Archive for November, 2009

How to write a business plan

A business plan is crucial if you are thinking of setting up on your own. It will enable you to think carefully about what you will need to make your business work and is essential if you are trying to gain investment for your fledgling business. It should be a document that you continually refer to as your business develops.

A good business plan will cover the following points:

Executive summary – often written last but always read first. It is a summary of your business proposition, experience of the management team,  the product or service, summary of sales anticipated, market and financial summary. Try and keep it to 1-2 pages at the most.  This will be what investors want to see. If they like what they read they will read the rest of the plan in more detail.

Business background – detail as to the experience of the management involved. How did the business come about? What are its aims? Perform a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats/risks) that face your business.

Product/Service -What is your product/service? What are its selling points?  What is the price? Who are you aiming this product/service at?

Operational info – How will your business operate? Do you have premises? What will the overheads be? Who will manage  the company day to day?

Marketing Plan – Who are your competitors? Have you carried out market research to see if there is a need for this product/service? How much do you plan to spend on marketing? What sales tactics will you use? How exactly will you advertise/market yourself?

Financial info – a full breakdown of costs anticipated, investment required and finance already provided by management team, overhead costings, sales projections, profit and loss projections, and cashflow forecast for the next five years.

For more information on writing a business plan go to www.businesslink.gov.uk . They provide all the details and advice you need to get your idea off the ground.

In addition,  most banks have a small business advisor who can help you with all of the above.

Good luck!

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Setting up your own business

Have you ever thought about becoming your own boss and running your own business? Maybe you have recently been laid off and have some redundancy money that could set you up in a new career? Or maybe unemployment  has awoken your inner entrepreneur?

There are many advantages to working for yourself:

  • You can work the hours you choose
  • You can fit in around family commitments (if your business allows it)
  • You are your own boss
  • You can set up a business in an industry/service you have a passion for

Where to start?

Firstly, you need to think about the type of business you are planning to set up. Experience will always be a bonus but start locally with your research. Is there a gap in the market for a particular product/business or service? Do as much research as you can into competitors, cost of premises, overheads etc.

Perhaps you can set up an online business? Again, check out the competition and don’t order more stock in than you think you can realistically sell!

Write a business plan. This will help you think through your idea and can be presented to a bank if you need to ask for a loan.

Things to be aware of:

  • Setting up your own business can require a lot of initial financial investment and it may take a year or two of long hours and hard work to build your business up profitably.
  • With any business that you set up there are invariably risks you have to take.
  • You will need to take matters such as tax and national insurance into your own hands and ensure that all your paperwork is accurate and up to date.  Of course there are always tax advisers/book keepers and accountants that you can employ to help you out with that.

Useful websites:

Business Link is an excellent Government run website that gives advice on all aspects of setting up and marketing your own business. They also run free local training courses that will teach you all you need to know about setting up by yourself.

www.businesslink.gov.uk

For tax matters then see HM Revenue and Customs website which explains what you need to do to get started. It’s not as complicated as you may think!

www.hmrc.gov.uk

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EXTREME job hunting techniques!

Extreme Job HuntingDesperate times often call for desperate measures. With the recession, there has been an increase in what is known as “extreme job hunting”; people who will go to great lengths to stand out from the crowd, get noticed and land a job.

So, what works and what doesn’t?

In the US, possibly the birthplace of extreme job hunting, there have been news articles on the banker who donned a sandwich board and walked about the financial district of New York; the private nurse who printed up a T-shirt advertising her services and cycled about a wealthy surburb; and the marketing guy who sellotaped his CV to the inside of a taxi cab.

All 3 generated a lot of publicity but sadly, no firm job leads.

In the UK recently, a 35 year old unemployed man from Devon stood for two days in a layby holding a home made sign that read, “Work needed. Will do anything”. He was in luck. A local security firm offered him a job.

Other tactics that desperate job hunters have employed include offering a “bounty” – whereby they have offered a fee to anyone who can fix them up with an interview, or a lead that results in an interview. If you have the means to be able to do this, then it’s great idea! Job hunting is often about who you know. But make sure people don’t scam you!

Also, and again mainly from the US as far as I can see, is the You Tube CV. This is always a bit of a gamble because, unless you are a natural presenter and don’t feel awkward in front of the camera, many of them come across as staid and amateurish.  Plus, this approach is not very targetted. You are not speaking directly to potential employers but instead hoping that someone will stumble across it. Of course, you could always send the link to potential employers but think VERY carefully about using this approach!

Some industries definitely require a creative and proactive approach. Designers and marketing types often send examples of their creativity to potential employers in order to stand out from the crowd. Examples include: personalised coffee cups, CV mousemats or even a business card cake! Obviously this requires a bit of budget to be able to do this, but can work well in this field.

However,  while such “guerilla” tactics are becoming increasingly more common, it is best to ensure that you don’t get too carried away. Extreme job hunting is often not very targetted (e.g. handing flyers of your CV out on a street corner), can be expensive, may waste a lot of energy and may get you a reputation for being a bit of a stalker. The latter is true especially if you constantly turn up at a company, or continually ring or email prospective employers.

