A concept image of web and social media

Small Business: Win customers with a strong online presence

Creating a successful online presence can help you reach a larger audience, but are you doing it right?

A concept image of web and social media

Not so long ago, having an information website was enough for many companies. But with the advancement in technology and greater connectivity, many companies are expected to expand their digital capabilities to meet the ever-changing needs of customers. As a result, nowadays it is fairly easy to find companies that include e-commerce, social media, video content, location-based services and mobile apps as part of their product marketing and sales repertoire.

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic which ushered in a new normal and created a ‘social distancing economy’. Instead of going to the shop, most customers now choose to buy online and pick up their orders in store or buy online and have the orders delivered. Even when customers are visiting a physical store, they may prefer to pay with a mobile app or a credit card. Amid this new normal, companies that sell goods and services directly to consumers are rushing to reassess their digital strategy.

For B2B companies that don’t face end-users, a strong online presence is still vital. In this case, your website and other digital tools are essentially your shopfronts to the world, allowing prospects to come and verify who you are, gaining their trust and confidence. Your online presence also helps your brand to be visible, offering you a platform to share valuable information and engage with customers. All of these will ultimately lead to increased sales and profitability.

Without a doubt, managing your company’s online footprint is important in this day and age. To help small business owners who need to reassess their online presence during this pandemic, we are asking some of our customers for ideas and here are the five tips that many entrepreneurs are following.

1. Evaluate your online presence

Before taking any step or spending any money, it is worth evaluating how your prospects and customers see your business online now and identifying your business goals first. Typically, prospects and customers find your business through:

  • Your website
  • Your social media profiles
  • A local business listing
  • Other information sites

Once you have identified the touchpoints, you can then decide on what you want to improve to achieve your goals. For example, if your goal is to sell online, then you’ll need to create an e-commerce roadmap that supports your strategy. Typically, the roadmap includes:

  • Choosing an e-commerce platform
  • Working with a web developer
  • Defining the fulfilment process
  • Outlining refunds, returns and warranties policies

Beware that running an e-commerce site can be intensive. Before making the commitment, it is best to get an experienced small business accountant like our team to assess risk and return. Our number is 020 8108 0090.

2. Deliver a great user experience

Every successful entrepreneur – be it B2B or B2C – is aware of the buying cycle. To them, digital tools should be used wisely to deliver a great user experience to their prospects and customers. In other words, meeting the different needs of prospects and buyers regardless of where they are in the buying cycle.

A typical buying cycle involves four stages:

  • Awareness: your customers become aware of their needs or a problem that needs fixing.
  • Search: they will then search for the solution that can best meet their needs.
  • Review: they may check a few reviews or ask around, or they may consider alternatives.
  • Decision: when they are ready, they will make a purchase.

No matter at which stage they are, your prospects and customers must be able to access your website, get the information they need, or make a purchase with ease.

3. Boost website security

If your website accepts payments and requires your customers to provide their personal information, then it is important to establish credibility and gain their trust from the start.

Usually, your hosting company should provide some basic level of security, and many of them also sell enhanced services to meet your requirements. Here are a few common types of website security:

  • A security scanner that automatically checks the website for malware.
  • An SSL certificate which shows customers that your website can be trusted.
  • A backup option that keeps a copy of your website and data.
  • A Web Application Firewall to protect real-time web traffic from certain threats.

Internally, you must make sure that your staff are using the internet safely. This may mean installing security software on your computer, get automatic updates, avoid clicking on links or open attachments contained in emails that you don’t expect, to name but a few.

Data protection is another key area – you need to be clear about your marketing communications and keep customer data secure.

4. Manage online reviews

Every customer can potentially influence others by posting their opinions online. Some common places where you will find reviews are:

  • Google review
  • General review sites like Trustpilot
  • E-commerce sites like Amazon
  • Social media
  • Personal blogs

Good reviews tend to boost sales but bad reviews may drive away potential customers. According to some of our clients who manage successful online businesses, the key is to encourage happy customers to post honest reviews, while tackling negative reviews professionally by looking into the incidents, apologising (if you were wrong) and learning from them.

Here is an example shared by one of our clients who runs a successful repair business – whenever he completes a job, he politely asks the customers if they are happy and would like to give a review. Most of the time, his customers leave a positive review, but whenever a client posts a negative review, he would look into the incident, offer an explanation or a remedy, and remain constructive throughout. As a result, the owner has tremendously improved his standing with customers.

5. Sharpen your campaigns

If you already have a website, then you know that getting audience naturally takes time and effort. To gain traffic quickly, you may be looking at a few ideas, which may include:

  • Run targeted search or display campaigns
  • Advertise on social media
  • Start email marketing
  • Partner with influencer
  • Use Google My Business to expand your online presence

While Google My Business is a given, other types of campaigns should fit your business goals and budgets. Generally, you want to run campaigns that are:

  • Targeted: finding people with specific criteria and whom you think are likely to buy your services or products.
  • Well-designed: from the picture to the wording you use, they should appeal to your target audience.
  • Has a call-to-action: clearly states what you want your visitors to do.

If you look to gain exposure quickly, consider offering incentives like a special discount if they sign up for email marketing or give vouchers to those who recommend a friend.

Grow your business with Tax Agility

Allowing yourself to focus on strengthening your online presence and growing your business takes time and effort, and it is likely to mean that you need professional help in specialist business functions such as bookkeeping and tax.

At Tax Agility, we are leading chartered accountants for small businesses in London, Putney and Richmond-upon-Thames. Our services include:

  • Accounting & Bookkeeping: leave your day-to-day finances to us. We will also provide monthly management accounts, prepare statements and help you set-up cloud accounting.
  • Tax: if you are tax-efficient, you will have more money to invest, expand and create jobs in your community. Let us help you with tax planning, tax computation and tax returns.
  • VAT: from VAT returns to manging VAT on import and export goods, we take care of them so you don’t have to.
  • Payroll: As your team grows, outsource your payroll administration to us so that you and your team can continue to enjoy accurate and on-time payslips every month.
  • Management consultancy: take your business forward with practical advice based on financial data and benchmark analysis.

Benefits of working with Tax Agility

At Tax Agility, we are ICAEW chartered accountants and it means you can count on our expert but affordable services. Our team of small business accountants are knowledgeable, staying on top with the latest developments in practice, legislation and techniques.

Our services are also competitively priced with no hidden charges. Most importantly, you are free to choose how you want to engage us. If you choose to combine our bookkeeping, VAT, tax and payroll services, you will certainly achieve bigger savings and run your business more efficiently.

As small business owners ourselves, we value long-term partnerships and believe in growing together with our clients, protecting your investments as your company grow.

Call our small business accountants today on 020 8108 0090.

Alternatively, you can use the contact us form to get in touch.

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This blog is a general summary. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstance.


Networking concept image - Growing your business concept

Small Business: The benefits of networking

Networking concept image - Growing your business concept

It’s not what you know but who you know – networking is a tried and tested method to grow your business but are you making the most of it?

Networking, a form of marketing, is about interacting with like-minded individuals and finding mutually beneficial opportunities. In this article, our small business accountants in London share great networking tips to help you get the most out of it.

Key benefits of networking

It is worth mentioning that networking is not a sales opportunity. At its core, networking is about building long-term relationships with minimal cost to your business. From these meaningful relationships, you and your networking friends benefit one another in the following ways:

  • Shared knowledge – networking allows you to share and learn. Through valuable information comes fresh ideas that can help you in many business areas.
  • Opportunities – the most common result of networking is business opportunities. These can range from getting new partners, customers, suppliers to finding investors.
  • Raised profile – the more you are out there sharing and learning, the more chances you have to build your reputation, which can lead to more business opportunities.
  • Increased confidence – when you push yourself talking to people you don’t know, you are building useful social skills and gaining self-confidence in the process, and these attributes are vital to a small business owner.

Where do you network?

Traditionally, networking has been performed face-to-face at corporate events, social events, or networking events. Even in this digital age, the tradition has endured. Many small business owners we speak to find that face-to-face networking is still essential when it comes to getting to know other like-minded entrepreneurs and fostering relationships with them.

In London, there are thousands of networking events available, most of them target small business owners. They are also demographic-specific or location-specific groups, such as a group dedicated to professional women working in Central London.

With the advances of the internet, you can also network online through popular sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. LinkedIn is particularly useful as you can connect with an individual or join a group that interests you. As it is online, you can now build connections that transcend boundaries.

Top eight networking tips

Before you go to a networking session, it is worth taking a minute to prepare yourself. Here are eight good tips which we have gathered from successful small business owners across London and some of them may be useful to you.

