Category Archives: Business

How to Prepare Your Small Business for Christmas

Although many people are complaining about the arrival of Christmas advertising and other festivities before December has even hit, it’s very important for small businesses around the world to start taking Christmas seriously in the run up to the 25th. Like it or not, Christmas is coming! Whether you sell handmade jewellery online, or you’re a freelancer to lots of different clients, here are some tips to help you prepare for Christmas:

Consider Supply and Demand

 If Christmas is your busiest period, you’ll need to think about how you’re going to meet the high demand. Ask yourself:

  • Do I have enough time?
  • Do I have enough stock?
  • Do I have enough staff?
  • Do I have enough marketing?

It’s vital that you have the resources you need to keep your customers happy, so plan ahead. And don’t forgot; a lot of people will want to take time off over Christmas, so you might need to hire some temporary employees to cover.

Think About Your Marketing Strategies

 Give your business a boost with a well thought out marketing strategy that makes the most of the festive theme. Consider your goals be and try to think outside the box and test new approaches. Here are some ideas:

  • Update your website
  • Send out a newsletter
  • Give away discounts
  • Give your packaging a festive makeover
  • Schedule your social media posts before you take time off
  • Write a festive blog post
  • Offer a gift-wrapping service for free

Stay Positive

 Christmas can be quite stressful for many people; the shops are hectic, money is tight and lots of organisation is required. For that reason, you should check in on your employees and try to keep their spirits bright as much as possible. Send your clients Christmas cards and think about getting some sweet treats (mince pies) for your staff. Overall, just try and stay positive!

With our advice and some hard work and organisation, you should be fully prepared to enjoy a fantastic Christmas. Good luck!

Entrepreneur Day 2018

entrepreneur

Entrepreneur day was 20th November and it celebrates and creates awareness for entrepreneurship and leadership.

Many people dream of owning their own business but there are many factors that often prevent people from branching out and working for themselves. However, in celebration of all those entrepreneurs out there, Mode has compiled our top 10 tips for being the next Alan Sugar!

The hardest part to be an entrepreneur is starting, so find the will to start!

  1. Think big: If you have a vision of the type of business you want to create, or you see the need in a market, have your dream and think about how you are going to pursue this. Walt Disney said “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them”
  1. Have values: all the greatest businesses have been created underpinned by strong values and having a clear mission statement. Think about what you want to stand for, make this your starting point.
  1. Be passionate: drive, commitment, hard work. These are the key elements to owning your own business.
  1. Reach out: in this age of technology and mass customisation remember that whatever service or product you are offering, each person’s experience is individual to them. Make sure your offering allows for each unique encounter, speak to people, conduct market research.
  1. Focus: Where do you want your business to be, how are you going to get there. Plan the future.
  1. Know your market: understand whether there is a need for your product/service, as in point 4, conduct the right research, know your competitors.
  1. Be relolute: You’ll have mishaps, setbacks, brick walls to face, you’ll want to give up. Being resolute in your vision will be paramount in these moments.
  1. Trust your skills: have faith and self-belief in your talents.
  1. Accept change: don’t be too headstrong or stubborn. Accept that sometimes things must change and will change.
  1. Evolve: keep an open mind and be eager to learn new things, find new technologies.

If you bear all of these in mind, then you have every opportunity to be that successful entrepreneur.

National Fraud Awareness Week: How Can Small Businesses Prevent Fraud?

fraud prevention

Fraud threat affects every size of business, however smaller businesses can often be more vulnerable to fraud than those larger organisations. Last year an estimated £18.9 billion was lost as a result of fraud in SME’s alone.

Fraud can occur from within your organisation but can often extend beyond that even though Banks and other fraud prevention organisations have highlighted the need to be wary of disclosing information. Yet still worryingly, cyber crime is up by 63% in 2017. This is a decrease of 15% from the previous year, but this is still a concerning figure.

To ensure your business is protected you should identify:

  • Common types of fraud that can expose your small business
  • Steps you should take to prevent fraud and implement regulations to help you achieve this.
  • Identify employees that could potentially commit fraud. This is an awful way to have to think but the reality is, to always keep an open mind and minimise the potential risk of any kind of fraud anywhere.

