All posts by LowCost LetterBox

Chelliah Nakeeran is the company director and contributes writing to LowCost LetterBox. Tristan Fialko is head of digital at a LowCost LetterBox and leads content writing.

5 Essential Services You Need: To Keep Your Business Healthy (Updated For 2018)

When starting a business it’s important to have an idea of what you are getting yourself into.

The reality is that starting a business can be very costly, as there are a number of services and systems that you may require to keep your business and yourself in check.

Making the right decision and knowing what you will need to purchase for new business will go a long way towards keeping your startup lean and healthy.

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Get set up with a payroll system

Get an accountant

Invest in client relationship management

Use a project management tool

Make use of professional business service

Get set up with a payroll system

Generating your employees pay can often be a nightmare to manage. However, if you are going to employ people to work for you, it’s important that they are well looked after. Payroll can often be outsourced to an accountant. 

However, it may be best to enroll your business with a payroll system. Some systems such as Payroo’s payroll system, can be used to manage a number of legalities surrounding pay ethic. This service links to HMRC for RTI submissions, Nest Pensions for your employee pensions and it allows up to 10 free users to access its features. Your employees can also check their pay slips and manage there taxes, P60s and P45s.

Get an accountant

Hiring an account can be considered a necessity for your business. They can help with a bunch of different things that may otherwise be difficult to do by yourself. They can help with loan applications, government audits, payroll and general bookkeeping.

You won’t always need to hire an account full time, you can hire one on a pay-as-you-go basis and just use them for the tasks you deem most fundamental to managing your business.

Hiring a professional to look after some of your business practices makes serious sense. You’ll have the reassurance that a professional is looking out for you and your businesses legalities.

You may need an accountant to help with;

Writing a business plan

Advice about legal structure

Help with managing your business’s finances

Audits & Pension Schemes

Xero.com is great accounting service provider and may be a good place to start looking.

In a recent article, Xero stated that it may take you up to 10 hours to do your taxes, if your time is worth its weight in gold, outsourcing this particular task to an accountant could prove to be a win win scenario.

healthy-business-person

Invest in client relationship management (CRM)

There may be a time when your business is starting to kick-off. When your startup really gets started you will need a platform from which to manage your clients and customers.

A CRM is also used to manage the data associated with those customers. As your customers use your site and its popularity increases, making sure you maintain the profile, accounts and data of your customers will become increasingly prevalent for your business.

Every time someone at your company picks up the phone to talk to a customer, a vast amount of information is shared and exchanged.

Without a CRM or some basic data recording you will miss out on a potential truck load of information you can keep on your consumers. Everything you find out about them can be recorded in a CRM. If a customer calls or makes an input on your website you will need to be there to capture their data.

Every inkling of information you can get on your customers will go along way towards converting those leads into sales.

By making sure you invest in good quality CRM you can keep a closer eye on your customer base and tailor your products, sales and marketing techniques accordingly.

CRM tools are plentiful but again, shop around and make sure you find the best deal. The services can vary greatly in what they offer and some are more tailored to specific business types so bare that in mind when you come to make a decision.  

CRM or customer relationship management will be essential for any B2B or B2C based business.

A more detailed article here.

Use a project management tool

No matter where you work in business, it’s quite likely that you will have a vast number of tasks to do on a daily basis. It can be easy to keep track of these task by simply creating a list or by creating a sheet in Excel or Google sheets.

However, most businesses that have 5 or more employees with a busy workload will need a centralised and preferably cloud based, project management tool.

Tools like Dapulse, can help you to keep track of your tasks with all the benefits and requirements that are desired by professional project managers.

Most project management tools use online cloud based systems that allow multiple users to login from varied locations.

A project management tool may include;

Projects & Tasks – List based input with schedules and deadlines

Contact Management – Simple CRM

Real-time – KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

Quoting and Invoicing

Team collaboration – Tasks to be tracked and scheduled by multiple team members

Online Team Discussion and Live Chats – For real-time collaborative work

Reporting and Tracking – For large projects with multiple inputs from team members

Task delegation – for project managers and team leaders

Message Boards – For project discussion

Email and desktop notifications

This list includes just some of the many technicalities and good project management tool can offer.

Basecamp, Dapulse and ProofHub are good places to start looking for project management tools.

Make use of professional business services

Last but certainly not least. Professional business service are a must for most new businesses. They can be useful, especially if you are not fortunate to have an official office location. A professional business service is an essential service to keep your business healthy.

Often a professional business service comes in the form of virtual services. The professional business provider can give you mailing addresses and phone lines that do not exist in your office.  Instead they are managed from the physical location of the provider’s own space.

For example, a virtual mailing address would be suitable for business owners who do not have a physical office address themselves. By signing up for a virtual office a new business owner can find a cheap solution for the management of their business and personal mail. You can also get packages and parcels signed for and kept securely.

This is certainly useful if you are out of office or a busy entrepreneur. You can rest assured that a team of professionals will be there to answer your business enquiries. A provider will sort through all of your physical mail. Most will even notify you via your preferred contact method to let you know that you have received mail.

Employees from a professional service provider can even open letters and parcels for you in your absence. As a business owner you will never miss an important letter from the bank or delivery of goods whilst at work.

In addition, most virtual office and virtual mailing address services will forward your mail to you. Here at Low Cost Letterbox we can even scan all of your letters to be sent directly to your electronic inbox (email).

Virtual address services will be essential if you live in temporary accommodation or if you are a serial entrepreneur.

We hope you found these tips useful.

Be sure to keep an eye out for our latest posts.

All the best,

The LCLB Team

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Outsourcing: The Advantages And Disadvantages (For New Business)

If you’re working in a new niche you may be under threat from similar startups who have also gained an understanding of your new niche. They may be outsourcing some of their tasks to speed up their development.

If you are thinking about starting your own business or you have a business already it may be that you want to work quickly and spend a little extra cash to get those difficult to do tasks completed with efficiency and professionalism. More often than not your business will require speedy completion of tasks to get ahead of competing businesses and outsourcing could be the solution.

It may be that you are willing to do the same. If so, here are some tips on how to outsource efficiently, as well as some examples of businesses that have succeeded through making use of outsourced services.

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What is outsourcing?

What sort of funding do you have?

How long can you take to get your product or service launched?

What do you want to achieve?

What types of services can be outsourced?

Are there any disadvantages to outsourcing?

An introduction to outsourcing

When you are first starting out, you will want to hire talented individuals with expertise in their required fields. It would normally be considered more efficient to hire an individual and to train them. Allowing them to grow along with your business will mean that they will gain a better understanding of their role and the wider goals of the business. Resulting in a more efficient situation for both the employee and the employer.

However, it’s not always that easy. Hiring talent is very expensive and the more specialist and experienced an individual is, the more that they will cost to maintain. You should always look after your employees if you want the best out of them. In reality we can’t always hire who we want, sometimes the talent isn’t available and as aforementioned it can often be expensive. So what should be done instead to get specialist work done without hiring? The answer may be outsourcing.

Outsourcing constitutes the purchasing of external services from a third party, to aid with business growth and practice. This is often an alternative to hiring talent directly under the employment of a business.

Although often shrouded by controversy, it’s important to understand that almost every business will need to outsource services at some point in its lifespan. There are efficient ways of doing so. I can’t talk too much about specific services as every business varies but there are a number of services out there that are required by almost every operating business.

Before you can decide whether or not your business needs to outsource talent ask yourself the following questions;

What sort of funding do you have?

Will you have issues with cash flow if you outsource specialist services? You may need to asses you finances to see if outsourcing is the right option for you. Most services will charge on a monthly basis, whether that is a quarter or half term the reality is that paying for a great external service may require paying out large sums. Running into issues with cash flow can cripple your business and leave you, your employees and customers in a bad way.

outsourcing-service-user

On the other hand consider if you have enough cash to hire the services via an internal employee. Essentially, try to understand if you can save time and effort by hiring directly rather than using an outsourced service. If you do decide to outsource, let’s say a developer for example, you will have to understand that they don’t work for you directly. Asking them to work like they do will not be possible, as they will have to spend time with their other clients too.

Once you are happy with their work it may be that you hire an internal developer to continue where they left off. If that is the case, remember that it will take them time to transition between the work that was done by the external developer. The type of work you outsource and its immediate relationship with your business should be a factor in deciding how you hire the related services.

More often than not an outsourced service will be cheaper but try to hire these specialists for one off tasks. Maintaining use of an outsourced serviced will not be beneficial in the long run. If you are going to need a job doing for an extended amount of time it’s usually recommended to invest in your own people.

How long can you take to get to your product or service launched?

Often times running a business can be demanding, none more so than when going out alone. If you have researched your niche and are working to build a business in an untapped or emerging market place it’s more than likely that you will run into direct competition and speedy development could become the fundamental factor that determines your success.

If that is the case outsourcing could be extremely beneficial.

Many successful businesses have be launched on the back of outsourcing. Slack, a business recently valued at $3 million, initially grew their business off the back of a outsourced service.

If you find yourself in a race consider that you may need to get to market first. You will be beaten out if your competitors outsource and you don’t. It can be crucial to determining your success.

In a previous article I highlighted a company called Eve Sleep. A brand new business developing comfortable mattresses. Their CEO, Jas Bagniewieski faces a tough competition with a number of new mattress brands appearing since his initial success. A perfect example of a niche business sector currently undergoing a race for expansion.

Getting setup quickly and using your funding to power through the competition is great if you can afford it, and doing so you will most likely find benefits to outsourcing in that case.

What do you want to achieve?

Consider your niche market.

If you are building a brand new app that’s never been done before, the chances are that outsourcing programmers will not be an option for you. Keeping your idea safe will be a top priority and the type of application you develop may require ground-breaking design in which case you will need to hire someone you trust and keep them working for you internally.

Outsourcing-agreement

It’s important to consider what type of business you are running and unloading the right tasks in the right places should be something that you consider very carefully.

