employee

4 Effective Employee Retention Strategies

Employee Retention: Why do employees leave?

6 Minute Read

employee
Before exploring how to keep employees the best starting point surely is to ask: why do staff consider leaving in the first place? Oddly, more often than not it’s not about (or just concerned with) money. Of course, it is important to correctly value your staff but a lucrative salary isn’t enough alone to demonstrate this.

Employees leave for a multitude of different reasons: to seek a new challenge, to secure a better work-life balance, not aligning with company values or ethics, a lack of development opportunities, or even bad leadership and a lack of respect. 

So what can you do?

1. Talk to your employees

The significance of communication at any stage of the employment lifecycle from recruitment through to exit cannot be underestimated. 

Take for example, the dreaded annual appraisal. If your performance management process revolves around an annual appraisal- you need to urgently rethink. This strategy neither benefits the employee, nor the business because in short. If you are only giving your employees the opportunity to talk about their job once a year, how will they be motivated to contribute towards company objectives (if they are even aware of them), or highlight issues affecting their team, or even let you know they are thinking about next steps before it’s too late to change their minds?

This is not an article about performance management but all this to say; a culture that keeps employees engaged and in the business is one that encourages them to speak about the challenges they are facing. If you want to retain employees you need to be checking in with them regularly and not just inviting them to a formal meeting when you have a problem with their performance. If this is the case, they won’t trust that they can come to you for advice which could have prevented the issue occurring in the first place.

A happy employee is a high performer, and will be most likely to stay. Employees want to feel that their work is meaningful and of value: so keeping them up to date with company developments and making them aware of how they contribute to the company’s mission and how they fit in is pivotal to any retention strategy.

And if an employee has already handed in their resignation? Treat it as a data gathering exercise, hold an exit interview to ask them why. 

Without talking to employees and giving them a voice you can’t know what the problem is, you can only guess. You can’t prevent a problem if you don’t know the main reason behind it. 

2. Identify your high performers

As with everything, the narrower your focus the higher the chance of success. This also feeds into creating and performing a High Performance Working culture. Knowing how to identify high performing employees enables you to recruit, manage, and retain top performers. 

A common pitfall however, is not investing in them to learn new skills because things are working well as they are or keeping these employees in the job that they’re doing because they’re good at doing it .Understandably, you can’t always do what’s best for your employees as a successful business but neither should you overly depend on keeping the status quo as it is.

So how do you inspire your top performers? You can’t always promote everyone who is good at what they do, but you can give them more opportunities to both push the business forward and give them the opportunity to develop. Therefore resulting in them feeling that their work, contribution, and ideas are valued. For example; you could explore getting them to mentor other employees, or introducing a commission scheme to reward them for hitting targets. Or you could look at introducing Professional Development Plans so employees are encouraged and supported to move forward. Exploring horizontal as well as vertical career pathways to avoid those employees you want to keep falling into a rut or inadvertently restricting their contribution, skills and abilities to one department or area within your organisation - the result being that it is not just the employee that benefits but the organisation and its working culture and employer brand as a whole. 

3. Understand the importance of development

Multiple studies have been conducted which clearly show training alone is not enough to keep an employee. It is not unusual for managers to avoid offering training to their employees for fear that they will use it to find a higher-paying job elsewhere. So why do employees leave after successfully completing their training? 

The simple truth is that training is not the same as learning and development. An engaged and loyal employee is one who is allowed to grow and therefore see’s what they get from the organisation more than just what’s on their payslip. Training does not encourage loyalty alone because once it’s finished an employee can feel deflated and without a new challenge. 

It has become a cliche in HR circles that investing in an employee equals them investing in your organisation. However if the knowledge and skills you invested in leaves with an employee then notwithstanding your retention strategy failing it also leaves your organisation in a position where they are having to buy skills in rather than allowing an employee to grow into a role which also makes recruitment far harder and turnover difficult to manage.

A good and proactive learning and development strategy (and an organisational culture that supports it) should break this cycle: by allowing employees to feel that they are taking away as much from being employed by your specific organisation (compared to one of your competitors) the more they feel motivated to contribute to the organisation. Employees need to feel both challenged and supported in order to reach their potential - in short, if you are helping them achieve this they will be far more likely to stay.

4. Understand flexible working requests should not be unfairly dismissed 

There is no avoiding the fact that reward including benefits and perks into a remuneration package is often central to big corporate employer branding - to both attract and retain talent. 

However, allowing your employees to have a say on where they work and how they work is attractive to every candidate and employee. This doesn’t always mean promoting home working - some employees do prefer working in social, open-plan offices but again it’s a case of asking your employees how they like to work. This doesn’t mean you need to bend completely to your employees wishes (or not keep one eye how productive they are in different environments) but hybrid working arrangements are proving a big success for many SMEs and big corporations alike. It also works to foster the trust needed to ensure employees see their needs recognised.

Encouraging employees to ask themselves how they work best is a well-evidenced method of keeping the workforce engaged and productive and having an open dialogue about the potential for remote working is a key aspect to this conversation. 

At the crux of it: many people leave jobs due to a desire to achieve a healthy and fulfilling work-life balance and avoiding the pitfalls of stress, burnout, and poor mental health and wellbeing. It’s never been more important for employers to engage, support, and listen to their staff with issues they are facing and often that personal touch makes all the difference and knowing where to point staff if they need further help. However, embracing a flexible working culture is a step towards ensuring retention in promoting work-life balance.

So how do you solve employee retention?

All of the above points centre around good communication: maintaining a two-way open dialogue to ask who, what, when, where, and why when it comes to all aspects considered in the article is the best way to retain talent. 

Read more insights from the Mushroombiz team

maximise income

How to Maximise Your Income by Running an Efficient Invoicing Process

We must have earned more than that! How to Maximise Your Income by Running an Efficient Invoicing Process

6 Minute Read

maximise income

Let's be honest, there are very few easy occupations out there. Pretty much everyone reading this article will know that business - whatever your business is - is hardly without its challenges.

