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Maintaining a clear line of communication is very important for any business. It does not matter what services you provide, what kind of products you sell or what your key demographic is, customers need to know it’s possible to contact you if they have a question.

While email and online chat services have grown in popularity, many customers still look for a telephone number. With the number, they know they will connect with a live representative. It also provides a greater level of security for customers who do not want to provide personal information over the Internet. With that being said, what sort of telephone number should you use?

If you go through a local phone provider, you may receive a number that doesn’t have the proper local information your customers expect when they try to communicate with the business. Having a long distance or international number may not seem like a big deal initially, but for many customers, especially those looking to contact you via the phone, it is a big deal. Instead, you need to take advantage of toll free numbers with a localized UK number connected to it. Getting UK toll free numbers from Global Call Forwarding should prove beneficial to your business.

Instantly Add Credibility to Your Local Business in the UK

A toll free number instantly adds a level of credibility to your business. It isn’t a random cell number or number from the other side of the country. In the age of cell phones, long distance calling isn’t as much of an issue now, but it looks good and offers a more universal look.

It is a Universal UK Number

Without a toll free number, customers might be caught off guard looking up your business information to find the number is located on the other side of the UK (especially if they believe they are contacting a local business). A toll free number avoid this kind of an issue. It provides you with a universal UK number that isn’t associated with any city or region in the country, but instead if is a widely accepted, toll free number for the entire country.

Help Customers in the UK Avoid Costly Long Distance Fees

With the creation of the cell phone, long distance phone calls really isn’t that big of a deal. Now, as long as you call someone within the UK (and even parts of Europe) on a cell phone, you won’t receive any added expenses on your wireless bill.

However, for those customers who still do use a landline to make their telephone calls, a toll free number makes it easier for them to contact your business and not worry about associated charges. If someone in the UK thinks they’re going to be charged a fee to give you a call, not only will they avoid calling you, they might completely avoid doing business with you in the first place. This makes having a UK toll free number extremely valuable.

Offer Services in the UK Without a Location in the UK

If your business is open in the UK, you’ll have a British telephone number. However, what happens if you own your business in a different location, and offer to sell products and services inside of the UK? A local UK phone number allows you to continue doing business in the UK (or really anywhere else you would like) without causing potential customers to think twice before doing business with you.

When it comes to boosting sales and staying connected with your customers, you need to maintain a telephone number in their region. The easiest way to do this and to make sure your customers can find ways to call you without any sort of problem, is to obtain a toll free number.

As in many other industrialized countries, the last couple of decades have seen a major restructuring of British industry away from the more traditional heavy engineering and primary sectors towards the service and high-tech fields. This process has also coincided with the radical shifts in approach to management and company structure. Many of the hierarchy and class issues, which were so much a feature of the British industrial landscape, have been replaced by more modern business models. Often heavy influenced by US thinking.

The United Kingdom is made up of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It has a long history as a major player in international affairs and fulfils an important role in the EU, UN, and NATO. Despite being a major member of the EU, the country is not part of the Eurozone. As a leading trading power and financial centre, the UK is the third largest economy in Europe, off Germany and France.

10 tips on British Culture for Successful Business in the United Kingdom:

