Innovation in the UK

innovation

When you think of UK innovators, who comes to mind?

Maybe it’s Wallace, the eccentric inventor from the claymation series, Wallace & Gromit, created by Nick Park of Aardman Animations. Some of Wallace’s ‘cracking contraptions’ are based on real-life inventions, such as the bed that tips up to wake its owner, an idea that was first shown at The Great Exhibition of 1851.

Park admits that Wallace’s inventions are often ‘using a sledgehammer to crack a nut’ and most of the comedy comes from things going wrong! If you have time, you might enjoy this compilation:

On the other hand, maybe you think of Sir Clive Sinclair, who produced the first slimline pocket calculator, the first mass-market home computer, and – of course – the Sinclair C5 battery electric vehicle. His latest invention is a folding bicycle for commuters.

Or perhaps Sir James Dyson comes to mind, he who created the bagless vacuum cleaner, airblade hand-dryer and bladeless fan.

Whoever you think of, you can bet that not every one of their inventions has been a commercial success!

So what’s the connection between innovation and business growth?

How innovation impacts business growth

In PwC’s ‘Breakthrough Innovation and Growth’ survey of 1,757 C-suite executives (including 201 from the UK), researchers found a direct link between companies that focus on innovation and faster growth.

  • 93% of respondents say ‘organic growth through innovation’ will drive the greater proportion of their revenue growth
  • The UK’s most innovative companies grew on average 50% faster than the least innovative over the last three years
  • 32% of UK companies see innovation as ‘very important’ to their success (compared with a global average of 43%)
The report also stated that top innovators treat innovation just like any other business or management process.

Innovation is a driver for rapid and profitable revenue growth and is recognised by the executives we interviewed as being integral to sustaining the long-term future of their business. For 43%, innovation is a ‘competitive necessity’ for their organisation, increasing to 51% in five years.

As it’s the case that innovation is a commercial necessity, happily, the Government offers some help!

Government support of innovation

Innovate UK works with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy. Since 2007, they have committed over £1.8 billion to innovation, matched by a similar amount in partner and business funding, and helped more than 7,600 organisations with projects estimated to add more than £11.5 billion to the UK economy and create 55,000 extra new jobs.

So how is UK innovation doing today, on the global stage? Not too badly, by the look of the Forbes list!

Flying the flag for UK innovation

Each year, Forbes ranks companies by their ‘innovation premium’ – the difference between their market capitalisation and the net value of cashflows. The difference between them is the bonus given by equity investors on the ‘educated hunch’ that the company will continue to come up with profitable new growth.

Seven UK businesses appear in the Forbes list of the world’s most innovative companies 2016:

  • ARM Holdings #12 Multi-national semiconductor and software design
  • Reckitt Benckiser Group #51 Multi-national consumer goods
  • Smith & Nephew #70 Wound management and surgical devices
  • SAB Miller #79 Multi-national brewing and beverages (now owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev)
  • Capita #86 International professional services and business process outsourcing
  • Liberty Global #88 International TV and broadband
  • ITV #97 Commercial TV network

And what are the predictions for the future? Real Business produces a regular report, where they handpick their shining stars for coming years!

Future 50

Real Business has recently published their 2017 list of the 50 most disruptive companies in the UK. They say:

From mobile to marketing, and from retail to recruitment, Britain is full of industries that are dominated by industry heavyweights taking positions for granted and not innovating. Each year, our Future 50 ranking gives the young players a chance to shine.

To some extent, they may be looking into a crystal ball, but if past performance is any guide, Real Business predictions can be taken seriously! UK startups they have previously highlighted that have gone on to become household names include:

  • Songkick: Allows people to organise and track their favorite bands, get concert alerts, and buy tickets
  • Made.com: Designs and sells homewares and furniture online, and across experiential showrooms in Europe
  • Secret Escapes: Exclusive travel club offering huge discounts on hand-picked luxury hotels and holidays
  • Funding Circle: Peer-to-peer small business lending, connecting investors with businesses looking for capital
  • Crunch: Online accounting and accountants for freelancers, contractors & small businesses
  • GoustoAward-winning food boxes containing fresh ingredients delivered weekly
  • Revolut: Removes currency exchange fees so people can send, exchange and spend money globally at no charge

Looking forward

One businessperson who represents innovation on a global scale is Jack Ma. He is the founder and chairman of Alibaba – the Chinese ecommerce company that’s become the world’s largest retailer. Speaking last year at the Asia Cooperation Dialogue in Bangkok, Mr Ma claimed that: “Data will be the new resource.”

