Small Business Saturday Blog

Seven ways you may be able to reduce your tax bill

Friday, December 02 at 13:38Accounting | Small Business | Top Tips

Sensible tax planning is an essential tool in making the most of your finances and helping your business’s profitability. Keeping your tax bill to a minimum is not a matter of aggressive or complex tax schemes, but rather of identifying which of the many tax reliefs and allowances specifically granted by law are available to you.

Jo Nockels, Senior Technical Communications Manager at small business specialists TaxAssist Accountants, shares some tips and advice about how to save on your tax bill. 

1. Review your business structure
How you structure your business can have a significant impact on your annual tax bills. During the early years of a business, it may be advisable to operate as a sole trader or partnership, as profits increase it may be more beneficial to form a limited company. An accountant can help you decide which entity suits your circumstances.

2. Buying equipment
Before buying business premises, machinery or equipment, make sure you seek advice. Up to 100% tax relief could be available but the type of asset, timing and value can affect how much tax relief you can obtain and when.

3. Choose a vehicle that matches your needs
Talk to an accountant before buying a new vehicle for your business. There are lots of considerations such as taxable benefits, VAT, capital allowances and how you claim tax relief for repair and fuel costs.

4. Don't forget to reclaim input VAT on petrol
Do you reimburse employees who use their own vehicles and pay for their own fuel at the HMRC approved mileage rates? If so, then don’t forget to reclaim the VAT applicable to the deemed fuel element of the mileage rate. You will need to ensure each employee submits a valid VAT receipt in support of the claim.

5. Make the most of losses
You may be able to turn your losses around by carrying them forward to set against future profits, or setting them against other income for immediate relief. Your accountant can review loss relief claims to ensure that the losses are used tax-efficiently and eases your cashflow ideally at a time that’s best for your circumstances.

6. Household bills
If you are running your business from home, you can offset some of your household bills such as heating, electricity, council tax and water rates. Even if your use is only minor for bookkeeping for example, HM Revenue & Customs will accept a reasonable estimate provided your claim is modest and reflects your circumstances.

7. Save on your rental income
If you rent out property, you can deduct a range of expenses from your rental income. These include Council Tax, utility costs, service charges and even replacing furnishings.

Choosing an accountant who specialises in small businesses could save you money and provide you and your business with expert advice on many financial issues. For more information about TaxAssist Accountants visit their website

Practical advice from Acas to help small businesses succeed

Wednesday, November 30 at 17:18Small Business | Small Business Saturday | Top Tips

Small Business Saturday on December 3 is a great day that marks the importance of small enterprises to our economy.

Small business owners are usually skilled at generating ideas for products and services due to  their entrepreneurial spirit.

While these qualities are important for business success it is worth remembering that building a strong team spirit by choosing the right people and treating them fairly can be just as important.

Employment relations is a phrase that can conjure a picture of regulations that many businesses think they haven’t got time for.

Yet somewhere along the way, all businesses come to realise that good employment relations are not optional. Better for the go-getting entrepreneur to make sure good employment relations happen early on or from the start, rather than risk expensive complications later on.

At Acas, we understand that small businesses are usually short of time and, also because they have fewer resources, can come up against obstacles which larger firms do not. So we have compiled advice especially for small firms.

It is currently a series of nine practical, concise and straight-forward guides called Help For Small Firms, which include:

•       how to recruit the best candidate for the job;
•       drawing up their contract;
•       settling them into the business;
•       effectively managing their behaviour and performance;
•       how to manage a complaint if they raise one;
•       how to manage sickness and other kinds of absence from work;
•       how to get the best out of staff, and;
•       handling pay and wages.

While we celebrate the dynamism and creativity of small enterprises this Small Business Saturday, we should also recognise that great team spirit also means a more productive business.

You can use the guides on the Acas website or print them off.

David Webb is an Acas writer working to help employers and employees understand, in plain language, employment law and workplace best practice. Previously, he was a manager in private industry for more than 20 years.