No one (that I've met, anyway) sits at their desk and thinks to themselves "wow, it's so easy for me to find and attract customers, convince them to do business with me and deliver a quality product or service to or above their expectations".  Life isn't that much of a picnic.

That's why it always astounds me when people are so laissez faire about the way they manage their invoicing.

It's bloody hard work to onboard a good client. We pour blood, sweat and certainly the occasional tear, into fulfilling their needs and accommodating their demands. So why do we then lose interest at the pivotal moment that defines the very reason for our efforts in the first place?

Seriously, it's the moment you can get paid. And yet we have a tendency to be so disorganised or unstructured with how we manage our billing that we really might as well just be leaving money on someone else's table.

Savvy business owners here will be nodding furiously in agreement - perhaps thinking of those in their staffing who don't quite share the same commercial drivers as the person who pays their wages.

But it isn't always as simple as just knowing you need to invoice. Life is complex and working life is not distraction-free. So let's break down the systemised methods you can adopt to make sure you bring in every penny you've earned, as soon as you can, for the betterment of your business and control of your cash-flow.

1) Run a tracker

This is as simple as they get, but all-too-often overlooked. Make sure you have a way of knowing what will need to be invoiced - to whom, and when. A written document, a spreadsheet, a list in a notes app (or something more advanced - see point 3 below) - whatever works for you.

Get in the habit of keeping tabs on work-in-progress, upcoming projects and work in the pipeline. Check it regularly and set calendar reminders to make sure you are continually capturing, monitoring and closing-off the billing loop for everything you work on.

If you employ staff, make your teams responsible for the same and hold them to account for reporting back to you regularly on what money they're bringing in.

2) Know your terms and follow them

You're far more likely to get paid on time and without objection if you stick to the rules you've agreed upon. Bullet-proof your contracts and know what the terms agreed between you and your customer are.

Understand when the earliest is that you can submit your invoice - and make sure you do. Remember: the sooner you invoice, the sooner you get paid (depending on your payment terms, which should also be front and centre of your thoughts). You always want to invoice as soon as you can - without jeopardising the customer relationship.

Wherever you can, make sure it's clear to your customer what they will be paying in advance. There's nothing worse than going above and beyond only for a customer to challenge your invoice because they didn't agree to the charges. See also point 4 below.

3) Bake the invoicing mechanism into your sales and fulfilment processes

Manufacturing businesses are a great (though far from the only) example here. If you have a defined order management system (the steps by which you turn a customer purchase into a delivered - and chargeable - product or service), make sure invoicing is an unmissable step within that system.

Set your teams to work with a clear understanding of the process. For instance, a purchase order comes in, a sales order (your commitment to honouring the order) might be raised, a delivery note is generated on despatch and - once fulfilled - the invoice is generated and sent to the customer.

It's all about making sure that billing becomes as automated and regular a process as possible by making it almost impossible to overlook.

For the invoice itself, standardise the format and make sure everyone knows to include the right references - PO Number, Delivery Note number, description of work etc. Plenty of customers (bigger organisations especially) won't pay you without the I's dotted and the T's crossed.

Note that the above covers just one scenario based on invoicing upon delivery of goods/services. The same principles apply though whether you invoice up-front, in instalments or in arrears.

Manufacturers might also want to check out our guide to getting paid on time here.

4) Don't shy away from awkward conversations about cost.

It's way less messy in the long-run if you're prepared to confront the discomfort of negotiating price with your customer ahead of time. That way you both know where you stand, whether you do/don't agree on what will be done and how much it will cost.

There's very little point carrying on with work if it's established the customer won't pay what you're asking and your time should be too valuable to take a big hit on this.

Any reasonable buyer will want to know what they are likely to pay for a product or service and be happy to work with you on this. It's in both of your interests to get it sorted sooner rather than later so there are no surprises further down the line.

5) Focus on fulfilling orders this month

You're building your business. Every sale you can record in your accounts this month helps you get that step closer to the dream.

Focus your delivery staff on closing-off projects they're working on ASAP, getting those orders despatched and getting your business in the position to invoice customers at the earliest opportunity before month-end.

Again, the quicker you invoice the quicker the cash is in your bank so you can use it to pay bills or salaries and fund investment.

6) Be savvy with scope creep

Any one of us will look to get the maximum out of our suppliers. It's natural and understandable. Your customers will be no different with you, and there will be times you're happy to keep them sweet if it greases the wheels of a lucrative long-term relationship.

But don't get suckered into thinking their extra demands mean you have to bite your tongue and say nothing while they take advantage of your generosity.

It's all-too easy to set a precedent for going the extra mile without reward, and unless you call it in, you might find you're stuck in a potentially loss-making situation and a one-sided relationship.

Know your value and don't be afraid to go back to your customer if you need to re-negotiate on price (see point 4 above).

7) Be courteous to your customer's cashflow - but without compromising your own

If your products or services entail larger charges to your customers, you might choose to agree to take payment in installments in recognition of the impact your fees might have on their cash-flow.

This is a courtesy and might aid the business relationship, but again, don't do it at the expense of your own cash position. Consider carefully the consequences on who you can pay and when will have if you decide to do this.

If you've executed point 2 successfully, you have every right to stick to terms and insist that your customer does likewise.

If you do decide to give the customer some leeway, make it very clear what's expected and don't let them off the hook for paying you at the right times.

8) Get help from simple automations

There's no shortage of great software available and many systems can do some great tricks - either by themselves or when connected through a service like Zapier.

One incredibly simple but effective trick with the world-leading Xero accounting system is to use repeating invoice templates.

Repeating invoices can be setup to run in a frequency that suits you (any denomination from weekly upwards), with flexibility over invoice dates, payment terms and what happens when the invoice gets generated.

For example, if you invoice a customer the same amount every month on the same date, you can set the invoice to auto-run and auto-send (complete with placeholder text identifying the month and year it relates to).

Alternatively, if you invoice the same customer routinely - but for different amounts or items, set the invoice to raise as a draft on the right date, and you can update the quantity, price or description before you send it.

