Wednesday, November 27, 2013

5 Important steps is becoming a big brand for big financial success

Big brand for big success
There is a clear correlation between successful businesses and strong branding, but you don’t need to be a big business in order to become a big brand; in fact many large corporate brands are finding that it pays to drop the corporate image in order to increase their appeal as an independent company. Today increasing numbers of new and small and business owners are recognising the benefits of developing a big brand identity which allows them to punch above their weight and compete head to head with large established businesses.

Here we will look at 5 important steps that any business owner can take in order to become a big brand, but before we do so it is important to say what a brand is and what it is not. A brand is not a product, it is not a name, it is not a logo, and it is not a website. It might involve all of those elements in as much as they contribute to its development, but a brand is far less tangible than any of them. A brand is an image, an impression, a vision; it is what people feel about you, your business, and your product. It is something that they create in their own minds; it is an emotional bond; it is something that they trust; that they believe in; that they are loyal to; and for which they are willing to pay over the market rate.

So how do you go about building a big brand? Here are key steps.

Step 1 – Brand definition

If you are going to build a big brand then it is important to be clear about what you are aiming to build. Spend some time revisiting your product, service or business and it place in the market. What differentiates you from the rest of the crowd, what is the relationship with your customer base, what do your customers feel about you now, and what do you want them to feel in the future?  Every successful brand has a narrative; it tells a story, it has a past, a present and a future.

Step 2 – Brand emulation

At some time in their lives, just about everyone has had heroes, role models, and mentors. Consider what brands you admire, not just those with which you compete, but ones which stir and inspire you. What is special about them, why have they worked when others have failed, in what way do they stand out from the crowd? You should learn what you can from them and adapt what you learn to your brand model; even Sir Isaac Newton stood on the shoulders of giants, so too should you, but avoid copying.

Step 3 – It’s all about your customers, so respect them

You should treat your customers with respect. When you are building your brand avoid making any false claims, raising your customers’ hopes and aspirations only to ultimately disappoint them. It is a delicate business and your customers are highly intelligent so don’t try to pull the wool over their eyes. If you do then you will be found out and you won’t be forgiven. Be genuine, be honest and be consistent so that you customers know what to expect.

Step 4 – Design

At the beginning we said that a brand wasn’t a logo, a name, a product, or a website, but these are all necessary elements. The design, the word and the image are fundamental in fixing your brand in the eyes of the beholder, so don’t scrimp on getting this right. As a business owner you are unlikely to be the best person to interpret your dream and aspirations for your brand into an optimal brand design, so get some help from the professionals.

Step 5 – Brand consistency

Building a big brand takes time, patience and investment. It isn’t something that you should change on a whim; changing a brand can be and often has been disastrous. If you do need to make changes then make them slowly and subtly; a consistent brand carries far more weight and it is more far reaching. This doesn’t need that you can’t be flexible; remember that a brand is about the image that your customers have in their minds, so give them some space in which to develop it.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Advantages of investing in quality furniture

Investment in furniture
Everybody wants to have a beautiful home, but there’s much more to beauty than just following fashion. Really good quality furniture never goes out of style.  It gives the home an effortless elegance that visitors will admire and friends will envy, and it has a solidity that can be relied upon, not merely decorating the home but becoming a part of it.

Investing in quality

Acquiring quality furniture may be expensive - tracking down bargains simply costs time instead of money - but it can save both time and money in the long term.  Whilst standard pieces of ‘affordable’ furniture usually wear out or break within two to five years, quality furniture can last a lifetime.  When one adds up the amount spent on replacements, standard furniture is quickly revealed as the more expensive option.

Lower quality furniture has proliferated over the past few years for two reasons.  Firstly, people want their homes to be fully decorated all at once, and only have so much money to invest up front.  Secondly, they want to be able to change their furniture to keep up with the latest fashions.

A quality furniture collection usually takes time to build up.  It requires patience and a willingness to get by with less in the meantime, or to obtain some pieces of really cheap furniture from places like charity shops and Freecycle so that money can be invested in quality furniture for the rooms most often used instead of in mediocre furniture spread throughout the house.

Well-made furniture is usually easy to redecorate, whether by replacing cushion covers or by varnishing to change the colour of wood.  This means it can be adapted to fashion rather than needing to be replaced, and can still fit in with the changing overall look of a room.

Where it matters most

There are three room types where quality furniture is especially important.  The first, though guests might not often see it, is the bedroom.  This is because a quality bed can make a huge difference to quality of sleep and therefore the ability to get things done in the daytime.  The second is the living room, where good quality soft furnishings are much better at standing up to regular use, and where a handsome coffee table or dresser will really be admired.  The third is the dining room, where a well crafted mahogany or oak dining table is ideal for dinner parties and family get-togethers.

