Power Up - Connecting you with digital skills for business
5 June 2020
This blog isn’t all about me! There will be other regular contributors as well. We recently launched our Power-Up project, helping businesses develop their digital skills. This week, the project’s manager Ruth Hunter explains more.
Zoom or not to Zoom?
Just like millions of people across the country I have had to learn how to use new digital tools to maintain contact with family, friends and work colleagues. For me this has been a challenging and frustrating experience – “I can see you but I can’t hear you”, “I can hear you but I can’t see you”, “I can’t see you and I can’t hear you” have all been common utterances. Sound familiar?
Adopting digital solutions to keep trading has been a key focus for many businesses during the COVID 19 lockdown period with an upsurge in the number of businesses launching business websites, selling online and using contactless payment solutions to have safer transactions with their customers.
With digital for business now firmly in the spotlight, which digital skills do businesses need to develop and why? The government (DCMS 2017) has identified four core digital skills needed for sole traders and micro-businesses to flourish:
Maintaining a web presence
Having a website or social media presence can help you to build your business brand, reach a wider audience and be more responsive to your customers.
Adopting eCommerce solutions can help you to boost sales and enter new markets. With 25 million people in the UK (LLoyds 2018 ) preferring to shop through their mobile phone, trading online needs to be considered to remain competitive.
Using the Cloud
Using cloud based software and storage solutions can help your business to reduce IT costs, protect your data and gives you the flexibility to run your business anytime, anywhere.
Digitisation of back office functions
Save time and money by using digital technology to streamline business practices including accounts, payroll, HR and customer records.
Our Power Up aims to help you develop these skills by connecting you with appropriate digital skills and technology learning and support opportunities. To help you we have
- Created an online directory to facilitate fast access to selected FREE online learning and support opportunities.
- Produced a collection of useful information resources guides on the four core digital skills.
- Expanded our Experts in Residence Programme to include a Digital Marketing Expert – Jamie McCoy, Fierce Digital.
- Developed our staff to answer your digital skills and technology questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If your are thinking about moving your business online the Getting your business online and e-Commerce sections of our Digital technology and skills support directory - by topic is a great place to start.
Ruth Hunter is Partnership & Digital Engagement Manager at BIPC Glasgow
Preparing for Post-Lockdown
29 May 2020
Like many, I’m looking forward to the easing of lockdown restrictions in Scotland. It’s clear, however, that we won’t be returning to life as ‘normal’ anytime soon.
The Scottish Government this week issued guidelines for retail businesses and customers which offer a glimpse into what the world will look like post-lockdown for business owners, their employees and customers.
The guidelines are clear, if you employ staff, you shouldn’t open your business without talking to them first. Any risk assessment should be done in consultation with them, either directly or through a health and safety representative chosen by them or selected by a trade union.
The guidelines also include an operations checklist. It isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ set of instructions, but is a good starting point to ensure the health and safety of you, your staff and customers are protected.
Whilst the onus is on business owners to install new safety measures to provide a safe environment to shop in we all, as customers, have a duty of care to take into account the health and safety of those around us. Many of us have experienced a change in the way we shop when visiting supermarkets, but as smaller shops begin to open during Phase 2 of the route map out of lockdown the need for greater awareness (and patience) will arise.
No matter how much we read about what to expect, the reality can often be quite different. Some reports suggest shoppers ‘may be reluctant’ to return to busier locations after remaining local for so many weeks. I can understand their concerns.
I’ve been working from home but there have been some occasions when I’ve had to travel to the Mitchell Library to carry out tasks that simply cannot be done remotely. It’s been very surreal. Despite exercising outdoors daily and visiting a supermarket weekly, it was odd being faced with a stationary train and a flashing, beeping green button for the first time. It was like hearing my alarm clock in a dream. I was aware of it and what it meant, but seemed incapable (for a moment) of putting the thought into action and pressing the button to open the door. Simple tasks I did without thought just a few weeks ago felt alien. Thankfully, there wasn’t anyone waiting, becoming impatient with my lack of action.
Glasgow Central has had the majority of its seats removed, replaced by barriers and signs marking how people should move through the station (‘Keep Left’). This too is a strange experience and one people should prepare themselves for before their first trip into any busy station.
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson set out fresh guidance for passengers in a statement in Holyrood this week advising people how to travel safely, which included urging passengers to use face coverings. This applies to bus, rail or tram.
Whilst these guidelines don’t signal an immediate change to Scotland’s lockdown policy, it’s important for business owners to familiarise themselves with them as soon as possible so potential problems can be identified now and dealt with in advance of opening. If you have any questions, or have difficulty finding the information you need, please get in touch at email@example.com.
Tony Lyon is Librarian at BIPC Glasgow
Quick Guide: Webinars
22 May 2020
If your to-do list is exhausted and Netflix run its course – why not use this time to develop new skills that will help launch or grow the business you’ve always dreamed of?
We recently launched a directory that connects you with free learning and support opportunities to help develop the digital skills you need to run and grow your business. In addition to the huge number of free tutorials and online courses our directory offers, webinars are also a very effective distance learning tool that offer the chance for you to learn knowledge and skills from professionals.
A webinar is a video presentation, lecture or workshop you can participate in from the comfort of your own home. They are hosted online so you will need an internet connection and a device to watch it on. An audio headset can also be useful but most devices now have built in speakers and microphone. When you sign up for a webinar, the host will email you confirmation, normally with a link that will allow you to download the relevant platform to view it on.
I’ve attended a number during lockdown, some have been more useful than others but I have learned something from each. As with anything, it’s always worth doing your homework before signing up. It might sound obvious, but decide what you want to learn and start from there. The choice of online learning opportunities might become overwhelming otherwise.
So, you’ve launched your business, but are looking to grow and don’t have a huge marketing budget (if any). Why not learn how to take advantage of social media? If you’re not already, you’re missing out on an inexpensive way to reach millions of people. It’s more than simply posting something on Instagram and hoping for the best. Successful businesses deploy proven techniques that can be learned. Discover ways to increase brand awareness, increase your customer base, and drive traffic to your website. Perhaps you’ve decided your website could do with a revamp? Again, this is something you can learn for free by attending a webinar.
Whilst there are many ‘how-to’ videos on platforms such as YouTube, it might prove difficult to verify the quality of the information being provided. As with any form of learning, you will want to ensure the source can be trusted.
The British Library run a number of webinars delivered by experts in their field. They have also adapted their offer to include webinars specific to a post COVID-19 reality. They will show you, for example, how to use the Business Model Canvas to challenge your existing business plan or create a new one that’s more suitable to these turbulent times.
In addition to live webinars, Business Gateway have a selection of recorded online tutorials that you can watch at a time that suits you. They include tutorials on how to structure your business finance through COVID-19, and how to communicate with your customers throughout the pandemic.
Tony Lyon is Librarian at BIPC Glasgow
Latest on Business Lockdown
15 May 2020
As more businesses begin to open in England this week, the advice from the Scottish Government has remained the same – ‘stay at home'.
With restrictions on usual business practise set to continue in Scotland to 28th May, I thought I'd pull together some key aspects of the support available to help your business survive and adapt to these uncertain times.
The furlough scheme has been extended until October, with some flexibility built in from August to support the transition back to work.
The Self Employed Income Support Scheme is designed to offer support to the self-employed and freelance workers that mirror support given to furloughed employees. You can claim if you're self-employed or a member of a partnership and have been adversely affected by COVID-19. Several criteria must be met.
HMRC have said most of the people affected should already have been contacted and invited to check their eligibility. Applications opened on the 13th May and payments should be made to successful applicants six days after applying.
If you haven't been contacted, but think you might be eligible, go to the Government's website and use the checker tool. Claims can then be submitted from the 17th May.
If you became self-employed on/after 6th April 2019 and are not eligible for the Self Employed Income Support Scheme you could apply for a grant of up to £2,000 through the Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund. The purpose of the fund is to provide relief to newly self-employed individuals who have not been able to access support through other schemes. The fund is open to people in Scotland, and applications made through your local authority.
There are also some loan schemes that you might not yet have investigated. The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses to access loans and offer other kinds of finance up to £5 million. If you receive an offer our partners at Gilson Gray will provide free legal advice on the loan, security and guarantee documents that your bank will require. The only costs you will pay will be for third party and registration costs.
The Bounce Back Loan Scheme enables small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover (the maximum loan available is £50,000). The Government guarantees 100% of the loan, and you won’t pay any fees or interest for the first 12 months.
The rapidly changing nature of the COVID-19 situation makes it imperative to keep up-to-date with changes to advice and guidelines. Please visit the Scottish Government website for the latest updates to information and advice.
Our Business and IP enquiry service can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org
Tony Lyon is Librarian at BIPC Glasgow