A concept image of a happy businessman

Small Business: Delivering excellent customer service

Customer service is a skill which all of us can learn and improve upon.

A concept image of a happy businessman

It is said that the main reason for customer churn is not price, but bad customer service. Many unhappy customers simply don’t return, especially in today’s world where there are plenty of alternatives and choices available. On the other hand, happy customers can help your business grow, as they tend to purchase more and refer others through valuable word-of-mouth referrals.

At Tax Agility, we are small business accountants in London and we help other small businesses to grow through exceptional accounting services. If you have worked with us, you know that we diligently take care of the accounting and bookkeeping duties, along with providing solid tax advice and payroll administration, leaving you time to focus on running the business.

We are also keen to share tips that can help small business owners like us. So in this article, we shall take a look at the principles that underpin customer service and discuss how to deliver excellent customer service.

Principles of good customer service

Every business has some ideas on how to provide good customer service. Generally, they centre around:

  • Listening to your customers – finding out what they consider to be good customer service and what they expect from you.
  • Understanding that customer service is a process – it exists in all aspects of your business and every interaction is an opportunity to show your professionalism.
  • Following up with both positive and negative feedback – resolving the issues quickly and amicably, without getting emotional, will win you respect.
  • Being honest – if you don’t understand how a product works or if you can’t troubleshoot, let them know and find another solution for them.
  • Practising empathy – putting yourself in their shoes when addressing their concerns.

Delivering good customer service

After speaking to small business owners who excel at customer service, we are able to categorise the three aspects needed to deliver good customer service. They are commitment from you the business owners, a good understanding of how your customers expect you to meet their needs, and an effective customer service program to help you deliver. When all the three aspects are working cohesively, you will create a virtuous cycle that can yield a string of positive outcomes.

Commitment from you

If you are fully committed to customer service, you will hire like-minded individuals, foster a service culture, empower your staff to take ownership, recognise and reward their work, and provide adequate training. You want happy staff who will go out of their way to give the customers what they want and deliver when they want it, in the best possible way.

Having a positive attitude goes a long way too. Remember to:

  • Smile: Someone said that a smile alone doesn’t guarantee good customer service, but good customer service almost always starts with a smile.
  • Take initiatives: Go up to the customers and ask if they need assistance or suggest complementary products, if you run a brick and mortar business.
  • Be patience: Some customers may require more time to convey what they want or what is wrong with the product purchased. Take time to understand, clarify if needed, and always offer genuine help.
  • Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’: When you say please, you are showing respect; and when you say thank you, you are showing gratitude. Small business owners who value their customers use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ regularly.

Know what your customers expect from you

Every customer has a unique perception as to what customer service means to them. The level of service they expect also varies from one provider to another. For example, they may expect a no-frill service from a discount store, but more personalised service from a close-contact provider like a hairdresser, a sports therapist and a tailor. If you don’t yet know what your customers want from you (and your business), it is time to start talking to them and gathering feedback.

Creating a customer service program

An effective customer service program should contain three things – it should define the level of customers service your business wants to provide at every interaction, describe the necessary steps to achieve it, and methods to sustain the program.

Here are a few examples:

  • Your business receives a fair amount of calls and you want your staff to answer them within the first three rings, use a greeting message, and remain professional throughout.
  • You want your staff to take the initiative and suggest complementary products to customers – like a pack of rechargeable batteries to go with an electronic gadget.
  • Your business may receive a bad review on social media from time to time. When it happens, your staff will contact the unhappy customer quickly (hopefully within the same business day). The process will see them investigate the issue, acknowledge when there is a mistake, and seek to resolve the issue with the customer amicably.

Don’t forget your staff

As a small business owner, you know the importance of hiring and retaining staff who are as committed as you. So it makes sense to invest in training and equip them with the appropriate skills and knowledge to help you meet your business goals.

