Raising finance for your business: Where to start

Raising finance for your business: Where to start

To help you kick-start your business, there are several ways in which to raise finance to get your idea underway or to further accelerate your growth. At the time of writing, these are the most common routes to explore for finance. However, new offerings for finance are constantly evolving in line with financial innovations – so it is recommended to keep a close eye on what is happening. For now, these are the recommended routes, meaning that you don’t have to rely exclusively on traditional avenues, such as banks, to raise funds:

KEEP IT IN THE FAMILY

When transforming a new idea into a business, many people first go to their friends and family to help raise funds. Whilst many start-ups do this to help fund their new venture, it is recommended that you seek legal advice to ensure that you capture all aspects of the agreement in writing. This could be a simple contract between parties, including a detailed business plan and financial forecast for their review.

This will help to prevent challenges that may appear in the future, protecting your business and the investments of your friends and family. Most importantly, it will help you to maintain your personal relationships.

BUSINESS ANGEL INVESTMENT

Angel Investments is a means for private and industry investors to explore opportunities to use their personal finance in exchange for shares in your business. Their expectation is usually for a return on their investment between three and eight years.

The good news here is that Angel Investors typically play an active role in your business, offering support and guidance to your strategy and plan. Obviously, then, an investor familiar with your industry would in most cases be the best choice.

For more information, the UK Business Angels Association, here, is a good place to start.

CROWDFUNDING

One option, rather than asking a few people to contribute large sums, is to ask a large amount of people to each invest smaller amounts. This is known as Crowdfunding and can appear in different forms:

• Equity is when the investment is exchanged for shares or for a stake in the business.

• Debt is when the money is provided with the view to receive money back with interest.

• Donations are for when people believe in your idea and base their contribution on their belief in that cause. Donors will expect nothing in return for their provision of funds.

GRANT AND LOANS FOR START-UPS

The government aims to accelerate the UK economy and as such provides grants and loans for businesses.

Grants are where a portion of taxpayers’ money each year is saved to drive new business ideas. With the money offered nationally, you will need to apply so that the government can assess whether you are eligible for the grant.

Start Up loans are provided through a government scheme aimed at entrepreneurs, with the average loan estimated at £6,000. Applications can go to £25,000 however, supported by twelve months of business mentoring. The loan must be paid back within five years, typically with an interest rate of 6%.

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What is GDPR and how will it impact your business?

What is GDPR and how will it impact your business?

With the General Data Protection Regulation regime coming into force in the UK from 25 May 2018, key changes will be introduced to the way personal data is handled. The question, therefore, is whether your business is prepared for the forthcoming change. It is important first to understand the requirements of the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), which is now concerned about misinformation being shared in the media. The following outlines the key features of the change, with a view to how you can prepare.

What is GDPR and why is it necessary?

The purpose of GDPR is to reflect the importance of safeguarding individual personal data in the digital age. Currently, the maximum fine for a breach of data protection law is half a million, whereas, under GDPR, this will increase to a maximum of £17 million or, if higher, 4% of worldwide annual turnover. Key also to mention is the negative public implications for failure to protect personal data.

The areas to consider are:

– Those who are “controllers” and “processors” of data within your company

– The principles of data protection

– Accountability and governance

– New rights for data subjects

– Data security breaches

What is affected?

The definition of personal data is expanded under GDPR and includes a range of online identifiers, such as IP addresses, as well as sensitive personal data coming under special categories as genetic data and biometric data. Data relating to criminal convictions and offences are not included, although there are extra new safeguards relating to how the information is processed.

Who is affected?

GDPR will affect anyone handling personal data, from customer and employee records, through to manual data, regardless of where this information is stored – be it in a filing cabinet or digitally accessed via a laptop or computer – This applies to both “Controllers and Processors”.

A controller is defined as someone who is in charge of how and why personal data is being processed. A processor acts on behalf of the controller to process the data. It may be that, in a business, this role is fulfilled by the one person.

For the processor, this means that, in order to remain compliant with GDPR, they now need to keep records of how they process personal data and they can now be held legally responsible for breaches of security.

Principles of data protection

Personal data must be:

– Processed lawfully, fairly, and transparently

– Collected for specified, explicit, and legitimate purposes

– Adequate, relevant, and limited to what is necessary for the purpose

– Kept in an identifiable format for no longer than is necessary

– Processed securely and protected from unauthorised or unlawful processing, accidental loss destruction or damage.

