Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Overlooked your Chambers' hidden value?

Chamber Patron NIS tell how they had been missing out on all of the benefits of being a part of Hertfordshire Chamber, read their case study below:

"Like many SME's we have had our fair share of recruitment issues, with positions vacant for over a year despite using the services of specialist agents and Linkedin.

Potential risks with staff retention remain our other challenge. In an industry plagued with global skill shortages, salary increases only focus employees over the short-term. Introducing a tangible benefits package presented the usual budgetary constraints.

NIS joined the Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce to increase awareness of our brand and gain a better understanding of the challenges for local business. However, we had completely overlooked the wide ranging benefits which came with our membership. We were also surprised at the competitive cost of providing a comprehensive AXA health scheme after applying the Chamber membership discounts. For example, a 20 year old can join the scheme for about £10 per month, someone aged 60 for around £25 per month, and all siblings under the age of 30 can be added with just one fee for the first child at around 50% of these values.

In addition, all employees received a 50% PureGym membership, which has worked well as a team building exercise after work. The whole of our management team were given comprehensive health check visits. Most surprisingly, a 50% discount on the renewal of our Chamber membership covered a significant proportion of our overall expenditure. We look forward to an improvement in productivity and peace of mind for our staff following any serious illness.

Ironically, I had not seen the Doctor for over 27 years but shortly after introducing the AXA scheme, I ended up with what felt like a life-threatening issue comprising of constant and agonising stomach pains with significant weight loss resulting in the reduction of my waist by about 8 inches within 2 months. It was a worrying time which prompted a review of my Will!

Sadly, the 3 month NHS Specialist waiting list was concerning, however my AXA policy kicked in extremely quickly. I was given access to a list of Specialists throughout the country, with details of their credentials and educational history. Within about 15 minutes of seeing the Professor on Christmas Eve, I was reassured my condition was not serious and would self-heal in time; after a few days the scan confirmed his diagnosis. This was quite a relief and my New Year's resolution didn't feature weight loss on this occasion!"

Mustaq Chandia, Director, Network Integrity Services Ltd.

AXA PPP Healthcare; Small Business Healthcare Cover

At AXA PPP Healthcare, our small business healthcare cover aims to get small business owners and their teams back to health and back to work as soon as possible by providing them with prompt access to eligible treatment in a private hospital.

Should Chamber of Commerce members wish to take out a healthcare cover plan with us, they will also receive:
  • 50% off their Chamber of Commerce membership for three years*
  • Free access to our 24/7 Employee Assistance Programme for all employees, regardless of whether they're covered on the plan. This gives employees' access to a trained counsellor over the phone, 24/7, 365 days a year.
  • 50% off annual PureGym membership for the whole team, not just those covered by the plan**
Find out more about our exclusive offers for Chamber of Commerce members here

*This offer is only available to members of participating Chambers
*This offer is only available to direct new customers of AXA PPP healthcare only.
*50% off Chamber membership is up to value of £125 per employee you cover each year.
*50% off Chamber membership can be claimed each year for up to three years as long as a current business healthcare plan remains in force on a direct basis.
*AXA PPP Healthcare reserves the right to change or remove this special offer at any time.

