Free business workshops for North East Derbyshire

If you are thinking about self-employment or starting a new business, there is free advice and start-up workshops for NE Derbyshire. The workshops cover three topics

BE YOUR OWN BOSS – an introduction to working for yourself and useful tips for starting a business

BUSINESS FINANCE -raising money to start your business and managing your business finances

MARKETING YOUR BUSINESS – affordable ways to get your business noticed and attract customers

Each workshop lasts two hours and will run in a choice of locations including Ashover, Clay Cross, Killamarsh, Eckington and Chesterfield right through to 2013.

The workshops are free to all but priority is given to North  East Derbyshire District Council residents. They are supported under the Bolsover and North East Derbyshire Leader Fund and delivered by Derbyshire Enterprise Agency and Clowne Enterprise who are also offering business advice on an individual basis.

To book your free place, please call Davina on 01246 207207

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Be Your Own Boss Workshop

I will be holding a Be Your Own Boss workshop at the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce offices at Commerce Centre, Canal Wharf, Chesterfield S41 7NA on Thursday 12th April 2012. The workshop runs from 5.30 -7.30 pm and covers the key issues you need to consider when starting a business or becoming self-employed. It’s good fun, informative and gives some hot tips for business success all for £12 inc vat and a free coffee!

Posted in Business advice and information | Leave a comment

Red Tape – the beautiful excuse!

Along with doubtless thousands of others, I received an invitation from Number 10 to participate in the Red Tape challenge- disruptive business models – whatever that may mean. So let’s crack on with the topic. All those in favour of Red Tape, raise your hands! What no-one? Amazing!

 Let’s re-phrase the question. How would you like to operate your business in a restraint free environment where you could maximise your profits without having to invest in your business? Ah a little more interest I detect – because of course UK industry is struggling under the yoke of unfair restraint and regulation that makes it impossible for us to compete on a level playing field….right?

 How nicely this fits the political agenda. We can heap blame on all those overpaid public workers that are such a burden upon enterprise. We can attempt to sweep away employment rights and general business restraints because surely these are what really hold us back.

Of course we wouldn’t want to go as far as shoving little boys up chimneys again or dumping our toxic waste straight in the nearest trout stream would we?  Of course not – at least not on our own doorstep; we may be somewhat less fussy at what happens in the Philippines perhaps but no we are corporately responsible beings. Profit at any price is not our mantra – excluding a few notable exceptions – you know who you are…

Strange as it may seem, I cannot see how an economy such as Germany can manage to survive at all. Higher Corporation and Income Tax than the UK, heavily regulated regarding all those burdensome issues such as Health and Safety and Employment rights, active Trade Unions and all – not to mention the costs of re-unification. Why isn’t it the sick, dead or dying man of Europe?

 The removal of Red Tape and light touch regulation is no panacea and can be downright dangerous as our recent banking crisis clearly demonstrates. It’s time to own up to what actually blights considerable numbers of  UK companies –namely directors and shareholders with short-term interests.

 While over-hyped executives seek to maintain an environment in which they can keep awarding themselves ever-larger bonuses, they must deliver (or at least promise) dividends that encourage shareholders to go along with them.

Take a walk round any older manufacturing town or City and you can see the lasting effects of lack of investment in plant, machinery and R&D; manufacturing technologies developed in the UK and sold abroad at the expense of UK jobs; skill shortages in key areas because businesses didn’t want the expense of ITBs; factories bled dry of investment, leaving them unable to compete on a world stage.

 I am not against well-paid executives or reasonable return on investment for shareholders. I am against trying to heap the blame for failure on the people least responsible. It isn’t teachers, nurses or minimum wage workers who have bankrupted the UK but the failure of business and Governments over decades to invest in its future.

 If Mr Cameron contacts me again, I will tell him that I can live with the Red Tape but there’s many thousands of jobs that are disappearing in Derby thanks to a contract his Government awarded overseas. I’m not sure I can live with that kind of decision - and recent others like it.

 Decency and a sense of fairness aren’t high on the list of priorities for the candidates lining up for the new series of the Apprentice. It’s about time they were – and UK businesses would reap real and lasting benefits. Actually most of the people I meet in business are fair-minded decent people. They want their staff to progress and deliver returns for themselves and the company. So who put the lunatics in charge?



Posted in Business & Politics | Leave a comment

Business Advice Access Derbyshire

Where do I go for business help?


Where to start for business advice

Welcome to the post public sector funded business support era! Just about now would-be business starters are finding that in most cases and most areas, there is nowhere to go for free business advice on a face to face basis. (Check with Business Link and your local authority to see if there is anything specific to your location.)

 There are some very good sources of advice on-line, including  but if you are new to business, you don’t know what you need to know so how do you get started on your research? A web site cannot spot when someone is looking confident or bewildered by the information they are receiving; it cannot know when a bit of TLC or a harsh reality check is in order.