Accountability and Governance

Companies must be able to demonstrate how an organisation is GDPR compliant and, implementing the required technical and organisational measures. These include data protection policies such as:

– Internal audits of processing activities

– HR policies review

– Employee training and adherence to policies

– The conducting of Data Protection impact assessments and, in some cases, the appointment of a Data Protection Officer (DPO). Note, a DPO becomes a legal requirement in public authorities and in organisations carrying out large-scale processing of special categories of data.

New Rights

The new rights that have been outlined for individuals cover the following points:

1. The Right to be Informed – providing a privacy notice giving details of how information is being processed and controlled.

2. The Right of Access – providing clients with the option to request details of how their information is being held, for which the company has a maximum of 30 days to deal with the request, under a chargeable fee of £10.

3. The Right to Rectification – such that any inaccurate data will be corrected.

4. The Right to Erasure – the right to be forgotten such that the client can request data to be deleted.

5. The Right to Restrict Processing – such that data can be stored but not processed.

6. The Right to Data Portability – such as to obtain and reuse personal data across different services, allowing the movement, copy or transfer of personal data, provided that it is in a structured format.

7. The Right to Object – such that processing of personal data must stop immediately unless there are compelling and legitimate grounds for processing.

8. Rights in relation to automated decision making and profiling, ensuring safeguards are in place to protect against damaging decisions taking without human intervention.

Lastly, when there are breaches of data security, the ICO must be informed within 72 hours, with all organisations having a plan for how to cope with and to resolve the situation.

Given that the requirements of GDPR are complex and do not exactly offer a quick fix, don’t run the risk of incurring significant penalties, please contact us for more support.

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Five obsessions to help optimize your small business online

Five obsessions to help optimize your small business online

It can be daunting for a small business starting out or looking to grow “online”. The general perception of how to increase your online presence may be the need for deep pockets – with which you can handle funding PPC, SEO, SMM, and marketing campaigns. However, it really shouldn’t be so scary. To help, here are five obsessions to help optimize your business online.

The Customer

Whether you are just getting started, or have been in business for a long time, ensuring that the needs of your customers remain at the heart of all you do is the way to drive real success.

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon states, “If you’re truly obsessed about your customers … it will cover a lot of your other mistakes.” Becoming customer-obsessed must come from your company’s culture and value proposition – for example, to truly improve your customer experience and loyalty. Appealing to your customers by delivering what they want, when they need it, should come as a priority.

Service

As soon as your customer has made the decision to click to order your product or service online – regardless of your brand – the marketing activity and PR for your product should become your main focus.

When it comes to delivering a high-quality service, it is essential to consider all aspects of the service, from the way the product is packaged and delivered to how any returns and complaints are handled.

By being service obsessed, you can be sure always to exceed customer expectations.

Quality

The most successful businesses are not just driven by their levels of creativity, but by being producers of quality products, based on customer feedback. Beyond your product or service, you can internalise quality packaging, simple usability and prompt responses to customer queries.

Content

To build your brand online, being obsessed with high-quality, compelling content on your company blog is key to increasing interest. This needs to be on-going, and consistently aligned with both your brand or culture and what you deliver to your customers. Compelling content can help improve your customer experience and can provide a source of amusement and entertainment that puts your brand at its heart.

Writing compelling posts has nothing to do with your level of experience, or whether or not you’re a native English speaker. It’s about how you make readers feel. That’s why every writer of your content must be creative, imaginative, and innovative.

Innovation

Any business that stands still is likely to be out of business in the near term. Being obsessed with driving innovation is critical for your business’s growth. In the words of Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them … by the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”

Innovation is the key to driving new ideas and products that will gain the most attention online. Your business will require a level of commitment to experiment and test new ideas. Jeff Bezos states, “If you double the number of experiments you do per year, you’re going to double your inventiveness.”

By being obsessed with these five areas, it will help you increase your success. And by being obsessed, your obsession becomes such a driving factor that your work remains your passion – the highest level of drive to make any business succeed.

“If you build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.”

Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO

 

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Reasons why you should consider an apprenticeship for your business

Reasons why you should consider an apprenticeship for your business

Whether your business is small or large, the opportunity to embrace an apprentice into your team is readily available, yet rarely taken by small businesses.

They are available to large and small firms, with the former (per a wage bill more than £3 million) being subject to a mandatory Apprenticeship Levy, and the latter being entitled to the co-invested scheme, and possibly additional funded support (employing fewer than 50 employees).

From May 2017, companies not paying the Levy will pay 10% towards the cost of the co-investment scheme, and the Government pay the other 90%. You can search for the most relevant and beneficial courses and training providers by visiting find apprenticeship training. Once you are ready to move forward and recruit, you can post vacancies on recruit an apprentice for free. By doing this, the vacancy will also be advertised on other popular recruitment sites, enabling your post to reach even more potential candidates.