Selecting quality furniture

To choose quality furniture, it’s necessary to know what you’re doing - plenty of items are advertised as high quality when they’re not.  The real thing should be solid and resilient, with wooden parts obviously hand-carved and with properly made mortise or dovetail joints.  Moving parts should move freely and tipping the piece should never cause it to twist or creak.  Anything made from chipboard or wood pulp, anything that can be scratched, and anything with knots, nails or visible fissures in it should be avoided.  To get the best, it’s necessary to be ruthless, but it’s well worth the effort.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Heat saving ideas that won’t break the bank

saving ideas
It’s tough facing winter at a time when fuel bills just seem to keep on going up.  Some people try to grin and bear it but the cold can be very bad for the health, especially in young children, elderly people and those with mobility difficulties.  Although it’s widely known that insulation can help, many people hesitate to put it in place because of the money required to do so.  There are lots of little ways, however, that you can stay warm and save on heat whilst staying in the black.

Understanding heat loss

In a typical British home, 35% of heat loss takes place through the walls, 25% through the roof and 10% through the windows.  Floors and draughts account for the rest.  Of course, individual homes vary, but by considering these proportions it’s possible to work out what the most urgent problems are likely to be in any particular home.  Focusing on the biggest part of the problem means making more efficient choices when the budget won’t stretch to insulating everything.

Because the government and energy companies are also familiar with these problems, some grants exist to help with insulating roofs and windows.  Anyone who does decide to invest in insulation would be best advised to look into these first.

Insulating walls

Without investing in cavity wall insulation, there are still things that can be done.  Thick, insulating wallpapers can be used.  Tapestries or pieces of fabric can be hung (but make sure they’re fire-resistant first).  Bookcases can be placed against the walls and filled up with books, which basically does the equivalent of adding a six-inch thick insulating layer of wood to the wall.

Insulating roofs

This is one of the hardest things to do cheaply, but people who have lofts should either insulate them or use them for storage.  Simply filling up the loft with junk can stop a lot of heat from escaping.

Insulating windows

For those who can’t afford double-glazing, insulating plastic film can be bought cheaply to help stop heat getting out through the glass.  Thick, fully-lined curtains - even layered curtains - can make a big difference at night, and solid shutters are an excellent investment.

Floors and draughts

Bare wooden floors may look stylish but there’s a reason why they haven’t been used traditionally - they get very cold.  A much better idea is to use thick carpet (with proper underlay) and to add rugs for extra insulation.  Rag rugs can be made at home for pennies, whilst carpet offcuts can be purchased cheaply and cut into shapes of your choice.

Traditional draught excluders placed along the edge of doors can make a bigger difference than you might think.  Most draughts, however, get in through cracks and fissures, so it’s well worth going round the house hunting for these and sealing them up with putty or filler.

Finally, if it’s still a bit chilly, there are times when curling up in a blanket makes more sense than turning up the heat.  After all, it’s not just about saving money, it’s about saving the planet.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sole trader payroll solutions

Payroll status
If you are self-employed, running a business on your own, taking all of the business decisions and enjoying sole ownership and the profits, then you are a ‘sole trader’. All you have to do to become a sole trader is to set up a business, let HMRC know as the relevant tax authority and complete a fairly basic form (a 41G) that the tax office will send to you. Being a sole trader doesn’t mean you must work exclusively by yourself, you can employ people to assist you as your employees, but the ownership of the business is yours alone.

There are lots of advantages to being a sole trader – there’s that important engagement with your customers - your time is your own, there’s less red tape and of course the profits you make are yours to enjoy so you can see clearly where you stand financially. Many individuals that are now high earners took their first steps on the business ladder as sole traders running small businesses.

There are also pressures too – and one of the main ones, especially as your business grows, can be doing the paperwork involved in your employees’ pay – working out their tax and NIC and making sure they actually get paid on time and that the correct deductions are paid over to HMRC.  If you want to operate a smooth-running and efficient business the last thing that you want is an employee who is very unhappy because he or she has not received the correct pay because you didn’t understand, or didn’t sort out their tax code correctly. An employee who is paid late or paid incorrectly more than once is not only going to be unhappy but might start looking for another job, giving you problems in managing how you run your business at a practical level until you find a replacement.

If you want to run a successful business but don’t have the time or the experience/desire to deal with the stresses of the payroll there are many companies who can do this work for you. They can provide a payroll package, from the initial start-up of your first employee through to running complex business affairs employing successful high earners. Such a company can supply everything you need to run your business finance efficiently, ensuring that you pay only what you need to. This can take some of the strain off you. Other responsibilities you maybe hadn’t even thought of yet can also be outsourced.

Data protection; setting up BACS payments with your bank to make sure the money is in place, dealing with quarterly returns and producing payslips for your employees, and using custom-built IT systems that keep your records safe and ready to run as soon as your need them, can all be supplied by a specialist company. This keeps the burden of administration down and makes sure that your returns (to HMRC) are correct and submitted on time.

Finding the right payroll provider is as important as using the best payroll system – it’s easy to be seduced by introductory offers or glitzy IT systems, and to pay more than you need for stuff you simply won’t use, so your first job is to find a company that will ensure you get a payroll-system that is tailor-made for you.