How to start a business in the UK

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Updated: 5 March 2020

Everything you need to know about building a business from scratch in 2020 and beyond, in just 11 simple steps


So you want to start a business, eh? You’re in good company there are currently around 5.9 million SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) in the UK. That number is continuing to balloon, too as we enter an exciting new decade for our country’s commerce, about 70 new businesses are being formed here every hour.

Britain has always been a fertile land for budding, business-minded brains we’ve produced Branson, Bannatyne, and the Beckhams, and lay claim to BP, Burberry, and the brilliant Brompton Bicycle

You or I may not harbour ambitions of owning the next big multinational oil corporation (and it’s unlikely we’ll ever be trading on the same scale as Virgin Media) but most of us have, at some stage or other, considered the question:

“What if I started my own business?”

Starting a business is an exciting idea, filled with possibilities, potential, and (hopefully) profits. But the road towards setting up your business won’t be an easy one. It’ll be paved with late nights, peppered with pitfalls, and lined throughout with the red tape of government bureaucracy. 

Our goal is to help you navigate that road. In just 11 steps, we’ll take you through everything you need to build your business from the ground up from the delicate seed of a long-cherished idea to the sweet, blossoming fruits of your hard work and dedication. 

So, just how do you start a business? Let’s find out.


The four pillars of success: have you got what it takes?

Sadly, six out of ten businesses in the UK go bust within three years of establishment. So, if you’re entertaining the notion that entrepreneurship will be easy, abandon it now. 

To start a business (and make it successful), you’ll need to grit your teeth, dig deep, and ride the wave even if, at times, that same current is threatening to pull you under.

You can have the best idea in the world, and be the cleverest, most forward-thinking entrepreneur but without a healthy mixture of the following four elements, you won’t succeed. So, we’ll ask again have you got what it takes to start your own business?

COURAGE

Starting a business can be a lonely journey, and has the potential to severely test your personal relationships. You’re putting not only your career on the line, but your money, your livelihood, and your reputation, too. You’ll need courage to persevere, even when you don’t feel like it even when mustering that courage feels harder than it ever has before.

COMMITMENT

Unless you’ve already received big investment (or have friends in high places), then let’s face it – your business is unlikely to be an instant success. You’ll need to develop a strong plan and execute it professionally. And, above all, you’ll need to stay committed to your idea, and remain steadfast in its ability to change the world.

MONEY

Starting a business without a bit of capital behind you is like trying to climb a tree with one arm tied behind your back difficult, if not impossible. Like most people, you’ll need to spend some money before you can start making it. Jump to Chapter 8 of this guide to discover the right funding option for you.

LUCK

It’s a harsh, but true, fact of life – some businesses fail not because of a lack of drive, cash, or ingenuity, but simply because they were unlucky. Ride your luck when it comes, and have the courage, commitment, and frugality to weather the storm of the inevitable patches of bad luck you’ll encounter along the way.


Starting a business in the UK: is it right for you?

Regardless of whether you were born here or lured from overseas by the bright lights of London, the UK remains an excellent place to do business. Even away from the black cabs and beefeaters of the capital, cities such as Bristol, Leeds, and Oxford are emerging as other strong contenders in which to begin your business. 

That said, the last couple of years have seen a couple of notable spanners thrown into the works of the normally resolute British economy. So, let’s ask the question:

What challenges come with starting a business in the UK?

We’ll start with the obvious…

Brexit.

The UK’s decision to leave the European Union has just about made it’s slow, laboured process into actuality yet still, for the next year or so, the only certainty for UK businesses is, well… uncertainty.

What we do know, though, is that Brexit is likely to bring with it a few challenges for those looking to start a business in the UK:

Cost of preparation: So far, UK-based businesses have spent an average of around £2,000 preparing for Brexit. For small businesses that import and export, this has risen to sit closer to £3,000. Steep!

Recruitment: Though employees that have been UK residents for five or more years can apply for ‘settled status’, Brexit means that young companies may struggle to attract top European talent from abroad.

Tariffs: It comes as no surprise that those in the import/export business stand to suffer most in the event of a bad Brexit deal. Such companies could face delays at the border, additional customs paperwork, increased trade tariffs, and the need to prove that their products are locally sourced.

Access to finance: Decreased investor confidence, cash flow issues, and a yoyoing exchange rate have all combined to stymie British businesses’ access to finance since the 2016 referendum.

So, if you’re going to be heavily reliant on finance or if the business you have a burning desire to start is an import/export one then the current British climate may not be the most forgiving for you right now…

…but don’t write it off just yet. 

Why should you start a business in Britain?

Aside from PG Tips, Yorkie Bars, and good old-fashioned patriotism, there are plenty of excellent reasons to set up shop in the UK:

1. It’s easy to do business

The first? It’s just very easy to do business in the UK. The World Bank currently rates it as the 8th best country in the world to do business in overall, and the 18th best to start a company in.

2. Optimism is (mostly) still in the air

Though the shadow of a no-deal Brexit looms large over our entrepreneurial landscape, it’s actually not all doom and gloom. In fact, it’s the opposite in a recent survey, 57% of respondents indicated that they’re remaining optimistic about the UK’s economic performance in the coming year. 

3. Access to a skilled workforce

At 30 million people, the UK’s pool of skilled employees is the second largest workforce in the European Union (for now). On top of this, the UK’s overall cost of labour is lower than many of our neighbours’, including Ireland, France, and the Netherlands.

4. A forgiving taxation system

The UK has a relatively low corporate tax rate, and a taxation system that is, largely, quite straightforward. Better still, VAT is payable on the majority of goods and services supplied in the UK, adding another layer of incentive for businesses to hunker down, set out their stall, and ride out the uncertainty of Brexit.


How to start a business in the UK: our 11 steps to success

So, you’ve vowed to be courageous. You’re committed to seeing your idea through into a fully-fledged business, you’ve got some money to do it with, and you’re ready to embrace each opportunity to innovate that comes your way. 

Furthermore, you’ve thrown your lot in with the challenges posed by starting a business in the UK, as well as the unique plethora of possibilities it presents. 

In other words, you’re ready to start your business. Here’s how:

how to start a business in the uk

Chapter 1: Do your research

Look before you leap because first, you’ll need to plot out…

…the who, why, where, and when of your business. What do we mean? Read on…

WHO

So, you’ve got an idea for a business, you’ve shared it with your friends and family, and they’re full of vehement praise for it. That’s great… but are they really an impartial audience? Do they love your idea, or just you?

More importantly, do they constitute the demographic you’re planning to sell to?

Before you start, don’t just listen out for what you want to hear seek a wide range of opinions. Gather feedback from the age range you’re planning to target, and those who share interests with your ideal ‘lead’, or customer. 

You can do this by running focus group sessions, or conducting surveys online. You can set one up cheaply with Survey Monkey or Typeform, and then place an ad online or in the paper asking for participants. You may have to incentivise people to take part, sure but the data you’ll get will outweigh any initial monetary costs.

You’ll also want to take a look at other companies that are already in the space you’re keen to enter. Who’s doing it well, and who could be doing it far better? Where are the gaps in the market for a healthy dollop of innovation? Once you’re in business, these companies will be your competitors so it pays to know them inside out, even before you begin.

WHY

Studying your competitors also gives you a chance to think about the ‘why’ of your business. What consumer needs will it satisfy that other businesses don’t? And if they do, how will yours do it better? In other words, why does the world need the business you want to bring into it?

You’ll also need to look within what do you want your company to stand for? A company’s core values are crucial to how its audience perceives, relates to, and engages with the brand. 

75% of customers will start shopping with a company they believe shares their values so it’s important that the ethos you wish to embody is one that will resonate with your customers. 

Millennials, for instance, currently account for around 27% of the world’s population, and have already proven to be particularly discerning value-based buyers. To sell to them, first sell them your why but you’ll need to know what that ‘why’ is first.

WHERE

Are you a one-(wo)man band working from home or a cafe, or will you need something more permanent? If so, are you happy to rely on a coworking space, or would you prefer your own office? And do you have the funds (and the desire) to buy that space, or will renting suffice? 

Skip to Chapter 4 for our advice on selecting a location. Starting your own business (if it’s a limited company) will also require you to register a business address with the government.

WHEN

When it comes to starting a business, timing is everything. The untimely entrance of Brexit, for example, has already disrupted the best-laid plans of many a budding business. Conversely, though, launching a business at the right time can make all the difference. 

To do this, try to capitalise on the contemporary. Are there any topical gripes or trends floating around on social media that your business can tap into? Any big stories you could use in your advertising to grow awareness of your business’ purpose and brand?

On the other hand, are there any recent events that might have reduced the need for (or popularity of) your product or service? Sometimes it’s better to cool your heels and wait a few months, to ensure you’re launching your business at just the right time.

To demonstrate the importance of timing, we chatted to Tom Dewhurst, founder of Ordoo, a popular food mobile ordering app:

tom dewhurst ordoo founder“If you’re launching a new business with a vaguely innovative approach, then timing is everything. At Ordoo we arguably launched too early in 2016. Mobile ordering was still a very novel concept in the restaurant industry and customers weren’t looking for a solution.”

Since then, big corporates like Wetherspoons, Starbucks, and McDonald’s all released similar apps, meaning that the customer demand changed and Ordoo is best placed to take advantage of this. When it comes to timing, you need to research what’s going on in the industry thoroughly, and don’t forget to speak with potential customers to see if they want your solution. At the end of the day, it comes down to a gut feeling.”

To kickstart your market research, fill in our form with a few details about your business. We’ll ask a couple of questions about the methods and type of market research you want to conduct, and then provide you with tailored quotes from leading UK-based agencies. It takes less than a minute, and is completely free.


Chapter 2: Make a plan

Where good ideas become great plans

You’ve done the research, and you’re confident that your idea has the niche, the legs, and the timing to succeed. Now it’s time to make a business plan. 

A business plan is where you take that idea that’s been gestating in your head, and turn it into something concrete. It’s a document that lays out what you plan to achieve, and how you’re going to do it. So how do you make one?

Well, simply download a free business plan template, and… start filling it in! Here are some of the things your business plan should include:

1. Executive summary: this should go at the top of your business plan, and sometimes is all a potential investor will read before deciding to take another look, or toss it in the bin.

What is an executive summary?

This is an introduction to your business plan. It needs to include what your business is, what problem it solves, and what market you’re planning to target. It’s also a place for your ‘elevator’ pitch a super quick introduction to what makes your business special.

As well as this, your executive summary should contain key financial details. Here’s your chance to crunch the numbers, outlining your expected sales forecast goals and margins for the future (usually the next three years).

You’ll also need to provide other critical details do you or your co-founders boast USPs (unique selling points) that might lure in investors? Have you secured a prestigious scholarship or government grant? 

Your executive summary should also state its purpose. Are you using it to try and get a bank loan, or a round of investment?

2. Your background (qualifications and work experience)

3. A description of the products and/or services you intend to sell

4. Your typical customer: who are they?

5. Findings from any market research you conducted

6. Your marketing strategy: what are you going to do, and how much will it cost?

7. An analysis of your competitors

8. Operations and logistics: payment methods, deliveries, transport, equipment, and suppliers

9. Costs, pricing strategy, and financial forecasts

10. Your exit strategy: when it’s time to sell up and ship out, how will you do it? How will you eventually reduce your stake in the business, and make a profit while doing so?

It might take weeks to months to complete, but getting your plan done is crucial. Not only can it serve as a simple, shareable summary of your business with which you can wow investors, but it acts as your business’ central doctrine your rock, your lighthouse, your go-to in times of wavering willpower or stuttering self-doubt. 

All finished? Excellent. Now, it’s time to get registered.


Chapter 3: Choose a legal status for your business

When a great plan turns into a legally recognised entity

Here’s where you make things official, formally registering your business with the UK government. You have three options registering as a sole trader, as a limited company, or as a partnership. What’s it going to be?

Sole trader

Registering as a sole trader means you’ll be legally self-employed you’ll work for yourself, and keep all profits your business makes (after tax, of course). It’s also a popular choice 60% of UK small businesses are sole traders. However, you’ll also be personally responsible for any losses your business incurs.

Sole trader status is a legal requirement if you earned more than £1,000 from self-employment in the last financial year.

Limited company

Registering as a limited company is a bit more complicated there are a few more management and reporting requirements. Importantly, though, your limited company’s finances will remain separate from your own, and will be a different legal entity.

If you go down this route, you’ll need to register with Companies House, providing details about your business’ name, address, activity, key people, and share structure. Jump to Chapter 4 for more info.

Partnership

If your business is less of a sole venture and more of a double act, you have the option to register your business as a partnership. The British government describes it as “the simplest way for two or more people to run a business together”. You and your partner will personally share the responsibilities of the business, including its losses and any equipment costs incurred.


Chapter 4: Register your business’ name and premises

Limited company? Unlimited paperwork…

If you’ve decided to start your business as a limited company, you’ll need to register with a name and address, while also providing details about your company’s share structure and persons of significant interest.

Name to fame

If you’ve decided to start your business as a limited company, you’ll need a name. It’s a legal requirement, but common sense quickly tells us that the importance of a name goes far beyond the law businesses without names tend not to survive. 

So what’s in a name?

Well, it’s your customer’s first touchpoint with your services. It’s an integral part of your brand, your shop front. It’s how you communicate with your audience in that split-second window of opportunity in which they discover you. 

There’s no set formula for picking the perfect business name, but we do have a couple of quick do’s and don’ts:

DO:

  • Make your name catchy (fun to say, easy to remember, and simple to pronounce)
  • Use a name that conveys some meaning you don’t want people to have to work too hard to figure out what you do

DON’T

  • Include unusual spelling or strange punctuation
  • Give your business a name that could limit it as it grows (names of cities or specific products are out!)

But above all, what you name your company is entirely up to you. The only thing the government asks is that it’s original if it’s too close to the name of a business that already exists, you will be legally obliged to change it.

Check if your name is taken with Companies House’s free name eligibility checker.

Location, location, location

When registering a limited company, you’ll also need to record an official address. This is where any communications addressed to your business go. The only rules are that it has to be located in the same country your business is registered in, and be… well, a real address!

That said, if you’re an ecommerce business, you may not have a business premises. And, since your registered address will display publicly online, you probably don’t want to use your home address. In this case, you can register the address of the company that handles your tax and accounts, or hire a company to forward your mail from a desirable location. 

It’s here where you’ll also need to start thinking about where you’re going to be working from. Your front room might be fine when you’re just starting out, but is it really the headquarters of an ambitious business looking to scale?

Probably not. So, sooner rather than later, you’re going to want to look at renting a space to work in. Here’s a broad overview of your office space options:

Renting an office space

  • Coworking/flexible working space: Perfect for freelancers or sole traders, a desk in a flexible space, surrounded by like-minded individuals, could be exactly what you need to get inspired.
  • Virtual office space: A digital nomad’s dream, a virtual office space gives you access to meeting rooms, post collection, and call answering services. Oh, and it counts as your registered address, too!
  • Serviced office space: Great for small, multi-person businesses, these spaces come with everything you need to start working straight away, and can be rented for as little as a month at a time.
  • Managed office space: An ideal long-term solution for more established businesses, a managed office space provider works with you to build a place that feels your own.

Right now it’s likely you’ll just want a flexible or virtual office space. But, as you grow your business, you’ll want to explore what a managed office space can bring to the culture and aesthetics of your workplace. Here’s where we can help.

Simply provide a bit of information telling us what you want from your office space. We’ll do the rest, putting you in touch with the best office space management companies in your area. They’ll be able to provide you with bespoke quotes, and help you design your perfect flexible working experience.

