New research shows that it’s more expensive to run UK SMEs outside of London

Research from The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) reveals that Government policy has made it more expensive for UK SMEs located outside London.

The policy changes recently implemented by the Government have put a relatively larger burden on small businesses in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales than on those in London. The legislative changes that have caused this include the cost of taxes and regulation.

UK SMEs dealing with increased costs in devolved regions

The cost of the changes in every devolved region has gone up, while it has actually decreased slightly in the capital. The average UK SME has an annual cost of £481,000. While this is the same cost as 2018, it has increased by 14.5% compared with the £61,000 it cost in 2011.

Small businesses in Scotland are paying 14.7% more, 14.9% more in Northern Ireland and 15.25% more in Wales, because of the measures. These changes are shown in the annual Impact of Government Policy Index, which also reveals that the rise in London was 13.7%.

The index is currently measuring the highest ever, due to the rising business rates announced in the Autumn 2018 budget. Other Government policy changes in areas including insurance and pensions means that they outweigh any benefit from a reduction in corporation tax.

UK SMEs in construction sector most vulnerable

According to the research experts at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) who compile the index, the way the economy is made up in the devolved regions explains the rise in costs.

The data shows that construction is under the most pressure, as it is dealing with a 28% rise in costs due to the policy changes. Rising wages and labour taxes mean that it’s the hardest hit sector in devolved areas. The costs of manufacturing actually rose by a fifth in just two years.

It’s also likely that the increase in minimum wage from £7.83 to £8.21/hr, is affecting these regions and sectors. Most workers in the capital already earn more than the threshold due to London weighting on salaries, so this also impacts the distribution of costs.

Fewer businesses in devolved regions

Another factor that has contributed to the marked difference in business costs is the sheer number of businesses in London. Devolved regions of the UK are home to far fewer companies than the capital. Per 10,000 people, London has 1,563 businesses. In Scotland, the number of businesses per 10,000 people is 735, in Northern Ireland 897 and in Wales 774.

 

The index has been compiled by CEBR since 2011, to measure the impact of Government policy on the average VAT-registered SME.

 

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “It seems clear from this report that the Government must do much more to support UK SMEs throughout the whole country. At the moment, the weighting in favour of small businesses in London is marked. As the country heads towards Brexit, there needs to be much more guidance and reassurance from the Government for small businesses, and particularly those in regions outside the capital.

“Small businesses in the UK increasingly form the backbone of the economy and, as such, need more support. If the country is going to thrive after Brexit, then work needs to be put in to shore up SMEs in all regions of the country.”

 

About Turner Little
Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

Why money management should matter to small business owners

No matter how healthy your turnover, without tight cashflow management, there’s no chance of success. Problems such as late payments, too little planning and ignoring the daily costs hit small business owners hardest.

Cashflow and effective money management keeps a business going. By creating a cashflow budget and better controlling payments, small businesses can mitigate the danger posed by poor money management.

Here are some financial management tips for small business owners:

  1. Manage payment terms

Figures from the Asset Based Finance Association (ABFA) reveal that clients of SMEs take an average of 72 days to make payment on invoices. In addition, micro-business owners generally wait six weeks longer than bigger businesses to be paid.

With 70% of small business owners citing cash flow as their biggest problem, and that late payment is the most common cause, this is a key issue to target for SME owners. By assessing the risk your company can take on payments, you can ascertain the best-case scenario. For example, if you feel your business can’t take any risk on the possibility of late payments, then advance payment could be the solution.

Credit-check any new customer or business prospect before you go into business with them. It can feel counter-productive to turn down a new contract, but if it’s clear they won’t pay then it’s the best decision for your business. If the customer’s credit history is acceptable, the next step is to establish watertight terms and conditions. Set up expectations straight away so there can be no confusion about when they’re meant to pay. If necessary, invest in a solicitor to make the contract fool proof.