The beauty of this is that, while you still have control to get the details right, the hard work is done once (when you setup the repeating invoice) and your routine task is the work of a moment to change the variable details.

We run our payroll billing this way - simply updating the number of payslips each month to reflect how many we've processed - and it saves us hours every month, while making sure we never forget to invoice Dunder Mifflin for Dwight's payslip.

Conclusion

We see leaders with many an attitude to running their businesses, but we can all unite on this simple point: nobody in business works for free. Make sure you get paid for the work you do without busting a gut for nothing.

 

Need help with your finance functions? Ask us how a Mushroombiz Managed Finance Department can cut your costs and free your time!

climate change

COP26 for SMEs: 5 Things to Know

COP26 for SMEs: 5 Things to Know

5 Minute Read

climate change

The news cycle has forgotten climate change recently, but we haven't!

COP26 in Glasgow was the latest UN climate summit where world leaders established new policy initiatives to combat climate change, and it's been a major topic of discussion. COP stands for Conference of Parties, which refers to an international meeting of representatives from different countries where they discuss environmental issues. COP26 is the 26th such conference that has taken place in November 2021. We believe 2022 is the year where there will be lots of small things SMEs will need to have an eye on that could have serious consequences. This year in Glasgow, 190 countries agreed to something called the Glasgow Pact which has set out a number of measures and policy initiative.

Expressing any scepticism over the merits of government climate policy can be a thorny issue. Despite this, we think it is important to demonstrate to you, the SME owner, some severe negative impacts of climate change policy that could cost you dearly but if planned for, can improve your company's resilience.

That being said, most threats present themselves as opportunities and we wouldn't go away without highlighting some of the positives of climate change policy.

Phasing Down Coal - Good for the planet not for your input costs.

In the Glasgow pact, it was agreed to phase out coal-fired power by 2050. Coal is the dirtiest and most carbon-intensive form of energy, so this is a major win for climate action. This will mean that businesses who still rely on coal-fired plants to generate electricity (or heat) will need to find alternatives in the next few years.

Whilst this is a welcome step for climate action, this step adds to a list of fossil fuel divestment measures already taking place that are not being replaced with either stable base load energy supply (like Nuclear or Gas) or extra investment in renewables. In addition to the lack of matched investment, the International Renewable Energy Agency estimate that the world needs to double its investment in power generation and energy infrastructure.

Alongside underinvestment, renewable energy is more expensive to generate and manufacturers are facing extreme uplifts in production costs whereas clean glass and steel cost around 20% and 30% more to produce respectively. Feeding this into global supply chains in construction, cars, and retail, these price increases are passed on to the consumer.

If we factor in the current energy insecurity (namely Gas supply) deriving from the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the fact that many advanced economies have already divested from fossil fuels, then those input costs will increase further and drive core inflation to distressing levels.

Climate Finance - What is it and will we be paying more in taxes?

Given the UK’s relative strength in financial services, a big focus of COP26 was how governments around the world could expand the scope of the UN's climate finance initiative which involves both public and private sector money. Governments are currently committing $100 billion per year to climate finance, but it is hoped that this could be increased significantly with the right policy measures in place.

Whilst this is all good news in theory where is the money going? It's not clear how much of this money will actually make its way to SMEs to help them acquire electric or low emitting vehicles, charging points and other green infrastructure. In addition to spending commitments the G7 and China agreed to set up the Loss and Damage Facility, a $500 million fund to help countries who are already struggling with the effects of climate change.

This is on top of other funds such as Green Climate Fund and the Adaptation Fund which have been criticised for being slow, opaque and not doing enough to help developing countries.

If these funds are slow to have an impact and more money is being committed by governments to try and address climate change, there are primarily two sources - your pension and your taxes.

On the pensions front, there are a lot of campaigns dedicated to lobby pensions funds to run only ethical Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) investments. Make Money Matter is a campaign group that is trying to build pension holder pressure on pension funds to invest in ESG assets only. Unfortunately, some of the best performing equities and companies who are most likely to be key players in energy transformation are Oil and Gas giants like Shell and BP. Contrary to its aims ESG investing is more likely to slow down renewable energy adaptation whilst making your pension less valuable in the future.

On the taxes front, it's worth noting that COP26 is not explicitly leading to any increases in taxes and nor do any governments (especially elected ones) want to agree to anything internationally that lead to tax increases. However in the UK, we already are paying environmental taxes such as the landfill tax, air passenger duty and the climate change levy.

The UK government is introducing a new 'plastics tax' which will come into effect in April 2022 and is estimated to be worth £500 million per year. The purpose of this tax is to reduce single-use plastics such as carrier bags, straws and coffee which is welcome news.

The UK government is introducing a new 'plastics tax' which will come into effect in April 2022 and is estimated to be worth £500 million per year. The purpose of this tax is to reduce single-use plastics such as carrier bags, straws and coffee which is welcome news and these taxes are targeted and not creating any form of global pressure on SME tax burdens. If these taxes continue to have outcome shortcomings, then governments will seek to use more money from the wider pool of VAT, Corporation Tax and Income Tax receipts to expand climate budgets, this is where the SME tax burden will expand.

However, when we combine shortcomings of ESG investing, the poor performance of international schemes and a lack of SME focused schemes in the UK, the effectiveness of the UK government’s climate investments should be brought into question. It is right that you should be questioning the efficacy of the taxes you, your business and your employees are required to pay. If governments around the world fail to meet climate goals, then they will rely more on taxation.

Insurance - Loss and damage facility = higher premia.

The Glasgow Loss and Damage Facility proposed by the G7 and China is, politically, an important recognition of the need to repair historical environmental damage caused to developing countries due to the industrialisation of advanced economies. ESCAP estimates suggest potential losses from climate-related risks in Asia and the Pacific of $1.2 - $4.7 trillion. This is a large sum of financial loss and while governments have agreed to intervene, insurance companies will be left to cover these losses. Whilst there is an increased demand for non-life insurance services, the risk Insurance companies are taking mean that premiums are more likely to increase than decrease.

