Starting a business – know it all? If you do ★ don’t read on

If you don’t read on and join us

I have been doing some reflective thinking over the Christmas break. I have been in business just over 10 years and most of those in The Real Business Club with Dawn Edwards. When we started out we knew some essentials but there was a whole lot to learn. We learned from doing for sure, but we also learned from workshops and from others who had been “round the block”.

We still think face to face learning matters and so…

…one thing we do is run public face to face real workshops (rare indeed!) We continue to work with all kinds of people starting out on this journey.

If you know anyone thinking of starting a business, who knows some things but needs to learn more to prepare them for the ups and downs, please signpost them to these workshops.

In the meantime here are some tips we have learned from people over the years.

Top tips for anyone starting up in business

  • YOU – Assess yourself – your personality, your skills, your motivations, your passions, your time management discipline, your weaknesses and how you will overcome these.
  • YOUR BUSINESS IDEA – Take time to get an honest reality check. Will enough customers want it and pay for it!
  • YOUR FINANCES – Assess your personal finances – A new business may not be profitable for 18 months. Will your personal circumstances stand this? What will you and your family live on if your business makes money more slowly than you really need? How good are you really at managing money?

The workshops will cover more DETAIL about these tips, and many more besides

Workshop participants have said…

What clients have said about TRBC Workshops

What our Workshop clients have said.



Investing in marketing? Get your head straight first!

Marketing focus – get focus before you spend money

I love working with people who are curious about what could be better in their business. Isabel, Director at The Real Business Club, reflects on working with a recent business owner client. We met through The Real Business Club’s marketing workshops in Thatcham.

Here’s a succinct portrait of the business owner. His overall challenge was that felt his marketing focus was unclear. He had:


  • skills
  • knowledge
  • track record
  • potential for a great business


But he also had brain fuddle

  • who or what was his real target market?
  • what website wording would get the market buying?
  • what goals should he really have?


Here is what came from the session with Isabel

Benefits – Investing his time in stepping back made a fundamental shift of thinking possible and led him to finding SOLUTIONS and

  • Confidence in decision making
  • Increased motivation
  • Options worth building on
  • Realisation – that even better is possible


What is your marketing focus like? If you are so busy or unsure why not head for coaching to use your brains!


This client’s top tips in a nutshell

  • “Are you struggling to find the answers on your own? .. then ..I strongly recommend investing time with Isabel and I can guarantee the time will be well spent!”
  • If your business is wearing out your brain – invest time (even just a couple of hours) in getting clarity and focus
  • As a business owner you are the decision maker. If you are so busy you don’t know whether you are coming or going – take time to become more effective.
  • Use your brains! Work out what you are best at and that customers want!


Would better marketing focus improve your business?

Could some coaching help your business? Let’s have a chat. Call me on 07759 074864


If you are a business owner who wants to freshen up your marketing why not come along to our workshops


CONNECT with Isabel on Linked in:

Marketing – it starts with the Big Sea doesn’t it?

Recently Isabel was coaching a business owner about their need for clarity in their marketing thinking and strategy.

We talked about the fact that there are lots of potential customers out there, all swimming around like different fish in a really pretty sea! The owner’s questions were around:

  • How is it best to catch these fish?
  • How do I get the fishing nets in the right place and target the marketing energy and investment?

Understand the fish!

We made a start on who and what the market for her service was really like. This helped her be clear on how her services fitted with the segments of the market.

At the end of the coaching session she had made a start on clarity over what her service really did. This leads to the answers – who is she aiming at and how will they be netted!

We talked through some really straightforward practical marketing and planning tools and how she could apply them. Instead of wandering around aimlessly in the big sea she can go to the best fishing grounds.

How a coaching approach worked

This person was experienced in business and life.

The skilled use of listening, probing and (yes!) some challenging questions revealed brain assets that were already there – they were just needing to be drawn out. Most business owners have these assets.

It was great to help this business owner unlock REAL insight, draw conclusions and then shape actions that had REAL direction.

Bite size goals

Coaching really helped her break what she wanted to do into chunks of actions and research that made sense, are achievable in amongst her busy family life and will save her spending money until she knows exactly what to spend it on for best effect..

Top tip

Marketing – Think clearly before you spend and time or money or stress in marketing methods.


Do you need more clarity to improve your businesses performance?

