General Advice

Business advice on everything from fire safety regulations to basic copyright matters.

How to Set up the Perfect Home Office

For anyone used to working in an office, working at home can offer a great break in working style, one which can allow you to focus away from all the distractions of the people around you. Because it cuts down on travelling, it can also be a very simple way of doing your bit towards cutting carbon emissions. And it’s not only employees who have an interest in working at home. For a large number of companies, the first office is at home – and for some businesses, in particular sole traders, it remains so for a long time. But whether you’re an occasional home worker, or it’s your permanent office, it’s vital that your working environment at home is safe and effective, with everything you need to get your work done. In this article, we’ll look at what you n... »

Keyboard Hygiene – Clean Your Dirty QWERTY

The office keyboard – that ubiquitous piece of business kit – every desk has one! But what dangers are lurking in your dirty QWERTY? Tests have revealed that some office keyboards can harbour FIVE TIMES more bugs than a toilet seat! That may be an alarming figure, considering the amount of keyboards on desks at small businesses across the country, but did you know that MRSA and MSSA may be lurking under your space bar? Which? magazine conducted the tests with an expert swabbing more than 30 keyboards at their London offices. The microbiologist who carried out the tests was looking for bacteria that are commonly found in supposedly less hygienic places and bugs that are linked to food poisoning as well as coliforms and enteric bacteria, both of which are found in faecal matter a... »

SMEs and Professional Property Advice

How can a Chartered Surveyor help my SME? The acquisition and occupation of commercial premises is costly. Chartered Surveyors are here to save costs, ensuring businesses make the right decisions at the outset and during the term of occupation. As a Chartered Surveyor with experience of acting for Landlords and Tenants of commercial property, I am all too aware of how often SME business owners do not get professional representation in property dealings. The lease cycle includes: Acquisition of property Rent reviews Payment of service charges Lease renewals Payment of business rates The absence of professional advice can have long lasting implications for the running costs of a business. Rent, rates and service charge form a sizeable portion of the running costs for most small and medium si... »

SME Christmas Survival Guide

While Christmas is seen by most people as the season to be jolly, for small businesses navigating the minefield of HMRC rules and regulations, and rewarding employees within already stretched budgets, it can be a scary prospect. Sanjay Parekh, Managing Director at WebExpenses, the award-winning provider of web-based expenses management solutions, shares his tips on how to survive the festive season. As a small business develops and builds up a team of staff and an established customer base Christmas becomes more difficult to deal with. You’ve built up your reputation on the strength of your relationships, with staff and clients, and Christmas is a great time to show appreciation. However, budgets are tight and HMRC is no more lenient at Christmas than the rest of the year. So what do... »

Improving Client Retention

Businesses are often on the hunt for ways of winning new clients, but less time is spent nurturing the hard earned existing client relationships. This is despite the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s research revealing that it costs 10 times more to win a new client than it does to keep an existing one! With the financial climate as it is, it’s a time where more than ever people are shopping around for the best deal, whether they’re happy with suppliers or not. So how can you improve client retention rates and maximise existing business? Below are a few ideas on how to improve Show appreciation Before you start thinking about how you can make money out of existing clients, take a moment to simply thank them for choosing you. Try and make it personalised, be it a car... »

Guide to ISO 9001

You’ve probably heard of ISO 9001 because you’ve seen a logo on the side of a van, or been told you need it for a tender you’re interested in. At the moment then, you’re probably wondering what on earth this mix of letters and numbers means and you’re not alone! ‘ISO’ represents the International Organization for Standardization, an international standards institute. It takes feedback from multiple sectors across the world to create relevant, worthwhile standards. These standards define how everyday products we use are manufactured, and when it comes to ISO 9001, how a Quality Management System is put in place. Why should I be taking notice? Well, you could argue that the fact that over 1,000,000 organisations implement ISO 9001 around the world is... »

Olympic Games Business Opportunity Extends Beyond London and 2012 says Lloyds TSB

By Lloyds TSB Commercial With less than a year to go until the first event, companies could be forgiven for thinking that the chance to secure business relating to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games had passed. While many large, direct contracts have already been awarded, the official tendering website CompeteFor – www.competefor.com – still has details and contacts to help small businesses tap into a wider pool of contracts further down the supply chain. Wherever your company is based, you can still get involved as latest figures show that there are many contracts still to be awarded. If you look at the Olympic Delivery Authority’s (ODA) own map of suppliers at the www.london2012.com site you will see businesses across the UK are already involved. Hopefully man... »

ISO 9001: Ensuring Company Personnel Have Access to the Latest Documents

ISO 9001: Ensuring company personnel who are working away from the office to have access to the latest versions of documents necessary for their work. You are running a highly distributed work force and you are increasingly becoming frustrated because personnel are spending more time in your office preparing to meet Client needs than being in the field satisfying their need. It is therefore imperative that the field force have clear understanding what is required of them when satisfying a client need and are able to obtain this understanding remotely through a secure access on-line document store. The understanding being secured through:- Business processes being clearly documented. Personnel undertaking these processes have a clear understanding of what is required. Clear records are main... »

ISO 9001: Ensuring Employees and Subcontractors are Using Correct Procedures

Where procedures are documented and distributed in paper form, it is necessary to have a rigorous process for ensuring that, whenever any change is required, all copies are either individually updated or replaced. This can be quite bureaucratic and time consuming if there are many paper copies. Modern quality management systems have done away with this expensive and error-prone practice by having only a single master version to which all personnel have access through computer networking. Of course, this does require all personnel to have some means of internet or internal network access, but with hand held devices becoming ever more ubiquitous, this is no longer a problem even in the most rugged working environments. This means that implementing a quality management system is now easier th... »

ISO 9001: Ensuring Tasks are Discharged in a Consistent Manner

ISO 9001: Ensuring tasks are discharged in a consistent manner, over time and irrespective of who undertakes the tasks Basically, in order to be able to enforce consistency, it is necessary to document, in broad terms, how each process in the organisation should be performed. The standard for quality management systems, ISO 9001:2008, only requires those processes to be defined that have direct bearing on outputs to customers. The standard lays down that the overall directory of process documentation has to be what it refers to as a ‘Quality Manual’. This can refer out to separate documents covering individual processes in broad terms and these, in turn, may, where necessary, refer to detailed ‘Work Instructions’. Thus, anybody in an organisation that meets ISO 9001:2008, will be able to f... »

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