Small Business Saturday Blog

Quick guide to accounting

Wednesday, September 02 at 16:54Accounting | Quick Guide | Small Business | Toolkit | Top Tips

Accounting Tips for Small Businesses


When running or setting up a small business, keeping the books in order is not only important for the growth, but required for a healthy business. To help you learn the ropes, Leaman Mattei Accountants have given us some great starting points. 


Managing cashflow
Forecast your cash flow to identify shortfalls early and build in a contingency

Consider monthly standing orders and direct debits for regular cash flow

Maintain an honest and open relationship with your customers

Establish clear credit control procedures, make sure your customers understand them, and be seen to implement them firmly and consistently

Check credit references before offering credit terms, do not extend credit limits without good reason

Set aside future tax liabilities in a separate deposit account

Working from home
Self-employed
You can claim costs in your accounts that are incurred wholly and exclusively for the purpose of your business. If you don't maintain a separate office, you can claim a reasonable proportion of those household running costs that represent the space and time in which your office operation occupies your home. This includes a proportion of your rent, council tax and water rates. Alternatively, you can make a claim for a fixed rate deduction from your profits.

Employees
You can only claim the additional variable expenses incurred by working at home. These costs amount to the increased energy needed to heat and light your property for longer, and the extra water used if that is metered. You can also claim the cost of business related telephone calls.

Things to consider when starting a new business
Always keep your long-term goals in mind. Running your business more cost-effectively can be achieved only if you have the vision to project your goals into the future

Cash shortages, lack of a solid business plan to guide the business, and steady decreases in profitability are all warning signs that a business is heading towards a potential financial crisis

It is crucial to evaluate your business’ structure and performance before it manifests these danger signals

Improve your profitability by analysing all the aspects of your business


Missed deadlines = penalties + interest
Key dates to remember

Submission of statutory accounts
-> 9 months after the year end

Submission of corporation tax return
-> 12 months after the year end

Submission of VAT returns
-> 1 month and 7 days after the period end

Payment of corporation tax
-> 9 months and 1 day after the year end

Payment of VAT
->BACS 1 month & 7 days after the period end;
->Direct Debit 1 month & 11 days after the period end





A good accountant could save you money and advise you throughout the life cycle of your business on a wide range of issues. For more information on Leaman Mattei visit their website.


Quick guide to Recruitment

Wednesday, August 19 at 09:24How To | Recruitment | Toolkit


Recruitment Tips for Small Businesses


It goes without saying - finding the right person for your small business is pivotal for success! To help you along the way, FreshMinds have outlined some top recruitment tips…




Stage One - Gaining Interest


Job Adverts: where to advertise?


Local or national newspapers
Industry specific job websites 
LinkedIn 
Universities/Schools - get in touch with the careers service department 
Twitter – post a link to your advert 

Structure

Role title and short summary (approximately 25 words)
Company information 
Responsibilities – day to day tasks and/or specific projects 
Candidate requirements – academics, specific skills and industry experience 
Details – location, salary, start date and benefits* 

*List these details to keep them brief/factual



Pay extra attention to the role title and first line. For example: "Boutique, family run hotel requires a top manager with a ‘can do’ mentality to help run, plan, promote and organise all hotel services".

The basic format to follow is: (enter: description of the company) “requires a” (enter: role title) “to help/lead/manage” (enter: two responsibilities of the role). Don't start with “we/I am looking for…”


Outline the unique selling points such as flexibility, company culture and training and use specific words/terms to ensure your role appears in the relevant candidate searches. Ensure that the tone and language is aligned to your company’s message.


Databases

We recommend using…

Reed
LinkedIn
Specific industry databases (technology, marketing, sales, finance, start-up)

Most databases use Boolean search logic to allow you to find keywords or phrases on a profile or CV. Here are some of the basic principles of a Boolean search:


Search for more than one word by entering the phrase into quotation marks, for example “customer service”. Search for more than two words by using AND (must be in capitals), for example ‘’French AND Spanish’’


Find a profile which includes one or more terms by using OR (must be in capitals), for example: “hotel manager OR restaurant manager". Exclude a term by stating NOT before the phrase/word, for example ‘’marketing NOT direct marketing”.

It’s important to remember that the majority of databases charge either a one off or fixed annual fee.


Events/ Networking


Attend free or paid networking events to meet prospective candidates or attend career events or open days at schools/colleges and universities. Select schools and universities based on their Location and relevant degrees/subjects (look at Times University Guide for rankings on specific University subjects).



Stage Two – Assessment


CV Screen


Select three main points you require from CVs to quickly assess applications, for example: 2.1 degree, retail experience, and programming. Check for grammar and ensure the application process has been followed in the correct format. CVs shouldn’t be any longer than 2 pages. Only select a handful of candidates to progress to the next stage (generally 4 for 1 position is a good ratio).

Once selected call the candidates to ensure they are still available and outline next steps. This should include: assessment processes, timescales and salary expectations.


Face-to-Face or Telephone Interviews


We think that it’s really important to meet everyone face-to-face but a telephone interview can be useful for the first round.


