The building blocks of better business
Log-on every hour on the hour from 10 am to 1pm to catch our day of business webinars.
As the owner of a small or home-based business you’ll no doubt be working around a hectic schedule with little time for researching and implementing better working practice. With this in mind we are hosting a day of webinars that will tell you all you need to know about maximising your productivity and improving your bottom line.
The webinars provided by BT Business are part of a ‘Better Business’ series and cover a range of topics including ‘Controlling your business costs,’ ‘The benefits of working from home,’ ‘The benefits of VoIP technology’ and ‘Collaborating on the Web.’
Whether you already have your business up and running or are just starting to put your business plans in place, a little bit of expert advice could help. Each webinar will feature a panel of industry gurus ready and willing to pass on all their pearls of business wisdom. So why not log-on throughout the day to find out how to take your enterprise to the next level?
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H: Glen Thompsett, host
P: Phil Flaxton, Workwise UK
A: Andy Hudson, BT Business
H: Hello and welcome to the Business Show brought to you today by BT, Im Glen Thompsett. Now then, interesting fact time did you know there are more than 2.1 million home businesses in the UK contributing to around £364 billion to the UK economy, and employing 28% of the workforce? So maybe youre working from home, or indeed running a business from home were going to be finding out why people do it and more importantly what can be done to maximise an efficient working process. Well joining me in the studio today to discuss this is Andy Hudson from BT Business, and also Phil Flaxton from Workwise UK gentlemen thanks for joining us today on the program. Start with you Phil if we can. Why are more and more people working now from home then, whats the reason?
P: Well I think there are a number but I think one of the key reasons is looking to improve work / life balance, you know I think we all now work under or many people work under a lot of pressure and of course with the advancement of new technology in recent years such as broadband technology and mobile technology more and more people are realising that in fact there is a better way of working, and thats very often working from home
H: Andy Hudson from BT Business, is it the advent of broadband thats creating this, this sort of popular work-from-home ethic now, if you like?
A: I think broadband has absolutely been a key enabler and obviously linked to broadband is the power of the net, the internet as well. Lets not forget that the very first internet was voice, you could ring anybody up and talk to anybody. Well now you know on the web you can communicate with anybody, you can host a professional service and you can make your business at home look very much like its a big business, you can transact with your customers and they dont actually know that you are operating from your office, be it in your bedroom or the spare room of the house, and its just so much more efficient
H: So there are two ways of doing this, theres the existing people who work for a large corporate company I guess, who now have the ability to work from home as you say, BT have certain products that allow you to do that, and also start-up ventures as well, start-up businesses. I suppose the problem there is getting the corporate clients to come to your home, your domestic dwelling it never looks that impressive Phil does it really?
P: Well I think that, of course it depends whether you live in a one bedroom flat or a mansion, but no I think that for a lot of people who run businesses from home they use facilities like hotels and so on to meet clients off-site, and I think the need to bring a client to home is not necessarily that great, you know if youre going to have a meeting then you can either go to the client or as I say use an external facility
H: Thats a lot of money isnt it, contributing £364 billion to the UK economy 2.1 million home users now. Its a lot of people isnt it? Its obviously getting more and more popular I guess
A: It is getting more popular, BT was one of the first companies we put the technology to use ourselves, weve now over 50,000 registered flexible or home workers. Weve done an awful lot of studies and we actually know that we get more productivity from our people who work from home, because weve enabled them to be more productive, and we all know that the stresses of travel and transport and office accommodation are increasing, so we believe that there will be more and more people who choose to use the technology and work more efficiently from home, its just bound to happen
H: But theres also that fine balance of working and family life, particularly if youre maybe a young mum whose starting a business at home, youre sort of balancing looking after the young children and trying to, you know keep that important telephone call going. How do you do it?
A: Ok well the first thing is to really spend time initially to make time downstream, and make very clear divisions between your home life and your business life, so get yourself a separate business telephone line, get yourself a business broadband, a business grade broadband is 16p a day more than a typical consumer offering, and it gives you the ability to have professional email services, professional firewalls, an increased security and help desk support such that thats then taking care of theyre on a business broadband with a professional business email service and with good support, and you are up and running. And then you can add to that with web presence, email addresses, and you can even trade on the net and you could soon make your business at home look very, very efficient, and I think its taking those first few steps to get the right packages to ensure that your business can keep going
H: Phil, what about that financial stability from working at home, if youre a start-up business particularly, not so much for the corporate employee whose working from home maybe on a Friday or something, having a longer weekend, but certainly the start-up businesses, financial stabilitys a problem isnt it, surely?
