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GDPR – why it is (and isn’t) scary

By Steve Burgin on 27/03/2018 - 0 Comments

We have all heard about the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and all the massive fines and additional overheads this will bring to businesses. Looking behind the scary headlines – what is it all about, and should we be worried?

The existing data protection laws and regulations were created in the 1990s. and a lot has changed since then. Can you remember back to what “data protection” was back in the 1990s? Bear in mind that these regulations would have been built up over a few years, so in reality, they date back even further than that.

We are now creating enormous amounts of digital information each minute of every day and the previous laws that govern our personal info are quite frankly no longer fit for purpose.

GDPR is actually what the existing regulations would have been if the technology was there at the time.

The new regulations will come into force on May 25 2018. Whether we are in the EU or not, the UK government has started that UK law will intend to be as comprehensive moving forwards (but there will be some minor exceptions or alterations, as already allowed in the EU directive). It will change how businesses and public sector organisations can handle the information of all their customers.

Once GDPR becomes law in the UK it will not be managed by the government, however it will be enforced by the existing Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

GDPR Fines

The GDPR states smaller offences could result in fines of up to €10 million or two per cent of a firm's global turnover (whichever is greater). Those with more serious consequences can have fines of up to €20 million or four per cent of a firm's global turnover (whichever is greater). These are considerably larger than the £500,000 penalty the ICO can currently wield.

It you thought that the ICO would “wield a light touch” then remember one thing – the ICO is designed to be SELF FUNDED. That means it will not receive any government funds going forward. All the expenses and costs of the organisation are to be met with the fines if can collect.

You should expect some highly public fines across the board very early on in the process.

There is a lot to do then?

The draft regulations have spawned a raft of GDPR experts who want to help businesses prepare for the changes GDPR will bring – at a price, and with additional services or software to help you as well.

What is talked about less however it that as businesses, we should all be doing the bulk of what is required already under the 1998 Date Protection Act.

Elizabeth Denham, the UK's information commissioner (in charge of data protection enforcement), says she is frustrated by the amount of "scaremongering" around the potential impact for businesses. "The GDPR is a step change for data protection," she says. "It's still an evolution, not a revolution". For businesses and organisations already complying with existing data protection laws the new regulation is only a "step change".

It should be noted that whilst the ICO has the power to conduct criminal investigations and issue fines, it is also providing organisations with huge amounts of guidance about how to comply with GDPR.

Much of this guidance is checking you are doing things correctly under the existing rules, and having a plan to ensure that you can meet the new requirements as soon, and as comprehensively, as possible.

Once the fines start to roll in – you can be sure that those businesses and organisations without any plan will be hit hard.

So what we want to say is this – GDPR is business as usual in that you need good solid procedures, and that even at this very late stage, there is a lot of advice out there for you to make sure you are well on the way to compliance before the end of May.

You should utilise external guidance where required, but also make good use of the available information freely being provided by the ICO.

Some very useful links in this regard are:

12 Step ICO guide to GDPR

The ICO Guide to GDPR

The full (very long) regulation (if you have insomnia) 

Finally – if you want more assistance on how this fits in with your business as a whole and the impacts on growth – speak to your local ICON advisor – it will cost you nothing to grab a coffee and see what you may need to be doing.

Are you taking time off this Easter?

By Jon Peterman on 26/03/2018 - 0 Comments

There are various surveys around the amount of holiday small business owners take.

As with all surveys the results vary but in a recent survey conducted on behalf of Xero it stated that 76% of small business owners have sacrificed holiday to keep their business running.  Another survey reports that over 30% of small business owners never take holiday. 

So where do you sit? and how can you implement some strategies in your business that will help you take more holiday or even take any holiday at all. 

Those who know me well, have seen me presenting business seminars or at networking events will sometimes refer to me as “the man with the towel”.  Why is that?  Well it’s simple.  I use a brightly coloured beach towel as a prop whilst talking about the link between having a well organised and managed business and how often a business owner takes holiday. 