1. Researching the event before you go

Not all networking events are created equal. When you are invited to attend a networking event as a guest, find out more about the event first, like who are the people attending, how long does it take, and what is the format. Check with your host if you will be given time to talk about your business to the whole group.

2. Arriving early

If you are going to a new networking group, arrive early as it gives you time to relax and prepare. Get chatting with a few other early birds is a good way of easing into a larger group as more people turn up.

3. Talking about your business

Have a clear message about what you do and why you are different, and you must deliver it smoothly and confidently. If time permits, you can illustrate the problems your business is helping to solve by telling a story or sharing an experience from your customer.

4. It’s about relationships

Networking is about building relationships, and every relationship takes time to foster and requires a good amount of trust and respect to sustain. Networking is also about giving and taking – so get ready to share what you know or even offer to help without expectation.

5. Finding the ideal partners

When you network, keep a lookout for people who know more than you, as well as people with strong networks. These are the people who can really make a difference in your business when they decide to help (usually after you have gained their trust and respect).

6. Be positive and professional

Remain positive and professional. Listen attentively and treat everyone with respect – you never know how they might help you now or where they might end up in the future.

7. Following up

Once the event is over, follow up by sending an email to the people you have had a discussion with or connecting with them through LinkedIn. You may keep in regular contact but avoid spamming their mailboxes.

8. Knowing what to avoid

Smart small business owners know how to avoid things that put them in a bad light. Things to avoid are:

  • Don’t be an aggressive person doing a hard sell.
  • Avoid political or controversial subjects.
  • Avoid probing for sensitive information.
  • Avoid glancing around the room when someone is talking to you.
  • Don’t drink excessively, if alcohol is available.
  • Make sure that your hands are clean (if you’ve picked up greasy finger food) before shaking someone’s hand.

Useful phrases

If you aren’t a seasoned marketer or sales person, you may find it hard to start a conversation with a stranger whom you have just met. Many of our clients, who are small business owners across London, have shared the fear of walking into a roomful of strangers and finding themselves tongue-tied. Thankfully, networking skills can be learnt and here a few useful phrases to help you breeze through any networking event.

When you break into a group conversation: “May I join you?” or “Do you mind if I join you?”

Good openers: “What kind of business are you in?”, “What brought you here today?” or “This is my first time here, is there something I shouldn’t miss?”

If the person has mentioned what they do: “What goals do you have for your business?” or “What does the future hold for your industry?”

If you want to exit the group: “Excuse me, my mouth is dry so I’m going to go to the bar and get a drink,” or “Excuse me, do you know if someone here who is in (industry)?”

The key, according to experts, is to show interest in the person you are talking to. Also, don’t forget to smile.

Business growth advice from Tax Agility

Almost all articles about business growth on the internet mention how networking can help a business expand and grow. While it is true that networking helps, it isn’t a silver bullet and there are other factors at play here. For instance, business growth also relies on strong finances and cash flow, having a reliable supply chain, knowing how to manage business relationships, hiring the right type of employees, providing outstanding customer service, becoming tax-efficient, to name but a few.

At Tax Agility, we are small business accountants dedicated to helping entrepreneurs in London, Putney and Richmond-upon-Thames. Specially, we thrive at analysing financial information and using financial data to identify opportunities for our clients. We have helped many of our clients grow from one idea into the companies they are today. If this is what you are after, give our ICAEW chartered accountants a call on 020 8108 0090.

Accounting and tax services from Tax Agility

The main services we provide to small businesses include:

Management consultancy from our chartered accountants is essential if you have an eye on business growth. Management consultancy is about using financial data, accurate budget, as well as forecasts, to unlock business potential. We strongly believe that once you start to use data-led information to make a series of good business decisions, you will soon discover that the good decisions feed a positive cycle that will yield more favourable results, including increased profits and business growth.

At Tax Agility, our small business accountants are also experienced management consultants. We look to build long-term relationships with you because we believe in growing together – if you grow, we grow too.

For honest, expert advice on how strong finances and cash flow can help your business better and more profitable, give us a call on
020 8108 0090.

Alternatively, you can use the contact us form to get in touch.

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This blog is a general summary. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstance.


Business planning advice with Tax Agility

Small business: The benefits of long-term planning

Business planning

You build a business for the long haul, so it is vital to have a long-term plan that extends five years into the future.

Broadly speaking, all business plans can be categorised into short-term, mid-term and long-term.

Short-term plans focus on immediate concerns and opportunities. For example, you may run a clearance sale to reduce excess stock in a given quarter.

Mid-term plans look at solutions to address both short to mid-term challenges. For example, if fraud is an ever-increasing threat to your business, you are likely to establish stringent internal control, invest in staff training and prevention tools as part of the continued efforts to keep your company safe.

Long-term planning for small businesses, on the other hand, looks at the business strategically and your ambitions for the business. The plans can range from what value you want the company to worth after five years, how the business can be diversified, to who is going to take over and run the company in the future.

In this article, our small business accountants in London look at a few long-term plans that can benefit small business owners and their companies.

Business growth planning

Every business exists to make money, but how much you want to grow and how you can achieve the target set largely depend on what long-term plans you have to fuel that growth.

There are several ways to grow a business, including:

  • Raise more capital – you borrow money to boost resources, leading to an increase in production or offer more services to your customers.
  • Sell online and internationally – the concept here is to grow by selling more products/services to people without the constraint of physical boundaries. For example, you turn your website into a shopfront and run campaign that reaches a large pool of international customers.
  • Franchise – you become a franchisor, attracting franchisees to sell your products or services throughout the country or even internationally.
  • Innovate – you improve or create a new product or service, or you find a new way of integrating technology to disrupt the market.
  • Merger and acquisition – you merge with or acquire another business.

One of the tools that small business owners use to identify growth opportunities is through the use of management accounts, which should be sent by your accountants to you every month. If you’d like help with management accounts, like how you can use the data to your advantage, contact our small business accountants on 020 8108 0090.

Business skills planning

Considering that the business landscape is regularly shaped by global events and new consumer trends are being developed over time, many small business owners know that they can’t afford to stay complacent. Accordingly, they need a strategy to respond, transform, innovate or even to reinvent themselves.

Implementing any strategy that can put your business ahead of the game is likely to require solid business skills planning. This process starts with developing a clear vision of what the business needs to thrive in the future, before identifying the skills that are required to achieve that.

Subsequently, you can choose to develop the new skills or capabilities in house, acquire through new talent or partner with another company which have the skills that you lack.

Long-term debt planning

If you look to grow your business rapidly, chances are you need extra capital from a bank or a group of investors. If it involves a bank loan secured against an asset, it is called debt financing. In this case, it is vital to know to plan and see how your business can generate extra income to pay off the debt.

If it involves investors, they may offer debt financing or equity financing. Equity financing means investors ask for a percentage of ownership in exchange for the money your company requires.

Talk to our small business accountants based in London, Putney and Richmond-upon-Thames if you are considering extra capital. We can help to make sure your company accounts are accurate, something that the bank or investors will look to scrutinise before lending you money.

You may also like to read this article Small Business: How to attract investors in which we share good tips.

Succession planning

Knowing that everyone retires at some point, smart small business owners would kick-start a succession plan once the business has achieved financial stability. This is because a succession plan can help to ensure that the company you’ve taken years to build will continue to operate with minimum disruption should something happen to you.

More importantly, it takes years to prepare and train potential successors – some of them may even choose to leave halfway through the training.

Exit planning

If you have no intention to find a successor, then a good alternative is to sell your business. The best time to sell your business is when the sales and profits are strong – ironically, this is also the period when most small business owners find it hard to let go. Having a plan, however, may help you to detach yourself as it is now your goal is to sell when the time comes.

Other types of long-term planning

Not all long-term goals focus on profitability or exit strategy. Some highly refreshing long-term goals focus on the environment like how to create a workplace that has little or no carbon footprint. It may also focus on the company culture, such as fostering a culture that promotes trust and honesty.

5 long-term planning tips

Long-term planning is undoubtedly beneficial but not every small business owner is ready to embrace it. One of the reasons, we have found from talking to seasoned entrepreneurs, is that some people find the prospect daunting. Also, long-term planning may not work for certain industries who need to adapt very quickly to changing consumer trends.

But if you are keen to give long-term planning a go, you may find the following five tips help the process.

1. Organise into stages

One of the ways to make long-term strategies less daunting is to break them into stages, with each stage having its own mini goal(s) and detailing tasks needed to achieve the said goal(s). Having a timeframe for each task and who should be responsible for it are also vital.

