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Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Self employed and happy

David Cameron commissioned Julie Dean OBE the founder of The Cambridge Satchel Company to carry out an independent review of what additional support could be provided to the growing number of self-employed people.

This could have been triggered by the concern that if the growth continues to be concentrated at the lower end of the income, then this could mean more people become eligible for the working element of tax credits, while the additional tax revenues that come with rising employment will be smaller.

The self-employed now account for 15% of the total UK workforce. At the start of 2016 there are an estimated 4.6 million people choosing to become self-employed.  According to research, 43% of self-employed people are now over 50 and 11% are under 30. The number of women choosing to become self-employed has grown. From 2009 women have accounted for more than half of the overall growth in the sector.

Recommendations following the review included:

  • Government should consider reviewing how well information on its official website signposts the self-employed to access the advice and support already available
  • More flexible mortgage solutions are needed for the self-employed, and trade organisations should play a key role in signposting these
  • The location and availability of shared work spaces should be better communicated, and consideration should be given to incorporating such spaces in local libraries and community centres

 

The reason for growth in the numbers of self-employed could be found in a study by think-tank Bright Blue. They found that self-employed people have much better levels of job satisfaction than employees.

Their report found that 80% of self-employed people were happy with their working life. This was even true for those who were classed as living in a ‘low income’ household, where the total earnings are less than 60% cent of the average household income.

Are you lacking digital skills?

2014 saw the 25th anniversary Tim Berners Lee’s World Wide Web, and with 2.4 billion users across the globe, it is still growing every day.

The 2015 UK Digital Index released this week by Lloyds Bank shows that now 77% of small and medium sized enterprises have basic digital skills[1] partly due to increasing accessibility; getting online is easier now that ever.

Technological advances have made it much easier to get an affordably, high quality tablet or smartphone on the high street, which will allow you to connect your database of business files to the internet, using cloud based technologies. You have access to Skype, to conduct business meetings remotely, and you can connect with your target market and monitor trends through social media platforms.

The Business Digital Index describes the future of these schemes, “Go ON UK will extend its network to a wider group of partners from all sectors, coordinating a nationwide effort to reduce digital exclusion.

Government will support this role and, together with public, private and VCSE (Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise) partners, will sign up to the UK’s Digital Inclusion Charter and actively support each local programme.”[2]

There is a focus on the community, and on establishing networks of start-ups and small business locally that will benefit individuals, highlighting area for improvement in digital capability and putting into place steps to achieve goals in getting your business online. “Saving time is a key benefit to organisations who adopt digital, but those who are less digital are missing out through reluctance to appreciate the benefit or invest the time to gain the longer term efficiencies.”[3]

Once you have developed core skills in becoming digitally literate, your opportunities expand and you will be able to negotiate the World Wide Web to save you time and allow you to focus on other parts of the business.

However, with all the successes of the last 25 years, there are still more than 1 million people who lack the skills and confidence to get their business online. The success of regional schemes such as Go ON UK, a partnership organisation that offers advice, online forums, community groups and events has inspired a new push for digital inclusion nationally in business. The resources on the website cater for every size of team, allowing you to pinpoint the tools and informations most useful to you and your business. This network of support exists to highlight the benefits of being online.

Other schemes include BT’s Get IT Together campaign, which works with those who have not had access to the internet. Their advice is tailored to individual needs, with informations and skills training through Citizen’s Advice to give all many people as possible new opportunities to use the internet. The guide to getting online can be downloaded and printed off, allowing you to take in the internet at your own speed. The programme also offers support in online safety to make sure you protect your personal details.

Government run schemes such as The Business Exchange offer a platform for linking startups and large corporations. “By making it easier for the small business community to understand and take advantage of the range of pledges on offer from big businesses, this site will open up a whole new world of opportunity to british entrepreneurs.”[4]  These pledges can include financial support and investment or guidance and assistance in how to grow your business.

The internet is a tool for you to use to your advantage in which ever ways is most suited to your business. These schemes allow you to see the potential for building your business online and give you the motivation to look into the future of the possibilities for growth. Even if you only choose to host your business profile online so that customers and find you easily and contact you hassle-free, it will have a huge impact on your business. This wealth of knowledge at your fingertips means that you can see what everyone else is doing, monitoring the market to adapt your own products and services to stay on top. Connecting with community business networks can offer advice and services of local people that will save you time and money later on.

The internet will continue to grow. New developments in conducting business online are opening up opportunities and new platforms for trade are emerging. It is an exciting time to be in business and as much as you need the internet, it also needs you. Without new, interesting ideas the world of online

Giving and getting

On-Track is a service where I work one-to-one with business owners to help them grow sales, increase margins and boost cashflow.

There are different elements to On-Track including:

  • Helping create a budget with targets
  • Performance reporting
  • Regular meetings
  • Suggestions and ideas

 

Many of the suggestions and ideas I put forward are based on what I see working for other business, including my own.

I have been researching different approaches to marketing and one of these is called The Purple Cow – a book by Seth Godin. Basically, the idea is to innovate around your product and come up with something “remarkable” so it’s worth talking about.

Remarkable services and products get people talking and can be a key part of your Word Of Mouth Marketing strategy. This is much better than spending lots of money promoting what you do.

An example of business that has done this is TOMS shoes. They run a one-for-one program where every time someone buys a pair of shows they give one to a child in need.

I really like this because it links the giving to the product and it gives a reason to consider buying TOMS shoes rather than other brands.

I’ve decide to do this myself via B1G1. Now, I do not sell shoes but I do encourage clients to refer me and when they do I give a goat. This provides HIV free milk and revenue to a family in need. A client referred me last week and when they found out about this they were amazed.

So far, Sackmans North London has donated:

  • 2 domestic animals to Kenyan families to provide them with an income
  • 10 children education support for a day
  • 10 children a school uniform
  • 10 people medical support
  • 357 people access to clean water for a day

 

I’m looking to expand the campaign and will include “giving” and “b1g1” in the On-Track service.

If you like an On-Track Review click here.

Boost cashflow and reduce hassle

Good news for small businesses, PayPal will be launching a portable chip and PIN device soon.

Using the brand name “Here” the small device can be used anywhere in combination with a smartphone via Bluetooth.

Aimed at small businesses, who have normally had to rely on cash and cheque, Here enables them to accept PayPal, debit and credit cards wherever they are.

This could be on your market stall, shop, restaurant or taxi. You could even take money from someone you meet in the pub!

You could start to have a mobile sales force or have multiple tills.

Businesses will also be able to use the PayPal Here to log cash/cheques and send invoices and receipts. And, because PayPal links to Xero Accounting Software the bookkeeping process is streamlined.

The really good news is that unlike traditional chip and PIN devices, PayPal Here does not require a contract or ongoing fees. There will be an upfront cost and a small fee per transaction like when using PayPal online.

Could this be a “game changer” for small businesses?

PayPal Here will let you offer your customers another way to pay while saving them the hassle of taking cash and cheques to the bank.

It is also more secure uses fully encrypted Chip and PIN technology and is backed by our world-class risk and fraud management systems. So, you and your customers can get on with doing business, knowing that all financial information is kept secure.

To register when PayPal Here goes live click here.

What is a good LinkedIn update?

As traditional marketing becomes less effective I have decided to embrace Inbound Marketing.

Part of Inbound Marketing is Sackmans using Social Media like LinkedIn more actively.

Questions on my mind include:

  • How many updates a day should I post?
  • What makes a good status update?

 

I have done some research and thought I’d share my thoughts just in case others find it useful.

My take is that a maximum of two updates a day in the accepted LinkedIn etiquette and here is what I will be posting:

Project updates
I work on some interesting issues and these may provide insights to others.

Content links
I am committed to creating useful content for business owners.

Examples are:

  • Blog posts like the Rasing Finance Series
  • Permission Based Marketing training
  • Improving the Numbers Website
  • Links to useful articles on other Websites
  • Announcements of events

 

I can post that I am working on some new content so people know what is coming.

And, when the content goes live I will do another update and do a link to it.

Good news
I will share my good news via LinkedIn.

This can include:

  • News about sackmans
  • Client successes
  • Sackmans winning a new client
  • Getting referrals and testimonials

 

Giving updates
I have signed up with B1G1 a company that enables me to give to worthy causes as part of my day-to-day work.

My commitment is that as my business benefits other people do.

For example, anoyone that connects to me on LinkedIn will trigger me to give clean water for a day to a someone in Etheopia.

Warnings
I do a lot of reading and research and sometimes come across information that business owners may not be aware of.