In fact one of the first questions I would ask a business owner when determining the strength of their business is “how long could you leave your business with only limited phone access and return to find it still viable”. Answers vary from days to weeks but often have a caveat of “but my business is different”.

A number of years ago I was talking with a sole trader in the IT world who as you would imagine was struggling to take time away. Shortly after that conversation I met another IT sole trader at a networking event. 

Having done some due diligence on both of them I introduced both of them with a view to them forming an alliance and covering each other when they were away. This was a simple but very effective approach.  A number of years later they have both grown and take time off covered by their own staff, however they now specialise in different areas of IT and pass opportunities between each other so still benefiting from their alliance.

So what are some of the key things you should do in order to be able to take quality time off for Easter 2019?  Well like everything in business you need a goal, a plan, key milestones, objectives and strategies. 

So let’s start with a Goal, all goals should be SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time stamped).  So the goal is to take one weeks holiday for Easter 2019, you may wish to add in an additional point about only contacting the office once at the start of each day or something similar. Whilst this is not ideal it may be the most appropriate approach and a way to make the goal for 2019 Realistic and Achievable. 

"So how do I do that?" I hear you ask. 

Well the other phrase people will hear me say all the time is ‘Delegate don’t Abdicate’.  For your team to be able to run your business effectively without you it is vital that you have a solid process to delegate relevant tasks and responsibilities and that you have some Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) in place. Here are some key steps you can take in order to start down the road.

You will need to consider these steps for all key areas of the business such as sales, operations, finance etc.

  • Work out which specific roles you perform in each of these areas.
  • Work out what % of your time you spend in each area
  • Identify which elements of your role you wish to delegate
  • Identify the key tasks in that role you wish to delegate
  • Systemise activities relevant to that role
  • Determine who to delegate to, or potentially outsource some functions (a complete article in itself!)
  • Put reporting systems and KPI’s in place so you can manage and monitor each task.

As you will realise taking a well-deserved holiday to re charge your batteries is only one of the many benefits of having a well-structured business.  I was never sure when in a former life in the corporate world my team used to tell me when I returned from holiday that the division had run better without me, whether I should have been offended. 

Put a plan in place for next Easter and see how you feel when you return from holiday and your team tell you the business ran better without you. Make sure that your key activities are well taken care of and you have a well manged set of KPI’s that demonstrate how well the business is to be managed while you are away.

As for me I will be taking a week off this Easter and I am happy to say so will some of my clients and even the majority of those that won’t be will be doing so because they chose to, not because they had no option.

The Compound Effect in Business

By Team Icon on 01/03/2018 - 0 Comments

The ‘Compound Effect’ is a concept developed by Darren Hardy (The compound Effect – Darren Hardy). It is a very powerful process of behaviour and decision making that can improve and change lives. In the following article we have suggested some of the principles that should be put in practice for small business owners to improve their success rate and achieve their goals.

In simple terms poor decisions and erratic behaviour equals poor performance, whereas good decisions and consistently good behaviour creates success and high achievement.

Albert Einstein described INSANITY as ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result’. We all know these people. So how can they change and improve?

This can be clearly demonstrated when you look at some of the poor performing businesses. The business owner is most likely working long hours, but not seeing any improvement in their business and also as a consequence not being fulfilled in their personal life. They are unable to remove themselves from the daily grind and literally just go through the same motions every day without any chance of improving their business prospects.

So what are some of the key things that a business owner can do to improve their business potential.

1. Understand and define your core values. Many business owners do not have a clear vision about who and what they are. 

Do some self-analysis.

  • Who is the person you most respect
  • What are their 3 best qualities, do you reflect those qualities in your behaviour
  • What are the 3 most important values that you would pass onto your children
  • What 3 people in the world do I dislike and why

When you have determined these core values ensure your attitude and behaviour demonstrates this.