As a Levy-paying business, you must register with the Apprenticeship Service to be able to access the funds and spend them on relevant training. Apprenticeships are an increasingly attractive option for businesses of all sizes wanting to bring new talent and ideas into their teams.

Here are a few reasons why:

1. Increase the size of your team while keeping staff and recruitment costs down

The average apprentice must be paid at least the minimum wage during training, but the salary will increase in conjunction with training progress and accreditation. This provides a low-cost option to grow your business team with staff developed and trained to best suit the company’s needs.

2. Develop new talent to meet your needs

By recruiting from the apprentice pool, there are so many options in which to coach, develop and mould, to meet the needs of your business. Naturally, this is a balanced against a limited amount of experience in the work force. However, by focussing on the key needs of your business and teaching business processes from the start, it can lead to an apprentice’s own innovative ideas to surface in time.

3. Give your team new skills, energy and time

Having an apprentice join your busy team can offer flexibility for existing employees and free-up time to focus on more involved and high-profile tasks with more responsibility.

4. Provide young people with a career opportunity

An apprenticeship offers a young person the opportunity to start a career in a sector of their choosing, and to help a business to grow with skills needed for the future. Providing this nurturing opportunity can help increase employee loyalty, and hold on to highly skilled staff which you can continue to invest in and up-skill.

“productivity in their workplace had improved by 76% whilst 75% reported that apprenticeships improved the quality of their product or service”

National Apprenticeship Service Report


For more information please contact us and we can help you get started.

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Top 3 Barriers to Smash for Business Success

Top 3 Barriers to Smash for Business Success

There are more than ½ million new start-ups each year, with last year alone having a record number of 657,790, as found by the Centre for Entrepreneurs (CFE). However, almost shockingly, it is estimated that 1 in 5 of those will fail in the first year, and more than half will fail in the first 5 years.

Although there is a vast array of technology available to aid drive business performance and scale, the same re-occurring barriers are the ones taking their small business victims. The following article will consider the top three barriers to small business success.

Running out of money – Cashflow

As with all small businesses, whether established or new, there is a huge focus on accelerating business growth, and finding your first of many new clients. However, the need to win at all costs can have detrimental impact on various aspects of your business.

This may include payment terms becoming longer than anticipated, margins not being maximised and project scope creeping wider, to name but a few. It is key for the longevity of your business to ensure that you are on top of increasing overheads, managing the flow of preferential credit and payment terms such that it benefits your business rather than your supplier. Having a positive cash-flow is the first barrier to smash.

Losing your best people

Staff retention is key to the success of any business, and being able to hold onto talented, committed people is no easy task. It can be especially difficult in growth markets where the potential rewards with a competitor may be highly attractive, making it vital to offer appealing package remuneration to aid staff retention. This could be achieved with share options, equity, bonuses, healthcare, pensions and more.

It may be prudent to consider other means of reward which are not just payment related, but also recognition. This may encourage your top staff to take on more challenging and exciting opportunities within the business and not look elsewhere.

With recruitment costs being an added expense for any company, retaining good people is key to building a solid foundation for your business. Having positive referrals from current staff and customers can also help to keep a healthy pipeline of talent, not only for today but also for future succession and expansion planning for your company. A solid recruitment and staff retention plan is key to ongoing success.

Not knowing your business

It goes without saying that knowing your numbers on your business is key to success. Also, being passionate about what you do and how you do it. The adage “the shoe maker should stick to making shoes” has never been so appropriate, and knowing your market, having the expertise around you as well as being tight in terms of knowing your daily business’s performance will be a step in the right direction to avoid the pitfalls.

If you do not have all the answers, then take external advice from professionals who are experienced in your field to help make the right decisions on time consuming and complex areas like fundraising, intellectual property, and staff incentivisation.

Smashing these three barriers will help your business survive, and keeping to these business practices will in turn help your business thrive.

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Why the Making Tax Digital delay shouldn’t stop you moving to the Cloud

Why the Making Tax Digital delay shouldn’t stop you moving to the Cloud

Making Tax Digital (“MTD”) continues to be a hot topic, especially after the Government’s recent announcement of a delay to the proposed start date. However, just because the timetable has been pushed back, now is not the time for businesses to be complacent – in fact, there couldn’t be a better time to consider moving to a digital accounting system.