What I will not post
This is what I will not do:

  • Tell you personal things
  • Continually promote myself

 

I hope you found this post useful and remember, connect to me on LinkedIn click here.

£45m cyber tax attack

I’ve been warning clients for years about the dangers of a tax investigation and developed a service to protect and support clients.

Many think that the whole point of the Self Assessment tax system (which was introduced in 1997) is to focus more resources on tax investigations. It is common knowledge that the taxman sometimes spys on businesses before it attacks them.

In the old days Tax Inspectors counted the number of people visiting a business and used this information to check the sales. If the bookkeeping didn’t show all the sales for that day then the taxman would argue that this was the case for everyday. The problem is that when the taxman spots a mistake you are on the back foot.

Today the taxman has access to lots of information and they are now spying on people using technology.  HMRC’s crawler technology is based upon an elaborate (almost militarised) £45m computer system designed by leading defence contractor BAE Systems. The software is supposed to work by creating ‘spidergrams’ of people’s social media and email habits, then analysing their shapes to determine likelihood of offences.

If you want to make sure you are covered, call me about our Tax Investigation Service.

Sources of finance

As Accountants North London we are always looking for what makes businesses survive and thrive.

According to a recent report “Success in challenging times”…successful businesses are likely to have more than one source of funding. This post explores the various sources of finance available to a start-up.

Interestingly, according to the report only 29% of business funding now comes from banks. The attitude towards banks by business owners ranges from disappointment to contempt.

Small businesses with relatively few employees are now likely to use Credit Cards and personal/family savings. According to the report, savings account for 39% of business funding.

Remortgaging personal property is another option along with other traditional sources including:

  •  Business Angels
  • Venture Capital finance
  • Grant
  • Leasing
  • Factoring
  • Invoice Discounting

 

However, recently other forms of funding are being considered including crowdfunding and pension funding.

Crowdfunding is where a group of people invest in your business via a Website. An example is www.KickStarter.com

Pension funding involves creating your own pension scheme so you have control over your pension fund. An entrepreneur who was turned down by the Dragon’s Den used his pension fund to get £30,000 into his company. He is now looking at £250,000 of sales of his heated Rugby Gloves.

Different business should consider different types of funding. For example, a restaurant could consider investment of £5,000 20 friends and family. Not only does this give the business £100,000 there are 20 highly motivated people who are keen that their friends, family and businesses use the restaurant.

Many Golf Courses are funded this way by offering Debentures. This gives the owner the right to play the golf course for life with paying fees.

The seven key success factors

The report “Success in challenging times” found that successful businesses:

  • Are likely to use more than one source of finance to both start and sustain their business.
  • Proactively monitor their cash flow and liquidity
  •  Consider direct referrals and Search Engine Optimisation as central to their success
  •  Are willing to find new ways of doing things and encourage their employees to think and behave innovatively
  •  Believe that learning gives them competitive advantage
  •  Are more willing to seek external advice
  •  Have the flexibility to adapt to changing market conditions

 

At Sackmans we can help with all seven factors. Specifically, we can:

  • Help businesses source business finance and train/coach them how to manage their cashflow and liquidity more effectively.
  • Show you how to develop referral strategies based on what works well in other businesses.
  • Share knowledge of best practice of SEO and introduce you to a Website company that can design/build you a SEO friendly Website.
  • Work with you to implement strategies to get your employees to innovate
  • Provide advice on a wide range of topics from developing a business strategy to pricing
  • Help you find outsourcing partners so you have more flexibility

 

As Accountants North London, if you are a start-up looking for an we have our Ignition Programme for you. If you are an established business we have On-Track.

What is success?

The last year has seen the highest level of start-ups since the last recession. In 2011/12 there were over 450,000 new businesses registered.

However, the unfortunate reality is most of these ventures are unlikely to be a success; new businesses have a high failure rate. Some do not even survive their first year and only a minority will make it past five years.

At Sackmans we have a service designed especially for start-ups and young businesses.  The service is called Ignition and the objective is to increase success rates of the businesses by sharing knowledge.

With this in mind we carry out extensive research into critical success factors. This post and others are based on what we have taken by a report “Success in challenging times” published by the University of Surrey and Top 20 accountants Kingston Smith. The report is based on over 1,000 business owners and managers to share their views. This makes it one of the biggest ever in small businesses in the UK.

