Category Archives: In the News

Valentine’s Day: you either love it or you loathe it. So instead, why not use mid-February as a time to take stock of the long (and often challenging) month of January, and approach the changing seasons with a spring in your step. While a large number of marketing campaigns may be bursting at the seams with hearts and flowers, SME owners should re-direct the aim of Cupid’s bow this Valentine’s Day by showing a little self-love. A healthy serving of TLC can go a long way, so here’s a few things you can do to reignite your passion for business this February.

 

Sharing is caring

You wouldn’t be where you are today without your customers – especially those who voluntarily recommend your goods and services to friends and family. But how do you help make their voice truly heard (and feel loved in return)? When asked for an opinion, consumers are generally happy to give it, so consider asking visitors for their honest feedback; a little incentive such as a freebie or entry into a monthly prize draw is also more likely to encourage audience participation. A survey of this nature, whether on paper or a simple Facebook Page follow request, will make them feel part of something bigger – and improve your performance in return. With an average of 170 million users per month, customer review websites like Yelp can also help further propel your business into the digital spotlight; TripAdvisor and Yell.com are equally useful tools in turning those sweet nothings into genuine glowing reviews.

Love thy neighbour

As the saying goes: ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’. While ‘competitor’ is perhaps a more suitable way to term your fellow SME, it’s important that you take the time to observe and learn from their activity via consistent analysis – both through the highs and the lows. Observe how well other players within your industry are marketing themselves and how active they are on social media. How competitively priced are they? How would you rate their customer service? Embark on a secret shopper mission, whether physically walking into a store or making an enquiry online to gauge their professionalism and responsiveness. Always remain one step ahead and constantly ask yourself: what spark does this business have that mine is lacking – and what can I do to find it?

 

There are a number of ways you can encourage your staff to look after their mental and physical health that don’t cost the earth

Wellness in the workplace

When it comes to taking good care of your hardworking employees (and yourself), ‘wellness’ is worth its weight in gold. There are a number of ways you can encourage your staff to look after their mental and physical health that don’t cost the earth – yet can make a whole world of difference. The cycle to work scheme is a sustainable, cost-efficient way to boost your employees’ fitness, or why not set the challenge of a team parkrun in your local area. An office book swap, charity bake sale, free breakfast sandwiches every first Friday of the month; each little act of kindness you can comfortably afford and continue to provide in the long-term will only improve staff wellbeing over time. Start by sprucing up your staff breakout area, and you’ll be dreaming up ideas in no time.

Rewarding loyalty

Just as you may reward your staff with career progression and improved employee benefits as the years go by, take a moment to think how you might acknowledge and encourage the support of your valued customers. If you haven’t already, a loyalty card scheme invites customers to join your brand’s VIP community. By offering regular perks and discounts after a given number of purchases, you’ll soon find your once-impulsive visitors coming back for more. If paper cards aren’t your thing however, consider trialling a digital loyalty system such as Loyalzoo. Apps like this will even do the work for you, segmenting your customers into ‘new’, ‘VIP’, and ‘slipping away’ – and thus target these groups with the most appealing promotions on your behalf. Simply sign your customers up at the till with an email address or phone number, and you’re already one stamp away.

Each and every business, no matter how great or small, is a labour of love – both for you as the owner and all those involved. From the team that grafted from day one to the loyal customers who will always choose to ‘shop local’, do away with the gimmicks this Valentine’s Day and celebrate what truly makes your offering one in a million.

Whether you’re a growing SME or just getting started, your employees play a big part in the successful business you once only dreamed of. Yet with the ever-shifting economic landscape a constant distraction, it would be easy to fall behind when attempting to meet the changing demands of the workplace today. From the expectations of new and existing employees to the smart technology designed to streamline your processes, we look at how business owners can continue to attract and retain the best talent – while also improving productivity.

Adams Moore can advise business owners on issues such as attracting and retaining the best talent while also improving productivity.

The ‘Boomerang Effect’

The boomerang movement – whereby past employees are choosing to return to their previous jobs some years later – has truly taken off. Having left for pastures new, time out for a young family, or travel overseas, many professionals are now migrating back to their original place of work, keen to get stuck in. With candidates of this ilk returning more experienced, well-rounded and able to hit the ground running, businesses are already maintaining open channels of communication with ex-employees so as to potentially welcome them back in the future. Though very much decided on a case-by-case basis, business owners who contemplate re-hiring past employees can benefit from a team member with valuable transferable skills, and someone who knows the company inside out. While it might seem unusual, bear in mind the benefits a familiar face could have for your business should they unexpectedly come knocking.

Enter the Freelancer

With 2 million freelancers in the UK as of August 2018 (and counting), it’s no surprise that industry professionals from all backgrounds would consider this flexible way of working at some stage during their careers. Where a ‘consultant’ can offer small businesses expert advice on a particular field as and when required (often in-house), those who consider themselves to be a ‘freelancer’ can help SMEs (often remotely) at short notice – minus the long-term commitment. Whether you’re looking for a graphic designer to re-imagine your brand identity or a copywriter to proof and edit a piece of marketing collateral, freelancers up and down the UK continue to offer the perfect solution by plugging the gap as and when needed. Whether it’s by recommendation or matching your job with a suitable profile via Upwork or PeoplePerHour, consider how a freelancer could save you both time and unnecessary hiring costs this year.