That’s the approach we take here at Akoni.

We use digital technology to increase returns for the average SME via a simple, user-friendly solution. We take public data from various sources that’s currently in a disparate form and format, and bring it together to make sense and add value to the company. This includes public financial data from Companies House, and banking product deposit data from both well-known high street banks and less known challenger banks.

By only including data from UK-regulated banks on our marketplace, it ensures SMEs always have government protection as guaranteed by the FSCS.

Harnessing data is how our personalised online Cash Management platform will improve financial outcomes for businesses. In future, we shall enhance cash management further, with automated prompting using artificial intelligence and machine-learning.

We’re proud to be part of such a long-standing history of British innovation.

Looking back

The UK has been leading global innovation since the industrial revolution. Just for the record, let’s end with a few renowned British innovations:

  • 1822 Charles Babbage’s ‘difference engine’
  • 1837 First computer = Babbage’s ‘analytical engine’
  • 1943 Colossus, the first electronic, digital, programmable computer
  • 1966 Cash machine and PIN system patented
  • 1989 World Wide Web first proposed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, with HTML language and HTTP protocol the year after

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register for free at AkoniHub.com

Time to spring clean your business

It’s Easter week. With the long weekend, many children off school, and people taking holiday, customers can often be a bit quieter. So it’s a good time to do some strategic planning, financial planning and marketing for your business. Here are some ideas to inspire you:

Measure how much time you spend working ‘on the business’ compared with the time you spend working ‘in the business’. As a small-business owner, it is tempting to get bogged down in the everyday detail, but it is wise to take time to step back and look at the bigger picture.

Are you spending roughly equal amounts of time on:

  • Marketing activities to fill your pipeline and win new clients?
  • Admin activities – all the jobs that need to be done to keep your business ticking over?
  • Actually doing the work you need to do to make money?

Are you easily distracted by social media? Use an app to measure how much time you are spending – you may be surprised. Decide whether you can outsource some or all of this activity.

Things are changing fast ever, so we recommend you update your business plan at least every quarter. Are you on track to achieving your goals for the short-term and long-term? What, if anything, do you need to change? Do your goals need to be revisited in the first place?

Map out your workflow so you can spot the bottlenecks and resolve them. What can you automate or delegate to save valuable time? For example, if you hate dealing with bookkeeping, accounting, payroll and invoicing, these tasks are better done by a professional. Can you move your software into the cloud? Or introduce apps that will improve your systems and processes?

Customers

Customer retention is cheaper than customer acquisition, and engaging with your customers is the only way to know what’s working and what’s not. Ask for customer feedback, and make any changes that may be necessary to keep them delighted. Also investigate why customers leave your business – this can provide even more valuable insight.

Identify any non-profitable clients or time-wasters, and consider whether it is time to let them go so you are free to take on more worthwhile customers.

Check the customer journey (as if you are a mystery shopper) to make sure the experience they receive is seamless. Also check your competitors’ websites to see what they are doing.

Colleagues

Similarly, review your staff roles and responsibilities. Do you have the right people with the right skills doing the right things, or do you need to make some changes?

Spend time with your people. Nothing is better than a face-to-face interaction to build relationships, understand  their motivations and issues, and unleash their potential and productivity.

It’s dangerous to stay still, so brainstorm new ideas with colleagues at all levels in the organisation. You never know where the next inspiring product or service concept will come from – it may well be from an employee who is closer to the customer than you are.

Good housekeeping

Read your own website and social media output to double-check that the content is up to date and conveying your core message clearly. Is the URL https? If yes, Google will boost your site up the rankings. Is it mobile-friendly? If not, it needs to be, because Google will no longer show the link in the results when searched on a mobile device.

Empty your email inbox, and resolve to check messages only once each day. Filter any junk mail to a spam folder, and unsubscribe from newsletters that you no longer read. This simple tip will make you far more productive.

It’s said that a tidy desk is a sign of a tidy mind, so file your paperwork, clean your workspace, and refresh your décor.

Money money money

Review your expenses. Talk to your regular suppliers to negotiate a better deal in return for your loyalty. Look at any ongoing subscription charges to see whether there are any you should cancel. Check that your business insurances are up to date.

Order your personalised cash report from Akoni, and move your cash into accounts that generate more interest.

Look after yourself

And finally, some suggestions to help keep you happy and healthy:

  • Review whether your personal goals are still in line with your business goals
  • Remember to take time off so you return to the business with a fresh mind
  • Celebrate successes with your team

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register for free at AkoniHub.com

7 things SMEs need to know about the new tax year

A new tax year starts on 6 April 2017, and various changes take effect on that date which you need to know about.

1. Ensure your employees have the correct tax code

The personal allowance increases to £11,500, and the higher rate income tax threshold increases to £45,000. This means your employees will take home more of their monthly salary than they did in the previous tax year.

2. Ensure you are paying the correct hourly wage

The National Living Wage rises to £7.50, in line with the pledge made by Philip Hammond in the autumn statement.

3. Consider changing to cash basis accounting

The entry threshold for cash basis accounting increases from £83,000 to £150,000. If you are a trading business with straightforward tax affairs, this is a simplified way to calculate your taxable profits (it’s optional).

4. Pay less corporation tax

Corporation tax reduces from 20% to 19% in 2017, and to 17% in 2020, meaning the UK will have the lowest corporation tax rate in the G20.

5. Note changes to business rates

As we have mentioned before, business rates increase – but £435 million relief has been made available to help ease the transition:

  • £300 million discretionary relief is available from local authorities to help businesses most affected by the revaluation
  • Pubs with a rateable value up to £100,000 can claim £1,000 discount for one year
  • No small business will pay more than £600 more in business rates this year than they did last year

6. Prepare for Making Tax Digital (MTD)

The VAT threshold rises from £83,000-£85,000.

Businesses with a turnover below the VAT threshold were going to have to submit tax information online by April 2018 – this has now been deferred for one year.

This means SMEs have more time to plan and prepare. It also gives software providers more time to update their products to cope with recording and submitting digital tax reports.

7. Welcome funding to improve digital and physical infrastructure

In the spring budget, the Chancellor announced:

  • £200 million for local broadband networks
  • £90 million to improve transport in the North of England
  • £23 million to address pinch-points on roads in the Midlands
  • £16 million for 5G mobile technology

This investment should help improve road networks and broadband connections across the country, and help boost productivity for SMEs.

Summary

In the current climate including planning for Brexit, we encourage all businesses to review opportunities, potential government support and cost-saving initiatives.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register for free at AkoniHub.com

Happy New Year!

A new year presents new opportunities – for a business and for us as individuals.   Provide the time and reflection relating to your plans for the upcoming months ahead and start with enthusiasm and focus.

Reflecting on the wellbeing of your enterprise as well as yourself and your team – can your strategic thinking also include a healthier work life balance ?  Have a read of our recent blog “10 Quick tips on juggling Parenting and Business” – there are tips for everyone, even if you are not a parent.

Engagement and inspiration, from yourself and within your company, starts with communication.   Sharing your business plan with employees and ensuring they are involved in the planning and ongoing decision-making ensures buy-in for the company goals., where they dedicate most of their time.

Start with renewed energy after the festive break.  Stay focused on your goals, get to know your employees, be passionate and open to the experiences of the year ahead. Enjoy both your professional and personal life and dream big – embrace 2017 with excitement!  Happy New Year!

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register for free at AkoniHub.com

Merry Christmas from Akoni

December is a wonderful and festive time of the year.  The excitement of the season – meeting up with family and friends and taking time out from our busy schedules.

For our team at Akoni it is also a time to reflect on a busy and exciting year.

It can also be a difficult time of year for those of us who run small businesses. Staff shortages due to annual leave, increased product demand with seasonal customer expectations, and where not managed appropriately, stress remains until Christmas Eve.

Grab this opportunity to enjoy your festive season with loved ones, sit back and reflect on your year as a business , how far you have come and look forward to the New Year ahead.  This time of the year encourages everyone, whether you celebrate Christmas or simply enjoy the festive season, to absorb the emotion and wonder of the season.  Our entire year is spent moving forward, progressing and actioning a long to-do list.   If we stand still a moment, we hear the cold winter chill beckoning to slow down, reduce our workload, take a deep, relaxing breath, and take care of the important aspect of life.

We would like to say thank you to everyone who has been involved in our journey this year at Akoni.    We have much in store for next year, kicking off in early January. We look forward to 2017 and what it holds for us as a business.

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Season’s Greetings, and a great start into the New Year!  We are ready to embrace our exciting year ahead, and eagerly working towards our next phase of inspiration and innovation for businesses.

akoni-christmas-card

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register for free at AkoniHub.com

Save

Save

10 tips to avoid late payments and improve cashflow

Here at Akoni we are aware that late payments are really stressful for small businesses trying to keep the cash flowing. Late payments hinder a company’s ability to expand, even when sales are high, as they spend their valuable time chasing money owed. SMEs are sometimes nervous to chase payments for fear of jeopardizing their relationships with clients. Here are 10 tips on how to reduce late payments and help ensure a healthy cash flow.