  1. Establish a cashflow budget

This will ensure your business can pay all expenses. It allows the owner to proactively manage revenues and expenses. Components of the budget plan should include a sales forecast, anticipated inflow and outflow of cash, any debt repayments and ongoing operating costs.

Keep it up-to-date regularly and make sure it truly reflects your business and its future plans.

  1. Review accounts payable regularly

 

By incorporating a regular review of accounts payable, you will be able to determine whether your business is up to date with its credit obligations.

 

  1. Cut expenses where possible

 

Look for any way to cut back unnecessary expenses. For example, it might be possible to slash the cost of promotional material without adversely compromising quality. When business is up, consider temporary or part time employees, before taking on permanent members of staff.

 

  1. Understand your customers

 

Many businesses set their own schedule for paying invoices. If you can include these in your credit control system, then you can retain some control. If you miss a customer’s cheque payment run, then that could have a knock-on effect on your cashflow, as you’re forced to wait another month before receiving payment. Invoice customers according to their schedules, whether that’s weekly or monthly. Being flexible at this point in the process will help cashflow management.

 

  1. Ensure invoices are accurate

 

PwC research reveals that about 85% of reasons given for non-payment by customers reference poor administration and unanswered invoice queries. Get the basics right, such as making doubly sure all invoices are for the right amount, and are addressed to the correct people, can help immeasurably.

 

  1. Employ a credit controller

 

Small businesses should, where possible, employ a separate credit controller. An employee dedicated to chasing invoices will accomplish much more for the business, than the owner trying to squeeze it in when they have time.

 

  1. Negotiate better terms with suppliers

 

If you’re heading up a fast-growing start-up, try to secure better terms with suppliers. Simply by explaining your circumstances you may be able to secure credit of up to 60 days, which will help cashflow immeasurably. If you never ask, you’ll never know, and you could be stuck with the default 30 days.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “Creating a workable plan for cash flow management is often what sets a successful small business apart. While it’s easy for owners to get carried away with the creativity involved in their start-up, or for managers to forget about day-to-day expenses, it’s vitally important to get a handle on finances. Cash flow can cause a small business to sink or swim, and poorly managed cash flow leads to problems that can quickly spiral into potential bankruptcy.

“Luckily, with expert advice and some common-sense planning, SME owners can avoid the pitfalls surrounding the neglect of their daily cash flow. At the heart of improving cash flow lie two fundamentally important goals. They are: regulate your income and control your expenditure. Always plan for the unexpected and don’t assume that problems won’t occur. Utilising clever tactics, expert assistance and a diligent and pro-active approach can allow you to grow your business and mitigate the unthinkable should the unexpected happen.”

About Turner Little
Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

Why market research is key to small business success

The UK’s market research industry is the second largest in the world, according to the Market Research Society. And no matter which sector a business is operating in, understanding the economic, social and cultural context in which it is trading is essential.

For small businesses, commission market research may seem an unnecessary expense, particularly when starting out with little cash to spare.

Market research vital for small business success

SMEs may dismiss market research as something that’s only necessary for large businesses. However, starting market research out of the gate can save time, cash and problems later on for small businesses too.

Customer opinions affect every business, no matter its size. They often have fixed perceptions and clear ideas about what they will or won’t buy. So, if a small business has made a fundamental error early on with its product or service, finding out as soon as possible could save them from going under.

Jose Scheuer, business and marketing lecturer at the London School of Business and Finance says: “In the past a small business had competition from other, often local, small businesses and their customers were known. Today a small business competes in a much larger field. Not only does it face competition from local as well as international companies, often these competitors are much larger and have greater negotiating power to source and sell at cheaper prices. In addition to this, small businesses face competition from the unstoppable growth of e-commerce.”

Using less to achieve more

Small businesses inevitably have fewer resources and less money than larger companies, but they may also have more to gain from effective customer market research. It’s about being careful and strategic.

According to the Federation of Small Businesses, small and medium sized (SMEs) companies make up 99.9% of all UK businesses. This means that SMEs form the core of the economy, and it’s more important than ever that they do their market research in order to gain customer insight. If they get this right, then they will make better decisions leading lead to improved product or service design, and eventually higher profits.