P: Well I think clearly if youre going to go into business, whether its through starting with premises or from home, I mean you know youve got to have a very good idea, youve got to do all the things that you know you need to do in terms of making sure that youve got a market, that you understand the market, you understand your competitors, you understand whats on offer out there, and of course you know that you do all the diligent things like cash flow projection, making sure that you know youre going to have customers from day one or you know how to get customers and more importantly keep them. So I think its important that you do all of those things before you even contemplate you know starting a business, as I say whether its from home or anywhere else. If youre doing it to, you know because youre fed up with the daily commute or you want to be your own boss, I mean thats a very good reason to do it, but as I say youve got to make sure that you really do go out and get advice and theres a lot of good independent advice out there and also if you can talk to other people that run businesses from home, I think thats a very good place to start
H: Get some tips and advice from them
P: Get some tips and advice, you know and again if you dont know anybody there are various places that you can go to that will put you in touch with people that you know a local network where you can go and find that advice
H: Ok, Andy Im a standalone business, I want to start from home, what essential tools do I need? Obviously a computer with a fast connection, but what essential tools do I need, maybe to share documents around, you know if I want to work on a document with Frank Smith up in Yorkshire do you supply those sort of products?
A: Absolutely. If youre starting up in business and you have done your financial planning as Phil said, then one of the first things that were prepared to do would be to offer finance packages to start-up businesses, and you know obviously thats a great aid to get you going. So we can look at broadband connection, a business grade broadband thats almost a business essential. We can look at the right level of support, we can look at a supported or managed PC, and we can provide the PC now on the end of the broadband, with the Microsoft suite applications. We could provide you with a professional email address, so it could be company name or firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org we could soon make your business look very professional, and we could then because no business would start-up today without a web presence, without being on the net
H: In terms of cost, what are you looking at ideally? Whats the ideal cost?
A: Well I think I like to think of it being so much a day, you know what do you value your business at? You know 5p a day buys you security, 16p a day buys you a 16p more buys you a business grade broadband, and £25.00 a week buys you a managed PC with a suite of, with a suite of application software, one that lets you run
H: A lot less then a daily rail ticket then really?
A: Absolutely its a lot less than a daily rail ticket, and some services we will offer for free, so we have a new, or relatively new community networking proposition, its called BT trade space, its like the MySpace for business. There are over a thousand new businesses a week registering on there and we will offer you that for free, so that will give you a web presence, let you advertise your business, you can set it up in 20 minutes and you can trade
H: Its as easy as that. So I could be up and running then within a day presumably?
A: You could be up and running within a day
H: Thats fantastic isnt it, it really is good. Thats the hardware side of it, thats the technical side of it, but what about business support Phil, whats out there to support a start-up venture for instance, in terms of advice on setting up a business
P: Well of course typically a lot of people go and talk to their bank or to their accountant if theyve got one, and they are generally the place where, you know the first stop that somebody might go, particularly if youre looking to raise finance, but I think local chambers of commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses, there are a number of, as I say, independent organisations that one can go to, and of course some very good websites where you know advice is available, and so theres no shortage of information out there, and in fact weve just produced a guide to smarter working which can be downloaded from our website, so you know and I think BT has also got some excellent information on their sites, so theres no shortage of information that one can you know readily is available to one
H: So 2.1 million people as we said earlier are now working from home, that number is growing and growing and growing isnt it? Friday seems to be a popular day to take off from the office we mentioned when we came on before we came on air that more people are working from home on a Friday now, not skiving off but actually physically working from home
A: I think thats right, I think the weekly grind, particularly these people who commute, the railway station car parks I find are that little bit less congested on a Friday, so people are using the technology and I think gradually it will spread and I think it becomes one it becomes a partnership if you are an employee then if you can be trusted to work from home then you can be seen to be more productive, then why not extend it from a Friday to a Thursday as well, and your employer can gain and you as an employee can gain and both people can reap the benefits of flexible working
P: And I think that, just t add to that, if you have a two hour daily commute, and youre doing that 5 days a week, then you are actually going to be travelling an additional 47 days a year
H: Thats incredible isnt it?