A Guide to: Handling Small Business Disputes

Wednesday, September 14 at 16:08How To | Legal | Top Tips

Small businesses may face a variety of challenges over their lifetimes, but lengthy and increasingly expensive court cases do not need to be added to the list. The good news is that intellectual property and employment conflicts, or late payment issues can be managed without resorting to litigation.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is the ideal solution to small business disputes.  An umbrella term for a whole range of processes and techniques that help parties resolve conflict without going to court, ADR usually involves the assistance of a neutral third party, and is often less formal, cheaper and quicker than litigation.

In addition to being highly time and cost efficient, ADR is also confidential and offers a discrete and neutral setting for businesses looking to protect their public image. Both arbitration and mediation are two examples of popular ADR processes.

With this in mind, the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators’ Business Arbitration Scheme (BAS) is highly recommended to small businesses, as it delivers five tangible benefits which are worth considering before making a decision as to whether or not it is in your businesses’ best interests to resort to litigation.

1. Fixed fee: BAS is a fixed fee scheme, providing certainty as to costs from the outset.

2. Speed: BAS offers the certainty of a final and legally binding decision in less than 90 days from the appointment of the arbitrator.

3. Simplicity: The BAS rules were created with simplicity in mind, allowing ease of use and flexibility.  The scheme is simple enough for businesses to present their own case without legal representation if they so wish.  Formal procedural steps have deliberately been kept to a minimum.

4. Limited Costs: The costs recoverable have been limited to protect parties against liability for their opponents’ high legal bills.

5. Specialist panel: CIArb provides a specialist panel of arbitrators.

In addition, a recent survey conducted by the Institute indicated that:

94% found the Scheme to be an attractive proposition for small businesses involved in low to medium value disputes;

93% found the cost of the Scheme appealing;

98% found the short timetable of benefit; and

96% found the Scheme easy to understand.

Aimed at being accessible and straightforward, BAS was launched following the increase in court fees last year, which in some cases, saw a hike of up to 600%. CIArb decided it was time to take action as it became apparent that small businesses in particular were disproportionately affected, and that many felt priced out of accessing justice through the court system.

As the majority of small businesses usually initiate court proceedings to recover unpaid monies, it was important to ensure that there was a scheme in place, tailored to the needs of businesses who had legitimate debt claims but felt that it wasn’t worth it to pursue them through the courts.

Ultimately, businesses that wish to use BAS, should consider drafting an appropriate dispute resolution clause into their commercial contracts or into terms and conditions, before any dispute arises.  A free dispute resolution clause for BAS can be found here.

For businesses looking to manage their dispute(s) and prepare for conflicts long term- the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators’ Business Arbitration Scheme is worth investigating.

Post by Olivia Staines, PR and Communications Manager, CIArb & Keisha Williams, Head of DAS, CIArb. The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) is a leading professional membership organisation representing the interests of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) practitioners worldwide. 

For more information on the Business Arbitration Scheme, please call +44 (0)20 7421 7444, email das@ciarb.org, or visit our website at www.ciarb.org/das. 


5 tips to make starting your business easier

Thursday, June 09 at 13:56Start-Up Support | Top Tips

If you’re thinking of starting your own business, firstly congratulations! I know it can be scary. How do I know? I’m doing it, too.

When I wrote this, I was four weeks into working for myself, and I want to share what I’ve learned by that point. Hopefully, reading this will make the process a little less scary for you.

1. Help from family and friends
They may not know what you do on a daily basis, or may not understand why you want to work for yourself. BUT, they are a wonderful source of support. My husband has been with me every step of the way. He’s having to listen to me thinking out loud about what services I should offer, about what my branding should look like, really anything to do with my work.

The same goes for friends. I really feel supported by my friends, who also want me to succeed. Some are even looking for business for me!

So, don’t think that just because you’re going to work for yourself that you’re on your own. You’re not. Your family and friends are there for you, so make the most of the support they’re willing to give you.

2. Keep in touch with your business contacts
If, like me, you’re going to leave your job to start your business, look at the contacts you’ve already made to see if any of them can help you. You’ll be surprised at how willing people are to help out, especially if you already have a great relationship.

My last job at Constant Contact put me in touch with some great organisations that help small businesses. One of these is Small Business Saturday. Having heard that I’m starting my own business, they have been very supportive and offered advice and the opportunity to write for them. And here I am, writing for them! How great is that?