Freelancers in Birmingham continue to offer the perfect solution by plugging the gap as and when needed.

Learning to Love AI

Whether we realise it or not, artificial intelligence (AI) already makes a vast and valuable contribution to the way businesses are run across the globe – both great and small. For instance, the evolution of ‘voice assistance’ technology continues to spark curiosity among tech experts – from Amazon Echo’s Alexa to Apple’s Siri, and their inevitable successors. While business owners and their teams are harnessing this technology for improved productivity across the working week, customers are using it to search and even purchase a product or service from the comfort of their living rooms. Other examples of businesses enlisting the help of AI include the use of chatbots on a company website or Facebook Messenger bots, scheduling meetings and appointments with AI software like x.ai, and even conference call translation via Skype Translation. Arguably, you could say that it’s AI freeing up the precious commodity of time for businesses to focus on the ‘face-to-face’ matters that really count.

The Flexible Factor

From doing away with the traditional 9-5 to offering remote working options, flexibility is key when it comes to remaining an agile and futureproof employer. By choosing to respect and support the unique circumstances of your team members, it’s likely you’ll reap the rewards of a long-term relationship with employees who feel valued, and thus work harder. Take the time to speak with your workforce face to face and, rather than shy away from new ways of working, view it as an opportunity to grow. View flexible working as a two-way exchange, allowing employees to truly assert themselves within the parameters available – whether this means hours to suit the daily school run, remote working when dependants are unwell, or time off for a dentist appointment. While small businesses will struggle to compete with the comprehensive benefits packages of larger competitors, this flexible approach to working offers something more valuable to many people than a subsidised gym membership (that never gets used). Embrace change as part of your company culture and strive to evolve your business as a fully inclusive, full potential-seeking workplace that’s in it for the long haul.

With fizz and fireworks but a distant memory, it’s business as usual for SMEs up and down the nation as the UK settles into 2019. Yet with another clock already ticking (and March’s current Brexit date looming ever closer), business owners are buckling up for what promises to be an historic transition for the country’s economy. Regardless of what sceptics may argue however – elephant in the room aside – small business owners should look to set their own challenges this year, adapting to the changing landscape in order to both evolve their offering and thrive from within. We take a look at five resolutions for business owners to make and keep in 2019, despite the imminent sea change.

Businesses that remain responsive and ahead of the curve will stand the best chance of survival through Brexit.

Get no-deal savvy

The top of the list, and with good reason. Whether the term Brexit gives you the ‘heebeegeebees’ or not, the very real chance of a no-deal departure now has business owners upping their game plans in the face of a worst-case scenario. Nobody knows what the future may hold, yet understanding the broader consequences of a no-deal Brexit can help SMEs plan their next move – whether this happens in March or not. But what can small businesses really do in the face of such uncertainty? From importing and exporting goods to VAT and employment rules, business owners should ready themselves ahead of any new legislation by reviewing their current processes – and how these could be affected by Brexit. Most importantly, a business that remains responsive and ahead of the curve will stand the best chance of survival.

Know your employees better

From dealings with the Continent to keeping it closer to home, business owners should re-assess the relationship they have with their employees as a priority. This goes beyond the annual out-of-office pilgrimage and team building exercise. Instead, take the time to sit down with your staff on a face-to-face basis, hear their opinions and recognise their ambitions. Offering time offsite for voluntary work, extra-curricular activities and wellbeing opportunities will also give you a more well-rounded view of a team working not below you, but alongside you. When it comes to workforce retention, specialist training and career development will only encourage employees to commit in the long term. A valued team is a happy team, and one that stays focused through the good times and the bad.

From Making Tax Digital (MTD) to measuring performance and increasing productivity, the only way is up with easy-to-use digital tools available to SMEs.

Embrace digital

From Making Tax Digital (MTD) to measuring performance and increasing productivity, the only way is up with easy-to-use digital tools available to SMEs. It’s never too late to get tech-savvy, with digital solutions improving efficiency and transparency within the workplace; for smaller businesses, cutting out the admin (and that extra paperwork you just don’t have time for) can help you focus on the bigger picture. When it comes to choosing the right tools for your business, the possibilities are endless: help teams get organised with a streamlined communication system such as Slack; measure chargeable hours digitally with TimeCamp; track receipts, invoice and more with Xero business accounting software. With many apps available for free or offering a free trial period, there’s no time like the present where productivity is concerned.

Refine your social presence

While your social channel icons may display in a proud banner across your website, if you’re not actively posting via these networks, you may want to re-consider your strategy. For customers wishing to ask a question or simply learn more about your business within the social space, there’s nothing more frustrating than an inactive account. Instead, ask yourself which networks are best suited to your current offering (which might well have changed since you first joined Facebook). A florist for example may choose to post their seasonal creations and how-to tips on Instagram, while a tech company owner will strive to position themselves as thought leader by sharing insight with industry professionals via LinkedIn. Whether you choose to remain active across a number of channels or just one – consistency is key to nurturing your social presence.

By upskilling an existing workforce and looking for ways to build your own expertise, doors will continue to open this new year.

Stay unconventional

Despite the ever-shifting landscape of the country’s economy, adaptability is fundamental for SMEs wishing to succeed in 2019 and beyond. As part of the UK’s micro business community, responding to change in a positive way and remaining agile will ensure your offering remains competitive; equally, it may be that some SMEs are able to avoid any immediate impact of new legislation felt by larger corporations in the coming future.

Together with improved efficiency and a happier, healthier work environment, small business owners should continue to think outside the box and push themselves beyond their comfort zone in order to evolve. By upskilling an existing workforce and looking for ways to build your own expertise, doors will continue to open this new year (perhaps where you least expect them).

Making Tax Digital’s (MTD) new mandatory requirements come in to effect from 1 April 2019, and business must comply with the new regime for VAT, or Making Tax Digital for VAT (MTDfV). This means that companies that are VAT registered must keep some record digitally and VAT Returns must be submitted to HMRC digitally via an Application Programming Interface (API). There are a number of ways in which your records and returns can be transferred, but legislation (VAT Notice 700/22: Making Tax Digital for VAT) states they must be entirely digital.

Below we’ve put together an overview of the information we think you will find valuable, and help you understand what you need to do to comply with the legal obligations for Making Tax Digital for VAT.

We can help you understand what you need to do to comply with the legal obligations for Making Tax Digital for VAT.

Who Does MTDfV Affect? The Key Facts

> You will be entering MTDfV if the company has taxable turnover of above the £85,000 VAT registration threshold on 1 April 2019, regardless of company structure.

> There is a deferral of MTDfV for ‘more complex businesses’ until 1 October 2019. These are, trusts, not for profits that aren’t set up as companies, VAT divisions, VAT groups, public sector entities, local authorities, public corporations, traders based overseas, those making payment on account, annual accounting scheme users.

> You will have 30 days to digitally comply for MTDfV if your business exceeds the taxable turnover threshold (the time you must register for VAT) at any time after 1 April 2019.

> Any business in MTDfV must stay in the scheme even subsequent turnover falls under the threshold.

> A business must de-register for VAT to be able to withdraw from MTDfV.

> Any business that has voluntarily VAT registered can choose whether it joins MTDfV.

> Voluntarily VAT registered businesses not electing to go digital at this time should be acutely aware of their turnover as reaching £85,000 threshold will immediately switch them to MTDfV.

Don’t Panic – the Shift to Digital is Simple

While the remainder of this page goes into more legislative details, we thought it was important to explain how simple the switch could be for you in the first year. If you use a spreadsheet to collate your digital records, you can continue to do this as long as you pass them to us via email, on a disc or on a USB stick. Adams Moore will then digitally import that data into software that can connect to HMRC’s systems, we will make the calculations and complete the VAT Return on your behalf.

However, please also look at our page all about Xero online accountancy software, which allows you become digitally compliant in a more simple and cost effective way. With this method, Adams Moore can access your data when VAT Returns or Year End Accounts are due, so you have even less to worry about.

With cloud software, Adams Moore can access your data when VAT Returns or Year End Accounts are due

Mandatory Use of Software

Under MTD, specified records will have to be kept digitally using ‘functional compatible software’ and is important that data must only be also inputted manually once; copying and pasting from one place to another is considered manual transfer. Thereafter, the spreadsheet or software must be able to connect to any required compatible programmes and/or HMRC’s systems. For those businesses who cannot yet ensure data is transferred digitally after it has been inputted initially, there is a soft landing penalty period ending 31 March 2020 – we advise you to look at cloud software options, such as Xero, and HMRC has published a list of compatible software.

The software programme or set of programmes must be capable of:

> keeping specified records in digital form as required by the new rules

> preserving digital records in digital form for up to six years

> creating a VAT return from the digital records held in compatible software and submitting this data to HMRC digitally

> providing HMRC with VAT data on a voluntary basis

> receiving information from HMRC via the API platform

Records to be kept digitally are specified in the VAT Notice, and include:

> ‘Designatory data’ – name and place of business, etc.

> The VAT account linking primary records

> VAT return

> Information about supplies made and received – sales and purchases

VAT Return submissions can be from:

> An API enabled spreadsheet

> Software

> Bridging software

It is no secret that the requirements on businesses will be potentially more extensive under MTD, but smart use of accountancy software, online or otherwise, and having a digitally minded accountant will reduce, if not, remove any extra burden. For example, in relation to supplies made you will be required to record the different rates of VAT applicable, and for supplies received the amount of input tax to be claimed is must be detailed. If you would like further advice on the resource required and to determine if outsourcing some of your accounting compliance tasks to Adams Moore, please contact us for a free consultation.

Exemptions and Adjustments

> Hard copy invoices and receipts – while the recording of purchases and sales must be kept digitally, currently is accepted to keep paper copies of receipts and invoices when a digital version has not been supplied.

