Tag Archives: Business growth

Do you know what you don’t know?

Do you know what you don’t know?

Conscious incompetence is when you are aware of of what you don’t know. One of the keys in running a successful business is to be realistic about your skills, you can’t be good at everything after all. Outsourcing is important at this point as you hand over some aspects of your business to reliable professionals.

Richard Branson is well known for commenting “what I am good at doing is finding brilliant people,” and the trick of outsourcing is to choose good people. The problem arises when we have unconscious incompetence, we don’t know what we don’t know, as then we have no way of knowing if what we are doing is correct.

Good business owners are good at identifying their weaknesses and equally good at finding good people to do these roles.

If you are unsure of whether you can run your marketing campaigns in-house or whether you would be better off outsourcing your marketing, speak to us. We can talk through your business with you to help you understand your strengths and weaknesses and move forwards in a positive way. It may be that speaking to us confirms that you can run your own marketing in-house, or that you could run it, but it would be more cost effective to outsource it. Whatever the outcome, you will be confident that you have explored all the options and done the best for your company.

If you would like to have an informal, no obligation discussion about your marketing, call us today on 0121 222 5743

To see how we have helped another business owner with his marketing click below to watch the video

Mike Tombs is the owner of TLA Services an accountancy firm based in Worcestershire. Mike wanted to expand his business from just offering accountant services towards working more closely with businesses to help them grow, using his business skills to provide strategic business planning.

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants Ltd | Content Inc book review

Book Review: Content Inc. by Joe Pulizzi

Book Review: Content Inc. by Joe Pulizzi

Even in today’s fast-paced world, there is still a place for books. Especially good books. Content Inc. is one such book. To sit down and read a book makes us focus, and concentrate on how our business is running, rather than simply going through the motions. Content Inc by Joe Pulizzi is a very engaging readable book which will leave you with renewed passion for your existing business or help you to build your business model for your new venture.

His concept is simple. First develop your niche content to build your audience and then sell your product to your eagerly awaiting engaged followers. This is at direct odds to the traditional model of business, which is to design and manufacture or source a product and then spend money marketing and selling it. Pulizzi has taken tradition, turned it upside down, and shaken it out for good measure.

This book has been mainly geared towards the entrepreneur, but the process and lessons which he discusses are equally as applicable for long standing businesses who simply wish to improve their growth.  It is packed full of success stories, with a few examples of failure to provide balance. His message, and indeed morality, seems to be that if you put your mind to it you can achieve whatever you desire.

Pulizzi explains how to create a niche and build yourself a loyal and engaged audience. The process is laid out through six steps and each one is carefully broken down and explained. The examples used are pertinent to the step being discussed so the case studies are relevant and back up his explanation. The examples cover a range of different business models in varying industries from pools and spas to quilting. There are compelling personal insights from other company owners, which add credence to the case studies.

Once you follow his steps, the final step is to monetize your brand. By this point your audience is poised to buy, they already trust you, they already respect you, you have created your pipeline, you have built relationships, and the final step of the sale is suddenly easy.

I found this book really insightful, packed full of great tips and clearly laid out processes to follow. It gave me lots of ideas, and “take-away” thoughts. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone in business not just entrepreneurs!

Happy Marketing!


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Grab a grant

Grab a grant

There are several new initiatives designed to support growth for West Midlands businesses, so we thought we would share some of the programmes. For more information please call us  on 0121 222 5743 or use the contact details give for each fund.
West Midlands Manufacturing Growth Programme
The Manufacturing Growth Programme (MGP) provides free advice and support to manufacturing SMEs to help:
•    Identify opportunities and create plans for growth and improvement
•    Work with the best external experts to implement those plans
•    cover 35% of the cost of implementing the plans through a growth/improvement grant
•    Connect to wider support to maximise opportunities for growth
What the MGP means for manufacturing SMEs If you are an SME manufacturer, the Manufacturing Growth programme provides many advantages for you, including:
An independent business review to identify opportunities for business improvement and growth
•    A detailed action plan guiding you through the process of improving your business
•    Access to matched industry experts to provide consultancy and/or coaching tailored to your needs
•    Access to grants to co-fund your growth/improvement project

How you can benefit By joining the Manufacturing Support Programme, you can benefit from:
•    Insight into the risks/issues and opportunities for your business, helping you better plan for the future
•    Understanding of what needs to be done to make improvements
•    Work with new expertise to make bring about real development
•    Reduced cost, helping you make the changes you need sooner

If you are a manufacturing SME interested in finding out more, please contact the Greater Birmingham Growth Hub on 0800 032 3488 or email info@gbslepgrowthhub.co.uk.