3. Rely on experts
Just because you’re only at the start of your business journey, don’t discount how experts can help you. Whether it’s a chartered accountant, an IT specialist or someone who has been running their business for years, the knowledge they have can really turbo boost your set up.

I have a friend who ran her own marketing consultancy and she helped me to figure out my offering. She’s literally taken weeks off my services development. I still have a lot of hard work to do to get set up, but she’s really helped accelerate that.

4. Don’t think, do
There’s a lot to be said about putting words into action. Don’t spend too much time thinking about what you should do. Start doing stuff. Even if it’s getting down on paper what you’ll offer, working out what should be on your website, or grabbing your business name on the social channels you want to use. Act on it today!

Actually seeing things happening will spur you on to get the next thing done, and you’ll see your business take shape in front of your eyes.

5. 80% is good enough
A manager of mine once told me about the 80/20 rule. It not only changed the way I looked at my work, but also gave me the freedom to just try things.

If you’ve not heard of it, then simply put, whatever you’re trying for your business, if it’s 80% there, then get it in front of the world. Beit your website, a brochure, your branding. It will all evolve as you & your business evolve and grow. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect, 80% of the way there is OK.

6. Organise your time
Having an expanse of day in front of you can be daunting. So use whatever means suit you to make sure you get the most out of your day.

For me, this means using the same methods I used when I worked for someone else. I block out time in my Google Calendar for all my tasks. I did it for writing this blog post. Oh, and I stick to it. Of course, something may crop up that needs to be dealt with, and that’s OK. Just reschedule the task to another time.

Being organised will mean that you’ll get more done and get up and running faster.

Bonus tip
Get out and about. Working for yourself can mean spending A LOT of time on your own. Make sure you get out and about. I’m going to the gym more, I actually go to the supermarket rather than order in a shop, and planning on seeing more of family and friends.

I hope my experience so far will help you with your own start-up. If you want to share your experiences, I’d love to hear and learn from you. Find me at @Minal2804 or on my Facebook Page: Marketing by Minal.


Minal is a marketer with over 15 years’ experience of working for national and international companies, most latterly Constant Contact, a leading email marketing provider. Having worked with 1000s of SMEs whilst at Constant Contact, Minal decided to start Marketing by Minal, making her marketing expertise accessible to SMEs that want to give their marketing more focus.

A Beginners Guide to Corporate Wiki

Friday, May 20 at 17:17Digital | Planning | Quick Guide | Top Tips

In the business world wikis have begun to boost performance and overall client satisfaction as they provide various functions and assist multiple goals. Maybe the Wiki concept you have in mind is associated with Wikipedia but it´s important to understand that it´s not the same thing starting from the fact that they pursue very different objectives.

In order to understand the concept, let's begin with a simple example which I´m sure is common to any type of organization: A project was recently started and team members began to search for past experiences and relevant information only to find that experiences had not been properly recorded and that information remained in the PCs and personal file servers of previous team members. Step by step set of instructions that explained: what to do, what you should have done and what needs to be avoided is not readily available for the team so they start from scratch and along the way they begin to encounter the very same roadblocks.

The above example is a common scenario for organizations that don't have a centralized place for information and experiences to be stored. What's worse is that resources are wasted as teams invest time doing things over and fail to reach consistency. Even client expectations are juggled as this sort of practice does not reinforce what your brand stands for. So what can be done about it? How can we avoid those angry reinventing the wheel moments and help teams incorporate best practices and important information?

Corporate wikis are a great place to start as they provide various functions in order for team members to store and co-create content together. In this sense it´s important to mention that the Wiki experience is different from having intranets as they are more dynamic and users are at the center of the strategy as they are responsible for curating and creating content across the company.

Wiki software also allows you to create FAQs, manuals and other form of vital information which can also prove to be extremely helpful in the service desk sector in order to assist client requirements. For example, ticket handling and calls can become stressful when customer agents have to attend the same requirements over and over again while clients are put on hold and have no early and proactive access to information. Wikis can centralize important product or service information so that clients can search for answers themselves which in turn helps create a better customer journey with little to none bottlenecks.