P: Just getting to and from work, so I think for anybody who does work from home, particularly if they use the car to get to the office, of course there are savings to, you know emission savings and of course thats going to help the environment and of course weve all seen how petrol continues to rise, rail, cost of rail travel is rising, duty on road licensing is going up, so there are a lot of very sound financial reasons apart from helping the environment
H: I was going to say if youre one of these sort of people who worry about CO2 emissions
H: Working from home is ideal isnt it?
H: Gentlemen thanks very much, were out of time, Phil Flaxton and Andy Hudson from BT Business, Phil of course from Workwise web addresses if youd like more information well bt.com/insight, there youll find a lot more information and advice on how to set up a business from home, also workwiseuk.org have lots of information as well. From all of us here, thanks for your company, bye bye
H: Glen Thompsett, host
I: Ivan Croxford, BT Business
M: Matt Thomas, Startups.co.uk
S: Sam Barton, Arena Flowers
H: Hello and welcome to the Business Show brought to you today by BT. Now with increasing number of people working from home, a staggering 2.1 million are now contributing £364 billion to the UK economy. If youve already started working from home or you intend to, youll want to increase your profitability, but keep those running costs low. When it comes to operating a business from that room in your house, there are now more opportunities to maximise your system efficiencies to ensure you can get on with meeting the needs of your clients. Collaborating over the web is a great way to assist in the running of your business, and joining me to talk about this is Ivan Croxford from BT Business, also Matt Thomas from Startups.co.uk and Sam Barton from Arena Flowers, welcome gentlemen this morning, on the program nice to see you. Start with you if we can Ivan, collaborating tools, collaborating over the internet for business, what is it all about, what are collaborating tools?
I: I think collaboration over the internet is pretty critical for businesses of all sizes. At the end of the day, you know, businesses of all types from people who are just starting up a home-based business to BT need to work together, its not just about working with your, working with your employees, its working with partners, suppliers and so forth, and clients. So there are a range of tools available today that make that very easy. These are typically sort of web-based services, services that you can, you know subscribe to over an internet connection, you dont have to be on your own network, you dont have to be behind a firewall, theyre hosted in a cloud if you like, theyre available from anywhere. An example of this from BT is BT workspace, which again you anyone can subscribe to. Once youre subscribed you can create project workspaces, you can share that project workspace with your employees, those employees might be at the office, you might be at home, you can still share documents, you can see whose online, you can chat with them online
H: Does that mean you can work on a document together at the same time?
I: You can, you can have shared documents, and again we found that, from my own experience from within BT, I have a team of people, theyre distributed all over the country, some of them work from home, some of them work from offices. I have a development team in the US, I have various agencies that I work with in London and outside London, and you know we all work on different IT systems so you know the easiest way for us to collaborate and share is to subscribe to a common service which is available to all, and then we can just create private spaces, public spaces depending on how we want to share that information, and it works very effectively and I think the proof of that is a company like BT is actually using the services itself to communicate with businesses of all sizes, you know very small to very large
H: Ok so thats collaborating. Matt Thomas from startups.co.uk, people come to you presumably to get advice on that very thing, starting up a new business? Whats the most common enquiry?
M: The most common enquiry? Well pretty much how do I start and where do I start? I think people come to us with an idea and they want to know, first of all when should I quit their job, should they go and get a premises, can they actually work from home? And I think the internet is aiding an increasing number of people to be able to actually start while theyre still working, then start a business at relatively low cost, the internet in particular has driven the start-up rates up and has also enabled people to start businesses with far lower barriers to entry now
H: So advice from you presumably would be to dont jack your job in, your full time job in the middle of the city straight away, dont just jump into the fire so to speak maybe start off part-time, maybe start off at home doing a day a week, a day at the weekend or something dont jump into the fire straight away
M: I think it varies from project to project, but I think the more research that you can do and the more preparation you can do then youre reducing the risk when you do start a business. Starting a business is always a risk you know - a number of businesses do fail every year and that figure has increased as well as start-up rates have gone up, however if you can do lots of preparation, do your market research and all of that can start while youre still working, then you are lowering that risk for your business
H: Ok, Sam Bardon is from Arena Flowers, youve been running your business now for two years very successfully. Presumably you had, what, an office job before you decided to go your own way?