Birmingham LEP Business Growth Programme
The new £33 million Business Growth Programme (BGP) has launched. Part funded by the European Regional Development Fund, this package of business support is designed to strengthen supply chains, stimulate innovation and grow existing Small to Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) across the Greater Birmingham and Solihull, Stoke and Staffordshire and The Marches Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).
European Regional Development Fund Property Investment Programme
Grants of up to €200,000 for SME’s in the GBSLEP area
Following a successful bid to the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Birmingham City Council is pleased to announce the launch of a new grant programme to encourage the improvement and development of key vacant, derelict or underused properties and sites for economic use, the grant programme will operate in the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) area, see plan opposite. The grant is designed to help businesses to improve their commercial premises by providing financial support towards the cost of building improvement works. The primary purpose of the scheme is to increase and/or improve business accommodation and to help create new employment opportunities.
Funding is targeted at eligible Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SME’s) located in GBSLEP area and delivering activities within the B1 and B2 planning categories (manufacturing and processing, office uses, business-to-business activities).
Eligible works include: for example, works which lead to increased commercial floor space and new jobs.
Please note that retail, housing, education, leisure uses and general property ‘uplift’ are NOT eligible.
All funding is discretionary and is managed by Birmingham City Council in accordance with ERDF guidelines.
Grants will be payable at up to 40% of eligible project development costs, subject to a maximum of €200,000, approximately £170,000.
Applications are invited on a first-come-first-served basis.
Further Information Please contact the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Growth Hub to obtain an application pack or to discuss your project. This can be done through one of the following:
Email: info@gbslepgrowthhub.co.uk
Call: 0800 032 3488

Within Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire
The Business Energy Efficiency Programme (BEEP) will help small- and medium-sized businesses to lower running costs, by reducing energy consumption and also help the environment by cutting carbon emissions.
•    Funding is now available to help lower running costs for energy efficient businesses.
Worcestershire County Council along with its partners Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce, Shropshire Chamber of Commerce, Herefordshire Council, Telford & Wrekin Council and the Worcestershire Districts have been awarded £1.45 million funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government’s European Regional Development Fund to help small- and medium-sized businesses.

Businesses on the programme will receive a free energy efficiency assessment review which will help businesses understand their energy usage and provide advice and recommendations on how to make improvements. This technical appraisal is equivalent of two days of business support.
Grants from £2,000 to £20,000 (maximum 40% of project costs) will also be available to help businesses undertake energy efficiency improvements such as lighting, heating, variable speed drives and compressors, energy efficient equipment, refrigeration, renewable technologies, behavioural change programmes, feasibility studies and more.
There will also be a series of energy efficiency events working alongside local partners to provide further support and learning opportunities to businesses.

Worcestershire  Skils training – fully funded training courses for employees. Includes leadership & management and technical skills. Priority sectors are advanced manufacturing. Contact Worcestershire Business central on 01905 677 888 to find out more.
Worcestershire County Council Proof of Concept grant funding programme can support SMEs to investigate, advance, commercialise and protect early stage innovative business ideas, through a partnership with the Central Technology Belt (CTB).
The Proof of Concept fund will provide grants of up to 50% of the total cost of a project (to a maximum contribution of £30,000) for businesses to prove that their innovations have significant economic potential.
Benefits to the companies
The grant can fund:
•    New machinery – Hardware and Equipment
•    Market Research and Assessment
•    IPR Protection
•    Accreditations
•    Prototyping
•    Marketing/Events/Demonstrations
•    Building works
Please note only external expenditure can be funded; internal costs such as staff salaries cannot be funded. The business would receive support from CTB Business Manager to get draft applications appraisal ready. Purpose: The grant encourages businesses to bring new products to market and introduce new products to the business, which will result in increased economic benefit and job creation in Worcestershire.
To qualify, your business must:
•    Be situated in and trading from Worcestershire, and
•    Employ fewer than 250 employees, and
•    Have a turnover of less than the equivalent of 50 million Euros per annum or an balance sheet of less than 43 million Euros
•    Applicants must demonstrate that they can match fund the remaining 50% of the project costs.
Please note some industries such as primary agriculture and retail are not eligible. Other activities excluded are social welfare and education facilities, banking and insurance.
For more information and details of how apply please contact the team on 01905 677 888 or email info@business-central.co.uk.