  1. Know your customers

Credit checks are valuable and can save you a lot of time and money in the future. Checks can be made easily and quickly online. You can also use credit checks on long term customers where you suspect they may have issues paying their bill.

  1. Always be clear about your payment terms and conditions

Make sure these terms are clearly printed on your invoice to avoid any ambiguity, easily available on your website and readily available to email out to a client when needed. Check with your trade association for typical terms and conditions used in your industry. Before entering into the contract ask your legal team to review the conditions

  1. Have a payment remind process in place

Once payment has not been received on the date due, call the customer and follow up with a written reminder that payment is due within a reasonable timeframe.   If the customer still does not pay then send out a warning.   Eventually you will need to send out a formal written warning asking for payments within two days before legal proceedings are followed.

  1. Introduce flexible payment options

Pre-agreed instalments are an excellent way to introduce flexible payment options to your customers.

  1. Make a courtesy call

If they have had a rather large order, call them before payment is due to make sure everything was received and there are no issues. This should prevent any delays in payment and is seen as good customer service.

  1. Incentivise customers with early payment discounts and late payment charges

Supplier invoice payment terms often include an incentive to pay early by offering an early settlement discount if the invoice is paid before its due date. For example a 1% settlement discount if paid within 10 days. The full amount must be paid within 30 days. The late payment of Commercial Debts (interest) Act 1998 allows small businesses with less than 50 employees to claim interest on overdue payments.

  1. Deliver all invoices and statements electronically

This will ensure that the customers receive the invoice in the quickest time. There is a record of when the invoice was sent, received and read by the customer. Electronic delivery also frees up staff to work on chasing late payments instead of printing, writing, stamping and posting the invoice.

  1. Make sure your invoice is going to the correct place

Always ask for a purchasing order number or a name where the invoice can be sent directly to, to avoid it being lost in the mailroom, or work mailbox.

  1. Always get your customer to sign receipts

In the first instance ask for a company stamp on the receipt, then a signature from the customer. This verifies that the customer was in agreement with the order.   Ensure that they have the correct authority to place the order.

  1. Bill quickly after delivery

To avoid any delay in payments, don’t forget to include all important information on the bill, your company payment details and the customer’s full details.

Whether you are a new startup company or a company that has been running for years, it’s good practice to review your late payment procedures regularly, to get on top of recurrent late payment offenders and avoid new ones. 

It’s important to be better organised as a company – to control cashflow and avoid late payments and bad debts.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register for free at AkoniHub.com

10 Quick tips on Juggling Parenting and Business

All of us with families have the constant struggle of balancing our work and family life.   Even when we are passionate about and consumed by our work, it is something we continuously think about and consider how to maximise, to focus on the important aspects of both.   Here at Akoni we have the same dilemma and thought we would note a few  helpful tips in navigating this lifestyle.

1. Family and business can work – don’t give up on your dream

Focus on the positives – think about how your career or your business is benefiting your family.  As long as you prioritise what you need to achieve and mange your time and to get the balance right, you will feel more confident with yourself and your decisions.  A happy mom or dad means a happy family.

2. Prevent chaotic mornings and evenings

You don’t need to be in your office every morning before sunrise, in fact most entrepreneurs say having morning breakfast with the family helps the children to feel happy.  If they aren’t happy then you may feel frustrated and this will have a knock-on effect throughout your day.

3. Perfection is not expected

Particularly for women, the perfect house you had before children doesn’t need to still be perfect, rather keep on top of you household chores with some of the tips below and allow yourself time to be with your children, the condition of your house can take priority once your children have gone to college and when you will have time to appreciate it more! For all us, don’t worry about perfect time keeping take 5 mins on the way into work to stop and get yourself a latte or a juice, or just walking to work instead of driving or taking public transport can give you a chance to recharge.

4. Consider hiring help

Hiring help in the home is a great alternative to bringing balance back into the work-life scale we all battle on a daily basis.

A survey recently found that one in three British Households now employs someone to help with chores, spending £26 billion a year on help in the home. Not everyone can afford full-time help – even a bi-monthly cleaner will help you feel a little more in control. You can also devise a system for tackling housework to help you handle this seemingly never ending task. Get your children to pitch in – small children as young as 3 can help with household chores. Share tasks with your partner – you have both had a long day, share the workload at home.