S: No indeed, I mean Matts points are very valid and kind of a copy of what I did. I was working in a marketing firm and we Id met a colleague of mine, Will Win from Ebay who had this idea about making a flowers website, I knew nothing about flowers but I could build websites, but neither of us could justify jacking our jobs in, we had to have proof of concept. So there was a lot of evening work, weekend work, getting this website up, getting it ready, getting statistics through it, making sure that people were actually coming to the site and more importantly buying, clicking on the buy it button even if there was nothing to buy. And once we had proof of concept which took 5 months to do, we could, we jacked in our jobs and started the business
H: The question a lot of people who maybe start an internet business would be asking is how do I get traffic to my website, thats the most important thing, you know you type in the search engines, Google or whatever, its got to come up there on the first page hasnt it? How do you do that? Thats all very daunting to people who maybe want to start an internet business?
S: Its a difficult question to answer accurately because there are so many different ways. I mean people spend we certainly spend a fortune with Google and Google Ad Words, but when you start a business you cant do that, you cant justify that, because you know were competing every day against supermarkets who actually dont compare like with like, you know whether theyre converting or not properly with their spend. For us it was a simple case of search engine organisation, I mean I say simple but we had a task, we knew exactly what we wanted to do, we had a UK based audience and we wanted to target people here in the UK
H: So did you use collaborating tools?
S: Indeed I mean that was it was imperative that we used such tools. We were spread about in different bedrooms and different rooms in the house, so from a in different countries even so we not only just here in London but we have a developer in the US, in New York so we were all using tools, some bespoke that we built and some that allow us to join online to share the work that wed been weve been working for the last couple of weeks, well look at a project together, the various things, the tasks that are assigned to each other and see physically where we performed, completed our tasks and when weve completed all four of them, or all five, depending on what were working on, we can launch it onto our development site and then move across to our production site
H: A lot of folks would think that collaborating would be just a matter of picking up the telephone like the old-fashioned way of talking over the phone and communicating presumably people still do that?
I: Yes they do and that is still a very successful and you know effective way of collaborating. I think the point is that there are numbers of different ways of doing it, and there is no one sort of killer ap but the point is, is that you know the tools which are available today are, you know theyre very low cost. They start from free, if you like, and they provide very small businesses, or indeed micro businesses or people who are just, in Sams case, starting to build a business, that you they provide them with almost the capabilities of big companies today, so you know thats one of the advantages of this new range of, you know, software as a service if you like which is hosted services, you know provided by companies like BT, its you know we can worry about the worrying of the platform if you like, and we can just provide a very simple toolset that enables small businesses to work together, and again you know, as I say that may be a very small business that has a big client, and again were seeing the take-up of collaboration tools being very strong in certain industries for example public relations industry where you could have quite a small agency, actually working with a number of major accounts, but theyre using a tool that enables them to share documents, to share calendars and so forth, and similarly accounting companies are also you know, I would say being quite the leaders in this space as well
H: I guess in the past the reason a lot of small businesses havent used these tools is because of their cost, but presumably the cost has come down now?
I: It has, it has as the, I mean typically these services are available from free, which is good news, this is Workspace, BT Workspace for example is a free product, it enables you to basically have a fully functional product that you can create a certain number of workspaces if you want to create more, if you want to share more documents, then you can upgrade, but what it enables you to do is effectively you know understand whether this product makes sense to your business, and it doesnt actually cost you anything to do that. And then once you actually do see the value of it, then you can upgrade to you know by that point its already made its business case for you. So yes, and again these tools are available and theyre very sophisticated so but easy to use at the same time
H: What sort of people, Matt, are going for the home business if you like are there any particular sectors of the market that are coming to you for advice on that?
M: Id say its appealing increasingly to all types of people, so those that are perhaps already living at home and have got children to look after, and thats male and female. And also people who literally dont want to spend their money, their initial start-up capital on premises, and probably are very wise not to, and so start-ups are time and cash poor, if they can distribute that money into better areas for the business to survive, then thats a very sensible decision to work from home
H: Well gentlemen were out of time, thanks very much for joining us today, Ivan and also Matt and also Sam. If youd like more information on this subject, go to the BT website bt.com/insight, or if youre starting up a business, you want advice, startups.co.uk. From all of us here thanks very much for your company
H: Glen Thompsett, host
A: Ake Nylen, BT Business
J: Jason Bedford, BMH Construction
S: Steve Frost, Cisco
H: Hello and welcome to the Business Show brought to you today by BT, Im Glen Thompsett. Now one of the original forms of communication of course is voice, and VOIP or Voice over Internet Protocol is becoming more commonplace. It generally falls into 3 categories, computer based, telephone based and of course mobile. Well here to discuss the advantages of VOIP is Ake Nylen from BT Business, nice to see you. Also Jason Bedford from BMH Construction, and he uses VOIP on a large scale, and his company as well, and also Steve Frost from Cisco, a leading supplier of networking equipment. Now Ill start with you if I can Ake VOIP, Voice over Internet Protocol becoming more commonplace. For those of you who dont understand what VOIP is, what exactly is it?