> When it’s not reasonably practicable – people can apply to HMRC to become exempt of MTD for reasons of age, disability, remoteness of location or other reason that does not make it reasonably practicable for the business to use digital tools to keep records or submit returns. Adams Moore has clients who fall under this category and we are helping them communicate with HMRC – contact us if you require help with MTD exemptions.

> Existing insolvency procedures – businesses subject to a bankruptcy course of action are exempt from satisfying MTD regulation.

> Religious beliefs – businesses run by practising members of a religious society or order with beliefs incompatible with regulation requirements can be deemed exempt from MTD compliance.

> VAT Online Filing Exemption – exemption for MTD may still apply even if the person or business is not currently exempt from online filing.

> Calculating adjustments outside digital records – at present, adjustments are often needed before VAT Returns are submitted, for example for the capital goods scheme, the fuel charge and partial exemption calculations. Under MTD, it is just the totals that need to be recorded digitally.

> Provisions for special cases – provisions have been made for complex businesses and circumstances, for example, retail scheme users will be only required to record daily gross takings digitally, rather than details of each transaction. Other conditions are regarding employee expenses, intra-group supplies for a VAT group, recording mixed rate supplies with a single price, invoices for multiple supplies, reverse charge supplies, supplies made by third party agents – please contact us if you would like to discuss any of these special cases in detail.

People can apply to HMRC to become exempt of MTD if it is not reasonably practicable for the business to use digital tools to keep records or submit returns.

While 1 April may seem like a long way into 2019, we are advising all of our existing and prospective clients to carefully consider the MTDfV impact on their business now. If you submit VAT Returns yourself via spreadsheets, you may need to purchase bridging software or update the data to be API-enabled. If you use a combination of different software systems and spreadsheets, investigate how you will eradicate all manual links before 2020. We are on hand to guide you through the Making Tax Digital requirements – whether you’re an existing client or are considering changing accountants, please contact us with your queries.

Making Tax Digital will not be mandated for taxes other than VAT until at least April 2020. However, some businesses and agents are already keeping digital records as part of a live pilot to test and develop the Making Tax Digital service for Income Tax. If you are a self-employed business or landlord you can voluntarily use software to keep business records digitally and send Income Tax updates to HMRC instead of filing a Self Assessment tax return.

From Black Friday sales to the last-minute Christmas dash, this winter sees Britain’s high streets gearing up for the most wonderful time of the year. Yet with 2019 but a clink of glasses away, how should businesses really prepare for what could prove turbulent times ahead? From digital accounting to the new face of marketing, we look at the key watch-outs for 2019, and what they could mean for the small businesses of Britain.

Adams Moore can help businesses of all sizes to prepare for 2019.

 

Tax Goes Digital

More ‘effective, efficient and easy’, HMRC’s transformation of the UK’s tax system will come into play from April 1st 2019, with beta testing now in progress. Affecting SMEs with a turnover of £85K or more, Making Tax Digital will mean businesses are required to keep digital records relating to VAT – submitting these returns using the appropriate software.  While not compulsory for those companies below the current threshold, it could provide a good opportunity for smaller businesses to make the switch; VAT-registered businesses with more complex needs are also exempt at this stage. With income tax and corporation tax changes on hold for now (set to follow suit in 2020), business owners and their bookmakers should prioritise this initial development by seeking the relevant cloud accounting software. A helpful overview along with HMRC’s approved list of vendors can be found here, or read about Xero online software here, which is the product we recommend at Adams Moore.

 

Getting to Know Blockchain

If you haven’t been acquainted already, Blockchain is here to stay and is set to transform the way companies operate in 2019 and beyond. Providing efficiency and security, this complex database of independently-verified information allows businesses to share data, such as a financial contract, using an intelligent decentralised system that is both seamless and safe. Thanks to a unique encrypted signature attached to each and every transaction of data, the chain of ‘nodes’ is near impossible to hack, so you can rest assured your records are sealed tight. SMEs thinking of adopting this technology might consider blockchain-based apps to assist with the smoother running of their business, such as the formation of smarter contracts, making international payments, tracking shipments, and cloud storage. With so many options out there, be sure to consult dependable tech reviews or a consultant before investing.

Companies should consider their omni-channel strategies to provide a dynamic, integrated brand experience. 

The Omni-channel Experience

Omni-channel marketing may be nothing new, but businesses can no longer rest on their laurels when it comes to the new generation of customer. Having grown up with ‘always-on’ access to the world around them, Generation Z (currently aged 6 to 23) are the new breed of connected consumer – some even more so than millennials. While doing the research to find the best product or service to suit their needs, this demographic demands a new kind of customer experience: one that flows seamlessly from channel to channel. By leveraging these platforms effectively, businesses can create a more cohesive user journey from wherever their customers choose to join – whether from a homepage, via social media, or within a physical store. With marketing and sales teams in full collaboration, a more dynamic and integrated brand experience can ultimately help drive that final purchase.