Share-ing is caring

You’re nearly all done registering as a limited company nice! There are just a few more details you’ll need to provide to the UK government:

  • An SIC (standard industrial classification) code: a series of dropdown lists, where you’ll declare what your business does
  • The name(s) of the director(s): the people legally responsible for the business
  • Your company share structure: a statement of capital a detailed description of the number and value of the shares making up your company’s total worth
  • The name(s) of the shareholder(s): details about who owns shares in your business

All this will cost you a nominal fee it’s £12 to register a limited company online with Companies House. 


Chapter 5: Understand your tax obligations

As the old Benjamin Franklin quote goes…

…there are two certainties in life taxes and, well… more taxes! And, now you’re a registered business owner, it’s your responsibility to understand them. Let’s take a look at some of the business taxes applicable to UK enterprises:

VAT (Value Added Tax)

VAT is a charge of 20% that you’re required to apply to any goods or services that you’re selling. It’s applicable to businesses that have a VAT taxable turnover of more than £85,000 per year. You can register for VAT via the government’s website.

Corporation tax

If you’ve chosen to become a limited company, you’ll need to register for corporation tax within three months of beginning trading. It’s a flat rate tax, and what you’ll pay will depend on the value of your profits. 

Ready? Register for corporation tax here.

Business rates

Despite its slightly dubious-sounding moniker, ‘business rates’ is essentially a government tax levied on your business’ premises. It’s charged annually, and applies to offices, shops, bars, factories, and warehouses basically, anywhere business is done. You won’t pay business rates if you’re running your business from home.

Your tax obligations

Along with understanding, registering for (and, sadly, paying) the above taxes, you’ll also have a few other responsibilities to take care of in the eyes of the law: 

Keeping accurate records

It’s good practice to document all your business’ financial transactions. Outgoings, incomings, statements… by keeping up to date records, you’ll make things easier for yourself (and your accountant) when the end of the financial year rolls around.

Submitting annual accounts

Every year, you’ll need to submit an official record of your business’s financial state of affairs. This includes a summary of your revenue, expenses, and all other financial transactions you’ve made in the year. If you’re registered as a limited company, this is a mandatory requirement.

On top of this, you’ll need to file an annual confirmation assessment. This is the government’s way of confirming that the details they have on file about you and your business are all correct. You can do it here it’ll cost £13 to do online, or £40 via the post. 

Registering for self-assessment

Self-assessment is a set of basic accounts you’ll need to file every year, telling the government how much money you made. It’s how they’ll calculate your tax going forward, so set aside the time to get it just right.

Self-assessment is compulsory for profit-based enterprises, no matter whether you’re running a limited company or are registered as a sole trader. Not-for-profits are excused.


Chapter 6: Obtain the licences

In other words, it’s more paperwork…

…but when you’re done, you’ll be a fully fledged business. So, what do we mean by licences?

From driving a car to watching TV, licences are one of the bare, boring necessities of life. And, a little irritatingly, those looking to start a business aren’t excused.

If the business you’re starting is a pub, you’ll need a liquor licence, and permission to sell food. And if you rely on outside software to drive sales and marketing, you’ll need a licence for that, too. Oh, and if you thought you could carry a few bags of rubbish around without a licence, well, then… think again!

Whatever your business does, you’ll probably need a licence for it. And it makes sense to get it sorted sooner, rather than risking fines further down the line. 

Here’s a list of the licences you might come across doing business in the UK. Or, if you’re short on time, just head straight to the government’s licence finder and answer a few questions about what you do – it’ll tell you exactly which licences you need, and provide instructions for acquiring them, too.

Enjoying the read? You're over halfway there!

Here's what you've got to look forward to:

07 | Opening your accounts

08 | Securing your financing

09 | Designing your website

10 | Building your network

11 | Driving sales and marketing

Or, if you'd like to head back up to the top and revisit the first six chapters, just click here.

Chapter 7: Open your accounts

It’s almost time to start selling!

In the next chapter, we’ll take a look at a few ways your business can go about securing funding. But before obtaining the money you need to start your business, you’ll need somewhere to put it all. First, you’ll need to open a:

Business bank account

When it comes to receiving funding, making deposits, and paying suppliers, a business bank account is an absolute necessity. Much like your personal bank account, you can make withdrawals and deposits, use a debit card, and benefit from an overdraft to help maintain cash flow. 

Unlike with your personal account, though, most banks will charge you for business transactions, such as setting up direct debits, depositing cash, and making a transfer. It’s likely you’ll also have to pay a monthly or yearly fee to maintain the account.

You can set up a business account with a traditional high street bank, or with a challenger bank, such as Tide or Revolut. Fees will vary based on the provider you choose, so do your research first. Many banks tend to waive account fees for new businesses for as long as the first 24 months, so ask carefully about what deal your chosen provider is offering.

Merchant account

If you plan to take card payments from customers whether online, over the phone, or face-to-face you’ll need to open a merchant account

Merchant accounts enable you to accept credit, debit, and contactless cards, plus mobile wallets such as Apple Pay and Android Pay. A merchant account acts as a kind of holding pen, where your customer’s funds go to be authenticated and settled by the bank, before being deposited into your business bank account (see above). 

Merchant accounts also come with the hardware and software you’ll need for taking payments from your customers. If you’re a retailer planning to take payments at the point of sale (i.e. from a physical store), your merchant account provider will supply you with a card machine. If you want to take payments over the phone, you’ll receive a virtual terminal, while ecommerce businesses will need a payment gateway.

Merchant accounts are provided either by banks (such as Barclays or Santander), or by a range of third party companies (such as takepayments or Handepay). It’s easy to apply for one, and there are multiple options for those with bad credit

To begin comparing merchant accounts and receive tailored quotes for your new business, complete our form with some information about the solution you’re looking for. We’ll get you started with everything you need to take card payments, and put you in touch with providers handpicked for your business.

Chapter 8: Secure your financing

Time to strap on your boots, meet your guardian angel, and find your X factor

Phew! You’ve done your research, nailed your business plan, registered your company, chosen your name, opened your accounts, and have all the licences you need to start trading. Congratulations you’re an official business owner. 

Guess you’re all done, right?

Wrong! There’s no rest for the wicked, and you’re just getting started. Plus, whether it comes from your own savings, the government, or a halo-topped investor, you’re not getting anywhere without a little cash in your pocket.

So, where’s it going to come from? Let’s take a look.

Bootstrapping

First and foremost, you could consider bootstrapping your business. This approach involves no finance whatsoever just your hard-earned personal savings, and probably a hefty dose of luck, too.

Bootstrapping has its obvious benefits: you won’t have to pay anything back, don’t have to risk your credit score applying for loans, and get to keep your company’s future where it belongs in your own hands.

Yet bootstrapping doesn’t work quite as well as a long-term solution. You’ll have to re-invest all of your profits back into your business to help it grow, meaning payouts for you, initially at least, will be few and far between. Relying solely on your own savings may also mean you’re not able to scale as quickly as a business with financial backing.

Bootstrapping is tough, sure. But remember it’s eminently possible.

Start Up Loan

As a first port of call, we recommend taking a look at what a government-backed Start Up Loan might offer. As well as a loan of between £500 and £25,000, you’ll also receive assistance with writing your business plan, and up to a year’s worth of free mentoring.

You can apply for it here.

Bank loan

When it comes to securing affordable, transparent, and understandable business loans, high street banks are still king. With predictable monthly payments, fixed interest rates, and the chance to build up good business credit, bank loans are a wise option for UK businesses. 

However, getting accepted isn’t a given you’ll need a strong credit score, and will potentially have to put some of your assets on the line to get accepted. You may also have to provide a personal guarantee accepting responsibility for the loan if you’re unable to pay. For that reason, bank loans are not always the best choice for those starting a business.

If you are set on a loan from a bank, we have you covered. We’ve reviewed a wide range of the UK’s biggest high street bank loans, to help your business decide. 

Click into the list below to find out more.

Business grant scheme

At this stage of your business’ journey, it’s also worth applying for a government grant scheme. Funding from a government grant is usually a direct grant (a lump sum to help grow your business), a ‘soft’ loan, or equity finance, but can also take the form of free equipment, or reduced costs. 

Business grants are most commonly offered within specific local authorities, for certain sectors, or for particular business types and functions (for instance supporting the environment, or creating jobs). These schemes are also generally available only to businesses with fewer than 250 employees, or with a turnover of less than £45,000.

Grants are the jackpot of small business finance in many cases, you won’t be charged interest, be required to give away equity, or even have to pay it back at all. But, like most jackpots, business grants are highly competitive, and can be very difficult to attain.

That said, you have to be ‘in it to win it’, so why not give it a go? Head to the government’s business finance support page to browse a range of official grant schemes. Simply select ‘Grant’ in the ‘Type of support’ field at the left hand side of the page to begin hunting for your business’ ideal grant scheme.

When there, you’ll also be able to filter results by your business’ stage (not yet trading, startup, or established), industry, number of employees, and region.

Alternative finance providers

Banks, grants, and government-backed loans aren’t the only way to secure funding for the business you’re starting, though far from it.

Actually, it’s an increasingly large and diverse plethora of alternative finance providers that look set to define how businesses borrow money in 2020. Here are a few examples of alternative finance: 

Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending

Peer-to-peer lending is the largest alternative finance model in the UK and the fastest-growing, too.

P2P lending platforms aim to connect investors with small businesses that are seeking finance. If you choose this route, your funding won’t come from a single person or company, but rather a collection of individual investors, each of whom will provide a portion of the amount your business needs. 

P2P lending’s benefits include low interest rates and flexibility. As P2P platforms go, we recommend Funding Circle it’s globally-recognised, trusted by more than 52,000 UK businesses, and comes with lengthy repayment terms, too. 

Angel investors

If you’ve ever tuned into an episode of Dragons’ Den, you’ll have seen first-hand the electrifying effect one or two wealthy individuals can have on the growth of a small business. And, though high-profile angel investors like James Caan and Deborah Meaden can be intimidating characters, there are plenty of benefits to this approach.

Firstly, it’s lucrative £1.5 billion is invested by angels every year. Secondly, the money you’ll receive isn’t a loan an angel investor provides you with the lump sum your business needs to grow, but in exchange for a part of your company. If things don’t work out for your business, you won’t be expected to pay back the investment.

While not having to pay back the funds you receive is handy, you’ll still need to be careful you’re signing away partial ownership of your company, after all. Accepting a relatively small amount of investment now might mean you won’t be able to claim much larger amounts of your net profits in the future. 

Plus, angel investors can be demanding, and may expect up to ten times their initial investment back after a certain time period.

All that said, angel investors can be an excellent finance lifeline if you’re starting a business from scratch. They usually come with experience and unparalleled business acumen, and can help you steer your business in the direction of success. 

To register to seek angel investment online, head to the UK’s Angel Investment Network

Invoice factoring

When you’re starting out in business, there’s arguably no bigger obstacle to staying afloat than a lack of cash flow. In fact, cash flow woes are responsible for 90% of business failures in the UK alone. So, how do you keep the cash flow, ah… flowing?

With invoice factoring, that’s how. This form of alternative, asset-based finance essentially involves selling your unpaid invoices to a third-party company, commonly known as the ‘factor’. They’ll release around 85 to 90% of your invoice’s value upfront, usually straight away. The factor then assumes responsibility for chasing your customer for payment.

When the invoice is paid, you’ll receive the remaining value of it, minus the factor’s fees. Simple! 

Invoice factoring is a highly effective way of mitigating the damaging effects of those long waits for payment. Using an invoice factoring company can also fuel your business’ growth, while improving that all-important cash flow.

For more information about what an invoice factoring facility can do for you, complete our brief webform with some details about your plans. We’ll then put you in touch with a range of UK invoice finance providers, who’ll be able to offer you bespoke quotes.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is another great way of securing finance for your new business. You’ll post details of how much you’re looking to raise along with some information about you and your business on a crowdfunding website, like Kickstarter, or the aptly-named Crowdfunder.

People can view your business, cause, or project on the site, and then choose to invest in it. In return, you can offer them shares in the company, or a reward based on the goods or services you provide. You could also just ask for a donation, but this might be a tough sell for potential investors particularly if you’re not a charitable cause.

Crowdfunding is typically most effective for financing creative projects or businesses. For example, a budding filmmaker might crowdfund to raise cash for their next big picture. Without any shares on offer, investors might be promised a small role in the film as an extra, a mention in the credits, or some memorabilia from the film’s set.

For more information about which funding option is right for your small business, visit our comprehensive guide to UK business loans. We put the best traditional and alternative finance providers under the microscope, along with interest rates, repayment terms, and a jargon buster to boot.

And, if you’re ready to receive business loan quotes from the UK’s leading finance providers, look no further. Simply provide us with a few details about your business, and we’ll match you with the loan providers that best suit your needs. They’ll provide you with tailored quotes, and you can take it from there.


Chapter 9: Design your website

It’s your virtual shop window…

…so don’t skimp on making it look beautiful! It’s 2020, and that means that your business needs a website. But if coding and programming isn’t your language, don’t fret there are plenty of easier ways to craft a simple, good-looking website, in the time it takes to cook a meal.

Let’s find out how.

Use a website builder 

Website builders such as Wix and Squarespace are the quickest, simplest, and most effective ways to create your own website. With mouth-watering templates and an intuitive drag-and-drop builder, you can (quite literally) create an amazing website in just a few clicks.

Better still, a website builder puts everything in one place. From a single dashboard, you can connect a domain name, optimise for the best rankings in search engines, and link a Google Analytics account to measure site performance. And, for a few extra pounds, you can establish an email address linked to your site’s domain name, for that added layer of professionalism.

Website builders usually include web hosting as well so that’s one less thing to worry about when starting a business. Oh, and if we haven’t mentioned costs yet, that’s because there doesn’t have to be any website builders are completely free. 

There is, however, a catch.

Creating a website on a free plan will leave it branded with ugly advertising, which marrs your site’s aesthetics, and looks unprofessional. You’ll also be left with a domain name tarnished with that of the website builder. It’s… not good. 

That’s why paid plans are your friend.

Paid plans are available for between £3 and £18 per month, and many also include a custom domain name connected to your site. You’ll also be eligible for help with your website’s SEO (search engine optimisation), and unlock more functionality.

All told, website builders represent the easiest, most direct way to create a beautiful website in moments but you’ll need a paid plan to get the get the most out of them.

Code it yourself

Your other option for creating a website is more of a DIY job you can code it all yourself.

Coding your own website affords you ultimate creative control over the whole process and end result. You can cut some costs by choosing the cheapest web hosting provider, and selecting a shopping cart integration that best serves the needs of your ecommerce site. Put simply, it’s the most customisable, dynamic, unique, and functional website you could build and it’s all yours.

The only thing is, you’ll need to know how to do it. At the very least, you’ll require knowledge of HTML and CSS to give your website its structure and design, and probably a decent dose of patience, too not to mention time, precious time.

Hire an expert

If you don’t have that time and just want your website done quickly and expertly, you can bring in a professional to do it for you. Hiring a web development agency is the quickest, most direct route to getting your website made for you

Employing web design experts will also make sure you’re covered when it comes to the acronyms. They’ll ensure your web pages are all SEO-friendly, and that the site’s UX (user experience) is on point. They’ll also help you implement stunning visual CTAs (calls to action), which will coax your website’s users into wanting to know more about your services, or making a purchase.

A web design agency can also assist you in developing your brand, and hammering out a killer content and advertising strategy going forward.

Oh, and the best part? It’s probably more affordable than you’d think.

To compare quotes, and explore which web design agencies are the best fit for your business, take a moment to complete our 30-second webform. We’ll ask about your website’s goals, and the timeframe you need it completed in. Then, you’ll receive bespoke offers for web design services, from leading UK web design agencies.

Chapter 10: Build your network

It’s not about what you know…

…it is, of course, about who you know. Forgive us the use of an old cliché, but it’s true if you don’t put in the work to build up a wide network of contacts and clients, you’re missing out on a whole world of opportunities. So, what can you do about it?

Attend networking events

Going to a relevant networking event is the most important thing you can do for your business this year. A simple Google search should turn up a few results for events suitable for your industry. 

It could be some kind of expo, where you can learn about new products or services your business could benefit from. It could also be something like an awards ceremony, or a meal where people who are looking to start a business can sit down together and share their experiences.

Whether you’re just starting out in business or have been in the game for a while, The Business Show in London is a great place to start. It’s free to attend, and happens every November at the ExCel building. 

Use LinkedIn!

If you don’t already know about LinkedIn, you need to. And, if you haven’t already done so, register for an account and start making connections! You’ll be in good company the popular business-oriented social media platform already has 575 million users, with 40% of these using it on a daily basis. 

On LinkedIn, you can find the most influential people in your industry, and reach out to start up a conversation. If you’ve been to a networking event, but didn’t get a chance to chat with the person that inspires you, LinkedIn provides a second bite at the cherry:

rob binns linked in quote

LinkedIn is also an excellent place for viewing and sharing relevant business-related content. Do you have a win you’d like to share with your connections, or an update on a recent project you’re proud of? LinkedIn is the perfect platform for it.

And, like most social media content, LinkedIn posts have the opportunity to go viral. Through shares, likes, and comments, your update could attain a reach further than you’d ever dreamt of, and attract the eyes of potential partners, customers, and investors.

Participate in online forums

While LinkedIn is ideal for content and connections, it’s also excellent in that it facilitates a number of ‘groups’. These are essentially communities of people with shared business interests or endeavours, where you can post comments and discuss topics relevant to you with like-minded people. 

London Startups, for instance, is a LinkedIn group for those starting a business in the big city, and has well over 6,000 members. On Startups The Community for Entrepreneurs has more than 630,000 participants to network with and learn from.

That doesn’t mean you just need to observe from the sidelines, though get involved! Start a conversation by posting a link to an interesting article, or bring up a topic that’s been on your mind recently. It can be a great way to get your name out there, without having to resort to too much shameless self-promotion. 

Start your LinkedIn odyssey today by joining a group that excites you. You’ll have to request to join, but the group administrators are usually quick to accept.


Chapter 11: Drive sales and marketing

Also known as: promote, promote, promote!

So, you’ve made it to the final stage. You constructed a plan and executed it to the letter, all while navigating the red tape of registration and licencing. You’ve secured finance, assembled an incredible website, found yourself some space to work in, and are already flexing your networking muscles online.

Now what? 

Well, now it’s time to get some customers. Sadly, new business doesn’t just fall out of the sky you’ve got to work to build up a client base you can depend on, and keep working to ensure they remain satisfied. But… how? What do you need to do to boss your sales and marketing efforts, and hit the startup scene with a bang?

Here are our top three tips. 

1) Digitise your marketing 

These days, marketing has got to be digital. Postpone any grandiose dreams of your brand on big, inner-city billboards, or gracing the front page of the newspaper. Print is basically dead plus, you’re just starting out, so you’ve got to work with the budget you’ve got. And that’s where digital marketing comes in. 

PPC advertising

PPC (pay-per-click) is NTK (need-to-know) information. It’s a form of marketing where you ‘bid’ on keywords your potential customers are searching for on Google. You place an ad, and every time someone searches for your target keywords, that ad will appear at the top (or near the top) of the Google search results.

You’ll then pay an agreed amount for every ‘click’ essentially, every time someone clicks through to your ad. The amount you’ll pay per click varies, and will depend on how much competition there is for the keywords you’re interested in. PPC is expensive, but it’s an excellent, direct way of reaching customers who are already searching for your services.

Display

Also known as banner advertising, this marketing strategy involves placing ads online (popular websites and content such as articles, how-to guides, and blogs all work well) that encourage users to visit your website and make a purchase. It’s a passable way of getting your brand name out there, but be warned if you don’t have expert help in the form of a digital marketing agency, your clickthrough rate will be low (as in, lower than 1%). 

Know your SEO

SEO (search engine optimisation) refers to the tactics and techniques involved in making sure your website ranks highly in Google’s SERPs (search engine results pages). SEO is the process of ensuring your website is accessible, informative, and easy to understand for Google’s algorithms (and, by proxy, your users).

A big part of SEO is researching keywords you’d like your business to be ‘ranking’ for in Google’s search results. By cleverly incorporating these keywords into your website and content, you’re helping Google elevate your business to the apex of its results pages for the exact terms your audience is searching for.

Why is it important? Well, think back to the last time you searched for something on Google. We’re guessing that you didn’t scroll any further down than the top three search results… right?

Right. And the data backs it up, too. The top spot in Google’s search results gets a click-through rate of almost 30%; the third position gets about 10%. Oh, and the ninth and tenth? Just 2%. Huh.

Get wise, localise

Now, think back to the last time you were out walking the streets of an area you weren’t overly familiar with. Feeling peckish. You took out your phone, and Googled ‘restaurants near me’… right? Maybe you were just at a loose end in West London, so you typed in ‘things to do in Notting Hill’. Remember?

If not, you’re in the minority. Because, according to Google, a huge 46% of searches have a ‘local intent’, meaning the customer is searching for a particular product or service in the area they’re currently in. These searches are invariably backed by some kind of ‘commercial intent’. Whether it’s a haircut or a Chinese takeaway, that means that the person making the search is looking to buy, buy, buy usually immediately, too!

Local SEO, then, is making sure your business is one of those appearing in the SERPS when a relevant enquiry comes along. Consider the following, probably pretty familiar, sight from a basic Google search:

local business screenshot

Let’s say you’re a restaurant owner in Camden, London. Google’s just provided me, your potential customer, with the names, type of cuisine, and basic price range for several of the restaurants I could be spending my hard-earned pocket money at, right now. 

There’s also a featured picture to help lure me in, and a menu to set my taste buds tingling. Best of all? It’s easy to click through to each and every one of these eateries’ websites, in an instant.

In other words, you want your business to be here. So, what’s the trick?

Well, first you need to register for Google My Business. It’s free, and lets you display your business’ name, type, and location online, while showcasing a few photos of your beautiful products, services, or building’s exterior. If a listing already exists for your business, you can claim it, and begin personalising it to your liking.

There are a whole bunch of other cool features available from your Google My Business dashboard, too. You can message potential customers in real time, manage appointments and take bookings, and post regular updates relevant to your business and industry. 

Then, you’ll need to work at it. One of the ways in which Google will prioritise your business over your competitors’ is in the strength of your reviews. See above – none of the restaurants that made the cut registered any less than a solid four stars out of five. 

So, you’ll need not only to make sure you’re dishing out four star plus service, but also that you’re incentivising your customers to leave a glowing review when they walk out of your door. Because it’ll be crucial in ensuring that they walk back through that door the next time they’re in your neck of the woods.

Plus, what’s great about SEO is that it’s largely completely free to do. Why not start now? To get the ball rolling, check out our top 8 tips for promoting your business online, and start growing your business on the web.

However, we understand that not all business owners are going to have the time to do all this themselves (especially when, hopefully, they’re busy with the other ten steps in this list). That’s why we recommend hiring a digital marketing agency to do it all for you.

These agencies, such as Yell, can help you expand your online reach, while managing your business’ online reputation through gathering good reviews… and dealing tactfully with the bad ones.

And for the easiest way to begin learning about what an agency like Yell could do for you, simply complete our 30-second webform. We’ll ask about five questions, and use the info you give us to put you in touch with world-class, UK-based digital marketing agencies, who’ll send you tailored quotes.

2) Get to grips with CRM software

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. It’s a type of software that does exactly what it says on the tin it helps you manage your relationships with your customers. But it also does so much more, and can provide a huge boost to how you manage deals, engage leads, and construct targeted email marketing campaigns.

Build your customer database

CRM software acts as a central hub for all your client information. Name, company, contact details… the lot. It also stores information about your communication with those prospects or leads, collating any details of telephone calls, emails, or their engagement with you on social media.

All this data is stored in the cloud, so there’s no need to waste time downloading information from a server, or juggling details of complex customer interactions from a spreadsheet or notebook. You (along with any staff you employ) will have access to everything you need, wherever there’s an internet connection all from your phone, laptop, or tablet. 

That’s great, we hear you say buy how will all this help you with your sales and marketing efforts?

Boss your email marketing

Well, you can use all that customer data to inform targeted, more cost-effective marketing campaigns. CRM software comes with clever lead segmentation features, allowing you to separate out customers with an active interest in your product. That way, you won’t spend precious time and money marketing to the wrong people.

On top of this, a CRM system can store the purchase histories of your customers, giving you a better idea of what they like. Through this, you can market to them with deals and discounts tailored to their specific interests. The result? A customer that stays engaged with your brand and services, and who keeps coming back for more.

3) Supercharge your social media

87% of respondents to a recent survey said that social media has increased their exposure to businesses. It stands to reason, then, that the effectiveness of your social media strategy will go a long way in determining your business’ overall success. 

Curate and create content

Content is king. What better way to invite your online audience to connect with your brand than publishing informative, interesting, and engaging content on social media?

Writing articles relevant to your business’ audience is a great way to build trust, while developing your brand’s viewpoints on important issues. By establishing a consistent tone of voice through your communications with the public, you’re capitalising on a valuable chance to align yourself with the thoughts, feelings, and values of your customers. 

Facebook is still an excellent platform for sharing original or curated social content, while LinkedIn is the best emerging option for business-related articles and ideas. If you’re a creative enterprise, Instagram should be your first port of call, while Twitter is the go-to for publishing short, staccato snippets of content.

Spread the word on social media

Social media is the perfect platform for posting content that can be seen and read by a wide audience, all for free. But to expand that audience, you’ll want to have a think about splashing the cash on a social media advertising campaign.

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all provide tools for targeting specific demographics of its users, allowing you to reach your products and services out to the groups you’re most interested in. Each social media site offers unique features to help you smash your marketing goals:

Facebook has a live chat feature (‘Messenger’), allowing you to start a dialogue with customers as soon as they inquire about your services.

Instagram is the perfect place to engage ‘influencers’ well-known bloggers and models with lots of followers, who can plug your brand and services for cash.

Twitter allows you to solve any customer issues in the public eye, as soon as they arise helping you build trust, and develop your brand’s personality while you’re at it.

For a complete rundown of the do’s and don’ts of social media advertising, check out our cracking guide to using social media for business, with top tips and tricks for using the big platforms.

Get your ear to the ground

You’ve set up an advertising campaign, and have got to grips with how to talk to your audience on social media. Now, it’s time to start listening. 

Social listening (also known as social media monitoring) is a way of tapping into conversations on social media to glean insights into what people are saying about your business. With the right social listening tool, you can set up alerts for any mentions of your industry and brand, or simply for any keywords that mean something to you.

Social listening is about more than just understanding your customers and industry it’s about leveraging these insights to stay on top of the competition, and identifying the emerging trends your business can capitalise on. Knowing what your audience is saying about your business also allows you to instantly respond to customer complaints, and defuse potential customer service crises in real-time.


2020 and beyond

Congratulations you made it! 9,000 words and eleven steps later, you’re entering a new decade with all the knowledge you need to start a successful business. Let’s recap the journey we’ve been on together:

How to start a business in the UK: our 11 key takeaways

1) Do your research: Nail the who, why, where, and when of your business. Ask yourself the tough questions is now the right time, do I have access to the right resources, and am I the person to make this idea a success? Conduct market research, and gather a wide range of opinions to shape your approach.

2) Make a plan: Write a detailed business plan demonstrating to yourself (and to any potential investors) just how you’re going to make your idea a reality. Include expected financial returns and forecasts, competitor analysis, and a breakdown of your marketing strategy.

3) Choose a legal status for your business: Register your fledgling business with the government; either as a limited company, a partnership, or (if it’s just you) as a sole trader.

4) Register your business’ name and premises: If you need to, rent or purchase an office space as your base of operations. You’ll then have to choose and register your business’ name (and location), and provide key details, such as stakeholders, company share structure, and industrial classification (what your business does).

5) Understand your tax obligations: Register for VAT and corporation tax, and brush up on what business rates mean for your premises. You’ll also need to register for self-assessment, keep accurate records, and submit annual reports about your business’ dealings.

6) Obtain the licences: Find out if you’re required to have any licences to operate, and take steps to acquire them if so.

7) Open your accounts: Select the right business bank account for you, and if you’re planning to take payments online, or from your physical store obtain a merchant account, too.

8) Secure your financing: Here’s where you can begin to consider which funding option is best for your new business.

9) Design your website: Use a website builder to quickly create a professional and visually compelling website, or engage a web development agency to do it for you.

10) Build your network: Use LinkedIn to make connections in your industry, and make your voice heard via participation in online groups and forums related to your field. Attend networking events to put faces to names, and to learn from idols and competitors alike.

11) Drive sales and marketing: Use a combination of social media, CRM software, and digital marketing to turbo-boost sales, and scale quickly.

That’s it from us, then the rest is up to you. It’s time to finally take that idea you’ve nursed for so long and turn it into a business. It’s time to negotiate Brexit, to prove the doubters wrong, and to brush aside the competition. And, most importantly, it’s time to start making some money. 

Good luck!

Rob Binns Expert Market
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

Clean Air Zones: What do They Mean for my Business?

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Updated: 4 February 2021


In May 2017, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs released its Clean Air Framework. This document laid out the government’s key principles regarding the implementation of Clean Air Zones in the UK.

In this article, we’ll explain what a Clean Air Zone is, and look at what a zone in your town or city could mean for your business. We’ll tell you how your business could be affected, and what you can do to lessen the impact.


London green space

What is a Clean Air Zone?

A Clean Air Zone is an area where targeted action is being taken to improve air quality.

There are two categories of Clean Air Zone (CAZ): non-charging and charging.

No Charge Clean Air Zone

What is a non-charging Clean Air Zone?

A non-charging Clean Air Zone typically involves educating local communities and businesses about the importance of reducing emissions within the CAZ, so air quality can be improved without any drivers being charged money.

This strategy includes the promotion of ultra low emission vehicles (ULEV), working to facilitate cycling and walking, the introduction of car share schemes, and using telematics to optimise fleet operations.

Charging Clean Air Zone

What is a charging Clean Air Zone?

In a charging Clean Air Zone, any drivers who enter the zone will be charged a fee if their vehicle doesn't meet the required environmental standards. This is usually based on the vehicle's Euro emissions standard.


Which businesses will be affected by Clean Air Zones?

All businesses will be expected to work alongside councils to help staff adopt cleaner ways of travelling and healthier attitudes towards the environment. This could be through introducing cycle to work schemes, or setting up environment awareness sessions.

Those most affected by the implementation of a Clean Air Zone will be businesses that operate fleets within the area. These could be:

  • Bus companies
  • Taxi firms
  • Transport and logistics companies
  • Construction companies

What does the introduction of a Clean Air Zone mean for your business?

Firstly, the government framework makes it clear that the introduction of a Clean Air Zone is not intended as a money spinner.

In fact, the government states that councils must do whatever they can to mitigate the implementation of a charging zone. Councils should also do everything they can to protect the economy of local high streets and town centres, and support local growth and ambition.

The Southampton Clean Air Zone Case is the perfect example:

Southampton is a city that’s expected to implement its Clean Air Zone by 2020. Plans for a charging Clean Air Zone were axed after local businesses expressed concern that implementing one would have a negative economic impact on the area. 

It was then agreed that Southampton would instead introduce new restrictions on taxi companies, and incentivise taxi and private vehicle owners to upgrade to low emission vehicles.

This means that even if there are plans to introduce a CAZ in your area, you still have a voice. If you’re unhappy with the plans that the council are putting in place, make sure you attend consultations to have your opinions heard.

Secondly, the Clean Air Zone initiative isn’t a one-size-fits-all-cities solution. There are four classes of Clean Air Zone, each detailing the type of vehicle affected. They are:

  • Class A – Buses, coaches, taxis, and private hire vehicles (PHVs)
  • Class B – Buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs, and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs)
  • Class C – Buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs, HGVs, and light goods vehicles (LGVs)
  • Class D – Buses, coaches, taxis, PHVs, HGVs, LGVs, and cars

Bear in mind that vehicles that meet required EU emissions standards are exempt from CAZ charges.

The charges for each class differ from place to place, too. For example, here are the Clean Air Zone charges for Leeds compared with those in Bristol:

LeedsBristol
HGVs£50/day£50/day
Mini buses£12.50/dayNo charge
Buses and coaches£50/day£50/day
Taxis and private hire vehicles£12.50/day or £50/week£8/day (taxis only – no charge for PHVs)
Cars and vansNo charge£8/day

The fact that the charges are different for each city means that the initiative has been designed to be as fair as possible to transport businesses, while laying out the necessary actions to meet air quality targets.

So how will local councils work with businesses to improve air quality within Clean Air Zones?


Raise awareness and understanding

Councils will work with local businesses to create campaigns that promote the importance of Clear Air Zones. These campaigns should also promote other means of travel, such as public transport options, and advice for cycling and walking.

What does this mean for your business?

In addition to running employee sessions that cover the health and environmental benefits of the CAZ initiative, you may want to raise awareness of how employees can get involved with something like the Cycle to Work Scheme, or apply for a train ticket season loan

The Cycle to Work Scheme essentially allows employees to loan a bike for a set amount of time, before buying it at its market value at the end of the loan period. Thanks to the scheme, employees can save 29-35% on the cost of a new bike. 

The government has already released a document that guides employers on how to implement the Cycle to Work Scheme

If it’s possible for employees to commute by train or bus, you could give them the option to purchase a season train or bus ticket through your company. You purchase the season ticket on their behalf, which they then pay back by sacrificing an agreed amount of their salary each month.  

Deliver local ambition

According to the Framework, a Clean Air Zone will support plans for local growth. This means any planned developments will also be approached in an environmentally conscious manner, too.

Local ambition also applies to optimising traffic management. This initiative involves the creation of safe, continuous, and convenient cycling and walking networks – an important factor in the promotion of cycling and walking schemes.

It’s also expected that local authorities will take the lead when it comes to the use of ultra low emission vehicles (ULEVs), alternative fuels, and approaches to employees using their own vehicle for business purposes. This includes the reduction of vehicle usage, and the implementation of car sharing schemes, cycling incentives, and flexible working practices.

What does this mean for your business?

If you’re planning to move to a new office within a Clean Air Zone, you may find the building management has a stronger focus on waste management and energy efficiency. You may also find charging points for electric vehicles in the office car park.

It may also be that you take the lead to promote an office car sharing scheme, or introduce a working from home initiative that permits members of the team to work from home a certain number of days per month.

Collaborate with local stakeholders

Implementing a CAZ isn’t just about changing the way in which we travel around – it’s about changing attitudes towards the environment in general. As such, the Framework also focuses on local authorities and businesses working together to combat other important environmental matters, such as:

  • Carbon reduction
  • Climate change mitigation
  • Health improvement
  • Reducing traffic congestion
  • Noise reduction
  • Improvements to the natural environment
What does this mean for your business?

Perhaps you could think about collaborating with local authorities, other businesses, and a local bus company to implement a park and ride scheme for employees coming in and out of the Clear Air Zone?

This has already happened in Manchester, where Stage Coach, a private bus firm, funded a park and ride initiative that would replace up to 6,000 car journeys across a nine mile route.

You could also look at becoming a carbon-neutral business, a process which combines in-house efficiency measures with support for external emission reduction projects.


Just Eat and the London Ultra Low Emission Zone

How has delivery giant Just Eat helped businesses reduce ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) charges?

We talked to Tracy Bagnall, Just Eat’s Senior Partnerships Manager, about the company’s electric vehicle initiative. 

In April 2019, London introduced the ULEZ, which would see the majority of vehicles charged £12.50 a day to operate within its boundaries. Just Eat, however, was way ahead of the game.

Back in April 2017, it partnered with Eskuta, a company that designs and manufactures e-bikes and electric scooters. The partnership would mean Just Eat could purchase electric vehicles off Eskuta at full price, and sell them to its restaurant and takeaway partners for a fraction of the cost. 

Not only do these vehicles cost nothing to operate within the ULEZ, but they’re also exempt from both road tax and insurance, making them both an incredibly cost-effective option and better for the environment!


What actions can I take to help reduce my Clear Air Zone charges?

The Framework makes it clear that businesses have a certain amount of freedom when it comes to deciding how they’re going to act once a CAZ has been introduced. Local councils are meant to encourage ambition, give businesses sufficient time to decide how to act, and give them plenty of time to implement these changes.

Not all businesses, however, have a delivery giant like Just Eat to help them reduce their low emission zone charges. And not all businesses have the resources available to invest in a new fleet of Euro 6 standard, hybrid, or electric vehicles.

While we’ve already provided some insight into what the introduction of a Clean Air Zone might mean for your business, there is another action the Framework recommends that can help you become more aware of how you’re operating within the zone.

Telematics

Fleet management and vehicle tracking devices are telematic solutions. They collect data straight from a vehicle dashboard and send it to a software dashboard, giving you intel into how efficiently you’re running your fleet.

Fleet management is also an Internet of Things solution. Put simply, this is a combination of hardware and software that communicates via the internet.

A vehicle tracker is a hardware element of a fleet management system. It sends GPS data, along with driver behaviour information, back to a software interface. A fleet manager can then use that data to ensure drivers are taking the best routes, and are driving in the most efficient way.

How will a fleet management system help you reduce CAZ charges? 

  • Set up geo-fence alerts so drivers know when they’re approaching a Clean Air Zone
  • Create optimum routes that bypass the Clean Air Zone, but don’t necessarily add too much time to the overall journey
  • Ensure drivers are driving efficiently to mitigate additional fuel costs caused by avoiding the Clean Air Zone
  • Plan rotas so the minimum amount of vehicles operate within the Clean Air Zone

The cost of vehicle tracking and fleet management

The cost of vehicle tracking and fleet management depends on the sophistication of the system you require.

If you would like a system that can provide you with all of the capabilities listed above, you’ll be looking at a relatively big investment – but one that should provide you with a good return over time.

The good news is, many providers give you the option to rent the hardware, with you then paying a small monthly fee to license the software.

If you’d like to learn more, we’ve already put together a complete guide to vehicle tracking costs.

Alternatively, you can use our free quote comparison service to discover exactly how much a fleet management system will cost your business. Receive quotes from a range of top suppliers, and find out which one can give you the best deal – with minimal effort required from you!


Where are Clean Air Zones currently in operation?

There are currently five cities that have been singled out to implement the Clean Air Zone initiative. These are:

  • Leeds
  • Birmingham
  • Nottingham
  • Derby
  • Southampton

But the government isn’t stopping there. There are a total of 49 cities and areas around the UK that are expected to come up with a plan to lower the amount of carbon emissions in and around central business districts (CBDs) within the next few years.

Fleet News has already produced a map that shows the locations where Clean Air Zones are being or will be implemented.


In conclusion

In a time where dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide have been found in over 2,000 locations across the UK, Clean Air Zones are essential for creating healthier places for us to live and work.

While charges do form a part of it, they are by no means standard, and councils and local authorities should work together to meet EU requirements without looking to charge every vehicle that enters the zone.

There are plenty of initiatives that businesses can introduce that will help employees reduce the amount they pay if they have to enter the zone, including Cycle to Work schemes and travel ticket loans.

Clean Air Zones do target fleet owners, especially those that still operate older vehicles. However, it’s worth remembering that fleet management and vehicle tracking will help to mitigate some of the charges if upgrading your fleet isn’t an option.

Rob Binns Expert Market
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

The Best Facial Recognition Attendance Systems

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Updated: 11 December 2020

Is it time to face the future, and recognise the benefits that this pioneering technology can bring to your workplace?


Facial recognition technology has come a long way. Once relegated to the realm of science fiction, facial recognition soon found real-world application in police stations, airports, and hospitals around the world. And, with Apple’s users also leveraging facial recognition’s security benefits to unlock devices and verify mobile wallet transactions, it’s quickly becoming an ever-present in our daily lives. 

But there’s another (oft-overlooked, and criminally underrated) usage for this futuristic technology. It’s slightly less glamorous than Apple’s latest offerings, sure – but it’s capable of revolutionising your workplace more than the 12 Pro ever could.

It’s called a time and attendance system, and it uses facial recognition to allow your staff to sign into work quickly and safely. Unlike their fingerprint-based counterparts, facial recognition attendance systems are hands-free; helping reduce the spread of viruses, and prevent buddy punching. And, unlike basic proximity devices, they don’t require a key fob or card that can be easily misplaced.

But which facial recognition attendance system is right for your business? Whether you want affordability, functionality, or unadulterated aesthetic appeal, read on to explore our top five facial recognition attendance system picks for UK SMEs. 

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What is the best facial recognition attendance system?

We looked into the range of facial recognition attendance systems on the market, to provide you with everything you need to make the best decision for your business. According to our research, the best facial recognition attendance system comes from Safescan, and it’s called the TimeMoto TM-838.

There was more where that came from, though – making up the rest of our list are intuitive models from uAttend, ClockRite, Timeware, and AccuTime

So, which one is right for your business? It’s time to find out.


Safescan TimeMoto TM-838

Best all-round facial recognition attendance system

With a sleek design and even slicker software, the TimeMoto TM-838 is a safe bet for businesses. The facial recognition terminal itself is quick to get mounted and up and running. As for the software, it’s all cloud-based, meaning there’s nothing to install, maintain, or pay to upgrade. You can manage timesheets and schedules on the go, and handle all your reporting needs from a single, intuitive interface. And, for your employees, Safescan’s mobile app allows them to access a range of self-service functions to help them keep track of their own overtime and absences.

Safescan TimeMoto TM-838 pricing

At £549 (excl. VAT), the TM-838 is the most expensive of Safescan’s time and attendance system models. In the context of the devices on our list’s prices, though, the TM-838 is smack bang in the middle – and for the superior level of features you get, we reckon it’s worth every penny.

Pros:

  • GDPR-compliant
  • 30-day trial available, with a 14-day satisfaction guarantee and a three-year warranty
  • Facilitates up to 2,000 users...

X Cons:

  • ...but only holds a maximum of 400 face templates

uAttend MN2000

Cheapest facial recognition attendance system

If your small business isn’t fussed about having the most advanced system – and just wants the best bang for your buck – then look no further than the MN2000. It’s a straightforward, no-nonsense, and highly affordable solution to workforce management that’s well-suited to businesses with fewer than 200 employees. The MN2000 is completely cloud-based, also supports employee PIN codes and key fob clocking in, and is basically ready to go as soon as you take it out of the box. Oh, and the best part? It’s one of the cheapest time and attendance systems on the market.

uAttend MN2000 pricing

The MN2000 terminal will set you back just £249 (excl. VAT). However, you’ll need to lease the software from uAttend on a monthly basis, with total cost dependent on the number of employees that will be using the system.

  • 1 to 9 employees: £14.99 per month
  • 10 to 19 employees: £23.99 per month
  • 20 to 49 employees: £49.99 per month
  • 50 to 99 employees: £79.99 per month
  • 100+ employees: £99.99 per month

All monthly costs are VAT exclusive.

Pros:

  • No contract or tie-in period
  • Multiple terminals work together without the need for networking

X Cons:

  • Each terminal can only clock in a maximum of 200 employees
facial recognition attendance system

Let’s face it: Can your business afford to ignore the benefits of facial recognition technology?


ClockRite C400

Best for customer support

Though device quality and price are both important, you’ll also want a high level of service from your facial recognition attendance system provider. And if customer support is your top priority, the C400 should be your first port of call. With next-day UK delivery, free setup and training, and 12 months of unlimited support, ClockRite gets it right. You’ll also receive detailed usage guides and have access to an online knowledge base, with phone-based support just a couple of buttons away.

ClockRite C400 pricing

The ClockRite C400’s pricing depends on the number of facial recognition clocking-in devices you need, and the amount of staff that will be using it. The price also varies based on whether the terminal offers wireless connectivity or not. 

Here are the price ranges for a single terminal (excl. VAT):

Number of employeesPrice (without wifi connectivity)Price (with wifi connectivity)
Up to 12£298£370
13 to 25£385£450
26 to 50£465£525
51 to 75£520£575
76 to 100£580£630
101 to 200£730£775
201 to 500£925£980
501 to 800£1,135£1,155

Too many numbers? We get it.

And to be honest, when it comes to getting accurate quotes for a range of facial recognition attendance systems, the easiest way isn’t scouring the internet for prices. It’s by letting us help. Simply give us some details about your industry, the number of employees you need your system to support, and when you need it installed by.

We’ll do the rest, matching you with hand-picked suppliers who’ll be in touch with tailored facial recognition time and attendance system quotes for your business.

Pros:

  • Also sports an in-built RFID reader for proximity clocking in
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

X Cons:

  • May be too simplistic for the requirements of some businesses

Timeware Suprema FaceStation 2

Best for large businesses

With lightning-fast clocking in and a system for up to 3,000 users, the extravagantly-named Suprema FaceStation 2 is ideal for large businesses. Why? Well, for one, it’s speedy – allowing your employees to clock in almost as quickly as if they were using a proximity card. It also supports as many as 50,000 records, can be up and running straight away, and boasts innovative features, such as emergency recovery, patented optic engineering, and face mask recognition. That's right – this ahead-of-the-curve device can recognise your employees' faces even when they're hidden behind a mask, and will alert you when someone has turned up for work without one. The only drawback to the Suprema FaceStation 2? Big business technology… comes with big business prices!

Timeware Suprema FaceStation 2 pricing

The Suprema FaceStation 2 costs £1,563 (excl. VAT). On top of this, an attendance terminal connection licence will set you back a further £588 (excl. VAT). As an optional extra, a thermal camera – which works with the facial recognition attendance management system to identify cases of elevated temperature in staff – is available for £786 (excl. VAT).

Pros:

  • Put simply, this device represents some of the finest biometric technology available
  • Timeware comes with four decades of experience

X Cons:

  • The connection licence adds extra cost onto an already expensive terminal

You're almost done with our list of the top 5 facial recognition attendance systems. Time to start comparing quotes?

Simply hit one of the buttons below to start our quick questionnaire. It takes just 30 seconds to do, and by telling us more about your business’ specific requirements, we can help ensure that you receive the best, most personalized rates on facial recognition attendance systems in the UK.

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AccuTime Face Recognition – Pro

Best for ease of use

It’s not winning any beauty contests, but the AccuTime Face Recognition – Pro‘s clever time and attendance software will make your life a lot easier. It automates key processes, including deductions for lateness or employee early exits, and works seamlessly with your own payroll services. You’ll get a top-level view of statutory sick pay, absences, and holiday pay at a glance, and be able to generate and print timesheet reports with the flick of a finger. AccuTime’s staff can have you set up within half an hour, too – no technical knowledge required.

AccuTime Face Recognition – Pro pricing

Like ClockRite, AccuTime’s pricing is also based on the number of users, and whether or not wifi connectivity is included. Here are its rates.

Number of staffPrice (without wifi connectivity)Price (with wifi connectivity)
Up to 50£995£1,045
Up to 100 employees£1,195£1,245

Pros:

  • Integrates with Sage payroll software
  • One-year warranty on the hardware

X Cons:

  • One of the more expensive systems of its kind

Next steps

Facial recognition. Though it still, in some ways, feels like it’s been peeled straight off the pages of an old sci-fi comic, it can do wonders in the workplace. From automating key HR and payroll processes to reducing the spread of office illnesses, facial recognition attendance systems save time, boost morale, and increase productivity.

What’s more, they’re affordable – you can get your hands on a model such as the uAttend MN2000 for only £249 (excl. VAT). If usability is more your thing, though, opt for AccuTime’s Face Recognition – Pro, while the Timeware Suprema FaceStation 2 (though a mouthful) should be the first name on the shopping list of larger businesses. The ClockRite C400 boasts the finest customer support, and the Safescan TM-838 is, of course, the system we recommend most fervently.

Above all, it’s important to remember that each business’ situation is different. Staff numbers, premises size, budget… even the date you need your system to be live for can be a crucial differentiator when it comes to finding the right system.

That’s why we take all these factors into consideration when you complete our 30-second webform. Our free service matches you only with the facial recognition attendance systems that are best-suited to partner with your business. They’ll then provide you with tailored quotes designed to help your SME grow. Get started by hitting one of the buttons below.

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FAQs

What is a facial recognition attendance system?

A facial recognition attendance system is made up of two parts.

Part one is the hardware, which consists of a clocking-in device. This will usually sit just next to the entrance to your business’ premises, on the wall of your lobby or front office, or in the staffroom. The clocking-in terminal will scan your employee’s face, verifying their identity and recording the time of their sign in. 

Part two is the software. The best time and attendance software works with both the facial recognition clocking-in device and your existing back office processes. It automatically turns the raw data collected by the machine into easily exportable reports you can use for payroll and HR purposes.

Was Liam’s lateness this morning a one-off, or part of a pattern? Was Marina properly compensated for her overtime last Thursday? Facial recognition attendance systems make absence disputes, holiday pay confusion, and shift pattern chaos all things of the past. 

You can also use the software to manage users of the system, and add and remove people from it as necessary. Many facial recognition attendance systems (such as Bodet) also offer access control, meaning employees will have to verify their identity to gain access to your premises, or particular rooms within it. 

What other biometric time and attendance systems could I consider?

Biometric time and attendance systems verify your employees’ identities via one or more of their own unique physical characteristics. As well as facial recognition, biometric devices can use fingerprint, voice, retina, and iris scanning to verify a person.

Which facial recognition attendance system has the best app?

Of the systems above, our favourite app is the Safescan mobile app. Like the stunning clocking-in device it accompanies, Safescan’s app (available for both Android and iOS) is fast, easy to use, and looks good to boot.

Will a facial recognition attendance system help me protect my employees from COVID-19?

If implemented properly, a facial recognition attendance system can help you minimise the risk of contagious illnesses to your staff.

The how is obvious – because your staff don’t actually have to touch anything (such as a keypad or fingerprint reader) there are fewer opportunities for germs to spread from surfaces to your staff’s hands, and make them ill.

Better still, a few forward-thinking facial recognition clocking-in devices are set up to help you detect potential cases of flu or coronavirus, before they even get into the building. The Suprema FaceStation 2, for instance, which is available through Timeware, integrates with a thermal camera. This detects instances of elevated temperature, and enables you to catch COVID-19 at the door.

What facial recognition privacy laws exist in the UK?

While it’s legal for you to implement a facial recognition attendance system to track your employees’ hours and absences, their data – like all data held about people, by businesses – must be processed in accordance with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) legislation.

This means that the data capture and processing must be justified, and kept to a minimum – that is, only what you need to allow your employees to check in, and inform your payroll and HR endeavours. All biometric data your business processes must also conform to the broader principles of transparency, accuracy, accountability, and, of course, fairness.

If you have any concerns about the implications of GDPR on your business’ time tracking efforts, we recommend you seek professional legal advice.

Rob Binns Expert Market
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

The Most Expensive Places to Send Your Kids to University

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Published: 16 December 2019

It’s September which means a new wave of budding undergraduates are starting their first semester at most universities all over the world.

Whilst this is one of the most exciting times in any individual’s life, it is simultaneously one of the most costly for the parents supporting their kids throughout their studies.

Expert Market wanted to find out how much it really costs parents around the world to send their kids to university by looking at tuition fees against the average income. We used tuition fee data from Quacquerelli Symmonds (QS) Top Universities for academic year 2014/2015 and the Gallup Median Self-Reported Income report for 2013 to calculate how much tuition fees account for the average salary in 40 countries around the world.

The top ten countries with the highest education to income cost ratio are detailed below:

Empty university lecture hall

Hungary which has one of the lowest household incomes took first place where parents would expect to spend a phenomenal 92% of their earnings sending their kids to study at university.

Despite having two of the highest incomes across the world the US and UK were also placed in the top 10 where parents would spend 53% and 40% respectively on tuition fees.

Interestingly the UK is one of very few in Europe who charge tuition fees at all. Norway, Greece, Poland and Ireland are among several EU states who offer a degree entirely free of charge.

Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) showed a distinct rise in the number of British students opting for studies overseas. Will this result in the UK having an academic talent gap and losing its position as a world leader for higher education?

Rob Binns Expert Market
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

The Best Route Planning Software for UK Businesses

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Published: 13 December 2019

Plan your route to a more profitable business with our top 6 route planning tools for fleets


If your fleet drivers are still using Google Maps – or even paper maps – to get around, we're here to tell you that there's a better way. It’s called route planning software, and it’s a dynamic tool that can plot the most efficient, safe, and traffic-free routes for your drivers' jobs. This smart software will slash your fuel costs, cut down on admin, and save your drivers valuable time and patience.

With this in mind, the question of whether to invest in route planning software is a no-brainer. What’s a tad more tricky is deciding which software to go with. That’s why we’ve run the rule over six rival providers, and handpicked some of the most exciting, smart, and feature-rich route planning software available for UK businesses. 

So, let’s take a closer look at what route planning is, how it will benefit your business, and – most importantly – who’s doing it best.

best route planning software

The best route planning software solutions

We compared the range of route planning software available to UK fleets. Looking at a range of metrics, including features, ease of use, and customer support, we found that the best route planning tools come from Verizon Connect, Samsara, Maxoptra, Microlise, Paragon, and Movolytics…

The best route planning software for UK businesses:

… here's why.

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Verizon Connect

Best route planning software for defining territories

If there was a ‘Godfather’ of route planning and fleet management software, it would be Verizon Connect. Comfortably the largest fleet management provider on the planet, it serves almost two million vehicles worldwide. It’s not hard to see why Verizon is so popular, either – its innovative algorithms crunch millions of route options in moments, offering the safest routes in the fewest seconds. 

Verizon Connect is also excellent at defining territories (much like the warring families of The Godfather, in fact). The app leverages intelligent data analysis to let you generate these ‘territories’ – geographical zones tailored to your business and resources – and assign the right drivers to the right areas. The result? You’ll know exactly who’s responsible for what, and have ultimate visibility of your fleet’s movements.

Pros:

  • Software matches the needs of the job only with the equipment and employees that are available
  • Exceptional customer service

X Cons:

  • Pricing plans lack transparency…
  • … but we’re pretty sure they’re expensive!

Samsara

Best all-in-one route planning software solution

Samsara’s solution is about more than just optimising your routes – it’s an all-in-one approach to vehicle management, designed to improve every aspect of how you run your fleet. As well as a silky smooth user experience, Samsara offers instant vehicle tracking, letting you monitor route progress and pull drivers up on late or missed stops – all from a single, intuitive dashboard.

You can also provide real-time access to all that info to stakeholders and customers, allowing them to track their own deliveries as they unfold – or in the case of stakeholders, give them a 360-degree view of how brilliantly your team is performing. All in all, Samsara empowers your team to provide even better customer service – and at the very least, should make the lives of your phone support team a lot easier!

Pros:

  • Offers an intuitive app, allowing you to instantly update drivers with route changes
  • Excellent planned vs actual comparison analytics feature

X Cons:

  • One of the pricier route planning tools on the market

Movolytics

Best route planning software for driver management

Movolytics is more than a route planning tool – it’s a complete vehicle tracking solution, suitable for even the largest, most complex fleets. As well as route planning and re-calculating, Movolytics also brings intelligent geofencing, vehicle maintenance, and route history features to the table. And it’s not just your fleet Movolytics can help you to manage – it’ll make managing your drivers less of a handful, too. Automated timesheets take the hassle out of HR, while reports and reminders make sure your team remains legally compliant while staying safe out on the tarmac.

Pros:

  • Excellent reporting features
  • Powerful data visualisations allow you to easily identify common trends

X Cons:

  • Some online reviews question the efficiency of the customer service

Maxoptra

Best route planning software for transparent pricing

With several savvy route planning tools and a range of transparent pricing plans, Maxoptra claims it’ll cut your running costs by up to 20%. Its cutting-edge software factors in vehicle capacities, delivery time slots, and order volumes, taking the headaches out of fleet coordination. You’ll be able to create optimised routes in moments, and easily import existing routes from elsewhere.

Better still, Maxoptra recently partnered with Quartix vehicle tracking. This means that (for a few extra quid per month, of course), you’ll also benefit from driver performance monitoring, plus daily trip and timesheet reports.

Pros:

  • Drag-and-drop interface makes it easy to get to grips with
  • Provides accurate reporting, so you know which routes do (and don’t) work

X Cons:

  • More limited in scope than other route planning software in the UK

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Microlise

Best route planning software for ease of use

Catering to a range of specific industries and sectors, Microlise offers a number of flexible fleet management solutions. The best, though, is its route management software. You can plan routes by profile, meaning you’ll only get a journey fit for the vehicle being driven. And on top of that, its ‘route overrides’ feature lets you easily refer back to your own tried-and-tested shortcuts when in areas you know well. Oh, and Microlise’s software is also extremely easy to use – the interface is simple, clear, and suitable even for your most tech-averse drivers!

Pros:

  • Experienced, friendly staff, available 24/7
  • Extensive online knowledge base keeps you informed

X Cons:

  • Its wider vehicle tracking capabilities aren’t as powerful as some of the other providers on this list

Paragon

Best route planning software for customer support

When you implement a route planning solution for your fleet, the support shouldn’t stop when you’ve downloaded the software – and with Paragon, it won’t. With a 24/7 customer service hotline, ongoing training, a client portal with more than 200 step-by-step guides, and a dedicated support consultant, Paragon goes the extra mile. But don’t think that means it skimps on the features – quite the opposite. Paragon’s intuitive route planning software simplifies data imports, letting you easily manage info such as vehicle sizes, driver shifts, order volumes, time windows, and delivery addresses.

By putting all the data (quite literally) at your fingertips, Paragon’s solution ensures you’re planning the most well-optimised routes possible – and making the best choice for your business while you’re at it.

Pros:

  • Impressive auto-routing abilities
  • User-friendly
  • Easy to set up

X Cons:

  • Lacks the same level of advanced reporting features as some of the other route planning software here

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Next steps

So, there you have it – the best six route planning tools that money can buy. If you’re looking for the most innovative features, Verizon Connect is your best bet; Microlise is the easiest to use, while Samsara goes the extra mile. Whichever route planning tool you settle on, though, you can be sure you’re committing to a smoother, simpler way of doing business.

That said, route planning software does have its drawbacks – every silver lining has a cloud, after all.

While a route planning tool offers convenience, it still represents some of the more basic technology currently available to UK fleets. Sure, route planning software will cut the mustard for small businesses – and slimmer fleets can probably even get by on a free plan. But if your fleet is growing (and taking your business with it!), then you’ll need to look to the scalability and power offered by a fully-realised fleet management system. Here’s how…

What happens now:

To find out more about what kind of shape fleet management might take at your business, simply provide us with a few details about your current fleet’s demands. Our form is brief (it takes about 30 seconds), free forever (promise!), and easy to fill in (about four questions).

We’ll ask about how large your current fleet is, what kind of vehicles are in it, and for your postcode. Then, we’ll match you with some of the UK’s finest fleet management providers. They’ll then be in touch to provide quotes tailored to the unique demands of your business.


What is route planning software?

Route planning software allows you and your fleet managers to plot out the best routes for drivers, before they hit the road. By optimising the journey, you can help trim fuel and labour costs, while navigating any road closures and avoiding the worst of any traffic.

Route planning comes in three types:

1. Dynamic route planning

A dynamic route planning solution lets you plan routes in real time, redirecting and reassigning vehicles as you see fit. You’ll be able to see exactly which vehicles are available, where they are, and whether they’re right for the job at hand – all from your smartphone or tablet.

To achieve this, though, you’ll need to integrate your route planning software with a vehicle tracking tool. This involves both hardware (the part that actually tracks the vehicles) and software (the bit allowing you to see you vehicles’ status in real time, and reroute them accordingly). We’ll get to vehicle tracking and fleet management a bit later, but first…

How does dynamic route planning work?

Well, let’s say an urgent piece of work comes up. Looking at your dynamic route planning tool, you see Tom’s stopped to fill up on fuel, and Dick’s on the wrong side of the city. 

Don’t fret, though – Harry’s just finishing up a delivery in the area! You tap into his live location via your route planning tool, and divert him to the site of the job. Simple!

2. Multi-stop route planning

If your fleet deals in jobs requiring stops at several different destinations, this type of software is for you. Essentially, it calculates the quickest, most economical routes between stops, allowing your drivers to get there with minimal fuss, and ensuring your customers stay satisfied. 

Multi-stop route planning software factors in real-time conditions out on the tarmac to offer the right route, every time. You’ll also get ETAs for each stop, helping you keep customers in the loop while their deliveries are on the way. 

3. Plan vs. actual route comparison

Of course, you can plan to your heart’s content, but if your drivers aren’t actually following your neatly-optimised routes, then… well, it’s just not going to work.

That’s why plan vs. actual route comparison tools are so handy. By comparing the prescribed route with the one your driver actually took, you can ensure your drivers are sticking to the plan. This method also allows you to understand the reasons behind any deviations from the set route – helping to drive better strategic planning, and ensure more effective, accurate schedules going forward.

So, that’s what route planning software looks like. But which providers are doing it best?


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FAQs

How much does route planning software cost?

Route planning software is generally priced on a per vehicle, per month basis. That said, it’s hard to know exactly what you’ll pay – most route planning tool providers offer bespoke pricing, and therefore aren’t particularly hasty when it comes to clearly advertising their prices. 

As a rough example, though, let’s take Maxoptra’s pricing plans. Its cheapest package is priced at £35 per vehicle, per month, on a 12-month contract. For this, you get both manual and automated route planning, printable driver manifests, and scheduled exports, compatible with Excel. 

Maxoptra’s more expensive tier (£50 per vehicle, per month) adds in real-time customer ETA updates and SMS notifications, while also enabling connection to a separate vehicle tracking system. Beyond that, Maxoptra only offers a completely bespoke solution, at a completely opaque price.

Is there free route planning software?

There is indeed. Sites such as RouteXL offer free route planning for individuals and small businesses. The only issue is, it’s only the smallest of these businesses that’ll find free tools useful – they’re free for a reason, and come stripped of most of the features that’ll really add value to your fleet.

For example, most free route planning software allows you to plot out a course for only one vehicle, rather than the multiple, simultaneous routes you’ll need for larger fleets. You’ll also get a limited amount of stops per route optimisation, absent customer support, and an interface that’s clunky to use (and not that much fun to look at, either). 

Don’t tie your business to static, snail-paced technology that already belongs in the history books. Shelling out now for a more advanced system that does everything you need it to (and more) will pay dividends in the long run – that’s why we recommend fleet management software so highly.

To explore how vehicle tracking can boost your business, let us help. Simply complete our quick, no-qualms quote-finding form, and we’ll provide you with tailored quotes from a range of leading fleet management software suppliers.

Rob Binns Expert Market
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

The Best and Worst Cities for Commuting

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Published: 3 December 2019

Commuter carnage

We crunched the numbers to find out where in the world workers enjoy the most stress-free and cost-efficient ride to work


Delays. Soaring costs. Manspreading. These are just three of the hardships endured by commuters on a daily basis that make the journey to and from work a thoroughly miserable experience for many.

The situation is so dire in London that a recent survey by Time Out magazine found a reduced journey time actually boosted people’s happiness more than having sex.

But just how bad do workers in the nation’s capital have it? Is a Londoner’s commute any worse than a New Yorker’s, or a Parisian’s? How does it compare to those faced by workers in northern cities such as Leeds and Manchester?

We set out to answer these questions once and for all with the most comprehensive study of commuting in global cities to date.

We looked at 74 commuter hotspots in 16 countries, analysing seven data points. And while we couldn’t find any reliable figures on manspreading, the results paint a fascinating picture of commuting around the world.

View full ranking as a PDF

Download full ranking as an Excel file


The top 10

The best cities for commuting
RankCountryCityScore
1FranceNice11.05
2EcuadorCuenca14.78
3SpainBilbao15.08
4FranceToulouse16.02
5ItalyCatania17.82
6ItalyBari18.83
7FranceLyon18.94
8ItalyBologna20.27
9FranceStrasbourg20.56
10UKLeicester24.47

Nice nabs the top spot

Famed for its stunning architecture, mild Mediterranean climate and outstanding natural beauty, Nice has long been the retreat of Brits looking to swap wind and rain for sun and sea during the long winter months. But in light of the city’s performance in our rankings, perhaps it’s worth considering a more permanent move.

Workers in Nice enjoy fantastic value for money from the city’s transport network, paying on average just 1.25% of their monthly salary for a travel card — over four times less than commuters in London.

The average time spent travelling to and from work each day is a chilled 40 minutes, just about long enough to get in an episode of your favourite podcast, and road users spend only 22 hours stuck in traffic jams over the course of a year.

A beach in Nice

Life’s a beach: Commuters in Nice enjoy the lowest cost of travel relative to earnings


Cuenca flies the flag for South America

Cuenca, located in the highlands of Ecuador, makes a surprise appearance in the top 10 given the relatively poor performance of other cities in the region.

The city gives a good account of itself across the board, with cheap travel, short journey times and even shorter waiting times. Most commuters live a hop, skip, and a jump from the office, travelling on average just 3.8km each way — only workers in the Brazilian city of Campina Grande have it better in this regard.

Like Nice, Cuenca has a metropolitan population of less than a million, which is an indication that size really does matter when it comes to commuting.

In fact, the average population size of cities in the top 10 is 1,120,265 — over eight million less than that of cities in the bottom 10.


Leicester leads the way for UK cities

First the Premier League and now this. It really has been an exciting few years for residents of the East Midlands’ largest city, and surely the people responsible for transport at the council deserve to be immortalised alongside Ranieri, Vardy, Mahrez and co. in Leicester folklore. It’s only fair.

Commuters typically enjoy a hassle-free journey to work, with only 32% having to make more than one change in a single journey.

A monthly travel card will set you back a Bullseye, which, for the benefit of anyone living north of Watford, is Cockney rhyming slang for £50. Compare this to the eye-watering sum of £132 paid by Cockneys for the luxury of using public transport in their city and it’s clear who wins this battle between the Midlands and the South.


The bottom 10

The worst cities for commuting
RankCountryCityScore
65UKLondon68.18
66USAMiami72.87
67ColombiaCali75.96
68BrazilBrasilia77.52
69CanadaToronto78.56
70BrazilSalvador78.71
71TurkeyIstanbul81.78
72BrazilSao Paulo83.71
73ColombiaBogota84.12
74BrazilRio de Janeiro86.26

It’s official: London is rubbish for commuting

And in other news: the Pope is Catholic and a bear does indeed defecate in the woods.

It won’t come as a surprise to many people that the UK’s capital fared badly in our study. As we touched on above, the average cost of a monthly travel card is £132. This accounts for the highest percentage of monthly earnings (5.63%) in any of the European cities we looked at, with the exceptions of Istanbul and Saint Petersburg.

Rail fares have risen year on year for the last eight years, and they show no sign of levelling off. But steering clear of the trains won’t help you either; motorists spend around 74 hours stuck in traffic over the course of 12 months.

If there’s one crumb of comfort that Londoners can take from all this it’s that people in Birmingham and Manchester spend on average five and 10 minutes longer commuting each day. Small victories, eh?

Honestly though, all things considered, the only sensible thing to do if you live in the capital is to pack your bags and move to Nice. Fast. Before all this Brexit stuff goes down.

How do UK cities compare?
CityAverage daily commute
time (minutes)
Cost of a monthly travel
card as a % of monthly salary
Overall rank
Leicester522.87%10
Bristol533.32%18
Edinburgh602.91%22
Newcastle643.10%26
Leeds773.25%32
Manchester893.44%53
Birmingham943.81%58
London845.63%65
Commuters outside Brixton underground station

Londoners pay a higher percentage of their salary towards travel than commuters in almost any other European city


Commuters in Brazil fare worst

If you like the sound of miles and miles of sandy beach, breathtaking scenery, and samba dancing late into the night, then definitely check out Rio — it’s an incredible place. But if journey times in excess of 90 minutes and extortionate fares aren’t your thing, it’s probably best to avoid commuting in the city of carnival.

Rio ranks bottom in our study because of the high cost of public transport relative to earnings. A monthly travel card is priced around £42, which works out as 9.4% of the average net monthly salary.

Commuters spend 19 minutes a day waiting around for a bus or train, and when one finally arrives they travel a full 12.3 km to the office. That’s the third longest journey undertaken by workers in any city.

But Rio isn’t the only Brazilian city to perform poorly. Of the eight we looked at, seven rank in the bottom 20, with four in the bottom seven. And while there’s no denying that these results are pretty damning of the country’s transport infrastructure, it’s worth noting that the average population size of Brazilian cities in the study is 6,246,760. In contrast, the seven French cities we analysed, four of which are in the top 10, average 2,903,078 inhabitants.


The story stateside

The Americans’ aversion to walking is legendary; it seems they’ll find any excuse to jump in the car rather than go by foot. But perhaps the reasons for this extend beyond morbid obesity.

Of the eleven US cities we analysed, seven rank in the bottom 20 for journey distance. Commuters in Miami — 66th on our list — travel an average of 13 km to the office. Only workers in Brasilia have a longer journey.

As you might expect, congestion is a real problem too. Motorists in Los Angeles spend a mind-numbing 102 hours stuck in traffic annually. And New Yorkers aren’t much better off, spending an average of 91 hours in jams.

The answer? Move to San Diego, where workers have shorter commutes than their compatriots in other major cities and fork out just 1.79% of their hard-earned cash each month to travel on public transport. Nice is the only city where you’ll get more bang for your buck.

How do US cities compare?
CityAverage daily commute
time (minutes)
Cost of a monthly travel
card as a % of monthly salary
Hours spent in congestion
(over 240 days)
Overall rank
Minneapolis662.39%4120
San Diego701.79%4827
Denver772.90%3635
Pittsburgh734.01%3243
Portland903.04%5049
Chicago862.87%5750
New York873.09%9157
Los Angeles863.09%10260
Philadelphia933.53%3762
Washington864.18%6363
Miami904.38%6466

Methodology

The study looks at 74 cities with a population size of more than 300,000, across 16 countries worldwide.

We used the Moovit Public Transport Index (150 million users worldwide) to find:

  • Average time spent commuting each day
  • Average time waiting for a bus or a train each day
  • Average journey distance (one way)
  • The percentage of commuters who make at least one change as part of a single journey

We used data from the Numbeo Cost of Living Index to calculate the average cost of a monthly travel card as a percentage of average net monthly salary.

We used the INRIX 2017 Global Traffic Scorecard to find the average number of hours spent in congestion over 240 commuting days.

The final ranking is weighted, with cost and time spent commuting judged to be the most important factors.

Rob Binns Expert Market
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

These Are the Best Places in the World to Be Your Own Boss

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Updated: 20 November 2019

“Working for yourself is easy!”, said noone ever.

It’s financially risky, you work long hours and a lot of responsibility falls on your shoulders.

What if you could move to a country that would make your life as a digital nomad that bit easier? Would you do it? We’re willing to bet you might at least consider it!

Expert Market has put together a new study that showcases the best countries to base yourself if you want to enjoy the many perks of being your own boss. We compared eight factors that would impact the quality of life for a self-employed boss across 57 countries.

Read on to find out which countries fared the best, and the worst.

Top 10

  1. Hong Kong
  2. USA
  3. South Korea
  4. UAE
  5. United Kingdom
  6. Spain
  7. New Zealand
  8. Estonia
  9. Bulgaria
  10. Czech Republic

Head to Hong Kong

Hong Kong tops our list of the best places to be your own boss. Head to Hong Kong if you want to find more money in your pocket at the end of each month, our research finds. The Asian country has one of the lowest income tax rates (15%) of our study. Business owners in Hong Kong will also find it much easier to get their new venture off the ground – the country has one of the best access to credit scores in the world!

And if that’s not enough to convince you of Hong Kong’s merits, The World Economic forum rate the country’s transport network as the best in the world. For today’s digital nomad, a world-class transport system provides excellent peace of mind. Meeting in 30 mins across the other side of town? Not a problem in Hong Kong!

US outperforms UK

Freelancers looking to set up shop in the UK will be pleased – the country ranks fifth in our list of the best places to be your own boss. The UK is in the top 10 for transport infrastructure, and the top 20 for access to credit and internet connection speed.

However, it is the US that truly lives up to its name as the land of opportunity – it fares better than the UK in all but one of our ranking factors. Placed second overall, the US provides would-be business owners with excellent availability of funding as well as a very high number of free wifi spots.

Go East! Eastern Europe strikes perfect balance

Eastern European countries appear to dominate our top 10 thanks to their ideal combination of low costs of living and strong business opportunities. Estonia, Bulgaria and Czech Republic are eighth, ninth and tenth respectively in our list. Caffeine addicts should consider Bulgaria a hot favourite when it comes to setting up a business – at 94p, the country has the cheapest cappuccino in the world!

Bottom 10

  1. Uruguay
  2. Argentina
  3. Israel
  4. Philippines
  5. Ecuador
  6. Slovenia
  7. Costa Rica
  8. Ireland
  9. Belgium
  10. Peru

Bad news for South America

Freelancers might think twice before jumping ship and moving to South America, our research finds.

Peru, Ecuador, Argentina and Uruguay have poor transport infrastructure and slow internet speeds across the board. All four countries also score poorly in World Bank’s Ease of Starting a Business rank, meaning business owners will face more obstacles in the first few challenging years of their venture.

Our method

To identify our list of the best places to be your own boss, Expert Market compared 57 countries across the globe across eight different factors. In our study we compared:

  • Cost of living
  • Income tax
  • Access to credit
  • Average internet speed
  • Transport networks
  • Free wifi availability
  • Cost of a coffee
  • Ease of starting a business

We calculated each country’s weighted average using data from all the factors above to work out an overall score.

Rob Binns Expert Market
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

How to Use Social Media For Business: Our Tips and Tricks

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Published: 29 November 2019

Keen on social media but don’t know where to start? We’ve got you covered…


Social media marketing is something your business can’t ignore. These days, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are like the A,B,C of digital marketing.

But what is it exactly? Simply put, social media marketing is a form of digital marketing which involves creating shareable content across social media platforms in order to improve brand awareness, and make sales. But why should your business be using it? 

Because your customers are. 

Social media is thriving in popularity – there are over 3.2 billion social media users around the planet, equating to 42% of the world’s population. It's also an affordable way of promoting your business online, with most platforms offering quick sign-ups and free-to-use business tools. 

Want to know more about social media for business? Well, you’ve come to the right place – we’re here to explain the pros, cons, do’s, and don’ts of the most important social media platforms that you should be using.

Facebook

facebook for business logo
Why wouldn’t you want to advertise your business on the world’s third-most visited website

Facebook has over 2.41 billion monthly active users. But you already knew it was a popular platform – so what makes it an effective marketing tool? 

To save you flicking through Facebook’s features page, we’ve highlighted the best pros and the most dangerous don’ts of using Facebook for your business.

Facebook marketing: the pros

✓ Wide audience

We’ll start with the most obvious advantage. By advertising on Facebook, you’re exposing your business to one of the world’s largest online communities, which will massively increase brand awareness.

✓ Increase traffic

You can also drive traffic to your website by posting links on Facebook. It’s like those McDonald’s direction signs you see on Oxford Street – you can increase the amount of visitors to your website simply by redirecting them from other popular sites, aka Facebook.

✓ Tools

Facebook for Business provides access to free marketing tools and analytics features. You can target your audience by age, gender, location, job description, and other factors, meaning your adverts will reach the right people. Better still, you can see which content is – and isn’t – gaining interactions, using the ‘Facebook Insights’ feature.

✓ Generate leads

Harvesting ‘likes’ on Facebook allows you to generate high quality leads (customers). How so? Because with your field of ‘likers’, you have a whole crop of actively engaged users who’ve shown an interest. You can also create interactive Facebook competitions to gather customer emails to help build your marketing list.

✓ Messenger

While only 9% of companies use live chat, it’s been proven that customers prefer this type of interaction to anything else. In fact, ICMI found that live chat had the highest customer satisfaction level for any customer service channel, with 73%, compared to 61% for email and 44% for phone. Therefore, Facebook Messenger allows you to give your customers what they want: instant satisfaction. In fact, Live chat and chatbots are fast becoming one of the latest and greatest digital marketing trends.

Could your business flourish with Facebook? Facebook me in

Facebook marketing: the cons

Time, sweet time

Creating a Facebook business page and building a community can be time consuming. It’s particularly difficult when you have other business tasks to focus on like invoicing, pitching, or selling. 

Social skills

Also, if you don’t know the social media marketing best practices, you’ll also need to spend some time learning the skills. But where there’s a will, there’s an easy way. You can hire a digital marketing agency to handle all of your Facebook marketing for you – from campaign creation to comment-replying. With this option, you can exchange a small part of your budget for big marketing results – the business dream!

Engagement algorithm

Facebook filters posts to minimise spam and to improve the user’s experience. In other words, Facebook’s algorithm will filter your adverts to users that have either engaged with your brand previously, or have similar interests to what you’re offering. Therefore you cannot simply advertise to the whole world of Facebook.

Facebook marketing do’s and don’ts

DoDon’t
Post between 7-9am, 12-3pm and 5-8pm – use Hootsuite to post ‘commuter content’, scheduling posts for when your audience are scrolling through Facebook.Post too often – you should focus on quality over quantity to avoid overloading your followers with information.
Consider paying to promote your important posts with the ‘boost’ function to reach a wider audience.Leave your ‘About Us’ section blank – displaying useful information will improve the user’s experience.
Reply quickly to customers – consumers are impatient, so make the most of Facebook Messenger to reply immediately.Argue with customers in public view – you should contact customers via phone or email instead.

Twitter

Twitter logo
With over 500 million Tweets sent per day, Twitter shows no signs of slowing down in terms of popularity and readership. As with Facebook, your business can’t afford to miss out on Twitter’s huge follower base – just think of all those potential customers browsing, reading, and Tweeting at this very moment.