What types of services and can be outsourced?

Again it’s important to note that every business is different but there are number of services that are going to be a mandatory requirement for a new or established business.

If you are running an online business you will need;

A Web-hosting service
An Inbound Mail-server
Outbound and Mail Outreach services
Mailing Automation
Developers
Graphic Designers
Social Media Marketing
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Paid Click Specialists (Pay-per-click | PPC)

outsourcing-get-what-you-pay-for

Regardless of whether or not your business is based online you will require;

A mailbox or mailing address to get post sent to
A company formation service to get your new business set up with companies house
Internet
Phonelines
Printing
Analytics Softwares
Payment Systems
Office Space & Meeting Rooms
Security Softwares for both websites and computers
Accounting
Administration
Secretarial Services
Booking Platforms

These are just some of the services you may end up outsourcing. However, it’s very likely that you require these and more. So consider which of these tasks can be handled by yourself or by your team, for how long and for how much. If you can’t complete these tasks then look to outsourcing but shop around and find the best service you can, that is both well priced and trustworthy.

If you require repeat work, taking the time to consider your options will pay off in the future as there can be devastating setbacks if you hire the wrong company to aid your business.

Are there any disadvantages to outsourcing?

Outsourcing is usually a very strategic and considered decision by business owners. Taking the option to outsource needs to be a carefully considered decision because there are often risks associated with choosing to do so. A business usually makes use of outsourcing when the resources and skills aren’t available internally. Nearly all businesses will need to consider outsourcing at some point during their operations.

The risks involved can include the following;

A loss of control. You may need a specific task outsourced whilst you build the funds to hire internally. This may include administrative tasks, such as telephone answering or you may need design work and web-development, if you run your business from an online platform.

Most of these tasks are on-going and you risk losing control over these specifics if you choose to outsource. A common example is when a business hires a coder, or developer to maintain a website of application. You may be able to make use of an external business to handle that side of the development, knowing that you will require additional work in the future means that the company you choose to outsource to will need to be trustworthy. More often than not a development company may move there efforts to aid another client and leave you in dust with no help to develop or maintain your service.

If this happens you can see a loss of productivity and you may have issues with the platform that require immediate attention. You could be left to find a new outsourced service or to hire internally at which point you will need to train the new employee and give them time to catch up on the existing work. This type of sudden change can be devastating in the early start of a business and this type of issue is more common than you might expect.

Its these sorts of issues that have lead to a distrust of outsourcing and why most companies take the time to carefully consider whether outsourcing is the right option. Examples of where outsourcing may be useful could be on-going services like a virtual office or mail forwarding service, these tasks can be outsourced cheaply and free you your time to manage your business without the need to sort your mail or wait around for deliveries. You may also require on off design work for a specific campaign that you are running, another example of where outsourcing could be a better option than hiring internally.

In conclusion

Whether your business is still an acorn of an idea or a fully functional organisation, the need for businesses to make use of outsourcing will not diminish anytime soon. You may be able to take advantage of experts who work virtually or be lucky enough to have the funds to hire talent. Outsourcing though, will never be outdone for the cash it can potentially save a business owner. Not only will you be able to keep costs down but the need to train and spend time with those individuals, you would have otherwise employed, will be drastically reduced. Meaning you will have more time to work on the important things your business requires from the day-to-day.

We hope you find these tips useful.

Read our previous article here.

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5 Of The Best Bootstrapped Business Ideas [In 2018]

In business terms, bootstrapping refers to starting a business without external aid from others, from both a personal and financial perspective. It’s a good thing the technique exists, as so many of us have the desire to start our own businesses but have very little capital on which to draw from. I have been in business with brand new startup owners and I have learnt that it’s far, far easier to spend money, than to make it. There are ways however, of starting a business on next to no budget.

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Stick to what you know

Planning for spending

Getting set up with a physical address

Crowdfunding

Partner up

Most of us have dreamt of starting our own business. You may well know the requirements of starting up but fear the next steps. Getting investors on board can seem like a mountain to climb. Especially if you do not have close friends or family with the means to back you up. For anyone who has started their own business the difficulties involved with getting interest and more importantly, investment, are more often beyond that of which, we as normal human-beings can manage. Bootstrapping a business can take away the stress of getting investors on board, by managing everything yourself and limiting your spending you may be able to kick-start your new business, stay lean and ultimately succeed all by yourself.

“Most of us have dreamt of starting our own business. You may well know the requirements of starting up but fear the next steps. Getting investors on board can seem like a mountain to climb.”

We wanted to shed some light on how and where you can gain traction for your new business. At very little or no cost to you. So without further explanation, here are our tips.

Don’t go in blind, stick to what you know.

For those who have experience working in startups, it’s often advised that budding entrepreneurs work in an industry that they already know. Familiarity with a niche domain, and by that I mean your specific business sector, is considered obligatory.

We wrote about this in an earlier article this year,  our Top 5 Tips For Startups, but it’s important to reiterate this point. Starting a business without specific industry experience can be a killer from the get go.

Attempt to learn your craft first. Working in your chosen industry can give you the relevant experience and an in depth understanding of its prerequisites. Starting your business without first hand industry experience can be considered detrimental to your future success. By working within your industry, not only will you become more knowledgeable about industry trends, but you will build up insight concerning your competitors and you will have the chance to build relationships with key individuals. Individuals who may be able to give you a leg up when you need it most.

If you are reading this, it’s most likely that you have already started your business or are on the verge of doing so. Being told to get a job in your chosen industry may seem like a taking a step back, or at least a distraction from your own business venture. However, you can gain industry insight in a number of ways.

We are lucky today in that we have access to unlimited resource from the internet and most online social communities are incredibly friendly and willing to help. So get on Reddit, get in Facebook groups and get on Twitter to shout for help. Some experts may even be willing to lend you their time face-to-face.

You could also join a co-working space like central-working. You may find yourself surrounded by entrepreneurs who have the same difficulties as you or even those who have learnt to surpass them. Don’t go in blind and certainly not alone.

Planning for spending

O.K,  so I have just spoken about how Bootstrapping your business can be beneficial as it usually means no cost. The reality is that there is no such thing as a purely bootstrapped business. The aim here would be to limit your spending as much as possible. Stay lean.

Gain a considered understanding of what your costs might be. The services you require, advertising, labour and design. If you’re manufacturing, what costs might you be subject to? Consider any penalties or administrative costs as well.  It’s best to overestimate here. Once you know what you might be spending on you will be able to go through your ‘shopping list’ and determine which services you may be able to negotiate on and which individuals may be able to help you with either free help or significantly reduced costing. Taking steps like this is great business practise. You can download a free business plan template from the princess trust. Use it to form your business practices and get an idea of what your costs might be. If you have a friend who works in finance, now would be the time to communicate with them.

Getting set up with a physical address

You may have the urge to get set-up with a physical office location. Having a place to work outside of your home can be really tempting when you first start out. There are certainly advantages to renting an office. You can make use of printers, phones, computers and have a clean and neat environment which ultimately might help you to stay focused. Not to mention the additional space for a studio or simply your new employees.

BUT..

And it’s a big BUT. The cost of a physical office can be huge. Paying rent and office admin fees may take away all of your  profit and if you are first starting out, the last thing you want to do is to spend your hard earned cash on assets that do not bring immediate return to your business. If you are still determined to get an office make sure you have customers first, running into problems with cash flow early on can paralyse your business and may end up leaving it dead in the water.

However, there are always alternatives to renting  an office. You may already be aware but if you aren’t, it’s important to know that most services you expect from a rented office can be hired at a significantly reduced fee. Instead of renting an office with a physical location you can use the service provided by a virtual office provider.

A virtual office includes;

A Trading Address. This is used for trading purposes, you can send and receive mail with this address.

This means any spam mail can be filtered here and important mail won’t go missing as you can get your provider to notify you about certain letters you may be expecting.

You will also get that mail forwarded to an address of your choice.

Some services allow for email and text notifications when you receive new mail.

Any mail you do receive can get sent to your home computer or mobile phone. Your provider can open your mail with your consent and proceed with making a digital scan which can be sent to your electronic devices.

A virtual office may also include a telephone landline with a telephone answering service. Also known as a virtual assistant.

An address in a prime location may be used to represent your business and can often impress clients.

Remember when trying to bootstrap your business you must always consider options that can cut costs.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding can be a great way to kick-start your business. It’s the practice of funding a project or new business venture by raising small amounts of money from a large amount of people. Crowdfunding can be achieved in a number of ways, through mail-order subscriptions or benefit events but the term usually refers to a method via internet related registries. Crowdfunding has been popular for a number of years and has contributed to the rise of a number of amazing projects that otherwise couldn’t have been possible without it.

There are a number of crowdfunding platforms available today. Some include;

Funding Circle

GoFundMe

CrowdFunder

Kickstarter

Some of the most successful businesses in the past few years have been a result of crowdfunding. One project, a crowdfunded video game called Star Citizen created by Wing Commander boss Chris Roberts, made history by becoming one of  the largest crowdfunding projects to date raising $163 million. This meant that funding had surpassed that of most triple A video games from larger studios.  Star Citizen began its funding on KickStarter. More recently a digital currency by the name of Filecoin, a blockchain virtual currency from the Ethereum platform, became the largest ever crowdfunded project, raising over $257 million dollars!

Crowdfunding has proved itself as a viable method of lean business design. However, if you are going to get people to buy into your business you must make sure you deliver on your promise, failure to do so will result in disaster and a collection of angry customers.

Partner-up

Find a co-founder. You can’t undertake this journey alone. Having an extra pair of hands to help you out, with an extra set of eyes to watch over you can be extremely valuable when you are first starting out. If you are bootstrapping your business, most of your work will be done internally. Your co-founder should bring additional funding but your skill sets should also compliment each other. If you can cover a broad range of skills between the two of you, you will have less chance of needing to outsource those projects to external specialist which will prove costly. Maintain the philosophy of low-spending.

