Hello and a warm welcome to the latest instalment of the NBAS blog. This instalment will largely be focused on one of my favourite TV programmes at the minute "The Great British Bake Off". Whilst I don't profess to be a master baker or even an average baker, I am known from time to time to try my hand at baking something. Where has my love of baking come from? Well I've always grown up with baking in my family; firstly there was my late granny who would have spoiled us in my younger days with her baking skills, from freshly made soda farls to that extra special homemade chocolate cake for my birthday. After my granny came my mum where barely a week would go past without her creating something delightful in her kitchen. Nowadays I love heading home to sample her latest creation. It's particularly good heading home for Christmas where the beautiful smells hit you as soon as you open the front door. On the actual point of Christmas I was out meeting a potential new client last week and to my dismay while I stood in their shop waiting for them the radio was pelting out a Christmas tune. I think the sales assistant and I both had the same view on this and as much as I love Christmas it's not even Halloween yet!

So back to the devastating news that The Great British Bake Off has been sold to Channel 4 and the news that Mary Berry has decided to stay loyal to BBC, as thanks for the trust and support they have given her in helping her progress her career. It's not too often you see such a remarkable sign of loyalty in today's workplace, usually you find money talks. 

Anyway you’re probably wondering what tedious link I can really make between The Great British Bake Off and Business... Well the answer is simple, in both cases we need the right ingredients and the right skills to succeed. In Business many different skills are required to succeed and I reflect back to my double business vocational A Level as I loved some of these aspects more than others:

  • Human Resources - The skill to ensure we recruit the right people for our business and then have the processes and policies in place to look after the good employees and also the protocols to deal with the not so good ones. Finding that extra ordinary staff member can be hard work but retaining them can be even harder work. 
  • Finance - Of course being a Chartered Accountant I'm going to say this is the biggest fundamental of any business and the greatest term that has stuck with me throughout my studies and career is "Cash is King". Ensuring we have cash at every stage of business is critical to survival and one of the pitfalls I see quite often is having too much cash tied up in stock. It's important to strike the right balance between having enough stock to cope with customer demands and not having too much as you inevitably wind up incurring more costs in storage at some point. My advice on finance would be to get a good Chartered Accountant involved in your business from the start, get the one who understands your business and provides a great personal and professional service. Too often people worry that Chartered Accountants will cost a fortune in fees but if you work with us we agree our fees up front and offer a range of different payment options and structures to suit your business. I promise you that a good Chartered Accountant will improve your business substantially more than their fees. 
  • IT - When we live in a world where everything revolves around the internet and particularly in my industry, Cloud Accounting, we need to ensure that we have the right technology to cope and keep us online at all times. Again I hear only too often about computer's crashing and loads of work being lost and as I'm no expert in disaster recovery I have my IT firm look after this. 
  • Marketing - Following on from IT above we have marketing, an industry that has changed so dramatically and never seems to stay still. Do you know how your customers or prospects are most likely to get in touch with you? What forms of advertising are best for your business and industry? Are you active enough on social media and other channels to engage customers and encourage them to buy from you? Well my view on this is to focus on three or four different channels and work them well. I find that the most important people to me are my personal networks, my current client base and my business referral group. 
  • Customer Service - Probably the cheapest of the ingredients involved in baking the perfect business cake. Good customer service costs nothing yet I'm sure everyone of us have some form of story of the time we were in a shop, office or even networking group and just found the person we were dealing with to either not be the most helpful, to be unhappy or even to be glued to their phone whilst they tried to assist or listen to us. Unfortunately the downside to technology and social media is that we never truly switch off anymore, we have all these different hours on twitter where we network with other businesses or we are constantly updating our facebook or linkedin pages to inform our audience of our latest meeting or successs, that we sometimes forget about the people in front of us. 

With all that being said I will finally reflect on one of my greatest lessons which I picked up at a networking event last year by one of Northern Ireland's top business owners and that was "get the right support system and team of professionals around you, none of us can claim to be a master in every area of business so let the professionals look after what they do best and allow yourself to focus your time and efforts on what you do best". Just imagine the improvement on your business if you could improve every single area of it by at least 1%, I know 1% doesn't sound like very much but when you add all the 1%'s up it can make a significant difference. You only have to look at how Dave Brailsfords philosophy has worked for Team Sky to respect it. So remember to ensure that every single aspect or ingredient of your business is being looked at with respect and I'm sure it'll be a success and not wind up with that dreaded Bake Off soggy bottom. 

Wishing you good health, good baking and good business.