If you are a business owner who wants to freshen up your marketing why not come along to our workshops in Thatcham?


If you want to know more about business coaching

CONNECT on Linked in:



Are you a business owner who has used market research tools that have worked for you? please get in touch, love to hear from you – please comment at TRBC.09

Is Your Cashflow Costing You Money?

How does your business survive when you are paid late by larger companies and limited liability partnerships (LLP’s)?

With the late payment regulations changing from April 2017 for these organisations this might help your businesses cashflow!

Their performance and payment practices will have to be published twice a year from April 2017. This will need to include the average time taken to pay supplier invoices.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) confirmed that if payments were made promptly, then 50,000 businesses would still be trading and adding  £2.5 billion to the UK economy.

Are you a small business that would benefit from a financial organisation chasing late payments regularly for you?  Would you like to see your business bank account in credit?  Or would you like to reduce your overdraft costs?

Contact Dawn Edwards for further information either by phone 0118 968 0813 or via email –


National Insurance Changes – What do I need to know?

Since its introduction in 1911, National Insurance (NI) has developed from a form of protection against ill-health and unemployment to include a wider range of benefits.

It continues to change. It now helps people build entitlement to the state pension and other state benefits including maternity allowance and incapacity benefit. But if you don’t pay in, you don’t get the benefits!

Are you self-employed?

So as a self-employed person, have you contributed enough years? How will you know? One way to find out is to obtain a pension forecast.

NI rates for self-employed people depend on how much profit is made. But there is always the option to make voluntary contributions. The Real Business Club can help you do this.

Class Rates for 201TAT6/17
Class 2 £2.80 a week on profits of £5,965 and over
Class 4 9% on profits between £8,060 – £43,000 2% on profits above £43,000


From the 2015/16 tax year most self-employed people pay their NI contributions through self-assessment. If this is you, are you completing the right boxes on your Tax Return?

The government has announced that class 2 NI will be abolished from April 2018. At the same time class 4 will be reformed so that self-employed people can still build entitlement to state benefits. We don’t yet know how this will work, but we will continue to keep you informed of any changes.

Working Abroad?

At present people working abroad may not have to pay NI, but this will depend on where they work and how long they are abroad. If you work within the EU, you need to be aware that the Laws governing NI contributions may change as part of the UK’s exit from the EU. The rules for working outside the European Economic Area are more complicated. So advice and help is essential.

To get the correct help and advice for YOU, email or call Dawn  0118 9680813



Preventing the horrible side of a business tsunami – self management and sanity checking.


7 top tips – day to day and long term

Does it always feel good being a business owner?  It all feels lovely when business is going well doesn’t it?  Money coming in, feeling pleased at customer or client feedback and being satisfied with achieving goals.  But it doesn’t always go like this does it?  It’s not easy to talk about either! Sometimes it is just overwhelming and you end up trying to do everything and run / manage all aspects of the business.


The Real Business Club has known a few business owners recently who have faced real business struggles and Isabel asked them about what was going on and what would have helped.  In the next few weeks we will be putting out some blogs on the themes of how to manage when business feels crap.  The starting point is not being embarrassed about talking about this kind of thing!

Managing feelings of being swamped and overwhelmed

Here are some of the issues that are recognizable:

  • Too much to do (some of which may feel and be completely fruitless!) & feelings of too little time;
  • When it is not going well and desperation or frustration creeps in;
  • Finance pressure: when bills are still roaring towards you and money is not coming in;
  • Trying to be “out there” to grab what looks like it might be going;
  • Extreme Juggling: you are in overdrive but not sure that anything is working – panic sets in;
  • Unplanned & unexpected family situations and complexity that can bring pressure;
  • Health issues that can become related;
  • Mental well-being: eg not even wanting to talk and having a mental state that is bruised and “wants to be alone”, even depression;
  • Managing a spiral and being conscious of “slide”.

Top tips – monthly – actively.  If you didn’t do some of these when you started then why not plan some time to do this soon?

  1. Think through contingency with real objective “worse case” foresight – for income and for family situations;
  2. Actively consider the impact of family crisis on your business – eldercare, childcare, relationship breakdowns;
  3. Understand what and who really matters.  Define these, write them down even so that you can keep some focus and confidence in what you are doing;
  4. Keep looking for opportunities but be consistent in where you are looking and what for – plan a strategy and don’t be blown about by the waves.