When carrying out market research, small business owners must consider exactly what they want to gain. For example, what they need to know from customers in order to improve their service, product or communications. Choosing a market research consultant and working with them as a partner will benefit the process.

It’s essential to be realistic. If the research shows there is a flaw in the service, then use it to improve. Working with the right kind of consultant that will be honest with research is the most useful. Here are some initial steps to get started with market research.

Analyse data you already hold

Most businesses already hold a lot of customer information in one form or another. By systematically analysing it, you could be surprised at what you already know about current and potential customers.

If you do already have data, check how useful it is. Is it biased by the questions that were used to gather it, for example? Before adding more customer data into your files, organise the pieces you have. Think carefully about how you can use it to your best advantage. This will put in you in a good position to work out any gaps in your knowledge, so you can create a solid plan for your research. Always factor in GDPR considerations when handling customer data.

Look for high quality data

Putting quality over quantity is vital for research. Don’t get carried away with trying to amass endless pieces of research. SMEs in particular should ensure the process is streamlined as much as possible, so that time and money isn’t wasted. A vast amount of data is no use unless it can be properly utilised.

In today’s online world, it’s possible to access a lot of data without incurring any costs. The Census is always a good place to start, and Royal Mail’s MarketReach database is useful for direct mail. Social media accounts are also vitally important in ascertaining what your target demographic likes to do, buy, wear and see. However, always bear in mind that the people who tend to express a lot of information that’s readily available on social media tend to be a relatively small group. They shouldn’t be considered as a complete resource, as they are not representative of entire demographics. Don’t make the mistake of relying too much on one source of data, as this could exclude a lot of important information.

Be flexible in your approach

Gaining insight into your target market should include qualitative insights. Simply listening and talking to small groups of people, and individuals, can give a lot of usable information. Use your own observations alongside the numerical data you’ve amassed to make decisions on actionable points. This flexible approach is particularly important for small businesses that are working with smaller budgets.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “Market research is a fundamental aspect of small business success. Start-up business owners, entrepreneurs, and established SME managers need to know the market for their service or product. They should be asking who their potential customers are, how much they’re likely to pay, how often they will pay it, and is it possible to make a profit based on this information?

“It’s also important to learn how best to analyse the information extrapolated from customers and potential customers. If the wrong questions are asked, then misleading information will negatively impact on later business decisions.”

About Turner Little
Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

Strong uptake for streamlined small business registration service

More than 200,000 small businesses in the UK have taken advantage of the Streamlined Company Registration Service, since its launch. The strong uptake of the service shows how much it was needed, given the challenges faced by small business owners.

While words used to describe UK SMEs tend towards ‘agile’, ‘disruptive’ and ‘innovative’, many small business owners find themselves increasingly slowed down by bureaucratic red tape. Statistics show that small businesses spend around 70 hours per month dealing with form filling, tax and registration. All of which eats into growth targets and time spent on new ideas.

Small business registration simplified

To combat some of the paperwork needed at the start of the process of setting up a small business, the Streamlined Company Registration Service was introduced.

Launched through collaboration between Companies House and HMRC, the service is designed, ostensibly, to help the burden of administration on new businesses.

Small business registration has always involved registering with Companies House. Since the new service was introduced, small businesses can now register for corporation tax and HMRC’s services as a PAYE tax employer, all at the same time. Traditionally one would set up the company, start trading and then register when HMRC when they employed someone or completed their first-year annual accounts.

The new system is claimed to make it simpler for start-ups and small businesses to ensure they’re legally covered in one process. Prior to the service being launched, small businesses were obliged to send the same information to HMRC and Companies House. This arguably duplicated the work necessary to complete the small business registration process and it was suggested that it left some companies legally vulnerable. One could equally argue that the new system is intended to ‘trap’ everyone setting up a company at day one.