  1. Holistic Outlookmembers of the team are expected to take a holistic interest in the project, rather than confining themselves to their allocated role only. In fact, British companies tend to develop managers to be generalists rather than specialists and managers are expected to be interested in and take a view on a wide number of topic areas.
  2. Organizational Structure: British organizations have moved away from the traditional hierarchical models of the past towards a much flatter system. In the process, many layers of management have been removed.
  3. Atmosphere: managers try to develop a close friendly relationship with staff and like to be seen as part of the team rather than removed from the team. Colleagues will virtually always use first names among themselves. It is considered very formal and distancing to use surnames.
  4. Experiencethe value of pure academic education is viewed with some suspicion. Respect is earned through experience rather than qualification. It is rare to see a professor or doctor on the senior management committee of a large UK company.
  5. Diplomacy: the British place diplomacy firmly before directness and will try to avoid stimulating negative emotions in meeting situations. As a result, managers find it difficult to articulate direct instructions and will often couch instructions in a very diplomatic language. In fact, the British can misinterpret direct speech as rudeness, aggression and arrogance.
  6. Meetings: there are a lot of meetings in the UK and they often fail to reduce the desired decision. The British do less empirical preparation for meetings than other nationalities seeing the meeting as a forum for debate and potential solutions. Meetings will often begin with a good amount of seemingly meaningless small talk. This is seen as a good way to start the meeting in a harmonious manner. That said, meetings are reasonably formally structured roughly following a predetermined agenda and keeping more or less to time.
  7. Humour is acceptable and expected in virtually all business situations. Humour is not seen as unprofessional even when used in tense and difficult meetings.
  8. Self-promotion is not appreciated in the UK. It is far better to self-depreciate. It is, of course, acceptable to be positive about your company and products.
  9. Women play an increasingly prominent role in business life, especially in the service industries.
  10. And lastly, Formal Dress Codes of dark blue and grey suits are still prominent, although changes are starting to occur in this area.

Get it right and you’ll have access to one of the most dynamic business environments. Get it wrong and you’ll need to head back home. Good luck and if we can help you, call Net Results at any time.

“There are people who are really good managers, people who can manage a big organization, and then there are people who are very analytic or focused on strategy.

“Those two types don’t usually tend to be in the same person. I would put myself much more in the latter camp.”
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder

Some might consider it presumptious to start a blog post on the subject of strategy with a quote from one of the most successful Internet businessmen of the modern age.

But, truth be told, whether it’s words of wisdom from Zuckerberg, Gates, Jobs, or Obama, winners, from entrepreneurs to politicians, consistently agree on the importance of strategy as a key component of success.

A recent Inc. magazine article drills down on this subject by recognizing Six Habits of True Strategic Thinkers. Click here to read the full article, but in a nutshell, the six habits are:

  1. Anticipate – focus on ‘peripheral vision’ as well as what’s ahead of you
  2. Think Critically – question everything, it’ll give your business a competitive edge.
  3. Interpret – gather information from many sources to develop a viewpoint.
  4. Decide – develop processes and enforce them.
  5. Align – foster open dialogue and engage key stakeholders when oppinions differ.
  6. Learn – encourage honest feedback, it’s the best way to learn.

It’s pretty much universally agreed that great strategic thinkers are not simply born with the gift of strategic thinking,  they earn it from a committed focus to developing skills like those six identified in the Inc. article. As the saying goes, “Success follows focus,” and the ability to focus on becoming a great strategist requires a hearty mixture of commitment, a clear vision, dogged pursuit, character, and leadership skills.

On the subject of leadership as it relates to strategy, it’s important to recognize the symbiotic relationship between the two skills, while, at the same time, not letting one overshadow the other. Great leaders are almost always good strategists. That said, good strategists are not necessarily great leaders. On this relationship, a quote from the great U.S. military leader Norman Schwarzkopf is very apropos: “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.”

Don’t misinterpret what Schwarzkopf is saying: strategy is important to winning. But, becoming a great strategist is a result of developing a strong character, which is a critical component of all great leaders. And having a strong character is a vital component of being a great leader.

The bottom line: Develop strong character and leadership skills, and your ability to think strategically — to anticipate, think critically, interpret, decide, align and learn — will be much more valuable, and successful in the long run.

With technology growing and demands of customers getting stronger, the flexibility of your business is becoming evermore important. Being able to efficiently adapt to a sudden change and always having the option to do so, will make your business less vulnerable, says a recent article. Here are four tips to help your business be more flexible:

1. Invest in technology. The article mentions that your business’s technology should be “easy and fast in responding to changes.” It further states that you can implement this by upgrading your hardware and software, as well as investing in technological tools. Tools such as online eFax® can help take your business on the go with features such as digitized signature and faxes straight to your Smartphone.