Top tips – long term strategies


  1. Plan “stand back” time actively – get out of the gold fish bowl and get some distance, have a coaching type session maybe?
  2. Actively plan in a review / discussion process (probably not just a “one off” when the water is rushing towards you!) with somebody who can be your outside reality check – someone who can help you be objective and on whom you can call, trust and rely;
  3. Decide on a safe physical or mental place that you can go to for “refreshment” and space – a regular spa day, a garden, a hobby that is escapism, a faith based activity.

If you are reading this and the tsunami has already reached you here are some useful resources / links:

Reading Your Way are hosting an open afternoon on 19th May 2016, from 1-4pm. More information can be found here:

The charity Mind also provides some great supportive information.


If this has been useful but you need some help carrying out the top tips (coaching etc) then contact The Real Business Club for advice and support either call 0118 9680813 or email

Workplace Pensions – Auto Enrolment

Do you employ at least one person?  If you do, you now have certain legal duties, which are listed below.

  1. You will have a staging date – this is when the law comes into effect for you.  The Pensions Regulator will have or will be sending each employer a letter with this date.
  2. You will need to confirm the primary and secondary contact for your company.  They will be responsible for making sure the legal duties are met.
  3. You can choose a pension scheme that is right for the company or join the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) set up by the government.
  4. You will need to work out which employees need to be in the pension scheme.  This will depend on their earnings and age.
  5. It is your legal duty to write to all your staff to explain how Auto Enrolment applies to them.
  6. You will have a deadline to complete your compliance declaration otherwise fines maybe imposed.
  7. Then of course there will be ongoing tasks which will include keeping accurate records.

All a bit confusing?  Find out more from a trainer from the Pensions regulator at our workshop in Bracknell on the 11th April?

For further details and to book please click here.


‘Help to Buy’ ISA

Help to Buy ISA – what are you or your children doing with their Christmas cash gifts?

If you’re a first time buyer, or your children are, save up to £200 a month towards a first home with a Help to Buy ISA and the government will boost the savings by 25%.

‘Help to Buy ISA’ accounts have been available since 1st December.  They will be on the market to open for 4 years, but once you have opened an account there’s no limit on how you long you can save for.

Make an initial deposit of £1,000 when you open the account – in addition to normal monthly savings.

There is no minimum monthly deposit – but you can save up to £200 a month.

Accounts are limited to one per person rather than one per home – so those buying together can both receive a bonus.

The bonus is available to first time buyers purchasing UK properties.

To claim the minimum bonus of £400 per person save £1,600.

Save £12,000 to benefit from the maximum bonus of £3,000 per person boosting your deposit savings to £15,000.

Each account is individual only available to those who are 16 and over.

Even if you take advantage of the initial £1,000 lump sum allowance, it would take four years and seven months of paying £200 a month before you could claim the full £3,000 bonus.  So it could be a late 21st or early 22nd birthday present for your children!  But of course it MUST be opened by them.

The bonus will be only be available on home purchases of up to £450,000 in London and up to £250,000 outside London and paid when your first home is purchased.

If you’re saving into a Help to Buy ISA you can’t save into another Cash ISA at the same time.

You don’t have to stick with the same product through the lifetime of the scheme and can transfer out to a different provider.

Providers are free to set their own interest rates so, as with any savings product, it’s a good idea to compare and shop around for the best option for you.

The initial wave of Help to Buy ISA interest rates announced by providers were competitive, although it’s important to remember that variable interest rates could change at any time.

Of course, the money you’ve saved is yours to do with as you wish, as is the interest, but if you withdraw it and spend it on something other than a home, you won’t get the bonus payment.

Finally, bear in mind that the bonus can only be used to buy a home – not for anything else.

How easy is it to claim the bonus?

This bonus will be paid at the point you’re ready to buy your first home – you’ll need to close your ISA account when you’re ready to purchase and you’ll receive a closing letter from the ISA provider.

You then give this closing letter to your solicitor, who in turn applies online for the government bonus.

The bonus is transferred to the solicitor, who then completes the purchase of your new home using the full bonus amount.


As there’s some admin involved in this process, make sure you make your solicitor aware well in advance that you plan to use your Help to Buy bonus, so this can be planned into the timescales for completing your purchase.

