Category Archives: In the News

Ever wondered whether your business could benefit from appointing an apprentice? Providing a young recruit with the valuable chance to work alongside a team of experienced staff while learning job-specific skills, an apprentice could help you improve productivity by plugging a key skills gap – on a program tailored specifically to your business – and potentially aid staff retention (with an often-loyal new staff member emerging at the other side). From finding the right match to making the most of funding available, we cover the key things a small business should know before taking on that first trainee.

Whether employed by your company directly under an Apprenticeship Agreement, or found through an Apprenticeship Training Agency (ATA) for which a fee is payable, apprentices are full employees and should be treated as such under a contract of service. You’ll also need to bear a number of other factors in mind to ensure your business fully complies with apprenticeship law.

You’ll also need to bear a number of other factors in mind to ensure your business fully complies with apprenticeship law.

Apprenticeship contract – employers must offer all apprentices a contract of at least 30 hours, including external training of which should account for 20% of this time. Contracts should also be for a fixed period (from one to five years) and role-dependent, with one year being the absolute minimum. Businesses are not legally obliged to provide employment at the end of the scheme.

Apprentice pay/rights – apprentices under 19 (and over 19 for their first year of training) must at least receive the National Minimum Wage of £3.90 per hour. Upon completion of the first year, the apprentice should be paid the National Minimum Wage in accordance with their age. Working Time Regulations ensure that apprentices receive the same rights as regular employers, such as the provision of sufficient rest breaks; they are also protected by the Equality Act 2010.

Apprentice dismissal – management have the right to dismiss an apprentice as they would any other employee should they deem such action necessary. The ACAS Dismissal Code still applies in this instance, and employers must still provide apprentices with the reason for dismissal in writing. Due to apprenticeship contracts being fixed-term, a dismissal notice period would not be required.

We cover the key things a small business should know before taking on that first trainee.

Finding your first apprentice

In order to be eligible, all apprentices must first meet the completion conditions of the Apprenticeship Agreement, which relates to the framework or standard for an apprenticeship in your industry. Candidates must also have completed the required training for the qualifications stated within the framework in order to receive their apprenticeship certificate. There are four levels of apprenticeship currently available in the UK:

  • Intermediate Level 2 – equivalent to candidates with five good GCSE grades.
  • Advanced Level 3 – equivalent to candidates with two A-Level grades.
  • Higher Apprenticeships 4-7 – equivalent to candidates at foundation degree level.
  • Degree Apprenticeships 7 -8 – equivalent to candidates at Bachelor’s or Master’s degree level.

Once having established the level of proficiency required, guidance on hiring an apprentice in England can be found on the GOV.UK page here; you can also search for vacancies in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Depending on your business circumstances (and the apprentice(s) themselves), you may also wish to consider the types of funding available to help get you on track.

Depending on your business circumstances (and the apprentice(s) themselves), you may also wish to consider the types of funding available to help get you on track.

Apprenticeship funding

If your company pays (or plans to start paying) the Apprenticeship Levy, you’ll later be eligible to access government funding via an online account. This is paid via the PAYE system, and requires all businesses (with bills over £3 million) to pay 0.5% of their annual pay bill to the levy. An allowance of £15,000 per annum is then received to offset against the levy payment, yet must be spent by the employer on apprenticeship training via certified providers within the first 24 months; the government then pays a 10% top-up towards this fund.

For smaller employers that don’t pay the Apprenticeship Levy, funds must be paid directly to the provider, of which the business must pay 5% towards the cost of training. The government can then offer support by financing the remaining amount – dependent on the apprenticeship funding band. Employers with less than 50 staff members are not required to pay the 5% for an apprentice aged 16-18 years old, or for those apprentices aged 19-24 having previously been in care or with a local authority Education, Health and Care plan.

Here at Adams Moore, we’re proud to have taken on two hardworking apprentices via the BMet Apprenticeship Programme, as well as offering various work experience placements throughout the year. This has proven a fantastic opportunity for apprentices to both train and thrive within the unique environment of a small local business, while gaining valuable skills transferable to their future careers within the field. If you’d like to find out more about how an apprenticeship can help fuel your business and be financially beneficial, call us on 01827 54944 or contact us here.

If you’re an employer receiving services from workers through an intermediary, it’s likely you’ve heard of IR35. You may also have heard that in just over four months’ time, the anti-avoidance tax legislation will be extended to the private sector. But what does this mean for UK SMEs, and what steps should be taken to ensure a smooth transition? We’re here to explore the IR35 regime in more detail – and how this could affect your business from April 2020.

We’re here to explore the IR35 regime in more detail – and how this could affect your business from April 2020.

IR35: when did it start and what does it mean?