2. Always be developing your vision. You might have your eyes on the prize of a successful business, but as you run along the path, you might notice that it splits into many avenues leading to various degrees of success. If you see that your vision isn’t playing out how you thought it would, change it.

3. Have a backup plan. When life gives you lemons, you can make lemonade, sorbet, or lemon bars – the possibilities are endless. The same should stand for your business. Always be prepared for unforeseen factors, including downfalls in the market and new competition.

4. The need for speed. The article also mentions that true flexibility in business lies within having the speed to react to changes. By reacting quickly to whatever obstacles your business might face, you’ll give your business a strong reputation.

You can help your business run more efficiently by implementing these tips into your daily business strategy. There are many tools available to help small businesses be more flexible, including services such as Global Call Forwarding®, which allow you to manage your business calls from your home, car, on a job site with a client, or wherever you may be — even on the beach!

Imagine you and a friend are standing in line with 34 other people to see a movie premiere at your local theater. To pass the time, your friend wants to bet $25 that no two people in the line share a birthday. Would you take the bet?

Most people wouldn’t, and here’s why: With 36 people in the line, and 365 possible birthdays, you would figure only about a 1 in 10 chance of a match — a bad bet, and a 90% chance of losing $25.

But, guess what? You should take the bet, because you have a better than 80% chance of winning $25.

Why?

The answer lies in the relationship between mathematics and the dynamics of connected networks. Think, for a moment, about the social communities your business is part of — Twitter feed(s), a Facebook page, LinkedIn page, Pinterest, etc.

The question above — would you take the bet? — illustrates the challenges and inherent opportunities for a business in today’s social media-driven business environment. It’s important to understand the principle of connected groups, becasuse the individuals, and the dynamic nature of the relationships within the groups, can have a huge impact on success or failure of your business.

Most people, when faced with decisions involving many people tend to only think of themselves in relation to the group, as opposed to considering the multiple combinations of connections that could happen.

Think again about the birthday question — if your friend had asked “What are the odds that someone in this line shares your birthday?”,  you would have been right to pass. You have about a 10% chance of finding a match. (365 days divided by 36 people).

But, when it comes to a group setting, your relationship with others is not the only factor that influences an outcome. It’s the links, or connections, between people that matter, not the actual number of people that drive influence, and outcomes. This gets to the heart of why it’s called “social” media — it’s built on social connections.

In the movie line of 36 people, there are more than six hundred possible birthday matches! (630 to be exact.)

Why does this matter for your business?

Think of a Twitter account with 73 followers that has a negative tweet about you and your business. The tendency might be to ignore the tweet and shrug it off (“…hey, it’s only 73 people! I can’t please everyone!”)

While the logic in this response may be valid, the potential impact of the negative tweet is much more troublesome when you look at the numbers. When a person with 73 followers posts a negative tweet about you or your company, that message can spread through that network quickly (ReTweets, re-posts, etc), depending on the network’s density (the more connected, the more dense).

There are 2,628 links in this connected network, meaning that one negative tweet in an account with 73 followers has the potential to spread much wider than you may think.

The bottom line? When engaging in social media activity — Tweets, Facebook posts, blogs, Pins, etc., don’t just think in terms of numbers — think about the connections. Monitor what’s being said (HootSuite and Sysomos are two great tools for this), and respond quickly.

Otherwise, you could be betting a lot more than $25.

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What are some of the best tips you can provide for anyone looking to improve their business relations in the UK?

Luke Johnson: Anything that saves money clearly. If you can do things cheaper, then that’s good, and it’s about shopping around for the most efficient, low-cost provider whatever the form of supply is. I think procurement is what a lot of people are focusing on, and any legitimate, sensible means to find a lower-cost solution, re-engineering products, providing services at a lower cost — that’s got to be a priority.