**Read the full terms and conditions here

Monday, 25 February 2019

How to start an Import Export business

Knowing how to start an import export business is challenging and takes some study and research but the rewards are great.  Here’s a few tips and ideas on what to think about as you start your venture.
Be your own boss  Be Your Own Boss
Starting an import export business or any business for that matter, is exciting and hugely rewarding. The sweat, hard work and hours that you put into your own company, benefit you directly, rather than your boss or manager, you reap the rewards. Making all the decisions and being accountable only to yourself is a freeing feeling and the rewards are many.
Securing your own financial future, earning the respect and admiration of colleagues, friends and family as someone who took the risk and went out and built their own company is a satisfying feeling. Working the hours that you want to work is a huge advantage over having to work endless hours for someone else.
Let’s get to the point and tell you how to set up your own company, how to trade on the International stage successfully and point out some of the most common pitfalls, so that you can setup and trade successfully and most importantly, profitably from day one.
Hot or Not?  Hot or Not?
You’ve thought long and hard about what you want to buy and sell and how to build and grow your company. Many are eager to jump right in and buy stock and start selling, however before you start up your business and spend your hard earned money on stock it’s vital to test the water and find out if others are as enthusiastic about your product as you.
You may THINK that the product you want to sell will be successful and you’ll make a healthy profit from it but in reality this may not be true. We’ve all seen Dragon’s Den where a budding entrepreneur thinks they have the most revolutionary idea or product but the wise Dragon’s don’t see it! Just because you like a product it does not mean that the public will like it and part with their hard earned cash to buy it.
There are many ways to find opinions on your ideas and products. Sometimes you have to be a little creative in how you approach it but its time well invested. Start with friends and family and ask for honest opinions. Discuss pricing and ask your friends if they would pay for your product. Hold a focus group in your local neighborhood, give your product to the focus group and ask for their thoughts and feedback. There are other ways that you can conduct market research too which we cover in our import export training course.
If you’re looking for some inspiration for ideas, check out or blog post “What Can I Import and Sell?“.
Find the best products  Find the Best Products for the Lowest Price
As we continue our course teaching the best practices for starting your International trading company, it’s extremely important to know where to buy your products from. This is the foundation of your business and will dictate if your business is profitable.
A common complaint we hear from many entrepreneurs is “I know what I want to import and sell but I don’t know where to get it from”. Where can you source products from with such a huge amount of suppliers in a global market place?
You must understand how to source your product from the right supplier with the right terms and price. Many traders rely on Internet suppliers like as Alibaba and other such companies. These companies a certainly worth looking at there’s no harm in this but you’re limiting your search. There is a great myth among buyers in that you get the best price, product and terms from China. This is not always the case! China is not actually the centre of global trade. Sourcing from companies in Preferential Trading Countries (PTC) can be a much easier and cheaper way to go.
Get samples  Getting Samples From Suppliers
Facing buyers will be a key part of any trading that you do and following some simple guidelines will make the process easier, give you more confidence and give you a much higher conversion rate. Buyers will want to see samples of the goods they intend to buy and samples come in all shapes and sizes.
Some are easy to obtain from supplier such as clothing, toys and watches. Others are bulky, such as construction and capital equipment. Most producers will give a limited number of samples free of charge to a serious buyer or at a nominal cost. It’s important to make sure you know how the products work when you receive these samples, as you will have to make presentations to potential buyers so familiarise yourself with all aspects of the product. This is where your market research and focus groups will come in very handy as you will be able to take all the feedback and questions you received and be ready for the same, preparing your pitch to cover these.
A range of products is better  A Range of Products Earns Bigger Profits
Now that you have sourced your product, got your samples, conducted your research which is proving positive, you may feel ready to dive in and start approaching buyers and retailers, asking them to place orders.
Before taking that jump, it’s very wise not to become complacent and make sure you are varying your product range. This offers several advantages.
Concentrating on selling just one product will limit you. You should ideally have a complimentary RANGE of products.
Appointments to buyers/retailers must result in a sale. If you show your potential buyer only one item, for example, an electric kettle and they do not want to place an order, your visit was a waste of your time. However if you then show the buyer your complementary range you have a better chance of securing an order.  If they are not interested in youe kettle, they may be interested in your unique coffee maker, toaster and waffle maker.  You get the point, remember, there’s safety in numbers!
By offering a range, even if your buyer likes the main product you wanted to market, they may also like other products within your range, so an order that would have been for just one product, could turn into an order for several products. This increases profits for you and in the worst case, if the buyer did not like the first product you had in mind, they may like another in the range and still place an order. Don’t limit yourself but keep as many options as you can on the table.
Understanding agencies  Understanding Agencies
Many businesses are set up as agencies. There are two main types of agencies available and it’s extremely important you understand both. Both have their benefits and can offer you advantages depending on your personal situation and what you want to achieve. There are traditional agents and brokers. There is a lot to understand when dealing with agencies which is a little beyond the scope of this article but our online International Trade course goes into much detail on agencies and our one-to-one support can offer help and advice as to the best route for you and your business.
Finding buyers for your products is obviously key to any import export business and our blog has an article with some suggestions on how to find buyers for your exports.
Do the deal  It’s a Done Deal
Negotiation is one of the highlights of being an entrepreneur and being “the boss”. This is where you can set the terms of your business and drive a hard bargain. Negotiating is a key part of any business from the trader at your local market stall, to multi-billion pound companies the world over.
