Neil Debenham

Neil Debenham

5 Ways to Use Technology to Help Your Business by Neil Debenham

Neil Debenham

From software to hardware, the right technology can be a valuable asset for your business that helps you to sell, manage and grow more effectively.

Many businesses are apprehensive to make use of new technologies but whilst technology has an obvious learning curve, mastering new tools can give your business a significant edge over your competitors and play a major role in fueling long-term growth.

Below, business expert Neil Debenham explains five ways that you can use technology to help your business grow, develop and improve, from improving the efficiency of your advertising to making it easier to collect payments from your customers.

Improve you and your team’s productivity

While technology can be a distraction when it’s used poorly, it can be a wonderful asset for your productivity when used correctly.

From day planners and to-do lists to collaboration tools, numerous different applications can make both yourself and members of your staff more productive, allowing you to get more done each day and produce better results.

Other applications, such as collaborative communications tools, can make it easier for members of your team to communicate with each other, enhancing collaboration and allowing your staff to work together on projects from any location.

Manage projects and other tasks more efficiently

Project management software is one of the most crowded sectors in the world of software as a service, or SaaS, and for good reason — the right project management apps can make staying on top of your business an effortless process.

Modern project management apps allow you to keep track of multiple projects at once from the convenience of your computer or mobile device. As the leader of a team, you can set objectives and break them down into specific tasks for your team members to complete.

You can also monitor progress with ease, letting you keep track of major priorities without any of the time-wasting meetings that can hold back productivity and slow down your business’s ability to get things done.

Laser target your advertising campaigns

Whether you sell directly to consumers or to other businesses, effective advertising is one of the best ways to grow your business and generate more profit.

Although online advertising has been around for decades, today’s digital platforms and tools are ideal for laser targeting your campaigns and delivering your message directly to the people and businesses most likely to work with you.

From Facebook and Twitter to Google’s own search and display advertising networks, make use of online advertising platforms to reach your audience directly and bypass the key inefficiencies of traditional marketing.

Other tools, such as content marketing and search engine optimisation software also give your business the ability to tap into valuable, high-ROI marketing channels to reach more customers and produce more sales.

Make collecting and receiving payments easier

Neil Debenham goes on to say, one of the most difficult, frustrating aspects of business is collecting payments from your clients and customers. From late payers to non-payers, many businesses struggle to stay on top of the accounts receivable side of their balance sheet.

Enter modern technology. With digital billing software, your business can automate much of the process of collecting payments, making it easier for your customers to pay you and even easier for your business to get paid.

From online platforms such as Stripe to credit card processing hardware designed specifically for retail, a variety of technology-based options are available to make collecting payments fast, simple and less of a headache for your business.

Offer better, more effective customer service

Finally, one of the most effective ways to use technology to help your business is to assist your customer service team.

Although customer service doesn’t drive sales from new customers, it plays a major role in your customer retention efforts — one of the most important parts of running a business that depends on returning customers and recurring revenue.

From customer support ticket systems to automated email follow-up sequences, there are many ways to use technology to help with customer service. Put these tools to use and your team will be able to serve more customers to a higher standard, helping to improve your retention rate.

Closing thoughts

Although technology can’t solve every business-related problem, the right combination of tools, applications and services can make running your business an easier process, freeing your time so that you can focus on high-level decisions.

From productivity tools to customer service apps, view your company’s spending on technology not as an expense, but as an investment in better results and a smarter business.

Neil Debenham

Tips for recruiting the right people by Neil Debenham

Neil Debenham

If you’ve been stung by an endless ream of people who aren’t fit for the job, it’s time to find someone who is committed to their career. Don’t waste any more time and effort.

Neil Debenham, a business adviser and corporate consultant, has these words of wisdom for those looking to recruit the best people for their company.

Advertise the vacancy well

A good starting place when recruiting is transparency. Lay everything out there by making sure all the job requirements, experience, knowledge and skills that are essential are clearly advertised. Not only does this save precious time in trawling through candidates who don’t fit the bill, but it will help you evaluate candidates and attract those who fit all your criteria, says Neil Debenham.

If it’s not an urgently needed position, it’s always worth hiring an intern – someone you could mould into the perfect member of staff. They would cost less in the initial years but on the downside, they may also leave the company when they’ve learned their skills.

Look beyond the CV

“CVs can cause all kinds of problems because from time to time, I find that people do lie. They don’t want to say they went travelling for a year because they’re embarrassed for some reason, so instead they spent the year in a call centre, only to be hung out to dry when references are sought,” Neil says.