Bonus

Focused on yourself as well as your business.

Ask yourself these questions;

Are you hiring the right people?  Are you being efficient with your spending? Could you learn skills that you need rather than outsourcing them? Remember, nothing is impossible to learn, if you can manage your time you may well be able to add to your skill set and save some serious cash.

We hope you found these tips helpful and we wish you the best of luck in your new venture!

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A New Series: Get Interviewed And Share Your Business Story

We’re inviting you to share your business stories with us!

Due to the nature of our business we work closely with young startups and small businesses from the day to day.

We thought it would be interesting to hear your business stories and give you the chance to promote your business from our platform.

Doing interviews is a great way to promote yourself and by answering our questions we in turn can provide you with a valuable link back to your website.

As part of our new blog series we are interviewing small business and startup owners!


How does it work?

E-mail us at info@lowcostletterbox.com

or contact me directly via Facebook.

Answer the following five interview questions in any way you like.

Provide a photo of yourself and any other photos owned by you that relate to your business.

We will link to your business from our site and promote the interview on social media.

It won’t cost you anything!

If you would like to be part of the series please don’t hesitate to get in touch! It’s a great way to promote your business!


The Questions

  1. Please introduce yourself and your business.
  2. Why did you start your business?
  3. What is your background as an entrepreneur?
  4. What is the most difficult part of running your business?
  5. What would you like to achieve in the near and distant future?

We hope you have fun answering the questions and we can’t wait to hear your responses!

All the best,

Tristan

DM @LCLB

 

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How A Virtual Office Can Help You (Run Your Business From Home)

Running any business is time consuming and from here in London, running a business can be extremely expensive. You may need space to work, store your files, computers and any other necessary equipment that ensures the day-to-day running of your business and for that you will require a virtual office.

Updated for: 28/11/2017


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Mail Handling and Letters

Registered Address

Mail Forwarding

Mail Scanning

Notifications

Time to collect


I currently have a friend who is in the beginning stages or starting his own business. Like many of us, he has a dream to be his own boss and to run his project with efficiency and minor costs. We would all like to run our business with a few costs as possible but bootstrapping a business isn’t always an option.

There are usually costs involved with most businesses, however you may already be in a position where you have managed to negate some of the costs of starting up. Perhaps you were given essential equipment by a friend or have decided to make your hobby your profession. The reality though, is at some point you will require the paperwork of a business and the use of additional services to help you manage your accounts, mail or phone calls. Administration services can be expensive and more often than not, you will need to employ someone to help take calls and to deal with your clients and customers by the day-to-day.

Most of us, no matter how hard we work, will need some help from an extra pair of hands but you need not employ someone straight away. More often than not you can outsource your administrative tasks to a professional business service company.

Most professional business services come in the form of a virtual office. A virtual office can come in many shapes and sizes but usually acts as an address service. A fee is paid to the provider and in return they will sign for your mail, file it and often forward the mail to your desired address. A virtual office differs from a serviced office or executive offices in that it represents a non-physical address and cannot be used by a client or customer as a traditional office space in which to work.

The following are some services you may expect to outsource as a self starter who is working from home.

1. Mail Handling & Letters

A virtual office  will usually include mail-handling. This means letters and parcels will be signed for. If you are out of your own office, whether that’s at home or a rented office, a virtual office provider can be there when you aren’t. It’s their job to sign for parcels and to deal with the postman. Letter sized mail usually makes up the majority of sent mail handled by postal services. Documents are normally printed on A4 paper (210x297mm) or a letter size (215x280mm). Although electronic mail is most popular for written correspondence and is usually the most efficient method, you may still receive mail concerning your business in the form of bills and new credit/debit cards as well as letters from your bank. Usually most written content that contains sensitive information is sent via physical mail to lessen the chances of that sensitive information being intercepted. In the United States of America it is considered a strict violation of the law for anyone other than the named addressee and government staff to open a mail not sent directly to them. However, in the UK and other countries you may request that an individual access the contents of an important letter on your behalf. A service that most virtual offices providers will happily oblige by.

Our top tip: When using your national post service to send mail (Royal Mail UK), it’s best to send your mail as registered mail. This allows the location and correct address of the mail to be tracked by you and by the mail provider. It’s usually more expensive but is generally recommended when sending and receiving important letters and parcels. Registered or recorded mail requires that an individual signs for the item upon receiving it. This method of sending is protected by The Recorded Delivery Services Act 1962.

2. Registered Addresses

Having someone to sign for your letters and handle them safely may prove beneficial to the daily running of your business but first you will require a registered address. Again, a registered address can come in different forms. Usually a provider will allow you to open two main account types.

A personal mailing address to be used by an individual for non-business purposes. This means letters must be directed to you as an individual, that’s by your own name. The address can not be used on websites, business cards or on any other form where it is showing as an address associated with your own business.

If you require the address for your business practices, usually an additional cost will ensue, but as this is the most popular use for a virtual address you will find that most services are setup to handle business mail. Additionally an individual can use a business account to receive mail addressed to their business, this also allow an individual to use the address of their virtual office as there own, for placement on business cards and daily correspondence.

The specific requirements of your business will vary but some may require that your business is associated with a prestigious address. To find out more about registered office addresses click here.

3. Mail Forwarding

Having an address to receive your correspondence, in the form of letters and parcels is great but you may also require that your mail is then forwarded to your personal address or a custom address that you have provided. A virtual office may include a mail-forwarding service. This means that you can get those important letters and parcels signed for and then sent to you, wherever you may be.

Most postal services have a mail-forwarding service although the cost and any additional forwarding fees will vary from provider to provider. Low Cost Letterbox has some of the most reasonable pricing for these services requirements.

Top Tip: It’s important to note that most providers will have a maximum size for parcels, usually a large parcel is up to 30x30x30cm or 5kg. This means that anything exceeding this size will require an additional fee to be both received and forwarded and may include additional charges

4. Mail-Scanning

Mail-scanning involves physical mail and the process of scanning the item via a scanner, to be consumed and mailed via a new electronic form, usually e-mail or via cloud services. Not all providers will include this type of service so watch out for additional charges from providers who include this service as an add on. Most of us deal with electronic paperwork on a daily basis and it may be that you prefer this type of forwarding over the traditional paper format. If this is the case look for a virtual office that includes this in their package types.

5. Notifications

So you have you virtual office up and running? Whilst your letters and parcels are being received and looked after, it then becomes no use to you if you don’t know what you have received and when. A virtual office provider will usually have a system for notifying you when you receive mail. This may be by text, by e-mail, a phone call or a notification by an app but most providers will be inclined to notify you that your mailbox has taken deliveries. Some clients may also require additional security, in which case a provider may be able to offer you alternative methods of notification.

6. Time to collect

Once you know you have mail you will need access to it. If mail-forwarding isn’t included in your plan you may need access to a nearby depot where your mail is being stored.

Top Tip: Make sure your virtual offices provider has an address close to your home or somewhere that you don’t mind commuting to collect. You will also need to bare in mind that your provider may not be open at early or late hours, beyond normal business hours, so keep an eye our for virtual office providers that have depots open 24 hours or on weekends.

Remote work and the use of virtual offices is on the rise. With an increase in rent and a decline in affordability, the most efficient and manageable system for handling your business administration may be through a virtual office provider. To find out more about our virtual offices, click here.

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We Invite You To Review Us On Google!

We invite you to review us on Google!

If you can help us out we can give you money off on your next renewal!

If you are an existing customer and have made use of services in recent months, you may have noticed we have been making changes to our site to offer you the best possible service we can provide.

Part of those changes mean that we would like to build trust in our services by posting reviews for new customers to see. However, we need your help, as an existing customer, if we are to achieve this!

We would love you to leave a review, it can be positive or negative, we will still reward you regardless!

 


If you would like to help us follow these short instructions;

How does it work?

1. Click on the link down below

Review us here by clicking here.

2. Give us a star rating

3. Tell us what you think

4. Tell us that you have reviewed us or leave your name on the review and we will reward you with £10 pounds off your next renewal!

That’s it, thank you so much!

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User Experience In 2018 (5 Of The Best User Experiences)

As a digital marketer I often spend my day wondering how I can improve my website to make it the best experience for my users. I’m still a junior and have encountered a hard learning curve when it comes to converting my leads into sales.

At times it can feel frustrating that so much effort is put into optimising my site for search engines, only to find that my customers aren’t using my site in a way that I would like. The new reality is that putting effort into search-engine-optimisation, social media and pay-per-click advertising are only some of the first steps to converting customer interest.

As the primary source for my traffic, Google is essential to my businesses well-being. With more and more regular updates from Google, the Hummingbird algorithm and the rolling out of Rankbrain, we can see the increasing importance of user experience design. Consistent specialist insight from the likes of Rand Fishkin at Moz, make it clear that there is continued focus, from search engines,  on user experience through optimised user interfaces. And thus,  everyday user experience is becoming increasingly prevalent in my work as a digital marketer.

I grew up playing video games from an early age and as such I have been exposed to digital user interfaces all my life. Some of the best and most refined user interfaces are from the makers of video games. With an increased complexity in video game manufacture, the menus that we use to navigate such programs require significant planning and thoroughly considered design. Intelligent design and the ease of use for customers can often make or break a video game. Confusing menus are to be avoided at all costs.

There is increasing evidence out there that suggests digital interfacing can benefit from a technique coined as gamification. Gamification in UX is nothing new and you don’t have to be making a video game to make use of it’s techniques.

I recently finished reading a great article by UX Planet that outlines how user engagement can benefit from gamification. But, what is gamification? According to the article, gamification can be roughly defined as, “the technique of exerting game mechanics into the non-game environment”. This can cover anything from fancy graphical integrations to animation reward based interactions. Web-designers and user interface designers make use of the techniques of gamification to make their application more fun to use. Simply put; their efforts are to make the user experience more enjoyable for a customer by enticing them with game-like mechanics.