5. Spend quality time with your children

Making time for your family and children is crucial and allows you to nurture your family dynamic. Create activities that regular fit into your schedule and avoid talking about work or checking emails and messages during these times. Ask older children for their activity suggestions and try to meet their needs. In the end it doesn’t really matter what you do as long as you are enjoying time together.

6. Designate a “no work zone” in your home

Depending on the layout of your home – find a no work zone.  The lounge is usually a good place to relax with a glass of wine or cup of tea after a long day, put your feet up and chat to your partner, play with your children, or watch a movie together.  If you have a strict no work zone within your living room, it will stop the need to bring your laptop or phone with you leading to you not completely relaxing or engaging with your partner or children.

7. Create time boundaries

Be disciplined and set time limits to check emails and make phone calls, things you can do whilst your children are sleeping. Try to avoid multi-tasking, especially when spending time with your children.  A good rapport with co-workers is great and beneficial, however you can have this without numerous email exchanges, extended lunches and casual internet surfing. Focus on your tasks at work and use breaks and lunchtimes for chats with co-workers, thus enabling you to have more time with your family once you are at home.

8. Don’t overlook the benefits of childcare

There is no way you will be able to do your job properly if you are worried about your child’s wellbeing whilst you are at work. Find childcare that both you and your child will be happy with.  Obtain recommendations from friends and families or online forums, write a list of important criteria and schedule time to meet carers or visit nurseries.

9. Be fully engaged

Your priorities and time management rely on you to be fully engaged. If you look at your email whilst you are having breakfast with your children, this will create a half-heartedness engagement with both your children and your work.  Ideally aim for your complete presence in all situations. Rather use the time you have specifically set aside to check emails, speak to colleagues and spend time with your children, helping you to be more focused and more productive.

10. Know when to unplug and how to relax

Limit your screen time to first thing in the morning or intervals during the day which you have decided are the best for your daily tasks. Again rather have time allocated to checking emails and working so that you know you can be 100% focused on these tasks and know that after that is done you allow your self to action anything that requires immediate attention. Do the activities which relax you – sports, running, having a long bath, spending quality time with your partner. If you don’t unplug, you will find your daily tasks will then overlap important family time and you will not be fully engaged in either.

It is important that we all feel we are spending the most possible time with our family. We hope the above pointers helps you to balance out your business and family over this festive season. Enjoy the seasonal break!   If you have any time off,  focus on presence and if you don’t, remember that your children and partner will appreciate any time you are able to give them.  Aim to fully recharge during quieter moments, reflecting on moments of priority and importance, in order to start afresh in the new year. 

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register for free at AkoniHub.com

Email Marketing Basics for your Business

One could not have failed to have noticed that the festive season is upon us once more, bringing with it the annual year end frenzied product push. Our team at Akoni thought it particularly relevant to highlight ways in which your business can optimise your email marketing to maximise sales from existing subscribers or prospective client bases.

Email marketing is the most powerful tool of a marketer – it is easy to measure ROI and is a tool that enables business to reach the customer directly. It is often mistakenly assumed in marketing that a measurement of deliverability is simply the proportion of emails that were ‘accepted’. If an email does not bounce back or is not rejected, it does not necessarily mean that it has been delivered.

Delivery rate is a calculation of mail sent minus the volume that bounced. However, this is quite misleading as it doesn’t take into account the emails that are simply filtered into spam files or are ignored. Overall, deliverability is making sure you are doing what you can to put yourself in the best position to be actually seen by your subscribers, says Tom Corbett of Experian.

70 per cent of mail sent globally being considered spam by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), which have developed settings which the customer can adjust to suit their unique inbox preferences. These filters massively reduce the volume coming to an inbox. However, the interpretation of spam differs according to personal preference. As a result, what is becoming increasingly important is personalisation in email communication – making your email wanted is the key to a successful email campaign.

Know Your Client

Up to date research into customer behaviour and market analysis will show you where and how you should target your audiences effectively. This will help hone your campaign and make sure it appeals to the right group. This is the most important step in any marketing campaign by far, as everything starts here.

Make Customers Feel Special

Creating a feeling of belonging to an exclusive club or a select group is an extremely effective marketing tool. People are naturally competitive, and want to be made to feel special, the chosen ones – more superior. By making sure that your clients are given VIP passes, or exclusive prices or a top-class service reserved for a few, you are immediately tapping into a very powerful psychological tool by stroking their ego’s, catching their attention and creating a bond.

A Clear, Simple Message – Repeated

Know what your company does, what they stand for and why the customer needs your product. Get your branding right. Keeping to the basic core with simple, direct messages.Repeating the lines that are part of your branding core, that won’t change and are easily associated with your brand will create a sense of familiarity and a sense of trust for your customers. They will think of your brand when they hear similar words, or catch phrases. Own your taglines.

marketing-color-colors-wheel
Always focus on the customer. Personalised campaigns are becoming more and more essential.

Well Presented

Employ a designer or use the templates provided in tools available. Design is essential as we are all far more likely to read visuals than words. Make sure that you tap into this, as getting simple elements like the colour tone wrong can have expensive consequences. Watch spelling and grammar.

Regular Emails

Keeping in touch with customers on a regular basis is important. It reinforces the notion that your company is reliable and trustworthy. Keep postings or mail drops to the same time on the same day. Be aware that too many emails a week can lead to engagement fatigue – making your company an enemy as opposed to friend.

Strong Call to Action

It’s all very well having a clear email selling you something, but people need instructions. The Call to Action is the moment a potential target takes the bait – the conversion of effort to profit. Tell people what you want them to do, very short, sharp and clear, containing a verb – three words maximum. “BUY NOW” or “ENTER HERE”

Sense of Urgency

The sense that this offer is only available for a short period of time certainly makes it more valuable. Some emails have an actual clock feature that counts down the time till the offer expires. It puts incredible pressure on the customer, which is effective.

Choosing the Right Business Tools

There are many examples of excellent products out there which offer top class  email marketing software (MailChimp,  ConstantContact, Campaignmaster) through to all-in-one CRM and Sales package tools such as Hubspot, Salesforce and Pipedrive . It’s imperative to find a solution that fits your brand’s unique needs and requirements. When you are starting out, here are some key items to take note of and factor in before settling on a CRM system:

  • Does it offer support? What are the hours that support is offered in?
  • Is there training offered as part of the package? If not, how much extra will this cost?
  • Does it integrate easily with your current systems?
  • Find out how pricing scales, the longer you use it, and the more features you engage – especially regarding database size. Are there add-on features available or do you have to upgrade for more features or additional contacts? Are there hidden fees? Limits of messages sent a month? Charges to add users?
  • Find out if the software is designed for use by both sales and marketing. How it will better align sales and marketing teams? Ask for examples of how each team can use it. Get your marketing and sales teams to sample different tools before deciding on one.
  • Does the platform manage full customer life cycles, or only leads and prospects? You want to be able to engage and nurture contacts throughout the entire life cycle. After all, the best customer you can get is the one you already have.
  • Ask about email deliverability, specifically the vendor’s inbox and deliverability rate.
  • Is data available to track and assess progress?
  • Ensure the software offers mobile optimised landing pages and forms, as well as responsive email templates. Do you have additional mobile technology needs? It is essential that the software can meet your mobile requirements.

There is no replacement for personal engagement with clients. People want to see that they are valued and can trust your service if they engage it. That is what marketing comes down to – convincing the your client base that your product is better than the next. Try and humanise your email communication as much as possible – making your email wanted is the key to a successful mail programme.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register for free at AkoniHub.com

Save

Big Data, Small Data and SMEs

Data is vital to strategy and insight in the business world today, and in the future. But what exactly are Big Data and Small Data, and how are they useful to small business?

What is Big Data?

Big Data refers to massive sets of “raw” data (numbers, letters, symbols) that are too large or complex to store in traditional processing applications. What makes Big Data a massive challenge is how to organise, interpret and utilise this deluge of “chaotic” information most effectively – without this it is of little value.

The term, “Big Data”, was actually coined the 1990s, and is different to other data because it has certain features – known as the three Vs:

  • Volume on an unprecedented scale, and this is increasing continuously. The global technological per-capita capacity to keep information doubles every 40 months. Since 2012, 2.5 Exabyte of data is generated every day;
  • Velocity – the speed in which it comes in;
  • Variety – the range of sources it comes from. Data is gathered from a myriad of sources: mobile devices, cameras, software, microphones, wireless networks, remote sensing, radio-frequency identification readers – and the cheaper and more accessible these become, the more data there is.

Big data is associated with large companies, however, in many cases it could equally benefit SME’s, simply due to the agile nature of these types of businesses. Even the most potent insights are valueless if your business cannot act on them in a timely fashion. Smaller businesses have this advantage, being suited to act on data-derived insights with speed and efficiency.

In the online gaming industry, for example, SME’s are already running Big Data technology within their enterprise without even thinking about it as such. Bookmaker WinUnited has put in place a MongoDB open source non-relational database from 10gen to bring its gambling products together and help it to better update betting odds in real time. This allows them to service customers and update their information as it happens – essential qualities that define this industry.

By running Big Data through a hosted service such as MetaMarkets, the small business can benefit from immediate insight – which needs to be acted upon, and used timeously to be of value. If SMEs collaborate with a channel partner, such as Splunk, they can take advantage of some of the most effective methods to gain necessary data insight, while gaining a deep level of industry expertise. This ensures the business maximises revenues, is able to strategize and develop new products as the market feedback reflects consumer needs. It all depends on how much the SME has to spend and why what the purpose of the data is for.

pexels-photo-90807-medium
Data is useless if one is not able to interpret it, and use it effectively.

Small Data is the new Big Thing for SMEs

Small data is data that one can comprehend easily. In a way, it’s the old “data” – much more accessible, understandable and actionable for everyday tasks than Big Data. Small data is essentially what will shape our future, because where Big Data is all about predicting the future by sifting through millions of data points, small data is really all about the causation of the data, the reason behind the actions – why things happen.

Customer behaviour insight

Small Data is invaluable in SME Marketing, Client Relations and Customer Retention fields, because it clearly and quickly shows trends in product preferences which can help decipher consumer thought processes. This information is used by these departments to predict what products will be popular, how to drive sales in their target market, and gain customer loyalty by delivering to the needs of the consumer, in the right place at the right time, in the right packaging. Small data can also help to indicate where the company should be developing new product and drive their branding strategy, and therefore increase profits while lowering risk.

Even small data sets from CRM platforms, social media or email marketing programmes can also provide much-needed insight to help businesses understand customer behaviour patterns and showcase trends. Google Analytics offers free data analysis. Hootsuite, Sprout Social’s Sprout Insights, Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Moz Analytics are a few tools to consider which offer great insight into social media behaviour – all aids in helping to understand the client, hone the product delivery and gain insight into product suitability.

Learn about your SME, and gain foresight

Many companies simply want to do better analysis with the data they already have. If one’s company has been operating for a year or more, there is a likelihood that a ton of big data exists in the company records. Information from sales ledgers in various forms such as Excel or QuickBooks provide data sets and interpretable statistics to cross-reference with other information in the company provided by the Marketing and CRM departments, for example. By learning about the way in which your company behaves, one can start to predict trends and prevent potentially damaging scenarios from occurring.

Use data to gain a competitive edge

Barclays provides a free service to SMEs, whereby the business can review their market positioning – which includes a downloadable report based on your postcode, constituency or the region the company operates in. The report includes a breakdown of consumer spending in your region; income and age bands of spending growth; turnover of businesses, analysis of the largest sectors, and commentary on the broader economic situation and impacts on small business. This can be extremely useful in terms of marketing and product development, for example.

Xero, the SME cloud-based accounting platform provider, recently launched Xero Signals, giving small business access to an unprecedented level of data, launching initially for New Zealand, with more countries due to follow. It claims to represent a true signal of the state of the country’s small business economy, based on aggregated data from almost 10,000 businesses. This is incredible industry knowledge if your sector is involved in finance, for example, where cutting edge tools are essential.

mit-data-sci-machine_0
Trend spotting. Data is essential to gain insight, gain foresight and maximise profits in business of any size these days.

In the very beginning, most young SMEs probably just need a good quality CRM system, (Hubspot, Salesforce) or ERP (such as Oracle or Sage) if it’s bigger or more complex, and a proper customer contact strategy. Don’t be fooled into spending vast amounts on over-specced software and data-systems providing which are unnecessarily complicated for one’s small company. Upscale as you grow – your needs will change – but it is essential to take advantage of small data to drive strategy and profit in today’s business world.

A word of advice: An SME needs to understand clearly what its objectives are (i.e. to understand competitors / geographies or customers or increase prospect pipeline or sales etc) before launching into data analytics, because otherwise the process can become incredibly confusing and complicated – and fascinating – and one can waste valuable time searching and gaining very little.

At the end of the day, the aim of data is to enable companies to make clearer business decisions and plan for the future – and this is definitely possible using both Big Data and small data for SMEs. It all depends on what the purpose of using the data is, and whether you have a budget. Both are incredibly valuable and essential tools to have in business today. Always remember though: it’s not what knowledge and information one has, it’s what you do with it that counts.