Whilst the types of fraud are no different to larger organisations, smaller businesses are more susceptible because they often do not have the measures in place to identify or ringfence potential issues.

Until your business understands the type of frauds that can occur, it’s essential to understand what fraud can be committed and this can be split into 6 categories:

Assets fraud

  • Expenses theft: when an employee uses their expenses for their own benefit
  • Compensation fraud: When an injury is exaggerated to gain compensation for something that wasn’t the company’s fault.
  • Cheque forging/tampering: An employee forging signatures or altering payee info, amount info.
  • Cash theft: Stealing physical cash from the business
  • Product theft: When an employee uses company money to gain a product for their own use

Accounting

  • Embezzlement: When someone has control of the company funds and uses them inappropriately for their own benefit
  • Personal use purchases: When company funds are used to buy something for personal use, but it is recorded as legitimate company purposes.
  • Accounts payable: This can be the most detrimental fraud to the business, as this can involve invoice or expenses tampering
  • Fake Employees: When an employee does not exist but appears on the payroll
  • Ghost suppliers: Suppliers that don’t exist that are billing for services or products that don’t exist.

Data:

  • Trade secrets: when these are sold to competitors to the detriment to your business.
  • Theft of sensitive data: when data such as credit card numbers, client info is sold to 3rd

Bribery & or corruption:

  • Bribes: This occurs when another business is paid to aid their own company’s or personal benefit.
  • Product fakes: When the original product is substituted for inferior products than what was initially agreed. This is usually to help reduce cost.

Billing:

  • Billing schemes: False payments are sent to individuals within the business from the company and can involve creating a fake customer or editing an existing one.

Overcharging:

  • Overcharging people than what was initially agreed.

Preventing fraud in small business:

There are several steps to prevent fraud in your small business and protect your assets whether they are physical or monetary assets. So, we have come up with a series of tips to help you:

Know your clients: Vet potential clients, there is nothing wring in ascertaining who your potential clients are.

Threats identified: dubious clients can use several methods to pay for things which could leave you out of pocket. This can include using cloned cards to make payments.

Cheque fraud: This is a great way to commit fraud. The fraudster can leave with the product but leave you with a cheque that can be bounced by the bank

Therefore, only accept cheques from trusted customers and suppliers and always use a pen and cross through any empty spaces. Ask for alternative payment if the cheque appears to look wrong in any way or if the customer writes a greater amount and asks for change.

Cash: fraudulent cash is an old school tactic, and this is still occurring even in the light of the new £5 £10 notes. Therefore, always check the following:

  • Any raised print: you should feel this on words like “Bank of England” if it feels flat then it could be fake.
  • The print on the new polymer notes is sharp: if there is any blurriness then then its fake. Big Ben is finely detailed and when the note is tilted you should see a coloured rainbow effect.

Look out for suspicious orders: if a client wants to pay outside of your preferred payment method this will lower your protection to fraud, so you should always stick to your payment methods.

Secure your assets

  • List your assets (Physical and digital) and initiate an action plan on how you can keep these safe. E.g. loss of data is extremely detrimental to your business.
  • Protect your branding and identity: this is the most valuable thing to you so read up on your intellectual property rights. Plus ensure that your details at Companies house is protected as this is often an ideal place for fraudsters to go to obtain your details.
  • All businesses must comply with the Payment Card Industry and Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) an this applies to all businesses that handle card and online payments. There are huge consequences if you do not comply
  • Know your suppliers: invoice fraud is the most common type of B2B fraud. Research who you are dealing with and keep regular checks on them including financial health checks.
  • Know your employees: 80% of data breaches occur as a result of employees according to the Information Commissioners Office. Monitor their behaviour and be alerted to any changes in their behaviour as even the most loyal person can be swayed into committing fraud.
  • Implement an anti-fraud/Anti bribery policy in your company handbook so that everyone is clear that this behaviour is not accepted and will result in disciplinary procedures.
  • Educate your employees on fraud and bribery: including preventing the use of common passwords and implement a policy to ensure that the company data and products are secure.
  • Keep clear records: As a small business it is very easy to be stretched in all directions but keeping consistent and clear records will minimise your risk to fraud.
  • One computer for accounting: do not allow people to use social media on this computer as this can create vulnerabilities that can allow hackers to break into your accounting systems.
  • Insurance cover: essential for any business so that you are covered if you do fall victim to fraud.
  • Secure your IT: implement a firewall as well as anti-virus, spyware, and malware detection.

