Innovation and enterprise blog

The British Library Business & IP Centre can help you start, run and grow your business

8 posts from January 2015

30 January 2015

CMI Management Book of the Year

We’re looking forward to announcing the winners of the CMI Management Book of the Year at the Awards Evening here at the British Library on Monday 9 February 2015. The competition aims to celebrate the best of management and leadership books published or distributed in the UK, from the most inspiring to the most useful.


This year, 24 books have been shortlisted across the five categories, including five books in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship category. Find out about the shortlisted books and join the conversation on Twitter using #managementgold

Intellectual Property Matters

It is said that 'The meek shall inherit the Earth', but for now it's the inherently rich and shrewd.

Intellectual property rights (IPR) include patent, registered or unregistered trademarks, design rights, copyright, or more commonly a strategic combination of each. Protecting your intangible assets can be as rewarding as protecting your physical property, but it can be a complex and expensive job to secure, maintain and defend them.  Therefore it is important to remember that you may not have to keep your idea or product secret in order to protect it - there are other formal ways to do it.

The key is to get impartial professional advice early on and formulate an IPR strategy. I clearly remember my confused state, of trying to understand all the processes involved (not just on IPR protection, but the inventing business in general). The learning curve was enough to drive me mad, although I do say 'The nearer to insanity I get, the better I invent' - the trick is getting back!

Getting into the nitty-gritty world of how to protect your invention with a patent, with some do's, don'ts and tips on IPR's that I have learnt, sometimes the hard way.

Patenting steps - do's and don'ts

  • To patent something it needs an inventive step, never to be thought of before anywhere in the world ever and something that someone schooled in the art would not have thought of.
  • Do have a professional patent search carried out at the British Library Business & IP Centre. The 'new' part I mentioned earlier is important, before spending significant amounts of time and money on the idea, only to find it has been done before and is protected or is in the public domain already greatly weakening your position.
  • Don't disclose your invention to anyone without protecting any protectable IPR's first or get them to sign a confidentiality agreement.  If not, it may prevent you from obtaining a patent later.
  • Don't write a patent yourself.  It may save money, but it is a false economy. If your idea is a success, you will regret the day you did that. Ifyou intend to licence, sell outright or defend the invention you will look amateurish when the patent is reviewed.  And, more critically, you may have left something important out, or worded something wrong, making it vulnerable (easier to get around).  Remember, a patent can be the most valuable asset a company owns. Poorly written and all could be lost.

Top tips

  • You have twelve months, from filing a patent application, to file foreign applications. At that point, do your homework, to get the broadest country’s protection (on where the product will be sold and manufactured) at the lowest cost possible. You can do this in the Business & IP Centre London or in one of the National Centres. The trick is to know your market, so it may be possible to file in the smallest number of countries to cover most of it (note, you can delay this stage by eighteen months using the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)).
  • If you have kept your invention secret, within the twelve month period from filing the application, you can withdraw the application and re-file, but note, you lose the original priority date and risk that someone filed something similar in that lost period.
  • I tend to keep things secret and file the patent application late.  I do this because if you are still developing the idea, it could be very different after the twelve months, so might need significant changes or a total rewrite.

Using the British Library

As a regular user of the British Library facilities, for research and patents information, in the past and being their first ever 'Inventor in Residence', I offer free one-to-one hour long confidential meetings, called 'ask an expert'.  It is disturbing and frustrating to commonly see, the ownership of great ideas slip through the inventor's fingers, because they made it public before protecting it (frequently with university student projects), or got misdirected and over charged by a so called professional Patent Attorney.


Mark Sheahan Med plus res 2014Mark Sheahan, 'Inventor in Residence' for the British Library, President of the 'Institute of Patentees and Inventors', a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Vice Chairman of the 'Round table of Inventors'. 



28 January 2015

Top tips: Pinterest as a visual bookmark for your business

Pinterest thought leader Vivienne Neale gives us her top tips to master Pinterest for your business. Vivienne will give a workshop on the same topic on 18 February 2015 in the British Library, Business & IP Centre for which you can register here.

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 12 34 14 (2)

Using Pinterest for business

The world of social media is a crowded place. Many new social networking sites are popping up and trying to compete with giants like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Deciding which social media tools are right for your business can be a challenge. Thus, it is crucial to learn from experienced practitioners when delving into the social media sphere.