Funded face to face advice was hardly a panacea. Your access to help really depended on whether you happened to be in the “target” market of the funder. Were you a start-up or a pre-start – or even a pre-pre-start? Were you in a priority area or 50 yards further down the road? Like most target driven services, your quality of service would depend to a greater or lesser degree on how likely you were to be someone’s output. Payment by results inevitably leads to cherry-picking.


In an ideal world, everyone should have access to the level of advice that meets their needs. That can only be achieved independently of grant funding and ultimately where the service is dictated by the users. Despite all the benefits and cost savings to the Treasury of every business start however small, you will only get a good advice service if you pay for it. Anything else will be a political expediency.


That said, if you live in Derbyshire, you can get a half-hour free advice session from Derbyshire Enterprise Agency to at least point you in the right direction. If you need help beyond that – and you probably will, then it will cost you £25 + vat per hour. They also offer a two-hour workshop at £10 + vat that walks you through the basics of self-employment that can help you decide if starting your own business is the right choice for you. Date of next “Be Your Own Boss” event is Thursday 12th April, 5.30-7.30pm in Chesterfield.  Call Janet Howett on 01246 212538 or email



Posted in Business advice and information, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Start-up business workshops – Chesterfield and Derby

 If you are thinking of starting a business but are not sure how to go about it, the Derbyshire Enterprise Agency may be able to help. For a taster of what’s involved in setting up for yourself, they are offering a 2 hour evening workshop to take you through the basics. These will be at the Chamber of Commerce offices on Canal Wharf, Chesterfield, starting at at 5.30 on the 2nd and 16th of February. There is a door entry charge of £10 to cover costs and it will be me delivering the workshops.

In addition, we are also staging three business planning workshops covering

  • Introduction to Business Planning
  • Will it Pay? – understanding costs and pricing
  • Will it Sell? – creating and marketing an attractive businss
  • Marketing Yourself Online – intro to web and social media marketing

Each workshop has a cost of £50 per person. Information and online booking can be found at the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber web site –


Each workshop



Posted in Marketing ideas | Leave a comment

Customer Service – make a problem a business winner


Great guitars, great service

I’d like to let you know about an example of excellent service that turned a disgruntled customer (me) into an avid fan. The company concerned is Turner Guitars near Doncaster. About six months ago I bought a Turner electro-acoustic guitar from a shop in Rotherham. Sounded great on it’s own and played really nicely – but it developed a few annoying problems, one of which couldn’t be easily overcome. What with one thing and another I was beginning to get a bit peeved and sent an e-mail to the company expressing my dissappointment. In no time at all, I received a reply from company boss Dave Ryan ( who had only just taken over the franchise) who straight away offered to swap the guitar out, no questions asked, as soon as he received a new shipment. I now have the new guitar which is absolutely fantastic and am delighted to recommend the company.

The point is that dealing with a problem effectively can gain you more praise and publicity than if no problem had occurred. In business, things go wrong from time to time. If they do, fix it fast and fix it well and your reputation will benefit. Don’t run away from a problem, bad news travels fast and if your reputation suffers, it takes a heck of a lot to recover it.

Posted in Marketing ideas, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Great resource for carers of stroke victims

Do you know a stroke victim?

Here’s a really great idea for anyone who is helping to care for a loved one who has suffered a stroke. Created by Julie Dyg from her experience of caring for her own mother, the Notedownforme notebook is a real aide to communication. Stroke victims often lose the ability to communicate effectively which can prove highly distressing and frustrating for them and their carers. Julie has developed a really helpful diary/notebook format that incorporates photos, key symbols and reminders that enable communication to begin again –even at the most basic level of pointing at an image – but this can be a vital relief to the stroke patient who is otherwise unable to make their needs or thoughts known. Based in Derby, Julie set up her business with support from the Enterprise Coaching programme and having had the experience of being a carer, I wish her every success with her product. Details at

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Riots and the Business Community

I’ve left a bit of time before putting digit to keyboard on this one, because sometimes you need to think things through. Having lived and worked in several of the areas in London where rioting occurred (no I don’t think there’s any connection) my initial reaction was one of “Oh no, not again!” On reflection however, there appears to be little real connection between the riots in Toxteth and Brixton back in the Eighties to recent events.

Much of the action seemed to be criminally motivated or thrill-seeking, and often involving people that could hardly be described as under-privileged or even young. Rioters were not exclusively linked by ethnicity or even area. And of course there are no excuses for anyone taking part.

But there are reasons and business people need to consider whether they have contributed to those reasons or whether they are doing anything that might make the situation better.

We have an underclass in society for whom the possibility of achievement through educational attainment and hard work is a meaningless concept. Whether that is the result of deprivation, poverty, poor education or parenting is another question but for the vast majority in that position, there are very limited legitimate opportunities for advancement.