But a CV isn’t everything. While it may show that someone is very capable of the job you want them to do, it isn’t a great way of testing their learning and analytical skills. After all, you want them to be able to pick up how to use your new system, quickly, right? A confident candidate is fantastic but at the end of the day, their work ethic and ability to learn are vital.

Ask the right questions

The job interview is a powerful factor in hiring an employee but the questions asked are the crux of hiring the right employee.

Interview questions that help you separate desirable candidates from average candidates are fundamental. Don’t ask leading questions or your typical ones that people would have prepared for, such as, ‘what are your weaknesses?’. No one is ever going to say they’re never on time or they don’t brush their teeth before work but everyone will say they’re a perfectionist. Yawn. Try to use examples where your interviewee will be put on the spot or have to think of a really good example, perhaps they may solve a problem.

See how they’d fit in

When it comes to hiring new staff, references are everything. You’ll need the newbie to fit in with your current team as any friction will cause a dip in productivity. Assess their compatibility skills and ask their previous employers how well they engaged and how they got on with clients. If you have any doubt about their ability to collaborate with others, they’re not a good fit for your team.

Neil adds: “Checking out their social media is also a great way to see how they interact with people. Are they witty, sensitive or extroverted? And is the person you see there, the right fit for your company?”

Interviews and feedback

It may be that several of your team sit in on the interviews and this is a fantastic way to get everyone involved in the hiring decision. But getting feedback from others around your building who interacted with the interviewee is vital. Ask the receptionist if they were polite. Did they make conversation? What was their first impression?

Are they a curious candidate?

When Neil Debenham is hiring people, he loves the part where he asks if his potential recruit has any questions.  Everyone knows you need to come to a job interview having researched the position but how well did they listen to your information about it in interview?

Neil says; “Hearing their questions tells you a lot about how they process information and respond to a situation in real-time. A super employee needs to be a great learner so being exceptionally curious is the crux behind high productivity and out-of-the-box ideas.”

You can follow Neil Debenham on Instagram , Twitter and Linked In

5 things to consider before you set up your new business by Neil Debenham

Neil Debenham

So, you’ve got a dream company you want to make a reality? You’ve even come up with a catchy name. But like most things in life, there are some more important steps to follow before you can get up and running, writes financial business guru, Neil Debenham.

Do your research

First things first. Do you really know your market? Who is it that is going to buy your products or services? Even if you think your idea is unique, chances are there is someone out there already doing something similar so you’ll want to make sure customers in your area come to you rather than go browsing elsewhere. Think what you can offer that is better or different, e.g more ethical or discounted rates for long-term custom.

To succeed in a new business, you really need to know your industry. You’ll want to dominate your local area. Be sure you know about any local competitors, so do your research down to the nitty gritty… know what they’re selling and who their market is. It’s all about delivering what your customer wants, adds Neil Debenham.

2. Write a business plan

One of the biggest mistakes in setting up a new company is not having a business plan. Ah, I’ll just make one up as I go along, you say, I’ll just see how it goes. Not a good idea.

Business plans can help you to obtain sources of funding, identify costs that may be involved, investments that many need to be made and details regarding your customers, as well as any challenges you may face down the line.

Who was to foresee one of the worst pandemics this country has ever faced, could happen, leaving businesses shut down for months up and down the country. If this was to happen to you, you’d need plans in place for an emergency cash stash, for example.

It doesn’t need to be world-beating, it just needs to cover the main points about your proposed cost or service. If you need a simple guide, The Small Business Administration offers a great template to help you write one from scratch.

3. Market yourself!

There are loads of ways to get your name out there. If you can’t afford to hire a PR team or marketing consultant at first, you’ll need to do it yourself. Check out similar businesses’ facebook pages and check out how they interact with their customers. Do the same. See where your customers exist. Are they insta-kids or are they still lagging behind on Flickr?

Market to them based on their lifestyles, where they go and what they do.

4. Tread carefully with cash

One of the major reasons that new businesses flunk is because they run out of cash. Perhaps  you invested your savings, you borrowed to the max or you had to cease trading before and so lending again is proving difficult.

Neil Debenham, who acts as an adviser and troubleshooter to a range of financial businesses, says a cash flow system is crucial from the off. This includes writing invoices on time and keeping track of when they are paid, as well as sending off those late payment reminders. There are dozens of apps such as QuickBooks to help you do this.

5. Tell the tax man

You must not miss out this step. Register your business with HMRC as soon as you can or you might end up with some unplanned-for surprises just when you think you’re coining it in.

Depending on your position in your new company you may have to pay different taxes to if you’re a sole trader, so you’ll need to check out all of the options. You may also need to register to pay VAT, depending on your profit.

