South West Training Blog

Articles, tips, guides and blogs around business skills, training, professional courses and development in addition to South West relevant news.

Is Financial Illiteracy Costing you Dearly?

Is Financial Illiteracy Costing you Dearly?

According to research by the think tank ‘IPPR’, British people love going it alone. They estimate that over 14% of us now work for ourselves.  There’s clearly a huge attraction to working independently (not least being able to manage your own holidays and working times) but the realities of being a sole worker without the backing of all the functions that typically support a larger business can be tough.
 
Not only does the individual need to excel professionally within their chosen specialism but they also need to be adept at marketing, sales, administration systems and processes, website management, IT, HR and finance. Arguably, financial literacy is one of the most critical assets as, without it, the success of the enterprise becomes at best compromised.  Poor financial literacy is, without doubt, one of the major reasons that so many self-employed enterprises fail within the first few years.  

Take for example an individual who has excellent turnover. They assume everything is ok because their sales ledger tells them it is but this individual has an insufficient understanding of cash flow. Despite successful sales, they have not forecast creditor needs and general expenditure such as annual tax payments and their business starts to suffer.

Although financial literacy is an essential skill, most schools do not teach it and neither do the majority of parents.  As such, an individual may leave academia with a praiseworthy understanding of their chosen speciality and establish their own enterprise but the inability to understand and reconcile their P&L, decipher assets from liabilities and truly understand their Balance Sheet jeopardises the potential of their business.
 
Financial training is therefore one of the most important investments that self-employed individuals should make if they are to successfully drive their enterprise.  Self-Study via internet sites is better than nothing and there are some great resources out there which will at least equip you with a basic understanding. Operating in the absence of a detailed knowledge and pressing ahead regardless could be something that the individual regrets later down then line when financial poor management catches up with them.
 
If you are yet to embark upon financial training or study, then here are some practical frameworks in the meantime:

•    Ensure you have excellent record keeping, including fully comprehensive sales and purchase ledgers.  Absolutely everything connected to the business and bought on behalf of the business should be tracked in detail (with receipts where necessary) and equally all sales made on behalf of the business should also be tracked.  Reconcile these ledgers weekly if not daily to ensure that income is meeting outgoings.
•    Prepare a budget – what out of the ordinary expenditure will be due?  This may include for example annual insurances, tax payments, IT renewals, professional membership renewals.  Review against purchase and sales ledgers.  Has enough money been put aside for these payments?
•    Consider the credit terms you offer to clients; does the speed at which you collect payments allow you to meet creditor demands?  If you are giving credit to clients then always reference their credit worthiness. There are plenty of companies online providing this service. Where possible take payments in advance.
•    Avoid taking on debt. Where possible defer large purchases until such a time as you’ve generated sufficient net profits to make the payments. Debt is a sure way to burden your business – often unnecessarily.  
•    Consider how best to develop your financial skills – whether this be via online research, online courses, mentoring from someone within your network or face to face training, it is essential that you put a development plan in place.  At the very least develop a detailed understanding of terms such as cash flow, profit margins, assets, liabilities, net profit, gross profit, balance sheet, expenses, operating costs and depreciation.
 
By prioritising the need for financial literacy you have already increased the chances of your business succeeding.  Get this fundamental skill under your belt and you give yourself a significant competitive advantage.

Training South West supply business training to companies across the South West, including Dorset, Somerset and Exeter.  Courses may be tailored specifically and delivered in-house, or, via open settings. Financial courses include 'Introduction to Finance Management' and 'Advanced Financial Skills'.

Continue reading
1408 Hits

Are Written Skills really so Important?

Are Written Skills really so Important?

Growing up as a child in the 70’s, grammar and punctuation were instilled in lessons and, along with my classmates, errors were not acceptable and we would be penalised for making them. We were repeatedly told that our written work represented us as individuals and that it should be as well presented as our physical selves.

When I became responsible for recruiting teams however, it quickly became apparent that these standards no longer hold the same weight that they did when I was a child.  Following my recruitment of my first few employees, one of whom was degree qualified, it became immediately obvious that they lacked writing skills.  They were bright people who had performed fantastically during the interview phase and had some great attributes but their written work was not of the standard that would allow us to send it to clients without first checking and amending it. A training course in writing effective business communications became an absolute must for the individuals in question.  