Insurers in the UK are acutely aware of damage and loss within the UK. AXA have developed the Coastal Risk Index (CRI) to assess the flooding and cliff erosion risks around the world. To maintain the same levels of coverage today, Insurance funds will require higher premiums to cover future losses and maintain profitability.

Whilst this may not affect your buildings insurance if you live on a hill in the middle of the UK, these increase in costs will spill over into your simple employers liability insurance, professional or product indemnity insurance and even cyber policies.

 

Carbon credit markets - Good for clarity but your tree-planting scheme might have been double counted.

The Glasgow Pact also outlined new international standards on regulating the carbon credits market including eliminating double-counting in carbon accounting practices. In this market, businesses can buy permits – or carbon credits – generated by projects that are cleaning up our atmosphere, to compensate for the emissions they haven’t yet eliminated. Scale is important and would make a real difference to companies like Shell who is investing in Greentech start-ups but is still drilling lots of oil. It may seem almost too big for an SME, but actually, the agreement on carbon markets helps in a few ways.

Improved standards will start to bring clarity on offsetting projects available to different industries and businesses in general. For example, many SMEs in the UK are already looking at Carbon offsetting through tree planting projects.

There’s scepticism around the quality of some carbon offsetting projects but, when done well, they support local economies and fund work that is making a real impact.

 

EVs - Slow but sure

The commitment of the COP26 attendees to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) is good news as this will have a direct impact on the fight against climate change.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are more efficient than petrol or diesel cars, and their emissions are much lower. The UK government has said it wants all new cars and vans to be electric by 2040.

This is an ambitious target, but with the right policies in place it is achievable.

The COP26 attendees recognised that EVs are not yet at a stage where they can completely replace petrol and diesel cars. However, they agreed to work together to speed up their adoption so that they can make a real contribution to tackling climate change. For businesses now, the tax incentives to run EVs are okay but could be a lot better, this is probably due to the fact that EVs are still expensive to produce and national charging infrastructure needs to be improved and standardised.

 

Inflation, Taxes, Crap Schemes, Insurance Costs, Adjusting to Current Offsetting

It sounds like we've listed a series of deflating conclusion to draw from Climate Change policy. This really isn't our intention, like all SMEs we want to do our bit for net-zero but with the exception of EVs, more threats than easy wins are emerging.

We all want a greener and more environmentally secure world, but it is very easy for business lobby groups and associations to promote and sell the importance of climate change and easy to ignore the serious medium-term pain SMEs in the UK are exposed to.

It is important that when budgeting, planning your investment decisions or selling, you have a full view of all the bumps ahead in the road to a net zero economy.

For more information regarding Climate Change - Get in touch with the Mushroombiz team

patents

The Mushroombiz Guide to IP – Part 2

The Mushroombiz Guide to IP - Part 2

5 Minute Read

patents

In Part 1 of our guide to IP, we looked at Confidential and Proprietary information, Copyright, Trademarks and Passing Off. These are types of what is colloquially known as soft IP - that is: intellectual property that is not a patent (aka hard IP). Design rights also fall into the umbrella category of soft IP.

In this Part 2, we take a look at Design Rights, as well as looking at how patents can be used to protect new and innovative physical products (inventions).

Design rights

Design rights are a type of intellectual property that protect the visual appearance of designs. They can be used to protect everything from industrial designs (such as the design of a car or a phone), to product packaging, to logos and branding.

Design rights relate to the the look of your product, rather than the technicalities of how it is constructed or used. This includes:

  • Appearance - shape, colours, texture, materials, ornamentation
  • Physical shape
  • Configuration - the way the parts of a 3-dimensional object are arranged
  • In the UK, there are two kinds of design rights.

In the UK, there are two kinds of design rights.

Unregistered design rights

Unregistered design rights (UDR) arise automatically when you create a new design. There is no need to apply for them, and they last for a maximum of 15 years from the end of the calendar year that a design is first made public.

UDR infringement happens if someone else copies your design or uses it without your permission. This also includes importing, possessing, selling, and hiring (or offering to sell or hire) the design in question.

To be protected by unregistered design rights, your design must be new (not previously disclosed to the public), and you must be able to evidence when it was created.

During the final 5 years of UDR, the owner of the design is obligated, where requested, to grant a licence to any third party wishing to use that design. The UK IPO (Intellectual Property Office) will settle the licence terms if the parties don't agree.

Designs made public in the EU are also automatically protected as an Unregistered Community Design (UCD) - but for a period of 3 years from that date.

Top Tip

It's important to be able to prove that you were the creator of a design, and when. It's worth making sure you have documentary evidence of this, in the form of a design document or similar.

Registered design rights

You can also choose to apply for registered design rights in order to protect your designs more robustly and for longer. You must do this intentionally - they are not automatic as with unregistered design rights, and you will have to pay a fee.

A key benefit of registering your design is that you can renew the initial 5-year registration for a total of up to 25 years.

You will also have exclusive rights to your registered design - no-one else can use it without your permission. As with unregistered design rights, registered designs must be new (not previously disclosed to the public), and you must be able to evidence when it was created.

Registered designs are protected in any country that is a member of the Hague System, which includes most EU countries and many other non-EU nations around the world (but not including Australia or Canada).

Patents

Patents are a type of intellectual property that grant inventors exclusive rights to their inventions for a limited period of time. In order to be patentable, an invention must meet three criteria: it must be new, inventive and something that can be made or used.

The process of obtaining a patent is complex and can take years. In order to file a patent application, you need to have a clear idea of what the invention is, what it does and how it works. The application must be filed in each country/territory where protection is required. This can get expensive very quickly if you're looking to protect your intellectual property globally.

Patent rights are territorial, so a patent granted by one country's (or regional) patent office only gives protection in that territory.

UK Patents:

A UK patent gives the owner the right to prevent others from making, using, selling or importing the invention for a period of 20 years from the date of filing.

The application time (typically around 5 years) and cost (about £4,000) can put people off applying for a UK patent, and those who do (like any patent) also have to consider the potential legal costs of defending against infringement once the patent is in place. However, there are clear commercial advantages to securing a UK patent if you believe your invention offers you a considerable competitive edge in the UK market.