It was agreed that although it was good to have dreams, the key to success for businesses was financial success; specifically maintaining cash flow. This includes not growing too fast, as this can suck cash too quickly out of the business. Many businesses which are profitable go bust because of lack of cashflow.

There were other financial definitions of success including:

  • Achieve recurring revenues
  • Growth
  • Creating shareholder value

 

However, for some success was also based upon non-financial measures such as:

  •  A sense of fulfilment or challenge
  •  Building a lifestyle business and work-life balance
  •  Enhanced reputation
  •  Being seen as making a contribution to society

 

At the beginning of the Ignition Programme we encourage business owners to think and define for themselves how they will determine their success. Getting to breakeven is survival, that is a necessity but what is success for you?

Once you have this you can measure against in.

The 10 benefits of Cloud Computing

The growth of cloud computing is astounding. According to Gartner’s recently published research 50% of enterprises will have some form of Cloud strategy by 2015.

The reasons for this phenomenal growth are many. Here are the reasons we can think of:

1. Mobile working
There is a trend to mobile working, many of us have our main computer but also work on a laptop, iPad and/or phone. With Cloud systems your data and systems will be accessible from anywhere they have Internet access – at work, at home, or on the road.

One of the ways to be more productive is to use transition time. So, if you are in-between jobs or meetings you can be productive.

With Cloud Computing, your employees can work with your information from wherever they are and from any device. As we will see later, Xero is an accounting system and employees can enter their expenses direct.

2. Lower costs
For growing companies limited by finances, cloud computing brings some down-to-earth benefits. One of the most important is that Cloud Computing helps businesses cut costs by sharing resources.

Most businesses have a high degree of variability in their use of IT resources. Yet when you manage these resources in-house, you must allow for the highest expected requirements or fail to meet the demands of your customers and the needs of your employees. The result is that, typically, businesses use only 5% to 15% of the capacities of their servers.

But in the cloud, you don’t pay for idle capacity. So you don’t need to provide full-time resources to meet spikes in demand. This cuts costs but you’ll also be able to reduce the expense of maintaining your current in-house IT infrastructure. With Cloud Computing, the majority of this maintenance will now be done at and by your Cloud service provider.

3. Less capital tied up
Because you are, in effect, renting instead of buying technology, you convert capital investments to operating expenses.

Capital expenditures are reduced because you no longer need to buy hardware to update obsolete servers and because there are no longer large up-front expenses in the form of hefty software licenses.

4. Monthly payments
Instead you pay a smaller and more predictable monthly service fee, typically 30% to 50% less than your total cost of IT today. This allows you to spread out your costs, and eases your cash flow.

5. Scalability
Another major benefit of Cloud Computing is scalability  When needed, you can scale your capacity up or down according to your needs without having to worry about purchasing, or disposing of, servers or storage.

In the cloud, storage, and processing power are not issues as the service providers add more servers or shift load from one server to another to provide additional capacity. Thus, as your business grows, your systems will scale smoothly from a handful of people to hundreds or more.

6. Automatic data back-up
Cloud storage is very beneficial. When your systems are hosted in the Cloud, both server data and that on your desktops and laptops will be backed up automatically and securely on a consistent and timely basis. This ensures increased reliability and saves users from the threat of losing unrecoverable data on their computers.

7. Business continuity
If your business has a fire or theft it can be a real struggle to get back up. With Cloud you buy new devices and you are ready to go.

Slightly less dramatic, we’ve all seen the problems the weather can cause for people getting to work. Once again, with Cloud systems people can work from home accessing their personal and business data, just as if they’d been sitting at their desks.

8. Sustainability
Cloud Computing also uses less energy than traditional server rooms. This is important to the many companies committed to sustainability. By sharing resources in the Cloud, instead of buying more hardware, you can reduce your carbon footprint.

One less server put into service is one less server consuming electricity. The collective benefit accrued through millions of companies switching to cloud computing is immense and is considered a responsible business practice by most environmental groups.

9. Regular updates
Because Cloud systems are not hosted locally, it is easy to update the software.

The attitude of Cloud vendors is to constantly improve the software and any bugs or fixed can be corrected immediately with the minimum amount of hassle.

10. Collaboration
You can work with people using Cloud. This can be customers, suppliers, co-workers and advisers.

As accountants North London this means we can work with clients all over the UK.