For any further information please contact Dawn Edwards.

Top tips to get YOU paid at the right time

Did you know that small businesses are waiting on average 72 days before receiving payment?  In order to help, the government has and will be enforcing new measures, including:

  • Amended late payment legislation, which came into force in March 2013.  The rules are simple – debtors will be forced to pay interest and reimburse reasonable recovery costs of the business if they don’t pay for goods and services on time.  This means that payment must be made in 60 days for businesses and 30 days for public authorities.
  • In addition, a Small business Commissioner will be appointed and they will provide advice and be the first point of contact for small businesses.  In addition, they will offer mediation on a voluntary basis, as well as handle and investigate complaints.

In the meantime, what can you realistically do? Well, try these 5 Top Tips from Dawn…

5 Top Tips that REALLY CAN make a difference to your business …..

  • Negotiate your payment terms and conditions with clients and suppliers at the start of your working relationship.  The maximum is 30 days for public sector and 60 days for other businesses.
  • Make sure you issue your invoices immediately and they contain the correct information including details requested by your client or supplier.
  • Make sure your invoices contain details of the statutory interest that can be charged which is 8% over the Bank of England rate.
  • Remember you can also charge a fixed charge of between £40 and £100 depending on the amount of the debt.
  • Be prepared to carry through the interest and debt measures.

When considering your business processes, some questions to ask yourself include:

  • Do you negotiate your terms of payment with your clients and suppliers from the start of your working relationship?  Does doing this frighten you?
  • Do you understand the payment method with your suppliers?  (Payable order details, invoice payment cut-off date and invoice sent electronically or by post.)  Do you know what these terms mean?  Did you answer Yes or No to this question?
  • What do you do when payment isn’t made on time? Talk to us about your options.

Being paid late is unacceptable.  You have worked hard, be paid on time.  So let Focus Port at The Real Business Club help you get paid on time.    Improve your growth and productivity and don’t put your otherwise successful business at risk.  Contact

Top tips for Effective Business Collaboration

“Working in partnership” and variations of this kind of expression are everywhere!  You see it on the sides of contractors vans driving round towns for instance.  The Real Business Club has worked with all kinds of “partners” in the past.  But what does this really mean?

Here are some top tips for you, from our experience of supporting other people, as well as working as a successful and evolved partnership for over the last 6 years.  These apply if you are serious about working together.  There is a lot more of course – but here are just some top tips for effective business collaboration:

  • Each have your own self awareness of aims, skills, styles, enthusiasms, maybe even use Belbin team role preferences as a measure;
  • If you know your Myers Briggs profiles bring them – discuss them;
  • Check out your values, motives and attitudes (eg toward risk) – do they align?
  • Take real time to understand each other before putting in any money – be willing to discuss uncomfortable things;
  • Think through decision making – how will it be done, how will it be robust;
  • Start with clear communication, if there seem to be differences talk them through – don’t be afraid;
  • If you have been friends, before thinking about business together, work through the impact that the business dynamic will have – be realistic;
  • If the business involves ideas / original material then seek advice on Intellectual Property aspects;
  • Have an agreement you sign up to – especially if money is involved.

Very importantly and before any real money is put in

  • Have someone give objective coaching – have a session together with a coach who is not part of the dynamic and who can help each party think clearly.

Last week Isabel (the coaching side of The Real Business Club) was doing a coaching session with a business owner.  The owner is considering some working relationships she has and how to make the best of them.  She is thinking about quite serious matters – so it is not just a basic type of collaboration like a recommendation or a “shall we run an event together” type level.

The coaching covered considerations to make sure that the owner’s collaborations got off on the right footing.  As a summary, these included for each party to have a clear understanding of:

  • each others aims and aspirations;
  • what success looks like – and does each have the same picture?
  • how decisions are going to be made;
  • what kind of styles of communication and working each brings to the table;
  • what kind of personalities and communication styles each has;
  • what kind of roles and skills would be needed and whether working together completed them;

There are many important angles to consider financially – here are just a few:

  • what were the risks for each person in the business and what are attitudes to risk;
  • how would they put in money;
  • how would they take out money
  • how long did each have before the business had to turn to profit
  • what kind of agreement document should we have?

The Real Business Club has tools that help people explore working together and can provide experienced coaching as well as advice on agreements and documents.