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Southport Reporter®

Edition No. 196

Date:- 17 April 2005

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ACCORDING to new research conducted by Panasonic Business Systems, Britain's growing self-employed workforce feel badly let down by the Government

London, 11 April 2005, On the eve of Panasonic's Be Your Own Boss Week 2005 (BYOB 11 to 18 April) and following recently announced plans from the Dti to save small firms £100 million a year by making it easier to set up a business, figures have revealed that an overwhelming 79% of self-employed people in the North West still believe the Government does not do enough to support them.

Statistics from the NFEA (National Federation of Enterprise Agencies) found that 99% of UK companies are small businesses employing almost 50% of the UK's private sector workforce and over 60% of innovations come from small businesses. So why do new businesses and start-ups only have an even chance of surviving for three years? And with 3.7 million small businesses in the UK, how can we improve this ratio? 

Over 60% of the 1,120 people who took part in the Panasonic survey have become self-employed in the last five years and when questioned, found that on of the biggest benefit of doing so was the flexibility it gave them (36%). 43% also said that by not working for a company, they felt better rewarded for their skills and hard work. 

However, when it comes to drawbacks, over a quarter of the self-employed find they end up working longer hours. The same amount also complains of being "always on duty", even when on holiday. 

Even so, the majority felt that becoming self-employed had more positives than negatives and 93% felt their quality of life was better or much improved since working for themselves and so would encourage the Government to invest more money in this area.

Respondents to the survey also found that they had learnt new skills since becoming self-employed, including learning more about Information Technology. Over 80% highlighted the importance of having the appropriate technology in place before you start up in business on your own. 

"It is in everyone's interests to promote entrepreneurialism. For every small business that starts up there's a real chance it could be the next big brand. Panasonic began life in 1918 producing and selling two-socket light bulbs from the founder's house, with just 3 employees

With over three-quarters of people claiming they had to learn new skills to start up, with Information technology taking up most of their time, we are hoping to educate the public on the kind of technology and support there is available for start-ups."
said Bob Tate, Head of Business Systems at Panasonic.

Panasonic Business Systems provides complete solutions for small businesses and their office needs, from an award winning range of "Workio" multi-function products to smaller "mini office" products for the home office. Also on offer are their lightweight micro-portable projectors and ruggedised Toughbook notebook PCs for those that work on the move along with iris recognition and network cameras from the market leading Panasonic security range and telephone systems designed for small businesses growing needs.

Be Your Own Boss Week 2005 (11 to 17 April) sponsored by Panasonic Business Systems, is an awareness campaign looking at the benefits and issues involved in running a small business, celebrating the people that have made the decision to go it alone and be their own boss. It looks at how technology enables people to work from home and small offices and the difficulties encountered by start-ups when choosing the correct technology solutions. It also looks at how starting a business is becoming an increasingly popular way for workers looking to work flexibly and gain a beneficial work/life balance.

What do you think?  Email us now at:- 


THE 4th annual hunt for the British Small Business Champion is well under way. With hundreds of entries from small firms across the UK already flooding in, time is running out for potential winning firms from the North of England to enter the competition. 

Stephen Pegge for Lloyds TSB Business says:- "We're looking for all well-run small enterprises that have been in operation for at least five years, employ fewer than 50 people and offer excellent customer service. It doesn't matter what your trade is or where in the North you are based - if you've got a good business tell us about it." 

With the potential of being crowned the British Small Business Champion of 2005, as well as winning a tailor-made business trip to New York, there's every reason to apply. The closing date is 12 May 2005, so there's still time. Expert judges from Lloyds TSB, the Federation of Small Businesses and The Mirror will then select six regional winners to represent the North, Central region, South of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the final at Claridge's in London on 15 November 2005. 

John Emmins, BSBC chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses, says:- "These awards are a brilliant way of providing much needed recognition to both business owners and their staff. Just being shortlisted sends out a powerful message to others about your business and can be invaluable in raising your profile."

To enter, write to BSBC, St. Kilda, 24 Heath Road, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, LU7 3AB or apply online via:-

Credit boom set to implode?

THIS WEEK Bankruptcy advisors think so. Extra staff are being hired amid fears that the global credit boom could spark a surge in business failures in the UK.  Unusually loose lending conditions have encouraged record borrowing by new start ups and small businesses.  Bankruptcies in the UK are already running at the highest level for more than a decade. According to the Department of Trade and Industry, up to 12,000 business insolvencies are recorded every year. Only about 50% of small businesses are still trading three years after first being set up.  There are many reasons why this happens but there is only one conclusion: business failure.  Business failure is not only common with new start-ups but also with businesses that have been around for sometime.

Why do businesses fail?

According to UK Business consultant Mark Baldwin:- "Most businesses fail through lack of planning and organisation. Every new business start up comes about through someone's ingenuity and enthusiasm in their product. Unfortunately not enough business owners have the tools to profitably expand their business. For this reason the Prosperity Test has been developed."

This is a new technology designed to locate areas in your business that are holding back your profits. It is a FREE business test that can be taken online at

The result of the analysis shows the actual effectiveness of the various functions of any given company compared to their potential. At the same time the results clearly show areas in the company which should be strengthened and what should be done to accomplish that. The analysis also indicates those areas which are doing well and which should not be changed.  The results will furnish each business owner with an idea as to how their company is actually doing in comparison to the ideal, and what you could do to approach this level.  "Many people start up their own business with the dream of a better standard of living and life, but for a lot of people this never actually materialises, but our aim is to deliver effective management tools and methods that can make the dreams of that better life come true, thereby reducing the number of businesses that fail" Says Mark Baldwin.

