Being Hacked is Horrible!

Last week for The Real Business Club was not much fun. It was however a good learning journey, although an uncomfortable one!

Have you ever experienced one of the following?

  • An incident out of the blue
  • Unsure what has happened and beyond your control
  • Concerned for impact on your business including reputation
  • Frustrated that someone maliciously attempts to fraud people
  • Disappointed that the world can be like this (NOT always!)

What happened?

The Bad news

Someone maliciously accessed a dormant Mailchimp account, imported a mailing list of their own, used publicly accessible data about us and made up an invoice template.

This was then sent to thousands of people on that list – most of which we did not know and who had never had any services from us. We spent time and money handling calls, emails and finding out what had happened.

The GOOD news

Our data had not been compromised and we had done nothing wrong with our contact data.

The actions we took closed down the situation quickly; we responded to all calls and in the vast majority people understood and were sympathetic.

Learning points – we share because we don’t want it to happen to other people:

  • Take seriously the possibility that your identity/data may be compromised
  • Have an emergency plan of what would happen and what you would do if your identity/data was compromised.
  • Action plan – public announcements and use of social media, phone messages
  • Action plan – check what your providers would do for you – are they competent? Get them to tell you what they would do is such a situation.

Top tips – safe data

  1. Passwords – make sure they are strong, protect them with two factor authentication, store them safely, change them on a regular basis, at least annually. If you are in a team make sure others can find them in your system so that they can action changes if an emergency arises.
  2. Get advice – make sure you have a good email account/website administrator who takes correct action, investigates promptly and advises you on public messages to get out.
  3. Social media – have a message prepared that can be adapted to the particular situation and that you post out through uncompromised routes.

Don’t let this happen to you

If you want a recommendation of a good email provider/web administrator who can help you have a strategy in place please contact us via email ( or phone 01189 680813

Helpful Links:

A wider issue than just us:  

How to set up two factor authentication in Mailchimp:

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.



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


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

Innovative thinking to bring in profit

“I told you that would never work……..”! Innovative thinking to bring in profit.

Here is a quote from Richard Branson’s business journey that I think applies well to innovation in smaller businesses:

‘Be creative. Innovate consistently on the little things that the big companies ignore. Little things often make big differences in business.’

It’s a challenging and changing world – if you don’t change, your business might get left behind.

Most businesses whatever size cannot survive and grow just on their history or reputation.  Look at Tesco and look at Waitrose!  The competition can be creeping up without even being noticed.

Apart from anything else being creative is just more interesting – businesses can loose their freshness and passion by being stuck in a rut – and this comes over to customers and potential customers.

We have seen and heard these barriers to fresh thinking and the asset this can be

  • Fear
  • Complacency and comfort zone
  • Insanity

Fear – of changing a formula that has become a “tradition” or set in stone – and this can happen pretty quickly even in one man bands!

Complacency and comfort zone thinking – It’s going OK and there aren’t any competitors to the kind of services we offer.  There is always competition whether it is direct in the same business sector or potential customers distracted by other things.

Insanity – just keep doing the same thing, working harder and hoping that we get different answers to challenges to profit.  For most of us there are 24 hours in the day!  Stop and think and get another viewpoint you can trust.

Once you have begun wanting creativity here is something else Richard Branson says:

‘Don’t hesitate to seek external help or advice where need be. Sometimes, it takes an external, emotionally unattached individual to detect your business flaws and render unbiased advice.’

Some simple steps to start innovation moving

  • Listen to your customers – talk to them about all kinds of aspects of their business, listen to how they express problems/ hassles/ frustrations. Listen as if you are not trying to sell what you already do for them.
  • Consider working in new ways or with new people.
  • Watch competitors and think about what you can improve or reshape or offer in a different way from them.
  • Think about the customers you do want – and being creative about how you would get them to look at your business service.
  • Take time and opportunity to think differently – it does take time but if you are sliding towards insanity, financial loss or breakdown then this has to be worth considering!
  • Read a magazine about something you don’t know anything about and play with how what’s in it may apply to your business.

Get some objective views on your ideas – talk to The Real Business Club.

Consider the risks – of not changing. – risks both business and personal.

Don’t be afraid – do the thinking on paper before risking any money!

Keep core values and USPs of skills, knowledge or reputational elements – but adapt services round them in response to the market, technology or customer thoughts.

Practically innovation can be incremental or disruptive and dramatic.

“Incremental” is through tips included here – changing elements of the service or changing how it is delivered.

“Disruptive” is through significant novelty – a totally new service or product that has not existed before.

Realistically most of us are going to be incrementally innovating – but some businesses never move!  And we don’t think that is an option these days!  Holding your place in the market and expecting loyalty is not so easy these days.

If you want that external objective support then contact The Real Business Club and let’s talk

We have a track record of innovation – starting from the word “go” it’s in our DNA.  We do this through the things we have said here and a conversation at most partners meetings.  Our innovation has come through tools that Isabel has developed since her MBA where she specialised in Innovation and change.

These growth and coaching tools are available to YOUR BUSINESS!  Call us and let’s have a conversation.  Of course if you want to catch our eye then here are some suggestions.

  • Come to our 5th Birthday networking and have a chat
  • Call us at the number to the top right of your screen
  • Hire a hot air balloon and fly down the M4 trailing a notice to us.

Our genuine experience and integration of tools and methods helps us with businesses that want to explore how they adapt/ change/ improve/ re position services or products.

The Branson quotes are taken from a very short and punchy web page – well worth a look:




Funding News – 29/08/2014

2014 Varsity Pitch Competition Offers £10,000 Prize for Student Entrepreneurs (UK)

The Varsity Pitch Competition is designed to reward UK students and recent graduate entrepreneurs who have enterprising ideas that they wish to turn into viable businesses.

The scheme enables participants to showcase their unique, innovative and creative concepts to the wider community.

Entries are invited via the submission of a 60-90 second video outlining the business idea. Video submissions will be judged by experts to compile a shortlist of seven industry finalists. The winners will go forward to compete for a range of prizes worth over £100,000. The first prize is £10,000 in cash, which will be awarded to boost the winner’s business. Successful entrants will also benefit from supplementary support provided at a showcase event during Global Entrepreneurship Week in November.

Entrants must be either a current student at a UK university or college or an individual who has graduated no earlier than 2009. The business/idea must be the entrants’ own idea and/or an idea that they are free to disclose. Additionally, entrants must be able to own and run a business or social enterprise in the UK and be at least 16 years of age.

The deadline for receipt of entries is 19 October 2014.

See the website for more details.



Life after A Level results

Ever wondered what happens to all those students who have completed their A Levels?  Research by HSBC has found:

  • Almost a quarter of people starting university this year plan to work for themselves when they graduate.
  • Half of the students questioned said the recession had made them want to run their own business more.

Important findings:

  • 50% of students starting university this year want to work for an established business
  • 24% want to work for themselves
  • 15% will do an unpaid internship when they graduate.

The research also found an increase in the number applications for vocational courses.

This year 76% of students have applied for vocational courses, compared to the 66% of current students who say their course is vocational.