The article goes on to explain which techniques of gamification can be exploited to better a user experience for customers. It used to be that designers would refine their designs through simplification. This technique still rings true in many cases but is often outweighed by adding techniques from the game world. Whilst making an application or website more simple to use, designers in addition, challenge their customers and attempt to retain their usage via reward based interactions.

The primary goal here, in my opinion, is to focus on user retention. If a customer enjoys using a service or interface then they are much more likely to return and consequently make a purchase. Jeffrey Humble defines user retention as “the activity that a selling organization undertakes to reduce customer defections”. According to Dynaware only 16% of users will return to an app that has crashed twice. With 25% of the world’s economy being attributed to digital business (Source: Accenture, Technology vision), the innovation required  for a better user experience is reinforced and can’t be ignored.

If you are a digital marketer you will be used to being pushed around by search engines and forced to alter the way you present your business online, for both the customer and the engine. I want to talk about the best techniques being applied by companies that are ahead of the curve when it comes to user experience. Some of which, make use of gamification.

Although gamification and VR technologies may be the latest additions to user experience. It’s some of the most successful internet companies today that had to pioneer their own techniques to best their competition.


Amazon

As part of my learning, I have been paying considerable attention to some of the most successful consumer sites on the internet. No other site on the internet is as critically acclaimed as Amazon when it comes to being on top of the e-commerce game. When designing a user interface it’s important not to overwhelm your customer with endless features. Amazon are champions of customer experience. They make use of countless techniques, many of which I will have overlooked and/or will fail to understand. However, I wanted to focus on one feature that I, and many others, think make Amazon the superstar service  it is today.

Amazon-shop-front
Credit Source: Wikipedia

It concerns Amazon’s use of ratings. They first introduced their product review system in 1995 and it wasn’t very popular among experts. However, the so called experts were soon proved wrong. In actuality, the introduction of a ratings system proved to be a success. By the turn of the millennium the internet was quickly becoming one of the most used and trusted sources for product research by consumers. Amazon recognised this early on. By 2008 up to 70% of Americans said that they consulted product reviews and consumer ratings before making a purchase (Source: Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates). It’s this fundamental statistic that had drawn our attention towards customer views in the world of web-retail.

Ebay/PayPal

As far as online auctions go, Ebay is one the best. It’s right there as one of the most popular millionaire making sites on the internet. Ebay was launched in 1995 by Pierre Omidyar. Originally the site was set up as Auction Web, only a small part of a larger personal site. It had been set up to sell Pez dispensers and additional kinds of collectables. In 2002, Ebay became the market leader in electronic commerce. Ebay, like Amazon, defined their profit margins by taking a fee from transactions, rather than stocking or selling the products themselves.

ebay-paypal
Ebay & PayPal

Ebay relies on a number of core features. Feedback, a section on the site allowing customers and clients to give feedback to one another and  to give feedback on the products that are being sold and bought. The feedback system is centred around a star rating, again much like Amazon.

Part of Ebay’s initial success depended on having a great payment system that would make their business of profiting from transactions, far easier to implement and manage by both their clients and themselves . PayPal also offers buyer protection, with a shield cover of up to $500. Ebay also offers their own protection, for buyers who are not using PayPal, with cover of up to $200. Ebay had previously built their own payment system called Billpoint. However, in 2002, Ebay acquired PayPal from inventors whom (included Elon Musk) for $1.5 billion.

In my opinion, it was the acquisition of PayPal that had set Ebay apart from it’s competitors. PayPal could offer its users a safer transaction, with built in fraud protection. After years of trialling payment systems, Ebay had finally found the perfect fit, although at a cost.

By 2007 PayPal had announced that they would partner with MasterCard to develop and launch the PayPal Secure Card service. An unrivalled service that meant customers could make use of PayPal on sites that did not accept PayPal Directly. Prior to this however, Ebay had stood alone in offering the most secure and efficient payment system in e-commerce. A triumph to better their customers experience. They would go on to profit themselves and their customers until present day.

Facebook

A lot has been said about the success of Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook. I have previously spoken about Zuckerberg as an entrepreneur here.

Facebook, originally called theFacebook, was developed under creative, black hat methods in order to undermine its competition. Zuckerberg had taken the hacker mentality and applied it to his development in Facebook. He took the idea that all information is free and should be shared freely. By extension Zuckerberg believes that through this rapid sharing of information, we should all become better connected and better off socially as a result. Whether or not this type of thinking will work or indeed has worked is yet to be determined but it has been this application of thinking that has brought Facebook to the forefront of social technologies.

facebook
Facebook
Credit Source: Pixbay

Over the years, Zuckerberg and his team have been able to maintain key philosophies that have been consistent  throughout Facebook’s lifespan. One of those being its design element. Users have never been and never will be subject to online adverts in the traditional sense. Facebook profits from ads but the philosophy of a simple and clean design that does not distract the user from a clean and efficient usage has been maintained and protected throughout Facebook’s development.

Although at times surrounded by controversy concerning the protection and/or profiting off of user data. Facebook has been able to sustain its high usage via regular updates to its intelligent design and user interface.  

Tinder

Tinder may not have been the first dating application built for mobile but it is certainly the most well known.  Tinder allows for communication between mutually interested users. By simply swiping right or left, an individual can indicate an interest for another.

tinder-app
Tinder App

Dating apps and websites have been around for as long as the internet has been. So why has Tinder has so much success?

Well I think it again comes down to the user experience. Tinder makes use of gamification by giving users a playful mechanic in the form of the swipe! On top of this, Tinders design allows users to feel rewarded for their use of the application. Getting matches can be considered as point based. The allocation of points that fulfil a reward based mechanic allow an individual to gain satisfaction and to track their status as a desired individual.

You can sign up for twitter via spotify and Facebook, this allows users to sign up very quickly, with very little effort and with most of their core profile data fully formed. This has meant that Tinder has become very popular among young individuals looking to form relationships. 

This year (2017) Tinder has released a desktop version of the app.

Playstation

I started this rant by talking about video game design so it seems right to end with it! The battle of the consoles or, entertainment systems if you prefer, is a topic that you may have read into. Even as non-gamer you will most certainly have heard of this intense rivalry. The competition between technology giants Microsoft and Sony has lead to some of the best innovations we have seen in user interface design over the past two decades!

playstation-controller-being-held
A Playstation 4 controller
Credit Source: Max Pixel

This vying for position has reached a pinnacle with the introduction of the latest generation of this type of consumer electronic. The recent efforts of both companies to gain top spot has lead their latest devices to be practically identical in internal capability, with almost equal power and practically identical parts. With each device’s physical presence having nothing to set one apart from the other, it has come down to the software and ultimately the user interface of each console that is set  to define their success in the consumer market. Since the consoles have had time to settle in the marketplace it’s become clear that there is only one winner of this excessive battling. Playstation.


I strongly believe that Playstation’s success in beating out Microsoft’s Xbox is to be awarded to its user interface that greets it’s players on start up. A simple design that allows user to manage their game library and watch TV in an uninhibited manner. A cleaner and ultimately more efficient design has won Playstation fans and newcomers alike.

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Top 5 Reasons To Use a Virtual Office in 2017 (An Info-graphic)

Whilst more and more businesses call for adaptable work hours, the virtual office makes an open door for individuals to work at whatever point they like from wherever they are.

Skip to;

Info-graphic

Additional Information

Updated for 2017.

What is a Virtual Office?

A virtual office is typically defined as a  location that does not exist in reality. A non physical address typically used by small companies who would like their mail and sometimes calls directed to.

A virtual office can provide businesses with an address that they can use to handle their general office admin. They are often sold within prestigious business locations such as a city’s commercial and downtown districts.

Consider drive time, low to no commute expenses and lower overhead expenses, having commuters travel less, builds efficiency, and allows those who work remotely to get a little extra out of their day.

In 2017 Jesse Cooper, took her London-based communications firm virtual. She saved money by not paying rent on downtime for her company building. For her, what was supposed to be a temporary cash saving method, ended up becoming a permanent situation. Jesse saved money, her productivity increased and her employees became far happier!

She was able to employ a plethora of talented individuals, all of whom were happier to work from home and non required the costs to relocate.

So why choose a virtual office?

 

1. Little to no commute time.

Many of us live close to our place of work, but for those of us who don’t, working remotely can offer an individual more time to sleep and work. This means less time wasted and more time spent being productive.

2. Your employees have more energy for the important things.

Although rather morbid, there are studies that suggest sitting at a desk for more than 11 hours a day can increase your risk of death by more than 40% in the next 3 years. Allowing yourself and your employees the freedom to move about will not only help to keep them energised but will also be beneficial to their well-being.

3. There are no limits on who you can employ with a virtual office.

So you’ve taken your business virtual? Well now you can employ anyone from anywhere! Say you need to be overseas every week, why not hire someone from the country you commute to instead? They can deal with the overseas clients and you won’t have to board a plane.

4. Save money.

Let’s be honest, most of us are in business to make money and the best of us know how to save it. Switching to a virtual office can save you money on utilities, office leasing and necessary hardware. Not to mention the costs of travel, if you commute to London like I do, saving money by staying at home could be a deciding factor when it come to choosing a virtual office.

5. You’ll gain in productivity.

As business owners we know that keeping our employees happy is fundamental to their productivity and in turn, the productivity of our business. You lose the stress of getting people together all in one room and instead you’ll replace it with a satisfying feeling, knowing that you can rely on a number of conference call technologies to handle the meeting for you.

Virtual offices have a number of benefits for business – more than this list entails. With better technologies for keeping people connected the traditional office is becoming outdated and uncomfortable.

If you would like to find out more about setting up a virtual office, visit our product page here.