Our realisation that written skills were an issue within our target recruit market made it necessary for us to implement a testing system to assess written English standards. The test did not discriminate, but merely enabled us to establish the type of support and checking systems that might be required should an offer of employment be made. The fact we had to do this was a shock.  We regularly employed individuals from overseas and their standards of written English and knowledge of grammar and punctuation far exceeded that of the young English recruits coming through the door.

The possibility that our educational systems are not properly preparing our children became evident during a parent – teacher meeting whereby I raised concerns that my older child seemed to have very few frameworks when writing.  He rarely applied capital letters, sentences could amble on for half a page and commas would be thrown in haphazardly with an almost artistic intention. Not only did his teacher seem surprised when I asked how we might further support him at home to ensure he acquired his written skills but she then proceeded to tell me that if we thought these skills were important that she’d focus more time on him.  Had I been discussing my 6 year old child, then this conversation might have been appropriate as content is of the essence and formal written skills come later – but I wasn’t.  My child is a year off entering senior school.

I don’t believe that the relaxed attitude of this particular teacher is typical of all teachers but it gave me the momentum to discuss it further with other educational professionals.  One individual that I spoke to said that she didn’t put too much emphasis on written skills as this puts children with challenges such as dyslexia at a disadvantage. This shocked me.  Was the individual expectation of this particular teacher that our written English standards should be obliterated to accommodate children who have a natural reason for struggling with them?  I feel absolutely not.

There are many amazing British entrepreneurs and academics with dyslexia but their condition has not stopped them doing incredibly well.  I’m confident, for example, that Richard Branson would not send out a communication littered with errors but would instead delegate someone within his team to make the necessary checks and amendments.  A previous employee within one of my teams had advanced dyslexia.  As a specialist in her field, she would write fantastically informed pieces which would then be proof checked before they were dispatched.  A simple task which involves team work.  She would equally guide and educate others in respect to her own unique skills.

With these examples in mind, I maintain my view that written skills are essential. Poorly written content does not sell a company and people are less inclined to read material that falls over at the most basic levels of grammar and punctuation.  Emails littered with errors do not inspire confidence in the recipient and could potentially affect customer retention.  Why should an individual trust the quality of the product or service if the communications are error strewn?

As both a trainer and an employer, I firmly believe it is essential that companies support individuals who need to further develop their needs in this area. Formal written skills training will go a long way and enables an individual to focus on skill development away from the office.  However, internal arrangements can also be made whereby someone with the appropriate skill set is made responsible for mentoring the individual on an ongoing basis and checking their written work before it goes out. At Training South West key material never goes into the public domain unless it’s been checked – regardless of the writing skills of the author. My written skills are acceptable but I still rely on my team members and colleagues to double or triple check my work. 

Failing to support staff members in this respect and overlooking poor written skills means that their chances of gaining traction, successfully delivering the objectives of their written work and positively protecting the reputation of their company are diminished.  Everybody deserves good written skills.  Ensure  you honour this with your staff and you’ll increase their confidence and productivity no end.

Training South West deliver training courses across Somerset, Dorset, Devon, Exeter and Bristol.  Contact us to discuss your needs.

Continue reading
1202 Hits

Our Dedicated Somerset Training Venue

Our Dedicated Somerset Training Venue

Training South West has traditionally delivered its training from a dedicated training venue in Crewkerne, Somerset with beautiful, light airy training suites and great facilities. Delegates have always commented on the rooms as allowing a pleasurable space in which to learn.

Due to the way in which we work with our clients and the broad area covered across the South West, we have decided that dedicated training venues have value but that they are not always the right solution for our clients.  Why?

Our clients do not necessarily have the luxury of time to enable them to travel to a training destination which is not 'on their doorstep'.  For a client in Dorset, for example, taking a day out to travel to and from Crewkerne; whilst also battling peak hour traffic certainly does not make their life easy.

