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IS YOUR LOCATION HARMING BUSINESS GROWTH?

Whether you’re an established business searching for a new HQ or are a brand new startup looking to find your feet, the most important thing to remember is location, location, location.

You could have the most unique idea or well-polished business plan, but if you don’t find a location that fits your business model, you’re limiting your potential for success.

‘Serial entrepreneur’ Scott Gallaway has reviewed how location has impacted the success of ‘The Four’ – the world’s largest tech companies, Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook. Gallaway suggests that all these companies being founded in San Francisco and Silicon Valley are more than just coincidence – the proximity to some of the best engineering universities in the world has allowed each business to flourish.

But it’s not just household names that can benefit from where they’re based, all businesses need to take into consideration the pros and cons of their location. Below we take a look at the benefits of setting up shop in both big cities and smaller towns and what businesses need to think about when looking for new premises.

 

The benefits of a city-centre location

From London to Los Angeles, major cities are business hubs and the most common areas to establish new startups. With a greater population, higher levels of tourism and dedicated business regions like Manchester’s Media City and the East London Tech City, big cities are attractive locations for many business leaders.

1.     Desirability

One of the major benefits of owning a business in a major city is that it’s a desirable location. More people are likely to pursue careers in well-known cities over smaller towns, as more often than not, cities have more to offer its residents. Whether it’s high-end restaurants, up-and-coming bars, a thriving music scene or a cultural heritage, working and living in a big city offers your employees a fantastic work-life balance.

2.     Deep talent pools

With a higher population comes a much wider net of potential talent to recruit. Although desirability obviously plays a part in attracting talented workers to move to big cities to find exciting employment opportunities, Universities also contribute. Large cities with established universities are producing fresh graduates every year who are eager and ready to dive into the market. This is especially the case in cities that are home to multiple universities.

3.     Networking opportunities

With a higher concentration of businesses clustered in large cities, networking is a much easier endeavour. You are much more likely to grow your professional network in an area with a higher number of companies in your industry. Working in smaller towns simply doesn’t offer networking on the same scale, meaning a significant amount of travel would be needed to experience what city-centre business have on their doorstep.

4.     Greater footfall

With an increase in digitisation and online businesses, footfall isn’t often taken into consideration as much as it once was. However, for certain industries, it can make or break a company. Retail and hospitality industries thrive on a high footfall and choosing a city-centre location promises a constant stream of potential customers that smaller towns can’t compete with.

The benefits of a smaller town location

The other option for a business location is to take advantage of opportunities in smaller towns. Steering away from major cities is a popular choice with startups and first-time business owners, as generally, business parks and industrial estates require significantly lower funding and can often provide a niche service to areas that would otherwise need to travel.

1.     Reduced costs

The best reason for choosing a location outside of cities is that your outgoings will be lower across the board. Business rates, building rent and staff wages are all more cost-effective in smaller towns and can save you a small fortune – essential for small businesses that are just starting out and have limited funding. Business parks, for example, share the cost of communal services such as security, parking and cleaning staff with all the companies within the premises. The cost of living is also much lower than that of city-centre life, helping to attract talent that are looking to keep their living costs to a minimum.

2.     Less competition

For most businesses in cities, they’ll find that a dozen other companies are offering the same product or service. In smaller towns, however, a brick and mortar store will be faced with much less competition. This means you’ll position yourself to gain a higher customer base, if not the lion’s share. Unique businesses with a niche product are the ones who will benefit the most from this aspect, as you’re likely to be the first company of your kind in the area.

3.     Closer community

Although being based in large cities is easier for networking, it’s in smaller towns where you’ll make real connections. Towns are known for their strong sense of community spirit, which gives businesses the chance to capitalise in local areas. As a business owner, you’ll form more close-knit relationships with customers and clients, rather than competing in the dog-eat-dog competition of big city business.

4.     Easier travel

Another problem facing businesses located in city centres is that they can often be difficult for staff to reach. With the morning rush hour and extortionate parking fares to contend with, getting to work in a busy city can cause more than a few headaches. Setting up your business in a smaller town makes travelling much smoother for you and your staff and is almost always free to park on-site. Plus, business parks are usually located within a convenient distance from rail and bus stations, making public transport easier too.

What to consider when choosing your business’ location

Choosing the location of your business is important and needs careful consideration. It’s not always a simple choice whether to choose a major city or a smaller town, so we’ve listed a number of details to think about before committing:

1. Accessibility – It’s not just your staff that need to reach your business, your customers do too. If you’re hard to find and rely on a high footfall, you’re limiting your potential to grow. Suppliers are another thing to think about, as businesses that require frequent deliveries need to make sure they’re easily accessible.

2. Competition –  Gauging the competition in the area is an interesting one, as it’s not necessarily a bad thing to be located near competitors. Restaurants and car dealerships regularly operate in close proximity of similar businesses, as they give customers the chance to compare before purchasing.

If there is too much competition in an area, consider relocating to a more suitable location. On the other hand, if your business offers a new spin on a popular market and you’re confident you can out-perform established companies, choosing to set up shop near competitors is a good way to quickly pick up customers and create a presence.