UK patents last an initial period of 4 years, following which they must be renewed annually up to a maximum of 20 years.

Top Tip

If you patent your invention in the UK, you may be qualified for the Government's Patent Box initiative, which reduces corporation tax on your profits from the patented products/services down to 10%.

 

EU patents:

Inevitably, a UK patent does not protect your invention outside the UK.

An EU patent offers protection in more than 30 EU countries, and is a good option if you want to cover many bases with a single patent application.

The cost of an EU patent (around €11,000) is more expensive than a UK one, however the coverage is significantly wider and if you are looking to trade with your invention in Europe, it's a valuable tool to have in the box.

The cost of an EU patent application can be kept down by filing a PCT application (see below) first.

Worldwide patents:

While there is no such thing as a single international patent, 155 countries worldwide are signed up to the Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT). The PCT effectively allows applicants to submit a single filing, which is used to determine eligibility to apply for a patent in any of the "contracting states". Once concluded, the applicant can seek approval from each respective national or regional authority, who will decide whether to grant the patent in their territory.

In order to qualify for the Patent Co-operation Treaty, your invention must first be registered with your national or regional patent office (e.g. UKIPO).

The cost of a PCT application (in the region of £2,500) is significantly cheaper than an EU patent, though often you'll need to file national applications in each country once this period has expired if you want full protection worldwide.

 

For more information regarding IP - Get in touch with the Mushroombiz team

Intellectual Proeprty

The Mushroombiz Guide to IP – Part 1

The Mushroombiz Guide to IP - Part 1

5 Minute Read

Intellectual Proeprty

Before IP - Confidential & Proprietary Information

Before we delve into IP rights, remember to protect as much information in your business as possible. The commercial information you hold in your documents, plans and accounting records, is key to what you do and how you do it, and also what constitutes the business. Sometimes these are referred to as trade secrets or commercial secrets. This confidential information is key to success in any business and can also harm any business if it is used by another. What if a competitor discovers your pricing on a product and how much margin you make? Or if the detail of how a product is put together is innovative and this know-how (how it’s done) and proprietary information (information you own) falls into the hands of a bigger company who can do it cheaper and quicker? A common way for you to protect this information is via a confidentiality agreement (or non-disclosure agreement), or some confidentiality provisions in your terms with another party.

Top Tip

Where there is no relationship or contract between you and another party, make sure you label communications, emails, documents, and other materials as ‘confidential and proprietary information. This then puts any recipient on notice that this information is important to you and must be respected and treated in accordance with the laws of confidentiality.

Copyright

Copyright is the cheapest way of protecting your IP as it does not need to be registered, however if your ownership is contested, it might be challenging to demonstrate ownership without a document trail. It is therefore very important to audit your copyright work and to control how it is shared.
 
Copyright is a national right and will continue to exist post-Brexit. However, UK law has been extensively influenced by EU jurisprudence, and it is likely that the UK and EU approaches will diverge further over time. The question over whether the potential difference in the level of copyright protection under UK law complies with EU law may never be finally resolved, leaving designers stuck with the limited protection afforded to products under the UK’s CDPA.
 
Copyright owners are advised to place the universal symbol for the copyright © next to their name and the year to show they own the copyright.

For example; ‘Copyright © 2021 JOHN DOE LTD. All Rights Reserved.’
 
Copyright can certainly protect a print design. Copyright will prevent a copycat from copying a drawing, image, or a graphical design appearing on a product (or a substantial part of it) - provided it is sufficiently original

Top Tip

To label what is your Copyright, place the universal symbol for the copyright © next to you or your company name right to show you own the copyright:

' Copyright © 2021 JOHN DOE LTD. All Rights Reserved. '

 

 

Trademarks - Brand name & Logo

Brand name protection is of a crucial importance in every industry, as consumers often tend to buy items based on a brand name. Brand names in many industries tell you more than the quality of the goods you buy, namely the history of the brand, designers behind the brand or concept of the brand, in other words the identity of the brand. Brand names can be protected by registering the mark on a national level such as in the UK or EU or on International level depending on where the entrepreneur is trading or plans to trade. It is recommended to register the brand name or logo when starting trading or even before. Once registered, entrepreneurs will have IP rights in the mark. They can then place the symbol ® next to the trademark which represents that the mark is registered. A brand not only can be a brand name but also can be a logo, distinctive print, name of style or colours.
 
Modern UK trade-mark law is derived from EU law (although it has its origins long before the EU came into existence). It is very likely that UK trade-mark law will remain aligned with EU trade- mark law for some time. However, there is likely to be some divergence unless the UK agrees to a deal that keeps its trade-mark law bound to that of the EU (which seems unlikely).
 
However, as a positive for brands, products sold on the EEA market outside of the UK will no longer have had their rights “exhausted”, meaning that brands will be able to prevent sales and imports of genuine products into the UK from the rest of the EEA. A trade-mark can be registered to protect pretty much anything that is capable of both distinguishing the goods or services of one undertaking from those of another and being represented on the trade-marks register. Recent reforms were intended to make it easier to register “non-traditional” trade-marks, including more exotic trade-marks such as the smell of a perfume. Unfortunately for brands though, the EUIPO and EU courts have made it increasingly difficult to register (or maintain the registration of) such trade-marks, and in particular those seeking to protect the shape of a product.

Finally - ‘passing-off’ allows the owner of goodwill in a brand name or ‘get-up’ to prevent another
from misrepresenting that its goods or services are those of the owner of the goodwill. Passing off can be particularly useful when a designer does not own any registered rights. Rihanna, famously (and successfully) sued Topshop for using an image of her on a garment. If a designer is known for using a certain sign or feature, its use by a competitor could constitute passing off.
 