Since there are fantastic venues across the South West which are able to accommodate training delivery needs excellently then we have decided to make more use of them, particularly for our 'open' courses.  These venues are well established, have great facilities, catering on tap and happen to also be on the doorstep of our clients.  It makes more sense therefore, for the Training South West staff to do the travelling and hence remove the pressure off our clients. It's not uncommon for our clients to need to pop to the office before or after the course and for those who just want to enjoy a bit of a lie in and a slightly earlier finish then doorstep training is great!

Additionally, the venues which Training South West are now making more use of are local businesses and from a South West business perspective, why not also contribute to the businesses of our neighbours?

It's a win win all round.

If you have a venue that you feel would be great for our local training delivery then let us know.  Essentials on our ticklist include a large airy room equipped with projector, white board and 3 x flipcharts, two breakout rooms and catering facilities.  

Continue reading
1178 Hits

How Reciprocity is Effectively used in International Business

How Reciprocity is Effectively used in International Business

Reciprocity is a word many people have heard of before however few can define the mechanisms of this concept in business even though they may experience it all the time and as it happens right in front of their eyes. The purpose of this blog is to explain why one feels the need to return favours and how businesses or anyone can take advantage of the phenomenon.
 

Continue reading
2602 Hits
0 Comments

8 Essential Lessons the German Mannschaft Can Teach Every Business

8 Essential Lessons the German Mannschaft Can Teach Every Business

Last month we witnessed a breathtaking World Cup final which saw the Mannschaft (‘team’) win after a 24 year drought. As well as appearing in the World Cup finals eight times and having won the tournament four times, Germany is now the first European team to have won the cup on Latin American soil.  

Clearly, the German Mannschaft is a fantastic team. After all, we can’t neglect the fact that they played against Argentina, a country which is - unlike Germany - not known for its team but for its star player, Messi, a.k.a “the best player in the world”.

However, do you wonder what their secret was? Was it German efficiency? The quality promise of ‘made in Germany’? Or is there more to it than being German? Coincidence and luck were definitely not part of the equation; for me anyway.

I believe we can learn 8 vital lessons from the team’s performance, attitude and the way they conducted themselves that every business can, and should, learn from.

•    A strong vision: the German team knew what they were about. Combined with a set common goal, hard work, discipline and a positive mindset this creates a powerful entity. If businesses know who they are, what they want and how they want to get there, there is little that can stand in their way.


•    A strategic leader: in a radio interview, Germany’s coach Joachim Löw expressed the team’s confidence in their strength and the ability to stick to their well-established strategy. This comes from good leadership.  It is the leader who gives the team this sense of purpose, direction and commitment to get the job done.


•    Ability to adapt:  as we all know, life doesn’t always go to plan and football is no different. Prior to the final the team lost two key men, Kedhira and Kramer, however the team adapted. Just as with business, it is vital that teams remain flexible and open to situational adaptation, e.g. change of deadline, project amendments, etc.


•    Generational mix: the German team was a perfect balance between old-heads and new blood. One could argue that it was the oldies that kept the team in the final but the new guys such as Götze who won it. In business it’s vital to always have that solid experience as well as new, fresh ideas and impetus.


•    Cultural diversity: the German team had many second-generation Germans such as Mustafi, Özil, Boateng and Podolski. Having people in your business with different backgrounds, experience, ideas and values only strengthens the overall offering and should never be underestimated.


•    Staying focussed: as we saw with the team, when under pressure, and in a critical situations, they never panicked. Panicking is of no help to anyone. For want of a better phrase, it’s so important to always keep your eyes on the goal.


•    Reliance on structure: perhaps better demonstrated by the passion and somewhat disorganisation of the Brazilians, having a structure in place is vital. The German team knew their places, how they had to work for each other and what to do in certain situations. Having a structure in place, along with rules is necessary if any business wants to see success.


•    Stay humble, passionate and genuine: as perhaps personified most by Schweinsteiger, the Germans were the epitomy of class. There is no place for egos in a team and we witnessed this throughout the competition even when they managed to put 7 goals past the hosts. Just as in business, you need to temper any sense of superiority and just put your head down and do the best job you can.


Author: Désirée Gergen is about to graduate in an MA in Intercultural Communication for Business and Professions at Birkbeck College, University of London.

Continue reading
1693 Hits
0 Comments