Taking its name from the Inland Revenue press release announcing it, IR35 was created to tackle the issue of ‘deemed employment’ and tax avoidance both by workers and the employers who hire them – applying only to those individuals supplying their services via an intermediary (a personal service company or partnership). A set of tax laws that form part of the Finance Act, what was then known as the ‘Intermediaries Legislation’ first came into force in April 2000; the NICs element of this legislation then fell under the Social Security Contributions (Intermediaries) Regulations 2000, and the income tax element under the Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003 thereafter. In April 2017, ‘Off-Payroll Reforms’ – otherwise known as IR35 – represented a new piece of legislation then introduced to cover the public sector.

Having proven difficult to enforce, the updated rules of IR35 now comprise a new form of tax treatment whereby employees assess the status of contractors, and pay employment taxes in addition to those already paid to the contractor – now known as ‘Off-Payroll Tax’. For the workers themselves, this can reduce their net income by up to a quarter, costing them thousands of pounds in NICs and income tax. The proposed changes taking place from April 2020 will now require private sector businesses or the ‘end client’ to take sole responsibility of this legislation – as opposed to the intermediaries – ensuring they remain IR35-compliant (and thus avoiding unpaid tax liability).

How could this impact my business?

If you are a large or medium-sized incorporated or unincorporated enterprise, it’s like this will apply to you. With incorporated enterprises defined as ‘small businesses’ by HMRC, meeting two of the following statements would classify you as such:

  • An annual turnover £10.2m or less
  • A balance sheet total of £5.1m or less
  • No more than 50 employees (on average)

Businesses engaging employees through an intermediary can avoid complications by following best practice from the outset, as failure to do so could result in further confusion down the line – and potential investigation by HMRC. Making as accurate an assessment as possible is crucial when hiring new workers (or reviewing existing contracts). This can be made via a status determination statement (SDS) providing evidence as to whether IR35 applies. While further official guidance is yet to be published, businesses failing to take ‘reasonable care’ – in the case where an SDS is dismissed by the intermediary and/or worker in question – could then be liable to account for PAYE and NICs.

In addition to the risk of inaccurate categorisation, workers affected by IR35 legislation may demand a pay increase and enhanced employee benefits, or choose to cease contracting with their current employers altogether due to the financial implications involved. While it’s important for businesses to get this right, the impact this could have on any existing workforce should also be carefully considered – particularly regarding any long-term hiring plans you may have.

Making as accurate an assessment as possible is crucial when hiring new workers (or reviewing existing contracts).

What are the next steps?

If you’re still unsure as to whether IR35 applies to your company, take an online IR35 review test. If applicable, then prepare in advance by establishing the information-gathering process for the SDS, and how easily this could be implemented. You’ll also need to consider the true cost of these changes to your business, and how economically viable it is to be hiring contractors under the new legislation. Have these ready by early next year, and with updated guidance from HMRC, IR35 compliance will soon slot into your routine tax admin.

At Adams Moore, we specialise in tax planning for your business. From tax relief allowances to personal pension contributions, our expert team can advise on all aspects of your financial planning – paving the way for a brighter future. Get in touch to discuss your needs with a free accountancy consultation.

From flat-screen TVs to kitchen appliances, Black Friday has come a long way since the post-Thanksgiving department store dash for cut-price electricals. Drastically slashing prices of high-ticket items for customers hungry for a bargain, it didn’t take long for the US sales bonanza to make its way back across pond. Now as one of the UK’s busiest shopping periods, retailers of all shapes and sizes – from brick-and-mortar stores to online-only brands – are conjuring up their own unique promotions to stand out from the crowd. But what role can small businesses really play over the Black Friday weekend, and how – in their own unique way – can they ever hope to compete? Here’s five tips for small businesses hoping to reap the benefits.

Black Friday has come a long way since the post- Thanksgiving department store dash for cut-price electricals.

 

Ramp up your digital marketing

When it comes to Black Friday sales, don’t underestimate how serious your customers are about seeking that one-off bargain. Make it clear on your website and social channels that you will be taking part in Black Friday from now if you haven’t done so already, and invite intrigue by teasing your special offers a few days in advance; counting down to the big event can help garner interest, and you may wish to extend these limited deals across the weekend and into ‘Cyber Monday’. To create a sense of urgency, be clear in stating that these discounts are valid for a limited time only. For enhanced visibility, pay per click (PPC) advertising can also help you build a bigger campaign around the event, while helping you engage the most effective leads for your business.