Last month, the Government announced that it had deferred the introduction of MTD – the HMRC initiative that aims to completely digitise the tax system for all businesses and individuals with a secondary income in excess of £10,000. The original proposal called for MTD to be rolled out by 2020, marking the end for the established annual tax return, in favour of a new, quarterly reporting regime. Under the revised plan, only businesses with a turnover above the VAT threshold (currently £85,000) will need to keep records digitally from 2019 and then only for VAT purposes. Other businesses will not be required to keep digital records until at least 2020.

Some may be tempted to postpone their plans to digitise until MTD becomes mandatory, but this could be an opportunity lost. When it comes to migrating over to a cloud system, it can take a while to get used to the software, train up on how to use it and spend time with your accountant making sure your system delivers what it needs to. MTD is on its way, whether we like it or not and HMRC’s expectation is that all businesses will be required to utilise appropriate software by the time MTD becomes mandatory. Whilst this is at least two years away, there could well be a spike in demand for MTD-compliant software as we get closer to the deadline, so can your business afford to be caught up in the rush, as well as having to deal with the transitional issues?

On a positive note, the right cloud accounting system should prove an invaluable tool for business owners – 24/7, real time access to your financial data, snap shots of your business performance from any internet-connected device, seamless collaboration with your accountant and no need for separate backups.

Digital is not the future, it is very much now and it will give your business a cutting edge. If you are interested in hearing more about cloud accounting, contact us today to find out more!

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Small Business – Three Simple Business Rules

Small Business – Three Simple Business Rules

With the wealth of business advise available, it can seem over-whelming and complex to understand for businesses, here are three simple business rules to get you started:

First Rule: Make sure customers pay you on time and its true value.

It is estimated 4 out of 5 small businesses are owed money from customers, amplified to approximately £6.9bn owed across the UK.

This figure is unbelievable but when you click down into the detail you can see in parts where it can be prevents.

– Consider running credit checks on your clients through several third party solutions can provide a credit worthiness score to use in your discussions.

– Look at your payment terms. With the current capabilities in online payment platforms, there is no reason why payment cannot be paid on work completion, even better upfront, rather than 90 to in some cases 180 days payment terms. Waiting to be paid 90 days or more after work completion has all the hallmarks of cash flow problems.

– Make sure what you charge is a true value of what is being delivered. There are several examples of businesses not increasing their prices even after 3 years or more. Have a detailed internal costing, bottom up assessment of your pricing and then to forecast aligned to your growth target the price increase required.

– Naturally with all services and competitive markets, consider price elasticity when testing increasing what you charge customers.

Second Rule: Systemise what you do to help drive scale

Building a business is about being able to scale your idea and business without relying on you personally.

The way to do this is to build on systemisation of your business rather than relying on people, such that your business is not a job only for you whereby you are imprisoned within it, drowning in your own sweat equity, but instead to have systems and processes that allow anyone to work in it and thereby driving scale.

The true difference between being self-employed, having a business and being an entrepreneur is whether the business can work without you, per the concepts from business author Michael E. Gerber – The E-Myth revisited.

Third Rule: Allocate time to plan your business

Consider what the vision is for your business and allocate the time to plan in line with that vision.

There can be a thought of planning is a “last on the list to do” for many business owners, but without proactively making the time to plan and review business vision and strategy, can be damaging to the medium to long term.

To help plan make sure you have systems in place to monitor progress against targets, not just on turnover etc, but more predictive indicates such as lead generation, customer feedback and more.

“by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Benjamin Franklin

 

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Three steps to brand building

Three steps to brand building

Whether you’re a start-up or a small to large enterprise business, the power of your brand can make the difference between companies surviving and thriving.  How you go about developing your brand needs to form part of your overall strategy versus being an after-thought.  Overtime the brand you develop will be part of the value for what the business is worth.

A brand is centered on the emotions you wish customers to think about you, how they will describe you and includes characteristics of your business, demonstrated through everything you and your team do, from talking to customers to preparing content to share.

There are many advice channels online to help in building a brand, but to keep it simple, we have boiled it down to the three corner stones:

1. What’s the Business Mission?

Being clear on what you want for the business to achieve in the long term is the clarity needed to start formulating the brand identify, being clear and concise as well as a story to help those around you connect with your mission.

As an example, take the inspirational mission statement of Amazon:

“It’s our goal to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online”. 

Reading through, it is inspirational, clear and concise as to what the business aims to achieve.  It is also calling out what the business wants to be known for, in this case being customer centric and providing variety of choice of goods.

Once you have your mission statement, the key step is to communicate it to the wider world and making sure your marketing channels are aligned and your people truly believe and share the mission with confidence and that it can be delivered, e.g. expertise, value for money, speed, efficiency.

