Cambridge Entrepreneurs share best tips for Business Strategy with Dr Soraya Jones

Cambridge Entrepreneurs share best tips for Business Strategy with Dr Soraya Jones


The end of the calendar year is time for business and start-up entrepreneurs to look back, self-evaluate and plan ahead. Am I doing the ‘right thing’ for my business? Have I forgotten anything? Are we ready to scale-up? Where can I seek further guidance? These are just some of the questions that determine future business […]

The end of the calendar year is time for business and start-up entrepreneurs to look back, self-evaluate and plan ahead. Am I doing the ‘right thing’ for my business? Have I forgotten anything? Are we ready to scale-up? Where can I seek further guidance? These are just some of the questions that determine future business decisions.

At St John’s Innovation Centre (SJIC), we’ve created a dynamic hub to help our community of companies, not just with work space but also with business advice that encourages disruptive ideas and supports new ventures. There are several ways to access tailored business support and advice at SJIC. Companies and start-up founders can seek formal advice and one to one sessions from accredited Enterprise Europe Network coaches. They can also book an informal chat with the likes of me, David Gill or other founder CEOs based at the centre. On regular basis, companies just bump into each other at the very popular Bistro or along various corridors of the building, striking up conversations on business and weighing in with their insights.

This also constitutes a strong culture of sharing knowledge and expertise at St John’s that we are proud of. As Jung or Confucius once said ‘Serendipity should not be ignored’, and it’s the serendipity of the chanced meetings, the helping each other and taking advice from each other that contributes to the entrepreneurial spirit of the Centre. A tiny piece of advice can sometimes go a long way, and there is great value in ‘learning from each other’.

About 20% of the SJIC ecosystem consists of companies who specialise in providing critical services that help businesses to grow. Engaging with these service companies allows start-ups to seamlessly innovate, putting the hindrance and obstacles behind. There are of course certain aspects of running a business that one may find not as ‘enjoyable’ or interesting. After all, who enjoys completing a VAT return form? And what if you continue to struggle with ‘recruiting the right engineer’ for your company? This is why some of the tenants at our Centre are excellent service providers specialising in accounts, legal advice and recruitment. This is an important type of support for successful functioning of any business that most start-up CEOs really appreciate. They can then focus on growing their business and developing product, solutions or technology, assured that all other parts of the business are supported by those who know.

There is constant need to evaluate business strategy, processes and plans in order to strive for continued success, and with that in mind I asked three types of our tenant ‘service’ companies what are their top tips for small ambitious companies to grow. Below are some great pearls of wisdom to read offering expert advice and support in accounting, legal and recruitment!

I would also like to take this opportunity and wish everyone  a Happy New Year. I hope it will be prosperous for you and your business!


Adam O'Hara

Adam O’Hara, Director of PSF Accounting, accountants for small businesses specialising in cloud based accounting, provides five top tips on managing your finances for the new business year.

1. Prepare a budget

A budget for the next twelve months is one of the most important business tools to ensure that you do not overspend and you can plan for future growth. Planning and monitoring your budget will help you identify wasteful expenditures, adapt quickly as your financial situation changes, and achieve your financial goals.

2. Invoice regularly & negotiate credit terms

Improve the cash flow of your business by invoicing customers as regularly as possible, ensuring a regular and steadier stream of income. You can also negotiate better credit terms with your suppliers so that you keep your average debtor days shorter than the creditor days.

3. Make your charitable donations through the business

If you run a company you should make any charitable donations from the business, as you will receive corporation tax relief.

4. Take the most tax efficient wages

If you own a company, then you want to withdraw the profits in the most tax efficient manner which means you should give yourself the correct salary to make the most of your personal tax allowances and the £2,000 employment allowance that you will get on employer’s National Insurance.

5. Take “tax free” dividends while you can

Currently, any dividends taken from your company do not incur any personal tax charges if you are in the basic rate band. However, from 6 April 2016, you will be taxed on any dividend earnings over £5,000 so you want to make sure you take the maximum amount of tax free dividends before 5 April 2016. Even if you don’t take the dividend in cash, you can increase your director’s loan for the cash to be drawn down tax-free at a later date.

Intellectual Property


Dr Martin Lipscombe, Chartered UK Patent Attorney and European Patent Attorney at Nash Matthews, Cambridge’s longest-established Patent Attorney office, shares invaluable advice on how to protect your IP.

1. Disclosing your idea to others may mean that you are unable to obtain a patent:

Seek professional advice before you speak to anyone else about your idea.

2. Your business is almost bound to possess IP of some kind, but you may not recognise it:

Get an expert to perform an IP audit on your company – you may be surprised at the results.

3. Users of unregistered trademarks are in a precarious position if someone else registers the same or a similar mark:

Register your trade mark(s) – if you don’t, someone else will!

4. Maximise your business’ potential. You wouldn’t dream of leaving a production line idle, so make the most of your IP assets:

Exploit your IP by licensing-out peripheral inventions, and explore the considerable tax savings attainable under the Patent Box.

5. Forward planning includes having an exit strategy:

Get your IP in line now; last-minute problems coming to light during due diligence can scupper a deal.


Rosa dos Santos

Rosa Dos Santos, Managing Director of Exact Sourcing, a recruitment agency working with growing organisations in the East of England, identifies five top tips on recruiting talent in a candidate driven market.

Growing your team – forecast growth areas for the quarter ahead:

Growing an early-stage high tech business or a start-up can be a challenge, therefore plan ahead for future recruitment needs and make industry connections by networking with likeminded professionals. Preparing for future expansion also provides agencies the opportunity to observe the market beforehand and should someone special become available with the desirable skill set, they are then able to make the recommendation.

The job description – identify key selection criteria for each role:

A good recruiter will ensure that they receive a full brief of the criteria you are looking to fulfil prior to interviewing prospective candidates (face to face). In the short listing process, agencies will select the strongest applicants for you to meet, allowing you to really focus on securing the crème of the crop.

The interview process – offer employees an attractive proposition that encompasses your brand culture:

In a career driven market where candidates have a lot more choice, it is essential that you sell your company and brand while offering a competitive salary and benefits. There is nothing more frustrating than going through an interview process and then making someone an offer for them only to decline your offer to accept another opportunity purely because they have a better interview experience at a different organisation.

Integrating new staff into the workplace –integrating new employees is vital to the success of any recruitment process:

Whilst the new person is there to perform a role, it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure they are made to feel welcome and have all the necessary equipment and foundations. If you work in a small office it is a good idea to invite them to meet the team before their start date.

*This article was first published by Cambridge Business Magazine, Issue 48, December 2015