Thursday, 30 August 2012

Ensure your finance system is in order from the start

I was today working with a recent start up in the leisure business. My business has recently been asked to set up a finance system for them and integrate an office finance model with how they use Sage. Why were we asked to help? Well 3 months in, they thought they would save some money and do the accounts themselves. The result is they lost the opportunity to claim back VAT on some of their upfront costs. They lost receipts for items paid for personally on behalf of the business restricting their ability to claim back the spend. However more importantly they had been sold a bookkeeping package that they could not operate, had not set up correctly and has no chance of receiving any useful information or reports from it without help like ours.
An effective finance system from the start will show its benefits very early on. Not only will your records be accurate, many good accountants fees will recognise the quality of your day to day systems with the level of their proposed fee. However most importantly is the ability to use your financial information to make key decisions during the early months. Can you spend x? Is the business performing to the margins planned in your forecasts? Are your overheads as expected? Making the numbers work in your business from the outset is critical.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Olympic reference to business

It is obviously topical at present to make an analogy to the Olympics. So I can't miss the opportunity.
I guess the big question is to ask ourselves "were the Gold medal winners lucky?".
Like in business rarely is success down to luck alone. If you believe it is luck, then keep buying the Lottery ticket with hope and I wish you good luck.
But I would argue a clear focus and vision, affirmations, focused activity, the regular measurement and the desire to continually improve, are all key factors that can make us gold medal winners in our business lifes.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Think with your eyes wide open

It was great to read the news today that a report has revealed that more people are thinking of starting a business than ever before.
Perhaps with the current economic climate this may be forced on some people, but from the work we undertake with startups, then their certainly appears to be a higher level of positivity for entreprenuership.
We meet and talk to many people with an idea and the desire to run their own business. Quite often they have mentioned it to family and friends and as you would suspect many encourage them.
However we encourage you to enter the initial considerations with your eyes wide open and undertake good market research to establish there is a market for your product or service.
Quite often you have to push your comfort zone with market research, but look to ask your 'ideal customer' how much they pay a possible competitor, why they buy from them and how often.
This information is critical to help you build you business plan, forecasts and strategy.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Maximise your networking & generate referrals

I recently spoke in Oxford on the subject of 'How to maximise your networkiing generate referrals'.

I decided to present my thoughts based on my years experience in networking, whilst highlighting that networking is not simply about the next breakfast meeting.

The presentation was in the format of a short workshop where we looked at who is in their ideal network, what does their business really offer, their 60 sec pitch and ways they can be proactive in generating referrals.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Clean up your social media lists

It is with interest that we study the social media links of our clients. So one recommendation is to make sure you are connected, liked and followed by the right people for you and your business.

If you are not, then we suggest a clean up. For example:

• Who is connected to you simply to be very proactive with your connections? We have even seen examples where people have contacted a connection having suggested that our client recommended a contact, when they had not!
• Who have you connected with because they asked, but you have no actual connection with?
• Who is following you on twitter with no interest in you, but simply to raise awareness of themselves with your followers?
• Who likes your facebook page, simply to post on your wall messages to your followers. We even saw a posting recently started 'we hope you dont mind us promoting a competitor.........'!

We suggest it is better having a smaller list of those interested in you than a large number of followers, likes or connections to look good!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Working with Influencers for your business

A key marketing strategy for many businesses is to gain new customers from referrals.
So when meeting key business influencers for your business, remember to:
1. remind them what you do and why you can help their contacts
2. engage them with your trust, excellence and results evidence
3. ask! but focus on your ideal customer

Friday, 17 August 2012

Ways to raise finance for your business

We know that raising finance is not easy in the current economic climate, however good financial information will improve your chances of success.

To support your finance application consider analysing your financial accounts (as per our last email), produce a financial forecast and consider providing a forecast of your business that shows how it would still perform if external factors were to impact your business, such as an interest rate rise or reduction in customers or price.

