to learn more about.

 

10 Tips for Researching Your Market Before You Start a Small Business 

James Adams has written a guest post on Noobpreneur.com listing 10 tips for researching the market before starting a small business. These tips will help you know your customers and study the competition as well as set goals which will help your small business succeed. 

What buying a PC means in the developing world

Intel's Renee Kuriyan Wittemyer has written a fascinating article about computers in the developing world. She argues that they must be affordable and empowering but also "socially viable" which means "meaningfully connected to people's lives an aspirations." The whole article is worth reading but here's a video summary.

 


How do you create a productive office work environment?

529i888453142E063764Designing a comfortable office work environment is about more than just aesthetics. After all, your employees may spend more time in your offices than they do just about anywhere else – including in their own homes. 

Hence, a recent Inc. Magazine article by Lois Goodell, a principal and the director of interior design at CBT Architects, is well worth reading as it is packed full of tips about how to design a productive office work environment. Some of the useful office design tips she gave included the following:

 

 

  • Heating and Lighting: Temperature and lighting can be the biggest complaints by office workers. And while lighting is easier to address through proper fit-out design, Goodell noted that tenants will need to ask the landlord and other tenants in the building a few key questions before signing a lease to determine just how much control they will have over temperature.
  • Open vs. Closed Space: Open space floor plans are designed to encourage collaboration, but Goodell pointed out that such a layout may not be the best design when employees need to concentrate on an important task or project. One possible solution to this problem is “hoteling” where more private offices can be reserved or used when needed.

  • Flexibility: Flexible office space designs are more productive than fixed office space designs. Hence, Goodell suggested having workspaces of a common size with interchangeable components that can then be easily customised to the specific needs of a particular user.

  • Sustainability: Besides being environmentally friendly, Goodell noted that offices designed with sustainability in mind will also improve the comfort of office workers inside.

  • Ergonomic Design: Working with an ergonomic design consultant can actually save you money as ergonomically designed furniture and workspaces will reduce the number of days your employees are absent and lost productivity due to discomfort. At a minimum, Goodell suggested surveying employees to find out what they need to be comfortable.

  • Technology: Modern Wi-Fi technology means that the design of your office no longer needs to be dictated by technology and connectivity to network outlets. (HP currently has a special offer that gives you a free access to more than 7,500 Wi-Fi hotspots in the UK and a free Vodafone 3G USB Modem Stick – together worth £150 – when you buy a new HP EliteBook or ProBook – see www.hpultimateconnectivity.com)

 

 

 

Goodell concluded by writing that an office space will (and should) reflect your company’s personality and culture and this “personality” can easily be tweaked as often as you like as your company evolves over time – important points worth considering. 

 

For more advice on increasing productivity, check out the articles on the main HP Business Answers website.

Labels: Productivity

Technology now a driving force for SMEs

This is a guest post from Microsoft's excellent Small Business Blog.

 

The importance of IT business solutions for small and medium-sized enterprises can simply not be underestimated.


IT investment may still not be at the top of every small and medium-sized enterprise's (SME) list of priorities, but with each passing day the opportunities diminish for those unwilling to embrace technology.

 

To some extent, the writing has been on the wall for the traditional, offline business models since well before the millennium, and technological innovation has only accelerated over the last decade.

 

And while the significance of IT within an organisation varies according to factors such as scale, sector and strategy, it is clear that the broadband explosion of the noughties has revolutionised the small business sector.

 

Indeed mobile connectivity, unified communications, cloud computing and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) are not only changing the way businesses work, but many aspects of society as a whole.

 

While e-commerce is contributing to decline on the high street, online marketing is radically altering the way the media works. Customers are using social media to identity the best goods and service providers, and also the ones to avoid.

 

At the same time, business conferences are held across different time zones, companies are set up in spare bedrooms and employees telecommute to work via their internet connections.

 

But it is not just tech-orientated entrepreneurial types who are honing the power of IT –confirmed 'Luddites' such as farmers, shopkeepers and low-level manufacturers are increasingly being pulled into the technological age.

 

Broadband – the bedrock for small business technology?


Many commentators see the development and proliferation of broadband technology as the catalyst for SME technology adoption, and it would appear that a reliable internet connection is a basic requirement for any 21st century company.

 

Customers, suppliers and public services are flocking to the online domain, meaning email accounts, websites and, in many cases, an online checkout facility are simply not optional.

 

As consumers have ditched the Yellow Pages in favour of search engines, those without a website risk missing out on valuable new trade.

 

But with recent Treasury moves towards online tax self-assessment filing look irreversible, offline businesses risk being alienated if they lack an internet connection.

 

With this in mind, the government's recent decision to delay the rollout of 2Mbps broadband nationwide until 2015 represents a blow to the SME community – in particular those firms based in rural areas.

 

For some time, lobby groups such as the Country, Land & Business Association (CLA) and Federation of Small Businesses have warned of the dangers of poor coverage levels outside the UK's main urban areas.

