How to get the most out of networking

University struggles to highlight the importance of business relationships and it can be easy to get caught up in the stresses of assignments and exams (as well as managing every other part of your life) without any thought to future employment.

Networking is a vital element in getting employment once you have finished your degree, whether you are a postgraduate or undergraduate student. Below are a few tips that will help you to get the most out of your networking experiences.

Seek relationships

Networking isn’t just about meeting people and trying to create a deal that works out well for both parties. Work to build a proper relationship with the people you meet so that there is a level of genuine care and it becomes a two way relationship.

It’s a great way to develop your communication and other social skills in a challenging environment but it will teach you that it is a lot easier than it may seem.

Be genuine

There can be a temptation to try and be something that you are not when at a networking event. It may feel forced or you may be a little bit nervous and think that you must be this perfect person for the professionals to like you.

Ultimately this isn’t the case as they are people just like you. Be honest with them and show your real self because this is likely to be far more sustainable and valuable in the long run.

Remain open-minded

The important thing at a network event is to be flexible. It is impossible to know what you will find and you don’t want to miss out on any valuable opportunities. Of course, you want to go in with a plan so that you can get to the point with the relevant people but it is important not to close yourself off from new ideas or approaches.

Indulge in the conversation

Whilst you may know exactly what you want to get out of any given networking even, in line with the above, stay open minded and fully engage in the conversation. Work into it and show a genuine passion for a given topic as this will make you appear interested and also eager to learn by asking lots of relevant questions. Do the same when being asked questions and provide detail starting from the top and expanding.

5 tips for growing your small business

If you’re already successfully running a small business then the logical next step is to start growing it any way you can. Expanding your business is the first step in expanding your market and your overall return on investment (ROI).

Whatever your specific goals for the growth of your business are, you’ll need to make sure it is prepared and ready to capitalise on new opportunities. Let’s take a look at some basic tips for growing your small business.

1 Make your business scalable for growth

You need prepare for changes in every part of your business ranging from bookkeeping all the way to stocktaking and making sure they can be scaled up to meet new demands. Imagine what the demands for your business will be over the next 5, 10 or even 20 years and prepare for them accordingly.

 2 Invest in automating business process

Whether you’re integrating new accounting software or totally streamlining your production with robotic labour, there’s a huge range of ways that you can use technology to reduce your overheads and create room for growth. New kinds of software and equipment can help reduce the waste of money, time and resources that human error brings.

3 Record business analytics

If you’re not making records of your business operations then you won’t have much information to work from when making future business decisions. There’s no way to know exactly which numbers will be crucial in the future so it’s prudent to establish a system whereby everything is catalogued and easily accessible.

4 Invest in your team

If you want to grow your business then don’t forget about the people who help you run it every day. Your staff is one of your greatest assets and you need to invest in them in order to get the most back.

For example; if your business is growing and establishing a new premises, hire the new manager internally rather than recruit externally. Giving your employees avenues to grow alongside your business establishes loyalty and commitment to your business because they have a personal stake in its success beyond just their paycheque.

Other ways to invest in your team add value to your business by training them in new skills or in how to use new technology. Spending money on developing your employees is a smart move for any growing business.

5 Network

Lastly, building relationships with other businesses provides countless opportunities for partnerships that can help your business grow. You may discover a cheaper supplier for some of your raw materials or may find a unique marketing opportunity, there’s no way to know unless you get out there and start making connections.

4 tips for running a business from home

Running a business form home is an idea that many people have but less are actually able to make work. A lot of people enjoy the act of building their own office space but end up finding it harder than they thought to separate their professional and personal life.

However, running your business from the comfort of home gives you a lot of added flexibility and might end up being the set-up for you. If you’re struggling to organise your business from home, try some of the following tips.

1 Get an organised and dedicated work space

Depending on the kind of business you’re in, your workspace might be in a spare room, on the dining table or even in the garage or shed. No matter where your workspace is, it needs to be clearly separate from the rest of your home and kept organised so that your personal life doesn’t obstruct your work.

This is a lot easier said than done, especially if you have unpredictable children or pets. If you have children then you should clearly explain that this is a special work area that they shouldn’t play in or even install a basic lock so that you can enjoy peace of mind when you’re out.

2 Invest in quality equipment

Your workspace is only as sophisticated as what you put into it and you obviously want to have the most modern workspace you can get. Make sure that you have all of the equipment you need to do the job just as well if not better than if you were as at dedicated business premises.

3 Schedule work hours

The hardest part about working from home is that it can be hard to police yourself so that you work as adequately as you would at dedicated premises. The biggest fear people have about working from home is that they’ll be too easily distracted from their work, and this fear is not unreasonable.

It’s essential that you allocate specific work hours and stick to them. If you start deviating from the schedule consider what distractions might be causing it and remove or mitigate them.

4 Ask for help

Working from home doesn’t mean working alone. Take advantage of having family members or roommates present and get them to help you with small tasks that don’t really need your attention like proofreading emails or packaging orders.

Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to running a productive and successful business from the comfort of your own home.

How to write a strategic plan for your business

If you’re running a business then you’re no stranger to planning as you’ve likely had to do a lot of it to get where you are now. However, when you want to tackle specific business goals you’ll need a strategic business plan in order to maximise your chances of achieving them.