Once you take the plunge it is not enough to have a presence online, you must also stand out to make a worthy return on your time investment. Pinterest is a fast growing social media platform that is used as a visual search engine by businesses and consumers alike for inspiration, research and for shopping. 

Vivienne writes regularly about Pinterest, develops Pinterest strategies for companies in the UK, Europe and the US and beta-tests Pinterest-related products. We had the chance to ask her some key questions about Pinterest in anticipation of her workshop.

Hi Vivienne! Why do you think Pinterest has become so successful when Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can also manage images?

Pinterest is unique. It taps into our scrapbook passions. It allows us to collect ideas in a very easy to manage place, grouping pins into boards and creating a thing of beauty. Pinterest’s main advantage is a direct link to the image source the user can visit. Here lies the strength for marketing!

How can small businesses use Pinterest?

The key to using Pinterest as a business tool is to share images and content your customers love, related to your niche. If you are a florist, you may want to create an account about flowers with boards on wedding ideas styles, garlands, church decorations etc. Pinterest is about aspiration and inspiration - visualising the ideas and concepts behind your brand.

A bed retailer might have pins grouped under heading such as, “10 tips on getting a good night’s sleep”, “Bad Back Fixes” or “Foods to avoid before bedtime”. Use your creativity but ensure your pins are optimised to their full potential. With the introduction of Pinterest’s Smartfeed in 2014 you can enhance your account easily. You can also share content marketing on Pinterest by creating an infographic or a photo collage.

How can you measure the impact of Pinterest on your customers/business?

Analytics software can measure what is happening on your page. Pinterest offers some basic analytics, but there are many other existing software packages that provide more depth of information. For example, Tailwind and Ahalogy are great Pinterest analytic tools. Never underestimate talking to your customers either - ask them if they have been to your Pinterest site, what they thought, what they liked and what they hope to see in the future.

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 12 35 25

How can a services company, who does not have a product, use Pinterest?

Services firms can greatly benefit from Pinterest too. For example, an architecture firm can showcase their work and inspiration; a psychologist can create boards with stress busting images and inspirational quotes. Just consider “What would be useful, interesting, entertaining or educational for my customer?”

How much time should a business invest in Pinterest to make it a success?

For many, Pinterest is a joy and can find it difficult to log out! I post 100 pins per week spread over seven days and schedule them using a management tool. It is a time investment but it pays off. If it is in your budget you can pay experts to manage your social media account too.

How can I protect my copyrights and intellectual property (IP) rights on Pinterest?

There have been a couple of cases in the US where brands have made a complaint to Pinterest about the violation of intellectual property, but there have been no prosecutions. If a brand or business does not want its content being pinned then it must insert a line such as: ‘Content on this website is considered to be intellectual property of ********* and cannot be shared, published, printed without authorization’. To find out more about intellectual property you can also attend a Beginner’s guide to intellectual property workshop in the British Library, Business & IP Centre.

What are your top tips on using Pinterest for business?

  • Put a ‘Pin it’ button on your website – making it quick and easy for anyone on your site to pin your images and information
  • Use engaging board titles
  • Use a business account and not a personal account. Verify it and ensure your profile and board details are completed in full
  • Use good quality images, portrait orientation
  • Get familiar with Rich Pins; they include extra information right on the Pin itself
  • Come along to my workshop in the Business & IP Centre to find out more and ask any questions you may have. Register here

23 January 2015

The Power of Partnerships in PR

Jessica Huie, MBE founder of JH Public Relations workshop on 'Do your own PR on a budget' graphic

There are many different business titles used to describe the coming together of two brands with the ultimate aim of reaching a new audience, improving their service or to create a new PR angle.

When we talk about partnerships we are referring to collaborating with like-minded brands which share a brand ethos and target market in order to reach a wider audience and create newsworthy PR angle.  

One of the most common mistakes small and medium-sized businesses make is limiting their own potential by thinking too small. Partnering is absolutely key to growing any business. A small business does this by standing on the shoulders of bigger and more established brands for mutual benefit.

If you want to partner with big brands then you have to think like them - and be sure that you can cater to the increased demand that your partnership will likely deliver!

So, what do you have to offer as a small brand? The answer will be personal to you and your business, but it’s certainly not necessary to have deep pockets. Big brands will expect you to demonstrate your capability, so you’ll need tangible indicators of your company’s ability to create results. As we are talking PR, perhaps the most important element of your pitch should be how you intend to promote your partnership and the benefits it will deliver.  

Which brands can you partner with for mutual benefit, and in turn generate press coverage from? Ask yourself the following questions and you’ll emerge with a list of target partnership brands:

  • Which brands share your target market but are not your competitors?
  • Which brands share your company ethos?
  • Which brands are vocal about wanting to cater to your target audience?

In this global market competitive advantage depends not only on what you can do but of equal importance, who you work with! Partnerships have become a critical part of any successful business strategy.

Lastly, remember that your currency could be a free product, access to your database, and of course the all-important benefit of free positive publicity for the big brand.

Everyone loves a story of David partnering with Goliath, and the media will too. It makes the big boys look good, so think big and get out there and capitalize on all of the partnership opportunities for your brand just waiting to happen!

If you are interested in hearing more watch this video on how to get your ideas to spread with marketing mogul and best selling author Seth Godin for TED Talks.

Jessica Huie, MBE founder of JH Public RelationsJessica Huie, MBE founder of JH Public Relations previously hosted the event How to generate PR for your business on a limited budget on Thursday 26 February 2015 at the Business & IP Centre, British Library. Sign up for future workshops and events now, to receive valuable advice from experienced mentors and experts on Public Relation themes and more.

20 January 2015

And the award for Celebrating and Promoting Your Business goes to…

The much anticipated Hollywood awards season is in full swing with big events taking place, including the infamous Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. But there are many awards that you, and your business, can be included in without heading for the Hollywood hills. But why get involved? Jeremy O’Hare is a Relationship Manager for the British Library’s Innovating for Growth programme, which provides £10,000 of fully-funded and tailored advice for businesses looking to grow. Jeremy tells us why awards are a sure fire way of creating a buzz around your business and enhancing your brand. 


Innovating for Growth Project Manager Christina Murphy giving out an award at the British Chambers of Commerce Awards to Sepha Ltd


A challenge for every business is how to distinguish themselves from their competitors, often on limited resources. This means maximising your marketing and PR impact through endorsements, social media and regular referrals. But you should also be considering using awards to boost your business.

Awards are one of the simplest ways of getting great PR and there’s a reason why it’s so effective. It’s endorsement from a judging panel of business ‘experts’ and having the title of ‘award winning’ is confirmation that consumers can trust you.  And that’s a giant leap forward to closing sales and generating leads.

And the nominees are…

Meredith O’Shaughnessy of Meredith Bespoke is winner of Home Based Business of the Year, 2014 and of Event Magazine’s “50 Fab Newcomers”. She believes, “if you operate in a saturated market, such as ours, awards help differentiate you and put a ‘stamp of approval’ on the work that you do.”


Meredith Bespoke
Meredith O’Shaughnessy with colleagues from Meredith Bespoke


Nicola Gammon of Shoot Gardening recently won the People’s Choice awards at the Good Web Guides Awards 2014 and gardening category best website and knows the importance of attracting customers to her website, “if you’re a start-up then customers will be trying to size you up as to whether your company is worthwhile dealing with. When you win an award they'll think to themselves, ‘I should really consider doing business with that company.’” 


Nicola GWG win (2)
Nicola Gammon with her People’s Choice award


There are many other real benefits that come from winning an award. Meredith has also found that being an award winner is an important part of contributing to company culture. “We like to celebrate successes internally and having external recognition really helps with that. It encourages the whole team.” Another upside is that it’s easier to recruit the right people, as is Nicola’s experience, winning an award shows you have a winning idea and team. People want to work with winners.”

Top tips from our award winners:

  • Invest the time properly to apply for each award. Make sure you pitch your application to the specific judging criteria outlined for each one. Applications can be quite detailed, so make sure you gather all the information you require well in advance so you are not rushed as the deadline approaches. 
  • Try to think what the award is really celebrating and then highlight this aspect in your application. 
  • Have your application reviewed by a copywriter who knows how to sell the benefits of your product or service or at by at least two other people who can correct any mistakes.
  • Have the passion of what you do shine through in the application. It’s not all about dry facts and figures, important that those are in supporting your application.
  • And if you win, make sure to get a photo on award night to circulate on social media and to share with your customers!

Nicola and Meredith’s businesses are two recent award winners that the British Library has been able to help on our Innovating for Growth programme. Other award winner’s we’re proud to have helped are Today’s PA, Living the Dream and Lend Me Your Literacy, read more about them here.

