Six hot topics at our Popup business advice caf�

The LEP held its first Popup business advice caf� in Steeton in February. Local experts, who volunteered their time for free on the day, share the issues raised by businesses from Bradford and Craven and their top tops from the day.

1. Websites

Tom Gatenby of Squashed Pixel

“People really wanted to know how they could drive more traffic to their site and I firmly recommend use of social media and search engine optimisation to achieve this.

Most businesses sell online now, so it’s no surprise there was a desire to find ways to engage with customers more. Attendees were keen to know more about how to optimise their use of Shopify, a tool to build an online store. To increase sales, one company needed to showcase their products up front on their homepage, and make it really easy for customers to navigate through products.

At a more fundamental level, some businesses needed to flip their current marketing on its head. Whatever the channel, successful marketing is about pushing the problem that you can solve, not explaining your processes.”

2. Social Media

Heather Robinson of Skittish

“I spoke a lot about how to use Facebook and how to maintain social media momentum. It’s really important to set aside the time to do this and create a schedule around key dates to ensure you keep up the steady drum beat. Buffer is a good tool to share your content on all your platforms in one go and save time.

A start-up video production company wanted to know the best way to enter the market. I advised that when you are a small business, it’s vital to find a niche and use free tools like Facebook for promotion. Also, think about what is unique about your local area and celebrate that.

Meanwhile, another business wanted to target professionals in the property sector and I recommended they set up a profile on LinkedIn. This is a great way to get into networks as you can research and connect with your potential customers in an efficient and targeted way. It’s a more personal way of building relationships with a potential customer base.”

3. Accountancy and tax

Alex Haworth of Pearson & Associates

“I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Popup, and who would attend. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of businesses who came and the amount of people who wanted to ask accountancy questions. People said they really appreciated the informality of the event.

I was asked - what’s the best way to keep sound financial accounts? It’s an important discipline to get into as it makes life easier in the long run if they are set up correctly in the first place. The good news is, online accountancy software makes this simple and saves time.

A Keighley-based business wanted to know how to register VAT. It turns out, the business was below the VAT registration level and there was an opportunity to maximise profits by not registering at the start.”

4. Growing

Mark Delves, LEP growth manager for Bradford and Craven

“I spoke to a real ale company that is growing fast and investing in expansion. I was delighted as this is just the type of business I can support to apply for grants and workforce development. I advise any other businesses who are investing in expansion to get in touch to see how the LEP can help accelerate growth.

I speak to a lot of business who say that finding the right business support can be time-consuming and it can be difficult to know where to start. Popup events provide a great place to find out what’s out there, get into local networks and speak to people like me who can help sign-post you to all the business support available.”

5. People management

Lyn Creasey of Lync HR Ltd

“A wise business guru called Jim Collins said people management is about “Getting people on your bus, getting them on the right seats on your bus, and sometimes assisting them to get off the bus”! I think this is a really good way of thinking about bringing new people into your business.

I spoke to a business woman at the Popup who was about to employ two new team members and wanted advice on how to set up freelance and part-time contracts. She wanted to ensure the foundations for her business were sound. I advised that is vital to embed the right culture and values, ensure the documentation is legal and up to date, and set expectations realistically. If you get these foundations right, both you and your employees have the right conditions for success.”

6. Training and skills

Nikki Hudson, LEP skills service

“People I spoke to really liked how they could talk to a wide range of experts in one morning in a non-sales environment.

An accountancy firm I talked to wanted to know more about funding to support ACCA qualifications. The LEP skills service can potentially help with up to 50% funding and connect the business with right funding provider.

A business woman operating in the tourism sector wanted to improve her social media and website skills. I have arranged for a skills service advisor to explore this in more detail and develop an application for funding that will help meet those needs.

I find that I speak to a lot of business owners who work really long hours and struggle to delegate. My message is - upskilling your team to take on more responsibility enables you to focus on the strategic direction of your business.”

To find out more about the support and funding that is available from the LEP and our network of partners to help your business to develop and grow, click here.