Twitter marketing: the pros

✓ Reach everyone

Unlike Facebook, there are no algorithms on Twitter that filter your posts to specific users based on user engagement, which means your posts will always reach your followers. On the flipside, users will only see your Tweets if they are online, so make sure you stick to our commuter content times.

✓ Affordable (and sometimes free)

Sure, you can pay to promote some Tweets, but you can also sign up and run your Twitter account without spending a penny. However, we’d only recommend the free option for very small businesses, because on Twitter, you need to spend more to reach more people. If you’re running a larger brand, then you should think about hiring a social media expert to take control of your company’s Twittersphere.

✓ Build brand personality

Twitter is the most tangible social media platform on the market. By this, we mean Twitter allows you to actually connect, talk, and interact with users in a conversational manner that can help to build your brand’s personality. You can then use this personality to appeal to your target audience.

✓ Ace customer service

Twitter is similar to a public forum, in that you can easily create a two-way conversation with customers that anyone can see. This allows you to solve issues in the public eye, so make sure your customer service skills are up to scratch! Better yet, you can use social media listening tools to see what people are saying about your brand online.

Is it time your business used Twitter? Yes - Let's get tweeting

Twitter marketing: the cons

Spamalot 

Twitter is rife with fake accounts, which can lead to complications if you accidentally click on dodgy links, images, or videos. On top of that, you’ll never know for sure if some Tweets are genuine, especially if that account doesn’t have a profile image.

Time sensitive

As we mentioned before, your tweets will only be seen if your target audience is online at that specific time. If those users aren’t online, then your tweet runs the risk of drowning in the sea of memes.

Public criticism

Yes, you can save a customer’s day in the public eye, but you’re still open to the elements when it comes to criticism. There’s nothing stopping John from Barnsley from hurling abusive tweets at your business, which can obviously reflect badly on your brand. But that’s just another opportunity to save the day by sending John a carefully considered response that respectfully debunks his insults, provides assistance, or offers to continue to conversation via direct message.

Character limit

Mark Twain once said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead”. With that, it’s safe to say he wouldn’t enjoy using Twitter. Why? For each tweet, you’re restricted to just 280 characters, making it trickier to create persuasive, informative content than it would be on Facebook or LinkedIn. However, if you simply practice refining your tweets, then you’ll be…well, fine.

Twitter marketing do’s and don’ts

Many of the Facebook do’s and don'ts also apply to Twitter. For example, commuter content is king for both these platforms, and you should never argue with customers in public. But below we have some unique advice for the Twittersphere:

Do

Don’t

Use images. Tweets with images generate 150% more retweets than those without.Use too many hashtags in your tweets – it looks messy, spammy, and unprofessional.
Remember to repost your top tweets to avoid your vital info drowning a sea of memes. Twitter is time-sensitive when it comes to viewing figures.Rely solely on automated and scheduled tweets – to be successful on Twitter, your business needs to be reactionary to trends and quick to respond to customers.
Hashtag wisely. Tapping into #trends and #topics will keep your brand current and on the beat, which reflects well on your business, but only use one or two relevant tags per tweet.Be boring and predictable – yes, you can follow the rules, but sometimes taking risks reaps rewards. Just make sure you plan your strategy, and don’t be afraid of failing.

Instagram

Instagram logo
The second-most downloaded free app in the Apple Store has over 1 billion active monthly users. Does Instagram need more of an introduction? If it does, then you should know it’s a photo and video sharing platform, ideal for product-based businesses looking to connect with consumers in a creative way. Below is a snapshot of Instagram for business.

Instagram marketing: the pros

✓ Powerful insights

Not only can you share some sleek snaps, you can also analyse your content to see which posts are performing well. With Instagram’s ‘Business’ profiles, you can see total impressions for the week, the times that your followers are most active on Instagram, top locations, and much more.

✓ Make money directly

Instagram has recently introduced shoppable posts, allowing businesses to add tags to products with ‘shop now’ buttons. This is great for the user’s experience because it reduces time spent flicking between sites, which is ultimately good news for your business. Happy customers mean happy profits.

✓ Influencer opportunities 

Like Twitter and fake accounts, Instagram is rife with influencers. These are online celebrities who can promote your product to their own large follower base. This technique provides exposure for your business to a much wider audience than you could reach with your own business account.

Instantly impressed by Instagram? Yes! I'm ready for Instagram

Instagram marketing: the cons

Overdressed?

Your business needs to look professional, right? One downside to Instagram’s ‘Business’ accounts is that they can appear a bit too smart. With these accounts, you page will be branded as a business, your buttons will aim to convert visitors, and you’ll lose the casual individuality that we all love to see on Instagram.

Free isn’t free

Despite advertising ‘free’ analytics tools for businesses, Instagram will restrict the outreach of your posts to encourage you to use paid advertising. In short, the social media platform will limit your growth and almost force your hand into paying more money. Paid advertising is Instagram’s largest income avenue from small businesses. 

Instagram marketing do’s and don’ts 

Do

Don’t

Encourage UGC (user generated content) – sharing media that your followers have created themselves builds trust. In fact, 92% shoppers worldwide trust word of mouth over advertising.Be too salesy – Remember that, on average, 80% of sales come from 20% of the customer base, so just keep your content relevant, interesting, and unique to encourage sales.
Use Instagram Stories – the content lasts 24 hours, which gives your business more freedom for creativity, while lowering the number of posts on your newsfeed.Ignore comments – social media is all about staying current, so don’t ignore comments and fade away from the user’s mind. Get interactive!
Direct to your bio – unlike Twitter, Instagram allows you to post links in your bio, which can help drive lots of traffic to your website.Delete negative comments – this will only weaken your brand image. Instead, respond to negative feedback with constructive, considerate solutions.

How to create a social media strategy

Your social media strategy is just one segment of your digital marketing umbrella, but an important segment at that. Not only is it the most contemporary method of connecting with your customers, but it’s also one of the fastest growing means of communication in the world.

How can you compete with those companies that have mastered the best digital marketing strategies, then? After researching some of the biggest brands, we’ve got a few top tips to help you tackle your social media strategy…

Research your audience

Never assume – that’ll make an ass out of your marketing efforts. Use the social media analytics tools to learn the who, what, and where of your follower base, which will help you to create content that your audience can relate to. To help you decide which platform to use, check out our graphic below, showing the favoured social media channel of each generation:

Generations of social media users

Snapchat

Tumblr

YouTube

Instagram

Twitter

Pinterest

LinkedIn

Facebook

Twitter

Align your content

Once you’ve decided which platforms you’ll be using, you need to align your social content to match your overriding content strategy. By this, we mean that your social media content should match your brand values and tone of voice, and your messaging should be consistent across all social media channels. The type of content may change, but the message itself should remain the same to ensure consistency and build brand trust.

Set achievable goals

Figure out what you want to achieve, and set targets that will help to overcome your challenges. Let’s face it, you’re not going to crack the internet over night, and you won’t gain a million followers in a year. Instead, be realistic and set small, achievable, and affordable targets. Social media success is a marathon, not a sprint. Remember, you can use social media monitoring tools to give eyes and ears to your business online.

Create engaging content

It’s crucial that you curate content that people love to share. The ‘shareability’ of your content will directly correlate with the success of your strategy. Use videos, research what your competitors are doing, stick to a theme, use social media monitoring tools to see what your customers are talking about – you name it. Get creative!

Want to save yourself some social media struggles? Compare quotes and save money I'd like to hear some quotes

Next steps

We’ve given you some of our favourite tricks of the social media trade, now it’s time to get your business out in the social media world! When it comes to picking the right platform for your strategy, just remember the pros, cons, do’s, and don'ts for each channel.

If you don’t have time to create and carry out your social media strategy on your own, then we have a simple solution. Working with social media experts can really take the strain off your strategy, and will allow you to focus on other tasks around your business. 

These agencies and pros know the do’s and don’ts of each platform inside out. To get involved, simply share some details about your social media ambitions, and these experts will get in touch with some tailored quotes to suit your business.

Rob Binns Expert Market
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

Waste Not Want Not: These Are The Most Wasteful Countries in Europe

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Published: 29 November 2019

landscape covered in waste and plastic

Household waste, and what to do with it, is a topic capable of dividing nations. Should I recycle? Can I be bothered? Will I actually make a difference? People across Europe struggle with these questions daily – and as our new study shows, there are some countries who need to seriously clean up their act.

Expert Market’s latest report is the first to throw landfill rates into the spotlight to determine which European country is the most wasteful, and also highlights the financial burden countries will have to bear if they continue at current rates of landfilling.

Methodology

The report analysed waste data in 29 European countries to determine the nations that are still heavily reliant on landfill sites instead of recycling and how many times their waste would fill the Colosseum.

The Roman structure is enormous even by modern day standards, it is estimated to hold 80,000 spectators (Wembley stadium can hold 90,000) and has total volume of 1,329,000m³.

Here is a list of all 29 countries in Europe ranked by total volume of waste in m³:

CountryVolume of total waste, m³
Germany106, 118, 934
France69, 350, 683
Turkey67, 160, 303
UK65, 526, 147
Italy60, 542, 823
Spain41, 936, 907
Poland22, 578, 179
Netherlands18, 322, 354
Greece11, 368, 412
Romania10, 203, 845
Austria10, 098, 770
Portugal9, 751, 901
Belgium9, 649, 981
Denmark9, 404, 540
Sweden9, 050, 854
Hungary7, 761, 313
Czech Republic6, 942, 773
Bulgaria6, 273, 848
Finland5, 670, 829
Norway4, 790, 337
Slovakia3, 712, 440
Croatia3, 452, 285
Lithuania2, 720, 842
Slovenia1, 925, 635
Latvia1, 668, 155
Cyprus1, 123, 474
Estonia983, 751
Luxembourg765, 924
Malta556, 986

Turkey is Europe’s Most Wasteful Country

Our research revealed that Turkey has the most wasteful residents in Europe, chucking away a mammoth 32.3. million tonnes of household and commercial waste straight to landfill; enough to fill the Colosseum over 44 times.

In contrast, Germany generates the highest volume of total waste of any country in Europe (106, 118, 934m³) but the data shows that the amount of waste transferred to incinerators and landfill sites would fill the Colosseum a mere 0.1 times, proving just how receptive the German public have been to the country’s innovative recycling initiatives.

The UK emerged as the 5th most wasteful nation in Europe, filling the Colosseum over 11 times. Over 20% of household rubbish in the UK is chucked straight to landfill which suggests that the country still has a long way to go in boosting recycling efforts.

CountryVolume of landfilled waste, m³How many times does landfill fill the Colosseum?
Turkey58,411,87444.3
Spain23,079,92917.5
France17,811,96613.5
Italy16,304,85212.4
UK14,600,65811.1
Poland10,034,7467.6
Greece9,232,7017
România7,353,3785.6
Portugal4,788,3793.6
Bulgaria4,162,6003.2
Hungary4,138,9303.1
Czech Republic3,636,9092.8
Croatia2,749,5302.1
Austria2,567,5291.9
Slovakia2,547,2451.9
Lithuania1,469,7411.1
Latvia1,032,2740.8
Cyprus836,4420.6
Finland648,4190.5
Malta498,0740.4
Slovenia437,4490.3
Netherlands245,9560.2
Germany168,8090.1
Norway150,3760.1
Luxembourg133,1640.1
Denmark105,8990.1
Belgium93,2140.1
Estonia70,9870.1
Sweden60,7940

Biggest Wasters: How Much Will It Cost?

As part of our study, we also calculated how much extra countries will be spending (or saving) on their landfill costs by 2025 compared to current costs.

The UK stands to make the biggest saving at €345 million if more robust waste management measures are implemented at the household level while our biggest waster, Turkey, stands to cash in on an extra €1.8 million in 2025.

More shocking are the costs that Croatia and Slovakia will face if they do not take measures to reduce their rubbish. Croatia will be spending an additional €5.2 million and Slovakia an extra €5.8 million in 2025 if they continue at current rates of waste generation.

Business Waste

Though our report has focused on household waste, DEFRA statistics show that business and commercial enterprises in the UK generated over 15 million tonnes of waste in 2014. We’ve partnered with top waste management companies in the UK to help businesses of any size to deal with their waste properly. Find out more here.

Sources

https://data.oecd.org/waste/municipal-waste.htm

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/studies/pdf/eucostwaste.pdf

http://www.thecalculatorsite.com/conversions/weighttovolume.php

https://www.realmofhistory.com/2016/08/06/8-facts-about-the-colosseum/

https://www.livepopulation.com/population-projections/turkey-2025.html

Rob Binns Expert Market
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

6 Tips for Green Fleet Management

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Published: 25 November 2019

Green fleet management can help you to cut harmful emissions, boost your reputation, and save yourself some serious cash. Here’s how you can go about it…


These days, most consumers know how to be eco-friendly. They know that reducing, reusing, and recycling is the way forward, that cutting down on meat and dairy could help save the world, and that they’d better not be caught sipping from a plastic straw.

But did you know that, as a business, you too have a responsibility to be kinder to the planet? In 2018, an immodest 18% of the UK’s total carbon emissions did come from the country’s businesses, after all.

If you run a fleet of vehicles, the need to be green is especially urgent. Conventional vehicles emit carbon dioxide (CO2), particulate matter (PM), and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) or nitrogen oxides (NOx) – nasties that befoul local air quality and contribute to climate change.

That’s where green fleet management comes in. Green fleet management is all about consciously reducing the volume of these harmful emissions that comes from your company’s fleet. It’s an excellent way to do your bit for the environment – plus, it’ll bolster your business’ reputation while potentially saving you some serious money. But how do you do it?

Jump down to our FAQs to learn more about why green fleet management is a good idea. Otherwise, read on to find out how to cut your fleet’s emissions in six actionable steps…

Green fleet management
Green fleet management can help your fleet go further

1. Boost your fuel economy

While vehicles do come with their own typical fuel consumption rates (measured in mpg, or miles per gallon), it is possible to improve and maximise your vehicles’ fuel economy – or, in other words, get your vehicles to burn as little fuel as possible (and so churn out as few emissions as possible) while getting their jobs done.

Let’s take a look at some of the small tweaks you can make to encourage a big difference in fuel consumption…

  • Plan the most efficient routes for your drivers. Be aware that rough or hilly terrain, poor traffic conditions (avoid rush hour when possible!), and high speed limits can all increase fuel usage. Using a vehicle tracking system with a route planning function can make this a lot easier and faster, with features available that help you identify the most efficient routes immediately.
  • Join a fuel card program. These enable you to set limits on how much fuel your drivers can buy – and therefore use – in a set time period.
  • In-vehicle heating and air conditioning can drain fuel – encourage your drivers to use them only when they need to, and never commit the sin of blasting the air con and rolling down the windows at the same time!
  • Similarly, opening windows and sunroofs all the way creates drag, which boosts fuel consumption. Ask your drivers to crack their windows, rather than opening them fully, when they can. Having said all that, don’t be draconian about things like heating and fresh air – your drivers need to be comfortable, after all!
  • The heavier the vehicle, the more fuel it needs to burn to forge onwards. Encourage your drivers to only travel with the tools/cargo/goods/personal items that they actually need – if you have the resource, you could even swap out heavy car parts for lighter aluminium versions.
  • Keep your vehicles in stellar condition – which brings us to our next point…

2. Stay on top of vehicle servicing

A vehicle that’s in poor condition won’t run at its most efficient, and so will consume more fuel – and release more emissions – than a vehicle that’s in ideal shape.

In fact, we can bet you’d be surprised by the myriad ways in which a vehicle’s condition can affect your carbon footprint…

Air filters that haven’t been replaced in good time get clogged with dust and debris, causing your vehicle to burn more fuel. Fuel caps that have degraded over time allow oxygen into the tank, causing your vehicle to burn more fuel.