Best SME goes to…

So, where can you find out about awards? There are some well-known awards profiled on our COBRA database here at the Business & IP Centre and listed below are some of the major awards that SMEs enter, including:

Keep an eye out for sector awards. For example, awards for Social Enterprise include:

Other specialist awards include those for young entrepreneurs:

There are dozens more! You could even aspire to the Queen’s Award for Enterprise. The best approach is to search for your particular industry and keep up to date with relevant e-newsletters and trade association news for award announcements. Trade associations love giving out awards and businesses/publications love to sponsor them too. So the selection is many and varied.

Most awards tend to be given out toward the end of the calendar year, so look out for applications opening from late Spring/Summer.

Don’t forget to plan your acceptance speech!

I should’ve added a word of warning at the beginning, once you start entering awards, you may find you can’t stop entering them! Persistence and celebrating success are two great traits key to running your own business. Good luck in carrying both!


Jeremy O’Hare is a Relationship Manager for the British Library’s Innovating for Growth programme, which provides £10,000 of fully-funded and tailored advice for businesses looking to grow. Since joining the British Library in 2005 he has worked with countless businesses, facilitating advice and research as well as providing workshops and information advice for start-ups and established businesses.

ERDF Logo Portrait Colour Web

Innovating for Growth is run by the British Library and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund

12 January 2015

Avoid catching a “Cash” Cold in 2015

We all know that prevention is better than cure.  So, as the New Year gets under way here is a financial fitness checklist to help make sure you avoid catching a “cash” cold.

Shopping stall


Take your 2015 diary and block time out for Cash.  You will need time for a weekly, monthly and quarterly “meeting” both for personal finance and business finance.  The first step in any project is setting the time aside and the trick with finance is to make it a routine.  This is so important, which is why I allocated a whole chapter in my book “Understanding your Business Finances” to establishing financial routines.

Personal Budget

One of the biggest causes of business failure is out of control director’s personal expense. I have seen it so many times trash otherwise successful businesses.  Sit down with your bank and credit card statements and work out a sensible budget.  Here is a good template from moneysavingexpert.

Directors’ Loan Account

If you run a limited company, you can’t just plunder the company bank account for personal expenses.  If you have a large balance owed to the company, you need to discuss it urgently.  There are significant tax penalties associated with this.

Terms of Trade

Make sure you have written Terms of Trade.  These set out your responsibilities, your customers and crucially, when you expect to get paid, and when ownership passes if you are selling goods.  If you haven’t got Terms of Trade, get a copy of your competitors to see what kinds of things are included.

Business Agreements

Do you have any business arrangements that aren’t in writing?  If so, confirm them by email and consider if they really should be in a legal agreement. I believe more cash is lost through bad documentation than any other reason.  This is especially true if you are undertaking a big project e.g. a database.  Again, I have seen this spiral out of control without documentation and agreed milestones.


When you register for VAT you become an unpaid tax collector.  However, it is then so easy to see lots of cash in the bank and think “Ok I can splash out!”  But it’s NOT your money.  You will need that money when you do your VAT return – so why not open separate bank account for VAT and transfer an estimate of what you owe on a regular basis.  That way you won’t get caught out.


When was the last time you reviewed your prices? 80% of companies don’t charge enough for what they do. Even a small increase in price can make a massive difference to profitability. Or perhaps mask a price increase by introducing a premium and budget range. 

Hire, Don’t Buy

Save cash by hiring equipment rather than buying. Yes, it may be more expensive to hire but you will conserve precious cash resources as compared with buying. 

Cash Flow Forecast 

Finally, make sure you have a cash flow forecast going out at least 9-12 months into the future.  This will give enough time to do something if the forecast shows the business is in danger of running out of money, either because things aren’t working out as anticipated, or the business is wildly successful but needs more working capital (money to fund stock and what’s owed by customers).  There is a free forecasting template available at  


If you do nothing else in 2015, at the very least set aside some time to look after your financial health and reduce the chance of catching a “cash” cold.