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Self-employment & Remote Work for the UK Labour force (An Infographic)

I recently took the time to form this info-graphic from recent data shared via the Office for National Statistics. I hope you enjoy reading this info-graphic and feel free to share it.
Updated for: 02/11/2017

We have decided to put together an info-graphic, made up of collated statistics from the Office for National Statistics. The report is formed from facts and figures of different studies and surveys concerning the UK labour force from 2008 – 2017.

The virtual office can be a place of great benefit to those who are unable to make use of a physical office addresses.

Although services can vary the virtual office is usually aimed at the young entrepreneur, a startup or simply a freelancer who needs an office address for business use.

Remote workers can make use of virtual office services and as home-working is on the rise, now has never been a better time to sign-up.

Remote-work-infographic-2017

If you would like to use this info-graphic, please contact, tristan@lowcostletterbox.com

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5 Brilliant Startups (from the UK in 2017)

I’ve just finished writing my first list,  ranking startup gurus and why they are successful. However, most of those creative entrepreneurs who appeared in the list such as Mark Zuckerberg and Andy Rubin, are actually no longer owners of startups and stand behind some of the biggest corporate powerhouses in the world.
I work for a UK based startup and I thought it would be great if I covered some of the more recent companies that have been formed in the UK, specifically focused on those businesses that are performing beyond expectation in 2017.
Updated For: 01/11/17

Cornerstone (formed 2014)

Founder: Oliver Bridge.

Website: www.cornerstone.co.uk

Cornerstone was ranked number 10 this year in Startups top 100 list. There are a ton of other startups I could have picked for this number five position but I have to include Cornerstone in my top 5 based on the brilliant premise of Oliver Bridge’s business.

Oliver set out in 2014 with very particular goal in mind. He realised that the male grooming market was dominated by ‘ineffective and expensive’ products. So he created Cornerstone, an online subscription service made up of own-brand, quality shaving products for men.

Cornerstones 24 person unit, has over 110’000 customers in the UK, a figure that has doubled in only a year – and it’s no wonder why.  Having almost given up on clean shaving, I find Oliver and his two year old startup not only beneficial to me personally but also satisfying from a business perspective.

Ever since I shed my adolescence and started shaving I have been faced with a choice of two brands (that will remain unnamed). Both of which, have become increasingly overpriced, leaving many men ,including myself, with scruffy unshaven beards. In fact, this uncomfortable way of living has becoming so common that beards have become fashionable. Either that, or beards are simply cheaper to maintain.

Oliver said he ‘wants to completely destroy the men’s aisle at Boots and have every man in the UK getting their toiletries from Cornerstone’.

By growing his product line, Bridge wants to go on to sell his business for £100 million pounds by 2020. At the moment, he seems very much on track to do so.

Housekeep (formed 2014)

Founder: Avin Rabheru

Website: www.housekeep.com

Avin Rabheru, Housekeep’s founder and chief, first launched his Uber-esc house cleaning service back in 2014. Since then Housekeep has gained over 20’000 loyal customers with 1000 of those signed up for recurring subscriptions.

House keep was named by Startups Awards as Service Business of the Year in 2016 and they show no sign of slowing down with aims to increase their subscription customers to 10’000 over the next 12 months.

Housekeep currently operates within zones 1 -4 of the Greater London metropolis but Avin claims that there is every intent to take the company global.

Eve Sleep (Formed 2015)

Founders: Jas Bagniewieski, Kuba Wieczorek, Felix Lobkowicz, James Fryer, Abid Ismail

Website: www.evemattress.co.uk

In just two years Jas Bagniewieski and his team have launched six products in 12 countries. In May of this year, Eve announced its first IPO on the London Stock Exchange. A phenomenal indication of growth and potential for investors. Customers can see the benefit too, with more efficient advertising and faster delivery times, Jas and his company are surely on a path for further success.  

Although inundated with an influx of competing brands, it’s stands as a testament to these creative entrepreneurs, that they have been able to brush aside competition and come out on top with increased revenues of up to 355%. They went from an initial £2.6 million investment in 2015 to now showing capital of over £12 million.

The team said it took great branding, a great team and a great product but most importantly, a little bit of luck.

Perkbox (Formed 2012)

Founders: Saurav Chopra and Chieu Cao

Website: https://www.perkbox.com/uk/

According to the Perkbox website, ‘Perkbox helps business become happier by creating more inspiring places to work – through incentives known as perks, in order to provide financial, emotional and physical well being’.

Perkbox incentivises companies to sign up for it’s service by building tailor made perk plans for a company’s employee workforce. These perks can include supermarket savings, high street savings, gym discounts and free phone insurance as well as cycle2work schemes.

They have also teamed up with a number of well know brands such as M&S, Argos and Odeon. Companies with a subscription service can allow their employees to make use of these perk schemes with the idea being to improve productivity among the workforce. As smart idea from two genius, creative entrepreneurs.

Laundrapp (founded 2014)

Founder: Edward Relf

Website: https://www.laundrapp.com/

Laundrapp is another Uber-esc business. An app that allows its customers to have their washing picked up, cleaned and then dropped off at their desired location.

I was fortunate enough to meet the founder and CEO of Laundrapp, Edward Relf at his Covent Garden based offices. Although it was little known to the public at the time, Edward has just secured a deal to launch Laundrapp in 15 countries by the end of 2017. The idea was to license it’s logistics technology to laundry franchises across the globe.

Currently the service is available in 100 towns and cities across the UK and the app has been downloaded over a quarter of a million times since launch.

Despite not yet being a profitable business, it’s Edwards clear goals to expand that land him the number one spot on my list.

We hope you enjoyed our article be sure to comment and like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

Check out my previous article on Startup Gurus here.

Part two now available.

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Top 10 startup gurus (and why they’re successful | part 2)

A guru, from the Sanskrit, ‘master, teacher, and expert’.
We’ve been in business for over five years but we still call ourselves a startup. We take a great interest in the business of all types and thought now would be a great time to share our interest in some of the most exciting startup entrepreneurs of 2017.  So without further explanation, this is our list of startup gurus.
Updated: 30/10/2017

Part one here.

5. Andy Rubin

Andy-Rubin

Founder and CEO of Essential, formerly of Google, Apple Inc and Danger Inc. Andy left Google in 2014 and later launched his startup, Essential, a competitive smartphone company backed by a $330 million dollar investment. The phone, simply named the ‘Essential’ phone has been designed by Rubin and co to undermine the likes of Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy.

The Essential phone is the first step towards a larger goal of Rubin’s. Rubin has said he wants to launch multiple products in direct competition with some of the most hardcore tech companies in the world. The next product of the Essential Products line is rumoured to be a smart home-hub, similar to Google’s home and Amazon’s Alexa.

It may seem like a monumental task in today’s competitive market but Rubin is well qualified for the task. In 1989 he was nicknamed ‘Android’ by his co-workers at Apple due to his love for robotics. Android stuck and it became the apt name of his open-source operating system, a name that has now become synonymous with the smart-gadget industry.

After leaving Google’s Android program in 2014, Rubin focused much of his time on his startup incubator program, Playground Global, which he launched in 2015 with Peter Barrett. A tech-focused incubator that provides mentor-ship and funding via Redpoint Ventures, Rubin’s venture capital firm. The program is specifically focused around furthering developments in artificial intelligence (AI).

Despite Rubin’s rich tech background the competition he faces from the likes of his former employers at Google and Apple is overwhelming. However, he is determined to succeed. He claims via the Essential Phone website that he wants to take a simpler and more elegant smartphone to the market. He’s brought hangups about innate design flaws of Android to his engineers, with an aim to focus on craftsmanship and simplicity, that he believes the likes of Android and IOS have so far failed to do. Rubin has real doubts about closed ecosystems, like Apple’s IOS. He maintains that Essential’s OS will ‘play well with others’ and will aim to be open-source.

Rubin clearly has chip on his shoulder when it comes to innovative tech and he shows no sign of slowing down either. Thus he has made my list at number five.

4. Shradha Agarwal

Co-founder of Outcome Health. A startup focused on helping patients with chronic diseases. Outcome makes use of the latest innovations in tech to help doctors deliver the best treatment for their patients.

The company is helmed by CEO Rishi Shah and together with Shradha they have managed to bring in $500 million dollars with a valuation of more than $5 billion dollars. According to Fortune, Outcome has already fitted over 40’000 doctor’s offices with touch screen and tablets that aid doctors with their workflow and help to deliver valuable insight to patients.  

Outcome claim to bring health intelligence to more than half a billion patients and just under a quarter of a billion health care professionals each year in the US. Since launching in 2006, Shradha and Shah have managed to get their technology into almost 20% of doctors offices in the country.

This work is somewhat pioneering. Their aim is to further digitalise the way we treat health problems and in doing so to provide healthcare professionals with insight that they have previously been unable to make use of.

However, upon increased investigation into their website it becomes clear that Outcome’s goals are less to do with health information and more closely related to advertising. There tech not only aids doctors and patients, but it also sells to them and this is the crux of Shah and Shradha’s business plan.

Despite these entrepreneurs clearly prioritising money making above techy health benefits they are still contributing to humble cause and succeed where many greedy startups fail, which is why they have made this list at number four.

Check out this video of Outcome Health.

3. Brian Chesky

brian-chesky

Co-founder at AirBnb. Ranked number 4 this year on Fortune’s 40 under 40 list. Brian Chesky and his co-founders, Nathan Blecharczyk and Joe Gebbia, have been navigating their fly-by bookings platform Airbnb through one of its most turbulent years yet.

Brian has already come a long way. He previously worked as an industrial designer and was born into a poor family. His list of accolades, however is still growing and in 2015 he was named by President Obama as an Ambassador of Global Entrepreneurship.

A grand title for a young man who was once quoted in his school yearbook as saying “I’m sure I’ll amount to nothing”.

Chesky graduated from RISD and shortly thereafter moved to San Francisco with his to be co-founder, Gebbia. They attended a design conference there and found that all the hotels in town were fully booked. It was that same year in 2007 when Gebbia pitched Chesky the idea to rent space for people who couldn’t find a place to stay and thus Airbnb was born (initially Airbedandbreakfast.com).

The founders joined by Nathan Blecharczyk, have since shortened the name and have expanded into more than 34,000 cities. The company is current the second-highest valued startup in the US, valued at $31 billion dollars as of March 2017. That’s almost twice the value of the Hilton empire.

Brian, having been named in Time’s ‘100 most influential people of 2015’, has since been working hard to expand his business into China, under a new company name.

In January this year Brian tweeted that Airbnb would be giving free housing to refugees and any others who have not been allowed into the US as a response to President Trump’s Executive Order earlier this year.

The company is expanding rapidly and since becoming a profitable business in 2016 their revenue has grown by 80%. Chesky and his team have gone about acquiring multiple business in their niche, including a booking app, Resy, and a Canadian-based villa rental company named Luxury Retreats International.

Brian’s humble beginnings means he has come a lot further than most of the other entrepreneurs on this list and that’s why he claims the number three spot.

2. Mark Zuckerberg

mark-zuckerberg

Co-founder and CEO of Facebook Inc (worth $71.5 billion as of September 2017 – Forbes). Love him or loathe him, Zuckerberg’s name is as famous as his creation. Previously known as TheFacebook, Mark’s social network has become one of the highest valued ($500 billion dollars) and most certainly one of, if not the most influential media sites in the world.

I had just finished reading ‘The Accidental Billionaires’ by Ben Mezrich when the film ‘the Social Network’ hit cinemas. A creation adapted from Ben’s book, concerning the life and rise of Mark Zuckerberg, the now infamous creator of Facebook Inc. Infamous because Mark is often portrayed as the bad guy, a typically ruthless entrepreneur with a sharp eye for predicting trends. He is well known for making use of the latest psycho-analytical techniques to further the development of his renowned and vastly ‘liked’ (pun intended) social media site.

The story of Facebook is well documented but if you don’t know the rough details of how it came to be then make sure to check out ‘The Social Network’ starring Jesse Eisenberg as the bright college dropout.

It’s hard to talk about Zuckerberg without harping on about Facebook, but it’s not actually Facebook that ranks Zuckerberg so highly on my list. Much like Bill Gates and his spouse, Zuckerberg and his partner, Priscilla Chan, are dedicated to benefiting the world on humanitarian grounds. In 2015 the pair announced that around 99% of their shares in Facebook would be donated to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative – a limited company set up to “advance human potential and promote equality in areas such as health, education, scientific research and energy”.

Original article here.

But it’s not just this initiative that makes Zuckerberg so influential. He is now consistently ranked as one of the most powerful people in the world. My studies of Zuckerberg have lead me to believe that power is something he values highly. This control over Facebook gives him the power to determine the success of people’s businesses, influence elections and completely undermine well established news networks. However, despite Zuckerberg’s enormous power and combined wealth, it stands as a testimony to his character that he maintains his humanitarian beliefs. A belief system that so far,  has kept his potential abuse of power in check.

  1. Jeff Bezos

    jeff-bezos       

CEO, Amazon. According to Money this July (27th), Jeff Bezos became the richest person in the world with a net worth of more than $90 billion dollars. This July he surpassed his residential neighbour, Bill Gates.

O.K, this is post about startups and Amazon has far surpassed its humble beginnings as an online book store 23 years ago. But I wanted to mention Jeff and Amazon because of their consistent ability to innovate. Together Jeff and his team are surely one of the most interesting companies to watch in the near/distant future because of this.

Amazon is currently the world’s largest internet sales company and it’s closest competitor, isn’t really close at all (Alphabet Inc, almost $45 billion dollars behind in revenue). In 2015, Amazon surpassed Walmart as the most valuable retailer in the US.

There is plethora of information on the internet concerning this retail giant but it’s certainly the past couple of years where we have seen Amazon fulfil its market potential. In June this year, Amazon broke the news that they would be acquiring Whole Foods, a high-end supermarket chain and therefore provided a confirmation that Amazon is no longer an online only business empire.

With consistent innovation and expansion, such as Amazon prime and Amazon’s drone based delivery service, Amazon now owns over 40 subsidiaries. And that’s why I had to absolutely put Jeff and his business empire at the top of this list.

If you made it this far thanks for reading and be sure to check out part one if you haven’t already.

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Top 10 Startup Gurus (and why they’re successful | part 1)

A guru, from the Sanskrit, ‘master, teacher, and expert’.
We’ve been in business for over five years but we still call ourselves a startup. We take a great interest in the business of all types and thought now would be a great time to share our interest in some of the most exciting startup entrepreneurs of 2017.  So without further explanation, this is our list of startup gurus.
Updated for: 25/10/17

10. Justin Rosenstein, Co-Founder of Asana.

Justin’s startup is Asana, a project management tool used by businesses to plan and track their work. It was launched in 2008 and is now valued at over $280 million dollars.

Having previously worked at Google, it was when Justin was working at Facebook that he met Dustin Moskovitz, one of Zuckerberg’s famous co-founders. He left Facebook with shares worth over $730 million, which he deposited into a trust.

Rosenstein now leads product and design at Asana and along with Dustin they have recently celebrated reaching a milestone of over one billion users since launch. An impressive feat for any business.

“Success is a long series of problems” – Says Justin. He believes that CEOs are always working on problem solving. Call it what you want, solutioneering is what Justin has become master at managing. He says the path to success is a series of problem of solving tasks that get more and more difficult to manage as a company or business grows in size.

“It’s hard to maintain your focus on one thing at a time”. Justin tries his hardest to work with his team and uses a buddy system in his workplace to optimise the speed at which tasks can be completed.

Tips from Justin – clarity of purpose, clarity of plan. Don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed, maintain a large perspective and take each problem as it comes.

9. Elon Musk, PayPals creator, Co-Founder/Founder of Space-X, Hyperloop and Tesla motors.

Elon is one of my favourite CEOs of all time. Fearless, determined and passionate. Elon has been told no a million times, yet he always gets up and gets on with it.

It doesn’t seem like that long ago since Tesla motors, Musk’s electric car company, was receiving a bad wrap from a number of influential people in the automotive and energy industries. The same is currently happening for his Space-X program, with many claiming that Musk is either delusional or simply mad to perceive that we may be landing commercial spacecraft on our desolate red neighbour, Mars in the next 20 years.

I however, maintain support for Elon on his quest to better humanity. I often think I’m mad to be in support of his commercial space program when so many disagree, usually with the claim that ‘it’s a waste of money’ and that we should be focusing our efforts on the maintenance of this planet rather than trying to expand into the interstellar nether.

However, no matter what you think of Elon and Space-X it’s not so much his goals with the company that are worth debate, whilst his mission to better humanity in someway or the other is fundamentally his biggest win. By embarking on that fantastical and improbable mission, Elon inspires us all to reach for the stars.

His ethos is surely backed up by his venture into electric vehicles. This year Tesla skyrocketed in value, with wall street ramping up the value of shares within the company. Musk claimed that he believes that value to be higher than Tesla deserves. Modest he may be, but Tesla shows signs of picking up the pace. With a manufacturing deal outside the US, Elon will see his cars produced in Shanghai, China. The first factory of its kind outside the US.

Despite continued scrutiny, Elon Musk’s companies continue to thrive and inspire. That is why he has made our list at number nine.

8. James Heller – Co-Founder, Wrapify.

James is one of those talented individuals who sees the world from a lateral perspective. His company, Wrapify, makes use of one of the last frontiers of ad space. Automobiles. Obsessed with cars from a young age, James managed to find $2.9 million dollar investment to start his car wrapping company. Drivers are paid, on average, $350 dollars a month to wrap their cars in clients adverts.

Yes, O.K, we have seen adverts on cars before but not quite in the way that James and his team have engineered. Wrapify is fundamentally a digital company and has only been around since 2015, it sits in a market worth over $7.5 billion dollars.

“Their app automatically alerts drivers to new ad campaigns and provides brands with a dashboard that tracks how many people in real-time are seeing the ads”. – Forbes

Wrapify gives customers the chance to choose the advertiser and then have influence over the look of the advert, after all they are the ones who have to drive about with them.

At only 30, James has made Forbes 30 under 30 list. A decadent accolade to add to his success and a great reason for him to be on this list at number eight.

7. Jas Bagniewski – one of 5 Co-Founders at Eve Sleep.

Eve has recently turned 3 years old and although still a young startup it shines as one of the most promising hailing from the United Kingdom in recent years.

Jas, having studied an MBA at Cambridge University, went on to work for Rocket Internet, based in Berlin and it now has several thousand employees compared with the 40 odd before Jas joined. Having launched a successful price comparison website in Poland which he sold to Groupon, Jas has become a guru of the startup.

Specifically, Jas has become a master at efficiency. When he founded Eve, he realised that the mattress industry as a whole was deeply inefficient and so went about designing an up to date and streamlined business plan based around what he had learnt from his previous businesses.

In just two years Jas and his team have launched six products in 12 countries. In May of this year, Eve announced its first IPO on the London Stock Exchange. A phenomenal indication of growth and potential for investors. Customers can see the benefit too, with more efficient advertising and faster delivery times, Jas and his company are surely on a path for further success.  

Although inundated with an influx of competing brands, it’s stands as a testament to the Eve team that they have been able to brush aside competition and come out on top with increased revenues of up to 355%. They went from an initial £2.6 million investment in 2015 to now showing capital of over £12 million.

The team said it took great branding, a great team, a great product but most importantly, a little bit of luck.

6. Emily Weiss – Founder and CEO of Glossier

Emily started Glossier via her blog ‘Into the Gloss’ a beauty blog that she launched in 2010. Into the Gloss became very popular and Emily worked hard to build a following of avid readers. The blog quickly grew into a huge internet community.