 

An Ethical Mission

Brands that take time to promote their ethical mission as a core component of their company ethos can tick a box with the Generation Z demographic, and a fast growing cluster of eco-conscious people of all ages. No matter how small, the endorsement of a business’s moral stance could mean the difference between gaining a new follower on Facebook or a simple scroll down. While numerous household brands are already doing their bit to operate in an ethical manner – think M&S donating to charity when Sparks loyalty card holders make a purchase – these decisions can form part of that all-important brand story. SMEs need only take small steps to make a big difference in 2019 – from independent stores wrapping goods in brown paper to local bars losing plastic straws for good. So whether it’s a physical adjustment or a charitable endeavour, all brands can play their part by making these changes, and shouting about them.Businesses who have eco-conscious ethics should evaluate if these positive messages are reaching audiences.

 

Restoring Trust

From brand ethics to operating transparently, honesty is of the highest value when it comes to customer retention (and finding new ones), particularly in light of recent events. With Cambridge Analytica exposed for harvesting data on Facebook and the rigid changes to GDPR in May this year, authenticity is key. Not only should small businesses think and act discreetly when handling customers’ personal information, but also how they conduct their customer service. A down-to-earth, personalised approach is now the expectation of many consumers, and brands that strive to go the extra mile will only score extra brownie points from a customer’s perspective – whether that means a faster response turnaround on Facebook Messenger or a fully personalised email marketing campaign. With such uncertain months (and even years) ahead, a brand that remains trustworthy is one that will go far in 2019.

 

If you’re looking for a business adviser to help you plan for a successful future, contact Adams Moore to arrange a free consultation, where we can discuss strategies for core efficiencies, market opportunities and customer experience.

This morning’s news headlines were as stark as yesterday with regards to deals, bad deals and no deals, tension in Ukraine, shares dropping and the inclement weather has already abetted the cancelling of some trains. Just another day in the life of the UK. Whatever the origin of a company’s misfortunes, hearing negative news stories day in day out can really affect business and consumer confidence, so it’s crucial to continue focussing on your firm, the marketplace it operates in and sparking positivity at any opportunity.

We’ve chosen two recent global, rather downbeat, stories about profit loss and uncovered the positive opportunities that are hiding, in order to inspire you to keep up that good old Dunkirk spirit our nation is so well known for.

Fuel costs or weather cannot be fully accounted for, so start with looking for ways to elevate the ‘experience’ you’re selling

Air Travel

Thomas Cook, one of the UK’s favourite holiday tour companies, confirmed a £53 million loss and this has been attributed to the summer’s heatwave and last winter’s Beast from the East. In the last three months, Cyprus’ Cobalt Air, Denmark’s Primera Air and British carrier Monarch have all gone bust, with Flybe and Norwegian also on the cusp of disaster. While Brexit and the weak pound have certainly impacted the situation (certainly for Cobalt, with 30% of Cypriot air traffic usually coming from the UK), rising fuel costs are the root of many problems. Airlines capitalised on the plunging oil prices from three years ago, but they’re now paying top whack again, and it seems many committed to new aircraft, which has resulted in having more seats than passengers. This highly competitive market faces a future of flux and airlines Ryanair and Wizz Air have even added clauses to their conditions to disclaim liability for any flights grounded due to Brexit after 29 March.

What can SMEs Learn?

> Despite Thomas Cook’s woes it has announced that it will build 20 new hotels and build on its partnership with Expedia – an own-brand offering is risky in some ways, especially to keep its low costs, but profit margins will be higher and a robust affiliation could bring many more opportunities. Look for efficient partners and investigate ways to bring elements of your business in house.

> Identifying areas where you can make a real difference to your customers or clients could spark the loyalty your business badly needs – fuel costs or weather cannot be fully accounted for, so start with looking for ways to elevate the ‘experience’ you’re selling.

> Be wary of big purchases or leases, even when your books have never looked better. Forecasting and planning for the worst is important to ensure you have a sustainable future during turbulent times.

It’s surprising how many SMEs don’t put the correct thought and capital towards future-proofing their digital sales platforms,

Retail

Everybody’s favourite Swedish store, Ikea, which has an outlet not far from Adams Moore, in Wednesbury, has suffered a 26% year-on-year drop in operating profits – a drop from 3.03 billion Euros to 2.25 billion – and 7,500 jobs (circa 350 in the UK) will be lost. However, we’ve chosen this story, as an example to look a little closer into bad news; here there is much more to tell, and it’s a plot that hasn’t yet played out to the finale. Ikea’s turnover in fact increased marginally by 2.1%, retail sales rose 4.7% and that included a 45 per cent jump in online trade. So what’s going on? The retailer has entered into a three year business transformation period that will focus on ecommerce and a city strategy, which has seen a Planning Studio open on London’s Tottenham Court Road. The upfront costs facilitating the brand’s evolution and store revamps has been responsible for the negative figures and 11,500 new jobs will be created, making a total of 4,000 additional roles, and no losses.

What can SMEs Learn?

> Ikea might appear to be moving forwards with an ‘all eggs in one basket’ approach, but it is carrying out tests in the market from an informed standpoint. Without cars, many city-folk can’t make out of town trips so accessible high street outlets will allow Ikea to grow its customer base – adapting and accommodating to changes in living habits, consumer desires and shopping conventions is fundamental to any retailer’s strategy, but undertake research and trials.