 

CLA president William Worsley expressed his "shock and disappointment" at the three-year delay in the government's broadband commitment, saying the decision "could seriously compromise the ability of the rural economy to succeed in the future".

 

Emotive language perhaps, but the comments clearly illustrate the importance of the internet to small businesses, both in terms of driving revenue and compliance.

 

Hosted services can help reduce business costs


For the majority of small businesses, especially those with low turnovers, large-scale expenditure on internal IT hardware may simply not be option, but various alternatives do exist.

 

The arrival of the high-speed internet has enabled the cloud computing, web hosting and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) markets to expand at a rapid rate, enabling SMEs to access the tools they need while keeping IT costs to a minimum.

 

SMEs can now complement their own in-house IT, or even replace it, using hosted solutions which they pay for based upon use. As well as helping to manage finances, this model could also help businesses remain compliant.

 

According to Doug Miles, UK managing director at Association for Information and Image Management, it is quite possible that cloud computing and SaaS may become mandatory for some business functions in the future.

Should the government see an opportunity to increase efficiency and reduce administrators' workload for certain tasks – potentially for tax filing, payroll or corporate reporting – such a situation could materialise.

 

And with this in mind, Mr Miles suggested that businesses may benefit from familiarising themselves with the technology at an early stage.

 

Certain challenges need to be overcome if this is to be achieved, not least the apparent knowledge gap among SMEs over the availability and benefits of hosted services.

 

A recent Techaisle survey of SMEs within the US, UK, Germany, Italy and Brazilindicated that just 37 per cent of firms had even heard about cloud computing, let alone considered investing in the technology.

 

This is no doubt understandable given the cloud's relative infancy, and alludes to the fact that it is still a case of one step at a time where SME IT adoption is concerned.

 

While technology will continue to develop at breakneck pace, driven by the private sector's pursuit of profit, individual business owners will look to adopt IT in their own time, on their own terms.

 

But as more consumers demand an online presence, and government or other corporate intervention dictates the pace of change, SMEs will have the simple choice of falling into line or falling by the wayside.

Labels: Microsoft

Business netiquette

528iA59CD0B059AF2436Netiquette varies depending on where you are. If you are thinking of getting into social media for your business, lurk - anonymously observe - before you leap. For more information about social media marketing, check out the articles on HP’s Business Answers site.

 

  1. Have respect for others when you are online. Never forget that the person reading your mail or posting is a person, with feelings that can be hurt.
  2. People cannot tell what mood you are in by the way you type. Typing in CAPS is akin to SHOUTING.
  3. Keep emails short and sweet, use descriptive subject lines and think twice before copying someone into an email unnecessarily.
  4. Don’t use a business Twitter account for chatting or personal conversation use direct messages or e-mail or instead.
  5. Don’t tweet too much and avoid writing messages that are more than one tweet long. Tweets should favour quality over quantity.
  6. Try not to follow more profiles than you have followers as users may think you are a spammer.
  7. Create user-friendly profiles. An online profile is your virtual business card - it needs to be informative, honest and professional.
  8. Invite friends and acquaintances to connect, but do not add strangers. You do not have to accept friend requests or event invitations.
  9. Think before you post. Pictures, comments, blog entries can all be saved and forwarded on to others. Don’t post anything private or unprofessional in a public medium – it may come back to haunt you.
  10. If you’re a publisher or blogger, you need to pay attention to usage rights for photographs. If you want to use a particular image and it’s not licensed to allow usage, just contact the photographer or buy images from a reputable image library like iStockPhoto.

Agony Aunt: How do I get online abroad?

Dear HP,

I'm taking my HP Mini on holiday to Florida soon. How do 'connect' successfully and do I need any accessories for my mini.  Also, do I use the adapter you normally take with you on holiday. Do I need to purchase a dongle abroad?  Help!

- Jetsetter

 

Here’s what I do. To recharge, I bought a cheap plug adaptor at the airport and I just plug my existing power cable into that. HP Notebook power supplies are designed to work with US and UK voltages so you’ll be fine. To get online overseas, I mainly use Wi-Fi wireless networking. Lots of hotels, cafés and airports have free or pay-by-the-hour connectivity. However, you can also use 3G wireless broadband over the mobile phone network. It’s probably easier and cheaper to buy a prepaid dongle in Florida when you get there if you don’t have easy access to Wi-Fi. You can also buy a prepaid SIM card for an existing dongle or built-in 3D mobile broadband modem (which is what I have). If you search the web, you can also find suppliers who will sell you a US SIM card or dongle before you go. The final option, which is the most expensive but most convenient, is to enable global roaming on your existing dongle or SIM card and pay roaming charges when you get there. However, on my smartphone, this runs to £6 per megabyte so the bills quickly mount up. I hope you have a great trip – send us a postcard.

 

(If you have a question for our IT Agony Aunt, please use the form on the main Business Answers website.)

Labels: Agony Aunt
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  • Matthew Stibbe is CEO at Articulate Marketing and TurbineHQ. He is an HP fanboy.