It is equally important to recognise and reward staff who put in the hard work. Some recognition could be spontaneous – whenever you see them do a good job, thank them personally. On the other hand, planned recognition could involve a monetary or non-cash incentive when they reach certain targets, or when they consistently offer a high level of service to your customers.

Data protection and your business

If your business collects and stores customer information, you must understand the legal requirements regarding what you can do with the information. The data protection rules state that you must make sure the information is kept secure, accurate and up-to-date. When you collect their personal data, you must also tell them who you are and how you will use their information (and if you intend to share the information with another organisation). You must also inform them that they have a right to:

  • See any information you hold about them and correct if it is wrong
  • Request to have their data deleted
  • Request their data is not used for certain purposes

Good customer service will help you grow

Your happy customers will undoubtedly come back to buy more and recommend others to you through word of mouth referrals. They can generate more sales for you, which in turn will feed a positive loop and produce more favourable results.

At Tax Agility, we know the importance of good customer service because most of our clients come through referrals, from other small business owners who are very happy with our accounting, bookkeeping, tax and payroll services. If you are a new client, you will know that our approach is to understand you first – including your business objectives and financial circumstances – only then we can suggest how to assist you.

You also have the freedom to choose the level of engagement you want from us – for instance, you may need us to manage bookkeeping for now, give you tax advice when you need money to invest, add payroll when your team expands, and use our management consultancy service when you are ready to grow. All of our services are competitively priced with no hidden charges, and our small business accountants are always here to assist.

Call us today on 020 8108 0090.

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

Our services:

  • 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.

 

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


A concept image of marketing

Small Business: Simplify marketing to increase sales

Every business needs to market their brand, products and services. Have you done enough to create awareness, attract new customers and build relationships?

A concept image of marketing
Marketing is a process where you (the business owner) identify your unique selling proposition (USP), profile your target market, communicate your brand and your USP to the target market, persuade them that your products and services can satisfy their current and future needs, and your company is here to nurture loyal customers.

The marketing process is long, sometimes costly, and definitely more comprehensive than just ‘advertising and selling’. Occasionally, marketing also requires unwavering commitment from you and your staff.

At Tax Agility, we are small business accountants working with entrepreneurs from all walks of life. Our objective is to help small businesses flourish by managing their business accounts accurately and effectively. In addition, we provide a range of business consulting services that aim to help companies reaching their goals. Like our clients, we are small business owners ourselves, and we see marketing as a key discipline which allows us to communicate what we do and build lasting relationships with our clients. With this in mind, we spoke to several marketing specialists and put together this article which we hope could help our clients and other small businesses to establish a stronger competitive advantage through marketing.

The seven ‘Ps’ of marketing

The seven ‘Ps’ refer to a set of recognised marketing tactics which small business owners could use in any combination to create a successful marketing strategy. The seven aspects are:

1. Product

Product refers to the goods and services you are selling – naturally, you want to sell goods and services that are in demand. Successful small business owners tend to spend time researching what the target market needs (or wants), and can highlight the features and advantages of their products and services to the target group, convincing them to purchase.

When marketing products or services, bear in mind that you cannot give false or misleading information to customers. It pays to understand the law on product safety and demonstrate compliance. You should also prepare for (and respond to) product safety incidents and take up appropriate product liability insurance.

Here’s a quick example: one of our clients found out that there is a market for toy robots in the UK and he imports them to sell. In his marketing campaign, he highlights the physical features of the robots and shows how these robots can interact with growing children (through voice, touch and/or remote control). All toy robots he sells also comply with the provisions of the Toys Regulations 2011, meaning they bear the CE mark, satisfy the ‘essential safety requirements’ in the regulations, be properly marked to ensure traceability, and be accompanied by instructions for use, along with warnings where necessary.

2. Price

As consumers ourselves, we all know that a product or a service is only worth what the customers are prepared to pay for it. The price has to be ‘right’ and perhaps even competitive, but not necessary the cheapest. Ideally, the optimal price is what your customers are willing to pay and it also allows you to make a profit (after covering your costs).