One woman in Japan was recently arrested for threatening to blow up the office building of the Nippon Telephone and Telegraph Agency if she was not hired for the role she was interviewed for. Funnily enough they didn’t give her the job. I doubt she will ever be employed by anyone ever again!

Be creative definitely, but don’t lose complete sight of  the traditional methods of expanding your network, improving your CV and using online jobs boards and agencies in your job search!

Let me know of course what has worked for you and what hasn’t!

Jo

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Be confident! Part Three – AFTER the interview

Hopefully you were successful and landed the job but what should you do AFTER an interview to stay confident if things didn’t go so well?

1. You may be feeling disappointed but first thing is DON’T take it personally! Stay positive.

2. Ask the employer/recruitment agency for feedback. Although is may be tough to hear it’s vital to know where you can improve for interviews in the future. Keep persisting with recruitment agencies as they can be slow to return feedback calls to candidates that didnt get through.

3. Don’t beat yourself up over things you should have said/could have answered better etc. Yes it’s good to know what you can improve but if you dwell on it, then it will be at the back of your mind for the next interview. Let it go and move on!

4. Don’t keep letters of rejection. I knew one guy who kept all his rejection letters in a file. Why do that ? Just to depress yourself?

5. Pick up the jobs paper, hit google or call round agencies to ensure that you are continuing the search for the next opportunity. Don’t sit about feeling sorry for yourself.

6. Read through your list of strengths and achievements and remind yourself of all the things you are good at.

7. As my Dad always says “What’s meant for you won’t go by you”. Obviously this job was just not meant to be and you’ll find a much better one soon!

So, stay positive and keep looking!

Good luck!

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Good news for private sector jobs!

Finally, things are looking up in the private sector according to a joint report published yesterday by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation and KPMG auditors.

Recruitment agencies across the UK reported that October has seen the highest level of job vacancies in over 17 months for both permanent and temporary staff. The Chief Executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, Kevin Green, feels that these figures indicate that UK unemployment will not hit the 3 million mark as has been anticipated by many to happen in the first quarter of 2010.

They also report that although wages have experienced a slight drop in the past month, this level is now slowing down in comparison with previous months. This suggests that the economy is starting to stabilise.

Although the biggest demand, the report states, was for medical staff and care workers in October, there were increased vacancies within the service (private) sector. However, while this is good news for the private sector, KPMG warn that the public sector will soon be facing the effects of a recession with the election of a new parliamentary team and the proposed public sector cut backs.

But, for struggling job hunters in the private sector, this report is optimistic news!

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Be confident! Part Two – DURING the interview

 

Here are some top confidence tips to not let nerves get the better of you in the interview:

  • Firm handshake.  You have probably heard this a million times and may need to practice beforehand. Do not crush the interviewer’s hand but also do not offer them a wet lettuce of  a handshake. (Make sure you wipe any clamminess off on the way in!)
  • Make a mental note to yourself of the interviewer’s eye colour. Not by staring in a weird psycho way, but ensure you make eye contact with him/her.
  • If you are offered a drink just ask for water.  If there are two interviewers you may find yourself making awkward conversation while one of them is off boiling the kettle which may unsettle your nerves. Plus, spilling water down yourself is better than getting coffee all down your front!
  • Interviews general compromise three elements:

Ability – this is the preparation prior to the interview (see Part One blog note). You know your abilities and have examples of experience.
Personality – make sure that you smile (but not like a Cheshire Cat), ask lots of questions and don’t butt in when the interviewer is talking.
Enthusiasm – avoid being negative about previous employers or moaning about anything! They want to see that you like the sound of the job, like the company and want to hear what YOU can offer them.

  • Watch the pace and tone of your voice. Don’t talk too fast or you will find you have reached the end of one sentence before you know what to say in the next. Then you end up talking rubbish. Make sure you don’t sound montonous or waffly.
  • You may get asked “What are your strengths?” – an easy question to answer if you have prepared well, but many people fall down and splutter when asked “What are your weaknesses?”. Obviously you don’t want to reel off a load of things you are not very good at but choose a couple from your preparation list and ALSO tell them what it is you are either doing at the moment to overcome this weakness (which is why I prefer to call them “areas of development”!) or what support you would need to improve in this area. It shows that you are aware of where you need to improve. Nobody is perfect.
  • Make sure you say “I” instead of “we” when talking about your past experience and abilities. “I did this…I did that…” rather then “We….”. You need to show that YOU were the one that did these things and not dilute it by suggesting that you were just a passenger.
  • Ask some “killer questions” at the end of the interview. Don’t rush straight in talking about salary but ask questions about the company’s future plans, career progression, market trends. Anything that will make you sound engaging and interested in what they do.
  • Finally, thank the interviewer/s for their time and shake their hand/s again.

Coming soon: Part Three…AFTER the interview

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