Your business could be financed in a number of different ways and quite often a combination is used. You can consider:

  • Your own personal monies
  • Conventional bank finance – overdrafts, commercial mortgages, business loans, commercial investment mortgages
  • Asset finance – hire/lease purchase, finance lease, operating lease, contract hire, sale and leaseback
  • Invoice discounting and factoring
  • Equity finance
  • Private investors – business angels
  • Grants

We would suggest that you explore the appropriate options for your business and from our experience the key considerations in relation to your choice of finance should be:
  • Speed of decision
  • Price – interest rate and fees
  • Security required
  • Convenience
  • Flexibility
  • Quality of service

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Prospecting with a plan

When you are prospecting for your sales pipeline, then this should be a process and have a plan.
What is your goal, what is your edge, how is your attitude and what is your key activity for an action plan?
We suggest to all our clients to keep a record of activities and measure against your objectives, especially around the areas of size of pipeline, number of resales, referrals received, referrals met, introducer meeting and events held or attended.
Keep your prospecting strong and pipeline flowing.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The common pitfalls for you to avoid as a business

Research has indicated that there are some common reasons for businesses failing, so it is important that you are aware of these common reasons for business failure, which primarily impacts on your cash position, so you can plan to avoid these.

These are key areas we are reviewing for our clients and discussing with them at the appropriate times.

  • Not enough capital
  • Growing too fast
  • Hiring the wrong people
  • Lack of experience
  • Too few customers
  • Setting prices too low
  • Poor financial controls
  • Bad debts
  • Poor control of your overheads
  • Competition.
  • Poor communication with staff
  •  people
  • Bad management & Poor supervision
  • Poor communication with suppliers
  • Poor communication with customers?
  • Poor planning

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Investment opportunities for smaller companies

£500 million of Government investment for small and mid-sized businesses is open for applications. The Government is asking for applications to manage the investment available through the Business Finance Partnership (BFP).
The BFP aims to ease the flow of credit to small and mid-sized businesses in the UK by diversifying their sources of finance and making them less reliant on bank lending. To read more please click here

Friday, 10 August 2012

Which Accounting Software is Best for You?

We are regularly asked which is the best accounting or bookkeeping software for our business? Especially as there are so many options today.
My personal preference is Sage and my own businesses use this software, but the answer really depends on your business needs.
To help you choose the best package for your business, here is an insight to our thinking:

  • The size of your business. Micro, Small, Large, Corporate all have different needs.
  • Your budget to purchase the software etc
  • The needs of your business and requirement to integrate with other software or systems.
  • The industry you're in and if any specialist software would help.
  • What features and reporting information do you need as a minimum. Make a 'desirable' list before you research.
  • How good are the support and training options.
  • Ease of use.
  • Any recommendations. From other business owners, professionals, press....
  • What software does your accountant support? Using a program they don't support could cost you more in the long run.
  • And finally, please don't just listen to the sales messages. Try and test the software.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Could Factoring Free Up your Business Cashflow?

Historically factoring or invoice discounting had a poor reputation as a last resort finance, however more and more business owners are benefiting from a more positive experience.

The lifeblood of any business is cash. You need good cash flow to keep your business viable. In some ways it's more important than turning a profit because even profitable businesses can go under due to poor cash flow during the economic downturn. If cashflow is an issue for your business, factoring could provide a good solution. Factoring companies will advance you cash based on the value of your invoices, within a few days of you issuing the invoice.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Limited Companies and the Responsibilities of Directors

We are surprised by the number of people who establish limited companies because they are aware of the limited liability factor, but do not learn more to know about their responsibilities as a Director.

If you are starting a Limited company, then please visit the companies house web site and read more on the Directors Role and Responsibilities.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Business Continuity Planning

The more years you put into running your business, the more you will feel the need to protect it and ensure no-one can take it away from you. No wonder people refer to their business as their baby!
Without getting into the area of reputation damage, product failure or an employee stealing your clients, there are broadly speaking five areas to be aware of that could badly affect your business. What is your continuity plan for the following?
  • Fire
  • Flood
  • Theft
  • Data Loss
  • Malicious Damage