Three key steps to save energy in your office

save energy office switch off

For the modern workplace, it pays to be green. If you can lower your power consumption and lower your consumable usage, you can boost your budget. It doesn't matter what industry you work in or how many staff members you employ or how big or small your workplace is, a greener workplace will be a more efficient and cost effective workplace too.

Here are some key tips to keeping your business' environmental efficiency high and running costs low.

• Switch it all off

If you go into the average UK office outside of business hours, you would be amazed to see how many machines are still running, needlessly draining money from the budget. While the workplace is deserted all weekend, you are still likely to find copiers in standby mode, monitors still up and running, vending machines plugged in and overhead lights still on. In some cases you will even find air conditioning or heating units still running at full blast to the benefit of nobody.

Make sure every department in your building has a person who is responsible for ensuring all power-consuming items are turned off when not in use. Also, make sure your schedules for things like air conditioning are carefully followed.

• Take advantage when the workforce is smaller

At certain times of year, a large proportion of your workforce is likely to take holidays simultaneously. At Christmas, for example, there's a very good chance you will have a week or two-week period where your staff numbers are heavily depleted.

While this might lower your output, it can also boost your budget thanks to reduced running costs. To take full advantage, move all present employees to the same part of the office and then turn off the lights and hardware in the rest of the business.

• Buy Energy Star certified products

The Energy Star is the globally recognised symbol for sustainable hardware. This little blue box is only awarded to truly cost effective and eco-efficient products. If you ensure you only purchase equipment that has earned this certification, you can rest assured that your power consumption will never be needlessly high due to the hardware.

Three successful business ideas that sounded bad

pet rocks

Some people spend their whole lives trying to succeed in business. Often, they will be gifted, diligent and dedicated in this pursuit, spending years perfecting business plans and budgets, learning theory and crafting the perfect money making ventures. And, just as often, they will fail.

Then, somebody will come along with a nonsensical idea for a business that any sane business-minded person would dismiss in a hot second, and will take the world by storm, making a packet in the process.

Here is out top three highly lucrative businesses that would never last two minutes on Dragon's Den.

• Pet Rocks

The 70s saw a few weird trends come and go, but few were weirder than the Pet Rock. Launched in 1975, Pet Rocks were designer Gary Dahl's idea of a ‘perfect pet' – cheap, low-maintenance, even-tempered and with no waste for you to pick up. Plus they lived forever. Laugh all you like, but people queued up to pay good money for Dahl's creation: a rock with two googly eyes. It made its creator $15 million after just six months.

• Ashley Madison

The idea of a dating website strictly for married people looking to have an affair was greeted with laughter, repulsion and disdain when it first made its appearance a few years back under the slogan ‘Life is short: Have an affair.' Whatever you thought about founder Noel Biderman's adulterous concept, the one thing you cannot call it is a failure. It now recieves just shy of 2 million visitors every month, although the social motives are questionable.

• Plastic Wishbones

Who knew that so many people sitting around dinner tables felt frustrated that only two people got to snap the wishbone after the turkey? Well, Ken Ahroni did and that's why he manufactured LuckyBreak, the plastic wishbones that make more than 2.5 million dollars in sales each year.

• Flowbee

Do you remember the bit in Wayne's World where a guy comes on the show and tries to vacuum-cut Garth's hair? Pretty silly, right? Well, believe it or not, that invention was based on the real-life Flowbee developed by a Californian carpenter. What is more surprising, perhaps, is that it has, to date, sold roughly 2 million models.

Tip on interviewing job candidates

interviewing tips write questions

If you run a business, there are few more important meetings you will take than the interviews you do with prospective staff. Your workforce is your most valuable asset and so staffing your office correctly will be essential to your success.

Yet interviewing is not a skill that comes naturally to everybody. Even the smartest business brains and the most competent managers might be unsure how to approach this situation. With that in mind, here are five top tips for running a successful interview.

• Decide what you want

This might sound obvious, but it is amazing how many interviewers are themselves unsure of the kind of skills they want from a candidate before the meeting begins. Take the time to discuss this with other experts in your business, to be sure you are zeroing in on the right things during the conversation.

• Write up the questions

Depending on your own personality, you might prefer to be a different type of interviewer. Some like to keep thing conversational, putting the candidate at ease with a natural, friendly style. Others prefer to plan rigidly in advance, writing down each and every question and sometimes even the correct responses that they are hoping to hear. Either way, you should write up a list of the areas you plan to touch on beforehand. The last thing you want to do is reach the end of the interview and then realise you forgot something crucial.

• Keep it real

Always get your candidate to clarify their answers with references to real incidents and experiences from their past career. Vague promises to be ‘self-motivated' or a ‘fast learner' are meaningless unless they are proven by the interviewee's track record.

• Don't evaluate until it's finished

Don't make the mistake of trying to weigh up everything the candidate says while they are saying it. Keep notes, record the answers, collect the evidence and then, when the candidate is gone, assess, overall, what they have brought to the table.

• Consider a marking frame

If you are working in an interview team with other interviewers, it might be a smart move to set-up a ‘marking frame', which will rate the candidates against a set of criteria. This will help to formalise the process, ensuring you are doing more than just going on your gut instincts.

Why do businesses fail?

loss in business

The sad truth of business is that, of all the businesses that are launched globally, around 80% fail within the first two years. Does that mean you shouldn't follow your dream of going into business by yourself? Absolutely not. But it does mean that you have to take the time to consider why so many companies do not last the pace and how you can avoid the same fate.

In order to put this in perspective, here are three questions that you should ask yourself before you set sail on your latest entrepreneurial voyage. If you are answering ‘no' to all or any of these, there's a good chance you are destined to end up in that 80%.

Is your business different to the rest of the market?

In an increasingly crowded business market, the average consumer is finding it harder and harder to differentiate between competitive companies. The net result of this is lots and lots of businesses fighting over the same small bit of turf and very few ever being recognised as a standout company in their field.

The key to differentiating yourself in the eyes of the market is to work out what the value of your business is. What does your business have that the others do not?

Can you communicate what is valuable about your company?

In the history of failed business ideas, there is a whole chapter devoted to brilliant concepts that tanked because they were never properly explained to the target market. Once you know what makes your company standout, the next step is to figure out how to tell the customers.

Make sure your message is clear, concise and compelling. Always ensure all communication with a potential customer ends with a call to action – tell them why they should be interested in your product and then present them with a way to purchase it.

Are you a leader?

Every business needs one – a steering influence that has the ability to relate to those in their charge and keep the enterprise moving in the right direction. You might not have all the skills of a good business leader.

Perhaps you are a great people person but not so good with discipline. Or maybe you are brilliant with strategising but not so good when it comes to giving orders. If you lack some of the skills you will either have to learn them or partner up with somebody that has them. No company was ever successful without reliable leadership.