  • Does your business reflect your core values?
  • Does your team act and behave accordingly?
  • How do you engage and behave with your clients and prospects?

2. Behaviour and Habits

Behave in a professional and considered manner. Be consistent with your behaviours and habits so that people can see who you are and know what to expect from you.

You may and probably will need to assess and change some of your bad habits, this may not come easily so be prepared to use your will power and family or friends support to do this.

  • Wake early each day
  • Prepare for the day
  • Listen to your colleagues and respect their views (that does not mean always agree)
  • Behave consistently whether things are good or bad.
  • Act and behave professionally

Be inspirational and consistent with your actions and you will find that people will be more comfortable around you and be inspired to improve their own behaviour and work ethic. Create an environment that is positive and productive, encourage good habits and discipline within your workforce and reward them appropriately.

3. The Ripple Effect

Study the table below and see how small actions and habits can produce massively different results.

Watch late night trashy TV Early to bed
Get up late and tired in the morning Up early and refreshed
Ill prepared for the day Time to plan the day properly
Lack of energy and motivation Energised and motivated
Late for work - continually catching up Early to work - in control and productive
Stress and anxiety Happiness and reassurance
Failure Success and extra income

4. Momentum

This happens when you know you have started to make a difference. You have been through the arduous start up and pain of changing your habits and behaviours, it now becomes instinctive and almost subliminal. Your mind and body will work to expect or even demand the good habits that you have developed.

Get with the rhythm - that is how the momentum works. Like a top athlete gets into the rhythm when they compete, going through the same preparations every day and executing their skills to the best of their ability.
5. Patience and Discipline

This whole process is about taking small considered steps consistently over a long period of time. The small steps will not deliver immediate results, it’s all about belief, consistency and discipline. Gradually you will see the fruits of your labour taking effect and then the momentum kicks in and it becomes an enjoyable and natural process.

Think about a kiddie’s roundabout with 10 children on board. It is a real effort to get the roundabout to start moving, but soon it starts to move more easily until the momentum kicks in and means that you only need a minimum of effort to keep it spinning.

6. Invest in You

In order to succeed with this, as with most things in life, you need:

  • The will
  • The desire
  • The motivation
  • The vision


7 Keys to Unlock The Potential in Your Business

By Jon Sawyer on 01/03/2018 - 0 Comments

Coming up with a business idea is just the start of the long road to achieving business success. You may have defined a business idea, but now you must see if you can turn this into a profitable idea. Conducting a sound research study to see if there is a profitable market for your product or service is a good start.  However, what sets those businesses apart that go on to achieve dramatic and life-changing success?

You may remember the film depicting the trials and tribulations of the career of Steve Jobs who firmly established Apple as one of the leading global companies. Similar stories also lie behind the fortunes of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and Facebook. So what lessons can we glean?

Innocent Drinks represents a very useful case study. Friends Adam Balon, Jon Wright and Richard Reed all looked to bright futures after leaving Cambridge University – one working in advertising and the other two with positions as management consultants. They identified a gap in the market for a new type of smoothie drink based on natural ingredients supported within company promoting ethical values.

They then set up a stall at a music festival to try their ideas – they left the decision whether or not to start a business in the hands of the customers at the festival. A sign above the stall read “shall we give up our jobs to make these smoothies”? One bin read ‘Yes’ and one ‘No’. Customers made their decision by throwing their empty bottles in either bin. They then wrote their business plan 11 times and searched everywhere for funding. The result: Innocent Drinks made its first million in its second year and now sells two million smoothies a week, with a 75% UK market share. In 2009, Coca Cola paid nearly £100million for a 58% stake.

A similar example is found with honey salesman Burt Shavitz who decided to make some extra cash from making candles from Beeswax. By the end of the first year they had sales of $20,000 – not nearly enough to sustain their business. One day he decided he had enough – he had arrived home and the window in his cabin had blown in and snow was all over. He then decided to change his approach and the breakthrough came when he started cooking up natural soaps and perfumes on gas stoves, while also making lip balm made from bees wax. In 2009, Burt’s Bees hit its 25th. anniversary with a revenue topping $250 million.