 

1. Research all costs – You wouldn’t move into a home that you couldn’t afford, so why would you move your business into a building you can’t afford? It’s crucial to make sure you thoroughly research everything that you’ll need to pay to operate in your location of choice. That includes the big costs like rent and business rates, but also smaller, easy to forget fees like whether you and your staff need to pay for parking or if the premises needs a deposit.

2. Skill base in the area – Finding the right talent is a must, and your location plays a big part in this. Depending on your industry, choosing between a major city and smaller town can have an impact in attracting the right people, but choosing which city or town can be just as crucial. East London, for example, is an excellent place to launch a tech startup, whereas Sheffield in the manufacturing capital of the UK.

3. Potential for growth – Even if you find a location that ticks all other boxes, have you considered business growth? As any other business leader, you’ll want your company to do as well as possible, which means expansion could be a real possibility.

Are you looking for a short-term location with plans to move in the future, or are you looking to keep your HQ grounded? If it’s the latter, making sure your premises can accommodate the growth of your business means you won’t need to deal with the costly and time-consuming act of moving your business.

Understand what’s right for your business

John Waddicker from Positive Commercial Finance, an award winning financial broker for businesses says “Finding the right location can make or break your business venture. “Each business has different targets to meet, so choosing the wrong location can seriously harm business growth.”

“Make sure you do your research and come up with an in-depth strategy to find the perfect location. It’s also important to remember that no two businesses are the same – what worked for one company might not be right for you. Whether you want to put down roots in a bustling city or the close-knit community of a smaller town, make your decision based on what gives your business the best chance at success.”

 

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Business

MAKING THE (ENTERPRISE) GRADE IN LOW-CODE SOFTWARE

SOFTWARE

By Willem van Enter, Vice President EMEA, OutSystems

 

We all use software applications every day, all the time. That part should make sense to everybody. With many of us now happy to call ourselves digital natives, the question is not whether we are going to use apps to make our lives better; it is now a question of which apps we will choose to build our personal workflows around.

This ubiquity of software penetration is a good thing. It allows us to automate our work (and indeed personal) lives in a manner that we may never have considered, even as recently as the turn of the millennium.

But there’s a bigger challenge here.

More users need more apps in more places with more functions spanning more data sources connected to increasingly complex analytics engines, and all of that software has to be deployable across an ever greater number of device form factors and platforms.

 

Low-code validation

Once an IT shop is empowered with low-code efficiency, the speed of development and release can rise sharply. But no business should expose themselves to this level of power without first thinking about all the control mechanisms needed to be able to accommodate new low-code-created apps.

 

Policy, provenance & policing

We’re talking about areas such as user provenance checks (so that we know who built which piece of software and if they were supposed to), policy controls (so that we know which software is accessing which data sources and whether it is supposed to) and areas like scale-provisioning (so that an organization’s IT estate can cope with a much higher throughput of information) and so much more.

The move to taking advantage of low-code software development is happening already. But, for enterprise organisations large and small to truly take advantage of the efficiencies it offers, they need to have faith in the ability of any platform’s ability to ultimately deliver workable, serviceable, functioning enterprise-grade software.

They need, to coin a phrase, to know that low-code makes the grade to enterprise-grade. So, what elements of core form and functionality should they look for?

 

Making the enterprise-grade grade

Building secure enterprise-grade low-code software is imperative; obviously, it is. Secure software development in this space is so fundamental that efficient low-code platforms will always be presented with security controls as an inherent and implicit part of their core functionality.

Nobody expects business applications designed to serve potentially millions of users with digital experiences to let them down, so enterprise-grade security, scalability, governance and performance should form key elements in the platform and toolsets that are used.

Because low-code is typified by a high degree of automation, an effective low-code approach should offer hundreds of automatic security and risk controls in its portfolio. But implementation is just the first step; an always-on monitoring and operations source also needs to exist for the customer to be able to assess their risk factors at any given time.

 

Climbing the scalability peak

Enterprise-grade low-code software may start off as an experimental application or some level of prototype or test case. Its speed of development naturally gives rise to its use in this type of development. But when an application (or some other code-based data service) hits the spot, the team behind it will need to know that it can scale.

Let’s say a small medical tech lab develops an application that helps track some aspect of disease outbreaks that takes a radically new approach in some way. If a viral pandemic ensues, then that software would need to scale seamlessly from something smaller than departmental level to an Internet-wide deployment – all without rewriting any code or hitting a wall.

Climbing the peak to true enterprise-grade scalability with low-code software involves taking advantage of technology that includes containers and microservices. Only by ‘thinking small’ in this sense can you consider being able to ‘think big’ later on and build mission-critical apps that scale to support millions of concurrent processes.

 

Governing principles

Within all of this discussion, it will be crucial to keep an eye on governance so applications built with low-code platforms can comply with controls such as GDPR, Sarbanes-Oxley, PCI, FedRAMP and more. The proven way of doing this is to use low-code development tools that offer a fine-grained control of your software portfolio with the ability to perform dependency checking, audits and validation.