Accordingly, setting a suitable pricing strategy for your products and services take some planning. You probably need to spend a good amount of time reviewing your costs – fixed and variable – as well as knowing your break-even point. The break-even point can help you to work out how much you need to sell before you make a profit and how profitable a particular product or service is. If you need help with business costs, talk to a trusted small business accountant like our team here at Tax Agility.

Sometimes, you may choose to enforce the value of your products or services through a higher price tag. This could be a wise approach, especially if the value you provide is not something that your competitors can easily copy.

3. Promotion

This is about the promotional activities you undertake to make your customers aware of your products and services. They can include direct marketing, telemarketing, above-the-line advertising, PR activities such as media releases, sponsorship, as well as short-term sales.

Successful promotional campaigns tend to tell a story, so give your brand a story – why it exists, why it cares about customers and the world, for instance. Savvy customers today prefer to engage with businesses that they can connect and build direct relationships with, so don’t be afraid to show your passion, talk about the values you stand for, and why your business is the one to choose.

Keeping up with the times, your promotional activities may include an online element too. You can find out more about online marketing by following the link to the article Small Business: Win customers with a strong online presence.

4. Place

The place refers to where your customers are able to see and purchase your products and services. The place may be your website, an online marketplace, a physical store, via other distributors, or a combination of the above.

If you are selling your products and services in a physical store, then you probably know the importance of using effective visual display to create an identity and maximise sales. Retail display is actually a part of branding, helping to make a statement about your business as well as attracting prospects to purchase your products and services.

If you are selling online, then you know the benefits of using excellent photographs and concise product descriptions, along with online optimisation. You may also consider using ‘behaviour targeting’ to show your products and services to your target market throughout their buying process – from needs or problem recognition, information search, evaluation of alternatives, making a decision, to purchasing.

5. People

The fifth P here refers to everyone in your company, including yourself and your staff. The aim here is to recruit the right people who are as committed to the company as you are. Devoted staff will champion excellent customer service, which in turn will help you win referrals and grow your business.

To retain good staff, you may need to provide adequate training and skill development opportunities, along with suitable motivators (which may or may not be monetary). A good tip that our small business accountants often share with entrepreneurs is to look at the products and services with the highest profit margins, and check to see if they are adequately supported by your staff.

6. Processes

This refers to the processes involved in delivering your products and services to the customers. It ranges from the process to ordering new stock, ensuring products and services are delivered in a timely manner, allowing customers to give feedback, handling negative customer reviews, and regularly reviewing your financial statements to make sure that your company is on track.

Good processes will undoubtedly increase efficiency, thereby saving your company time and money. On the other hand, inadequate processes (or lack of) may create confusion and mistakes, risking a vicious circle that may lead to business failure.

7. Physical evidence

Physical evidence refers to everything your customers see when interacting with your company. Ideally, everything they see should reinforce a positive image of your company and boost their confidence in your brand, products and services.

Accordingly, think about every aspect, from how you package your products, the physical environment where you provide or sell the products or services, to how your staff act in the premises.

Marketing and growth

While the above seven ‘Ps’ of marketing are vital points for small business owners to consider before creating a marketing strategy, we must also point out the financial aspect. For instance, your marketing plan should have a clear financial objective, like how a campaign can help you achieve a net profit of x through sales of product y within the next 12 months.

Your marketing plan should also include campaign costs, which must be affordable by your business. From time to time, we do hear stories that business owners spending most of their money on branding or sponsorship, hoping to make a big impact but only to find little return.

As the financial aspect is critical, do talk to an experienced small business accountant like our team here at Tax Agility. We can help to review costs associating with your products and services, find ways to reduce wastage, calculate the break-even point, make profitability projections, among others.

We can also help you with the followings:

  • 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.

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.


Small Business: Managing business risk

Knowing how to identify and manage risk is essential for a small business to survive, operate and prosper amid competition and uncertainty.