2. Involve everyone when necessary

If the long-term plan is about where the company is heading in five years’ time, then it makes sense to involve every team member. Hear their concerns, discuss any disagreements, use feedback to fine-tune your plan.

3. Acknowledge the unknown

You can plan but you can’t accurately predict the future. Both good and bad things may happen to your business along the way – like nature may throw you a curveball, the rise of the middle class in developing countries may create tremendous opportunities for you, market may swing to a territory that is at odds with your plan at a certain point, to name but a few. This is why it is essential to make use of the scenario planning technique when you are creating long-term plans.

4. Review and fine-tune

A good plan isn’t carved in stone nor sits on the shelf collecting dust. A good plan is regularly reviewed and fine-tuned to make sure that you are adapting. Quite a few small business owners find this part challenging as they juggle with an endless list of tasks daily. The key, of course, is to delegate and engage at the right level.

5. Stay positive

As a leader, you already know that things don’t always go your way. Learning to accept setbacks and focusing on finding solutions will strengthen your leadership skill. So stay positive by keeping your eyes on the ultimate goal.

Small business owners trust Tax Agility

Running a small business takes courage and determination. Successful small business owners also know they need an honest partner like Tax Agility who can work cohesively with them and help to take the business to the next level.

Our services to small businesses in London, Putney and Richmond-upon-Thames include:

Management consultancy is an area often overlooked and must be given airtime here. In essence, it is about helping small business owners like you to unlock business potential based on financial data, accurate budget and forecasts.

At Tax Agility, our small business accountants are also experienced management consultants. We seek to understand your business and your aspirations first. After getting a good grip on your business, we strive to deliver the following three key benefits to your business:

  • How you can reign in financial control by having accurate data
  • How you can make informed decisions that spur growth
  • How the numbers can help you to review, measure and optimise

If the benefits listed above are what you are looking for, then it is time to give our ICAEW Chartered Accountants a call on 020 8108 0090.

Alternatively, you can use the contact us form to get in touch.

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This blog is a general summary. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstance.


Investors

Small Business: How to attract investors

Making your small business attractive to investors requires thorough preparation, a great plan, a winning pitch and a habit to think win-win.

Investors

Whether it’s a loan from a high street bank, an angel investor or through an online crowdfunding platform, securing some investment in your small business allows you to take that leap forward, develop new products and/or services, expand your market and increase sales.

In this article, our small business accountants look specifically at how you can make your small business attractive to investors, allowing them to invest in your company and help you grow your business.

Preparation is key

In the wise words of Alexander Graham Bell, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success”. In this instance, before even looking for investment, take a moment to examine every aspect of your business and understand the accounts. The reason is simple – if you have a realistic understanding of your business and the marketplace, you will have a healthy dose of confidence and enthusiasm, which in turn will allow potential investors to see that there is potential in your business.

Write a great business plan

At the heart of many successful businesses is a clear, detailed, well-written and well-researched business plan. The main objective of the business plan is to help you prioritise – the plan gives you direction, maps out strategies and helps you to manage challenges along the way. Coincidentally, your business plan can also help you get additional funding that will fuel business growth.

To attract investors, your business plan should clearly set out the unique selling points of your brand/product, provide a thorough analysis of your business SWOTs (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) and of your competitors. It should clearly outline your operating costs, provide realistic sales and profit projections, and the marketing strategies you will use to achieve them.

Know your numbers

Sound financial management is a critical aspect of running a business. Financial data aren’t just a bunch of random numbers – they can tell you when is the best time to purchase inventory, how to set an optimal price structure, and where savings can be made, among others.

Become fluent in discussing your turnover, gross profit margin, operating costs and projected sales figures. If you aren’t a numbers person, call upon a professional small business accountant like our team at Tax Agility. We can help to review and analyse the numbers, giving you an accurate picture of the financial performance of your company. By reviewing data, we can also give you a clear understanding of how much capital you may need from the investors and how the investment arrangement might work.

Call your trusted small business accountants today on 020 8108 0090.

Have a winning pitch

When it comes to a winning pitch, it is wise to have a few versions tailored for different audiences. Have a short 60-second pitch that sums up what your company does and its ambitions. Craft a version that highlights why you are different and what problems your business is helping to solve. You can also include some financial numbers and positive feedback from your customers in another version. Take your time to develop the different versions and craft them over time.

Pitching is a real skill and it takes time to master. Practise whenever you can, and use feedback to hone your pitch to perfection. When you can deliver your pitch confidently, fluently and naturally to the right audience, you are already halfway to success.

Think win-win

Be clear on what you need from an investor. Money is essential but ideally, you also want to gain from the experience and connections of your investor. You want to learn from them, get the right advice and be introduced to the right people for the next stage of business growth. If your exit strategy is planned many years from now, you need an investor who is committed to working with you for the long haul too.

On the other hand, be clear on the benefits to your investors too. It stands to reason that any investor looking for a sound financial return will want some assurances on the benefits they can expect and when. But investors have other reasons to say “yes”. They may invest in a project because it is interesting, challenging, something exciting for them to be a part of. They may also be looking to broaden or deepen their investment portfolio in particular industries or markets. So step into their shoes and understand what makes them tick.

Funding options

Most companies acquire additional funding through debt financing or equity financing.

A debt-style financing option means you borrow money and pay it back with interest. The advantages of this type of financing include:

  • There are quite a few reputable lenders out there and some may consider your loan without collateral if your company’s financial track records are sound.
  • The interest rates can be low, especially if you seek out government-backed schemes.
  • Interest paid on business loans is a deductible expense.
  • Unlike equity financing, debt financing means you retain ownership of your company.

Debt financing does have its limitations and they include:

  • Lenders do not lend you money on the basis of a great idea. They want to see good track records.
  • They may ask for collateral or want you to guarantee the loan personally. This means you are putting your personal asset at risk.
  • Paying off loans is easy when your business is profitable, but challenging when the business hits a rough patch.

Equity financing means the investors will gain a share of your business – if this is on the table, talk to one of our small business accountants about the legal and financial implications of equity financing first.

The advantages of equity financing include:

  • There is no need to make any ongoing repayment. Instead, you can now channel the money to spur growth.
  • Your investors tend to have valuable experience and connections, which in turn will help your business further.

The disadvantages of equity financing include:

  • You don’t have full control of your company now. You will be sharing all profits and potential advantages with your investors.
  • Disagreements may break out. Sometimes bad personal relationships can overshadow a company’s performance.

If you’d like to know more about different types of funding, follow the link to The complete guide to business funding.

Finding investors

If you’re serious about business funding, you should actively seek out angel investors, put your pitch on a crowdfunding site, or talk to your bank manager. You may also want to convince your friends and relatives to loan you money and help your business expand – but be careful as mixing business with your personal life can lead to conflicts. It may be worth seeking legal advice and drafting a contract to help minimise any ill-feeling should things not go to plan.

You could also try a warm approach like talking to friends at networking sessions or a cold approach such as talking to strangers at industry conventions. The idea that someone may know someone who can help is sound, but don’t assume that it is guaranteed.

Choose your investors carefully

It is tempting to strike a deal with the first person you meet with an open wallet. But when securing investment in your business, it pays to be discerning. Striking a deal with the right people and on the right terms can create a mutually-beneficial relationship supporting the sustainable growth of your business. Working with the wrong investors however, could create unnecessary stress and stifle potential opportunities.

Welcome diversity

Consider attracting a broader range of investors to your business to open up exciting and valuable opportunities. Your team of investors will bring a more diverse breadth of knowledge and experience to the table, helping you better navigate new markets and grow your business.

It’s more than the money

Raising the capital you need to develop your business is, of course, the key reason to seek investors. But your investors can be so much more than a source of cash. They may have considerable experience, business skills, industry knowledge, and valuable wisdom and contacts. Keen to see your business thrive, investors can act as an effective business consultancy service. They may come with expertise in specific fields such as marketing, finance, strategy, logistics or law. They can help you make inroads into new markets.

Your investors can also act as valuable mentors: providing advice, encouraging you and keeping you going when you want to give up. An ideal investor genuinely cares about your business, they will be happy to invest themselves in your success, not just their money.

It isn’t just about the business, it’s about you too

While you need to convince your investors that your business plan is sound and your numbers add up, beware that most investors are investing in you and they are interested in who you are and how you work. So here three tips which can help to foster a promising relationship with your investors.

Be accessible

Reassure investors that you run a tight ship and that their valuable investment is in a safe pair of hands. Answer the phone when they call and respond to their email enquiries promptly. Never appear evasive. Communicate with clarity, honesty and professionalism at all times to help build their trust in you.

