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How many businesses do you know that really take advantage of those one off “holiday” days throughout the year like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Bonfire night etc.  I hear what you are saying , Valentine’s is only for florists and chocolatiers and maybe lingerie shops, but think again…… could be missing a trick.  Have you thought about how you could stand out from the crowd in your industry sector and steal an advantage using the “holiday” theme?

Mother’s Day

Let’s think about Mother’s Day for a minute, how could your business benefit and use this event in its marketing.  If you’re a florist, chocolatier it’s very easy to use the theme, and let’s be honest, most mums are relatively easy to buy for on Mother’s Day, beauty treatments, clothes and other gift items, but what if your business is less obviously associated with a holiday, for example if you are a “Boot camp” fitness company, which runs fitness and weight loss camps?

One way would be to run special mother and daughter camps for Mother’s Day and maybe father and son ones for Father’s Day.  This is exactly what the New You Boot camp have done with great success.  Their M.D Jacqui Cleaver thinks outside the box and uses holidays to promote offers and mailings.  Easter last year they sent out mouth-watering high-cocoa chocolate recipes and healthy recipes and as a result saw a boost to bookings.  People saw the value in the recipes, printed them off, put them on the fridge and when friends came round, it started a conversation and word of mouth referrals flowed!  It’s not rocket science, but it does take some thought, imagination and effort.

Valentine’s Day

I’m sure you can think of lots of companies doing special promotions for Valentine’s Day.  Not least the card shops with all those cards gushing with “love” messages and then of course there the usual chocolate hearts and other heart shaped gifts you see in the shops but what about the humble sausage, not something you would automatically associate with Valentine’s Day.  Heck, a family-run business making sausages, is really good at reworking its product.  This year for Valentine’s Day it created a sausage they called “PECK”, which of course was heart shaped and they managed to get it stocked by Waitrose and Tesco and as a result the MD and founder Andrew Keeble said resulted in rocketing sales.  You may remember this company if you watched the Alex Polizzi program a while back when she went in to help turn the fortunes round for the family run business.

Other “Holiday”  Days

Heck amongst others are thinking about their businesses differently, they are taking advantage of other days throughout the year to develop products on a particular theme.  Heck will be bringing out a star shaped sausage for Halloween and bonfire night.

New You Boot camp runs a fitness day in Richmond Park to coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness month and donate the proceeds to cancer charities.

What offers could you introduce for your business for the many “holidays” we have throughout the year like Christmas, Easter, even Wimbledon or rugby world cup.  There are so many events, days and “holidays” that your business could take the lead on and stand out from the crowd.  Even if you are strapped for cash, just repackage an existing product or service offering and just be a little creative.  Most businesses don’t have to do much to stand out from the crowd.

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Enjoy mothers day!!!


The Risk-Based Approach – Risky business for SMEs? – Part I


HMRC (Photo credit: Images_of_Money)

The issue:

Risk-based approaches to manage Compliance Service delivery are undergoing a maturity model evolution.

This per se is not a negative issue, however, do risk-based approaches leave us exposed to more or less compliance risk?

We pose this question because a number of process advances, including technological drivers have over the past few years increased the incidence of the risk-based approach (r)evolution.

As an example, HMRC launched their risk based approach pilot scheme related to business record keeping called ‘Business Records Check‘ a few years ago (2011), only for the initiative to ‘go quiet’ and then suddenly to rear its head again late in 2013.

The facts:

From the HMRC web site, the following information was published:

Up until 17 February 2012, 3,431 BRC had been carried out. These found that 36 per cent of businesses had some issue with their record-keeping of which 10 per cent had issues serious enough to warrant a follow up visit.

By extrapolation, HMRC also publish within their background report the following table:


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20 businesses you can run from home

British piggy bank

It’s nearly Christmas and that puts a strain on most peoples cash, so you might well be looking for ways to earn extra cash, here are my top 20 home based business ideas:

  1. Get a lodger – Under rent-a-room a taxpayer can be exempt from Income Tax on profits from furnished accommodation in their only or main home if the gross receipts they get (that is, before expenses) are £4,250 or less
  2. Ironing and Laundry Services – Always popular and you can start with friends and family
  3. E Bay Trading – as E Bay say… The first task is to sort through those bulging drawers and messy cupboards, finding stuff to flog. Get a big eBay box to stash your wares in, and systematically clear out wardrobes, DVD and CD piles, the loft and garage. Use the easy 12-month rule of thumb to help you decide what to offload: Haven’t used it for a year? Flog it.
  4. Blogging – Blogging has taken off and many businesses are looking for people to write blogs for them
  5. Candle Making – You can sell the candles on line and its easy to buy the wax and things you need to make the candles
  6. Car Boot Sale – As with E Bay but without going on line
  7. Cake Making – Make sure everything is labelled correctly and you comply with Health & Safety issues
  8. Data Entry – The internet makes it easy to enter data from where ever you are
  9. Social Media – Similar to blogging, businesses need help to manage Twitter, Facebook and Linked In
  10. Website Design – If you have the expertise, go for it
  11. Sales Parties –  Cosmetics to Ann Summers, there is a long list of opportunities
  12. Sewing and Clothes Alterations – Perfect before and after Christmas
  13. Jewellery – Making and selling jewellery is always popular and great for Christmas presents
  14. Car Repairs – Assuming you have the skills needed and comply with legal requirements
  15. Pet Care – Walking dogs or grooming is popular
  16. Virtual Assistant – Also personal organiser or personal shopper
  17. Wedding Planner – You could start by creating a blog about your expertise
  18. Direct Sales – For example Utility Warehouse
  19. Computer Repair – Great provided you have the skills
  20. Marketing – Telesales to leaflet design and freelance writing

Competition at the frontline – lessons for small business

East End Foods in Birmingham, UK, is a success story. A business that has grown to £180m turnover on the back of providing the right product at the right quality to the market. They even sell rice processed in Birmingham back to India – a modern day coals to Newcastle. The brand has the strength to make people see it and want it.

The food division processes rice, grains, spices and many other foods. But the wholesale cash and carry division shows their competitive spirit. A £25m investment in the Aston, Birmingham cash and carry warehouse is significant. Why? because it is a key link in the supply chain to the small retailer. They go to East End, stock up on the bulk supplies for their shops and merchandise this to the public. East End even work with retailers to improve their stores.

Going head to head with the retail multiples (Tesco, Asda etc) does not sound like a good strategy – but that is what they have done. They want to get the right product into shops to enable the shops to compete.

Being members of the UK buying consortium Landmark also helps. It enables them to buy from the manufacturers at prices comparable to the ‘mults’.

This business impresses on many levels – but what are the lessons for small businesses?

Cash is king – collect cash promptly and keep it in the business for re-investment

Process and operations – wholesale is low margin, so the operation has to be excellent to protect margin

Quality – if you want a brand to be recognised it needs investment in process and sourcing to get the right ingredients

Eye for detail – an ethos of detail first to remove waste, spot opportunities and realise them

Negotiate – everything is negotiable!

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