A: Well I see it more like a technology shift, because its still voice, so if you want to determinise the whole area, its still voice, and we use a different protocol, a different way to send voice between different parties, so as we used to do it analogue and sending radio waves and so on, today you send the voice in the packet format, and thats it, its no more you dont have to complicate it more than that
H: So for people who technophobes if you like, is it just a question of sitting at your computer, plugging in a headset and putting a headset on and talking to somebody on the other end is that as simple as that?
A: It can be as simple as that, absolutely, or if you still want to use a handset you can still do, you can plug the handset to the PC or the laptop if you want, or you use a wireless handset with a hub in the office, so you still using like a normal phone. You can even connect normal phones into the hubs today, you dont have to have a specific IP or you know phone that sits with this technology, you can use any phone
H: Ok. Steve Frost from Cisco, your company supply a lot of the hardware for VOIP what sort of customers are you supplying?
S: Well interestingly the customers that are using this are actually changing, VOIPs been around for over 10 years and what we saw around the turn of the century, large businesses actually saw benefits in using VOIP. Now were seeing a shift where small businesses are actually starting to adopt VOIP and I think were going to hear see some stories about that. I think the thing, the factors at play here one is cost, I think the solutions are now more affordable. Therell also far simpler to use, I think some of the things that Ake talked about, you know there is very much a simplicity about these things whereas historically you needed an IT department to actually install and run these things. Now with the help of BT theyre absolutely you know affordable and simple to use, and I think the simplicity to use is the key thing, its no use throwing technology at companies if theyre hard to use, and I think simple to use and affordable, thats really caused the shift so were seeing a great number of small businesses now adopt VOIP for the same benefits cost saving and increased productivity
H: When we say cost saving, I mean what are we talking about in terms of actual figures?
S: Well I think weve got some real examples
H: Well lets talk here
J: Yes significant, 10s of percent I think
S: Particularly on the mobile calls, I think thats an interesting story weve got here about saving on particularly on mobile calls
H: Jason Bedford from construction company BMH, youve got guys working on building sites all over the country
H: And huge savings I guess in terms of phone calls?
J: Yes, yes one of our biggest issues was, or the biggest issue for me was trying to find a solution that would take into account the huge amount of cost involved in calling mobile to mobile, predominantly were a sub-contractor business and as a result of that they all have mobile phones. This series we use a whole different range of technologies with BT, incorporating Voice over IP and that has probably given me somewhere in the region of 30-40% saving, simply because of the amount of time we use mobiles
H: So youve got guys on building sites and gals on building sites these days working away you can actually do this over mobile phone networks as well now?
J: Absolutely. One of the products we use is a product called Office Anywhere, and thats kind of a package of technology and one of the benefits of it is the Voice Over IP, so now we can get within range of one of our routers, wireless routers we get capped calls at something like 25p an hour to mobile phones as opposed to the traditional network rates, so as you can see from that figure its a huge, huge saving to be had there
H: And thats important to companies like yourself presumably?
J: Very much so, I think its important to most companies to monitor the cost savings and like I say this was one of our biggest in terms of communication costs
H: One fifth of small businesses are using VOIP Ake are they?
A: About yes. We see the number steadily growing which is interesting, and as was mentioned earlier its the simplicity thats making that happen and also that you can link them to your normal switches and so on today, you dont have to be a technophobe to get along sorry not a technophobe, to be technically astute which is where I was confused to be able to set them up. Pricing has also been very important. And so quality, so if I just look at the pricing side, it was mentioned capped rates, so depending on what your communication needs look like, if you have a lot of calls to mobile phones or even internationally, you we do capped rates to a number of international location and countries, but also the mobile phone is probably the area we see more
H: But what about that quality threshold is there a huge delay, because one of the main problems with VOIP in the early days as far as Im concerned, and a lot of people that have spoken to me about VOIP, is this delay problem that you have. Has that been alleviated now?