Never been easier

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mel Stride MP would have you believe and has said: “It’s never been easier to set up a business in the UK. Reducing the administrative burden on small businesses is all part of this. HMRC and Companies House are working hard to make business registration and tax easier. Previously, the same information would need to be entered in different platforms to register a company and register for tax, we have simplified that process.” They have but to what purpose?

The Government says that it is committed to delivering a digital, streamlined tax system for every business in the UK. It wants to support all businesses, including UK SMEs, to get their tax correct in order to reduce the amount lost through errors that can be avoided. A more cynical view might be that the Government want to make sure everyone is on a database and their incomes tracked and taxed automatically and at the earliest possible opportunity.

The Industrial Strategy Programme

The simplification of small business registration is part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy. The strategy’s aim is claimed to help UK small business increase their productivity by assisting them to “create good jobs and increase the earning power of people throughout the UK with investment in skills, industries and infrastructure.”

The Government has repeatedly stated that they see UK small businesses as a vital part of the UK economy, particularly as we move ever closer to Brexit. Small Business Minister, Kelly Tolhurst MP, says: “British small businesses, and the entrepreneurial spirit behind them, are the backbone of the UK economy, employing over 16 million people up and down the country.”

By investing in infrastructure, skills and modern industries, the Government says that it is making it easier for UK small businesses to flourish.  

Small businesses suffer growing pains

Despite this, many small businesses owners report suffering from stumbling blocks to growth. Research from the British Business Bank canvassed 500 SME directors in England and found a third wanted to grow their business but didn’t know how.

Lack of awareness of alternative financing options particularly stands out as a key problem. Just 5% of the companies asked said they have thought about early-stage equity investment, for example. Only 7% say they considered crowdfunding.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “While Government support to simplify small business registration is acceptable, the sector would benefit from further initiatives. This is particularly the case for finances. Many small business owners are unaware of the right kind of finance to maximise their growth plans. It’s absolutely the case that many find the financial landscape difficult to understand, apparently complex and daunting. This can seriously impede small business growth in the UK as can the ever-increasing burden of red-tape and regulation.

“We even have figures showing that some simply give up. The study by the British Business Bank shows that 27% of small businesses that can’t access the finance they want, simply abandon their growth plans. This clearly shows that there are many ‘black spots’ in the small business process, that need to be addressed by Government initiatives.

“Small businesses are the beating heart of the UK. Figures from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills show that the country’s 5.7 million small and medium sized businesses form more than 99% of private sector companies. They employ approximately a quarter of the UK’s population and turnover an average of around £2 trillion. More is needed to support this vital sector, in terms of Government backing and through raising awareness of financial options.”

About Turner Little
Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

Small businesses beat larger rivals on inclusion and diversity

Diversity matters in business. Organisations perform better, make more money and attract superior talent when they have a culture of inclusivity and diversity. McKinsey & Co, one of the world’s foremost consultancies says that there is a distinct financial advantage in inclusivity and diversity.

And it seems that small businesses are beating larger companies on diversity and inclusivity.

Financial advantage for small businesses

The research by McKinsey & Co shows that businesses in the top 25% for gender diversity are around 21% more likely to perform better than those in the bottom 25%. It included 1,000 organisations across 12 countries and examined every benchmark for diversity. It shows that organisations in the top 25% for ethnic diversity are a third more likely to see higher than average profitability than those at the bottom.

Diversity most obviously impacts the financial performance of a company when it’s embedded in executive teams and managerial positions. This correlation exists across all countries in the research. However, ethnic minorities in particular, are still under-represented in executive teams around the world.

Small businesses generally more diverse

As financial performance is linked to diversity within managerial and executive teams, it’s logical that small businesses outperform larger companies in this area. A Marketing Week report backs this up. Its annual Career and Salary Survey suggests that UK small businesses do better than larger rivals in terms of diversity and inclusivity. Furthermore, organisations with a strong diversity culture are more attractive to potential new hires.