There’s a human factor here, too, i.e., organisations can rely on low-code automation advancements for a lot, but they also need to think about establishing teams that can work simultaneously and keep conflicts to a minimum.

Finally, let’s mention performance. It’s a key measure of how and why any piece of software was developed in the first place. Software needs to work, it needs to drive business forward, and it needs to do so at a pace that is commensurate with and proportionate to the use case requirements behind why it was developed in the first place.

In the low-code universe, we have the ability to deploy enterprise applications that are automatically optimized to ensure they perform as designed and expected. We also have the ability to use pre-built connectors that integrate with automated enterprise logging technology, which gives developers real-time performance monitoring feedback to help avoid possible bottlenecks.

Low-code software application development can offer all of these features, controls and characteristics, so organisations can be assured that low-code does make the grade for enterprise-grade. All that’s needed is for the customer themselves to know how high low-code can go to be able to graduate to this new grade of efficiency.

 

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Business

CORONAVIRUS: FURLOUGHED WORKERS AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR BUSINESS

CORONAVIRUS

by Tina Chander, Wright Hassall

 

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All businesses with a PAYE scheme in place on 28 February 2020, regardless of size or sector, will be able to benefit from the scheme with the government reimbursing employers up to 80% of their employees’ wages, to a maximum of £2,500 per month, plus employer’s NICs and auto-enrolment pension contributions.

Employees on agency contracts and flexible or zero hours contracts can also benefit from the scheme. In addition, the scheme also covers employees who were made redundant since 28 February 2020, if they are rehired by their employer.

 

Furloughed workers: what does that mean?

Businesses have to ‘designate affected employees as furloughed workers and notify your employees of this change’. However, employers still have to heed employment law which means that, having designated those employees whose jobs were at risk, they will need to agree with those employees that they will be ‘furloughed’.

Given the extraordinary situation prevailing at the moment and given the alternative to being furloughed, it is likely that most employees will agree to the terms.

For those workers who do not agree, they will either have to take unpaid leave for an indeterminate period or employers are likely to have to go down the redundancy route. It should be noted that furloughed workers are designated by the employer – an employee cannot ‘self-designate’.

 

Eligibility

Employees hired on or after 1 March 2020 are excluded from the scheme, presumably to stop people ‘gaming’ the system by hiring family members after the scheme was announced and then furloughing them.

However, those businesses that have made people redundant since 28 February 2020, can re-employ them and then furlough them. To qualify for payment under the Job Retention Scheme, an employee must be furloughed for a minimum of three weeks in order to prevent employers putting staff on a furlough ‘rota’ i.e., one week on furlough, one week off.

 

Who can be furloughed?

Normal employment law still applies so employers must not discriminate when deciding who to furlough. Employees returning to work after a period of sickness absence, or self-isolation, can be furloughed, however they cannot be furloughed whilst they remain on a period of sickness absence or self-isolation.

Furlough will only take effect when this period comes to an end. Employees who are “shielding” however, will be eligible to be furloughed. Employees on maternity leave can be furloughed if they agree to return to work early or change to shared parental leave, alternatively they will remain on Statutory Maternity Pay where this is applicable and will not be furloughed until their return.

When agreeing changes and moving to furlough status, it is important to remember that normal employment law processes apply. Employers must be careful not to discriminate against any employees when deciding who to offer furlough to.

 

Furloughed workers remain employed but must not work

Assuming the designated employee has agreed to be furloughed, they cannot undertake any work for their employer at all. If the employee continues to work, even reduced hours, they are not eligible for the scheme. The good news for furloughed staff is that they can volunteer or undertake training providing neither activity generates income for their employer. Whether or not people can take advantage of this while confined to their house is, of course, another matter altogether.

 

How it will work?

While furloughed, the government will pay related employment costs including pension contributions and NICs (but not commission or bonuses) in addition to wages. All furloughed workers will remain employed by their employer for the duration of the scheme.

Employers can make up the missing 20% of their employees’ salaries but that is their choice (or ability to pay). There is no legal obligation for the employers to top up the salary to 100%, but any contractual clauses regarding withholding pay and deductions should be taken into account when this decision is being made.

For those employees who are furloughed, their employment status will change but their employment record remains continuous.

Employers need to give HMRC a list of furloughed employees. Employers pay their workers as usual, via PAYE, and then apply for funding, every three weeks (not weekly) to cover 80% of their wages (up to £2,500 of gross pay).

You will receive a grant from HMRC to cover the lower of 80% of an employee’s regular wage or £2,500 per month, plus the associated Employer NICs and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that subsidised wage. Fees, commission and bonuses should not be included.

For workers whose pay varies, the 80% is based on the higher of:

  • the earnings in the same pay period in the previous year; or
  • the average earnings in the previous 12 months (or less, if they’ve worked for less).

If employees paid the minimum wage are furloughed, the fact that 80% of their earnings will bring their wages below the NMW does not contravene the legislation as people are only entitled to the NMW if they are working. They can, however, claim the NMW if undertaking training.

The HMRC system through which payments can be made should be up and running by the end of April. The scheme is expected to run for three months, subject to review.

 

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