S: Yes I think pretty much so. I mean the things that have allowed that delay problem to go away are increased capacity on broadband, I think thats one clear benefit, the internet itself has grown in capacity, you know theres a huge amount of capacity within the internet cloud, and you know delay was caused by that congestion that you had both on the internet and
H: And lines dropping out as well
S: Yes and I think the reliabilitys there as well, so it is absolutely the difference between a business quality VOIP service and a do-it-yourself sort of home grown service, and you know there is a vast difference, and obviously if youre going to run your business using voice communications which is the way that people communicate these days, and were talking about conference calls and moving on to video even, its absolutely crucial youve got that foundation of a robust past reliable network, so you can absolutely eliminate all those delays by using you know a robust, reliable network and the proof of the pudding is in the eating and you know Im a home user although I work for a big company, actually Ive got a small, home office and we join conference calls with BT and customers regularly, and nobody ever says oh are you on VOIP, its just a question of you know theres Steve on a voice call. And in fact you can have improved quality so with the internet being, having higher capacity you can actually go for higher definition audio so you can actually get better quality than your normal phone calls
H: How important Ake for small businesses, maybe start-up businesses and people like Steve here, working from home and doing conference calls with yourself, how important is it to get VOIP early on in a set-up of a business?
A: Oh I think its quite important because for a number of reasons. First of all you can grow with it, so if youre a small company starting up you can start with a various, you know simple, one line, broadband in and you get your hub and you set up the phone and you can use it, and then if you have a broadband home its sort of the same service on both sides, and when youre at home or in the office you dont see the difference. And then we have hosted voice services as well which means that you actually put the switch into the network, which means that not only can you use the VOIP service in your office, but you can pick up any VOIP connection if you want and still be seen as youre in the office, and use the same short number codes to call each other and so on between. So all of a sudden youre extending the office space to anywhere where you have a broadband connection
H: But with VOIP you need somebody on the other end set up with VOIP as well otherwise presumably the system wont work?
A: No absolutely not, no no, its like a normal phone call to - so you can call any mobile, you can call any normal PSDN line and so on. And the switch which is in the network obviously to be able to use the VOIP services you need to come in on a VOIP line, but anybody can call you, its not a question of you cant be reached because youre not on VOIP
H: Anybody whos interested in setting up in VOIP then Steve, whats the best route for them to go?
S: I think there are two routes, one is do-it-yourself and one is go to an expert, and Id recommend always going to an expert
H: You mentioned do-it-yourself- what does that entail?
S: That would entail you know getting free software off the web, downloading it, setting it up yourself, then when it goes wrong you know, who do you call? I think thats really the problem. Going with an expert, means that you know theyll take away the pain of setting it up if youre migrating from an old system to a new system potentially there are some migration there, you know people can help with that, and also running the system. You know small businesses are typically dont have the, you know the great IT resources that our larger companies do, that you know its the old adage do what you do best for a small business, so my recommendation would be to go to an expert, you know like BT, let them actually show you how it can be migrated smoothly from a traditional system to a VOIP system and maybe have that hybrid approach, that Ake mentioned, you know its not a big bang, you can have the two systems running in one, and youve got your traditional telephony and your VOIP running together. But my ultimate recommendation talk to an expert
H: Who knows what theyre doing, ok. After all it was the first and still is I think the most effective form of communication isnt it, voice, so I think set up correctly is the way to go with that
A: Lets remember we are a speaking species
H: Yes exactly
A: We are always going to communicate by speaking to each other
A: In most cases, so and its, I think its a combination of a traditional way of thinking of voice, and also if you look at for instance what weve done with the Cisco, the Cisco vouchers coming out of weve just mentioned another way of thinking about it, its you can then have this collaboration type of tools coming in to the picture as well, so not only can you use your line for voice but you can use it also for sending data and other collaborated tools, so theres a saving in the number of lines you put into the office and so on as well, so its not it doesnt have to be separate
H: Ok. Gentlemen, were out of time, thanks very much for your company. Ake Nylen from BT Business, also Jason Bedford from BMH Construction and Steve Frost from Cisco, thanks very much for joining us. If youd like more information and on how VOIP can help your business, then go to the BT website, bt.com/insight. From all of us here, thank you for your company. Goodbye
H: Glen Thompsett, host
M: Martin Brommell, BT Business
J: Jehangir Ahmed, British Chamber of Commerce
H: Hello and welcome to the Business Show brought to you today by BT, Im Glen Thompsett. Now if youre setting up or indeed running a small to medium sized business, one of the main concerns has to be costs and how to manage them. Well there is a perception that the technology required, things like IT and communications is costly, but not anymore. Controlling costs is one of the simplest ways to improve your companys bottom line, well here to discuss the whys and wherefores are Martin Brommell from BT Business, Martin nice to see you and also Jehangir Ahmed from The British Chambers of Commerce lets start with you first of all Martin from BT Business. Keeping those costs low for small to medium sized businesses, that has to be one of the primary concerns, surely?