You can access several software providers such as FreeAgent, which let you know when tax deadlines are coming, as these can be very costly if missed! If you’re unsure, it’s always worth hiring an accountant, which will prove essential if you’re a limited company.

You can follow Neil Debenham on Instagram , Twitter and Linked In

Sin No1: Lust Falling in Love With Business by Neil Debenham

In the first of seven articles on the Seven Deadly Sins of Business Neil Debenham looks at Lust and how it can destroy a business.

If you asked a bunch of schoolkids ten years ago what career they wanted when they left school, you would have probably heard words like doctor, nurse, vet or teacher.

Now it’s more likely to be YouTube star or entrepreneur.

The fact is today’s youngsters crave celebrity and they see business as a route to fame and fortune – and who could blame them with YouTube stars earning seven figures doing something they enjoy. The idea of working for a living all of a sudden seems like hard work.

And here lies the big challenge for business over the next few decades. People are falling in love with the idea of business, rather than business itself.  The perception of power and glory is racing way ahead of the reality of running a business which is more about hard work and resilience.

It’s easy to see why business has an aura of celebrity surrounding it. Programmes like Billionaire, Succession, Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice all glamorise business and the riches it can bring. It’s also hard to ignore the runaway success of entrepreneurs like James Dyson and Elon Musk who have become role models for the younger generation.

The reality is that business is not a soft choice of career.

Remarkably, 660,000 new companies are registered in the UK every year. That’s equal to 70 new businesses being formed every hour.

Yet 60% of those new businesses will go-under within three years, and 20 per cent will close their doors within just 12 months.

Of course, businesses fail for many reasons, some just don’t pass the market test and become victim of the natural forces of innovation and competition.

Whilst flourishing entrepreneurial spirit is a cause for celebration, glamorising entrepreneurial success will inevitably be accompanied by stress, debt and humiliation, which can sap future ambition.

Life in business is difficult. To the outside world, it can bring riches and power but to achieve this you must lead from the front by putting yourself last.

Very early on in business I learned the hard way that I am the least important person in my company. Once I have paid my taxes, my bills, my staff members, my professional advisors (accountants, lawyers etc) if and only if there was any money left over, I could pay Neil Debenham. This realisation always comes at the start of an entrepreneur’s journey and only those that hold true resilience will make it through without returning to the comfort zone of a salary and limited corporate responsibilities.

Neil Debenham

Unlike most other trades and professions, you don’t need any special qualifications or training to start a business. Yet you need a lot of skills to make it a success. Many young entrepreneurs lack some of the basic skills like cash flow management, forecasting and team management.

A survey from the recruiter Robert Half claims that half (50 percent) of management candidates lack leadership skills, with nearly one in five (18 percent) candidates falling short on planning skills, and 14 percent lacking communication skills.

Here are Neil Debenham’s top five skills needed in business.

  1. Financial skills. You need to be on top of cash flow management – knowing what’s coming in and when. A profitable business can fold simply because income is running behind expenditure. If you get paid £100 every Tuesday but must pay out £90 every Monday it will take 10 weeks to get int the red, despite a profit on paper. Switch that around by getting paid before paying out, then you will be £100 up in week ten.
  2. You must have the emotional strength to bounce back from adversity. Ten years ago, I lost everything. Literally, everything. Today, I have twice as much. From personal experience I cannot stress the importance of this enough. You must consider any failure as a win and a loss as a gain in knowledge. Mindset is everything.
  3. Leading a team and taking ownership of a project is all part of the natural progression in business and it’s something every entrepreneur has to do at some point or another. People make businesses and to succeed, you must be able to manage them. You must be the producer, script writer and director of your business and your team will rely on you for the correct guidance in order to execute to your standards.
  4. Every successful business leader has a vision. An idea of where the business is going and how to get there. Too many businesses are rooted in the present rather than the future. Your vision is your guiding light and the benchmark against which every idea should be tested. Don’t be scared to adjust this vision on a daily basis if need be. The journey will never be as you planned it so be prepared to adjust to the demands of your customers and marketplace.
  5. Sales acumen. You must be able to convince someone to buy from you. It does not mean you have to be a slick salesperson, but you must be able to express your passion for business and demonstrate how the customer could benefit.

So, beware: lust in business is a sin. Love your business and treat it well, but do not fall in love with the idea of business. It is not an easy option and the chances of failure are high. But give it the respect it deserves, and it will repay your investment many times over and also remember, Your business is a vehicle to make money , create freedom and deliver your vision. Treat it with care but always remember to know when to hold them and know when to fold them. If it’s time to let go, let go but ALWAYS start again.