Interview Structure


Welcome the candidate and explain the format of the interview. Ask how much they know about the position then give them an explanation about the company/role. This is a good indication of how much research they have done beforehand.


Get them to talk through their career to date and give rationale behind their decisions. For example: why did they choose that course/degree or why did they leave that position at that point? When talking through their experience within a role ask them to break it down into either day to day or project by project responsibilities.


Competency based questions (these must be the same for all candidates to ensure you can benchmark). Select 4-5 main competencies and create a question template. Competencies include: collaboration, problem solving, team work, leadership, drive, resilience, attention to detail, innovation - the list is endless! Questions can either be based on case studies (you may want to consider real life scenarios which have happened at the company) or experiences. For example:


Drive (experience) – ‘Describe an example of when you have been incredibly driven to succeed?’

Problem solving (case study) - ‘imagine you were on the shop floor and X happened, how would you react?’

Good answers should be structured and clear. The CAR technique can be useful for analysing this:

Context
Action – responsibility (did they lead or assist)
Result - what was the measurable output? (specific figures, customer feedback, company feedback)

Ask questions about their motivations and current situation e.g. are they interviewing elsewhere? When are they able to start? What salary are they looking for? – ensure you have a figure in mind and justifications for this.


Then ask them if they have any questions about the role. When are they able to start? Outline your timescales and when they should expect to hear from you.

Cultural fit is very important so it’s a good idea for the candidate to meet your team members.

Trial Day

You may want to consider a trial day/afternoon to give you a good indication of their performance.



Stage Three - Offer


Give the candidate some time after the interview before offering to ensure they have considered the opportunity. Once the candidate has accepted make sure that you send contracts as soon as possible.

Recruitment Companies

The recruiting process can be long and very time consuming. Recruitment companies can help you by managing this entire process and providing you with a selection of shortlisted candidates to interview. You may want to consider this option if you feel it’s a worthy investment.

You can also hire people on an interim basis through recruitment companies and they can be paid through an agency so it is a very quick process – you could have someone start tomorrow! This is a good option to consider around busy seasons.

Research different recruitment companies and select one which is specialised to your sector – ask them to outline case studies and state their ratios of filling positions.




With thanks to FreshMinds









Quick guide to PR & Marketing

Thursday, August 13 at 13:49How To | Marketing | Toolkit

Good PR: Some tips for small businesses

Before you even begin, understand what it is you want to achieve from your PR and marketing communications campaign. It’s much easier to make a plan if you have some idea of how you want to progress. Is it...

1. To drive traffic to your website?

2. To drive footfall to a store?

3. To raise brand awareness?

4. All of the above or something else?


The second question to ask is: if your PR campaign goes spectacularly well, where would your business be as a result? What would success look like? For example, you may be a business that wants to try and attract a new, younger demographic. You may say that within a year, you would like to have X% of your business coming from that new demographic. You will need to ask yourself how you are going to measure that and also what marketing initiatives would attract that demographic to your business.

Thirdly, if somebody takes no more than one thing from any of your media coverage, what should that one key message be? Make a list of your priority messages and make sure they are included within any media communication.

Then – and only then – can you build your plan and begin to contact the outside world. So: who would you speak to?


Consider which is the media that could influence your market. Is it the local press, your trade press, perhaps consumer lifestyle media or even the national press. Be clear what the story that you are pitching to them. Is it genuinely newsworthy? Apply the “so what?” question to it and still ask yourself if it is newsworthy. If it isn’t, you need to work harder on the idea. If it is, you can contact the media.

Buy the titles you want to contact before you do and be sure that it is the kind of story that they would run. They are not going to change their editorial approach to accommodate your story. Try and be aware of lead times and don’t call on a press day – they’ll be too busy putting the publication to bed to speak to you. Some monthly consumer publications can work 3-4 months ahead of their publication date.

If it is newsworthy, write yourself a press release. Keep it short. Ensure that the first paragraph not only includes your company name but also encapsulates the essence of the story. If you are quoting yourself or a colleague in the release, clearly you’re state your name and job title. Journalists receive hundreds of these a day – if you can’t give them the story in the opening paragraph, they won’t read on.

Don’t email the press release cold. It is unlikely to be opened and read. Find the name of the journalist you want to speak to or call the relevant desk at the publication and explain who you are and what your story is. They will almost certainly ask you to send an email, which is when you can use your press release - you will have made a contact that you can then follow up. Don’t hound them – if they’re not interested in the story, chasing them is not going to change their mind. It will probably make them less inclined to speak to you in future.

Be clear that you have high-resolution images available. Make sure you provide a caption for your photographs, including the names of any individuals within them. Do not attach them to the press release as this may cause your email to bounce or hit a firewall. You can upload images to the cloud (eg Dropbox or We Transfer) and include the download link in your email.

The overriding message is don’t be afraid to give it a go – the worst that can happen is that the media won’t be interested in your story. And that doesn’t necessarily mean your story isn’t interesting. Look at the publications you want to be in and read the way their stories are presented, think about how your story could be presented photographically and then structure your story and approach in a similar way and be persistent.



With thanks to Astute Marketeers


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