Telling the truth about SME life today

Ask Timpo

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Some of my employees want a microwave in the office so they can cook their own lunches. I’d like to say yes, especially in these penny-pinching times, but I’m worried about how this will appear to important clients and guests.

Don’t bother about what your clients think – it’s your employees’ opinion that really matters.

Some clients may see a microwave in the middle of your sales department as a sign of approaching administration, but many could admire a supplier that keeps costs under tight control. A modest kitchen would impress your bank manager much more than a posh reception area and a fountain in the car park.

However, even in these difficult times, don’t be mean. Do whatever you can to look after your employees. If you have the space, build a proper kitchen with facilities that pass the Health and Safety tests and satisfy the food hygiene police. You don’t need to buy an Aga, but you can do better than a microwave (ready meals are not today’s healthy option). And when the kitchen is complete, put on an apron and cook them their first lunch.

My son-in-law has been working in my company for the past couple of years. His manager has now identified him as the person to be made redundant from that department. What am I going to say to my daughter?

If you agreed to employ the lad in the first place, it is you who must decide if he should go. First, find out the facts.

Does your manager genuinely think your son-in-law is the right man to put in the firing line, or is he trying to get rid of a threat” Fifty years ago, my sister worked as the secretary to our in-house architect. He made life so unpleasant that she left. Two years later, we discovered the architect had been taking massive back-handers.

How able is your son-in-law” Did your daughter make an astute choice or is he a major liability” Whatever the answer, it is probably best to keep him on the payroll: it’s cheaper to support your daughter’s family through the business than finish up paying for their lifestyle from taxed income.

You seem to have three options here:

1.  Give him a sideways move to a part of the business where he can do no harm.2.  Feed him with lots of suitable job applications and then write him a good reference.3.  Make the manager redundant and put your son-in-law in charge.

The choice is yours.

I’ve been asked to be a keynote speaker at an upcoming business conference. I’d love to, but I haven’t been offered a fee. I’m a novice. What’s the etiquette and how much should I expect?

Don’t ask for money until you have a better idea of what you are worth. You obviously enjoy speaking and think you are well worth listening to, but the only people who really know are the audience.

If you have a talent for talking, you will soon get more invitations. That’s the time to start asking for a fee. I suggest you donate the money to charity – it feels good, takes the embarrassment away when asking for a fee, and avoids the chore of putting it on your tax return. Set a minimum price and ask for more than you dare. Many speakers on the circuit get over £2,000 but it depends on who is running the conference and the size of your reputation.

Once you get in the swing of it, speaking is fun but don’t accept too many engagements (six a year is enough). Keep your novelty appeal and never forget your main job is to run the business.

Picture: source



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