Fuel injectors that don’t get cleaned can become choked with carbon deposits, causing your vehicle to burn more fuel. Tires that aren’t inflated to the correct pressure suffer greater rolling resistance, causing your vehicle to – yep, you guessed it – burn more fuel. In fact, insight from the RAC suggests that keeping tires pumped to the correct pressure can improve fuel economy by 2%.

And these are just a few examples!

As you can see, keeping on top of your fleet’s maintenance is a must. Fortunately, there’s a relatively painless way to do this – and that’s with a vehicle tracking system.

Look for a system that you can use to schedule and record maintenance and repairs. Verizon Connect, for example, shows a list of scheduled services – including MOTs, oil changes, and tire changes – for each vehicle, as well as maintenance faults and historical maintenance records. It also stipulates how far each vehicle should travel before its next trip to a mechanic.

If you’d like some help in choosing the right vehicle tracking system for you, no worries – that’s what our experts are here for! Simply tell us about your fleet and what you’re looking for, and you’ll hear from vehicle tracking suppliers that can cater to your unique needs and provide personalised quotes for you to compare. Effortless!


3. Encourage clean driving

There are plenty of unpleasant driving behaviours out there that are more than just aggressive – they also burn more fuel than they should, leading to a higher volume of emissions (as well as higher fuel costs for whoever is forking out for it – in this case, you).

Wasteful habits include:

  • Excessive idling – that is, leaving the engine running while the vehicle is stationary
  • Driving in an inappropriate gear
  • Braking harshly – tailgating is one of the biggest culprits here!
  • Accelerating unnecessarily – for example, rushing along roads with speed bumps, or speeding up to reach traffic lights
  • Using the clutch and accelerator instead of the handbrake when waiting at traffic lights or in queues
  • Driving close to, or even over the speed limit
  • Not using cruise control when you should

Communicate with your drivers to make sure they understand that they should avoid these habits – doing so will keep them safe, preserve your business’ reputation, and cut fuel costs, as well as reduce the fleet’s carbon footprint. But you can actually go one better, with a vehicle tracking system that monitors your drivers’ behaviour.

We realise this sounds a bit… 1984. But don’t worry – we’re not asking you to bug your vehicles with hidden mics and cameras. Rather, your tracking system will generate reports on the quality of your drivers’ behaviour on the road, recording how often each driver does something inadvisable (such as sharp braking or harsh acceleration).

Samsara, for example, creates easy-to-understand graphs that analyse your fleet’s ‘harsh events’, displaying trends over time so that you can measure the impact of your improvement strategies. You can even use Samsara’s driver coaching mode to better help individual drivers to make progress.

This gives you the power to talk to the drivers who need a reminder about ideal conduct, or even set up relevant training for them. Some vehicle tracking systems, such as Quartix, score and rank drivers based on how safely and economically they drive. Nothing like a bit of healthy competition to keep a team motivated!  

Better managing driver behaviour will help you to keep a handle on your fleet’s reputation, fuel usage, safety credentials, and eco-friendliness, without turning into Big Brother. 


4. Cut back on business travel

If you’re managing a fleet of company cars or a grey fleet, one obvious way to reduce its environmental impact is to cut back on how often your employees need to use the vehicles. 

After all, estimates from Energy Saving Trust and BVRLA state that employees who use these vehicles drive over 12 billion miles every year – releasing 3.5 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, and costing their employers roughly £5.5 billion. Ouch.

So, what can be done? Let’s take a look at a couple of key ideas:

Introduce remote working

If it’s possible for your employees to work from home rather than drive in to HQ, let them. The fact that software and files can be stored in the cloud and accessed from anywhere – whether via smartphone, computer or tablet – means that employees needn’t be tethered to one desk.

As long as you trust them to be productive away from the office – without, as they say, taking the Mick – then you’re golden!

Always seek an alternative

Encourage your employees to consider all alternatives to business travel before getting in that car. Can they hop onto the train or bus – or even cycle or walk – rather than drive to that client booking? Can they use tele or video conferencing, such as Skype or Google Hangouts, to join that meeting without having to drive there?

We’d advise drawing up a flow chart to help your employees make the right call. Energy Saving Trust provides this example for cutting back on grey fleet use:

Business travel flow chart

5. Use the cleanest petrol/diesel models you can

This won’t be a viable option for everyone – but if you are able to start replacing the vehicles in your fleet with cleaner, greener models, you can make an absolutely massive difference to your emissions output.

But how can you know which vehicles emit a lower volume of harmful gases? Well, generally, the environmental credentials of petrol and diesel models are determined by three factors:

  • Their fuel economy performance: The number of miles a vehicle can travel on a single gallon of fuel (in other words, miles per gallon, or mpg). The greater the number, the better! According to Motoring Research, the Peugeot 208 1.6 BlueHDi tops the table for fuel economy in cars, with an impressive 94.2mpg. The Toyota Prius Hybrid follows closely with 94.1mpg.
  • Their CO2 rating: The amount of CO2 produced for each kilometre a vehicle travels (measured in grams per kilometre, or g/km). As you can guess, the lower this figure is, the better. Hybrid vehicles – those that use a combination of an electric motor and a petrol or diesel engine – tend to have much lower CO2 ratings than their fully petrol/diesel counterparts. Watch out, though – hybrids have a reputation for being expensive to get your hands on.
  • Their Euro standard: This rating system establishes the volume of PM and NOx a vehicle emits. The higher the standard given, the lower the emissions, with ‘Euro 6’ the cleanest possible rating. Sound familiar? It will if you’re based in central London – drivers that enter the city’s ULEZ need to pay charges if their petrol vehicle isn’t Euro 4 standard (or better), or if their diesel vehicle isn’t rated Euro 6.

How to find a certain vehicle’s fuel economy performance and CO2 rating

Simple – the government’s car fuel and CO2 emissions database enables you to search for vehicles by manufacturer, model, registration year, and more. You’ll see VCA (Vehicle Certification Agency) data on CO2 emissions, fuel consumption, standard tax rates, and even the noise level produced by the car when it’s moving. You can find the database here.

If you run a fleet of vans, you’ll want to start from the VCA’s van-specific database, which also hosts a range of data for particular models – including CO2 emissions measurements and fuel consumption scores. 

How to work out a vehicle’s Euro standard

Generally, the Euro standard of a vehicle will depend on when it was first registered:

Date first registeredEuro standard
31 December 1992Euro 1
1 January 1997Euro 2
1 January 2001Euro 3
1 January 2006Euro 4
1 January 2011Euro 5
1 September 2015Euro 6

Of course, this is just a guide – you can always get in touch with a vehicle’s manufacturer if you’d like a completely accurate answer.


6. Use alternative fuel vehicles

If you’d like to go one step further, you could consider bringing in some clean, lean, alternatively-fuelled machines. Considering the fact that new petrol and diesel cars will be banned in the UK by 2040 – or maybe even 2035 – you’re actually a little behind the curve if you haven’t started thinking about zero-emission vehicles.

The good news is, you’ve got more options than you probably think…

Plug-in electric vehicles are more than just a trend...

1. Plug-in vehicles

Yep, we’re talking electric vehicles (EVs). In the UK especially, EVs are really the most popular reduced-emission vehicles around, and their prevalence is only set to continue growing. In fact, the government has recently pledged to invest £70m in building 3,000 more rapid charge points by 2024.

And while they may have a reputation for being a bit pricey, EVs aren’t actually as expensive as you’d think. According to LeasePlan’s Car Cost Index, price differences between EVs and petrol/diesel vehicles across Europe have fallen dramatically over recent years – and the UK is now the second-cheapest country on the continent in which to own an EV.

If you’re looking for alternative vehicle options, our advice is to check out plug-ins first and foremost. As we’ve said, they’re getting plenty of investment; prices are dropping, and the infrastructure is growing. Right now, it looks as though EVs are here to stay – and they’re certainly the safest bet if you want the security of knowing that you’re moving with the crowd.

So what are your options? At the moment, plug-in vehicles come in three key iterations:

  1. Pure-electric vehicles (Pure-EV): These are entirely battery-powered, and can be charged through mains electricity.
  2. Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHV): These are powered primarily by battery, but also contain a conventional engine which kicks the vehicle into hybrid mode once the battery has run down.
  3. Extended-range electric vehicles (E-REV): These are powered by a battery, with an internal combustion engine-powered generator onboard.

Pros:

  • With fewer parts, they’re usually cheaper to run and maintain than conventional vehicles
  • Government grants of up to £3,500 per car and £8,000 per van are available to businesses that buy EVs

X Cons:

  • The UK’s charging infrastructure is currently limited – your drivers might struggle to find charge points outside of cities and towns (although the infrastructure is constantly growing)

2. LPG vehicles

LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) is much cleaner than petrol, and around half the price. Despite this, however, it’s still very much a minority fuel in the UK, contributing to just 0.2% of road fuel use.

Sadly, LPG is simply not getting the same level of attention from vehicle manufacturers and the government that EVs are currently attracting. At the moment, there are no new LPG vehicles for sale in the UK, and government tax incentives for driving LPG vehicles are much less generous than those for plug-in owners. 

That doesn’t mean that LPG isn’t a viable option for your fleet, though. While lots of filling stations don’t stock it, a few larger chains do – including Shell, BP, Esso, and some Sainsbury's and Morrisons stations.

And while you can’t buy shiny new LPG vehicles right now, it is possible to:

  • Buy used LPG models
  • Convert your conventional vehicles into LPG vehicles (though this can cost a hefty £2,000 per vehicle)

Though LPG may be unpopular in this country, it’s by no means untried and untested – especially on the global stage. Hong Kong’s taxi fleet, to name one example, converted to LPG 15 years ago. Keep up, UK!  

Pros:

  • LPG vehicles emit significantly less MOx and PM than diesel vehicles do, and less CO2 than petrol vehicles do
  • LPG is cheaper than petrol and diesel

X Cons:

  • LPG vehicles tend to be less fuel efficient than conventional vehicles, doing fewer miles per gallon
  • New LPG vehicles and LPG itself are not very readily available
  • LPG vehicles emit more CO2 than diesel vehicles do

3. Biofuel

Made from renewable organic materials, biofuel comes in three varieties: biodiesel, bioethanol, and biogas. When it comes to powering your vehicles, your two options will be:

  • Bioethanol – derived from corn and sugarcane. It’s estimated that bioethanol could cut your emissions output by 50%.
  • Biodiesel – made using animal fats and vegetable oils. Estimates say biodiesel could reduce your emissions by as much as 85%.

As it stands, these biofuels are seen as more of an interim solution to tide us over until we transition fully to EVs. Like LPG, they’re getting nowhere near as much investment as electricity, but that’s not to say they aren’t viable for fleets for the time being. Just look at local bus services, some of which have introduced biofuel-powered routes. 

In terms of availability, though, blended fuels – petrol and diesel that have been mixed with a certain percentage of biofuel to lessen their environmental impact – are much more readily available than pure biofuels.

E10, a petrol alternative that contains 90% unleaded petrol and 10% ethanol (compared to the standard 5%), is getting the most interest thanks to the success it’s had in Germany, France, and Finland. There are plans to roll it out in the UK over the next couple of years, though whether it’ll catch on in a big way remains to be seen.

Pros:

  • Biofuels and blended fuels (like E10) release fewer carbon emissions than fossil fuels – in fact, ethanol absorbs CO2, partially offsetting emissions
  • They provide a use for organic products that would otherwise go to waste
  • waste All new cars sold in the UK are now E10-compatible

X Cons:

  • E10 is potentially not as fuel efficient as unleaded petrol, powering fewer miles per gallon
  • It’s estimated that just under 10% of petrol vehicles currently in the UK won’t be able to run on E10

4. Hydrogen

Hydrogen fuel is very much in the early stages of adoption. As of November 2019, there are only 17 – yes, 17 – hydrogen fuel pumps across the whole of the UK. But, considering that the only substance it emits is water, it’d be remiss of us not to flag it as an alternative fuel with all sorts of potential.

It’s not just the fuelling infrastructure that’s the problem, either. Vehicle manufacturers are really lagging on this one, too. A very small handful of players – namely Honda, Toyota, and Hyundai – are currently showing impetus and releasing hydrogen cars, while other giants admit that their first hydrogen models won’t be surfacing before we’re well into the 2020s.

Having said that, interest in hydrogen fuel is slowly building. In October 2019, European governments pledged over €50bn to hydrogen research and infrastructure development, while California – the only US state to boast any hydrogen stations – has introduced a $2,500 incentive for any resident who buys a new hydrogen car.

In short, we don’t think hydrogen is a viable fuel for UK fleets right now – but it’s definitely one to keep your eye on.

Pros:

  • Hydrogen fuel is super clean – the only thing it emits is water

X Cons:

  • Hydrogen fuel has incredibly limited availability in the UK – though research and development is starting to ramp up

FAQ: What are the benefits of green fleet management?

We’ve talked about the how, but what about the why? These are the benefits you can reap from green fleet management…

Save some money

As we’ve explored, one of the most effective ways to run a greener fleet is to cut the amount of fuel your vehicles guzzle. It goes without saying that, if you’re using less fuel, then you’re also spending less money on fuel. The environment faces less of an onslaught, and you manage to keep a few notes in your pocket. It’s the definition of a win-win!

Running alternative fuel vehicles can save you some cash, too. With fewer moving parts, electric vehicles are far cheaper to run and maintain than conventional ones. Meanwhile, LPG is half the price of petrol.

Managing a fleet that releases fewer emissions can also come with tax benefits, including:

  • Reduced class 1A National Insurance contributions
  • Reduced vehicle excise duty
  • Reduced corporation tax
  • Employee benefit through reduced benefit-in-kind tax

Boost your reputation

You’ve adopted green fleet management, your emissions have gone down… so why not shout about it?

Today’s consumers are ever more conscious of their environmental impact, and buying from businesses that match these sensibilities is becoming a priority. A 2018 survey from Futerra, for example, found that a huge 88% of UK and US consumers want businesses to help them be more eco-friendly.

Make it clear to potential and current customers/clients that you’ve made strides to go green, and your reputation can only shine as a result.

ASOS' text messages
Here’s how retail giant ASOS makes sure customers know about its partnership with Gnewt, a delivery company that uses electric vehicles

As well as helping you to attract and keep customers, going green can also help you to attract talent – that is, new employees.

In a recent US survey, nearly half of all respondents said that they would accept a smaller salary in order to work with a company that was environmentally sensitive. Meanwhile, 70% said they’d be more inclined to stay, long-term, with a company that had a good sustainability plan. That speaks for itself!

It makes sense, too: more and more employees are looking to contribute their skills, experience, and time to a business that cares about the same issues that they do. Working for an environmentally sensitive company is one of the ways in which the everyday person can feel as though they’re helping to combat climate change.

Improve air quality and help slow down climate change

If we’re to learn anything from King’s College London’s shocking PM (particulate matter) research, which found that five people die each week in Bristol as a result of air pollution, it’s that we need to take air quality seriously.

The study highlights the fact that particulates and nitrogen dioxide – which are mainly found in conventional vehicular emissions – can cause a range of life-threatening health conditions, including asthma, lung cancer, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.

We also need to take the climate crisis seriously – especially those of us who oversee fleets of vehicles. In 2018, an eye-watering 27% of the UK’s carbon emissions came from the transport sector. With this in mind, there’s simply no excuse good enough to keep chugging on with a big fat carbon footprint.

Implementing large-scale change can be tough. But by starting with little steps (for example, communicating with your drivers about good and bad driving habits) and building up to serious improvements (installing a vehicle tracking system) until you’re ready to make widespread changes (swapping out your old bangers for cleaner, perhaps electric vehicles), you’ll find that green fleet management is easier than you think.

Rob Binns Expert Market
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.