So what lessons can be leaned from these examples and those of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Apple and Facebook?

Don’t Underestimate the Amount Involved
Success will come through plenty of hard work and application. Being good at what you do may make you technically proficient, but this won’t necessarily help you to achieve success. To do this you will also need a knowledge of all areas of the business mix and how these all work together to achieve sustainable, profitable growth. These areas are: marketing, sales, operations, finance, legal, HR and IT.

Face Problems Head On – and Face Your Fears
It may need you to try areas of work that are new or ‘foreign’ to you. If you don’t like tackling finance or sales issues – maybe its time to try. You need to know what the problems are in each area so you can plan accordingly. Remember not to abdicate any of these areas – delegate instead and ensure you receive regular feedback.

Take an Iterative Approach
The best way to start any business is to start small and then build once you establish the right formula for success. Some will want to have a complete plan in place before starting – the trouble with this is that you will not be aware of all the problems until you start. So take baby steps. This will ensure that you get the formula right first before you start to expand.

Keep Focused
Many entrepreneurs will have a multitude of different activities and commitments in place at any one time, resulting in a lack of time to concentrate on issues at hand. Many do jump from idea to idea with no real commitment. So the key is to strip back on all commitments and keep focused on the job at hand.

Keep Going
The stories of failure rates are so daunting, it is surprising why anyone should eveer wish to ever start out in business. What is evident is that many give up too early just when the going gets tough. Those that succeed remain determined and focused even in the face of severe obstacles. There could be no greater exponent of this approach than Steve Jobs at Apple.

Keep a Sense of Balance in Your Life
Whilst you may find that business starts to take over, don’t be so fully absorbed you lose sight of what is important around you, namely your own lifestyle and family life. It can be all too easy to find that important family events get missed and life gets put on the back burner while you concentrate on the problems at work. Make sure you keep as sense of balance in your life as this will keep you energised to deal with your challenges at work.

Keep Learning – Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
Any action should be part of a learning process where you constantly fine tune what is needed to achieve the best result. Don’t you or your team keep on making the same mistakes again and again. Make sure you track your progress and have measures in place to ensure you can keep on learning from what you do.

Whilst you cannot guarantee that by following these seven keys you can be another Steve Jobs, in following this approach it will help you to take their lessons of what worked for them, and to put these into action, to help you find out what works for you. Of course, we would also say that you also need some expert business advice from ICON Business Solutions, but this we will leave down to you!
In any event, good luck.

The Man In The Shower

By Malcolm Orchard on 24/01/2018 - 0 Comments

Simple Stories That Help Us To Be More Successful

When engaging with business owners for the first time our Icon Business Advisers often get remarks such as ‘my staff just don’t listen, they make so many mistakes and I have to correct them, do I need to tell them everything’.

I guess the problem is as a business owner you have been through most of the disciplines as the business grew and probably developed a lot of the processes yourself. Its second nature to you and you know intuitively what you want done and how certain things should be approached.

As a business owner you have to be able to COMMUNICATE precisely to ensure your message or instruction is received correctly. To just assume all your clients and prospects know ‘what you do’ or assuming your staff know ‘what to say’ is lazy and unprofessional and ultimately will cost you business.

As an example, if your personal culture as a business owner is excellent service then you MUST ensure that all the people who work for you buy into that culture and understand that they may need to go the extra mile to be consistent with the cultural message.

Often business owners are so engrossed in the business that they forget to communicate clear messages to their staff and customers and inevitably mistakes are made.

I guess this is also true in our private lives - as the following story demonstrates.