 

Throw a party with fellow SMEs

Customers that shop local do so to support their community, so small businesses close to each other should consider the idea of banding together. As a united force, SMEs stand a much better chance of driving footfall on events like Black Friday by pushing promotions together and recommending each other by word of mouth or stocking their leaflets. To make an event of it, you could consider creating a unique hashtag for your campaign and display posters in the window; you may even wish to set up outside (if the weather allows) to greet people as they arrive. In addition, trading for extended hours on the day of the event while serving nibbles and drinks into the evening will make customers feel welcome and part of something special – something not all bigger brands are able to do.

Trading for extended hours on the day of the event while serving nibbles and drinks into the evening will make customers feel welcome and part of something special.

 

Take control of your staff rota

While a Black Friday banner does most of the talking, SMEs that can count on their staff to assist in pushing the promotions stand the best chance of success; where small businesses are concerned, the personal touch will always go a long way. For this reason, ensure you enlist the help of the most reliable, ‘customer-facing’ staff on the day (offering overtime to any additional staff who may be interested). If you’re office-based or an online-only business, make sure you have enough staff to assist your efforts across the busy period – whether manning the phones or managing other customer service channels. As one of the most important sale periods of the year, staff organisation plays a huge part in the smooth running of the day, and is key to ensuring your business makes the right impact.

 

Offer meaningful discounts

Don’t be disheartened if you can’t offer the same level of discount as your high street/online competitors. Not only is it unrealistic to compete with bigger brands in this way, but it’s unlikely your customers will expect it. Instead, make your discounts meaningful by offering rewards or additional services when customers choose to buy from you that day. If you’re a café, why not treat visitors to a special bun with any hot drink, or an extra stamp on their loyalty card? Other businesses could consider offering extended consultation meetings free of charge, or a bumper package of services should they wish to purchase there and then. If your company supports a charity, why not donate a percentage of the proceedings from every product sold on Black Friday? Not only would that say a lot about you as a business, but it would also make customers feel good in the process.

It’s crucial you reward your paying customers, using Black Friday to mark the start of an ongoing relationship – fostering future loyalty.

Reward customers for their loyalty

In a busy world saturated with special offers and promotions (even more so on Black Friday), it can often prove tricky to convince shoppers/clients to choose your business over others. For this reason it’s crucial you reward your paying customers, using Black Friday to mark the start of an ongoing relationship – fostering future loyalty. It may be that you offer a special discount for next time (to encourage a repeat visit), or that you touch base a few weeks later – whether by telephone or email – to ensure your customer is enjoying their product, and whether there’s any further services/products they may be interested in. With Christmas around the corner, retailers could take the opportunity to invite ‘friends’ of the business for an evening of browsing and special offers to keep the momentum going – into 2020 and beyond.

 

Adams Moore specialises in providing expert advice for both established and start-up firms of all shapes and sizes. Whether preparing your very first business plan or seeking guidance on how to take your firm to the next level, get in touch with your enquiries today.

It is with the greatest sadness that we announce the sudden death of Neil Lancaster who has been Partner at Adams Moore for 15 years. Neil, aged 50, had an undiagnosed heart condition and passed away suddenly on Friday, 4 October 2019. He also served as president of Lichfield and Tamworth Chamber of Commerce from October 2010 to February 2014 – and thereafter remained on the Board – so was a respected figure in the local business community; all the staff at Adams Moore, Neil’s wife Helena and his 19 year old twin sons would like to thank those who have contacted us with their condolences and kind words about Neil.

 

Neil’s funeral will take place on Monday 4 November at 12 midday at the Sacred Heart Church in Tamworth (B77 2EA), and his family have expressed that any clients and members of the community who knew Neil are very welcome to attend.

Born and raised in Sutton Coldfield, Neil left school and went straight to work in an accountancy firm rather than take the further education route. Not long after he and Helena married, over 20 years ago, he started his own firm – Lancaster & Co. – in Tamworth and he has worked in the town ever since. It was in 2004 when he joined Adams Moore as a third Partner in the practice.

Helena and Neil’s twin sons, Kieron and Nathan, were born in 2000, and Neil became the embodiment of the doting father. Neil was very proud of his boys and was known as a family man, who put them above all else. Work was Neil’s second love, followed closely by Aston Villa, and his true honesty and integrity enabled clients to have complete trust in his advice.

It is testament to his organisational skills and thoughtful efficiency, that even after such a sad and sudden loss, Adams Moore can continue with business as usual. Martin Crook, the remaining Partner at the firm, said: “Neil’s passing came as a shock to us all, and the last three weeks have been extremely difficult. However, the good wishes and stories we have heard from clients and the local business community have been a comfort to staff and Neil’s family, and we thank everyone for them. We hope to see as many people as possible at his funeral next week.

“Neil was a highly respected a trusted accountant who took his work very seriously. He was at his best figuring out problems. He has given the business an extremely strong foundation, and his focus on doing the best job possible has meant the firm has been able to continue with business as usual. He will be sadly missed and will be impossible to replace.”

Neil continued to serve on the Lichfield and Tamworth Chamber of Commerce board after he was succeeded as president by James Blackman; Mr Blackman said: “His death has come as a huge shock. He was dedicated Chamber member and will be sorely missed. He always credited the Chamber with being important in his own business success and that of Adams Moore. It was his mild-mannered presence which impressed everyone and he played an important role when Lichfield and the other South Staffordshire Chambers merged with Greater Birmingham.”

Paul Faulkner, chief executive of the Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, added: “Neil was a truly dedicated businessman and Chamber member. He was typical of the busy business people who dedicate so much of their time to working with the Chamber for the greater good. He embraced the new opportunities which membership of the wider group brought while at the same time maintaining a local presence through networking and business support.”

 

As ambitious entrepreneurs up and down the nation seek alternative ways to fund their business models, crowdfunding continues to gain traction as a popular road to healthy investment. With three mainstream platforms now operating in the UK Syndicate Room, Seedrs and Crowdcube ‘unlisted’ companies are able to raise capital by exchanging their shares via an FCA-regulated platform (with private investors able to back a business from as little as £10). While previously exclusive to venture capitalists and private ‘angel’ investors, crowdfunding also makes the act of investment more accessible, and thus the pool of potential investors far greater. For business owners crowdfunding for the first time, here’s five things to consider before diving in head-first.

As ambitious entrepreneurs up and down the nation seek alternative ways to fund their business models, crowdfunding continues to gain traction as a popular road to healthy investment.

1. Preparing for a campaign

When readying your first crowdfunding campaign, begin by asking what any investor would want to know: how will the money be spent? How will this convert to ROI further down the line? With clear direction from the outset, realistic projections can also be made so as to set expectations. Equipped with a well-thought-out plan, the next step is to carry out research on the current platforms available (and what they can do to propel your vision). Start-ups should also take note of the 30% rule; by activating your campaign (in private mode) preloaded between 20-30%, your project stands a better chance of sparking interest – and thus surviving the long-haul.

2. Perfecting your pitch

While the thought of planning a pitch may seem daunting and time-consuming, this really is your time to shine when it comes to attracting prospective investors. Though getting it right first time can prove tricky, try placing yourself in the shoes of your audience; does your campaign inspire with a human story at its heart? Pitches tend to comprise both a business plan and three-minute video, so take the time to rehearse your script in front of friends (or better still, a fellow colleague). Remember to tailor your pitch to a broader audience should you have targeted angel investors in the past, avoiding any form of exclusion.

Remember to tailor your pitch to a broader audience should you have targeted angel investors in the past, avoiding any form of exclusion.

3. Considering the cost

The total fee of a crowdfunding campaign is largely down to you. Up-front expenses, such as hiring a videographer or writer for your pitch, often form the main part of this sum; if successful in your funding, platforms tend to charge anything between 4-7% of the figure invested. Owners should also factor in time spent away from the everyday running of a business, and whether this could be better managed by delegating to other team members. After having been accepted, the majority of campaigns will be set live for a minimum of 30 days. When plotting this out, don’t underestimate the time it takes to sufficiently prepare your pitch.

4. Succeeding first time

Like with all forms of financial backing, the fear of failure can often stand between an entrepreneur and their next great idea. While crowdfunding does offer a more cost-effective route to investment, it’s important to realise that even the best ideas can sometimes fail – regardless of the sum you are hoping to raise. With another 20-30 campaigns likely to be live at the same time as your own, you’ll be competing against other start-ups – often hoping to attract the same investors. For this reason, you’ll need to ensure the following are met: a sound business plan and video pitch with realistic projections, a campaign that’s at least 20% funded, and the right platform-match for your project.

You’ll need to ensure the following are met: a sound business plan and video pitch with realistic projections, a campaign that’s at least 20% funded, and the right platform-match for your project.

5. What’s in it for investors

Crowdfunding is a great way to attract and form longstanding relationships with all manner of investors during the early years of your venture, which in itself can be very rewarding. Similarly, investors who choose to back your idea will have the exciting chance to be part of a young business, and the opportunity to invest more manageable amounts in accordance with its maturity. Established investors who see true potential in your company may choose to give more based on future return on investment – another reason for entrepreneurs to think carefully when finalising their pitch. Whomever you choose to partner with, ensure that you remain on the same page throughout your journey.

Starting a business for the first time can prove both exciting and daunting for any entrepreneur, as can seeking the right advice. Adams Moore offer a wealth of expertise and guidance on all manner of key considerations – from your first year end accounts through to trading. Get to know us by reading our business start-up advice, or why not get in touch to discuss your dream plans further.

As we come to the end of this year’s Small Business Advice Week, September offers businesses the perfect time to take stock of the busy summer period and approach the fourth and final quarter with renewed drive and a fresh perspective. Whether you’re a fledgling start-up or an SME looking to take the next steps, there are a number of resources available to entrepreneurs hoping to grow their business; in addition to arranging a free new client consultation at our Tamworth offices, the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Growth Hub is a great place to start. It connects SMEs with free expert advice, support programmes and funding opportunities available in the area. With a number of paths available, we’ve taken a look at three strategic activities, devised to propel your business in the right direction.

Arrange a free new client consultation at our Tamworth offices.

Identify your key performance indicators (KPIs)

It’s likely that once upon a time, your KPIs formed a formidable part of your business plan, yet it’s surprising how quickly (and easily) these can be left by the wayside. While these may take pride of place on the first page of your notebook – or simply be ingrained in your head day to day – take the time to write them down and review them on a regular basis; has anything changed since launching your venture, and are they still relevant? More importantly, how can you use them to better measure the success of your business moving forward? Designed to give you clarification and greater insight, here is an example of five growth metrics you may want to consider:

Churn rate – this is the rate at which your clients choose to leave your business each month. If customer retention is low, you’ll want to identify the reasons behind this as a priority for on-going growth (as this will likely hinder your progress, if there is any at all).

Customer Lifetime Value (CVL) – having analysed your churn rate, the average monthly revenue from each customer can help illustrate their lifetime value to your business. Compare this to the average cost of customer acquisition, and this can prove very useful.

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) – armed with your monthly marketing budget, compare this to the average amount of new customers gained to identify how much they are costing to acquire. How does this then compare with physical customer spend per month?

Average customer revenue – how much are your customers spending on average per month? To maximise your revenue, you’ll want to consider how you can increase this figure through cross-selling and up-selling, in turn enhancing the customer experience.

Monthly recurring revenue – you’ll need to track this over several months to acquire an average revenue figure. If you operate on a monthly subscription basis however, be sure to track the ‘recurring’ revenue and monitor how much is gained (or lost) each month.

Designed to give you clarification and greater insight, here is an example of five growth metrics you may want to consider.

Track your results (and learn from them)

There’s nothing like enjoying the fruits of your labour, but if you don’t learn from your results – whether good or bad – a positive outlook can prove difficult to sustain (or achieve). To do this effectively, you’ll need to decide what variables need to be measured in order to monitor your success rate – as well as considering how to measure them. There are two methods of data collection that can help you in this instance: active data collection, and passive data collection.

Active data collection – this requires both the knowledge and permission of the individuals suppling the data. As a result, this can lead to ‘observer bias’: the inclination to see what you expect to see, or want to see.

Passive data collection – this means data can be collected with no action required by the collector of data (or the source). This makes it easier to gather and, due to the lack of observer bias, generally more accurate.

For this reason, passive data collection is often the preferred method of results tracking. Once having gathered the statistics required, algorithm-based data analytics can help you interpret them (and thus better guide your future business decisions). No longer reserved for the big data of big corporations, there are companies that specialise in providing this service for SMEs that are easily searchable.

You’ll need to decide what variables need to be measured in order to monitor your success rate – as well as considering how to measure them.

Scale up sensibly

Growth, growth, growth. Experienced entrepreneurs will know a thing or two about the ambitious ‘starry-eyed’ phase of wishing to take a start-up to new heights – sometimes without sufficient regard for the consequences. Yet while gumption is nothing to be sniffed at, scaling up at a pace that suits your business is a more effective way of achieving continued expansion. Investing too much before establishing product-market fit, for example, can result in failure.

Instead, business owners should look to avoid debt and build savings back up in the early stages so as to invest in the future. SMEs could consider a co-working space (as opposed to renting a sole premises), hiring an apprentice rather than an entry-level employee, or implementing cloud-based solutions in place of costly hardware to host data. Whatever you can do to preserve outgoings will only result in more funds to play with when the time comes.

They say the best advice often comes from the least likely of places, yet while entrepreneurs should be open to guidance from all parties, what value can this input really add to the journey of a business over time? Whether it was a past colleague, university roommate, or older sibling – good advice has the power to drive our ambitions forward in the years to come, whether we realise it or not. As 2019’s Small Business Advice Week begins (2-8 September) we take a look at five nuggets of advice relevant to an SME’s growth and development – often with tangible business results.

1. Did you know: SMEs can claim tax relief on some social events?

Starting a business from scratch can prove both an emotional and financial rollercoaster, as we soon learn the true value of time and money. For this reason, claiming costs wherever possible can save start-ups large sums of much-needed cash – whether set aside for a rainy day, or pumped directly back into the business. Organising an end-of-summer staff party? Business owners may not realise it, but ‘entertaining’ a workforce may make them eligible for tax relief for social functions and events – if it’s costing no more than £150 per employee. While annual events are exempt from this expense (no claiming back on that Christmas dinner), it’s worth noting for other sizeable, one-off occasions where a little spare cash goes a long way.

Business owners may not realise it, but ‘entertaining’ a workforce may make them eligible for tax relief for social functions and events.

2. Did you know: sole traders aren’t required to open separate business accounts?

It’s likely that your bank or fellow business owners may have ‘recommended’ opening a business account, but the reality is that as a sole trader, you are not legally required to. If the business is not separate from the self-employed person running it, start-ups can save money by holding off on opening this type of account – and dodging unwanted charges in the process. While a business account can be beneficial for a number of other reasons, such as accepting card payments from customers, applying for business loans, or becoming the owner of more than one company – you may simply consider opening a second personal account for now to help keep things separate.

3. Did you know: tech start-ups can gain easier access to capital through SEIS/EIS funding?

When it comes to financial backing, tech start-ups will already know the significance of securing the right investment. Tax-based government funding through the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) and the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) are designed to support start-ups in the early growth stage by encouraging investors through tax incentives; in return for equity, a total of £100,000 (SEIS) or £1,000,000 (EIS) can be invested per tax year. Not only are these grants more attainable for tech entrepreneurs, but they also enable greater access to capital; a higher rate of failure within the tech industry also gives investors the grounds to substantiate the risks involved.

A dedicated mentor who’s focused on your business alone can be worth their weight in gold – especially during the early stages.

4. Did you know: business mentors can help you avoid costly mistakes in the long-term?

While you may already have a strong network of friends, family and industry professionals around you, a dedicated mentor who’s focused on your business alone can be worth their weight in gold – especially during the early stages. Contrary to popular belief, a good mentor is not hard to find when looking in the right place, and doesn’t cost the earth (if anything at all). The government-backed Great Business hub offers sound advice on where to seek this all-important guidance, whatever your circumstance – from 18-30 mentoring with the Prince’s Trust Enterprise to quality-assured business mentoring organisations. Details of entrepreneur events and networking communities can also be found here.

5. Did you know: passion can get in the way of progress?

Closing with a piece of broader advice, entrepreneurs who enter the growth phase blinkered to others can run the risk of jeopardising their own business. While that fire-in-the-belly feeling will get you so far, harnessing this drive in new ways can ensure you remain both passionate and knowledgeable (so as to always make informed decisions). From reaching out to fellow business professionals and conducting market research, to trusting in the expertise and opinions of your team, business owners can ensure the responsibilities of steering a new venture don’t disrupt that all-important approach to hands-on leadership.

Here at Adams Moore, our team of friendly professionals are dedicated to helping small businesses realise their vision. From business advice services to future tax planning, get in touch to start your journey today.

Whether it’s been a jaunt abroad, a weekend staycation, or simply time away from the screen, there’s nothing like that back-to-work feeling after some much-needed headspace. Yet even if you haven’t had chance to escape this summer, the holiday season provides the perfect opportunity for SMEs to get their accounts in order. With the deadline for your tax return 12 months after year end (for Corporation Tax and Companies House it’s nine), businesses now have less than half the year to get their affairs in order. So as not to incur unwanted fines – the later you leave it, the more severe the penalty, and some accountants will charge you for late submission of data to them – here are a number of things to consider when submitting your accounts to HMRC and Companies House, from what to file to managing that all-important housekeeping.

From expenses to overdue invoices, chasing up any outstanding payments should also be a priority to ensure your accounts remain accurate.

What exactly do I need to file?

Before year end, you’ll need to ensure your Company Tax Return, or CT600, reaches HMRC; this comprises your total business income – minus any tax allowances and expenses. The remaining figure is then used to determine how much Corporation Tax is owed. Annual Accounts that require submission are made up of these three segments: the Income Statement, Statement of Financial Position, and the Footnotes:

> Income Statement – this record contains any profit or loss your company has made over the relevant accounting period.

> Statement of Financial Position – otherwise known as the ‘balance sheet’, this statement communicates the assets, liabilities and capital of your company, culminating in its overall value.

> Footnotes – these detail any further information regarding transactions, such as loans or advances, between your company and any of its directors.

For businesses that prepare accounts via the Financial Reporting Standard for micro-entities, or FRS 105, Companies House also require the Statement of Financial Position and the Footnotes; it’s important to know that these findings will then be published on the Companies House website.

Taking control of your admin

When it comes to mastering your Company Tax Return, there are several bits of housekeeping you’ll want to action in order to provide the most accurate report; addressing this ahead of time will only make it easier come submission day. Business expenses are a perfect example of this, as every transaction you claim equates to less Corporation Tax paid at year end. If said item/service was bought exclusively for your business, such as staff uniforms, travel costs, or a training course, chances are you can claim it back. If unsure, you can always double-check this with HMRC here.

From expenses to overdue invoices, chasing up any outstanding payments should also be a priority to ensure your accounts remain accurate; allow enough time for clients to settle up ahead of sharing your tax return to avoid any unnecessary stress. Similarly, keeping on top of your paperwork (and yes, that includes your large wad of receipts) is crucial in maintaining visibility. Whether it’s copies of statements from your bank or suppliers, or any other records of income, you must keep track of these transactions for at least six years from the end of the relevant accounting period.

Allow enough time for clients to settle up ahead of sharing your tax return to avoid any unnecessary stress.

Business MOT – your summer service

Year end can prove a hectic time for any SME owner, so why postpone your annual business review any longer? While submitting your tax return can be a huge sigh of relief, it’s also worth stretching your efforts that bit further to give your company the best possible start as you approach the new financial year.

As a limited company director, you’re required to re-confirm your details with Companies House once a year (failure to submit this Confirmation Statement or Annual Return will result in a fine), plus you’ll also need to plan for your VAT returns (if VAT registered on the flat rate or standard scheme). You may also wish to review your suppliers and/or service providers to establish you’re getting the very best deal from your existing set-up. In addition, wise financial decisions – such as assessing your pension options or paying into an ISA – can help you save towards a brighter future; efficient tax planning can also help minimise your tax bill in the long term.

From knowing what to claim on expenses to keeping your records shipshape, Adams Moore offers a range of accountancy services bespoke to your business needs. With a free hour-long initial consultation available at our Tamworth offices to all prospective clients, contact us for a friendly chat.

Late payments, we’ve all been there; and that’s not to mention the chasing up, the waiting around, and the age-old frustration that comes with it. Yet for the majority of start-ups, late payments represent more than just a mere inconvenience. Software company Xero found that on average, a staggering 48% of invoices issued by small businesses were paid past their due date in 2018 – nearly half of the nation’s SME invoices (in their millions). Not only can this have major repercussions for the financial health of a business, but it can also trigger needless stress and anxiety for both owners and employees – as well as damaging all-important business relationships in the long run. We explore the reality behind Britain’s late payment offences, and what businesses can do to prevent them.

Software company Xero found that on average, a staggering 48% of invoices issued by small businesses were paid past their due date in 2018.

From cashflow woes to stifled growth

As many a business owner will concur, keeping on top of cashflow can prove a real everyday struggle. Throw delayed payments into the mix, and an SME’s incomings and outgoings become even harder to manage – spiralling out of control and having a severe impact on productivity. With 50,000 businesses failing each year due to cashflow problems, the belated actions of a client can result in serious setbacks or (worse still) a company’s doors closing altogether. Xero’s Small Business Insights report found that over a quarter of SMEs pay their suppliers late as a result, racking up a debt of over £50 billion per year across the small business community. While bigger corporations may find this easier to swallow, this is a ‘luxury’ the majority of SMEs simply can’t afford.

With a third of small business owners claiming they’d be more productive if it wasn’t for cashflow worries, it’s clear that consistent late payments can have consequences for future growth. Without access to the funds that are duly owed, SMEs will find it difficult to invest in the staff and technology needed to drive their business to the next level. In a world where invoices were always paid on time, 28% of business owners also agreed they would feel more empowered to make big decisions. Affecting the self-confidence of entrepreneurs, it would seem the instability caused by stifled cashflow has the ability to go beyond simply balancing the books.

Losing sleep over late payments

According to Theresa May’s Thriving at Work review, poor mental health in the workplace costs the economy up to £90 billion per year – of which start-ups play a big part. With late payments responsible not only for negative cashflow but a lack of growth, it’s easy to see why once-ambitious entrepreneurs would feel hard done by. Whether that’s being forced to borrow the funds required from family and friends (of which 52% have claimed), to the drastic impact this may have on relationships at work and at home, mental health issues caused by financial uncertainty alone have the power to abolish future growth plans for any business. As 43% of SME owners admit to losing sleep over capital, this mental health dilemma – causing 37% to relinquish their ventures entirely – is already having a detrimental effect on the UK economy. So, what can be done about it?

43% of SME owners admit to losing sleep over capital.

Power to the process

With the right support and processes in place, businesses have the power to take better control over the late payment crisis. As government backing increases to better incentivise those who do wish to pay for services on time, here are a few sure-fire ways a start-up can help themselves:

Trust in the tech – whether it’s automated ‘invoice chasing’ or making it easy for clients to settle up sooner, the adoption of specialised software can take the hassle out of late payment fallout (often preventing it from happening in the first place). If using online wallet PayPal for example, the ‘Pay Now’ feature allows developers to implement this ‘experience’ to encourage payees to finalise transactions sooner – minus the worry of funds being debited later down the line.

Payment on your terms – while it’s good to demonstrate a more flexible payment agreement (particularly in the early days of business), this will only benefit your working relationships for so long. Negotiate shorter payment terms with new and existing customers, and not only will you make your services more transparent – but you’re more likely to regain control of your cashflow as the chief mediator. This may seem like risky territory, but you’d be surprised at how receptive clients can be.

The politeness factor – we’re all guilty of being over-polite; when it comes to your business however, don’t be afraid to speak your mind. If the outstanding payment in question is out of character (or already pre-empted), a fair amount of leeway can be afforded. If late payments are a regular occurrence on the other hand, be pro-active in your professionalism and investigate the reasons why. With better communication in place, the ‘theme’ of late payments is more likely to subside.

For more information on cloud accounting software, please visit our Xero page or contact us to see how we can help streamline processes and keep your business buoyant.

As a start-up juggling multiple tasks at any given time, it’s easy to let the fundamental basics of running a small business fall by the wayside. Yet while brushing these things under the carpet may seem harmless at the time, the knock-on effect can have major consequences on the long-term health of your business – especially where cashflow is concerned. So much so that as a result of poor management (combined with the challenging economic backdrop), research from Xerox and PayPal revealed 37% of small UK businesses considered closing down completely this last year. To help you keep your cashflow in check, here’s a number of things you can do to streamline your operations and look to a brighter future.

research from Xerox and PayPal revealed 37% of small UK businesses considered closing down completely this last year.

Manage your payment risks

Money worries; every business has them. Yet while more established SMEs can afford to suffer the occasional hiccup, fledgling businesses are encouraged to assess their payment risk to establish their level of resilience should the unexpected occur. If you’re just starting out for example, it’s likely you’ll require payment up front if cash generation is a top priority. As a result, this could initially limit your market (where the majority of larger companies may prefer to pay upon completion), and thus demand additional incentives to enhance your offering – from early payment discounts to money off subsequent projects. Working at a reduced rate can open new doors and is a great way to build experience, which also makes it less costly for those making advance payments.

Create a cashflow forecast

While you’ll never know what’s round the corner, a monthly (or even weekly) financial forecast can give you greater visibility, alert you to any discrepancies sooner, and help keep your business on track. A good finance manager, whether internal or external, can help you monitor this and provide detailed reports and valuable insight to ensure you’re never left in the dark; if your budget doesn’t stretch that far, a number of cashflow management apps and software are also available, like Xero. Despite the fact you may be having your best month yet, acting as though you’re in a constant ‘cashflow crisis’ will ensure you maintain focus, never taking your foot off the gas. A cashflow forecast also makes it easier to keep track of overdue payments should they tend to arise on a regular basis.

 A cashflow forecast also makes it easier to keep track of overdue payments should they tend to arise on a regular basis.

Keep contracts ‘on the money’

You’ve finally closed that exciting new project, and the last thing on your mind is fussing over paperwork. But get the invoice wrong, and it could cause a number of problems down the line (resulting in payments made a lot later than expected). Take time to build a comprehensive template, and filling this out will soon become second nature; there’s resources online to get you started, but be sure to make it bespoke to your business. Terms and conditions are an essential tool designed to cover all elements of a transaction, which can even detail what happens should you not receive payment on time (or at all). Remember never to agree to any add-ons verbally (that aren’t included in the contract), and don’t be afraid to draft in a solicitor to help.

Invest in face time to avoid late payments

Whether you’re a bricks-and-mortar or digital business, you can’t put a price on maintaining face-to-face communication with your customers. With new clients, know what you’re getting into from the outset by assessing their credit situation so as to swerve the likelihood of any late payments – and make it clear you take creditworthiness seriously. Try to avoid online-only correspondence by investing time in human relationships – from suggesting a casual lunch meeting to a working day at the office. Not only will this help build trust and rapport with your customers, but it will also help you avoid the awkward situation of delayed payments in future (with faces put to names).

You can’t put a price on maintaining face-to-face communication with your customers.

Trust the experts

If your finances should allow, enlisting the support of external expertise is one of the most sensible ways you can stay on top of your cashflow, saving you time, worry (and ultimately money). Here at Adams Moore, we understand peace of mind is key for the smooth operation of cashflow – at whatever stage of your business journey. Our team of friendly professionals are on hand to guide you in the right direction, from offering business start-up advice to invoice factoring to further drive growth. Contact us to find out more.