North - South Female Entrepreneurship Divide... Does It Exist?

STEVE Websdale, director of invoice and asset based financier, Venture Finance, looks at female entrepreneurship and asks the question:- Does a North/South divide exist amongst women who run their own business in the UK?

It is an unfortunate fact that on a national scale fewer women are setting up companies than men, but this difference is clearly exaggerated in the North of the UK. Findings from our own database confirm this:- 5% of our clients ' businesses in the South are run by women, compared to just 2% in the North. This is in contrast to the national average of 3.9%.

Refreshingly, however, research from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) shows that times are changing, revealing that the gap between male and female entrepreneurial activity has significantly narrowed for the first time. Female entrepreneurship now stands at 46% of male entrepreneurship levels, compared to 42.9% in 2003. 

Working with me at Venture Finance is Fiona Black, our regional manager covering London and the South East. She has worked with many female entrepreneurs and has some interesting insights relating to women in business:- "It's great to see that nowadays more females than ever are realising their potential and setting up companies. One key trend is that most women in the South tend to be involved in service-based industries, with typical examples being recruitment or consulting. 

Interestingly, we have also noticed that more business women are using the services of professional consultants, such as accountants, bank managers and independent financial advisors. This suggests an increased desire to be taken seriously and ensure their organisation is structured in the most efficient and competitive way." 

So what has recently changed to encourage more women to run their own business? Here we will consider the hurdles women must overcome and how these have altered in recent years.


The traditional obstacles that face entrepreneurial women, such as domestic and social responsibilities or access to finance, are beginning to diminish. More childcare facilities are available and new economic incentives are encouraging women back into the workforce. 

The Chancellor's 2005 Budget speech, for example, announced a number of childcare measures, including an increase in childcare facilities. This will provide parents with more choices when trying to balance work and family life.

When it comes to raising finance, however, many women still undersell themselves and their business opportunities. It is this apprehension of sourcing funds that remains the biggest factor restricting women from running their own successful company. This fear needs to be addressed, as lack of confidence is one of the main reasons females fail to secure business funding in comparison to men. 

During our research, we secured feedback from a number of our business-owning female clients. This highlighted various skills women can develop to combat their fear of raising finance and encourage entrepreneurship. These include attending business development courses, financial courses and networking.


Networking is a powerful tool women need to embrace, as it enables professionals to exchange and share information. Fiona Black strongly believes it is also an effective way of building clients, suppliers and other useful contacts:- "Women are now starting to realise the value of networking through trade shows, seminars and specialist 'women in business' organisations. In essence, the networking links and opportunities are now stronger than ever in both the North and South of England. Events such as these act as a vehicle for both accessing and raising finance, as well as generating the confidence to take that first step and launch into business." 

There are women's networking groups all over the country, for example the Business Women's Networking Lunch in Cambridge, run by the Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce ( The South is home to The SWAN Group (, which is supported by the Business Link, and women based in the North can access a directory listing all local networking events ( 

Positive Picture

GEM's research continues to paint a positive picture for women, revealing large increases in female entrepreneurial activity across the UK. GEM's report also shows that 46.7% of the UK's population think there is adequate start-up finance at a regional level. This is encouraging for female and male entrepreneurs alike.

Breaking Tradition

We were heartened to see from our findings that women are also breaking out of traditionally female dominated industries and starting up companies more typically run by men. For example, some of Venture's female clients are in industries as diverse as commercial furniture, safety products and haulage companies.

Woodland Transport case study

In 1999, Joan and daughter Julie Brumby started their own haulage company, Woodlands Transport Ltd, based in Lincolnshire. Julie decided she needed a challenge and wanted to run her own business with mum Joan, who has 20 years experience in the transport sector.

With her strong industry contacts, Joan concentrated on the transport side of the business, while Julie focused on the day-to-day running of the company.

The haulage industry is different to many others, as the business requires a steady cash flow due to large overheads. The company simply would not survive on 60-90 days payment terms from its clients. 

Joan and Julie knew there was only one source of funding that would fit their business... factoring. Through Venture's factoring service, Woodlands Transport benefited from a prepayment facility, which would release about 80 per cent of the invoice value immediately; with the remainder payable to Woodlands on receipt from their client.

Joan comments:- "Since I have been running my own company I haven't had any problems. As with any industry, to be taken seriously you need to know your stuff, regardless of your gender." 

Having started out with 5 articulated lorries, Woodlands Transport has since upgraded and now has 2, 7 and half tonnes trucks and 3 articulated lorries. It has grown to employ 6 people and has an annual turnover of £450k.


In conclusion, there is still a clear divide between the number of businesses being run by women in the North and the South. 

The traditionally strong service sector in the South could help to explain the regional variations we are seeing in the number of female entrepreneurs. Set up costs and ongoing overheads are far lower for a service company, such as a recruitment agency, than for a manufacturing business, which can be prohibitively high.

Access to finance is still one of the largest barriers to entrepreneurial growth, and this must be improved to encourage further expansion of the UK economy. As Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, once commented:- "If women started new businesses at the same rate as men, we would have more than 100,000 extra new businesses each year."

It is positive to see, however, that women throughout the UK have increasing confidence in developing their own business. Attitudes to working women have changed significantly in the past few decades. 

Female entrepreneurs are now being offered more support, irrelevant of their location, and this can only help to boost the UK's economy as a whole. 

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