Wiki software comes in many forms and prices. Open source options are available but they have one basic problem: you need extra coding hours in order to customize it so that it suits your company´s identity and security patterns. You might also have existing software and programs, so having a Wiki that can integrate with them is a must in order to avoid multiple access points. Evaluating content reuse is also important so that you can have a clear idea of what information is valuable in terms of customer service and projects. This can also help you spot trends and insights regarding your customer´s behavior. So, being able to incorporate tools such as google analytics is great.

Existing SaaS companies like ProProfs, incorporate these functions and have the advantage of being cloud based which helps reduce costs associated to storage and maintenance.

From the above we can clearly perceive the benefits of having wikis as opposed to losing valuable information and not being able to reach out properly to customers.

These type of benefits are not just meant for big business, on the contrary if you start from day one when your company is small, meeting new challenges and growth won’t be a problem since everything will be properly centralized and structured. The challenge is bigger when companies start when they are already big as the amount of information and experiences to be handled will also be greater.

In this sense make the right decision and embed wikis in to your company´s culture from day one!


"David Miller is an educational researcher who has several years of experience in the field of teaching, online testing and training. He is associated with prestigious universities and many leading educational research organizations. Currently, he is pursuing research in online knowledge base software and is also a contributing author with ProProfs."

How to use social media to grow your small business

Friday, May 20 at 09:46Quick Guide | Social Media | Top Tips

Three quarters of SMEs are planning to implement a social media marketing plan by 2017.  But having the expertise to do this right can be challenging, especially if your time is limited.

Here at Digital Mums, where we train mums to be social media managers and help businesses with social media solutions, we’ve developed a straightforward approach that will simply define your approach to social media. And it works whatever your business type.  We call it the Test, Measure, Reflect and Refine model.

How it works
The premise is simple - expand upon what works on social media and throw away everything else.  It focuses on constantly tweaking and improving on content, conversations and engagement.

Step 1:  Test
Think about your target customer and develop detailed user personas of who they are (to find out how to do this check out the first in our #SocialDoneRight blog series).  Then test out different approaches on social media to see what works best.  So for example;

  • push different content formats i.e. photos, videos and text
  • push different content subject matter
  • schedule posts at different times of the day and week

What you choose to test first doesn’t really matter - the important thing is to get started.

Step 2:  Measure
It’s best to wait about a week before you start analysing posts.  As nearly everything on social media can be measured (almost there Instagram!) you can establish the success of every single post.
Some of the analytics can seem complicated, but they’re worth persevering with as the data is incredible.

Step 3:  Reflect
Once you have your data, you’ll need to dedicate some time to really analysing  it.  Distilling key insights will really help you improve your activity, These are some of the key things to look out for:

  • Date / Time

Are there are certain times of the week or month you posts are more successful?  Perhaps the weekend is always quiet so you need to post more mid week, or vice-versa.

  • Audience/demographics

Depending on the platform you’ll get data on the people following you and even who has viewed your profile.  If you’re not quite reaching your target demographic, think again about the type of content you’re pushing out.

  • Impressions/reach

This is helpful for brand awareness as you can check how many people have seen your activity. Certain content or a big influencer sharing may mean a spoke in content.  If you see a dip you might need to post more often.

  • Engagement

The more likes, comments and shares you’re getting, then the more engaged your audience.   You should be able to see what content works best and when it’s best to post it.

  • Clicks

If you’re aiming to drive people to your website then look at the click throughs.  These analytics are also useful in establishing if brand awareness is translating into a deeper interest in your company.

  • New fans/followers

Spikes or drops could be related to the amount your posting and joining in with conversations.  You may see more followers when you use a popular hashtag or piggyback an event, in which case do it more.

Step 4:  Refine
Once you have these insights you can then refine your social media activity accordingly.  Do more of what is successful and get rid of anything that hasn’t worked.

Then once you’ve refined, you can begin testing again.  It’s a never-ending cycle to consistently improve your performance! It takes patience, but over time we guarantee you’ll build an engaged and strong community and truly see results from social media.


By Richard Miranda, Head of Growth at Digital Mums. For a step-by-step guide to social media for small businesses follow our #SocialDoneRight blog series over on blog.digitalmums.com.  Join us every Thursday 11am-12pm for our #SocialDoneRight tweet chats on @DigitalMumsBiz to get advice from social media experts.