Hone your negotiating skills, be confident and a little charming and you can walk away with the deal you want. We’ve seen on Dragons Den how the dragons and the entrepreneurs will negotiate back and forth, sometimes quite intensely until the deal is done with both sides feeling great about the agreement. As an entrepreneur this is a great feeling, securing the deal you want and giving you more confidence for the next deal.
At every junction of your International trading business, you are going to have to negotiate. Once you’ve sourced your products, you’ll have to negotiate the price, the quantities, the samples and it won’t end there. When you approach buyers, you’ll have to negotiate the terms of the sale, the retail price, the wholesale price, minimum order, delivery time, exclusivity and the list can go on. Contract terms will need to be negotiated, which will follow in the next lesson.
Import export negotiation techniques Buyers and Sellers seldom agree on terms and conditions of the contract on the first attempt. There are usually periods when both parties have to negotiate to reach an agreement. Before you enter into negotiations, you must develop an negotiating strategy. Here’s a few negotiation techniques to get you started.
Negotiating becomes easier the more you do it. You will start to get an idea of how far you can push and what the other party will be willing to give up. As you do more and more deals with the same parties, you will be able to negotiate better deals and likely more quickly as trust will be built. As the other party gains trust in you by paying your bills on time and living up to your word, you may be able to negotiate even better deals going forward as you remove their “hassle factor”.
Incoterms 2010  Get It Delivered with Incoterms 2010.
This is where you can really take hold of your business and show your import export knowledge. Terms of delivery is fundamental to any trading business and once you are familiar with these you will be in a much stronger position to negotiate and trade.
It’s absolutely vital that you are aware of these terms of delivery and understand them. By understanding these terms, you are protecting your goods and covering your risk. Get this right and you’re half way to building your International trading empire.
There are eleven different terms of delivery:
EXW-FCA-CPT-CIP-DAT-DAP-DDP-FAS-FOB-CFR-CIF. These are referred to as
Incoterms 2010.  Check out our blog post covering “What Are Incoterms?” for more understanding.
These terms determine the buyer and sellers obligation and using these terms will clear up any confusion and stop close any issues before any disagreement arises.
Insurance  Marine Insurance
Needless to say, insurance of your goods is a must. Without this, the money that you’ve paid for you goods, should anything go wrong, is unprotected and will hit your cash flow and profits hard. Accidents happen and it’s a risk not worth taking and something that can easily be covered with each shipment.
Marine Insurance gives cover from the sellers warehouse to the buyers warehouse, therefore it offers “Multi Modality” cover. As with all insurances there is small print and conditions that you must be aware of. Without understanding these, your shipment may not be covered, even though you have paid your premium. Taking the time to really understand insurance of your goods is vital to running a successful business.
Terms and Conditions  Those Pesky Contract Terms and Conditions
Terms and conditions of trade are possibly the most fundamental part of business. Without terms and conditions agreed upon, there will never be a contract signed or an order placed.
Understanding the terms that your business associates want you to trade under and just as importantly, the terms that you will operate your business under, is massively important.
Before you start trading, it is essential you have your terms and conditions in place as a buyer and seller. These terms and conditions will form part of your contracts and you must make sure these terms cover some basic issues.
It is very important that your terms and conditions fit the goods of the contract. For an example, if you are dealing in electrical goods, the goods must conform to International standards for that product.
In the case of food, the food must conform to import customs regulations and the food itself must conform to national hygiene standards, packing standards and shelf life.
It’s advisable to write your terms and conditions of trade with the help of a lawyer so you can be sure they will stand any legal challenge.
There is much to cover with terms and conditions which is beyond the scope of this short course but our Online International Trade course will cover this in more depth.
Company setup  Setting Up Your Company
Now you’re ready for the final step to take control of you future and become your own boss. Being an entrepreneur is exciting, negotiating and closing the deal is a rush and gives a great sense of achievement.
Hard work and perseverance is a must but watching your business grow, increasing profits and securing your own financial future is massively rewarding.
The final step is to decide how your company should be setup. There are two options, setting up as self employed or as a Limited Company.
Many trade successfully using both types of setup but you must decide what’s best for you. Consulting an accountant and explaining your current situation, can be wise before you decide. An experienced accountant will help you make an informed decision and advise you which financial records you need to keep. Most accountants will give you one hour of their time for a reasonable cost.
The tax man!  Keep the Tax Man Happy!
VAT is a big part of running a business and it’s extremely important to understand this as an entrepreneur and business person. If you expect your annual turnover to be £81,000.00 or more, you must register for VAT. One of the advantages of being registered is that you can reclaim the VAT you pay on goods you bought for your business but NOT on personal purchases.
An accountant will identify what you can claim for or go on line to the HMRC VAT webpage.
If you anticipate trading with a turnover less than £81,000.00 you may register for voluntary VAT and reclaim VAT on goods you bought for your business.
Online International trade course  Import Export Training
We hope this short article has given you an insight into how to trade Internationally and raised some of the pitfalls and best practices that you should be aware of. Many people start their businesses without being aware and unfortunately, will fold within the first 24 months suffering the loss of all the money they invested. It’s so important to understand your risks when importing and exporting, so we’ve make sure to review our quick guide on the nine most common mistakes when exporting so you’re not a victim of any of them.
In order to really understand all aspects of trading globally, check out our online International Trade course. It’s a “to the point”, all-in-one course that teaches you exactly how to import and export in the real-world. No logistical theory, just streamlined content taught with a series of entertaining animated videos, validated by the London Institute of Shipping and Transport.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