Be honest

Any investor worth their salt is primed to detect the tiniest whiff of hogwash. If you are tempted to tell a few fibs to make your company look more promising than it is, you will get found out, damaging the trust that you may never get back.

So present an honest picture of your business and what you can deliver. Be open about any potential obstacles or threats you perceive and have a strategy to deal with them.

Be a leader

Investors are shrewd business leaders who know how to stay focus by delegating tasks they aren’t good at to people who can do them better. If you are the person who insists on doing everything yourself, sooner or later you will push yourself to breaking point. Learn to lead by delegating tasks and engage at the right level.

Tax Agility can help your small business

At Tax Agility, our team of chartered accountants based in Putney, Richmond and Central London have been helping small business owners. We are here to make sure your accounts are accurate, profitability is maximised, and growth opportunities are identified.

When it comes to attracting investors for your small business, there are many ways which we can help. For instance, we can help you to prepare realistic forecasts and answer any questions they may have pertaining to the numbers. We can also recommend best practices that help your company run efficiently and in compliance with the authority.

If an equity financing is on the table, we will work with you to value your business (so you know what you’re swapping in exchange for funding), along with legal and financial implications you may face.

Call us today on 020 8108 0090. Alternatively, use our online form to arrange a complimentary, no-obligation meeting.

This blog is a general summary. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstance.

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Business records checks: how to keep good business records

Invoice

HMRC requires business owners and sole traders to keep good business records so the correct amount of tax can be calculated and paid.

On this gov.uk page, HMRC makes it clear that businesses must keep records to fill in tax returns and pay the right amount of tax at the right time. HMRC also states that it can choose to check your records.

While the checks are usually conducted over the phone, HMRC can choose to pay you a visit and ask you to explain about your business and how your records are kept. They will also seek to verify a few transactions before deciding if your business records are adequately kept or not.

The thing is, even if HMRC doesn’t tell you to keep good business records, it is wise to make the process as part of your financial discipline. Business records are useful – for example, historical data can help you plan and set realistic goals for the future, making sure that your business remains profitable and on the right growth path.

In this article, our small business accountants aim to discuss:

  • Business records for a limited company
  • Business records if you are self-employed
  • PAYE records if your business employs staff
  • VAT records if your business is VAT-registered
  • Pay and tax records for your Self Assessment

Keeping business records for a limited company

HMRC is very clear that every limited company must keep two types of basic records: records about the company, as well as financial and accounting records.

Records about the company

As a company director, you must keep the followings:

  • Details of directors, shareholders and company secretaries
  • The results of any shareholder votes and resolutions
  • Promises made to repay medium to long-term loans at a specific date in the future and who the creditors are
  • Promises made if something goes wrong and it is the company’s fault (‘indemnities’)
  • Transactions when someone buys shares in the company
  • Loans or mortgages secured against the company’s assets
  • Register of people with significant control, referring to anyone who has more than 25% shares or voting rights, can appoint or remove a majority of directors, and can influence or control your company.

Financial and accounting records

You must keep:

  • All money received and spent by the company
  • Details of assets owned by the company
  • Debts the company owes or is owed
  • Stock the company owns at the end of the financial year
  • The stocktakings you use to work out the stock figure
  • All goods bought and sold
  • The suppliers you bought the goods from and the clients you sold to (unless you run a retail business where you can’t identify each customer)
  • Records that are used to prepare and file the annual accounts and Company Tax Return

The last point can include:

  • All money spent by the company, for example receipts, petty cash books, orders and delivery notes
  • All money received by the company, for example invoices, contracts, sales books and till rolls
  • Any other relevant documents, for example bank statements and correspondence

How long to keep these records

All company and accounting records must be kept for 6 years from the end of the financial year they relate to. Sometimes you are required to keep them longer if:

  • They show a transaction that covers more than one of the company’s accounting periods
  • The company has bought something that it expects to last more than 6 years, like equipment or machinery
  • You sent your Company Tax Return late
  • HMRC has started a compliance check into your Company Tax Return

If the records are lost, stolen or destroyed

In the event that your records are lost, stolen or destroyed, you must do your best to recreate them. You must also inform your Corporate Tax office accordingly and mention this in your Company Tax Return.

Business records if you are self-employed

If you are a sole trader or a partner in a business partnership, you must keep records of business income and expenses, which are:

  • All receipts for goods and stock
  • Bank statements, chequebook stubs
  • Sales invoices, till rolls and bank slips

If you are using traditional accounting, you must also keep:

  • What you’re owed but have not received yet
  • What you’ve committed to spend but haven’t yet paid out, for example you’ve received an invoice but haven’t paid it yet
  • The value of stock and work in progress at the end of your accounting period
  • Your year end bank balances
  • How much you’ve invested in the business in the year
  • How much money you’ve taken out for your own use

You do not need to send your records when you submit your tax return but you need to keep them so you can work out your profit or loss for your tax return. Also, when HMRC asks, you have records to show them.

In addition, you must keep records of your personal income.

How long to keep these records

You must keep your records for at least 5 years after the 31 January submission deadline of the relevant tax year. If you send your tax return more than 4 years after the deadline, you’ll need to keep your records for 15 months after you send your tax return.

If the records are lost, stolen or destroyed

In the event that your records are lost, stolen or destroyed, you must do your best to provide the figures. When you file your tax return, tell HMRC if you are using estimated figures or provisional figures. Provisional figures mean temporary estimates while you wait for the actual figures and once the actual figures arrive, you will need to submit them.

PAYE records

A large portion of small business owners today choose to outsource their payroll service to an accounting firm like us for cost-saving purposes. Providing complete payroll services, we take care of your payroll function (including records keeping) and make sure that it is complying with regulations.

Payroll records to keep are:

  • What you pay your employees and the deductions you make
  • Reports and payments you make to HMRC
  • Employee leave and sickness absences
  • Tax code notices
  • Taxable expenses or benefits
  • Payroll Giving Scheme documents, including the agency contract and employee authorisation forms

How long to keep these records

You need to keep them for 3 years from the end of the tax year they relate to.

If the records are lost, stolen or destroyed

With Payroll, you report the figures to HMRC every month so when you cannot find the records, HMRC may be able to help by providing you with the historical figures you have paid your employees.

If you are using estimated or provisional figures in your final payroll report to HMRC, you must tell them accordingly.

VAT records if your business is VAT-registered

If your business is VAT-registered, the records to keep are:

  • Sales and purchases
  • VAT invoices
  • A separate VAT account

If your business has a turnover of more than £85,000, you must follow the rules for Making Tax Digital (for VAT) which require you keep some records digitally.

The VAT account is a summary of your total VAT sales, total VAT purchases, and the VAT you either owe HMRC or can reclaim from HMRC. It can also include the VAT on any EU purchases or sales if you trade with EU countries.

When it comes to writing off bad debts (of more than 6 months old), things get a little complicated. In this case, you should keep a separate VAT bad debt account showing the total amount of VAT involved, amount written off and any payments you’ve received, the VAT you’re claiming on the debt, when you paid the VAT, the relief you are claiming, as well as the corresponding invoices. Talk to our friendly VAT team if you have questions concerning your VAT account or the VAT bad debt account.

How long to keep these records

You must keep VAT records for 6 years (or 10 years if you use the VAT MOSS service). For the VAT bad debt account, the information must be kept for 4 years.

If the records are lost, stolen or destroyed

You can easily reconstruct the data lost by reviewing your invoices or asking your suppliers for duplicated copies.

Pay and tax records for your Self Assessment

For company directors and PAYE individuals who submit Self Assessment every year, you must keep your records for at least 22 months after the end of the tax year the tax return is for. For example, if you send your 2018 to 2019 tax return online by 31 January 2020, you should keep the records until the end of January 2021.

For self-employed individuals, you know that there is no separation between and your sole proprietorship. In this case, you must keep your records for at least 5 years after the 31 January submission deadline of the relevant tax year.

Get your accounts sorted with Tax Agility

Business owners know the importance of keeping good records but not everyone has the time to go through and organise them – after all, your focus should be on running the business and not dealing with administrative burdens. Contact our teams at Tax Agility on 020 8108 0090 and let us help instead.

Our teams consist of:

  • Small business accountants: championing small business across London, our small business accountants aim to save you time and money by getting your financial statements in good order. We also help you to interpret the financial data so you can use them to make business decisions with greater confidence.
  • Tax accountants: be it personal tax, business tax, corporation tax, our tax accountants are here to help you minimise your tax obligations and maximise your income legitimately. We do not believe in shortcuts that can get you into troubles. Also, we can provide expert tax advice and assist companies when they are being questioned by HMRC.
  • Payroll specialists: providing a complete range of PAYE and payroll administration, processing and reporting functions. We can also provide specific payroll advice pertaining to your industry.
  • VAT specialists: taking care VAT registration, quarterly returns, VAT control and reconciliation, as well as providing the best VAT strategy for your business.

