27/08/2010

Taken from a t-mobile business sense roundtable


How to get the finance you need

"When seeking investment make sure you put the time and effort into developing a solid business plan you can present to potential investors, be it the bank, your mum, or a VC," says Tim Campbell. The personal touch is also important: "Try to build a personal relationship with your bank manager, it makes a big difference" advises Andrew Cave from the Forum of Small Businesses (FSB).


Keep costs low by seeking help

When starting you need to keep expenditure to a minimum so look at the skill sets of friends and family and see where they might be able to help. "A good friend of mine is in IT so helped me build my website up, saving me the cost of a website developer," says sugargroup founder Geraldine Brooks. "Look at apprenticeships and work experience employees to help you fill gaps along the way - they get experience and you get an extra resource at a low cost" advises Tim Campbell. Resist the temptation to go with the norm: "By looking beyond the traditional grad pool and giving others a chance we found some outstanding and committed people who really care about our business," says Dave Miller, Co-Founder of Bikeworks. "There's a huge wealth of resources out there for small businesses on a variety of issues from building business plans, to how to market yourself - make the most of the internet!" advises Andrew Cave from the FSB.


Make the most of technology

The internet and mobile technology not only negate the need for pricey offices when starting out because you can do a lot of your work from home, they can also help you be more productive Geraldine Brooks from sugragroup explains, "having just got to grips with a BlackBerry myself it has made a massive difference to my business. I can respond more quickly to email wherever I am which helps keep my work-life balance and ensures I can establish great relationships with customers and partners because they know they will always get a quick response."


Focus on the essentials

"When setting up a business, there's often no need to spend large sums on new offices, fancy logos and designer furniture. It is far more important to keep a low cost base at the start, and keep as many costs variable as you can. Make sure you are not locked into long fixed tenancy contracts for example" explains Tim Campbell. He cites T-Mobile's research into business conventions showing that more than a third of business leaders (39%) don't think that the size, design and location of your office reflects the success of your business.


Play to your strengths

"There are many benefits small businesses have over their larger competitors," says Geraldine Brooks. "The agility to go the extra mile for customers, respond quickly to feedback and add the personal touch all help businesses like ours thrive where larger competitors can struggle to react in such a dynamic way."


Proactively seek advice

Bikeworks' Dave Miller believes in the importance of meeting and learning from other entrepreneurs, "be a sponge, learn from others' mistakes, as well as your own and proactively seek out mentors." Andrew Cave emphasises the value of the internet for this, "Since the rise of social networking, it's easier than ever to talk with other small businesses - make sure you're a part of this buzzing community."


Small businesses can contribute their views on this to T-Mobile's Business Sense site: www.t-mobile-business-sense.co.uk