If you need any assistance with how Mode can help you secure your hardware and software against fraud then visit https://www.modeprintsolutions.co.uk/secure-printing/ or contact us on 0345 223 2203 or alternatively email us on enquiries@modeprintsolutions.co.uk

Mode Helps an Economic Consultancy Become GDPR Compliant

GDPR

GDPR became law in May 2018, however, many businesses are still in the dark about how their processes and office equipment can be data risks. Mode welcomed the opportunity to discuss with an economic regulation consultancy about their GDPR obligations.

The Company’s issues

The Consultancy had realised that so many of their processes were not GDPR compliant and their equipment was vulnerable to a cyber-attack where their network could be easily accessed. As they dealt with sensitive information for their clients, they realised they had to make the relevant changes as a matter of urgency. Also, as the business was working with high-profile clients, it was necessary in retaining them,  they could demonstrate they were compliant and by not doing so could jeopardise their business.

Mode ascertained that their current print solutions and network were not secure, hard drives were not encrypted and these could be accessed via the device’s IP address, causing a potential breach. Also, without the facility of having secure printing, uncollected print jobs could be seen by unauthorised employees.

Their current equipment only had SMB1 scanning encryption and as this is older technology and has been proven to be unsecure, meaning scanning was also a potential data breach.

Mode’s solution

Mode provided a secure print software which meant that print jobs were not released from the printer unless the user was at the machine. This eliminated the risk of sensitive documents being seen or picked up accidentally. This is a feature that has become increasingly popular in the light of the GDPR law.

All new equipment was configured with an encryption, self-overwriting hard drive. The consultancy could decide when the device deleted its data and that nothing was kept unnecessarily. This meant that they became compliant under GDPR in the sub heading of “Keeping Information”.

All scans were fully encrypted when leaving the device and entering the cloud using the new SMB2 level encryption, preventing the document from being intercepted by a hacker.

Should at any point, one of the consultancy’s clients wishes to “be forgotten”, Mode’s Managed Print Suite can trace and retrieve any print, copy or scanned jobs associated with a client and with a simple command, all that information could be erased from the database.

The added value for our new clients’, was that their machines no longer jammed, and we ensured that as part of our service to them, they received maintenance checks with our service team, reducing the possibility of the equipment breaking down.

If you’re still in the dark about GDPR, then take a look at our GDPR page https://www.modeprintsolutions.co.uk/secure-printing/gdpr-understanding-your-responsibilities/

Or contact one of our team on 0345 223 2203 or on enquries@modeprintsolutions.co.uk

Will Leasing a Photocopier Work for Your Business?

photocopier

Copiers remains an essential piece of office equipment even though in the age of digitisation we all believed that this would change. The reality is we still need photocopiers for us to perform our daily duties at work.

However, when you review what type of equipment you need, purchasing a photocopier can be extremely costly. However, there is always the option of leasing allowing you to save money on copying without buying it.

Lease? Why would you do that?

Copiers are expensive particularly if you need a very good quality one! Your provider will offer you a lease arrangement lasting over a period of months meaning that you obtain the high quality of equipment your business needs for a cost that is spread over months rather than having to outlay huge costs! Also, with the lease, you will obtain the support of your provider with maintenance, supplies, service and more importantly as the copier inevitably ages, your print supplier should be able to offer you an upgrade in equipment under your lease that will match the needs of your business. This means you always have the most up to date equipment.

Know your requirements

Consider and calculate how many copies your business makes per month and ensure your proposed supplier is aware of this, so they can offer you the correct machine. However, you should ask the right questions to the supplier: how many copies does the machine do? Will it fit in the space allocated? Cost per copy? What are the functions needed for this machine?

