The biggest obstacle to the growth of Britain’s business enterprises is poor time management, new research has revealed. Arecent study commissioned by online printing company, instantprint, which polled the time-keeping habits of 500 SME business
owners, has revealed sub-optimal time management as a major barrier to business growth. In an average working week atypical business owner finds just 12 hours to pursue activities dedicated to growing their enterprise.
One in ten has less than an hour a week earmarked for business growth, while 8 per cent say they struggle to find any time atall. Co-founder of instantprint, James Kinsella, who commissioned the research, said:
“We all know how it feels to fight the clock. There are only so many hours in the day to get everything done and SMEs are feeling the squeeze.”
“It is interesting to see from the research that, while factors such as admin and staff management have an impact on productivity, it is the management of our hours, minutes and seconds that have the biggest effect on the running of a successful enterprise.”
A third of business owners polled are unable to find the time they need to run their business effectively, and 53 per cent feel their minutes ebbing away under work admin and report writing. Thirty three per cent could use a hand managing their finances to save time, while 22 per cent feel that responding to customer service concerns could be streamlined. And while the average business owner works a 38-hour week, ten hours of this time is dedicated to completing tasks which they consider a distraction
from activities that encourage business growth.
A quarter of business owners believe they could improve the efficiency of their SME by hiring more staff, while 1 in 10 want to automate the invoicing process to cut down on financial management. When it comes to the balance between old and new, 35per cent of business owners favour the priorities of their existing customers, compared to the 23 per cent who prefer to seek out-new opportunities. Just 16 per cent said that increasing turnover was the most important aspect of their business, yet over half
measure the success of their business based on their gross profit.
When asked to consider their most important business asset, one in two considered a good reputation in the industry a vital component of running a successful SME. This compares to 1 in 10 business owners who prioritised their product, and 16 percent who put their employees on top.
Forty per cent have increased their business growth by expanding their target market, while a third diversified their product orservice. One in two business owners feel most productive before 12pm, while just over a quarter operate at their best betweenmidday and the 3pm mid-afternoon slump.
A study into work effectiveness has also revealed the key to a productive session: music, caffeine and concentration. Forty six per cent of those surveyed have a tea or coffee on the go to power them through their daily tasks, and a third put on their favourite playlist to get them in the zone.And if you have a work slog ahead of you, solitary confinement is the way to go. Twentyseven per cent of business owners hit their stride when working alone, compared to the seventeen per cent who operate best as
part of a team.
Co-founder of instantprint, James Kinsella, who commissioned the research, added:
“An SME is a composite of complex moving parts and systems, and sometimes it can be difficult to make sense of it all.”
“Every business is unique, but improving time management and optimising working hours can only bring positive outcomes to
the UK’s SMEs.”
Amazon’s first cashierless store arrives in Britain in sign of global expansion
By Jeffrey Dastin
(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc will open its first-ever physical store outside the United States on Thursday.
The world’s largest online retailer said the cashierless store, dubbed “Amazon Fresh,” is located in Britain, in the London Borough of Ealing. It will carry a private UK food brand it’s calling “by Amazon” and will let consumers skip the checkout line when they shop.
The opening is a sign of the Seattle-based company’s ambition to sell food globally and its belief that physical stores are a key way to capture consumers’ high spend on groceries, a category it has yet to dominate.
It so far has worked toward that goal in the United States by acquiring the Whole Foods Market chain in 2017 and testing shoppers’ interests with an array of other formats: about two dozen cashierless convenience stores called Amazon Go, two Seattle-area Amazon Go Grocery stores that are about four times the size, and 10 Amazon Fresh supermarkets in California and Illinois.
As in the Go stores, customers will scan a smartphone app to open the UK store’s entry gates. Ceiling cameras and shelf weight censors determine what shoppers add to their carts or put back, and their on-file credit cards are billed after they exit.
The location, much smaller than a supermarket, will sell prepared meals, some groceries, and Amazon devices, as well as offer a counter for picking up and returning online orders.
(Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; editing by Richard Pullin)
Global semiconductor shortage spurs run on vintage chipmaking tools
By Stephen Nellis and Hyunjoo Jin
(Reuters) – Minnesota-based Polar Semiconductor makes chips for automakers and is booked beyond capacity. But expanding production lines to help solve a chip shortage that is shutting down car factories around the world is not feasible – in part due to the scarcity of older-style chipmaking machinery.
Chip factories like Polar use these tools to make chips on 200-millimeter silicon wafers, which were state-of-the-art two decades ago. Now, advanced chips are made using much larger wafers, but there is still a lot of demand for simpler, older chips.