Just four years after starting her blog Emily had launched her campaign into the world of fashion. She now employs over 45 individuals from all over the world and resides in NYC where she spends her time trawling social media for inspiration.

Emily still promotes her business via her blog and content marketing. With interviews from the likes of Kelly Rowland and open thread discussions, Emily closes the gap between her business and her customers. Furthermore, she allows her customers to influence the products she develops and promotes.

“Glossier is a new way of thinking about (and shopping for) beauty products” – Glossier website

Through years of reviews and product testing, Emily and her team have become experts on beauty products and thus have built their brand through their own material learning. They claim that there top shelf products are ‘distilled’ from years of recommendations. It’s this ingenuity and unique approach to marketing that lands Emily at number six in my list.

Thank you for taking the time to read our list of Top 10 Startup Gurus

Part 2 (5 -1) to come soon..

In the meantime check out our Top Tips for Startups here.

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9 Tips For Company Formation in 2017 (for the UK Business)

Company formation can be cheap and you shouldn’t have any trouble getting set up. We’ve written 9 top tips to help you with the formation of your new business.

I have previously spoken about top tips for those who are interested in starting their own business. You can read that article here.  Although those tips are focused around new startups you may still be wondering about the initial phases of company formation and you may it find it surprisingly easy. So let’s get started.

1.Contact HMRC

If you are a UK business, your first point of call is to get set-up with HMRC. Signing up with HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) is a necessary step to let the British government know that you; want a personal tax account, are an individual who needs to send a Self Assessment tax return or that you want to set up a limited company or other organisation that, by law, needs to pay tax. By signing into the .gov website you will be able to access additional information and register yourself as a UK business.

It’s also a good idea to complete HMRC’s free online training course that will give you great advice on record-keeping and filling in and filing your tax-returns.

The site will also offer you advice if you are planning on taking on employees as there is additional law surrounding employment, that must be followed if you want to avoid being penalised.

https://www.gov.uk/log-in-register-hmrc-online-services/register

This formation process is known as incorporation.

2. Get insured

Insurance can be a costly minefield, but it’s wise to get this set-up. There are a number of business out there that sell insurance and most of them will provide you with a free consultation or advice on which kinds of insurance you should get for your business.

When starting a business you will want to keep things lean and spend as little as possible so there is no need to rush this step. Shop around and find the best deal, either have a look around different sites manually or use a price comparison website to find yourself the best deal.

If you are interested to know what kinds of insurance you might need then check out the link below. Axa offers a great tool for doing this.
http://www.axa.co.uk/insurance/business/business-insurance-wizard/

3. Get a business name

This is the fun part. You may already have a name for your business, but you will need to check the name is free and then register it. Go to Companies House to see if the name you have chosen is available. Once you know it’s available it’s time to register at companies house. You can do this yourself but if you are unsure with the procedure then we will be happy to do this for you!

Check out our registered office address and company formations here.

4. Get a business bank account

Getting a business bank account can be essential to your startup. You will want a way of managing your finances that is separate to your personal accounts.

There are a number of reasons you may want to use a business account.

Most banks will offer you some form a consulting to help you with invoicing, grants and forms or short-term and long-term borrowing.

Where business and personal accounts differ, is generally to do with transaction fees. As such, it would be best to consult with your bank branch, or the bank that you intend to open an account with, to see which type of account may suit your personal and business needs. Handling a lot of cash and cheques may persuade your bank manager to give you a business account.

As a sole trade you may find there is no use in setting up your own business account. Many freelancers will have checks or BACS payments going to there accounts and opening a business account could be expensive and be more trouble than it’s worth.

As with any type of new deal it always best to shop around so go ahead and visit a price comparison site, such as Moneysupermarket.com.

Setting up a business account is the first step to managing your company’s finances however, you may require the help of an account to get up and running with other legal requirements such as VAT registration and corporate tax registration.

5. Educate yourself on compliance law

Make sure you educate yourself on the As to Zs of running a LTD company. If you live in the UK take the time to visit the government website here: https://www.gov.uk/browse/business/limited-company

There are number of tips from FAQs listed here, such as audit exemption for private limited companies, company tax returns and corporation tax.

Wikipedia defines compliance as the means to conforming to a rule. These may include, standard, law, policy and specification.

A term you may also hear is regulatory compliance. This refers to a goal that a company should take steps to achieving. For example, ensuring that they are aware of and take steps to comply with relevant laws and regulations.

6. Hire proffesionals

You will need to file your company’s accounts and tax returns and may need additional software to help you manage these files.

Depending on the size of your business and its locality, you may also need to file for additional documents, especially if you plan to operate part of your business from abroad, I.E an export business.

If you are still unsure of which laws you need to be adhering to and to which, if any laws you think you need protecting against, then it would be best to hire a business lawyer from the get go.

Entrepreneur has a great article on why you should hire legal advice. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/58326

Your lawyer should know how to register your business for your relevant countries law standards, this will include tax ID numbers and an understanding of the tax consequences of common business transactions.

In the uk, compliance law is covered for all organisations large and small. This includes the Data Protection Act 1998 and, for the public sector, Freedom of Information Act 2000.

7. Keep Records

Following on from our last step, it’s absolutely necessary for a any business, young or old, to keep records of all receipts and invoices for a company’s expenses. Keeping a record of everything from travel expenses, earnings and tax is required for protecting yourself in the future, you may be audited or caught out for any number of reasons, so keep records of everything you can and keep it organised. If you decided to hire an accountant make sure they are aware of your record keeping and ask them for advice on what you need to be keeping track of.

8. Be aware of pre-trading expenses.

You may be subject to a number of fees to get yourself set up. These may include.

Marketing costs; purchasing of domains, web-hosting, web-design and printed assets such as business cards and flyers.

Professional fees, for lawyers and accountants.

Costs of company formation and registration.

Office hire and equipment. Including broadband, telephone and fax.

Insurance for both public and employee liability.

9. Company formation agents

If you are still concerned about setting up a company by yourself you may require the services of a company formation agent. Agents are licensed by companies house to help form your company. They will deal with the necessary legalities and documentation required for registering with companies house.

Company formation sometimes requires additional documentation, such as a memorandum of association, in which a new business owner declares information about their business, how it will be run, what might be sold. All important information if you need handle any tax disputes or run into any legal difficulties.

Lowcostletterbox offers free consultation on company formation and we can help you with those early stages of setting up. You can check out our company formation packages here.

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Top 5 business tips (for Startups)

We have all had that eureka moment,  “That should be a business” you say. Or “I could make millions with this idea” you think to yourself. “I could do better” you shout at the TV whilst watching Dragons Den.

However, the main reason most of us don’t act upon these thoughts, no matter how good the idea, is that we all know the complexities and all demanding necessities of starting a business, giving it all up to work for yourself can seem both exciting and also very terrifying. So we have shared our top 5 business tips for startups!

The reality is that now one in ten people in the UK own their own business. With the difficulties induced by a turbulent economy. The necessity for self-employment and new business opportunities has become more and more pertinent in recent years.

However maintaining an encouraging outlook on starting a business is often overshadowed by overwhelming statistics.  The majority inspiring pessimism.

More than 50% of startups fail in their first year and become redundant.

The leading causes of startup failures include:

Incompetence – 46%

Lack of managerial experience – 30%

Neglect, fraud – 13%

Lack of industry experience at 11%

Credit to smallbiztrends

https://smallbiztrends.com/2016/11/startup-statistics-small-business.html

Having said that, there is a plethora of information out there for those of us who are brave enough to take the plunge and start up our own business doing what we love.

Here are our top 5 business tips for startups!

1. Learn your craft

We all learn on the job from time to time but this is not the right ideology when it comes to running your own business. Many successful business owners spent years perfecting their craft before they invested any money into their potential business. Invest in yourself first, your skills, knowledge and expertise will take you a long way towards your business goals and will be the perfect foundation for your new career.

 

Nothing you do goes to waste. We are instinctual creatures and actually learn much more from our mistakes than our successes – you wouldn’t eat a poisonous berry for a second time.

2. Understand your customer

Going into business without sufficient market research can be a killer from the get go. I’ve seen it before and I will see it again. If there isn’t a demand for your product then why waste your time.

You may think you are onto something, or be so confident in your designs that you know it will sell. The reality is that most of us aren’t blessed with a commercial and psychological understanding that is sufficient for overnight success.

Even someone as gifted as the designer Tom Ford will have done his market research or been aware of a demand from his previous roles.

Spending your initial investment on designs to hand over to manufactures, without market research, is like going in blind. You need to know what your customers need before they want it, and before it gets anywhere near launch.

Yes, market research can be hard to do when you don’t have any customers but there are a bunch of businesses out there that are set up to help with this process. They can provide you with willing applicants (Guinea pigs) that are willing to test your product and give (startups) life changing feedback.

Alvin C. Burns and Ronald F. Bush highlight the steps to performing excellent market research in their book ‘Marketing Research’. These include;

 

  • Establishing the need for market research
  • Defining the problem
  • Establishing research objectives
  • Determining research design
  • Identifying information types and sources
  • Methods of accessing data
  • Designing data collection forms
  • Sample plans and sizes
  • Collecting data
  • Analyzing data
  • Preparing and presenting the final research report

Again, there is plethora of information and books out there that can help you with this absolutely fundamental step.

There is another method that I think is a magical method for budding entrepreneurs..it’s called growth hacking.

3. Growth hack

Growth hacking. A term you may well have heard of.

Wikipedia defines growth hacking as ‘a set of both conventional and unconventional marketing experiments that lead to the growth of a business. Growth hackers are marketers, engineers and product managers that specifically focus on building and engaging the user base of a business.’

Growth hacking is generally a term that applies to marketers, but the same techniques can be applied to those who are designing both product and service type businesses.

Let’s jump into an example. Say you are designing an online platform that connects users X to customers Y. Your initial design phase is complete, you know who you would like to use the service and are close to launch.

STOP. You aren’t ready.