For more information regarding IP - Get in touch with the Mushroombiz team

Entrepreneurs

Poll Results: Britons Stance on Starting a Business in 2022

Major New Mushroombiz Poll: Third of young people want to set up new business as confidence in economy grows

3 Minute Read

Entrepreneurs
  • New poll reveals one third of Britons aged 18-24 want to start their own businesses in future
  • Poll shows that millennials (aged 25-34) are most likely to set up business within the next year
  • Huge increase from same poll last year, which showed only one-in-seven Gen Zs (18-24) wanted to set up a business in 2021
  • Confidence in UK economic prospects up 5 percent from last year

AS CONFIDENCE in the UK economy grows, a record number of the country’s young people are looking to start their own business a major new poll shows today.

The Yonder poll of over 4,000 British adults shows one-in-three (32 percent) Gen Zs (18 – 24 year-olds) in the UK plan to set up a business in the future.

The result shows a marked increase from last year, when only two-in-ten (23 percent) of Gen Zs considered launching their own business.

The poll also shows millennials (aged 25 – 34) are most likely to set up a business in 2022, with 12 percent aiming to do so, while one-in-ten (11 percent) of Gen Zs intend to start a business this year.

This budding entrepreneurialism follows news that the UK GDP grew by 0.9 percent in November 2021 - 0.7 percent larger than it was before March 2020 and the first lockdown.

Positivity around the UK economy is having the greatest impact on the UK youth demographic with  32 percent of Britons aged 18 – 24 and 27 percent of millennials wanting to start their own business.

This eclipses other age groups, where on average only 8 percent plan on becoming their own boss.

The poll also shows Gen Zs to be most positive about their future incomes, with 36 percent  believing their pay is going to increase in 2022. This is compared to an average of 24 percent in other age demographics.

The poll, carried out on behalf of Mushroombiz, also found an equal number of men and women (7 percent) plan to start a business in 2022.

This differs from the same poll last year, which showed twice as many men as women planned to start a business in 2021.

Respondents also showed a 5 percent growth in confidence in the UK economy from last year, with 22 percent of Britons optimistic about the UK’s economic prospects over the next 12 months, compared to only 17 percent the year before.

The poll comes ahead of Mushroombiz’s annual conference on the future of business in the UK.

Business leaders believe the poll shows encouraging signs for the future, and while Covid-19 may have rocked the global economy, it has not deterred young people from wanting to pursue new ventures.

Ed Surman, Managing Director of Mushroombiz, said: “Young people are taking inspiration from the growing economy and are using it to drive their passion for new projects and exciting new businesses.

“While the pandemic has proved challenging, young people remain undeterred, having both the drive to launch their own business and the confidence in their own skills to make it a success.

“From my experience Gen Zs and millennials are more committed than any other age group to solve the world’s problems with their own business. It’s crucial they are given the guidance and support to do so.

“As the nation looks to bouce back from the pandemic, we should be inspiring these young entrepreneurs to make their ideas a reality.”

To request the full Data for this poll contact us here

investor due diligence

4 Steps to Do Due Diligence on a Potential Investor: Credibility and Verification

4 Steps to Do Due Diligence on a Potential Investor: Credibility and Verification

5 Minute Read

investor due diligence

In a recent interview, Starling Bank founder and CEO Anne Boden shared how she once pulled out of a funding deal because it emerged that one of the investors' founders had been involved in a crime.

Look online. There are loads of guides for investors on how to do sound due diligence on a potential investment. But try to find out more about actually checking out your potential investor and making sure their money is clean, and you're likely to have less success.

Investors can, of course, make or break a company. They are the ones who have the deep pockets and they are the ones who can fund your business's growth when you need it most. But, not all investors are created equal. There's risk involved in taking on an investor so you want to be sure that they're credible and verified before committing to working with them.

What do I mean by credibility? Well, this means that their story checks out according to public records and other sources. Do they have a good reputation? Are they known for being honest and truthful?

And what about verification? This means that you should verify their identity with documentation like ID cards or passports before doing any further work together - even if it's just a meeting.

Why is it so important to do this? Because you don't want to be working with someone who's not credible or who may even have a criminal background. It could end up costing you time, money, and possibly your business if things go wrong.

So how can you go about doing due diligence on a potential investor? Here are four steps to get you started:

Step One: Check their Credibility

The first step is to check the credibility of the potential investor. This can be done by first looking broadly at public records. In the UK this might include sources such as Companies House and the Electoral Register, as well as online sources of news and background information. If their story checks out then you can start to build some confidence that they are legitimate.

Step Two: Verify their Identity

The second step is to verify the potential investor's identity by asking for ID cards or passports before meeting with them face-to-face or doing any further work together.

There are a few different ways of verifying an investor's ID. One way is to use credit checking sites like Equifax, Experian, and Creditsafe. These sites will be able to tell you if the potential investor has any outstanding debt or a bad credit history.

Another way is to get ID documents certified by a regulated organisation like a law firm or Dun and Bradstreet. This will help to ensure that the documents are legitimate and that the potential investor is who they say they are. This is especially important for overseas investors where you may not find it as easy to compile a clear credit and criminal record history.

It's always better to be safe than sorry so take your time in doing due diligence on any potential investor. It could save you a lot of headaches down the road.

Step Three: Ask for References and Recommendations

The third step is to ask the potential investor for references or recommendations from their previous work with other companies or investors. This can help you feel more confident about your decision on whether to enter a partnership with them, especially if they have a lot of good reviews online - although this isn't always the case.

Do your own research too. Ask around - see who knows them, what they have to say. One particularly eye-opening step is to speak to others who have worked with them (you could even ask them to share references from others they've invested with), to see what they have to say about the record and manner of your would-be investor.

Knowing how they've conducted themselves with others like you will tell you a lot about who you might be climbing into bed with.

Step Four: Interview your Investor

It might seem obvious but actually talk to your would-be investor about their background, their ideas, and what they hope to achieve. This will help you get a better sense of who they are, what their goals are, and how they plan on helping your business grow.

Does your idea or business model fit well with theirs? Do you have complementary aspirations, products, or skills? If in doubt, ask for more information, ask to meet key members of their team, and air your concerns. Just like a job interview, deciding to take on investment is a two-way street and you've likely poured too much time and energy into your business or idea to risk jeopardising its success by choosing the wrong backer.