Always remember the benefits of leasing are:

  • Smaller monthly manageable payments rather than a large one-off sum
  • Support from your provider
  • Upgrade options often available
  • A good provider will always offer transparency in their offer to you.

If you’d like to speak to one of our team about our unique product Simple, then contact us today.

3 Ways Managed Print Services can Benefit Your Business

benefits
What are Managed Print Services?

Managed Print Services depend on computer software to keep an eye on print activities; this involves seeing patterns in print behaviour, creating rules for printing, managing devices and creating established workflows. In short, it helps you make better use of your printers by giving you a way to monitor and control how your staff use them.

Did you know that by implementing managed print services in your business you could reduce your print and copy spend by up to a third? And that’s not all, here are three more ways that managed print services can benefit your business…

1 –  Cost Benefits

Have you been unable to print an important document because the toner has run out or the printer is displaying a fault and your IT department are too busy to fix it? These common occurrences cost both time and money, reinforcing the benefit of using managed print services. They give your business the maximum level of print service when you need it most.

Maintaining your old printers can help you to keep costs low in the short term, but in the long term you’ll miss out on new technologies that will provide cost benefits, while facing expenses and uncertainties that managed print services can eliminate.

2 – Up-to-date security

Implementing a print management solution is the most secure and efficient way of ensuring your business is safe guarding itself against print and data security issues.  Print management offers the most up to date technology which means better printers for maintenance, management and most importantly, security. All of your printed documents remain safe and confidential until the end user is ready to authorise and collect them.

3 – Environmental benefits

Managed Print Service providers help your business to reduce waste by regularly auditing your printing processes and upgrading to more advanced printers and functions. These functions include restricting the use of colour; printing double sided and offering pull printing, so that print jobs only print when actively requested from the printer. This means less abandoned print jobs.

Top Tips to Increase Productivity in the Workplace

productivity

If you want to give your team a boost and see their productivity improve, there are some really simple ways to achieve this. Just a few small changes to your work habits can have an incredibly positive effect on your whole company.

Here are our five simple tips for increasing your team’s productivity at work and getting the most out of your time in the office.

  1. Clean up and organise

One of the easiest ways to improve your productivity is to tidy up your work space.
Ask each department to spend half an hour at the end of each week to clean up their areas. This can even include cleaning out or organising their email inboxes. This will help maintain a clear and productive start for all on a Monday morning.

  1. Make a plan

Taking just a few minutes to plan the day will keep you and your team on top of their tasks. Work out what work or clients you need to prioritise and assign each task to a member of your team using an online work float or even a whiteboard. Ensure that everyone knows what their responsibilities are and praise your employees for completing their tasks at the end of the day.

  1. Minimise distractions

Asking employees to keep to a ‘desk ban’ of mobile phones will help them to keep on track of their work throughout the day. Notifications from personal devices are a big distraction in the workplace and should be kept to lunch breaks where possible.  If music in the office is causing a distraction, banning it may not be the answer. Music can help increase productivity, so a simple solution is to ask staff to wear headphones to listen to their favourite tunes.

  1. Take breaks

Taking short breaks from work can make a significant difference to your staff’s performance. Whether you encourage a tea break in the morning or a quick walk around the local park on a Friday afternoon, you will soon see the benefits. Exercise and activity isn’t just good for your physical health, it can have a positive impact on your work performance. Plus, physical activity has been proven to positively affect mental health and focus.

  1. Reduce meetings

Before booking your next meeting, ask yourself whether you can accomplish the same outcome via email or phone. Communication and team meetings are vital to a successful company, however having regular meetings can sometimes become a chore and take up valuable working time. Pick and choose your meetings wisely to ensure they are productive and time well spent.

How to Find the Right Printer for your Business

Understanding your business needs for it to function efficiently is essential. Understanding then what equipment you need, in particular the type of printers, will only aid your efficiency.

For many, printers all look the same and it can be quite confusing when deciding what will work for you.

Making a wrong choice in your printers can lead to unnecessary expense, decline in productivity and frustration! So, Mode has compiled a quick-look list that should help you decide the type of printer you need.