2. Research and Protect your Brand

Clearly understand who your customers are and what’s important to them from the brand.  Ask existing clients and employees what they feel about the brand from their experience to-date, forming part of your market research.  With the fast pace of opinions being shared on social media it is important to monitor comments and respond to customers accordingly and in doing so protecting your brand at all cost.

A great example of protecting the brand and in doing so going the extra mile for customers was Virgin Media, when after a husband who thought he had lost a voicemail recording of his late wife he had kept for more than 10 years, described the moment the telecoms giant restored it as “wonderful”.  It took the company a team of 11 engineers and three days to track down; however, the positive impact via social media was warm felt and shared globally. A situation that if one turned a blind eye could’ve had serious negative brand impact.

3. Build the Brand and Visual identity

Bring your brand to life through creating a solid first impression. Don’t rush or try this yourself as it is recommended to work with a designer to help with the logo. Once defined, roll out the identity, look and feel into all you do, the vehicles driven, uniform, email signatures, tone of voice in all communications linked to the brand identity etc.  To ensure your brand consistently delivers customer value, translate this into the end to end customer journey, having an easy to navigate customer website, easy to navigate and purchase items, supported by response to queries and after sales care.

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Minimum wage increase

Minimum wage increase

Employers need to ensure they are paying their employees at least the appropriate National Minimum Wage (NMW) or National Living Wage (NLW) rate. The rates increased from 1 April 2017.

  From 1 October 2016 From 1 April 2017
NLW rate for workers aged 25 and over £7.20* £7.50
the main rate for workers aged 21-24 £6.95 £7.05
the 18-20 rate £5.55 £5.60
the 16-17 rate for workers above school leaving age but under 18 £4.00 £4.05
the apprentice rate ** £3.40 £3.50
* introduced and applies from 1 April 2016

**for apprentices under 19 or 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship

Going forward the NMW and NLW rates will be reviewed annually in April.

What are the penalties for non-compliance?

The penalties imposed on employers that are in breach of the minimum wage legislation are 200% of arrears owed to workers. The maximum penalty is £20,000 per worker. The penalty is reduced by 50% if the unpaid wages and the penalty are paid within 14 days. HMRC also name and shame employers who are penalised.

Read more

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2018 Tax Year – the perfect time to ride the Cloud

2018 Tax Year – the perfect time to ride the Cloud

The start of the new tax year is a perfect time to consider improving the management of your business finances.

As a small business, start-up and or self-employed, your time is precious in running your business. Whether you are deciding on where to raise finance, managing your cashflow as well as maximizing your profit, finding an accountant as a partner in your business to help you is all the better when you both operate on a cloud accounting solution.

Cloud accounting is here and it may be just what you’re looking for as it allows you to access and work on your accounts from any digital tool or location, and provides you with more flexibility than doing so with Excel or desktop software. Rather than slaving away over spreadsheets, or wasting time on finding those printed bank statements and used receipts, there is a new approach to financial management which enables you to stay on top of your business, get immediate insight and create invoices, leading to you getting paid faster, which in turn, improves your cash flow.

Cloud accounting is more popular than ever with 78% of UK Small Businesses are using at least 2 cloud based services already.

Let us take you through five key reasons to consider a cloud-based financial management system:

It’s great value for money

Traditional desktop software can be costly quite to install and only work on one laptop or PC. Instead, when using cloud accounting software, you sign up to a subscription service and can access your account from any computer, tablet or mobile device.

It’s easy to start and use

In using cloud accounting, there is no expectation of previous accounting knowledge and you can start very easily. The offerings are easy to navigate and you can start running your business immediately.

It helps you get more done on your business

One of the benefits of cloud accounting is the ability to work from anywhere as well as the ability to automate routine business transactional tasks such as tracking and categorizing transactions from payroll, invoicing and accounts payable & receivable. Data from sales transactions, business expenses and inventory can all be uploaded to the cloud, reducing manual data entry & costly clerical errors.

You will have more time back to spend on your business success

As your most precious commodity, time is always of the essence. How great would it be if you could manage your expenses whilst waiting for your next meeting? Or take a picture of a receipt for lunch and store it in your software while still at lunch? This can be done on the QuickBooks mobile app, which saves you a great amount of time, wherever you are.

Always secure with nothing to worry about

QuickBooks Online offers security solutions that include firewalls, data encryption, multi-factor authentication and virus detection, all designed to keep your data secure. They deal with cloud security full time and are prepared to combat any online security issues that might arise.

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