Recruiting for your small business

Wednesday, May 18 at 12:18HR | Recruitment | Top Tips

In this day and age of evolving technology, it’s understandable that many small business owners may feel overwhelmed when they need to hire someone. There’s hundreds, maybe thousands of websites all seemingly offering a similar solution. Whether you’re a small deli looking for a barista to make a marvellous macchiato, or a growing marketing agency delving into digital, understanding how job seekers behave is the first step to success.

Tip 1 - Put yourself in the jobseekers shoes (and put your job ad in their sightline)
Whether it’s browsing shop windows or searching online, job seekers with different skills behave differently when they look for a job. Take a step back, think about where the person you want to hire would go to search for a job, and make sure your jobs are seen there.  

Tip 2 - The growth of “specialist search engines” 
Take a look at this graph below using Google data. You can see in red how searches for Cheap Flights has declined over time. More people now search for specialist travel search engines such as “Kayak", than search for “Cheap Flights” on Google.
Searches for cheap flights  Searches for Kayak

This trend is also happening in the search for jobs. People are now using specialist search engines for jobs, like Adzuna, to begin their search. Ensuring your jobs are on the most relevant platforms to job seekers is the best way to make sure your vacancies reach the right job seekers.

Tip 3 - Advertise for Free! 
The first advertising you should do for any job should be free. Whether it’s sticking an ad in the window or posting the job on your website, always look to free sources first. You can even advertise your job on sites like Adzuna for free.  There’s no commitment, no contract and no credit cards needed, just a great job description and a website or email address to receive your applications.

Tip 4 - Job search is everywhere - be there. 
The constant evolution of the internet and ability to take sophisticated technology on the move has changed the way people search for jobs. Job seekers no longer need to spend hours visiting recruitment agencies, or trawling through newspaper ads, they can search at any time, virtually anywhere, through their smartphone or tablet. Ensuring your jobs are visible on mobile is critical, especially when trying to find people who aren’t currently “desk based” workers.

Adzuna is a search engine for job ads used by over 9 million visitors per month that aims to list every job, everywhere. We search thousands of websites so our users don't have to, bringing together millions of ads in one place. By providing smarter search options and powerful data about the job market, we give jobseekers the information they need to take control of their careers.  

Click here to request your free job advertising account.

Adzuna’s mission is to be the best place to start looking for a job.  We love using the awesome power of technology to help match people to better, more fulfilling jobs and keep Britain working.

How Your Small Business Should Go Digital

Tuesday, March 29 at 18:30Digital | Getting Online | Top Tips

Business in the UK is growing rapidly – with small businesses in the lead. In 2015, there were 5.4 million businesses recorded in the UK, according to a report by The House of Commons. The report also states that over 99% are SMEs that employ a range of 0-249 people. A large percentage (95%) were also micro-businesses, small enterprises that employ 0-9 employees totalled 5.1 million. While businesses in the UK continue to boom, it is increasingly important to have a well-designed and developed online presence, encompassing critical Search Engine Optimisation tactics. Here are some tips for small businesses that are thinking of taking the leap and finally going digital.

Why do I need a modern and up-to-date website as a small business?

In this day and age, chances are the majority of your potential consumers will learn about your business through some form of digital means. Regardless of how your consumer encounters your business for the first time, they will almost certainly use an online search engine to discover more about your business.  According to a recent survey by Weebly, 56% of consumers do not trust a business that lacks an online presence.

Your website will serve as a showcase for the product(s) or service(s) you provide, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A key aspect of a website is having a sleek, user-friendly platform for your current and prospective customers alike to gain information about your business. For instance, aspects such as a “Contact Us” or “About Us” page are critical to providing your audience with the information they need.

What is Search Engine Optimisation?

Many small businesses make the mistake of ignoring the appropriate implementation of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) tactics. Performing proper SEO tactics will help your website to rank higher on some of the top search engines in the world. The implementation of the right SEO tactics and creating an SEO-friendly website are key to the placement of your business’ website on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

What should I do to improve my website’s Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)? 