Running Costs: If you are purchasing the machine yourself, this can be exceedingly costly as the responsibility of servicing, supplies and maintenance will be down to you. Perhaps consider entering into an arrangement with a supplier and review the type of servicing they will include.

Office size: If you are a one-person band, then maybe a portable printer is ideal for you as you are on the go and maybe your office can be anywhere. Or if you have more people in your team, consider the size of your office and the space you have for a printer.

Functionality? You may need a printer and photocopier if you already own a fax machine, however, more common these days is the need for an all in one machine that allows you to copy, print, scan and fax.

How connected? Do you need wireless or can you be connected? Do you need to print from a mobile or will you and your business only need computer connection?

What quality do you need? Think about your needs as a business. If you are a design company then you need a printer that can print high quality so that you can show your clients your work. Or do you only print text? It would be pointless you are obtaining a high-quality printer that has the capacity to print high quality images, when really you only need typed text.

Inkjet or laser? There really isn’t any difference on price these days but think about what ink you’d like to use. Inkjets use ink and laser use toners. Broadly they offer the same quality and capacity to do the same things although arguably Laser have a broader capacity for different work.

Print Speed: Think about how much you point, you will then need to consider the speed of your machine, particularly if you are in need to printing larger volumes.

Think about a supplier! Sometimes its just easier to have someone handle all this for you. There are often so many things to consider when obtaining the right printer for your business that sometimes-seeking advice can help you reach the right decision.

If you need to discuss your printer needs for your business, then do contact Mode today.

What Are the Challenges Facing SME’s in 2018?

Brexit, Brexit, Brexit! These words are all that dominate our headlines and news. Frankly the negative debate detracts from the real challenges that face small to medium businesses.

A recent survey conducted by the Academy for Chief Executives significantly shows a different picture as to what is concerning these size businesses.

400 members of the Academy were questioned. These Chief Executives represent over 8 billion in revenue and employ over 40, 000 people therefore the responses to the questions can arguably represent many SME’s in the UK.

In order, these were the Chief Executives main concerns:

Finding the right people: It’s imperative as you are building a business that you get the best people. You need the “A” team, all the people in the right positions so that the MD of the Company can be removed from the day to day operations and that these people have complete ownership of the role they play. Also, leaders recognised that there was a need to invest in training and development to retain the right team and engage employees fully.

Growth and managing change: You need the ability to finance your growth. There was concern that SME’s were unable to gain access to the funding they need as there are too many procedures to go through. This is a UK issue that needs to be addressed if these businesses are to unlock their full potential.

Red Tape: There appeared to be apprehension amongst Chief Execs about Government regulations locally and nationally. Unfortunately, in this area of the survey, Government did not fair well! There was also fear that the length of time it took to process planning or lack of HMRC resources meant that valuable time was lost.

Uncertainty: ok so there was concern within the survey regarding Brexit but more from the aspect that there has been too much political uncertainty over the last few years with referendums and elections and this has caused consumer activity to be hindered. Also changes to American law on International policy has affected consumer confidence and it is SME’s that face the greater impact of this.

Increasing Costs: Things are going up all the time and this ultimately impacts small to medium size businesses the most.

Changes in Technology: Chief Executives were concerned that for them to keep up to date with the technological advances occurring now, they would need to have greater investment which was a challenge in itself!

Innovation: How is an SME supposed to evolve without innovation? Chief Execs accentuated that they wanted to deliver the results but were being challenged on how they can constantly evolve their business.

Who are Millennials? So, business leaders seem to be concerned about Millennials! But who are they? These are people born between 1980 into the 1990’s and have often been described as lazy, narcissistic and prone to jump from job to job. Also, there has been concern over Millennials unrealistic expectations of working life! The survey highlighted Chief Executives concerns over understanding this whole generation, how to retain the best of them and develop them.

Stock Market and Banks: Do we trust them? It appears many leaders were struggling to have faith in these institutions.

Security: Concerns covered all aspects of this, not only physical but cyber security as well and whether SME’s had the capacity and infrastructure to protect their business.