Remember that a good investor is often one who has the right amount of altruism and ego to invest in your company, not just because they think it's going to be profitable but also because they share your vision for success.

Conclusion

In the end, you want to make sure that any potential investor is credible and trustworthy. The most important thing in due diligence is your gut instinct. If something doesn't feel right about a person or their business, don’t move forward with them as an investment partner even if they have good references from others who've worked with them before. The right backer is worth waiting for and won't mind cooperating with you so don't be afraid to get this right.

If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts on this topic, please get in touch!

Entrepreneur

10 Startup Mistakes Every Entrepreneur Should Avoid

10 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a Business

5 Minute Read

Entrepreneur

So, did you know that 9 out of 10 startups fail?

This isn't necessarily surprising when you consider the huge surge in the number of younger people starting their own businesses.

Although a high statistic, it's also never been easier to start-out on your own in business, be your own boss and reap the rewards of your own endeavours. There are plenty of steps you can take to ensure your new business thrives and you succeed in the way you might have dreamed.

No one ever sets out to fail when they start their own business. But unfortunately, many startups make the same mistakes over and over again. Below are the top reasons for start-up failure, and how you can ensure you don't make the same mistakes.

1. Not having a plan for your product

This is one of the most common mistakes that startups make. Without a solid plan in place, it's nearly impossible to create a successful product. You need to have a clear idea of who your target market is, what features you want to include in your product, and how you will differentiate yourself from the competition.

2. Doing your research

This mistake goes hand in hand with not having a plan for your product. Before you even start developing your product, you need to do extensive research on the industry you are entering and the competitors you will be up against. This information will help you make better decisions about your business, and it will also help you avoid making mistakes that have already been made by others.

3. Not allowing room for flexibility

While it's important to have a plan and stay organized while you're developing your product, flexibility is also key. You want to make sure that you give yourself enough time for changes and improvements along the way, because there will always be something new to consider or adjust as you go through different testing phases with users.

4. Not offering a product or service that stands out

One of the main reasons that startups fail is because they are not offering a product or service that stands out from their competitors. If you aren't differentiating yourself in some way, it will be extremely difficult to get users and customers to pay attention long enough for you to make an impact on them. You need to bring your A-game when it comes to your product and its marketability.

5. Pricing too high or too low

Pricing is another common mistake that startups make. If you set your prices too high, people will be reluctant to buy your product, and if you set them too low, you will not be making enough money to cover your costs. You need to find the right balance between what you are charging and what the market will bear.

The number one reason that startups fail is because they run out of money. There are a few ways to avoid this mistake, such as starting with low overhead and finding a co-founder who has experience in finance or accounting. But whether you go at it alone or not, make sure your business model includes a solid plan for making money.

6. Not sticking to your budget

This is another mistake that can easily be avoided. Make sure you set a budget and stick to it, so you know exactly how much money you have to work with and where it is all going. This will help keep you from overspending or underestimating the costs of starting your own business.

7. Reluctance to get feedback and criticism on prototypes

This mistake can be a little more difficult to avoid, especially if your idea is something you've been thinking about for a long time and it's really close to your heart. When sharing prototypes with users or potential investors, the feedback that they give will help shape and improve your product so that you have the best chance at success. But many entrepreneurs are so attached to their ideas that they ignore what others have to say about it. This is a huge mistake, because feedback and criticism are necessary for creating an effective product.

8. The market might NOT be ready for your product

One of the most common mistakes that startups make is thinking their idea will change the world, when in reality it might not be ready for mass consumption. While you are busy creating your product and perfecting its appearance, functionality, price point, etc., there are people who have been following trends in your industry for years. These experts know what usually works and what doesn't, so it's important to pay attention to their insights before you put all your eggs in one basket.

9. Employing a weak team, and using poor leadership

Make sure you have the right people in place, with the skills and experience necessary to help your business succeed. Focusing on recruiting committed employees, instead of top talent who will fly to the next offer very soon is crucial. You want people who see your vision and inspire along the way as well. And don't forget about leadership - it's important to have a strong leader who can make the necessary decisions to keep everyone on track.

10. Poor marketing (and/or sales)

Last but not least, this is one of the most common mistakes made by startups. If you don't have a successful marketing and sales plan in place for your product or service, it will be difficult to break through the noise and get people talking about you. You need to invest some time into creating an effective advertising campaign that gets results - whether that means generating leads, creating a brand identity that people can get behind, or simply getting your product in the hands of more people.

These are just a few of the most common mistakes that startups make. By avoiding these errors, you will give yourself a much better chance at success. Make sure to follow a detailed plan and find ways of differentiating yourself from the competition so that your business stands out as an industry leader instead of one of many new companies struggling for attention.

Need help writing a Business plan? The Mushroombiz Team can help!

customer service

What’s the key to a quality caller experience?

Wot d’ya want m8? How to nail your company’s caller experience

5 Minute Read

customer service

When working for a former employer, I used to phone through to our head office from my satellite depot and ask to speak to certain colleagues. The person on the switchboard would often start transferring my call before I had even finished speaking, and would never retrieve the call to take a message if the person I asked for didn't answer. It was infuriating.

One time I even said that I wanted to speak to a particular individual and was about to ask her to check if they were available before releasing the call. Even then, I was too late and before I knew it I was back at another answerphone. This call handler worked for the same company as me, but I knew that many of our customers and other valued callers were no doubt getting the same bad experience.

The way your staff conduct themselves when answering your business calls speaks volumes about the way you value the interactions with your stakeholders. Get this right, and that positive caller experience can be the start of a wonderful new relationship. Get it wrong, and the caller is just one or two clicks away from a poor Google or Trustpilot review of your business.

So what does take to delight your callers? How can you make sure that every caller receives a first-class experience and becomes an advocate of your business rather than a critic?

1) It all starts with good planning

Consider the kinds of calls you're likely to get. Think carefully about the reasons people call you, the information you need to ask them for, what you want to say to them, and who to transfer their call to. Are your calls mainly new sales enquiries? Make sure your call staff know how to qualify those callers. What contact details will your teams need to follow up on your caller's request? What response times can the caller expect?