At MBJ, we strive to implement white-hat SEO techniques, also known as ethical SEO which are defined as the best practices to follow in order to rank highly on SERPs whilst following the guidelines provided by Google.

Below are a few of MBJ’s SEO tips & tricks to keep in mind:

  • Relevant Content Creation – Ensure that your content is relevant and flows smoothly with the theme or context of the overall website. Remember to provide valuable and useful content aimed at your target audience. Additionally, it is important to ensure your content includes correct spelling and grammar. 
  • Appropriate Keywords – Keywords are phrases that users will begin their online search with. For instance, a user looking for a hotel in London will search for “London UK hotels”. When keywords are integrated into your web page’s content then the search engine will pick up on the words and rank your site for the words that are relevant to your business. Implement the usage of keywords into your content and make sure they flow naturally with the context of the page. It is best to avoid keyword stuffing, as mentioning the same words over and over again have proven to be counterproductive. Google’s algorithms have recently been updated and designed to detect web content misconduct. 
  • On-Site Blogging – If you’re wondering where all the relevant content and keywords should go on your website, consider having an on-site blog. Not only does an internal blog assist with your SEO efforts but it also provides you with the opportunity to highlight your knowledge and expertise of the industry you operate in.
  • Concise URL Structure – A clear URL structure is especially helpful when listing the products or services your business provides. Creating a custom URL allows for custom keywords to be implemented into the URL, not just a mixture of gibberish letters and numbers. For instance, http://mbj.london/portfolio/ is a much clearer and easier to read URL than http://buff.ly/1PqYltn.
  • Social Media Integration – Select the social media channel(s) that best suits your company’s mission and vision. For example, businesses that are more visual in capacity tend to be better suited for platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. Search Engine Optimisation is typically interlinked with a website’s social media presence. 

Post by MBJ London, a London-based web and app development consulting company. Their mission is to help small businesses go digital and not loose out to their competitors who have. Find MBJ London on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

MBJ offers Website as a Service (WaaS), an innovative package that encompasses the design, development, maintenance, and technical aspects that are required to create a flawless web presence. It enables small businesses to have a dedicated IT department for a fraction of the cost. 

Five things all SMEs should know when applying for funding

Monday, February 08 at 15:08Finance | Small Business | Top Tips

1. Business Plan
Never under-estimate the value of producing a comprehensive business plan; it does two things. First, it is a good discipline for the company’s management because it forces them to understand what they need, to think about why they need it and in what form; e.g. should they be looking for an overdraft or a term loan?

Second, and most important of all, it demonstrates to a lender that the management understands its business and takes the lending process seriously.

2. Understand your cashflow
A realistic cashflow forecast is probably the most crucial element in a business’s financial arsenal. Understanding where the cash goes allows a business to identify what the money is needed for. It might be to finance growth through the purchase of machinery or another asset, or to provide day- to-day working capital? Either way, you can guarantee that the lender will need assurance that (a) you understand what the money is needed for, how much and for how long and (b) that your business will generate sufficient surplus to pay the money back when you say you will.

3. Know when to apply to funding

Often new or small businesses wait too long to apply for funding, resulting in the business being put under financial pressure and making a rushed decision that could end in a poor choice of lender or type of finance; e.g. in certain circumstances, a term loan could be a better solution than, say, invoice discounting, or vice versa. Going with a lender that can get the job done quickly is just one aspect; other considerations include the level of flexibility the lender can extend you in terms of repayments and the cost of the finance.

4. Know the funding market

With increasingly niche funding solutions available, businesses may need an adviser they can call on for advice and market knowledge, directing them to the right type of financing for their short, medium and long term needs. 

Historically, this adviser may have been a bank manager or accountant, but a growing business should also consider a commercial finance broker, as the expansion of the Alternative Finance sector has meant more funding options than ever are open to SMEs. A good adviser will understand the market and steer you towards the right lender and the most appropriate type of funding to suit your particular circumstances.

An alternative way to search for an appropriate lender is to use the aggregators’ site. Typically they offer no advice but highlight appropriate lending products for an SME’s requirements.

5. Don’t be afraid to shop around
Being turned down for funding by your own bank does not have to be the end of the story. There is a whole new generation of lenders in the marketplace who may be able to help you. The new lenders can move quickly and thoroughly. Make sure your lender is transparent with costs, personal in approach and takes the time to understand your business. Don’t be afraid to look around the market, possibly with the help of a reputable finance broker.

Written by Credit4. Visit their homepage or call 020 3637 0570 for further information.

Don’t miss the Small Business Saturday Inspire Series, ‘Accessing finance for your small business’ a free workshop on 9th February. Register here or follow @SmallBizSatUK for updates.

Finding alternative sources of finance for your small business

Thursday, December 17 at 16:04Finance | Top Tips

With 73% of SME owners aiming to grow their business over the next two to three years, the demand for funding has never been higher. The daunting task of finding funding can be confusing and many SMEs are not the right fit for traditional bank funding. There are an increasing number of alternative funding platforms available and small business owners have the opportunity to flourish even without funding from the banks.

The next task? Finding the right funding for your business. Alternative finance has become a competitive market with a variety of lending types and lending platforms so don’t rush into anything. Finding the appropriate funding may seem a lengthy and confusing process, but there are ways to ease the journey:

1. Plan ahead
Make sure you’ve got a solid business plan and be meticulous about your numbers - estimates and approximations simply won’t cut it. An accurate plan will highlight exactly how much money you need and where the money needs to go. There are over a hundred alternative funding platforms, some of which specialise in particularly niche areas of business, so a detailed plan will point you in the right direction from the outset. Verify your facts and figures in order to ensure that you don’t fall at the first hurdle.

2. Organise your financial documents
When approaching alternative funding platforms, having your financial documents organised and at the ready will ease the process and you’ll receive funding much sooner. Whilst these lending platforms are not as restrictive as the banks, it is still important that you provide accurate information such as bank statements, VAT returns and company accounts so that they can help you in the most effective way. Try to have important figures at your fingertips: What does your business turn over annually? What is your business’ credit status? How many sales do you process with credit/debit cards? It’s a good idea to keep track of your company’s data and work out a system for organising important financial documents. It may seem a dull task, but it will be worth it and funding platforms will take you seriously.

3. Be realistic
It’s vital to remain realistic about your financial abilities when exploring your funding options. Committing to an oversized loan will only cause unnecessary stress when it comes to paying it off at the end of each month. A loan should serve as a benefit not a burden, so examine your figures to work out the amount of funding that you can comfortably pay back each month. Precise planning should provide a realistic indication of how much money you need to help your business grow without causing financial strain.

4. Understand and compare your options
Don’t rush! The variety of funding platforms in the industry is great news for SMEs but the immense quantity of them can also be overwhelming. There are so many platforms to choose from so make sure you take time to weigh up your options and don’t rush into the first lender you come across. It has become a fiercely competitive market so check through your options with an intermediary or by contacting the lenders directly for reassurance of your decision.

Fundbird is here to help you navigate and find your way around the various alternative lenders. Through using our online platform, SMES will be directed to the best matched lender based on their business needs. Fundbird provides free tools that can help you with this process, including an e-book, personal consultatation and online matching to help you find a lender via the website

A Pension Solution for small businesses tackling automatic enrolment

Tuesday, December 01 at 10:11Finance | Quick Guide | Small Business | Small Business Saturday | Small Business Saturday 2015 | Top Tips

Joanne Segars, Chief Executive of The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association, highlights how small businesses can prepare for automatic enrolment.


Automatic enrolment will require every UK employer to put certain staff into a pension scheme and contribute towards it. We know this may seem a daunting task, which is why we've launched Pension Solution. It has been designed specifically for small employers, to take the hard work out of implementing a workplace pension scheme for the first time.

Planning and preparing for automatic enrolment means thinking ahead: what you need, and whose help will make it easier to complete key tasks and estimate costs. These are the key steps I’d recommend to take when getting your small business ready for automatic enrolment:

  • Find out your staging and declaration date  using your PAYE reference from The Pension Regulator’s website
  • Go through a step by step guide to setting up, get familiar with what automatic enrolment means for you and your workplace.
  • Research and select a pension provider that suits your needs
  • Communicate and explain how automatic enrolment will affect your workforce 

Pension Solution helps with each of these steps. The online service will provide the know-how and tools you need to tackle automatic enrolment confidently and successfully. We also offer access to a free half-day face to face training course for those who prefer the human touch.

We’re delighted to be supporting Small Business Saturday for the first time this year because we recognise the vital role small businesses play in the UK economy.

Over 67,ooo employers have already enrolled their staff into a workplace pension, with 5.5million employees now benefitting from a workplace pension and saving for retirement. 1.8 million small and micro employer workers will now join over the next three years if they earn £10,000 or more a year, increasing the amount that is being saved in workplace pensions by around £15 billion a year, according to the DWP Automatic Enrolment evaluation report 2015.

Through Pension Solution we are bringing 90 years of expertise in workplace pensions to help small businesses through automatic enrolment and beyond. It is our status as an independent not-for-profit trade organisation with an impartial view that makes us different.

Automatic enrolment is our best chance of getting the nation into the habit of saving for retirement, and we must focus on making the process as straightforward as possible for small businesses like you in particular.

Pension Solution does just that and we warmly invite you to join our membership on Small Business Saturday so that we can help, represent and work for you.

The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association will be supporting Small Business Saturday UK on 5th December 2015 by offering a 70% discount on the normal £49 subscription to join Pension Solution as a member. Use voucher code BIZSAT1 when joining online. Follow us on Twitter: @SolutionPension

Exhibition Marketing ideas for Beginners

Wednesday, November 25 at 13:25Branding | Events | Top Tips

Trade shows and exhibitions are the perfect vehicle in so many ways when it comes to promoting your company and snagging more customers. 



With your exhibition materials created by Colour Graphics, you will feel poised, ready for the action and the floods of delegates that will stampede their way toward your booth.

Except they won’t.

There is no tougher an audience than the hordes of delegates, veterans of exhibitions from years gone by. The hardened delegate is constantly looking for something new, something big and YOU need to be the next big thing.

Into the lion’s den with a roar
This is perhaps unfair for newbies to the exhibition circuit but, you do need to be aware that some of those delegates passing you buy will need persuading/cajoling over to your booth. And the HR manager dressed as a fluffy duck is not going to cut it.

Try these ideas for starters:

Tip 1 – Think ‘inbound’
You have footfall walking past your booth every day you are at the exhibition. You need to capture attention and lure them on over. There are all kinds of way of doing this:

Create unique signage that gives a snippet of what you do
Invite them over for coffee and the use of your iPads
Be ultra-modern and cutting edge with your own app for the conference that does something amazing!

Tip 2 – Social media
There are all kinds of reports and articles that inform us we are all connected to our smart phones and tablets virtually every hour of the day. And people rarely log off when they are at a conference too.

So, harness this. The conference or exhibition may have their own hashtag campaign running on social media thus make sure that you piggy back on to this. You can also create your own and work the boards to get people to talk about you on social media (link it to your competition too!)

Tip 3 – Get people to share their location and who they are with
There are all kinds of apps that allow people to log on and show their location via GPS. Facebook do it – you’ve seen the statuses, “I am at the Coffee Shop, in East London with Bruce Willis”.

You could also encourage people to be part of a Periscope session, where live sessions are broadcast to your Twitter followers about where they are, what they are doing etc.

Tip 4 – Prepare beforehand
People tend to see their exhibition presence as a standalone activity but, you can leverage far more from it than what you thought. Start creating a buzz about you being them a few weeks before hand, and use it as much as possible afterwards too.

Tip 5 – Target offers
This is about offering the delegates at the conference an offer that is only available to them and at that particular point. You know your own margins and, what you can and cannot offer.
It needs to be more than free postage and packing…

Tip 6 – Chairs
As high tech as some of these ideas are, you can also play to the weakness of every delegate – tiredness, sore feet and just somewhere to sit down.

Many booths will have all kinds of things to entice people over but, inviting people in to take the weight off their feet and check their emails whilst sitting down is a great way of connecting and engaging people.

Which of these tips will you try?

Exhibitions and trade shows are busy places but there is room for every business to really create a buzz about themselves. Colour Graphics have been supplying printed materials for all kinds of businesses to cement their place in the busy exhibition hall, from roller banners to flyers. 

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.


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