Whilst this discusses concerns from leaders of SME’s, we have considered other aspects that may hinder businesses from growing:

Leadership: this of course won’t have been highlighted in the Academy survey as they are all leaders themselves! However, there is no academic qualification for leadership of SME’s. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re good at leadership even if you are the leader! However, to be a good leader there is a requirement of many attributes. Drive, Skill in your field and perception are key in succeeding in your own business.

Do you have a strategy? This is a simple statement to make but lack of leadership can lead to lack of strategy. Just taking time to think about the goals you want for the business and where you want it to be in 3 years and what the plans are for these goals to be realised is paramount. Involving your team could also boost moral and engage your team.

How to implement the strategy: break it down from 3 years to 12-month objectives to 90 days? That way the task ahead does not seem so enormous and you will be delighted that you have met your targets every 90 days!

Creating the right culture: This is so important. What are your values as a business. If you don’t have any create around 4 or 5 so that it’s simple for your employees to remember. This then leads to a defined culture that your teams can cultivate and nurture.

Employees first! Simply, ensure your staff are well trained and have complete understanding of what you need them to achieve. If you look after them, they will look after your customers!

Systems, processes, productivity! Many SME’s think that by having systems will make then lose that competitive edge! This cannot be further from the truth. Implementing tried and tested systems means that you will deliver your product or service brilliantly to your customers. Making the whole business aware of these, increases productivity.

Performance measurement: The truth is, if you have performance measured then tasks get done! Often SME’s struggle to identify the key metrics that should drive their business forward. However, finding those measures can be a challenge. A starting point is always to measure sales and profit, however, ensuring that all your operational departments have clear objectives to measure will help them reach their target too.

If you do not get all the above right…… several other issues will arise:

  • Cash flow issues
  • High staff turnover
  • Eroding margins

This is often because of the leader working too much within the business rather than ON the business. So many SME’s are challenged by not finding the time to focus on:

  • Growing revenues
  • Being dependant on only a few big clients
  • Competition on price
  • Raising capital
  • Cashflow

This is all a lot to take in! We know, we’re an SME ourselves, but make sure as a leader of one, you acquire the right support, even in the form of a mentor. As the leader you will need to stay energised for your team to keep them engaged with your overall objectives. Make growing this business a team event! By keeping engaged with your employees and regarding them your SME can only go from strength to strength.

In a Multimedia World, How Can Your Company Be Heard?

successful business

How do you get the message of the services that your Company offers in an ever increasing noisy, competitive digital environment? Essentially the answer is: understand what makes excellent communication and how to achieve that. Easier said than done!

There are many forms of campaign that your business can use to promote yourselves but essentially you need to remember the following steps before you embark:

Know your audience: Understand who your product or services talk to, who is your target audience, and what is it about their behaviour, buying patterns or views, you want to change? You may have a compelling message, but if that is not in front of the right audience, then the message will be lost.

Engage your team: Key stakeholders in your business are vital in collaborating on a campaign. They will be able to offer a broad definition of your audience which can be further researched.

Research: Social media can be a quick way to establish how to target the audience you want. For example, targeting professionals may require LinkedIn, whereas if you are selling to a younger market you may want to consider Twitter or Instagram.

How to create your message: When you have knowledge of your audience, you will then be able to craft the type of message you need. Your product/services need to completely differentiate from your competitors and that is a fundamental strategy for an effective communications plan. Simple, clear messaging will really cut through all the noise in the digital world and that is more effective than long lists of benefits and features.

How do you measure success? Some companies measure success by an increase of sales and these are hard hitting facts that can tell you if your campaign is successful or not. Others are looking for brand awareness and raising the perception of their company. These are metrics that are difficult to track and measure. Whilst ideally you should track this later purpose over time, so you can ascertain whether this has been successful or not, it is understandable if you don’t want to since people like and share posts all the time without really understanding or digesting the content! Let alone changing their perception of your products or services. For your communication process to be successful, you should gather data from other sources. Surveys could help with this before and after your campaign. The initial survey could act as a benchmark, whilst a later one could ascertain whether your campaign has had any impact on people’s perception of your business and the products and services it offers.

Essentially, whatever you want to achieve, knowing how to reach the right audience for you and implementing a rigorous communication plan will only help your business deliver results.

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