What can joining the Herts Chamber do for you? Part Two

Business Benefits

One of the biggest perks of becoming a member of the Chamber is gaining access to all of our amazing Business Benefits. The British Chambers of Commerce have partnered with a number of fantastic companies to provide our members with excellent cost saving services and benefits.
Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce offers our members access to a wide variety of cost saving benefits all included as part of the membership cost.

Benefits at a glance:

Chamber Legal
in association with Quest
Unlimited, 24/7, 365 days a year access to experienced Legal Advisors. Comprehensive access to 200 free customisable downloadable legal documents.

Chamber Tax
in association with Quest
Unlimited access to experienced Tax and VAT specialist Advisors.  Cover for employment disputes, tax investigations, property disputes, data protection and more. 

Chamber Health and Safety
in association with Quest
Unlimited access to experienced Health and Safety Advisors. A Free Health and Safety check. Comprehensive access to 200 free downloadable and customisable Health and Safety documents. 

Chamber HR
in association with Quest
Unlimited, 24/7, 365 days a year access to experienced HR Advisors. A Free HR Health Check. Comprehensive access to 350 free, customisable, downloadable HR documents.

Chamber Primary Health Plan
partnered with Westfield health
With four levels of cover to choose from, you can offer your employees Money Back on optical, dental, chiropody, therapy treatments and consultations. Along with access to scanning services, DoctorLine, Best Doctors, the 24 hour advice line; including up to 6 face-to-face counselling sessions, Health Club Concession and Personal Accident cover.

Chamber Energy
powered by Utilitywise
Chamber Energy Solutions are providing members with 5 free services which will help you to take control over your utility spend. Saving you time, effort and money:

  1. A free energy health check
  2. Solving your estimated bill problem
  3. Bill checking service
  4. The Utilitywise newsletter
  5. Access to the Chamber Energy Solutions utility helpline

But don't just take our word for it!

"I am delighted with my Herts Chamber membership already due to the support I was provided by Quest. They were exceptionally professional and I was hugely impressed. I shall without a doubt be using their services again." Laura Moxham, Managing Director, Your Business Angels.

Disclaimer: the benefits described in this case study are all accessible on a Silver Membership and above.

These are only a few of the benefits provided with your membership. For the full list of services, see here.

Contact us on 01707 502180 or email enquiries@hertschamber.com to find out more about our range of products and services and how we can help your business.

Herts Chamber get their Jingle Bells Rockin' !

The Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce have long been in partnership with their Patron, Focus7 International. And this week, the Chamber completed one of the forfeit challenges for Focus7, as part of their reverse Advent Calendar.

'The Focus7 Foodbank Team Task Challenge
Throughout December the Focus7 team and some of clients will be performing fun and ridiculous tasks in aid of local charity, Letchworth Foodbank. Every time we reach another £20 in donations, we will pull a task at random from the advent calendar and proceed to make fools of ourselves.'