> Investing in online resources and technology is a positive move for the majority of businesses – online shopping seem to have been around forever, but it’s surprising how many SMEs don’t put the correct thought and capital towards future-proofing this area. Aim to add value and convenience through digital platforms and channels, but remember this is likely to affect distribution.

> Adding a different type of store in cities and pushing for more online sales puts a spotlight on broader channels of customer services. Businesses must be fully committed to their staff if they want to provide a great service, from initial awareness of products or services, at point of sale, and beyond. Empower employees to be your advocates as they are your business.

If you’re concerned about your businesses profits or what 2019 may bring for your company, please contact us for a free consultation where we can find out more.

Adams Moore are members of the Lichfield and Tamworth Chanber of CommerceAs some of you may know, Adams Moore Partner, Neil Lancaster, was previously President of the Lichfield and Tamworth Chamber of Commerce, which is just one arm of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce. We continue to be members of this valuable organisation and like to support local where we can.

Therefore we wanted to highlight the up and coming awards and dinner for businesses in Sutton Coldfield, Lichfield and Tamworth, and it’s not too late to submit an entry. The awards are a fantastic opportunity to shine a light on the positive year your business has had, potentially be nominated and gain great exposure from the recognition.

The deadline for award entries is next Friday, 23 November at 5pm. The application form can be downloaded here and entries should be emailed to 2019awards@birmingham-chamber.com.

The third annual Sutton Coldfield, Lichfield and Tamworth Chambers of Commerce dinner and awards will take place at the Belfry Hotel on 25 January 2019.

Companies should nominate themselves for one of the following four categories:

  • Sutton Coldfield Large Business of the Year
  • Sutton Coldfield Small Business of the Year
  • Lichfield and Tamworth Large Business of the Year
  • Lichfield and Tamworth Small Business of the Year

Award sponsorship packages and tickets for the awards dinner are also still available. Find out more information from c.brewerton@birmingham-chamber.com.

With Brexit a matter of months away, this year’s Autumn Statement was perhaps one of the most crucial in recent history, marking a new chapter for the British economy and departure from the EU – complete with commemorative 50p coin. But silver mementos aside, what does Philip Hammond’s Budget really mean for SMEs of the UK as we batten down the hatches for 2019 and beyond? From revised rates to taxation, we run through its key points for Britain in business below.

 

An End to Austerity

Despite the UK’s economic growth forecast dipping from 1.5% this March to 1.3% (the dismal spring weather said to blame) the future looks bright; next year, it is thought this will increase to 1.6%. With up to 800,000 more jobs predicted by 2022, employment will also be on the rise as wage growth remains the highest in almost a decade. As of April 2019, the National Living Wage will increase from £7.83 to £8.21 per hour. Set to benefit 2.4 million workers, this equates to a £690 yearly pay rise for those in full-time work.

> What this means: With the National Living Wage on the rise, growing SMEs will need to make the appropriate considerations as they continue to invest and evolve their workforces.

 

As bricks-and-mortar brands continue their fight to bounce back, the Chancellor revealed a £675m boost to local high streets.

Small Business Wins

As bricks-and-mortar brands continue their fight to bounce back, the Chancellor revealed a £675m boost to local high streets. This will go towards redeveloping empty premises, restoring old buildings and improving transport links. Where rates are concerned, £900m worth of relief for small businesses was announced. For companies with a value of £51,000 or under, this bill could be cut by a third over two years. So much so that 90% of independent shops, including restaurants and pubs, could have their bills reduced by up to £8,000.

> What this means: SMEs valued at £51,000 and under can take advantage of the reduced business rates and should consider how best to re-invest this annual saving.

 

Support for Apprenticeships

With T-level vocational training already introduced and £100 million invested in the new national training scheme, the Chancellor announced a further £695 million package to help the UK’s apprentices. For larger businesses with an annual payroll of £3 million or more, 25% of the apprenticeship levy can now be invested in these trainee employees (up 15%); for SMEs with funds generated by the levy, the 10% fee they currently pay will be halved to 5%. With full details to be confirmed in April 2019, levy changes will be revisited once again come 2020.

> What this means: At a reduced fee of just 5%, now is the opportune time for small businesses to access the funds generated by the levy for apprenticeship training.

 

Autumn Budget 2018 - With an increase of £650 by April 2019, the Personal Allowance will rise to £12,500 – a year earlier than expected.

 

Tax Changes

With an increase of £650 by April 2019, the Personal Allowance will rise to £12,500 – a year earlier than expected. For basic rate tax-payers, this will mean £1,205 less tax between 2019 and 2020. For those paying tax at 40%, the Higher Rate Threshold will also increase from £46,350 to £50,000 from April next year. A new addition to this year’s Budget includes the digital services tax. Where tech giants are concerned, a 2% tax will come into effect from April 2020, where search engines, social media channels and online will be taxed on UK-linked revenue.

