SME Agony Uncle: Bobby Kerr answers all your business and work-related questions

Join Bobby on The Hard Shoulder every Tuesday, with thanks to Energia

Each week broadcaster, entrepreneur and agony uncle Bobby Kerr joins The Hard Shoulder to answer all your employment-related questions.

With the clocks dropping back and the dark setting in earlier every day, working from home might sound like the dream to many of us.

When it comes down to it though, the experience is often quite different and Bobby kicked off this week with a little warning for those of us hell bent on kicking that commute.

“When you think about working from home you have this vision of boutique coffees and secret cafés at bohemian hours in the afternoon,” he says.

“The reality is more like unnecessary lie-ins, wasting time on the internet, extraordinary heating bills and guess what? A snickers addition.”

We all act differently when left to our own devices and - according to recent research - when it comes to calculating the odds for success, gender might have a bigger role to play than you think.

“Women are much more likely to thrive and succeed at home because they embrace the flexibility,” says Bobby.

“But men suffer from a low confidence and flaky commitment - which is cited as influencing their behaviour.”

“Us men are flaky basically - we can’t really resist going out to the garden or walking.”

What's Bobby's thoughts on employees not completing notice periods?

While there may be little one can do when an employee refuses to honour a notice period - there are few things that are more frustrating for an employer.

For Bobby, this one is largely about respect - not only between a worker and the boss but between fellow employers.

“If you are the other employer who is attracting that person and you say I want you here on Monday or I am not giving you the job, that employee will do the exact same thing to you at another time,” he says.

“So I think you have to respect the notice as a employer.

"Otherwise it becomes a free for all and nobody has any standards around it."

Hi Bobby, I’ve worked as an accountant in a pretty small firm in the Midlands for about three years now. My job is pretty challenging and I like it but I know money is tight and I’d like to get further training.

I know both myself and the business would benefit from this - I’m not going anywhere soon.

But how do I convince my boss to pay for some training in risk assessment, audit etc.? William.

Bobby views this as a “good, sincere innovation from William” and if money is tight, this one is all about the approach.

“I think firstly he should tell his boss that he is committed to the business - be honest with him - and let him know that he would like some further education,” says Bobby.

After that it is all down to brass tacks - and the trick is to pick the right course and discuss how to get there without breaking the bank.

“Maybe pick a course first of all that they could split the costs on,” says Bobby.

“The other thing he could do is he could offer to repay the cost of some or all of the training should he decide to leave in one, two or three years.

“In other words he could scale it down and I think any reasonable employer should be delighted that a guy like William is saying, ‘I am putting my hand up, I am staying here and I want further training.’”

Bobby I’m attending a franchise exhibition show in the UK as I think I would like to get into business for myself. Have you any tips about how I can go about getting the best franchise?

The franchise game is not for everybody but for Bobby it offers a great way to fulfil your business ambitions, “with a bit of a safety net” behind you.

Rule number one is to make sure you are joining an industry that you are comfortable with - and that excites you.

After that it is about doing your research.

  • Is the franchise on offer the best in its class?
  • What are they offering?
  • Will they be behind you? Or in competition with you?
  • Are you getting your own territory?

After that it all comes down to the small print. The franchise agreement is a technical document and like any business contract, you need to be extremely careful about what you are agreeing to.

You can listen back to all of Bobby’s employment advice from Tuesday’s The Hard Shoulder here:

If you have a business or SME related query you would like answered - you can get in touch with Bobby each week by simply sending a short mail to agonyuncle@newstalk.com