The product needs testing. It needs to be optimised before launch. This is where growth hacking techniques come into play. Start by testing your platform in a closed environment.

Get 10 – 20 users who are interested in the service and allow them to run riot. Get them to give feedback and monitor them closely – then optimize. (You can inspire people to sign-up by offering exclusivity, a technique used by Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. Exclusivity in itself can create demand).  

These initial samples can be in the form of focus groups but must remained closed and exclusive to a small number of participants.

Repeat this process with the same users whilst adding an additional sample. Already, you have 30 – 50 people actively using the service and you are yet to launch.

Repeat the process over and over, moving through Alpha and Beta stages, filtering in more and more users. By the time you come to launch your product/service will be optimised, tested and most importantly you will be launching with a customer base!

This is common technique used by video game manufacturers who usually launch their new games with player bases made up of thousands of players.

4. Write a business plan

A business that intends to return a profit will make use of a well thought out business plan. You can download a template for a business plan from the princess trust. Their site is a great resource and provides great tips on writing a business plan. When it comes to investment it will be important that you can present a well written and polished document.

A business plan will help you to determine your company’s objectives. If this is clearly laid out, then when you inevitably come to find difficulties – the plan will stand as a resource for you to refer back to and may help you to maintain your focus through difficult and challenging times.

https://www.princes-trust.org.uk/help-for-young-people/tools-resources/business-tools/business-plans

A business plan isn’t just a tool for investment it’s a tool for understanding how your business is put together.

5. Find mentoring and free consulting

A final tip would be to seek free help and advice, and there are many ways of doing this;

Firstly, there are number of online resources available. Blogs, magazines and free consulting can be found in the most unusual of places. Sign-up for services and await a sales call. You don’t need to pay for a service but in selling you their product a sales person may impart great advice or knowledge that you can apply to your business. Many business will do free audits of your site in order to persuade you to pay for their service, more often than not this information can be incredibly useful.

6. Bonus

Why not join a shared work-space? You will meet a bunch of entrepreneurs, many of whom will be happy to help you and impart free advice and consulting. They will be more experienced than you and will help instantly ad they will have already overcome the issues you are facing and yet to face.

We hope you found our business tips helpful! You can sign-up to our newsletter to receive more free articles for startup advice.

 

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Why work remotely? (11 Top Tips)

Remote work, freelancing, flextime and zero-hours contracts offer a wide range of adaptable work. In any case, it’s remote work that is upsetting the customary tech industry 9-to-5 crush.
Here are the reasons why..

At the point when representatives divert out their obligations from the workplace, that is remote working — otherwise called working from home and telecommuting. It’s not a win or bust definition. Some telecommuters, such as voyaging business people and call focus specialists, are forever far from their offices. Tablet employing centre chiefs consistently appear at the workplace. A few representatives, however, work remotely, mainly when the workplace is ablaze.

The conventional office is under assault, thumped by remote video calls, outsourcing, and labourers in coffeehouses. It’s a danger that the CEO of Yahoo!, Marissa Mayer, broadly endeavoured to stamp out by driving all representatives to work nearby. In any case, who needs to work in the old central hub? “You know what I need to do today? Drive to the workplace!” Said, nobody. Ever.

What’s more, remote working is on the ascent. A US government report said that 47% of its representatives (that is 1,020,034 individuals — no, truly, more than a million people) were qualified to telecommuting — a major increment throughout the prior year.

So is the workplace biting the dust? Is the fascination of working from the couch wearing a nightgown just excessively sold, making it impossible to stand up to? Two years ago, a British industry board drove by national newspaper,  The Guardian and telephone call organisation Powwownow led a round-table exchange to handle the issue of remote work. Among their worries: Can you believe it, a remote worker? Does non-attendance trump attendance? What will occur next? Here are some of their decisions.

1.Become less stressed.

Daryl Wilkinson, assemble head of computerised advancement at Nationwide Building Society, said he needed to urge remote attempting to enable his staff and as a show to whatever is left of the organisation. “There’s less worry in the workplace and the working environment — individuals feel engaged to work in a way that suits them and suits their business.”

2. Become well connected.

The pervasiveness of cell phones and web-based social networking mean you don’t need to be alongside somebody to impart viably. What’s more, new business patterns like remote organisation, cloud-based undertaking administration, video conferencing, and BYOD are expanding the adequacy of remote work.

4. Save on spending.

Empowering diverse methods for working enables organisations to lessen their lease and property costs, as per Ian Adams, head of strategic marketing development at outsourcing organisation Mitie.

5. Absenteeism is good.

“The capacity to work remotely wipes out the need for “presenteeism” — being in the workplace however much as could be expected,” said Jonathan Swan, arrangement and research officer for Working Families, a charity that specialises in work balance.

6. The new nimble working environment makes new occupations.

Better approaches for working require new parts in the organisation. “We’re seeing more prominent joint effort between HR, IT, property and offices administration and occupation titles like ‘work environment executive’ influence this light-footed work environment to happen,” Adams said.

7. Remote working gives decision.

As indicated by Robert Gorby, promoting chief of Powwownow, remote working gives decision. “Decision is critical. There shouldn’t be an innovation driven impulse to work unquestionably.”

8. Organisations take benefit from more joyful remote representatives.

Take a stab at crushing 40 winks into your office day. The truth is stranger than fiction; it’s inconceivable. “It’s tied in with working with the grain of individuals’ lives,” Swan said.

9. Telecommuters are more immersed.

Wilkinson stated, “When you’re tweeting with individuals in your group near midnight, it brings home that individuals are encountering something past ‘doing work’ — they’re occupied in an alternate way.”

10. Remote settings are superior to the workplace.

We’ve all caught wind of how J.K. Rowling composed a great deal of Harry Potter in her neighbourhood café. Presently office specialists can get some of that activity. “Adaptable working isn’t simply office or home — there might be some place close home with better offices,” said Celia Donne, worldwide operations chief of Regus, an office facilities supplier.

11. Driving is awful for you.

Indeed, even before the workday begins, working from home is an ideal situation and preferred to driving. As indicated by the UK Office of National Statistics, “Suburbanites have brought down life fulfilment, a lower sense that their day by day exercises are beneficial, bring down the levels of satisfaction and higher nervousness all things considered for non-workers.” Driving also means a higher carbon impression, making tree-huggers less joyful.

Thanks for reading, if you liked this post feel free to let me know and share it about.

Here is another great article about remote work – from onstartups.com

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Designing a stress free office (5 Top Tips)

The office space can be a place of focus and calm. We all get stressed at work sometimes. Whether it’s working on a new project or a tight deadline, stress can hold workers back from reaching their full potential! Here are our tips for a stress free office..

1. Quiet work-spaces

A quiet work-space can be the number one tool to help your employees optimise their concentration levels. In a post on ‘Hackernoon’, William Beck who works as a software strategist, conducted a survey and found that 58% of high-performing employees preferred their work-spaces to be silent and private for problem solving.  He also found that 62% of employees, from his anonymous survey, said that their office space was too distracting. His work is contributing to an on-going series to help find the most optimal environments for high-performing employees (HBEs).

So far his findings go against the open-plan office spaces that are so common today.

2. Maximise natural lighting

A study by the Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign found that office workers who had more exposure to natural, white light had increased productivity. Mainly due to better sleep cycles.

Natural light, as opposed to artificial light can maintain these health benefits. Being exposed to natural light throughout the day can help an employee’s natural body clock, ensuring that when they put their head down at the end of the day, in darkness, their body is aware of the change in light and can produce those all important hormones that induce sleep.

“Light is the most important synchronising agent for the brain and body” – Ivy Cheung, co-author and Ph.D. candidate in Neuroscience.

Keeping workers desk spaces near to natural light sources, at least 20 – 25 feet away can make all the difference.

The study was reported in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine in June 2014.

3. Designated relaxation areas

This one is much more simple than our previous tip. It’s requires a lot less work and you may not need to get your architect involved.

Designating areas within your office where employees can relax in quiet and comfortable spaces is certainly not a revolutionary idea, however it may be something that gets overlooked from time to time.

Assigning part of your office floor to become a ‘chill zone’ or break out area can make all the difference to your employees outlook and productivity.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook has become well known for making use of this technique. Here is a video on YouTube, credit to Times Now. Zuckerberg explains his office set-up and covers some of the important design features of his work-spaces.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZR_lWoTQX8

Some companies have even gone as far as to make designated meditation rooms, full of plants and zen inducing ornaments.

If you would like to do the same here is great place to start.

4. Establish collaboration spaces

Along with great places for workers to relax, it’s important to encourage great work-spaces for when employees are actually doing there jobs! Working together is essential and group exercises may already be encouraged in your office but, how about those all important meetings or collaborative group projects. Cramming round desks or piling into private offices is never ideal.  

Impromptu meetings may be a regular occurrence in your office so having an inspiring work-space for employees to get together and combine their creative assets can only be seen as a plus. Having a collaborative space in your office makes sense when it comes to creativity so why not make that space as interesting and inspiring as possible.

In the past, scheduled meetings have many employees, and are set-up in formal work-spaces called meeting rooms, but with the recent changes in communication technology and conference calling it’s become more necessary for offices to provide creative spaces for those unexpected collaborations.

5. The cost of stress and employee voice.

Research from EnMast, which is an online community for business owners, found that almost $300 billion dollars was lost in revenues due to employee absenteeism, and loss of productivity. Almost 40% of workers, in their study, said that they were less productive because of stress related issues, such as loss of sleep and lack of appetite.

With a recession on-going, or round the corner, the majority of us worry about our job security and the longevity of our work. This overshadowing issue combined with increased work-load can prove to much for many of us. 

By giving employees a voice, holding weekly meetings with HR and providing counselling sessions within the working week, you can create an environment where employees can feel comfortable with there work load as long as open communication is maintained throughout the business.  Allowing employees to share ideas for improvement can be a positive step to stopping things spiralling out of control.

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