Give us a call today on 020 8108 0090 or use our contact form to get in touch.

 

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This blog is a general summary. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstance.


How can management accounts be used effectively?

Produced monthly or quarterly, management accounts contain financial data that business owners can use to make decisions.

As a small businesses owner, success is always on your mind and amid your busy schedule, you are likely to receive a set of financial reports from your accountant every month or every quarter. These are management accounts and their purpose is to give you a snapshot of the business activities. The data also allow you to find out how healthy and resilient your business is – for example, is your business running efficiently? Does it have enough cash to pay its bills? How much working capital should you retain in your company?

At Tax Agility, our chartered accountants for small businesses in London send out management accounts to our clients regularly. What goes into each set depends on the clients and their business activities but typically each set may consist of:

  • Executive summary
  • Profit & Loss
  • Budget variance
  • Balance sheet
  • Aged receivables
  • Aged payables
  • Cash summary

In this article, we aim to discuss some vital data in management accounts that require the attention of small business owners.

Executive summary

An overview of your financial information, this shows the performance of your company, income and profitability in a given period.

Profit & Loss

P&L for short, a Profit & Loss account shows your company’s income minus its expenses. The income can be from sales or other sources like interest earned. On the other hand, expenses can be directly linked to your sales (known as cost of sales) or they can be general operating expenses like rent, insurance and office supplies.

If your income is greater than your expenses, then you have a net profit. But if your income is less than your expenses, then you have a net loss.

It must also be noted that your net profit (or net loss) does not equate to the cash your business has in the bank. For instance, last month you sold a dozen of office chairs to a dozen of clients and they are recorded in your P&L, but only half of them have paid you. The money owed to you by customers who have yet to pay is considered accounts receivable and it is recorded in your balance sheet which we will explain later.

A typical P&L usually has the following components:

  • Income
  • Cost of sales or cost of goods sold
  • Gross profit (income less cost of sales)
  • Expenses, anything from rent, national insurance, IT support, legal expenses to subscriptions
  • Net profit or net loss (gross profit less expenses)

How is the P&L account useful?

1. Determine efficiency

Gross profit (the difference between your income and cost of sales) is an indicator of efficiency. If your gross profit is high, it means your business is keeping more money from each sale made and is efficient.

2. Determine profitability

If your business is recording a net profit, you know that your business is selling products or services that are desirable and well-received, your price structure is right and your expenses are controlled.

3. Work out tax payable

All taxable profits made by your company are subject to corporate tax (the rate is 19% at present).

4. Work out dividends

Many small business owners draw a low salary and use dividends to make up the income. If you are taking this approach, you can only declare dividends to you and your fellow shareholders after the company has paid its corporation tax.

Budget variance

The budget variance shows you the original budget versus what was actually earned and spent in a specific period. Ideally, you want the actual figures to be as close to the budgeted figures as possible.

How is the budget variance useful?

1. Identify issues

Assuming December is a good month to sell toys and accordingly, you have a healthy £10k budget for toy sales in that month. But when January rolls around, you realise that toy sales were only £2k in the previous month, well below the £10 budgeted figure. In this case, the sooner you find out the reasons, the better it will be for the business.

2. Minimise careless spending

Assuming your marketing budget is only £1k a month, you are not likely to splash out on TV advertisements without knowing what positive results they can bring. Instead, you are likely to use the budget wisely, such as using the money to target online shoppers or run advertisements in your local areas.

Balance sheet

A balance sheet shows you what your business owns (assets) and what it owes (liabilities) at a given moment in time.

Assets

Assets are divided into current (items of value that can be converted into cash within the next 12 months) and fixed (items that cannot be converted into cash quickly). Examples of current assets are cash, accounts receivable and inventory while examples of fixed assets are equipment, vehicles and goodwill.

Liabilities

Liabilities are financial obligations that the business must fulfil. Liabilities are divided into current (bills that the business is expected to pay within the next 12 months) and non-current (bills that the business cannot settle within the next 12 months). Examples of current liabilities are accounts payable, PAYE payable, wages, pensions, VAT, among others. Examples of non-current liabilities are long-term loans and deferred tax (deferred tax usually happens when your financial year does not match the tax year).

Equity

For a limited company, the first line under equity is usually capital, which means the purchased shares. The next lines are current year earnings (net income or loss of the business for the current year) and retained earnings (reserves of profit made in previous years). Total equity refers to the assets left in the business after it has paid its bills and you (the shareholder) can have a claim to.

How is the balance sheet useful?

1. Compare performances

If you compare the numbers between two specific time periods, you can see if the business has performed better or worse. For instance, last month you had £10k in your net assets versus £2k a year ago, this means your business is doing better when compared to the same period a year ago.

2. See how the business is being funded

The formula for debt to total assets ratio is total liabilities divided by total assets. If the ratio is high, it means the company relies on borrowed money and money owed to others to operate, which is worrying.

3. See if the business can meet its financial obligations

The formula for liquidity ratio is total current assets divided by total current liabilities. Assuming your total current assets are £50,000 and your total current liabilities are £10,000, you have a ratio of 5, meaning you have £5 to cover every £1 owed, sufficient money to meet all short-term obligations.

Aged receivables and payables

Aged receivables or aged debtors show outstanding amounts your clients have yet to pay you. These invoices are usually outstanding for 30 days or more. In England, small business owners are painfully aware of the negative impact of aged receivables – they limit your growth and development, which in turn can put your business in jeopardy.

Aged payables or aged creditors, on the other hand, show you which suppliers your business owes at a particular time and how much you owe them.

Cash summary

Sometimes the management accounts also include a cash summary – information about your cash flow like how much money is leaving your company and what is coming in for a selected period. Ideally, you want the inflow of cash to be greater than the outflow, otherwise you will have something called a cash flow gap.

Cash summary is a powerful tool as the data allow you to rethink your budget and reallocate your resources. For more information about cash flow management, this article "Five ways to improve your company’s cash flow" will make a good read.

Sharpen your management accounts with Tax Agility

At Tax Agility, we have been championing small businesses across London since 2008. Our team of chartered accountants for small businesses work closely with our clients and our objective is to help your business grow.

Knowing that you are busy, we run management accounts for you and explain the key findings clearly, some of the things we look for may include:

  • Compare your original budgets versus actual
  • Check if your business is operating profitably
  • Check if your costs are under control
  • Work out how fast (or slow) your stock is turning over
  • Work out how many days your customers take to pay you
  • Determine how much sales you need to cover your expenses
  • Determine if your business can survive in an economic downturn

Based on this data-driven information, you can make sound decisions like the followings with confidence:

  • Evaluate which products or services are profitable
  • Work out the optimal sale price and allocate the right resource to sell your products/ services
  • Determine the financial effect of your management strategies
  • Lower your expenses
  • Modify your budget
  • Plan for the future
  • Measuring results

At the end of the day, every business deserves the best opportunity to succeed and your business should be no exception. To make money, your business needs to run efficiently, control costs, and sell products or services that meet the demands of your clients. Using data from your management accounts, you can make the all-important decisions that keep your business healthy and on track.

Tax Agility is here to help small business owners

Any questions you have pertaining to your management accounts, give us a call on 020 8108 0090 or use our online form to get in touch. The first meeting is always free and without obligation.

Our philosophy is simple: You win, we win.

 

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This blog is a general summary. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstance.


Shopfront concept

Sole Trader or Limited Company: Choosing one that best suits your business needs

Shopfront concept

When you are ready to launch your business, one of the first key decisions is choosing a business structure that suits you best.

Choosing to run your business as a sole proprietorship or as a limited company depends largely on the type of business you run, how you want to run it, and your aspirations when it comes to growing your business.

The business structure that you choose can determine:

  • How much tax you pay
  • If you are considered the owner of the business or an employee
  • How far you want to protect your personal liability
  • How much control you want to have over the business
  • How much you want to pay to maintain the company
  • How much administrative work you want to do it yourself

It is worth mentioning that you can change your business structure at some point through your business journey. For instance, you may choose to start with sole proprietorship but as your business expands, you take on staff and forge new partnerships. These new commitments may make a limited company more suitable to your business needs and you make the switch accordingly.

Having said that, getting the business structure right from the start can potentially save you time, money and effort. If there are concerns you would like to address, contact one of our small business accountants today and we’d be happy to discuss any issues surrounding sole proprietorship or limited company.