M: I think its one of the top priorities actually of anybody going in to business today, or running a small or medium business and its very achievable, I think thats the most important thing. My piece of advice first of all would be to always seek the advice of expertise, of a good vendor, of somebody who can actually give you quality advice based on a proven track record. 34% of people in this country actually go to family and friends before buying IT and communications, and thats not necessarily the best place to start with an investment thats probably central to everything your business does, so I think
H: When you say they go to family and friends, what to seek advice or what?
M: To seek advice, yes, and of course because of that you often end up with businesses whove got a lack of structure, a lack of strategy, and as a consequence many of them are using more than one supplier, that in itself leads to the costs of paying various bills, administration, dealing with more than one point when theres failures etc, and of course you dont get that long term relationship thats so important so it really is important to seek a good vendor who can give you advice on total cost of ownership, return on investment, planning for the future as well as for today, making sure that what youre buying actually would expand with your business whilst controlling costs and helping you to run your business properly
H: It seems daunting that whole process. I mean who is the first port of call if youre starting up a small or medium sized business who do you go to to seek that advice?
M: I think theres a number of things. First of all there are a number of bodies such as the British Chamber of Commerce, and Business Link and various other bodies who can point you in the direction of good vendors. I of course would want you to come to BT, we run local businesses who support the small and medium business market, and thats really important because that independently owned businesses who exclusively represent BT who can provide advice on leading edge technologies, and actually experience exactly what their customers do because theyre running their own business, they understand the challenges of cash flow, of competition of retention of staff, finding new people, premises etc, so its really important to go to a vendor who does have that expertise that they can share with you and actually live and breathe what youre going through
H: Ok. Jehangir Ahmed of the British Chambers of Commerce, Im a small business, Im starting up, Ive had enough of the rat race, trawling into London or one of the big cities in the UK, I want to set up at home, I come to you what can you tell me, what advice can you give?
J: Well first thing well do is sit down with you and plan exactly what it is your business idea is, or the concept youve come up with. Well then start to plan how best we can take that forward, so we would start a business planning process and things like that. What well do then well work with you to first set up your business, look at your requirements are you going to be a partner in the business, are you going to be a single person setting up, and then well sit down and say well after 2, 3 years where do you want to be, so were building in the flexibilities to develop your systems so well look at options, but for us I think that stage is all about planning and where do you want to go and how much cash flow youve got coming in first to invest in your technology
H: And whats that going to cost me though, what sort of
J: Well things vary depending on what type of business youre looking to set up
J: Ideally you can budget between £2000-£3000 for the first year depending on what it is youre setting up, if youre predominantly IT based company looking at desk top publishing, obviously softwares going to be much more expensive compatibility, all of these things would go through in a checklist-type scenario, work out exactly what it is you need for your business, and this is where working with our partners like BT, you know who are the specialist in their area to put the two together and say right, this is what you need and these are the people who can provide you the service, I think the Chambers of Commerce are quite uniquely positioned in that way whereas you know we would get experts involved who know what theyre talking about
H: Martin, the internet has opened up a whole new highway for business hasnt it, small start-up businesses from home particularly?
M: Let me give you an example of a couple of businesses who have actually approached this in the right manner I think, theyve gone to people like the British Chamber of Commerce and theyve been directed to people like us and one of them is a very small business, a guy called Brian OConnell who runs his own systems consultancy business from home, hes got two or three other partners and theyre able to actually utilise things like broadband, Voiceover IP, and they can actually run a business far more effectively and offer their customers some of the savings that they make because when you start to use things like broadband voice services and some of the Voiceover IP type services, you can actually control the rental costs and the call costs, and offer a much more flexible and resilient service to your own customers, so I think thats really important, you know to understand whats really available today
H: Technically how what is the best way of getting around getting advice from people like yourselves, you know I want to start a business from home, its an internet-based business, do I come to you, is there a form I fill in? Whats the process?