Also think carefully about your brand and your values. Consider the tone and style of your business and what you want callers to remember about their interaction with your company. A lot of differentiation can be achieved here. What works for the booking line of a cool wine bar won't necessarily resonate for callers to a high-end tailors on Saville Row. Think about whether you want your staff to answer calls with a friendly and casual "Hey, what's up?" or a traditional and professional "Good afternoon, how can I help?"

2) Set a clear protocol

This includes everything from determining who's answering calls and when, through to whether callers are being transferred to the intended person or messages taken and passed along. This will depend to some extent on your phone system capabilities.

Make sure your phones are adequately staffed for the volume of calls you receive and make sure you have some part of the protocol that deals with the unexpected. For example, have an escalation process so your call handlers know who to contact if some kind of emergency comes through on the phones that they're not clear on how to handle.

3) Equip your call staff

There's nothing worse than giving outdated information, especially when the people answering your phones can be your greatest ambassadors if they're equipped to convey helpful and current information. New staff recently joined? Make sure your call staff have their extension numbers. Got a new offer people might phone about? Let your handlers know how to direct those calls. Server down? Make sure they know what to say about possible delays. The better the flow of information you can give to the front-end of your business, the better the caller experience will be.

4) Set out to help

It may seem obvious, but it's in your interest to help people who call your business, whoever they are and whatever they want. Provide as much helpful information as you can without being overwhelming. Sometimes people just need a little more information to fix a problem, and being forthcoming with the right details always leaves a better taste in the mouth for your callers than if you're reserved or coy.

Ask questions to help the caller solve their problem before providing any solution. It's natural for people to feel frustrated when they're calling a business, and any inquisitive questions can make them feel like you care about their problem and that you're going to do your best to help them out.

Asking your callers if they agree with what you've suggested is a great way to show that you're listening. It's also an opportunity for them to give feedback about what kind of help they need, so make sure your staff take the time to confirm their agreement before moving on in your conversation with them.

5) Instil a culture of ownership

For me, this is the make-or-break part of any caller experience. Just like with my former employer, I hate phoning any company where it isn't clear if the person on the other end of the phone is taking personal responsibility for my need.

At Mushroombiz, we've hammered home the message of ownership for this exact reason. Let's be honest, which would you prefer - an individual who listens carefully to your enquiry or concern and commits to personally helping you to connect to the right person, or someone so keen to get off the phone that they don't care that you're going to have to call back anyway?!!

Train your call teams to take ownership of the needs and problems of people who call. If they can't reach the right person through the switchboard and the caller's need is urgent, empower staff to find an answer by phoning another colleague or sending an urgent message. Callers should go off the phone feeling confident they won't just be forgotten as soon as the line goes dead. Call staff should go off the phone and do exactly as they committed they would. This is what cements the perfect caller experience.

Nailing your customer experience can be the difference between winning new customers and alienating people from your brand. The way in which calls are answered, transferred or directed is all part of a bigger picture that tells people if your organisation is worth doing business with. The tips we've provided should give you a starting point for delighting every caller and leveraging the value of your brand to turn them into loyal customers.

If you're looking for more ways to improve your caller-experience, we've got plenty of know-how to help! From maximising new business from phone calls to dealing with difficult customers, get in touch today to get help from Mushroombiz.

company property

How do I enforce the return of company property?

How do I enforce the return of company property?

5 Minute Read

company property

Unfortunately, this can be quite a common situation for many businesses. Particularly as more employees than ever before are working away from the office, either at home or remotely. The concern here is for the price of IT equipment and also protecting confidential information and your business.

So what can you do to make sure you get your company property back?

1) Make it clear in the employment contract

The usual case is that an employee is leaving the company and you require them to return equipment you’ve provided them for doing their job. But this isn’t always the case and you should have a clause in your contract that ensures you have the right to request the return of company property at any time.

Also define what you consider company property to be: for example, mobile phones, laptops, passwords, keys, and client files. Specify that items must be returned in good condition with an awareness that there is a difference between reasonable wear and tear to negligence.

It is also important to consider what the consequences are for failure to return company property. Normally, this is a clause in the contract allowing the employer to make a deduction from an employee’s payslip for the cost of items that have not been returned. However, this right should be exercised with caution and only as a last resort.

2) Keep a record

It is always a good idea to be aware of who has what. This can also be useful for identifying the age of items and when they might need to be replaced or maintained as well as who needs what, what’s kept in the office, and what employees can take home with them.

This doesn’t just apply to IT equipment, but also to keyholders and password holders to client or internal accounts among other records necessary to be kept.

Also keep a record of the receipts and costs of each item to evidence when required the value of the items should you need to reclaim this.

3) Have the arrangements of any notice periods in writing

Have a written record of any arrangements for the end of the employment, however caused. This also reduces the risk of understanding and gives the employer the opportunity to highlight points in the contract. Make clear what needs returning, when by, how it needs to be returned, who or where to, and by what date.

4) Set a deadline

This should normally be the employee’s last working day however some flexibility may be needed where the employee works remotely. This also makes any failure to return items easier to deal with.

Equally, this event may not always be triggered by an employee’s departure. In any event, it would be unreasonable to give no notice of company property needing to be returned, particularly physical items, needing to be returned.

5) Good IT systems

In any event, it is crucial to make sure you can limit or disable employees’ access to systems when you need to, particularly where there is a dispute about items being returned. The data held on an employee’s company laptop after all can likely be more valuable than the laptop itself.

6) Be clear on consequences

Clarity is essential here at each step. Just as an employee needs to be aware when and how they need to return company property, if they fail to do so they need to be clear what will happen next. Communication is key. If an employee does not make the deadline do not automatically deduct the value of the items from their salary. Ask them why and tell them what will happen if the next deadline is not met. It is important to tread carefully: remember that wrongful payment of wages is a breach of contract and it does not matter how long the employee’s service is to make a claim to recoup this.

Get more valuable HR insights from a Mushroombiz professional here