Sole trader

Being a sole trader or setting up a sole proprietorship is the simplest and also the most popular business structure in the UK, but it comes with a big catch – you are legally responsible for all aspects of the business including its finances. The statement seems alright at first glance, but it is the implications that you should pay your attention to. What it means is that you are personally liable for all the income your sole proprietorship receives as well as all the losses your business incurs, which can put your personal assets at risk when things go bad.

Here is a quick example
Your business goes through a bit of a rough patch and the business owes suppliers a sum of money. Because your business is essentially you (there is no separation in the eyes of the law), your creditors (in this case your suppliers) can file for County Court Judgements against you, putting both your business and your personal assets (property, money, possessions) at risk.

So let’s look at the advantages, disadvantages and tax responsibilities of a sole trader:

Advantages of a sole trader

  • Easy to set-up
  • Small administrative burden
  • Small up-keep cost
  • You have complete control on how the business is ran (as there aren’t any other shareholders)
  • You have privacy – your name is not published on the Companies House website
  • In most instances, you have less accounting work than a limited company too
  • As there is no separation between your sole proprietorship and you, you can access the profit anytime you like

Disadvantages of a sole trader

  • You have unlimited liability, meaning if something goes bad, your personal assets (property, money and possessions) are at risk
  • As liability is an issue, some businesses are less reluctant to deal with a sole trader
  • Because you are personally liable for all the income your business generates, you may be paying a lot of tax as a sole trader when your business booms
  • You cannot split your business profits or losses with family members
  • Rightly or wrongly, business people tend to view sole proprietorship as something less serious

Tax responsibilities of a sole trader

  • You must keep all financial records (income and expenses) for at least five years
  • You must send a Self Assessment tax return to HMRC every year
  • You pay Income Tax and National Insurance
  • If you are VAT-registered, you must file a VAT return

Limited company

Before launching your business, your friends and business associates are likely to encourage you to set-up a limited company due to its distinct advantages. So let us go straight into highlighting the advantages, disadvantages and tax responsibilities of a limited company.

Advantages of a limited company

  • The biggest advantage is that your liability as a shareholder is limited
  • You can reduce your tax obligations legitimately by taking a low salary and using dividends (which is taxed at a lower rate) to make up your income
  • You can also split your business profits or losses with family members
  • You can transfer ownership by selling shares to another party
  • The business structure is respected
  • A limited company tends to have wider access to capital and funding than a sole proprietorship
  • The name of your company is protected; no one else can use the same name as your company once you have registered
  • Your company can contribute pre-tax income to your pensions
  • Your company may qualify for some types of relief

Disadvantages of a limited company

  • The set-up cost is higher than a sole proprietorship
  • The running costs are also higher than a sole proprietorship
  • Your limited company is owned by shareholders and managed by directors – you have full control only if you are the only shareholder and director
  • As a director and/or significant owner, your name is published on the Companies House website
  • The financial information of the company is also published on Companies House
  • If you fail to meet your legal obligations, you may be held liable for the company’s debt
  • Even if you hire an accountant to manage your day-to-day tasks, you are still legally responsible for your company’s records, accounts and performance.

Tax responsibilities of a limited company

  • A limited company must keep good financial records and report changes
  • A limited company must complete corporation tax return and pay corporation tax on its profits
  • A confirmation statement and annual accounts must be sent to Companies House each year
  • File a VAT return if the company is VAT-registered

Reducing your tax obligations through a limited company

In the article Incorporating a limited company, we share two scenarios on how a director of a limited company can reduce their tax obligations and increase their tax-home pay by spreading the income between salaries and dividends. If you are interested to know more, follow the link and have a read.

Sole Trader or Limited Company – need help deciding?

Making the decision to launch your own business is the first step that you take towards fulfilling your dreams; now this step of choosing a business structure that suits you will reinforce your commitment.

At Tax Agility, our small business accountants have helped countless entrepreneurs set up their limited companies over the years. Moreover, we continue to support them throughout their business journey, assisting with company accounts, payroll and tax matters. In some instances, we even help to implement financial disciplines that are unique to your business, reigning in the appropriate level of financial control so your company can grow and expand quickly but sensibly.

If you would like to talk to one of our small business accountants regarding your accounting needs (for either your sole proprietorship or limited company), give us a call on 020 8108 0090 or fill in our online form.

 

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This blog is a general summary. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstance.


The complete guide to buying a franchise

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Franchising has helped hundreds of thousands of individuals becoming small business owners in the UK, but is it suitable for you?

Owning your business through franchising can be hugely rewarding, as it uses a business model that has been proven successful, so much so that fewer than 1% of franchisees fail, according to a comprehensive 2018 study done by BFA and NatWest. In comparison, it is estimated that 60% of new businesses will fail within three years according to this 2019 article by the Telegraph.

As a franchisee, you pay fees to a franchisor who is usually an established company that licenses its brand, process and know-how to you. Essentially a franchisee is a person who is a self-employed business owner but with limited control on how you can run the franchise; you must follow the strict procedures laid out by the franchisor whom you choose to work with.

Although popular, franchising isn’t for everyone. In this article, our small business accountants at Tax Agility aim to discuss the top five points you need to know about franchising:

  • Types of franchises
  • Advantages of running a franchise
  • Disadvantages of running a franchise
  • Key considerations
  • The importance of due diligence

Hopefully at the end of the article, you would have a better idea if franchising is something that you would like to pursue or not.

Types of franchises

Every franchise is slightly different in how they are managed and generally they can be broken down into three main types.

1. Business format

This is the most common type and is widely used by fast-food companies. What it means is that you buy the right to use the franchisor’s intellectual property, systems and products for a fee over a set period of time as specified in the contract.

Under this arrangement, it is common for the franchisor to continually influence the franchisee by setting guidelines and goals, as well as offering training and support.

2. Product distribution

In this case, you (the franchisee) is given the right to distribute a manufacturer’s products within a specific territory or at a specific location. Your business may not trade under the franchisor’s name but you may choose to display the manufacturer’s brand prominently in your business premises. An example is a car dealership where you sell the franchisor’s products directly to the public.

3. Processing or manufacturing

In this model, you (the franchisee) produce or manufacture the products, following the exact formula or know-how given by the franchisor. For instance, a chocolate maker licences its recipes and packaging to franchisees.

In addition to the above, there are also other types of franchise arrangements like agency, license and management.

The top five advantages of running a franchise

1. An established brand

Your franchisor is well established and ready to let you use their brand, reputation, as well as products or services.

2. A support network

Your franchisor is likely to have an extensive business network with incredible power to assist you with lease negotiation, shop fit-out, equipment, management training and ongoing support. Some franchisors go even further to provide legal and logistical support to their franchisees.

3. No experience required

Quite a few franchisors are not dissuaded if their potential franchisees have zero business experience as they offer training and give tools to help their franchisees succeed. Instead of experience, some franchisors may look for franchisees with leadership skills, passionate about the business and a willingness to learn.

4. Less concern over market trends

When running your own business, you need to continuously develop products or services that are relevant to your customers, otherwise you risk losing them. When you are a franchisee, you tend to worry less about market trends as usually your franchisor takes on this responsibility.

5. Almost guaranteed success

The success of franchises is supported by data. In the 2018 franchise landscape study done by BFA and NatWest, there were about 48,600 franchised units in the UK with 6 in 10 of them enjoyed a turnover of more than £250,000. Among them, 93% of franchisees claimed profitability in 2018. The data show that as long as there are proper due diligence, good management and good support in place, there is not a lot to hold a franchise back from becoming profitable.

The top five disadvantages of running a franchise

1. It is costly

For all the success that franchising can offer, it is often forgotten that the initial start-up costs to gain access to a franchise can be very high. It is not unusual to see a franchisor wanting at least £50,000 from a franchisee and often hitting six figures for a fast-food chain.

On top of that, you also need to secure a location, get equipment, buy stock, employ staff and get the business going. While some supplies will be provided by the franchisor, there are bits and pieces that you need to make your own purchases. Additionally, you will need to pay a regular fee to the franchisor irrespective of whether you turn a profit or not.

2. Your control can be limited

Your franchisor has given you the platform to succeed, but no matter how successful or profitable you make your franchise, the franchisor remains in control and shares your success. The only growth path for you is to license more franchises from your franchisor.

You also have less autonomy when it comes to making business decisions, as you are usually required to operate the franchise according to a standard operating manual.

Also, when you decide to sell your franchise, you have strict procedures to follow. Some franchisors also want to approve your buyer first. In other words, you have less control in a franchise than in managing your own business.