Tim Smit: The existing technology that is there with the Internet, I think has only just been touched. We live in this Facebook generation where the sharing of information is absolutely critical. But what is only just been touched is, if you like, local websites, because they have been fringe and nerdy. I think what you’re going to see in the future is the increasing sophistication and access at a personal level to people through websites, and using the virtual world to translate into the real world in a way that none of us ever believed possible maybe five or ten years ago. I’m very excited about it because I’ve always been rather skeptic about the Web but seeing how a lot of localized web systems are encouraging people to communicate virtually, and then meeting as a result of the virtual engagement, I think it shows a lot of potential for business.

Chey Garland: I think for me technology is great but it doesn’t end there. It’s about technology, it’s about people, it’s about process. For us it’s about having a very robust knowledge base technology for people to access, to get the right answer. It’s also about having CRM systems — Customer Relationship Management systems — that really profile customers well so that you can look at those, access, and understand what you can do to enhance the service or provide extra products to benefit the customer and to add to the bottom line. I think that contact centers are a rich source of marketing and there’s more whizzy technology around now to enable us to understand a lot more about what’s happening on the course. This software is called Data Analytic software and it helps us to really understand why customers are calling in, and pinpoint perhaps what processes aren’t working properly so that you can make those things more efficient, which in turn will take cost out of the business.

Miles Templeman: I think the new technologies that are helping business are particularly in the IT world where computer systems enable you to run the business more efficiently, to manage your whole processes, to manage your customer interface better. I think that’s where I see most progress. Indeed that’s where you can both run the business effectively, and take out cost.

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Impact-of-Global-Forces-on-UK-Business-OrganisationsInterviewer: Charles Dixon from Contract Store is going to take us through the legal documents that are needed when setting up a business in the UK. What are the options for legal structures when I’m setting up a business?

Charles Dixon: There are basically four options in the UK. You can operate as a sole trader. That is under your own name or a business name that you registered. You can form a limited company. You can form a partnership if you’re in business with more than one person. And fourthly, you could have a limited liability partnership which is as the name suggests, a partnership but with limited liability.

Interviewer: What would you recommend to do before setting up a business?

Charles: The first thing you need to check is whether the name you are planning to use is already registered somewhere and you also have to think about the domain name because almost every business nowadays will have a website. And if you want the name of your business in the website, in the domain name, you have to do a check there as well.

You are going to need a business plan at an early stage to work out what your objectives are and how you’re going to achieve them. If you are producing some new idea, if you’re developing some new concept with other people, then you will probably want to have a confidentiality agreement or a nondisclosure agreement with those colleagues so that they don’t walk away with your idea or if the business doesn’t take off as you were initially planning.

Interviewer: What types of documents would I use to form a company with other people?

Charles Dixon: On the subject of legal structure, if you are working or setting up a business with other people, if it’s a limited company, I would suggest that you have a shareholders agreement. The company will have articles of association which governs it but a shareholders agreement is a private document not on the public register and it will set out such matters as the day to day management of the business, what happens if somebody wants to sell or dies, and maybe restrictions on people who leave so they don’t set up in competition with you.

Interviewer: What kinds of contracts might I need when I’m actually operating my business?

Charles: If you’re providing some service, you will need some terms and conditions to give to your clients. If you are selling goods, you probably want also some terms and conditions, maybe print it on the back of your order forms. If you are employing people or using anybody to provide services to you, you will need to have a contract with them. In the case of employment, somebody who is an employee and you’re deducting PAYE, you are required by law to give them certain terms and conditions. If you’re engaging a freelancer, again you should have an agreement. Again, partly to protect yourself in case they went off to a competitor or disclosed confidentiality issues which you didn’t want them to do.

Interviewer: What does Contract Store offer for these types of situations?

Charles: We have a number of business packs which contain quite a few of the documents I’ve been talking about which is sold as a pack on a discounted basis. Alternatively, we have 250 contracts on our website and you can pick and mix from them as to the documents that you need and we’ve got variations on the same sort of theme in that depending whether it’s a two partner agreement or three partnership, whatever. We also have free information. For example, guidance on writing a business plan is a free document you can download from our website and we do have a little guidance booklet on setting up a new business.