A concept illustration of taking risk

“Tell me about the biggest risk you’ve taken in your life.”

If you were to ask this question to small business owners, chances are you would hear them all talking about taking risks to launch their respective business.

Entrepreneurs tend to embrace risk, and successful business owners also know how to identify and skillfully manage both internal and external risks that their business is facing. In this article, our small business accountants look to explore a few common types of risk and discuss how small business owners can benefit from a risk management plan that works for them.

Common types of risk

While it is obvious that every company faces its unique set of risks, there are a few common types that most of us face, given that we operate in a well-connected world. These risks include:

  • Financial, such as managing rising costs, depreciation of assets, cash flow issues, bad debts, repayment of loans, problems associated with erroneous company accounts and paying an incorrect amount of taxes.
  • Legal, such as not filing the appropriate documents with Companies House and HMRC, not applying for or renewing appropriate licences, and failure to carry out contractual obligations.
  • Health and safety, such as dealing with workplace accidents and equipment failure.
  • Global events, such as a sudden political deposition in another country and a global pandemic that restricts travel movement.
  • Market, such as changes in consumer behaviours and purchasing habits.
  • Reputation, such as damage to your brand.
  • Security, such as theft and fraud.
  • Staffing, such as the challenge of finding the right people for the right jobs and conflict management.
  • Technology, such as network interruption, email server failure and a breach in cyber security.
  • Natural disasters, such as floods, heat waves and earthquakes.

Some of the risks mentioned above might seem indirect or even unlikely to some businesses. For example, if you have no suppliers or customers outside of a town or a city, then it is easy to assume that what goes on elsewhere isn’t going to affect your business. The truth is all businesses are actually more connected than ever, and consumers today can be personally affected by world events that seem far away. Consequently, it is better to prepare for indirect risks than to ignore them.

Managing risks

Risk management is the process of identifying risks specific to your business and coming up with strategies to deal with the risks and recover from the impacts should the unfortunate happen. You can develop an effective risk management plan by following these steps:

  1. Identify the risk
  2. Assess the risk
  3. Manage the risk
  4. Review and update

You can certainly get assistance from various specialists to help with your risk management plan. For example, when assessing financial risks, involve your accountant or speak to a small business accountant like us. Our team of chartered accountants can work with you to review financial risks related to your company, including but not limited to:

  • Risks from how your company is structured
  • Risks from incorrect financial transactions
  • Risks from cash-flow shortage and how to overcome them
  • Risks from changing customer trends
  • Risks from inaccurate tax calculations

Essentially, what a risk management plan does is to help you identify issues in various business situations and from there, you develop practical ways to protect your business. To guide you through the process, here are the four steps involved.

Identify the risk

A good risk management plan starts by asking a series of ‘what if’ questions that could affect your business. A few examples are:

  • What if my key supplier went out of business?
  • What if my website was hacked?
  • What if a new competitor opens on the same street?
  • What if I add eCommerce to the website?
  • What if a customer sue me?

Assess the risk

Assessing the risk is about the likelihood of any particular risk happening and the consequences it would have on your business.

Here’s an example: let’s say you run an e-commerce site so you need your website to be available 24x7. You have a good hosting contract and the risk of your website going down is low. However, should the unfortunate happen, your costumers cannot reach you nor buy from you. Consequently, you may suffer a financial loss during the period when your site becomes unavailable.

Now you have thought about the risk and the consequence, the next step is to manage the risk.

Manage the risk

The common ways to manage risks are:

  • Accept them – if the risks are very unlikely to happen, too expensive to mitigate, or impractical, you may choose to accept them and have a recovery plan to manage the consequences should they happen.
  • Avoid them – you could avoid the risks by not proceeding with an activity or by using an alternative method to achieve the same outcome.
  • Reduce them – you could reduce the likelihood of the risk occurring or you could reduce the impact if the risk occurs.
  • Transferring them – you shift the responsibility to another party, such as your insurance provider, through outsourcing or new partnerships.