3. Your ideas (and franchises) are never your own

Jim Delligatti became a McDonald’s franchisee in 1955 and thought up the concept for the Big Mac 10 years later. Despite the global success of this iconic burger, Delligatti never received any royalties for his creation but a plaque.

Being a franchisee may mean that you are self-employed, but unlike running your own company, you do not have the creative freedom in a franchise. So if you are someone who loves the freedom to innovate, generate ideas and think outside of the box, franchising may not be right for you.

4. Bad performances by other franchisees may affect your franchise

When something bad happens in another franchisee like when they don’t follow strict hygiene procedures and customers get sick, it tends to affect other franchisees and you have no control over it.

5. Franchisors can refuse to renew your contract

When it comes to getting a franchise contract renewed when the previous contract is up, a franchisor may not elect to renew your contact irrespective of how hard you work or how successful you are.

Franchisors can choose not to renew for a number of reasons, such as if they think you are not performing as well as they want or if there has been non-payment of fees. In fact, any minor breach of the agreement could result in the franchisor pulling out the rug from under you. When this happens, the business and its goodwill go back to the franchisor.

Key considerations

Apart from the main advantages and disadvantages of owning a franchise mentioned above, there are other areas which you need to consider as well.

1. Do your research

In London, there are at least a few hundred franchising opportunities available at any one time so take your time to research. Beware that some franchisors may inflate earning potential claims.

2. Look at hard data

To help evaluate your options, ask potential franchisors for specific data including financial information (this should include past and projected financial data), information on previous and current franchisees, disclaimers, as well as market reputation.

3. Ask other franchisees

Good questions to ask include:

  • How long did it take them to recover their investment?
  • What is their profit margin?
  • What are the hidden and unexpected costs?

It may worth getting an independent accountant to look at the numbers before you make a commitment.

4. Match your desire

Running a franchise means you must adhere to strict procedures, even if you do not agree with them. If you are after creative freedom to carve your own success story, then franchising may not suit you.

5. Match your personality

With so many opportunities available, find one that best fits your personality. For instance, if you are ecologically-minded, choose a franchise that promotes green energy, environmentally-friendly cleaning products, or a natural make-up range, to name but a few.

6. Work out your finances

Buying a franchise requires a substantial fee upfront, anything from the license fee to vehicle cost and/or premises rent. Work out how much money you need and how you are going to raise the fund.

Addressing all the points above should help you to decide whether or not franchising is suitable for you. At the end of the exercise, you may realise that instead of becoming a franchisee, you actually want to go into a business by yourself or with a partner. You may even be thinking of buying an already established small business, which may be less costly than buying a franchise while affording you the freedom to change the business as you see fit. If this is on the cards, this article The complete guide to buying a small business may be useful.

The importance of due diligence

Due diligence refers to the process in which you investigate, verify and confirm the claims made by the other party before entering into a contract with them.

Before making a large investment (in this case buying a franchise), you need to conduct due diligence by verifying the franchisor’s business practice, financial performances and even statutory obligations. The objective is to mitigate risks and avoid any unforeseen liabilities.

Good due diligence often starts with financial data and tax compliance but it quickly extends to include areas like legal, intellectual property, statutory and even environmental due diligence. As you are after sensitive data, some franchisors may ask you to sign a non-disclosure agreement before they can share the information with you; this is a common practice.

While you are likely to rely on your accountant and solicitor to assist with financial and legal due diligence respectively, you can definitely tap into your business acumen and conduct business due diligence accordingly. Some business questions may include:

  • Why has no one set-up a franchise in this particular area previously?
  • What market research can you conduct to determine demand in a local area?
  • How intense is the local competition? Are prices competitive?

Tax Agility is here to support small business owners

Deciding on the best route into business ownership is dependent on a number of factors such as the opportunities in front of you, your skillsets and the budget at your disposal. Whether it is the world of franchising, launching a start-up or buying a pre-existing business, there are advantages and disadvantages inherent with each of these entry points.

Despite some differences, these three pathways share one common hurdle to overcome: finance. Before making any decision on which option you want to pursue, it is important to do your due diligence and get sound financial advice that can help you decide wisely. At Tax Agility, we provide expert consultancy to entrepreneurs across London who are keen to get into business ownership for the first time.

Our chartered accountants for small business owners are here to offer solid advice on all matters relating to accounting and tax. We care very much about your success, which is why our advice is always centred around what is best for you and your business. Think of us as your financial controller but without paying big money. Use our expertise to help you make sure the financial side is strong, so you can focus on running the business.

Our accountancy, tax and payroll services are used by small and medium-sized businesses ranging from start-ups to franchises to established companies. Call us now on 020 8108 0090 to discuss how our small business accountants can help you.

 

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This blog is a general summary. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstance.


Actions you can take when your small business is in distress

Every good business owner should learn how to spot the early warning signs of distress and know how to turn things around.

In every business, there are moments of ups and downs. Even when you have a good week of strong sales, chances are, you may still keep a lookout for early signs of distress unconsciously. Having the ability to handle business crises and turn things around is an essential part of managing your small business effectively. In this article, our small business accountants look at some common signs of distress and discuss what you can do to turn things around.

Common signs of business distress

Business distress can stem from internal or external. Here are a few common internal signs of business distress:

  • You don’t have enough cash to meet obligations
  • Your clients don’t pay on time
  • Your stocks aren’t selling
  • You miss forecasts
  • Your profit margin is shrinking
  • Your customer base is shrinking
  • Your suppliers don’t want to work with you due to unpaid invoices
  • Your return of investment is making a loss
  • Your staff turnover is high

Changes in the external environment can also affect your business and the distress can include but not limited to:

  • Changes in government policies
  • New threats from competitors
  • Changes in consumer behaviour
  • Saturated demand
  • Weak economic conditions

Five short-term recovery measures that address a business crisis

When your small business experiences signs of distress, the first thing you should look at is how much cash you have, as well as if your cash flow forecast is accurate (or not). If your cash level is low and your cash flow forecast foretells a dire situation, then your short-term options may be:

1. Cost cutting

You aim to cut costs and expenses immediately in order to reverse poor performance. This may include reducing headcount or terminating non-essential staff benefits.

2. Disposal of assets

Selling inventory at a discount or selling other liquid assets to free up cash quickly.

3. Borrow

In some instances, you may need to borrow money to stabilise the business.

4. Identify quick wins

Quick wins refer to any methods that can lower your costs and improve your cash situation immediately. An example is terminating less profitable products with immediate effect.

5. Seek help from your accountants

Your accountants should not be someone whom you meet once a year. Ideally, they should be working alongside you regularly and have the foresight to prevent any capital or financial distress from happening at the very first place. If you are facing a business crisis and receiving no help from your accountant, then it is time to switch to a qualified chartered accountant who champions small businesses like one of our small business accountants here at Tax Agility.

Seven long-term recovery measures that address a business crisis

The above-mentioned short-term solutions work to tide your business over temporarily. Do not let your guard down once your business is stabilised. Instead, continue to work with your accountants to improve business efficiency. An efficient business works effortlessly to convert all the available resources to maximise output, which in turn will deliver better products or services, increase sales, enhance customer experience, and promote a happier working environment.

To achieve optimal efficiency, you may initiate some of the following tasks so your business is prepared to weather the next crisis.

1. Costs control

If you are trading actively, chances are, your costs usually go up and not down, unless you make a conscious effort to control them wisely. Reducing expenditures that are not tax-deductible, renegotiating contracts with suppliers, lowering your tax obligations legitimately with the help of a reputable accountant are some examples of costs control.

2. Make use of cash flow forecasts

Cash is king and it is one vital resource that can buffer your business against sudden changes. Cash is what your business has at any moment in time. A close relative of cash is cash flow, the net change between your cash inflows and outflows for a given period.

An indication of your company’s health, cash flow statements consist of three parts: cash flows from operating activities, cash flows from investing activities and cash flows from financing activities. A simplified example is to calculate expected cash receipts from customers in a given period. Ideally, they should be more than enough to cover your bills in the same period, plus some remaining cash which you can use to reinvest into the business or set aside as a rainy day fund.

Positive cash flow does not happen accidentally. It is achieved through careful planning and sound financial management. Your accountants should also provide you with cash flow forecasts; use them wisely to make informed business decisions. If you would like to improve your cash flow, follow the link to this post five ways to improve your company’s cash flow.