> What this means: For SMEs with a salaried workforce, the Higher Rate Threshold changes could incentivise employees to commit for the long-term, and if investment allows, progress their roles further.

 

Improved Transport Links

With the country’s first advanced railway system – High Speed 2 (HS2) – still firmly on the cards, the Budget certainly remained ample where UK transport was concerned. For train travellers, a new 26-30 Railcard will go on sale across the UK this year. In addition to railroad developments, a huge £30 billion was declared to help improve the roads of Britain, including a £28.8 billion National Roads Fund, and £25.3 billion for motorways, trunk and A roads (the Strategic Road Network). Local roads will also benefit from the new Major Road Network, with £420 million committed to local authorities to renew bridges, tunnels and potholes.

> What this means: For business owners (and their employees) aged 26-30, subsidised rail fares can help keep commuting costs down. Investment in nationwide smart motorways will also continue to smooth out travel disruptions.

 

Facing the nation’s mental health issues head on, this year’s Autumn Budget has, most importantly, earmarked a minimum of £2bn per year towards mental health facilities. 

Addressing Mental Health

Facing the nation’s mental health issues head on, this year’s Budget has, most importantly, earmarked a minimum of £2bn per year towards mental health facilities; this will form part of the £20.5bn (after inflation) promised to the NHS over the next five years. Not only will this mean increased mental health services such as a dedicated 24-hour crisis hotline, but will also include specialised mental health ambulances and nationwide crisis centres in the event of an emergency.

> What this means: With 1 in 6 workers affected by mental health, wellbeing in the workplace should be a priority for SMEs moving forward. Investment in mental health services will make resources more readily available, with not only dedicated charities but the government now in full support.

 

And what of the elephant in the room? With £1.5 billion already announced to help departments prepare for Brexit, the government will provide an additional £500 million of additional funding from 2019-20. With over £4 billion set to be invested in this transition, it would seem that for this year’s Budget, our departure from the EU is of tantamount importance.

The winter months can be a slow for a number of sectors, August can be a drag for others and freelancers often feel the pinch during February and March when budgets are depleted. While it might be nice to take it easy for a few weeks, taking it lying down shouldn’t be an option – there are a number of ways to prepare for lulls in business, many creative avenues to explore and opportunities to utilise your extra hours.

There are a number of ways to plan for quiet periods in business.

 

Create Personalised Offers

Utilise your sales data to evaluate what has sold well or what hasn’t and, if possible, transpose this onto your customer base or markets. From here you can make bespoke offers, which could include packages of services or products at reduced costs; for example, a customer who purchases the same items month in, month out may be tempted with an add on at the right price, thus boosting income when it reduces elsewhere. Alternatively, you might attract a previous customer to come back with a deal they can’t refuse.

Sell Your Story

Whether a seasonal dip on its way or you’re planning ahead ‘just in case’, creating stories to use within the context of public relations activities is smart thinking. Look at the forward features lists of target publications to find topics on which you can provide comment. For example, a hotel that tends to be lacking guests in November could look at what the target media are covering in October’s issue, and could advise on any number of things; what to do in the area on a rainy day, what are the city’s best kept secrets, to how to cook the perfect hotel breakfast or how to have an Autumn shopping break on a budget. Also, product launches can be planned for a time when you want the additional interest that media coverage can generate.

Flash Sale

If you sell products you may have items left from old ranges or excess stock of products that didn’t fly of the shelves. Not only is a flash 24 or 48 hour sale a great way to make room for new lines in your stock room, but it can generate income when you need it most. Of course, your margins are significantly reduced, but a sale is a psychological trigger that allows you to cleverly market your full price items, and push for additional sales.

Flash sales are a way of getting rid of old stock as well as increasing your income in a quiet period.

 

Price Comparisons & Structures

Undertaking an audit of your competitors and their price points for the same services or items could mean you can show customers or clients how much they could save. The findings and messages can be used in any number of marketing and PR activities, and it could form the basis of a campaign. Alternatively, could your pricing structure be amended to bring in so called ‘useless’ price points. Offering service A at £100, B at £200 and C at £210 appears to make the middle option quite ‘useless’; however, it helps to turn ‘bargain hunters’ into ‘value seekers’. Making such changes during a fruitful period may keep you front of mind when customers’ money is tight and value is essential.

Plan a New Product Range or Service

Consider the period when your business is at its quietest while also reflecting on the bigger picture of growth, ask yourself these questions:

> What skills do you have at your disposal?

> What are your most profitable products or services?

> What are your most profitable markets or sectors?

> What markets or sectors could you expand in?

> What does your industry’s future look like?

> What is your passion?

Just because your business has always serviced multiple sectors, made blue widgets or sold in the UK, it doesn’t mean that’s how it has to be forever and a day. Being adaptable is crucial in business, and re-evaluating your market position, company focus and vision can offer ways to survive slumps, branch out to increase annual profits and flourish in locations and sectors you didn’t dream of before.

Having complementary product lines or creating a second business can offset seasonal business slumps.

 

Start a Second Business

We all know you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket, time and tide wait for no man and a little of what you fancy does you good. Depending how you answered the first and last questions above, an ambitious and creative thought may have flashed through your head, but if not? Seriously think about it! It is common for company owners to have multiple streams of business income – through the ups and downs of months, years, austerity periods and Brexit deals, fingers in pies can offer holistic stability. From a second company that will complement your current one to a different sector you personally love, if the real aim is to keep busy and have a consistent income stream, maybe you should broaden your horizons.

 

To speak to an expert business adviser about your venture’s forecasting, growth and market planning, or if you are considering starting a new company, call us to arrange an initial free consultation.

Whatever stage your business is at, staff turnover is always a worry; when someone hands in their notice, it may feel like you’ve wasted money and resource and now you have to put in more to find a suitable replacement. Retention of a workforce is an area that we have advised on a number of times, and a review of the company’s culture and employee benefits can shed light on your hiring rates. People often need to feel valued by their colleagues, managers and those on high as well as having options to progress, learn and gain financially, so here are five ways in which your business could turn resignation letters into loyal team members.

People often need to feel valued by their colleagues, managers and those on high as well as having options to progress.

 

Shares

Larger businesses could consider offering employees shares, which is one key way of persuading a member of staff to remain with the company, but if shares are sold the individual may have to pay Capital Gains Tax. Also, there are added tax incentives if the shares are offered through on of the following schemes:

> Share Incentive Plans (SIP) – Individuals are not required to pay Income Tax or National Insurance on Free, Partnership, Matching or Dividend Shares through a SIP, as long as they remain in the plan for 5 years.

> Save As You Earn (SAYE) – Individuals can save up to £500 a month and at the end of the three or five year contract, the money can be used to buy shares at a fixed price. Any interest on the savings is tax free and the difference between the cost and worth of the shares is omitted for tax and NI purposes.

> Enterprise Management Incentive (EMI) – Individuals don’t have to pay Income Tax or National Insurance on shares are purchased in this plan, as long as they paid least the market value they had when the person was granted the option. Companies can grant options up to the value of £250,000 in a 3-year period and have £30 million or less of assets.

> Company Share Options – Individuals can be given the chance to buy up to £30,000 worth of shares at a fixed price and no NICs or tax will be paid on the difference between what was paid for the shares and what they’re actually worth.

 

Training and Development

People working in any sector at any level should be able to continue developing their career, if they wish, and to learn new practical and interpersonal skills. Those who feel bypassed of opportunity or generally stagnant in their role are the first to start looking on the job sites, and business owners or department managers may not see the problem until it’s too late. From a one day course to better use a piece of software to completing a first aid at work course, from lessons to facilitate a change in career to a Master’s Degree, most of us will benefit from studying. Adams Moore has advised companies to look carefully at prospects being offered to staff, and holding consultations is a way of positively engaging with people, listening to their needs and developing training pathways.

From a one day course to better use a piece of software to a Master’s Degree, most of us will benefit from studying.

 

Professional Body Membership

Membership to organisations that set, and sometimes enforce, standards for a particular field or profession is often beneficial for the individual associate as well as the company that employs them. Staff who are members are illustrating they have excellent sector knowledge and aptitude, and they can access a wide range of information, documentation, training and peer support; businesses who employ people who are members are illustrating their company’s worth through having a highly skilled workforce. Paying for such membership or Chartership is another way of showing your business understands the importance of personal and career development, which can help in nurturing loyalty.

 

Away Days

All work and no play made Jack a dull boy who started looking for a new job. Giving something back to your staff in the form of a fun day or night out can really lift morale, help new friendships blossom across different teams and show that you’re thankful for everyone’s hard work. Christmas parties or annual dinners are the highlight of many people’s years, but there a wide variety of activities that can get people out of the office to bond and let their hair down. From hiring narrowboats and go-kart tracks to completing a scavenger hunt or escape room, events are a great way to say thank you. Business also get an added bonus in the way of a tax exemption on food, drink, tickets, accommodation, venue costs and more; if the event or events recur annually and is open to all staff or a specific department, £150 per-employee is tax-deductible. If a partner is invited, the exemption applies to their costs of up to £150 also. The amount can be spread across more than one event but even one pence over the allowance will mean no costs can be offset.

Giving something back to your staff in the form of a fun day or night out can really lift morale and foster loyalty.

 

Tax Efficient Benefits

A salary sacrifice is a popular way of helping employees to reduce their tax or NICs; instead of cash in the bank, they receive something else of benefit, and it is this that is exempt from tax, or comes with a more advantageous tax bill. If what your business can clearly explain what the benefits mean for them, they may think twice about filling in that other job application. Childcare voucher, cycle to work and pension schemes are fairly standard, and gaining academic qualifications, buying extra holidays or purchasing phones or tablets are becoming more common. With workplace pension contributions now compulsory, businesses should consider if putting more into employees’ pension pots will be favourable on the tax bill. However, it is also important to understand if it will influence an employee’s choice to stay or move onto another company and if the cost is less than the burden of re-recruiting.

 

If you’re looking for advice on tax efficient benefits for your business or employees, please contact us to discuss the options available.