The demand has been supercharged by a combination of the COVID-19-driven boom in computer gear and unexpected strength in auto sales that resulted in shortages. General Motors Co on Wednesday extended production cuts at three North American plants and added a fourth to the list of factories hit, and Fiat Chrysler owner Stellantis warned the pain could linger far into the year. Shortages forced Ford Motor Co to slash shifts for production of its F-150 pickup truck, a longtime profit driver.
Automakers use a range of chips in cars. Some, such as those in infotainment systems, are made in the same cutting-edge chip factories that make smartphone chips. But other chips in braking and engine systems are made using older, proven technologies that meet automakers’ durability and reliability requirements.
But the machines to make those older chips can take six to nine months to find, said Surya Iyer, vice president of operations and quality at Polar.
“There’s no way I can expand capacity beyond just stretching my limits,” Iyer said. “A real capacity increase would take nine to 12 months, minimum.”
Resellers of chipmaking gear saying they cannot find used equipment, leading some buyers to stalk old factories in the United States, Japan and Europe, waiting for them to close in hopes of snapping up the gear inside.
“Demand is hot for used equipment, but we don’t have enough of them to cope with demand,” said Bruce Kim, chief executive of South Korea’s SurplusGLOBAL, one of the largest dealers of used chipmaking gear.
He said used equipment prices have gone up by as much as 20% over the past six months, while the number of refurbished 200mm tools fell to 1,000, down from between 7,000 to 8,000 a decade ago.
Ohio-based Rite Track, in normal times, buys up old chipmaking equipment, upgrades it and sells it to chip factories. But Chief Executive Tim Hayden said the recent squeeze has spurred the company to spend more time sending technicians out to upgrade tools that are already installed on factory floors in order to squeeze more chips out of them.
“You just can’t go out on the open market and buy a used 200-millimeter tool – they’re just not readily available,” Hayden said. “So people are getting a little bit more creative.”
NEW OFFERS FOR OLD TOOLS
Demand for old tools is so robust that buyers are looking at every kind of factory. Spin Memory in Fremont, California, is designing a new kind of memory chip and maintains a small “pilot production line,” mostly to provide samples to potential customers, said Chief Executive Tom Sparkman. Even though Spin Memory’s tools use 20-year-old technology, Sparkman gets offers to buy them almost every day.
“We haven’t taken the plunge to get rid of it yet, but some days it’s tempting,” he said.
Toolmakers such as Applied Materials Inc and Lam Research Corp, meanwhile, are building booming businesses by refurbishing or recreating some of their greatest hits from the 1990s and earlier.
“It’s really exploding,” said Mike Rosa, head of strategic and technical marketing for a group at Applied Materials, the world’s biggest chip-equipment vendor.
David Haynes, a managing director at Lam Research, said demand for 200-millimeter tools was once mostly from China as it worked to build up its domestic chipmaking industry. Now, he said, customers from around the world are looking to buy or upgrade older tools.
Still, investment in older technology lags relative to the spending on more advanced production lines, or “nodes” as they are known in the industry.
“Most of the capital expenditure has been going into advanced nodes,” said Tyson Tuttle, chief executive of Silicon Laboratories Inc, which designs automotive chips to be made on older technology. Chipmakers “have always relied on the fact that the digital guys move out of the older nodes, and that frees up capacity for all the support chips. The problem is, the digital guys aren’t moving out as fast. The mainstream nodes are all just jammed.”
(Reporting by Stephen Nellis and Hyunjoo Jin in San Francisco; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Matthew Lewis)
Boeing looking for new $4 billion revolving credit facility – source
(Reuters) – Boeing Co has approached a group of banks for a new $4 billion revolving credit facility, according to a person familiar with the matter, as the planemaker battles a prolonged slowdown in commercial air travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Investment-grade rated companies use revolving credit facilities as backstop financing, with these facilities remaining undrawn for the most part.
The U.S. jet manufacturer has the option to raise the size of the two-year credit facility to as much as $6 billion, the person said on Thursday.
A Boeing spokesman declined to comment. The development was earlier reported by Bloomberg News.
Boeing Chief Financial Officer Greg Smith had discussed raising more debt at the company’s quarterly earnings call in January.
Smith said Boeing has “sufficient liquidity” currently, but it continues to consider all options to strengthen its balance sheet.
(Reporting by Joshua Franklin in Boston, Eric M. Johnson in Seattle and Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta