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Looking back… and to the future


wenty years may seem like a long time to be involved in business and to write about

business issues, but it also feels like no time at all when you consider the few real changes that have taken place in the business world over the past two decades. Conceived by Sophie Chalmers back in

1992, Better Business has been providing hints, tips, ideas and practical case studies for independent business owner-managers over a period that has spanned two reces- sions and many millions of business start ups and failures. Back in 1992, Sophie’s husband, Andrew

James, had been made redundant and was starting his own business, but he had no idea how to set his prices, how to market himself, or how or whether to register for VAT. As a freelance secretary, Sophie realised she could fulfil a need “for plain, straightforward and practical information”, which would not only support Andrew, but could also help other people who were struggling to learn the basics of running their own business. Sophie says: “One of the big things

I did learn is that it’s amazing how much you can learn if you apply yourself. I was not an expert in small business, publishing or editing, but I could learn all of those skills. I was not an expert in finance so I outsourced those skills and got an accountant.” “You need to stick to what you’re good

at. I learned that I was good at editing and writing but I left the numbers to people who could do it and learned the rest.” Today, 20 years after she published the

very first issue of Better Business, Sophie continues to run Active Information, a communications consultancy specialising in copy writing and business processes. She’s still running her business from home and still editing a mainstream magazine – this time aimed at parents – called Special Children Magazine. Sophie’s also still enjoy- ing what she has always enjoyed most about being in business – the freedom “I love that flexibility. I am my own boss. I’m in charge. I make the decisions.”

Better Business reached a significant milestone this year: 20 years in print. Editor MARIANNE WHITFIELD looks at how the journal’s original objectives continue to be relevant today.

Looking back over the goldmine of

topics covered in the 189 editions of Better Business that have been published to date, it seems to me, as current editor, that the core issues are still the same – it’s only really been the technology, Government ministers and fashions that have changed.

The means and tools available to help

us survive in business may have shifted, but the vital requirements for running a viable business are fundamentally the same as they were 20 years ago:

1 Find and fulfil a market need at a price people will pay.

2 Be creative and different, but be legal and ethical.

3 Be enterprising and continually pick up new skills.

4 Work hard, embrace failure and learn from mistakes.

5 Know your strengths and weaknesses, then plug the gaps.

6 Network and surround yourself with people who know more than you.

When my company bought the magazine and took over the publishing of Better Business from Sophie in 2007, we were

attracted by its focus on providing practical support for small business owners, rather than the aspirational lifestyle features that are common in other business magazines and publications – and which are now so prevalent on the Web. I feel privileged to be publishing a journal

that focuses on the facts – highlighting the risks and opportunities involved in running a business and the practical trading issues faced by business start ups and business owners in any sector. As a responsible publisher of business

information, I firmly believe that the key to helping people set up, run and survive in their own business is to explore and explain the core issues at the heart of entrepreneurship in a way that is clear, practical and written in plain English. Owning and running your own business

is a risky, hazardous and serious matter and this should never be forgotten. It can also be incredibly rewarding and great deal of fun – but it’s a lot more fun when your business is run properly and legally, in a socially responsible and financially viable way.

Our intention is for Better Business

to carry on for at least another 20 years helping many more thousands of micro- business owners to do exactly that.❖

The vital requirements for running a viable business are fundamentally the same

4 Better Business No 189

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