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Archive for May, 2014

Clean toilets can make a difference

Inspiration and valuable lessons can be found inside your industry by comparing yourself to competitors. But, they can also be found outside of your industry and country.

As part of my continuing research on what makes businesses successful I came across a chain of gas stations in America that are doing really well by doing something remarkable to differentiate themselves. Their entire business and marketing plan is based on their toilets!

They pride themselves on how everyone is spotless, how big they are and how each one has a team of full-time attendants, who never stop cleaning, to keep them in tip-top shape. They even go to the trouble of putting artwork on the walls.

What’s interesting is that they have a third more toilets than petrol pumps.

And, crucially they know how to shout about it and focus on the toilet message. Texan motorway signs are full with Buc-ee’s billboards carrying clever slogans such as “Restrooms you gotta pee to believe” and “only 262 miles to Buc-ee’s – you can hold it”.

Buc-ee’s opened their first outlet in 1982 and by 2013 they had 28 stores, employing more than 1,000 people. At the time of writing they have 278 thousand Facebook fans and hundreds of YouTube videos. Remember, this is not a 5-start hotel, it’s a motorway station.

They have not achieved this success by offering the cheapest fuel; it’s all down to having the cleanest bathrooms. They’ve built an entire business on the fact that people need to the bathroom.

This is really smart and well worth paying attention to. Buc-ee’s have focused on what people dread most about stopping at a petrol station and transformed it into a positive experience.

Crucially, they have created something that people will talk about. They have created the remarkability factor because people “remark” about them. And, they have given people a good reason or people to drive a few miles just to see if everything they’ve heard is true.

What can you do in your business to get people talking?

Bookkeeping in the cloud

The Internet and new technology is changing the world and at Sackmans Accountants North London we are always looking to improve our service and deliver better value for money.

I like online software like Xero because the financial administration and bookkeeping can be split. Businesses can do their own invoicing and credit control, we can take care of everything else.

It’s vital that invoices are issued as quickly as possible and credit control is undertaken regularly. This is why I recommend this work remains the responsibility of the business.

However, Xero online billing and bank fees make this work quick and easy. You can build a list of inventory which means you can generate and send an invoice in seconds. When the invoice is paid and the money hits your bank the Xero bank feed will pick it up and put it into Xero for you. All you need to do is match the money to the invoice and click the OK button.

With online invoicing you send e-invoices to customers by email. The email has a link imbedded. This means that when a customer clicks the link and opens the invoice you know they have seen it. No more excuses about the invoice not being received!

You can also add a “Pay Now” button on the invoice and get paid faster. Figures from Xero suggest online invoicing will get you paid 33% quicker.

There are two ways of dealing the cost side of the business.

One option is that we provide you with a bookkeeping email address All you need to do is scan and email your invoices to us. You can even give the email address to your suppliers and they can email us directly.

We will enter the purchase invoices for you and check off the payments from your bank when the data comes through into your Xero bank feed.

The other option is that we do the bookkeeping directly from the bank feed. This means we will need to add an adjustment at the end of a period or year when we come to do the accounts. This is because you include all costs for the year against sales, not just what has been paid.

If you are interested in an all in service which includes bookkeeping, payroll, accounts and tax then prices start at just £200 plus VAT a month for up to 1,000 purchase invoices a year.

Being persuasive

Being persuasive is a key asset because as a business owner you will want people to do things for you.

You will want prospects to buy from you, and pay the full price. You will want existing customers to buy again and refer new customers. You will want employees to care about the business, follow your systems and put lots of effort and energy into their days work.

The truth is, some people (perhaps most of us) need motivating and it’s useful to have some strategies.

One way to motivate ourselves and others is to use fear. But, not too much because fear can paralyse like a dear or rabbit caught in the headlights of a car.

The fear that you can use could be the fear losing what they already have or of missing what you don’t yet have.

The other strategy is to use pleasure of keep what you already have or getting what you want. However, keep in mind that the research suggests that fear is twice as powerful.

Think about it, how much do you value making £50,000 more profit in your business and buying a second house, compared to making a loss and losing your current home?

Fear is an exceptionally powerful tool when it comes to influencing people to part with their money. It has been used to sell everything from bleach (who wants harmful germs taking over their bathroom) to anti-smoking products (using graphic adverts).

I am not reco0mmending you tell prospects that you are the only way to save them from some horrendous fate, but there are definitely ways in which you can tap into some extremely common human concerns.  And smart marketers use them all the time.

You are no doubt familiar with phrases such as ‘limited offer’, ‘while stocks last’ and ‘one-day sale’. And we’ve all seen offers and promotions that implore you to ‘act now’ before it’s too late. That is why a deadline is so important.

With your business, we may not be talking life or death but these phrases can work for you. This is because these strategies force people to make a decision. They compel people to take action or else miss out on a chance to save some money or get their hands on something they want.  It’s hardwired into human nature and is very powerful.

Think about how brands play on our fear of looking out of date and not being one of the ‘in-crowd”. This is why companies release slightly better upgraded products every year. They play on the fear of looking bad in front of others.

There are many ways for almost any business to use fear to their advantage. If you run an IT company, how scared are your prospects that a virus could wipe out all their data?

Fear can shift your positioning. It’s very hard to come across as desperate for the business, for instance, if you’re the one invoking the fear. Remember, nobody likes buying from someone who’s desperate. They key is to make your prospects desperate for your solution and then present it to them and they will buy.

New powers for the taxman

In this year’s budget the tax office is seeking powers to take money you owe direct from your bank account. You can read on page 53 of the Budget document which says:

The government will modernise and strengthen HM Revenue and Customs debt collection powers to recover financial assets from the bank accounts of debtors who owe over £1,000 of tax or tax credit debts, have the financial means to pay, and have been contacted multiple times by HMRC to pay. A minimum of £5,000 will be left across debtors’ accounts. This brings the UK in line with many other tax authorities which already have the power to recover debts directly from an individual’s account, such as France and the US.”

If you owe tax, the tax office will write to you requesting payment. If after being contacted four times you don’t pay they could use their new powers.

The restrictions are that:

a)      You must owe at least £1,000 in tax

b)      After taking money from your account you must be left with £5,000.

Currently, the tax office needs court approval to take money from your bank.

This wasn’t the only aggressive new power announced in the budget. The tax office can now take money out of your bank if they think you are using tax avoidance strategies that will fail in court. This means you are effectively guilty until you are proven innocent.

If the court rules in favour of the tax strategy, the tax office will return the money with interest.

What is really interestingly is that these rules effectively apply retrospectively. According to a Reuters article the British government estimates there are 65,000 outstanding tax avoidance cases.

Once again, no magistrate or judge ruling is required; the tax office will just be able to take the money.