In the UK, you must get Employers’ Liability insurance from an authorised insurer as soon as you become an employer. Your policy must cover you for at least £5 million. Apart from this statutory obligation, you may consider other types of insurance that are useful to small businesses. They can include content and stock insurance, business interruption insurance, cyber cover, and audit insurance.

Review and update

Just like other business processes, your risk management plan should be reviewed and tested as risks can change, as your business and the environment you operate in.

Developing a recovery plan

Going hand-in-hand with a risk management plan is a recovery plan. The idea here is about how your business can recover and minimise losses should an unfortunate incident happen.

Cyber security is a good example to illustrate this. Small business owners are often targeted by ransomware, malware and malicious emails. The risk is real and it may even occur regularly. To mitigate the risk, you may already have established strict procedures like installing the latest security software to keep your network and devices secure, regularly backing up your data and educating your employees. Despite the best effort, hackers and cyber criminals may still gain unauthorised access to your system. Accordingly, you need to have a recovery plan, detailing anything from stopping the incident from getting worse, calling up experts who can help you resolve the incident, informing the authority if necessary, and considering what legal advice you should take if the incident causes a significant impact on your business or customers.

Tax Agility can help you mitigate risks related to company finances

As leading chartered accountants for small businesses in London, Putney and Richmond-upon-Thames, we tend to involve risk management as part of our daily activities and discussions with our clients.

An obvious activity is that we can help to reduce your financial and compliance risks by managing your company accounts accurately and making sure that your business is tax-efficient.

We are also the person you can bounce ideas with, as we can help to evaluate risks and opportunities that are drawn upon financial data so you can make informed decisions accordingly.

If you are thinking of buying another business or selling an existing one, you can also count on us to assess the value by reviewing the business’s assets, operations, financial performance and tax compliance, to name but a few.

In short, by incorporating risk management, our goal is to make sure that your business is financially sustainable. You will also receive qualified insights that can help in your decision-making process and meet financial compliance.

Our services:

  • 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.

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.


TA staff

Small Business: Planning and optimising your workforce

The aim of workforce planning is to align your people strategy with short-term changes and long-term goals.

TA staff

As dedicated small business accountants in London working with entrepreneurs from various sectors, we have the privilege of meeting driven small business owners to exchange ideas and share knowledge. One of the topics that crop up regularly in discussions is human resources. Specifically, how does an entrepreneur know when it is the right time to hire and how to go about planning and managing employees effectively.

Successful small business owners, we find, tend to have a workforce that can meet two objectives. Firstly, the workforce is efficiently managed to meet short-term changes which may be related to growth (hiring more staff as you get more clients), decline (having less staff as clients leave), or when there is an increase in competition (having versatile staff who can achieve more with less), to name but a few.

Secondly, smart small business owners also have a long-term plan with specific goals. The plan tells them when they need the right people with the right skills at the right time.

In essence, we view workforce planning as a systematic way to identify what skills are needed, how to find the right people for the right job, and what alternatives are available to address gaps or skill mismatches. As this is a highly fascinating subject, we look to explore it more in this article and see how workforce planning can benefit us all.

When it is time to hire

Should you hire someone because you have just received a new contract? The answer depends on the situation you are in. In general, you know it is time to hire someone when:

  • Your current workforce cannot cope with the workload or does not have the necessary skills to cope.
  • You can generate more money if you hire someone.
  • You have calculated the costs and you are certain that your business can afford it.
  • The people you hire can support your long-term business goals.

In other words, before hiring, you must understand your current workforce capacity, you are aware of any skills gap in your company, you know how to get the most out of your (current and future) employees, your decisions are guided by financial data, and most importantly, you never lose sight of your future goals.

Labour cost is an area that is worth mentioning. In the UK, employers are required to pay salaries, National Insurance and pension contributions. In addition, business owners also need to spend time and money training the person, as well as offering staff benefits like paid holidays, sick pay and gym membership, to name but a few.