M: No we can be contacted either through an 0800 number or you can contact us via BT.com, www.bt.com, and we have the local businesses who you will be directed to, theyll put you in touch with someone who will be your single point of contact and that person will then talk to you, ask you a few questions about your business I think the important thing for us to establish is just what is it your business is all about, what is your idea, where are your customers, do you have more than one base, do you work from home, do you have more than one employee, how do you want to keep in touch with your suppliers, how will you manage your supply chain, how do you want to control costs? We can talk to you about a whole range of questions that will establish and build up a picture for us, that way we can then start to recommend the right solutions and the right products and services, the right software, for your business to make sure that youve got a business that is absolutely running efficiently and economically today but will also give you growth for the future
H: I guess its quite common for starter businesses Jehangir to come to people like British Telecom, BT and say you know do I need the most expensive software to run this business when in actual fact they dont need to spend a huge amount of money do they?
J: Absolutely, I mean what weve seen now in the admin of new technology, software as a service, or SAS as its known these days, is pretty much a great way for a small business whose got tight cash flow, doesnt have the expertise in-house, doesnt have an IT manager to get a service up and running very quickly, which will allow them to compete in this bigger grey market. I mean were looking at businesses who are going to be trying to compete globally, so having an advantage, knowing the technology and putting that stuff to one side, we a business can focus on growing their business, getting a profit and you know going forward from thereafter so using software as a service, we think is a fantastic way of a small business having the large business corporate enterprises behind them
M: Glenn can I just jump in there, I mean we offer one or two services such as Trade Space and BT Workspace. Workspace for instance offers collaboration services, it enables you to share documents and to manage customer relationships, and things like Trade Space are initially free to you as a user, if you want to take an enhanced service there is a cost, but initially it will help you to network with your clients, to have a social medium with the marketplace so there are a number of packages as Jehangir mentioned, some of which are completely free, some of which there will be a charge for but you can actually identify the ones that you need, and I think thats the important thing
H: Its quite daunting as well, I keep coming back to this word daunting dont I, that if you are a start-up business, you know Mrs Smith up the road, she wants to start up a flower arranging business via the internet or whatever keeping her costs low is obviously very, very important, she might be a bit of a technophobe, she doesnt know how to run the software required that also is quite frightening for them isnt it, for those sorts of people?
M: Well Ill give you a good example, theres a company called Woolly & Co which believe it or not are virtual solicitors
H: Virtual solicitors?
M: Virtual solicitors, they started with a guy called James Woolly back in 1996, and he created a business idea of running a law firm from his home, and he sought advice from BT along with some other vendors and he actually chose us, and he started quite small, he started with broadband services, he started with the website and some mobile services, but hes built that up, theres 9 people practicing in the organisation now. He benefits a huge amount, hes got the saving of office accommodation, he can offer great flexibility because his whole business model is built up around the internet, he now has a hosted website which we support, so he lets us worry about running the technology side of it whilst he gets on with running his practice, and he reckons that his billable minutes are probably far more profitable to him than most law firms because a lot of their overhead is in accommodation, support services and things like that, so theres a huge amount. Its about keeping it simple
H: Absolutely, keep it simple
H: That old phrase, KISS keep it stupid simple! Jehangir finally, fascinating figures here, the research thats been carried out for small to medium size businesses, highlighting that a quarter of smaller companies have more than 12 suppliers for business services, 62% having more than 4 suppliers for telecoms and IT alone fascinating figures there
J: Indeed, I mean what you see there is the picture that emerges from that is that people are doing many things, trying to look at different suppliers and get the best price. It doesnt actually work like that, sometimes having one provider provides you with a cost base model if far beneficial than going to different providers to get different things, whereas if you go to one provider and negotiate with that provider youll probably get a much better deal than trying to go through five different ones
H: Never been a better time to start a business I guess?
M: Absolutely right and I think one of the nice things today is the old adage of one size fits all is no longer true. What were now able to offer and any good vendor can offer is a modular mix of products, services and software so that you choose and pick what you need now, and you can build on that and create sort of a road map if thats an expression I can use, so that youve got the right thing for the future
H: Ok well both of you thanks very much for joining us today on the program, Im afraid were out of time. If youd like more info on this subject keeping those costs low, and lets face it thats what we all want to do, then go to the BT website bt.com/insight for more information or of course you can visit the Britishchambers.org.uk. Thanks very much for your company, from all of us here, goodbye