To find out more about the fundraiser or to donate to Letchworth Foodbank, click here: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/focus7foodbankchallenge

The Herts Chamber team took part in a Christmas themed Cat Walk, and we had a lot of fun doing it. All in the name of charity!
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

The Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce has been recognised for Excellence in International Trade, becoming finalists at the 2018 Chamber Business Awards.

With a combined 60+ years’ experience, the export team has been supporting Hertfordshire’s businesses to fulfil their overseas ventures.
Whether a business is planning to export for the first time, or is expanding on existing export activity, or has Brexit concerns, the dedicated Export team can offer practical advice and assistance, documentation services, international marketing and business information to help make sure that businesses are fully prepared for trading overseas.

Herts Chamber recently bolstered the export team, welcoming John Woodruffe, International Trade Advisor. Bringing a wealth of experience, including 32 years at the Foreign Office and DIT, this addition enables the Chamber to deal with more export enquiries and provide consistent export advice.

Neville Reyner, CBE DL Hon.Dlitt, Chairman, Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce said “During a time of uncertainty, it is vital that businesses ensure they are ready for anything Brexit throws at them. The export team has done an amazing job at helping Hertfordshire’s businesses with all their export needs and concerns. With the addition to the team, we are now more than ever best positioned to assist Hertfordshire’s businesses. We are greatly pleased to be a finalist in the BCC national awards (BCC represents some 75,000 businesses, several million employees through 53 accredited Chambers of Commerce.)”

Frances Harris, Export Manager at Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce added “We are delighted to be shortlisted as finalists for this award. It is especially pleasing to be recognised for all the hard work and commitment our export team puts in to make sure Hertfordshire’s businesses are in a prime position for export activity.”
The winners of the Excellence in International Trade award will be announced at the 2018 British Chambers of Commerce Business Awards Gala Dinner taking place on Thursday 29 November.

Hertfordshire Chamber’s Breakfast Presentation on Nov 6th 2018

Presentation by Claire Williams, Strategic Business Development Director from OCEE Design Manufacturers and Julian Sheldrake, Director from Q Office Furniture.

Making your workplace more productive
The business world is changing. Ways to improve workplace productivity are set to soar over the next few years.
There is more to improving productivity and being successful than buying the latest office furniture.
Innovation in businesses is key to success. In order to attract and keep creative, innovative people, you need to build the right work environment.
The workplace has changed beyond all recognition. Static personal desks, PCs and landlines have been replaced with organic open-plan spaces, laptops and mobile phones.  Growth in office technology has and will continue to change the way we work.

Do open-plan offices work?
Open-plan working is here to stay, says Claire. There is much written about open-plan, good and bad. Capstone 3 open-plan research produces statements like "While it is open and collaborative, the lack of privacy makes it difficult to focus and overall decreases my productivity".
So Claire asked us to consider, are we designing the modern workplace to be more productive?
Claire quotes a report from The Leesman, “The Next 250K”, which found that 46% of UK workers say their workplace does not allow them to work productively. What’s more, when employers moved or refurbished offices only 7% saw an increase in productivity.  

Put people at the heart of the design
Many visually stunning offices that are professionally designed fail to produce the expected productivity increase.
There are stories of run down offices with ‘broken windows’ with better productivity than the designer styled ‘fully loaded’ office next door.
So what is going on? How do you make the modern workplace work for you?
The answer is to put people at the heart of the workplace design.
Using Activity Based Working (ABW) strategies will help create a working environment that’s flexible and efficient and where staff can flourish.
Office design must take account of human factors. While building on the Maslow hierarchical needs, we must consider air quality, lighting, thermal comforts and noise, but most important of all is space.
Techniques like Proxemics aim to cut anxiety levels caused when people are too close at work. For example, people crammed into call centres develop burn out very quickly and must move on. The right amount of personal space and spaces to relax or concentrate are essential for the modern office.
Workplace mental health is a growing challenge. UKGOV, ACAS and MIND all say work is the biggest cause of stress in people's lives, more so than debt or financial problems. 
We need to design compassionate work spaces where people can get away when they need to.
Most businesses cannot afford the amazing staff-based facilities supplied by modern high-tech giants such as Google and Sky. However, there is a lot that can be achieved with good planning and product selection.

OCEE Design is a Q Office Furniture manufacturing partner. For a free office design service, contact Julian Sheldrake at julians@qofficefurniture.co.uk or call 01992 463358.