Expert advice on the business of running a garment decoration company
Investment delays and new Secretary of State for business
The Monetary Policy Committee noted on 13 July 2016: “Early indications from surveys and from contacts of the Bank’s Agents suggest that some businesses are beginning to delay investment projects and postpone recruitment decisions.”
Following the appointment of Theresa May as prime minister and the subsequent cabinet reshuffle, Greg Clark, MP for Royal Tunbridge Wells, has been given the post of Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
“I’ve taken on two new permanent staff in the past 12 months and have five other staff, all of whom have been here at least four years. However, I find that I now need to reduce my costs and the obvious answer is to ask one of the two new staff members to leave. How do I do that legally when both have been performing well, and how do I choose between them?”
If the volume of work undertaken by your business decreases, you may want to consider options other than compulsory redundancy, such as natural wastage, restrictions on recruitment, removal of overtime, reducing working hours, agreeing zero-hours contracts or inviting employees to take early retirement or voluntary redundancy.
However, if you have no option but to let a member of staff go, you should ensure that you follow the appropriate redundancy procedures and apply them fairly to avoid the risk of an unfair dismissal claim.
Bear in mind that only employees with two years or more service may bring an unfair dismissal claim and employees with less than two years’ employment are not entitled to a redundancy payment. However, it is still prudent to comply with the legal requirements when making employees redundant to avoid any criticism or issues.
In order for a dismissal for redundancy to be fair, the employer must have acted reasonably, in all the circumstances of the case, in treating redundancy as the reason for dismissing the employee. In practice, this means an employer must follow the ‘procedural fairness’ guidelines set out in the 1987 case of Polkey, in which the House of Lords held that an employer would not act reasonably (and a dismissal will therefore be unfair) unless it:
- Warns and consults employees about the proposed redundancy;
- Adopts a fair basis on which to select for redundancy. An employer must identify an appropriate pool from which to select potentially redundant employees and must select against proper criteria;
- Considers suitable alternative employment. An employer must search for and, if it is available, offer suitable alternative employment within its organisation.
Selection: pool and criteria
Selection pool An employer must consider the appropriate pool of employees for redundancy selection. As you only have seven employees, care should be taken to ensure that the pool is not too narrow, as this may be considered unreasonable.
Consider the type of work that is diminishing or ceasing, the extent to which employees are doing similar work, and the extent to which employees’ jobs are inter-changeable. It may be unreasonable for you to simply select an individual for redundancy if there are other employees with whom their skills are interchangeable. This is particularly true with low skilled workers.
Selection criteria An employer must also consider the selection criteria used to assess individuals
for redundancy. As far as possible the criteria should be objective and capable of independent verification, rather than simply personal opinion. Potentially fair selection criteria include performance and ability, length of service, attendance records and disciplinary records.
Use a redundancy selection assessment form and, for a more detailed consideration of the criteria, apply weightings to the criteria to reflect their relative importance.
You have two members of staff with less than a year’s service and you have indicated that you would choose one of them for redundancy. Although ‘last in first out’ used to be a popular method of redundancy selection, it is now seen as a heavy-handed method of selection and using this method alone may result in claims of unfair dismissal or discrimination on grounds of age and sex. It is only really acceptable as part of a balanced set of criteria.
You must be careful that any other criteria used for selection assessment are not discriminatory. For example, absence connected to maternity leave should be discounted and poor attendance due to a disability may require the employer to make a reasonable adjustment.
You should share the individual assessment scores with your employees and give them the opportunity to challenge the score as part of the consultation process.
Email campaigns for beginners
Having previously discussed picking a website that suits your business and its requirements, and how to get it found online, now for the fun part: email marketing, a simple, low cost way of driving visitors to your business’s website.
Why email campaigns?
Email campaigns are a great and inexpensive way of growing your online business, increasing sales and raising awareness of your garment decoration business and its services. They give your business a chance to not just target new customers, but also to reconnect with existing customers, with the aim of increasing repeat orders and customer retention. Often, once garment decorators have won an order, they sit back and wait for repeat orders or rely on word of mouth. Email campaigns allow you to be pro-active and reach out to your customers.
Where do I begin?
Many customers I have dealt with scoff when I ask them about running email campaigns. Quite often, their response is: “They’re a bit too advanced for us. We’re just a print and embroidery business, we are not a marketing company.” However, email marketing is, in fact, very simple.
You have all your customers’ information at your fingertips already, so why not actually use it? All you need to get started is to put your customers’ email addresses in a spreadsheet, or download them from your accounts package, CRM system, mailbox or whatever other piece of software you use.
Be sure, however, to get permission from your customers before you start sending your email campaigns. Whether it’s a simple disclaimer on your website or email, it’s a legal requirement to ensure customers are aware that their email is stored for future marketing purposes and another legal requirement is offering them suitable opt out/unsubscribe links within any email you send.
Simple, free email campaigns
There are hundreds of pieces of email campaign software out there, from very basic to very sophisticated packages for large corporations and organisations. But for small and medium-sized businesses there are free packages that are simple and easy to use, such as MailChimp, ReachMail, and Zoho.
MailChimp in particular is seen as the industry leader. It complies with all the rules and is built with simplicity in mind. With a whole multitude of user-friendly tools, templates, features and designs, it allows you to store thousands of contacts, lets you examine your email open rates, and makes creating an email campaign an easy task. MailChimp’s customer support and tutorials make even the most complicated job seem simple, and for this reason alone it is always my recommended product!
Top tips for beginners
- Keep it simple, don’t overload your customers with information. Use short, sharp sentences to explain why your business rocks!
- Create email-only offers for your contacts
- Use the marketing emails you receive to your advantage: look at them, see what you like and dislike, and use it as a springboard for your own marketing emails
- Create a catchy subject line that will encourage customers to open your email
- Trial your emails. Send them to colleagues, friends and family to get their thoughts and feedback and fine tune them. It always pays to have another set of eyes!
- Play around with different software packages to find out which one you prefer and are comfortable with. Remember to ask for your customers’ feedback and continue developing it as you go along