A business plan or strategy is simply a document that gives an overview of your current status, the results you are seeking and the detailed steps that need to be taken to generate said results. A business plan can be used to achieve a wide range of different goals from attracting investors to launching a new marketing campaign, it all depends on you.

Let’s take a look at some of the basic steps for creating a strategic plan for your business.

Figure out what your goal is

The first step of creating any plan is to identify what the purpose of the plan is. In terms of your business, you need to have realistic and achievable goals that can be built upon later on as you grow.

Some common aims of a strategic business plan are:

  • Launching a new advertising campaign
  • Rebranding a product
  • Adapting to a change in the market or legislation
  • Briefing new investors or managers on the state of the business

Construct the strategy document

Now that you’ve identified what your goal is, you can start the construction of your business strategy document. The document is split into different sections and you may not choose to follow this format exactly, but the following will go into the most important areas.

Executive summary

Although the executive summary appears first, it should be completed last as it will summarise the rest of the information found in the document. This should be a well-written overview of the current status of where the business is as well as identify goals and disclaim how to achieve them.

Business analysis

Here you will provide in-depth details about your business, there are several subsections that are commonly covered such as:

  • Elevator pitch
  • Mission statement
  • Values/principles
  • SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats)
  • Service/product line
  • Goals
  • KPI’s (key performance indicators)

Market analysis

This is where you take a look at all of the outside factors that your business needs to operate with such as your customer base and your competitors. Every business plan needs to take these outside factors into consideration otherwise it’s functionally flying blind.

Like the business analysis, there are several subsections that need to be covered such as:

  • Industry analysis
  • Customer analysis
  • Competitor analysis
  • Routes to market
  • Regulatory restrictions

After this, you need to outline the actual steps you will take to achieve the goals and what your measure projections are. Following this basic framework you can create an informed and effective business plan.

How to get started on a website for your business

Operating an active website is commonly understood as an essential part of conducting business in the modern marketplace. With the increasingly populated internet severing as both a sales portal and marketing platform, your business can’t afford not to be online with its own website.

While everyone recognises the need to have a business website, not everyone has the knowledge or experience to make one that’s effective. An effective website must be able to clearly communicate information to visitors and convert them into leads for your business.

Let’s take a look at some basic steps for creating a business website.

Establish what your goals are

This step can be simple or complicated depending on your individual business circumstances. There are several different reasons to create a business website and you may have one or all of them:

  • Building an online presence for your brand
  • Providing an information platform for customers
  • Providing a sales platform for customers
  • Engaging and retaining internet traffic for marketing purposes

Set a strict budget

Websites can be notoriously big money pits, especially for business owners who underestimate the costs it takes to build what they really want. If you’re not strict with your budget and goals then the costs can quickly spiral out of control and leave you with an unsatisfying or unfinished website.

Some common budget considerations are:

  • Hiring a web designer
  • Hiring a copywriter
  • The amount that should be spent on content managements systems (CMS) and optimisation like search engine marketing (SEM) as well as search engine optimisation (SEO)

If you don’t have a lot of capital then you may have to sacrifice some features for the sake of getting a website running at all. The great thing about a website is that, unlike premises, it can be easily changed and updated as your business grows

Secure a domain name

The domain name is one of the most important aspects of your website as it is the main signal to search engines about who you are. This information is what makes you discoverable in internet search results which are the primary source of all website traffic.

Host your website

Websites cost money to host online and unless you’re already an expert it’s probably best to go with a 3rd party hosting solution. There are 3 main types of external web hosting:

  • Shared – the website exists on the same server as other websites
  • Dedicated – the website is hosted on a sever specifically designed for it
  • Collocated – the website is hosted on a dedicated server that is provided by an external web hosting provider

Following these steps you can get started with your own business website that will become an invaluable means of pushing your brand and driving future sales.

How to do your own business SWOT analysis

A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis is an incredibly useful business planning technique that helps you to evaluate your business and build a roadmap for moving forward. At its core, a SWOT analysis seeks to understand your business’ unique place in the market and what options it has for growth.

It’s a great method for minimising risk factors and maximising positive ones that are associated with your objective or current project. It also gives powerful insight into the fundamentals of your business and what aspects of them may need to change.

Let’s take a look at how to perform a SWOT analysis for your business.

Analyse your strengths

This is where you list all of the positive aspects of your business that are helping it such as having a great store location or highly trained employees. These factors are actively adding value to your business and are beneficial to whatever objective your SWOT analysis is being built for.

Analyse your weaknesses

While admitting weakness can be hard for some, it’s essential to be open and honest about where your business is failing so that you can correct it. Examples of weaknesses could be a bottleneck in your logistics or a lack of market share.

You need to make sure that you attempt to address all of these weaknesses or at least as many of them as you can before you move forward. If you come back in a year’s time you should notice that your weaknesses will have changed as your business progresses.

Analyse your opportunities

Now it’s time to take note of the potential opportunities for your business. These are not definite outcomes but are things that your business can potentially take advantage of in order to reach its goals.

Opportunities for your business could be anything from new technology to a change in government; all that matters is that they provide a means of reaching or improving on your goals.

Analyse your threats

The final part of your SWOT analysis is to identify the threats that your business faces. Think of theses as negative opportunities that would detract from your business goals if they became realised.

A threat could be a new competitor entering the market or a change in the law that affects how your business can operate. Threats are not necessarily things you can always overcome, but identifying them is nonetheless crucial in helping mitigate their effects.