At the same time, they are exposed to the same aspirational marketing as the rest of society and have the same desires for the brand names, flat screens, fast cars and general bling that commercial consumerism is only too eager to thrust before us. Little wonder then, when the BMW driving, bling plastered drug dealer or their less conspicuous and more successful counterparts become the new role model. Or how about we become the next X factor winner regardless of talent or skill level? Get rich quick and easy is the modern mantra. I have honestly interviewed youngsters whose genuine answer to career choice, regardless of ability is “be a celebrity.”

And who can say that’s an invalid point of view when we are prepared to pay obscene bonuses to perhaps very clever people ( though I doubt it) who successfully manage to re-channel wealth without actually creating any? And then somehow lose it all again. Speculation on a grand scale, gambling with other people’s money is our highest paid profession. What kind of a lesson is that for our young? How about investing some of bonus culture in the next generation who once again will have to make things, invent things and develop meaningful skills.

So what can business do to help change things? Firstly I think we need to recognise that the vast majority of young people regardless of their education are smart, bright, tech savvy decent human beings who need a break. What can we do to create some opportunities?

Next, let’s have a think about our marketing messages. Are they really legal decent truthful and honest? Or am I still pretending that my brand of aftershave is irresistibly appealing to the opposite sex? Will my products make you smart, successful and sexy with no effort on your part?

Maybe we can offer role models who can demonstrate that hard work really can pay off- and is infinitely more rewarding than looting a telly from PC World. Careers advice and information from people who’ve been there and done it would be nice. Any ideas welcome.

To the people in Tottenham and Enfield where I used to work who have been affected by the riots, I wish you every success in rebuilding and I think we’ve all seen signs of a positive community response to the troubles. To the perpetrators, I am happy to see the book thrown at them – but hopefully attached to a bit of positive learning.

Nice to see no rioting in Sheffield or Chesterfield this time round but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a job to do. And that means you too Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Enterprise Allowance Mentoring

mentors for New Enterprise Allowance

Advice you can count on?

The first wave of mentors to work with New Enterprise Allowance applicants, the Government has recruited via secondment from the banks – presumably or at least hopefully small business advisers. A wider mentor recruitment is planned which we can hope will broaden the experience available to applicants but at the moment one might just question how useful the mentors will be.

I do not wish to suggest that there aren’t many competent advisers within our clearing banks but I do have a few reservations….

  • How many will have any first hand experience of starting or running a business?
  • Working in a corporate culture, will they understand the culture and demands of a small business?
  • Will the advice they offer be truly impartial? I can’t foresee their employers allowing them to promote a rival small business bank account?
  • Given that it is largely down to the banks that we are in such dire economic circumstances and who have significantly failed to invest in manufacturing, small retail and small business generally, are they the wisest source of advice?
  •  Do any of these advisers carry Professional Indemnity Insurance for the advice they provide?

Hopefully, the scrutiny of business plans should act as a review of how well the programme operates. In South Yorkshire, the panels will be organised by the Doncaster Chamber of Commerce and in Derbyshire by Business in the Community. These organisations will be expected to deliver a target number of business starts though the results also relate to the sustainability of those starts. I am therefore reasonably confident that applicants will be better served than the last time round in the 1980’s.

Posted in Business Planning | Leave a comment

New Enterprise Allowance

What financial help can I get to start my business?

Business start-up advice South Yorkshire and Derbyshire

Decide on your business case not the allowance

Sadly I’m old enough to remember the old Enterprise Allowance Scheme which I have to say was not much more than a cynical attempt to reduce the jobless figures. However that did not prevent quite a few enterprising people using it to help start their business in spite of an almost  total lack of support.

This time around, there are some significant potential improvements in the programme. As I understand it, every applicant will be assigned a “mentor” who will work with them during an eight week period to produce a business plan. That plan will then be assessed by an administering panel and if deemed viable, the applicant will receive the allowance as follows :-(

NEA will be available to Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) customers who have been claiming for 26-weeks or more.

Participants will get access to a volunteer business mentor who will provide guidance and support as they develop their business plan and through the early months of trading. Once a customer can demonstrate they have a viable business proposition with the potential for growth in the future, they will be able to access financial support. This will consist of:

  • a weekly allowance worth £1,274 over 26 weeks, paid at £65 a week for the first 13 weeks and £33 a week for a further 13 weeks, and
  • if they need start-up capital, they may also be able to access a loan up to £1,000 to help with their start-up costs.

The total package of support could be worth up to £2,274 to each participant who starts their own business.

I have a few concerns about the mentoring scheme (see next post) but the main point to bear in mind is – don’t just plan to start because there is an allowance. Make sure you have a real desire to run a business or be self-employed and line up some customers before you decide your start date.

Posted in Business Planning, Uncategorized | Leave a comment