Women2Web is designed to support female entrepreneurs and budding entrepreneurs in Worcestershire.
In June 2014, Worcestershire County Council successfully applied to the Government Equality Office’s Superfast Broadband Challenge fund to support the project.
The fund was set up on the back of the Women’s Business Councils findings on enterprise, they found that:
•    There could be an extra one million female entrepreneurs if women started businesses at the same rate as men; and
•    There are over 2.4 million women who are not in work but want to work, and over 1.3 million women who want to work more hours.
The programme has supported over 500 women since it started, and Worcestershire County Council has committed to support the scheme until December 2016.
To have a look at some of our women’s case studies please read more here.
Good news, we have more courses!
Whether you’re a growing business or a budding entrepreneur, we have something for you, with our funded places offering:
•    Digital Training
•    Hands on IT Sessions
•    Group Mentoring
•    Networking
Women2Web is open to any female business owner, or aspiring business owner who lives or has a trading address within the County.
If you’re interested in joining our female business network, please contact the team on 01905 677 888 or email info@business-central.co.uk.
West Midlands – BCRS provides business loans ranging from £10,000 to £150,000.
Our loan fund has been especially designed to meet the needs of West Midlands based businesses that are unable to get loans from traditional sources such as banks. We understand that getting business finance can sometimes be a problem. Lack of track record, unreasonable security arrangements, past financial problems or simply not meeting conventional credit scoring methods may be hindering the process.
Our sole purpose is to provide access to finance to enable businesses to grow and prosper.
We don’t use impersonal computerised credit scoring and you will be able to talk to and meet one of our Business Development Managers to develop your loan application.
We offer loans to businesses making a positive contribution to the social, environmental or economic well-being of the West Midlands. We lend to most market sectors including construction, engineering, IT services, manufacturing, service providers and wholesalers.
A BCRS loan can be used for a wide range of projects including working capital, purchasing equipment, start-ups, recruitment and marketing.
If you are interested in a BCRS business loan please click onto the enquiry form icon and fill out the required information from their website www.bcrs.org.uk

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Aardvark Marketing | How big will your seedlings grow?

How big will your seedlings grow?

How big will your seedlings grow?

Easter is essentially a celebration of hope. The start of spring, the rising sap, the gently breaking buds on the trees, the watery sun beginning to warm up. Hope gets us through the winter and our hope is fulfilled as spring appears.

Many businesses started with hope and faith and a tiny seedling. They often start with flashes of inspiration, or sleepy late-night revelations. But seedlings do not grow with hope alone, they require soil, water and sunlight. Businesses too can flounder if they lack the necessary support and structure. Hope alone does not make your business thrive.

Planning is a good place to start with your business and seedling. Regular watering is vital to good growth, you do not want the soil to alternate between barren dryness and overwhelming flood conditions. In the same way your marketing needs to be regular to ensure a good flow of prospects, so that you are neither desperate for customers, nor drowning under an excessive workload.

Customers are like sunlight. You need to be able to see them and they you, to achieve growth. Where are you in relation to your competitors? Are you struggling for sunlight under the canopy of their leaves? Or have you managed to secure a spot in the market with good access to sunlight?

Soil is where your roots are. This is your foundation, this is what you are building on. Make sure your soil is robust and fertile. Make sure your business is built with a good team. A good team will allow your business to thrive, bad people will pull you down.

So remember all ideas start with small seedlings and all seedlings have the capacity for growth. They just need the right conditions.

Happy Easter and happy marketing!

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Aardvark Marketing | Monitoring does work!

Monitoring does work!

Monitoring does work!

I’m a professional accountant and I must believe that businesses that have proper monthly management accounts are better run than those that don’t. However, having seen David demonstrate the value of (using the right) KPIs, particularly for forecasting profit/cash downturns, I was beginning to wonder.
The biggest adjusting factor in most management accounts is the stock/wip figure. Therefore, if there is no monthly figure for stock (book or counted), then monthly management accounts are potentially meaningless, at least at the gross profit level.
So, I’m bemused by our recent experiences with one retail client:
This particular client, operating in Hereford, sells high value items in a mature market. Whilst our client is an independent operator, the competition is mostly from high street multiples selling more or less the same goods at lower prices on the back of lower service. Getting to a stock figure is a major undertaking on an annual basis, so the management accounts have always been put together without monthly stock. This seemed reasonable as the margin was rock solid at around 70%.
Then, in January, it fell of a cliff, dropping 10% points.
We all looked at the monthly figures and concluded that this must be a stock movement due to Christmas. It would bounce back next month.
But, next month, it was still at 60%.
And the month after.
By this point, David was jumping up and down, although the client and I were still inclined to shrug it off. The client quite rightly pointed out that the simple solution was to raise prices.
Fortunately, this client also has a very competent bookkeeper who was taking the problem seriously. She identified January as the point at which a new supplier was taken on because of delivery/admin problems with the biggest existing supplier. We provisionally concluded that this must be a coincidence as (surely?) this couldn’t cause such a big drop in margin.
The only way to prove the point was to follow all purchases through to sales for a given month and compare margins from the different suppliers. The bookkeeper went to it with enthusiasm and, sure enough, the margin on goods from the new supplier was much lower. Furthermore, the switch of suppliers led to a reduction in the volume rebates from the old supplier and, taken together, this was enough to drop the margin by 10% points.
The good news was that the activity created by the bookkeeper had raised awareness of the issue in the sales team and by now the margin was back to normal. The bad news was that this wobble had cost the company £25k in lost profit.
So, management accounts are useful, but you have to believe (and act on) what they are telling you.
Chris Duckett.
Chris is our guest blogger for March 2016
Owner of Chris Duckett Ltd, Accountancy and Business Development specialists

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