JmJohnny Martin FCA is an experienced Finance Director who now demystifies business numbers and jargon for business owners.  He is a partner at the British Library Business & IP Centre and runs a regular workshop Get Cash Flow Confident.  You can find his tools and templates and also his book “Understanding your Business Finances” at




07 January 2015

Business & IP Centre webinars - learning wherever you are

Here at the Business & IP Centre we strive to assist businesses looking to start up and grow in a number of ways: they can explore the research resources in our reading room, attend our events or book in for a 121 session to discuss their idea. One of the most popular services we offer are our workshops - run by centre staff and expert partners, they help start-ups, inventors and entrepreneurs get to grips with a number of crucial business areas, from intellectual property to social media. 

Most of our workshops are held onsite in our dedicated workshop rooms - however, we recognise that busy entrepreneurs aren't always able to make it into the Centre in person. So, like the businesses we see each day, we strive to be innovative, harness technology and adapt to our customers' needs, and therefore offer a programme of free online webinars accessible to anyone - in any location - from their computer. Alongside the National Network, the webinars are a way to reach beyond our presence in London; helping entrepreneurs across the country and even the world – we’ve had attendees from New York to Newcastle.

Attendees simply need to book online and log in on the day, and one of our team will talk you through an online presentation, with an opportunity to ask questions at the end.

Over the next few months, with funding from the Intellectual Property Office, we are running a series of intellectual property webinars, covering patents, designs and copyright. These webinars will introduce the different forms of intellectual property protection, guide attendees through searching for previous registrations, and show them how to protect their work. Wherever you are, if you've ever wanted to learn about IP while still in your PJs, these could be for you!

Webinars are displayed on our 'Workshops and Events' page - a taster of what's coming up online is below. 

  Webinar image

Introducing Patents

Friday 16 January 1pm – 2pm

A patent protects new inventions and covers how things work, what they do, how they do it, what they are made of and how they are made, and can be a key asset in business. This webinar will explain the basics behind patent protection and registration, and how to use internet databases and resources to search for patents. The session will include a live demonstration of a patent search to guide delegates through the process.


Introducing Registered Designs

Friday 13 February 1pm – 2pm

A registered design protects the appearance of a product. This webinar will explain the basics behind registered design protection and registration, and how to use internet databases and resources to search for designs. The session will include a live demonstration of a registered design search to guide delegates through the process.


Introducing Copyright

Friday 13 March 1pm – 2pm

Copyright protects original creations, from literary and artistic works to software. This webinar will explains the basics behind copyright protection, including eligible works, duration of protection, and an introduction to protecting and managing your copyright as well as using the work of others.


Sally Jennings on behalf of the Business & IP Centre


02 January 2015

Top tips for 2015: Build your business dreams


This blog article is written by the Business & IP Centre’s life /business coach and author, Rasheed Ogunlaru.

We tend to start each year with fresh hopes, goals, dreams, resolutions and aspirations. But often within a few weeks you can forget them, get side-tracked, lose momentum, enthusiasm or belief. However a few simple steps, actions and habits will help you to set effective goals, get confident, stay focused, take action and build momentum to progress toward them.


Rasheed’s Top Ten Tips life / business tips

  1. Clarity: know your skills, strengths, mission and values and work from them.

  2. Strategy: write or revise a SMART (specific, measurable, achievable and time scaled) 2 page strategy/ action plan for your business / life for the next 3-5 years.

  3. Priorities: Identify 2-3 clear specific essential priorities of what you want /need to achieve in 2015 keep these in mind every day so you stay on track.

  4. Flexibility: everything changes including our goals – be alert and adaptable.

  5. Creativity: be resourceful, seek solutions, always looks for ways to progress.

  6. Connectivity: get out and about in person and online - and build and develop a network of strong relationships to help you, customers and your contacts.

  7. Reliability: Always provide an excellent product / service – seek to excel.

  8. Personality: be positive, professional and memorable - stand out.

  9. Possibility: foster a positive mindset: believe in you, others and your product.
  10. Opportunity: be proactive seek opportunities and make them.


It’s not all about work to succeed you need balance and perspective. So it’s also important to take time out and have time for yourself, your health and for family, friend and fun.

Top Tip: I actually recommend you put this time in your diary first so that it actually happened. Finally also put in time to regularly step back and review where you are, where you’re heading and what needs addressing.

If you’re looking to set goals, get inspired, take action and boost your confidence and effectiveness in 2015, join Rasheed for his Soul Trader; your life, your business workshop workshop at the Library. Next dates: 10am-12.45 on 21 Jan, 19 Feb or 18 March.