Kitchen table entrepreneurs – turning your hobby into a business

Written by admin on . Posted in Business, Cloud Accounting

From cupcake-crazy home bakers to fitness addicts and artistic dreamers, more and more entrepreneurial Britons are turning passions and pastimes into money-making enterprises. In fact, latest studies show there are 600,000 more micro businesses in the UK today than there were during the onset of the financial crisis in 2008*.

emma lomax

A separate report by the Office for National Statistics also found that self-employment in the UK is at its highest level since records began 40 years ago. However, one of the big differences between being self-employed and turning your hobby into a business, where you’ve had no formal training, is that you’ll have to work even harder to get a grip on market and customer demand.

Do your homework

Before taking the plunge, homework and research are key to deciding whether or not it’s just a pipe dream. This needn’t break the bank – depending on the business and what you want to find out, you could try face-to-face focus groups in your local community, as well as free online polling tools such as surveymonkey.com.

Social networks give fast feedback and are a good place to find other people in your industry – and discover what your customers are saying about you. Or why not delve into big data? Google Trends and Google consumer surveys show the types of terms people are looking for online, which can assist in optimising your website copy using SEO (search engine optimisation).

Create a business plan

As with any new venture, creating a business plan and working out costs is also hugely important, especially when it comes to figuring out prices, profit and securing investment. That’s not to say it’ll be easy – many small businesses fail in their early years because owners make mistakes, misread the market, or fall victim to other external factors.

Get it right and you’ll end up wishing you’d done it sooner: “I used to teach textiles and was always sewing between classes,” says SewLomax founder and creative director, Emma Lomax. “Starting my own business meant moving to the next step. It was no longer about embroidery; it was about making something people wanted.”

* Data from Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce/Etsy.

 

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Adopting cloud technology: eat or be eaten

Written by admin on . Posted in Business, Cloud Accounting

 

Cloud technology adoption

Over the past couple of decades, The Chasm Model has been the centrepiece of nearly every conversation I’ve had about launching new technology.

While its merits are many, lately I’ve been wondering how applicable it is in business-to-business markets. Sure there are early adopters. Perhaps even an early majority. It’s the late majority that seems to be in trouble.

Having sat around harvesting revenue from their customer base, the late majority wake up one day to face a revenue precipice. In short, the early adopters and majority reach a tipping point and start acquiring their customer base en-masse. Powered by the economics of the cloud (not just technology but also business) these new players scale at speed – achieving continuous growth rates in the high double and even triple digits.

We see a couple of shifts driving the acceleration of the new players. For instance, cloud technology and business models on the supply side, and then mobile on the demand side. Entrepreneurs emerge from both sides presenting the late majority with an impossible force to counter – and their brand advantage and customer relationships are quickly weakened.

Look at what happened to booksellers, record stores, and others. We are seeing the same in accounting where new disruptive value propositions are being built on cloud platforms like ours. What’s important is that these new players aren’t just using new technology – they are reshaping their brands, service offerings, price points and more.

The message is clear. Rather than wait for the late majority, fuel the high-growth early adopters and watch them grow. Who would you rather be (or be backing)? The eater or the eaten?

 

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Data Privacy Day – time to smarten up on information security?

Written by admin on . Posted in Business, Cloud Accounting, Software

Today is Data Privacy Day. As an annual event, it’s probably not the best excuse for a team meeting at the pub and it almost certainly lacks the fun of Burns’ night or the sexiness of Valentine’s Day. Yet, in the digital era, Data Privacy Day is a good excuse to take a step back and consider the potential risks we expose ourselves and our businesses to.

Data Privacy Day

Data Privacy Day is about getting us thinking about how well we guard our personal and business data, and our all-important customer information. The fact that a hoax caller got a direct line to the British Prime Minister just days ago shows that no organisation is immune from the type of human error that culminated in his number being given away inappropriately.

Use correct and up-to-date records

For small businesses, running a tight ship reduces the likelihood of falling foul of the Data Protection Act, as well as potentially souring relationships and even leaving your firm open to damages claims. It’s also good manners and good housekeeping: using incorrect or out-of-date records not only risks annoying clients, but also wastes time and money when emails are deleted and letters go straight in the bin.

On the flip side, good information handling can improve your business’s reputation by increasing customer and employee confidence. Not sure how well you or your team are doing when it comes to best-practice? Take a look at this checklist from the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Keep your passwords secure

Then there’s the thorny issue of passwords. With logins needed for everything from your bank, supermarket or social network, using the same one over and over is clearly a bad idea. Yet make too many new or complex passwords and it’s easy to get mixed up or forget. It’s also good practice to change passwords on a regular basis. Here, apps such as 1Password that use secure encryptions for double protection can be incredibly convenient.

Where does your data end up?

Last but by no means least, before signing up to a new bank or software provider, don’t be afraid to ask questions about where your data will be stored and how it will be used. Keep in mind too that, like many things in life, the old adage ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’ is probably applicable. The main reason many software apps are free is because the data is used commercially or held for use at a later date.

Read more about Xero’s world-class data protection.

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