The Man in the Shower

A man is getting into the shower just as his wife is finishing up her shower when the doorbell rings. The wife quickly wraps herself in a towel and runs downstairs. When she opens the door, there stands Bob, the next-door neighbour. Before she says a word, Bob says, “I’ll give you £500 to drop that towel.” After thinking for a moment, the woman drops her towel and stands naked in front of Bob.

After a few seconds, Bob hands her £500 and leaves. The woman wraps back up in the towel and goes back upstairs. When she gets to the bathroom, her husband asks,…

“Who was that at the door?”
“It was Bob the next-door neighbour,” she replies.
“Great!” the husband says, “Did he say anything about the £500 he owes me?”

Moral of the story:

You need to share critical information with your peers and staff to avoid damaging or embarrassing results.

A lot of business owners are poor at communicating internally, but more importantly communicating to their customers and potential clients or worse still not communicating their marketing message to their own staff.

Ensure that information is shared and communicated in a professional and clear manner. Good communication with the staff will also motivate them, especially if you congratulate them or recognise their positive attitude and response to this.

In fact, the worst type of business owner/manager is the one that stays in his office, will not engage with his staff and rants if things go wrong. The one person that will suffer most from poor communication is YOU the business owner. Motivate your staff by behaving as a leader (not a tyrant), take time to listen and share ideas.

So, ensure you share all critical information with your staff and clients – do not just assume your staff know what to do if you have not communicated with them and just as important ensure your prospects and clients know what you do.

For candid and reliable business advice talk to us at Icon Business Solutions, contact us now for a chat over coffee.

Should Stress be a By-Product of Running Your Own Company?

By Tony Golley on 22/01/2018 - 0 Comments

Many business leaders think this is the case! A picture of a business owner may conjure up an image of someone at the tiller on a ship, confidently steering the course. The reality may not always be the case as rates for mental illness are on the increase – why should business owners be immune to this?

Running a business can be a very lonely experience. With most start-ups failing in the first five years the pressure to succeed is massive as business owners may feel vulnerable to pressures of competition, staffing, profitability and most importantly, time. It is fairly normal for business owners to work extra-long hours which may have a negative impact on pressures and relationships at home.

So what are the warning signals as pressures start to build? These will be different in each case but inability to make clear decisions and in good time is a strong indicator. Inability to work smarter rather than harder becomes the norm whereby more time is spent in the office for less result. In some cases a business owner may cope with only a few hours’ sleep each night as they find it difficult to relax.

Also the pressure to be feel the need to be contactable at all times is a good indicator as some business owners find it impossible to put their mobile phone or tablet to one side. This is often the result of high expectations a business owner will place upon themselves for getting things done, instead of effectively delegating tasks.

Many business owners report to ICON they know that they need to find more time for themselves but they don’t know how to do this. Sometimes, they report they don’t know if they can take time off to go on holiday.

Being unable to break the cycle can ultimately lead to depression and mental illness. This can have a devastating effect on the individual and can seriously damage the long term prospects for the company, and effect business and personal relationships. The stigma associated with mental health means that it is often thought of as a weakness, which may lead any sufferer to try to conceal how they feel and not seek help.

What can be done to turn the situation? Clearly the first stage is to recognise you have a problem and then the second is to try to seek appropriate help.

Getting back in control and making decisions is an important step in the process. Whilst you may need to seek appropriate medical help, at the same time at ICON we would recommend getting help from an external party to find out ways in which the burden of managing the business can be shared in the short term. In doing this business improvements can often be made fairly quickly as it will be easier to identify and exploit the opportunities facing your business when you work alongside another party.

This will help you feel you can get back in control which is an important step in the process. The main thing is to recognise there is a problem and then to take a decision to do something about it. Failure to take action may result in an ever decreasing spiral of stress and declining results for the business!

Contact your local ICON advisor now, and take that initiative.

Latest News and Articles

27/03/2018 -
GDPR – why it is (and isn’t) scary We have all heard about the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and all the massive fines... Read More