Finding the right people for the right job

Every small business owner is keenly aware that hiring the right people is vital for the success of your business but finding the right people can be challenging. Here are a few good tips that may resonate with some small business owners:

Look for a team player

In many small businesses, employees are required to work cohesively on a project or several projects at once. In this case, look for a team player who is genuine, committed and supportive.

Long-term potential

Job-hopping may be on the rise but it doesn’t mean that companies like it – because turnover is disruptive and it costs money. Look for traits of commitment, particularly if the new hire is vital to your future workforce needs.

Skillset

Test the candidate to make sure they have the ability to perform the tasks required. You can test both technical and soft skills. Technical skills are related to a particular occupation. Soft skills, on the other hand, cover a wide spectrum of traits that shows how one interacts with others.

Getting the best out of your employees

Small business owners know that working longer hours does not necessarily mean more productive or increased efficiency. To get the best out of your employees, a few useful tips include:

  • Make it clear what you and the business want from them.
  • Encourage them to take responsibility for their actions; show them how their efforts are tied into the bigger picture or the overall goals of the business.
  • Create a culture that promotes honesty and strong work ethics.
  • Incentivise them when a milestone is achieved. This can be something small like taking them out for a meal or something substantial like cash bonuses.
  • Train and develop people who are keen to contribute. Show them how they can achieve career progression within your organisation.
  • Provide mentorship, particularly to young workers. Mentorship involves one-to-one discussions that focus on transferring knowledge and connecting at a deeper level.

Alternatives to address skills gaps

It is highly common for small business owners to hire new employees to address skills gaps, but alternatives such as hiring contractors and upskilling current employees should be considered too.

Hiring contractors or freelancers is definitely something that can benefit small business owners as the advantages are obvious:

  • It is usually (but not always) cheaper to hire a contractor as you don’t have to pay National Insurance, pension, and benefits.
  • Areas of expertise such as database management and cybersecurity are best left to specialists who know what they are doing (unless your business is based around these disciplines).
  • You can respond to market changes quicker by hiring or letting go of contractors with short notices.
  • Contractors have their own insurance to cover for all eventualities.

For more information, follow the link to the article Hiring specialist contractors can reduce SME costs.

Another effective way to address skills gaps is to train your existing staff. Research has shown that upskilling can improve employee job satisfaction and engagement. There are various methods to develop skills, including:

  • On-the-job training
  • Accredited or non-accredited training
  • Attending special industry events
  • Mentoring and coaching

Don’t forget payroll and benefits

Although studies have shown that employees may not be necessarily motivated by money, every employee still expects to be paid fairly, satisfactory and on time. They also look for benefits like paid holidays, gym memberships and other goodies.

While it is essential to make the pay package attractive to your employees, you also need a robust payroll team in place to calculate individual payslip and deduct PAYE, National Insurance, pension and other items like student loans, along with handling ad-hoc items like bonuses and commissions. But having an in-house payroll team is expensive – fortunately, this is where the outsourced payroll services from Tax Agility can help.

Our complete payroll services are designed for small businesses, helping small business owners like you to manage the payroll function and compliance. We can take over the entire payroll process, help with ad-hoc payroll exercises, manage TRONC Scheme Management for restaurants, bars and hotels, as well as keeping you informed of any changes to the payroll regulations.

Tax Agility promotes small businesses

At Tax Agility, we are chartered accountants specialising in small businesses across London. We’ve helped many entrepreneurs grow from a one-person business to a successful enterprise with dedicated teams in place.

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

Management consultancy is an area worth mentioning if you are looking to grow your business substantially in the near future. At its core, management consultancy is about analysing the financial data of your company and allowing you to use the data to make informed decisions that spur growth.

If you would like to know more about what we can do to help your business – be it to support your bookkeeping, provide tax advice, manage your payroll services, or work with you to grow your business – get in touch by calling 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.


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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Invoice

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.