3. Generate new revenue

Launching new or complementary products, creating additional services, expanding online, increasing the number of customers are examples which can help your business to generate more business and revenue. Other ways to increase revenue may include selling your products/ services at a higher price, as well as increasing the average transaction amount. One controversial approach is to sell more to your existing customer base – this may work temporarily but it is unlikely to sustain over a longer period.

4. Reorganisation

If you find yourself questioning the ability of some staff but praising some others after a crisis, you aren’t alone. Many business leaders achieve successful turnarounds by reorganising roles and changing a few people. While there is no fixed formula, a useful guide is to keep only employees who are essential to the business, outsource when necessary and use contractors or temps to ease the workload during busy periods. This lean structure promotes well-defined and fulfilling roles, and it potentially can save you a significant amount of money too.

5. Improve operational process

Streamlining communications, eliminating paperwork, introducing appropriate technology (like using Xero, affordable cloud accounting software that is built for small business owners) are some examples that can increase productivity instantly.

6. Create a value proposition

Competing on price alone can only get you so far, but once you give your customers and potential customers an attractive reason (other than price) to buy from you, chances are, your customer base will increase organically. As a small business owner, you can increase your value by providing exceptional customer service, collaborating with synergetic businesses, offering convenience to your customers, to name but a few.

7. Prepare for the next crisis

You cannot prevent crises from happening, but you can certainly minimise their impact. Internal crises like shrinking profit margin and negative cash flow can be mitigated with good planning. If your accountants offer small business management consulting service, consider using it because you want experts working to improve your business finances for you.

Stress test your business

Stress testing involves making assumptions and analysing how your business responds in each scenario. Ideally, the results should allow you to identify scenarios that will impact your small business the most (both positively and negatively), what are the potential challenges as well as new opportunities.

As every business is unique, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all stress test or formula. Here is a quick example: assuming you are a small business selling floor tiles to consumers, you may test your business with these questions:

  • What if you lose every one of your suppliers? How long can your business go on without new inventory?
  • What if tiles are out of fashion?
  • What if sales have tripled, will your revenue triple too?

Ultimately, stress test allows you to develop plans that can reduce the impact on your business should an undesirable factor hits, as well as increasing your business opportunities should an extremely favourable factor were to come.

Tax Agility can help small business owners through crises

Every business exists to make money and ideally, you should have full confidence that your business can grow and achieve the success you desire. In reality though, managing a business requires more than sheer hard work. You are required to have sound business acumen, know how to manage people, excel at sales, even know a few accounting rules, among the many subjects needed to overcome distress and run a successful business.

Not every business owner has all the expertise required, nor has the resources to hire full-time specialists. This is why working with independent specialists is often a cost-effective approach.

Take our small business accountants for instance. We are qualified, trusted, and have years of solid experience helping small businesses in London, Richmond and Putney to thrive in good time and bad. We do this by crunching numbers and setting financial disciplines that are unique to your business. With us working alongside you, you know you are in good hands.

If you would like to know how Tax Agility can help your business and develop recovery measures at the first warning signs of distress, speak to one of our small business accountants today by calling 020 8108 0090 or filling in our online form.

 

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This blog is a general summary. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstance.


Managing your business finance for success

Every business exists to make money and grow, and one of the essential ways is through good financial management.

Getting your business finance in order through good budgeting, accurate cash flow analysis and effective use of management accounting all share a single objective, which is to improve your business efficiency.

When your business is efficient, it can convert all the available resources to maximise output with ease, thereby delivering better products and/or quality services, increasing sales, improving staff morale, enhancing customer experience, to name but a few. As a result, your business will be in a good financial position to meet its financial obligations and have strong cash surplus to put back into your business for growth.

In this article, our small business management consultants at Tax Agility discuss how we can assist small business owners in London, Richmond and Putney to better manage their business finances for success.

Understanding your business and objectives

A client once commented that he quit his 40-hour a week job to launch a business that required him to work 80-hour a week. Highly driven, he was managing most tasks by himself apart from business finances which he turned to our small business consultants. His reason was simple – the best way to unlock any business potential is to get assistance from experts who can provide honest advice based on financial statements.

Essentially, he was looking for a management consultant who can help him to create accurate budgets and forecasts, giving him data that he needed to make informed decisions. Today, his financial performance is strong, allowing him to have an office with a team of staff. Growth is stable and consistent, adding value to his company and achieving success.

The path to success often starts with a realisation that you may be too overwhelmed with day-to-day tasks and diversions to look at your business objectively. This is why engaging a small business consultant makes sense, though the key is to find one who can take time to understand your business and aspirations.

At Tax Agility, we often kick-start a no-obligation meeting by listening to you first. It is only through listening, understanding, and looking at your business through a clear lens that will allow us to create strategic plans that can meet your financial goals accordingly.

Improving business finance

Every business is unique and consequently, there isn’t a standard recipe which every small business owner should apply when it comes to improving one’s business finance. Areas that we may discuss with you include:

  • Ways to eliminate redundancies
  • Ways to reach your cost and revenue targets
  • Improving return on investment
  • Using historical financial data to do forecasts and budgets
  • How to analyse budgeted versus actual results
  • Reviewing of management accounting
  • Reviewing of credit control and cash flow
  • Analysis of key trends in your business
  • Analysis of risk management

Key benefits of improved business finance

Regardless your areas of focus, our small business consultants always strive to deliver three key benefits to your business and they are:

1. Financial control

Knowing how to make money doesn’t necessarily mean knowing how to best manage the money you earn. Managing money requires disciplines and conscious choices. Take cash flow for example, not many small business owners have time to monitor the amount of cash the business has in the bank or check which customers have paid you on time. Yet when you need to make a purchase, you may not think twice. In this instance, our small business consultants help to reign in control by providing cash flow forecasts that can guide your decisions.

2. Informed decisions will spur growth

A series of good decisions equate to success. If your decisions are data-centric, they will create a positive impact on your business finances quickly, which will further strengthen your financial position. Here is an example – many entrepreneurs believe that borrowing is good, but borrowing without knowing your ability to pay it back is far from good and will quickly ruin your business reputation. Borrowing to spur growth, for example, is only good if you have a repairmen plan in advance, as well as knowing where else you can cut expenses and save.

3. Set, measure, optimise

At Tax Agility, we believe in setting KPIs and measuring performances that help your business to achieve its goals. Financial numbers from every week, every month, every quarter, every year should be tracked and measured. It is worth bearing in mind that even the best plan may lead to occasional bumps along the way, which is why optimisation is essential. Having our small business management consultants on hand to guide you can make all the difference.

Tax Agility can help to improve your business finance

At Tax Agility, we understand that small business owners have limited resources. Our aim is to help you transform the limited resources available to you into success by focusing on your business finances.

We believe in growing together with our clients – when you grow, we grow too. This is why our dedicated small business management consultants work cohesively with you to help build your business and take it to the next level. We use financial numbers and data to recommend changes, mitigate risk and improve profitability.

Most important, we provide fast, quality management support to small business owners without any hidden charges. Give us a call on 020 8108 0090 today because your business deserves the best opportunity to succeed.

Payroll consideration

A growing business requires staff with skills that can help your business expand further and faster. Your staff can consist of short-term contractors or permanent employees. Contractors are often cheaper, more flexible, and they tend to be specialists in niche areas like database development and network security which you only require from time to time. On the other hand, permanent employees are focused and loyal to your business; they are the people you can rely on to grow your business.

Employing permanent staff requires PAYE, National Insurance, a pension scheme, as well as other benefits your company provides. These are time-consuming administrative work. Instead of hiring a full-time payroll employee, a cost-effective option for many small business owners is to outsource the payroll function. At Tax Agility, our payroll services for small business are here to assist payroll preparation and compliance for you.

VAT

VAT is a complex subject and when a business experiences strong growth, it tends to involve international suppliers and customers. Trading internationally, meaning importing goods from and exporting goods to other countries, often leads to more questions about VAT.

If expanding internationally is on the card, the general guidelines for VAT are:

  • If you are VAT-registered, the suppliers from an EU country do not charge you VAT for goods that they sell to you. However, you must account for the VAT yourself.
  • Suppliers from a non-EU country do not charge you VAT for goods that they sell to you, but you will pay import VAT before customs release the goods to you.
  • If you are selling goods to customers in EU countries and they are not VAT-registered, you will be charging them the UK VAT. But if your customers are VAT-registered, you can then zero-rate (ie not charging VAT) on the goods you sell to them.
  • If you are selling goods to customers outside of the EU, you do not normally charge VAT.

For solid VAT advice, sector-specific VAT issues, completion of VAT returns, and other VAT concerns, talk to one of our VAT service team for small business today by calling 020 8108 0090.

 

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This blog is a general summary. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstance.