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Five-point plan

Award-winning gadget entrepreneur Mark Needham built his reputation by being the first to spot trends in the electronics market.

His sharp business instinct has been the driving force behind the success of his consumer electronics wholesaling firm Widget UK, which has seen turnover rise from £3million to £30million in five years.

Now Needham, who recently won the Staples-sponsored British Chambers of Commerce Entrepreneur of the Year Award, has come up with a low-cost five-point plan to help small businesses in 2010.

“There are some easy - and often free - things businesses can do that could make all the difference in the difficult economic times we find ourselves in,” says Needham.

“The beauty of running a small company is that, unlike big business, you can decide to do something in the morning and have the change made by lunchtime.

“At times like these I find it’s worth taking a fresh look at your business. The big benefit is that you really don’t have to spend a fortune - just put in the effort and wait for the results.”

Needham’s five ideas for 2010:

1. GET ONTO TWITTER
Ask your clients if you can follow them - and invite them to follow you. You will learn a lot about a business and its aspirations by not just picking up on its tweets, but also becoming a source of trusted information for them. Even if you don’t want to actually use it - isn’t it worth finding out about it so you can keep up with what’s happening out there?

2. USE GOOGLE DOCUMENTS
Get yourself a Google email account and begin to use Google documents. This not only stores documents and emails for free (thus saving valuable and expensive server space), the documents can be kept in one place, and you can give clients or colleagues a link to it. That way you don’t get a whole folder full of different versions.

3. ENTER BUSINESS AWARDS
These are great for adding weight and credence to your business, boosting staff morale, make yourself a more desirable employer - plus all the great PR you get. 

4. LOOK TO INCREASE YOUR CIRCLE OF LIKE-MINDED FRIENDS THROUGH INFORMAL DINING CLUBS OR ORGANISATIONS
For the price of a dinner, you can chat through ideas with people who have got years of business experience as well as anecdotes and advice - which can really help to galvanise ideas or help out with problems.

5. PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE ON THE SPEECH-MAKING CIRCUIT
Offer to address business breakfasts for your local Chamber of Commerce, get yourself on the list to speak to business students at schools and colleges. Challenge yourself and you’ll find your confidence grows.

From its base in Stevenage, Needham’s company spotted the sat nav trend and became the first company in the UK to distribute Tom Tom products. In 2009 it became the UK distributor for the Flip Video range of handheld camcorders, now part of Cisco.

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