What are your experiences using new FinTech products? We would love to hear from you, please post your comments or or get in touch via our website: Akoni

About Felicia Meyerowitz: I am passionate about technology and innovations in financial services adding value to Small and Mid-size business in a practical way. I work as a co-founder at Akoni, aiming to bring innovation to the key asset within all enterprises – cash. Follow me on @Feliciatedx.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register for free at AkoniHub.com

Save

Save

Save

6 Reasons Why Professionals Want to Work at SMEs

Statistics show that the SME sector continues to grow: 58.3% of small companies plan to take on staff over the next six months, up from 56.7% last year and just 48.9% the year before. There is no doubt that the future of business rests on the bedrock of upcoming SME’s. Small companies are vital to the economy’s growth – and even more so now after Brexit. It is not surprising, therefore, that the perks of working for a small business are being noticed by the best of the jobseekers.

When Linkedin conducted its latest Job Job Satisfaction Survey, it found that 87% of professionals that took part were keen to work for a startup or small business (employing 10 or less than 10 employees), rather than at larger companies. The survey questioned more than 10,000 professionals and over 3,500 employers worldwide. 

There were some surprises amongst the statistics: the survey found that 45% employees of small businesses were Very Satisfied or Fulfilled at work; that SME’s had some of the most loyal employees possible – 3 out of ten 10 wanted to stay where they were for the rest of their lives. Just over one in three small business employees were willing to take a wage cut to work at a startup or small business, and 77% say they would recommend their small business to their friends and family as an employer.

It was found that being able to align one’s values with one’s employers values was crucial to job satisfaction. Salary and promotional opportunities are key motivators for professionals today. Another major factor was work/ life balance (see our previous blog on this) which topped the list – even before salary – for people over 40.

So – why is it so desirable to work for a startup or small business?

1. Small business are perceived as being more flexible – “more human” – when it comes to making demands on their employees. If one is part of a small team, each member matters more – to get employees performing at their best, it is important that they are supported in their work. Working from home, flexible hours, bringing kids or dogs to work – there is often a way of making challenges into advantages for the business and the employee, with a bit of creative thinking.

2. Get ahead – much faster. Because each person in a small company is relied upon from the get go,  taking on further responsibility as the company expands, and therefore your rise through the ranks is quicker. Your talents are also more noticeable because there aren’t another hundred of you doing the same job.

3. Hard, but satisfying work: It goes without saying that you are expected to produce the goods – and often for less – but there are such great rewards. To be involved at the start of a small business is always a good thing – you will ride the wave of success, and be a part of the financial wealth when that comes.

4. Culture fix: Most small businesses are very picky when it comes to new employees – and for good reason. Apart from having to have the appropriate skill set, the candidate also needs to fit into the company culture. Creativity and genius flows in a safe place to innovate and conceptualize – and everyone’s different personalities need to gel, for maximum results. Each company has it’s own quirks and fitting in comfortably with these are essential.

5. Broaden your skill set: In small companies there is more likelihood of learning new skills and possibly even working across different departments. Sometimes everyone needs to “muck in” to finish a presentation for a deadline or cover for someone who is off on leave. You’ll see how the business operates as a whole, and develop transferable skills.

6. You can make a big difference: In an a small business it is hands-on. The chance to grow and to be there as the company develops, is exciting. Many people feel satisfied in their jobs at SME’s because they’re able to see real, tangible results of their work.

pexels-photo-28456
Small business may be the most attractive employment option to professionals, yet it struggles to reach the right talent. Social media and an online presence can help boost your profile in the right places in order to overcome this challenge. Image: Pexels.com

Interestingly, SME owners who took part in the same survey said that they found it difficult to attract the talent they need, because of competition from larger organisations in the job market. They battled to become noticed.

Many SME’s don’t have a specific brand – they often grow fast and are so busy managing this, that their very persona is never honed. This is an essential step in the growth of a successful small business – if you don’t know who you are – what your authentic core values are – how are customers or top drawer job-seeking professionals going to find you? Providing happy employees the brand marketing tools to sing your praises over social media, small businesses can really make an impact in all the right areas.

Times are changing – a grand job title is not much of a motivator any more. Compensation, work-life balance and opportunities for advancement rank as the three major motivators amongst job-hunters. They want to be contributors who can make a positive impact on a business, hopefully learning new skills in the process. That is why SME’s are attracting the talent they deserve, and shall continue to do so.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Register for free at AkoniHub.com

Save