The survey, which was collated from 4,415 marketing professionals, also shows that some business sizes and industries are still under-representing diverse groups of employees. For example, religious groups are the most likely to be under-represented in medium sized businesses (those with 50-249 people) at 20.8%, followed by large companies (250+ employees) at 19.8%. The best result for inclusivity in this area is with small businesses at 11.5%.

Around 50% of respondents in the gambling and gaming sector report that ethnic minorities are under-represented, followed by media at 42.5% and the public sector at 42.5%. Overall, ethnic minorities are least likely to be under-represented in small businesses.

Stark contrast between large and small businesses

Medium sized companies (50-249 employees) employ fewer LGBT employees, with 18.9% saying they’re under-represented. Small businesses again score highest, with just 7.5% of respondents saying that they feel LGBT employees are under-represented within companies under ten employees.

Another stark contrast can be seen with employees with mental or physical disabilities. Almost 41% of respondents feel that they are under-represented in large businesses, but just 13.8% report the same for small businesses. Similar ratios can be seen with other categories, including single parents and older employees.

Government moves to increase gender diversity

While the statistics for small businesses are encouraging, the Government is working to, in particular, increase gender diversity. A majority of MPs recently backed a recommendation by the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) to extend its ‘Women in Finance Charter’ across all businesses within the UK.

As it stands, the Charter suggests that firms within the financial services sector commit to four key actions:

  • Name a senior executive as accountable for gender inclusion and diversity.
  • Set targets internally for gender diversity within senior management.
  • Publish progress every year.
  • Make sure the senior executive team’s pay is linked to the delivery of gender diversity targets.

This was signed by 300 financial services businesses, and its impact is therefore confined to this sector. AAT wants to see it renamed ‘Women in Business Charter’ and cover all businesses.

While the financial sector has been making some progress, a report from the Tech Talent Charter shows that they’re falling behind. The report says that the UK’s tech sector is failing to include women into tech roles. The UK average number of women in technological roles is only 19%, despite the Charter’s launch in 2018 with the aim of being more proactive in terms of delivering better gender diversity in this sector.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “Multiple reports show that small businesses in the UK are outperforming larger companies in terms of inclusivity and diversity. This is perhaps unsurprising given that small businesses are often disruptive, innovative and forward-thinking, while larger companies can become lost in years of tradition and old-fashioned thinking.

“Every measure of diversity inclusion is shown to be greater in small businesses than medium to large. It’s the same across every sector, as well as across multiple countries. It’s encouraging that small businesses are further ahead when it comes to delivering inclusivity expected in 2019.

“However, it’s also clear that there is still much to do across every sector to encourage diversity. The financial advantages are there for the taking, and it’s hoped that further Government measures will continue to encourage inclusivity across the UK.”

About Turner Little
Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction/repair, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

Why UK SMEs must protect their digital future

A recent survey carried out by the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) reports that technology and digital challenges are the biggest worries for business owners in 2019.

Business transformation, digital strategy and the need to understand rapidly advancing technologies are all named in the research as priorities. The survey asked 250 decision-makers across the private and public sector, taking in opinions from UK SMEs and bigger businesses.

Improving efficiency is the top challenge for UK SMEs

Across both the private and public sector, SMEs named ‘efficiency’ as the biggest business challenge. This is followed by Brexit concerns, potential disruption from the incorporation of automation and AI and effectively deploying digital transformation. More than half of business owners in financial services cite Brexit as the biggest business challenge, while public sector business owners are more concerned about recruitment.

While Brexit is a big concern to every sector in the UK, this survey shows that there are many challenges facing UK SMEs. In order to effectively manage digital transformation, it’s vital that businesses identify cyber-security priorities and take effective steps to protect data insight and intelligence.

Working in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Paul Hingley is the Data Services Business Manager at Siemens UK. He says: “We are now in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It is based on the use of cyber-physical systems where the growth of connected devices through the Internet of Things will see digital transformation increase performance. Applications and digital services will also help build new digital business models that will differentiate organisations.”

At the centre of the digital transformation challenges for every sector is data. It’s estimated that the total amount of data generated across the world will exceed 45 Zettabytes (one zettabyte is equal to 1 trillion gigabytes) by 2020. That’s an increase from 7.4 Zettabytes just three years ago. According to an IDC report commissioned by Seagate, “the global datasphere will grow to 175 zettabytes by 2025.”

Behind this phenomenal growth of data is the increasing connectivity of machines, devices, sensors and meters.

The Internet of Things – challenges and benefits

As digital platforms increasingly utilise automation and AI, there will be more seamless connection of all kinds of technology. This includes augmented and virtual reality, simulation, cloud storage technology and digital security protection. All of this will have an impact on businesses over the next ten years.

Mr Hingley says: “Internet of Things-driven benefits to production are clear as it allows data to become actionable and delivers value to the business. In order to benefit, businesses have to embrace the technological forces that are transforming both society and  industry, that will see the most successful evolve into data-driven digital enterprises.”

As UK SMEs, corporations and multinationals continue to meet the challenges of digitisation, the issue of security is more critical than ever. A connected world means more vulnerability and that presents challenges of its own. Malware is on the rise, phishing big data is always a danger and there is always the danger of cyber-attacks that can severely damage businesses.

Legislative changes to cyber security

Last year, an EU Directive regarding Security of Networks & Information Systems became UK law. It’s designed to increase resilience of information and network systems and improve overall security.

The directive says that businesses that operate within specific sectors, such as healthcare and transport should be identified as “operators of essential services” (OES). They must take appropriate security measures to manage network and information system risks.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “The increasingly advanced digitisation across every business sector will be an improvement to our daily lives. However, the risks of malicious cyber-attacks are also increasing dramatically. It’s just as important that UK SMEs understand the risks and take appropriate measures to ensure the security of their data and business.

“When setting up a small businesses, cyber-security can often take a backseat in favour of other priorities, which might include maintaining cashflow, recruiting staff or winning new business. However, it’s vital that SMEs thoroughly understand the dangers that can affect their businesses too, regardless of the industry sector in which they operate.

“Stepping into an increasingly digital future is challenging for everyone, particularly at a time of such political and economic uncertainty. Committing to appropriate security standards will future-proof your business and ensure that you benefit from digital transformation.”

About Turner Little
Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction/repair, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

Late payments report shows clear problems for small businesses in the UK

New research by Bacs Payment Schemes, part of the UK’s retail payments authority, Pay.UK, shows that late payments are causing huge problems for small businesses in the UK. Businesses are now facing an outstanding bill of £6.7 billion, just in payments they’re owed. This is up from £2.6 billion in 2017.

Small businesses in the UK are suffering

The cost of recovering the money that is overdue is now (on average) £9,000 per business. As well as the costs involved in actually recovering the money, more than 33% of SMEs in the UK are waiting two months beyond agreed payment terms to recoup it. This is almost double the number of businesses who reported the same problem in 2017.

Data from the UK Small Business Commissioner, in conjunction with Lloyds Banking Group agrees. Their research finds that there are regional variations with late payments, with small businesses in the north east wait an average of 40 days to receive payment, three days more than the UK average.

What is the recommendation for payment terms for small businesses in the UK?

Two years ago, the office of the Small Business Commissioner was launched by the Government to monitor payment practices for small businesses. Paul Uppal currently holds the commissioner position and has issued a recommendation that large businesses pay small business suppliers in no more than 30 days.

Cashflow challenges faced by small businesses not only hamper their growth and that of the overall economy. The Commissioner says: “Our initial findings indicate that almost two-thirds of payments are likely to be owed to smaller firms at any time. This is money that could be used to grow smaller businesses and generate tangible economic activity. Instead, it is stuck in large firms’ business ledgers doing nothing.”

Information on payment terms to small business suppliers has been collected by the commissioner for two years. The challenge for the Government now is to utilise the information in such a way that helps small businesses make useful decisions about which large firms they should do business with.

Regional variations across the UK – and the impact

The data also shows that 65% of large businesses in the UK pay smaller suppliers in an average of more than 30 days. 20% wait more than 50 days before paying small businesses they work with.

Small businesses in the Humber and Yorkshire areas are worst off, as they are forced to wait an average of 43 days for their bills to be settled. The second worst payment time can be seen in the East Midlands and Northern Ireland, where businesses are forced to wait an average of 41 days. London businesses are the best off, with businesses reporting payments at 34 days.

To deal with the increasing problem caused by late payment, Mr Uppal is recommending that a ‘traffic light’ system is introduced in order to clearly show which businesses are later payers. He says: “A traffic light system would be a simple and effective way of demonstrating which larger firms have structured their supply chain in such a way that it is more than an exchange of goods or services but also resembles part of their financing model.”

Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking’s representative, Ed Thurman, adds: “We have discovered wide variations in payments depending on where businesses are located. Two weeks can be critical in the financial well-being of a smaller business. Businesses could consider utilising invoice financing products to mitigate these challenges.”

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “The effect of late payments on small businesses can be devastating. It not only slows down the growth of their business, but also impacts on the daily lives and potential mental health of those dealing with the delays.

“More than 25% of SME owners who are facing late payments are forced to withhold payment to their own suppliers. Similarly, 28% report cutting their own income to keep the cashflow going for their business. With a 6% increase in the number of small businesses in the UK experiencing the problems of late payments, there is clearly a lot of work to be done. It’s important that business owners plan ahead as much as possible to mitigate the challenges posed by late payers.”

About Turner Little
Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction/repair, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

What is and Where are the tax havens?

A tax haven is any country that allows you to reduce the amount of tax you pay.

Let’s state at the beginning that there is nothing wrong with using tax havens provided you are careful not to break any rules in your country of residence.

Some people use tax havens to hide their money from the tax authorities in their home countries. This is not only illegal, it’s very stupid, because one day you will probably be caught and could end up with substantial fines as well as back-taxes and possible even a jail sentence.

Notwithstanding, if you have the legal right to use a tax haven you would be foolish not to take advantage of all the opportunities you can to maximise your wealth.

There are three principal types of tax haven:

Zero – Tax Havens

These are countries that do not have any of the three main direct taxes most of us are familiar with:

  • No income tax or corporation tax
  • No capital gains tax; and
  • No inheritance tax

Some of the nil tax havens, you have probably heard of or read about or even seen in films; you may even have been on holiday in some. Amongst others they include:

Anguilla
Bahamas
Bermuda
Cayman Islands
Dubai
Monaco
St Kitts and Nevis
Turks & Caicos Islands
Vanuatu

Although there are no direct taxes in these jurisdictions, the governments there still need to generate some income. What they tend to do therefore is to impose licence fees for company incorporation documents or annual registration fees for companies; these charges are usually fixed and relatively small. If you’re considering living in one of these territories, most of these charges won’t apply and you may be able to live with little state involvement in the way of taxes. The only tax charges that might then affect you would perhaps be import duties or local sales taxes.

Foreign Source Exempt Havens

These countries do charge taxes and sometimes they can be at a high level. However, they are tax havens by virtue of the fact that they only tax you on locally derived income.

In other words, if all your income is earned outside the tax haven, you will not pay any tax there. Please be aware though that you may incur a liability for tax in the country in which you actually earn the income. Some examples of foreign source exempt tax havens are:

Costa Rica
Hong Kong
Panama
Seychelles
Singapore

This type of tax haven exempts any income earned from foreign sources from tax, provided the foreign income source does not involve any local business activity.

Some of the other tax havens don’t even allow a company to conduct business of any sort internally if tax advantages are to be claimed.

Jurisdictions such as Panama and Gibraltar would require a company to decide at the time of incorporation whether it was allowed to do local business (and therefore be taxed on its worldwide profits), or only foreign business and therefore be free from taxation.

Low-Tax Havens

The final group of so-called tax havens are countries that do have a system of taxation and do impose taxes on residents’ worldwide income. You may well ask why these are still known as tax havens. There are principally two reasons:

  • Certain countries may grant concessions that offer tax advantages in specific situations (capital gains tax avoidance for example).
  • Appropriate use of double tax treaties that countries enter into with each other which may allow you to lower your tax bill.

Good examples of low-tax havens are:

Austria
Barbados
Belgium
Cyprus
Denmark
Switzerland
The Netherlands
The United Kingdom

Other Important Factors to Consider

When considering tax havens per se, whilst the amount of tax they levy is obviously important, it is not the only factor.

You may not for example, want to risk investing your money in an offshore account in a politically unstable country; particularly if there is a risk that your assets could be expropriated.

Tax planning therefore, is only one consideration. Other important considerations are:

  • Privacy. What is the level of confidentiality?
  • Ease of residence. Is it fairly easy to obtain permission to live in the tax haven?
  • Political stability. Is there a risk your cash could end up in the government’s coffers?
  • Communications. How good are telephone and broadband internet access?
  • How easy is it to travel to the country?
  • Lifestyle factors. What is the standard of living? Are schooling and hospitals up to standard?
  • Is the climate suitable?
  • How high is the cost of living?

Ultimately, it’s a question of what you want from life and from your tax haven; are you concerned only with the tax position or are other factors equally important?

About Turner Little

Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

Report shows why millennial women are choosing to start a company

A report published earlier this year by US-based small business agency SCORE uncovers the reasons why women from different demographics start a company. The 2018 Megaphone of Main Street: Women’s Entrepreneurship Report.

Why start a company?

The report reveals that 27.8% of millennial (generally defined as those born between 1980 and 2000) women start businesses when they spot an opportunity. A similar number of the older generation, commonly called baby boomers, gave a different reason. Just over 28% of baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) reported starting a company due to financial necessity. And women from Generation X (1961-1980) cited family consideration as the main reason for taking the leap and starting their own business.

Results were derived from an online survey sent out to 280,956 respondents across many different sectors. The results highlight the diversity of small business owners in the US and shows how entrepreneurs thrive across different industries. It’s the ninth annual survey covering this data, issued by PricewaterhouseCoopers. More than 25,100 people responded to the survey, out of which 12,091 were female entrepreneurs.

Women in small business representation

Women represent 39% of all small companies in the US, and in the UK the number is growing at a faster rate than ever before. Analysing why women decide to go into business for themselves makes it possible to increase the number representing small companies.

Questions in the survey centred around questions to determine how businesses owned by women compare in terms of success with male-owned companies. Attempting to determine whether women face different obstacles when seeking finance, and how mentorship appears to women as opposed to men.

Sectors headed by women

Female business owners are more likely to develop a business offering professional services (29.4%). The next most common for female entrepreneurs is healthcare services at 14.1%, retail at 12.5%, educational services at just under 9% and hospitality/restaurant and food at 8.2%.

Statistics also show that there is no discernible difference in success rates between companies owned by men and women. Approximately an equal number of businesses owned by women and men are sustaining their size (32%), expanding moderately (29%), increasing revenue (28%) or expanding aggressively (5% men, 7% women). On the flipside, approximately the same number of businesses owned by men and women are struggling (33% and 34% respectively).

Financing differences between male and female owned companies

Just under a third of women-owned businesses sought out financing over the past 12 months, compared with a higher percentage of 28 for male owned businesses. The impact of mentors also shows roughly the same influence over businesses regardless of which gender owns it.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “Both in the US and the UK there are an increasing number of small businesses owned by women. Whether they are choosing to start their own company because they see a great opportunity or need to increase earnings to look after their families, the net result is the same – more SMEs started and run by women.

“While the SCORE report is US-specific, it shows that businesses owned by women are just as successful as those owned by men, and this is a trend we can expect to see at home too. With equal levels of revenue growth and business success, along with higher levels of start-ups, many independent measures show they are equally matched. However, there is still a lot of work to close the gender gap particularly in terms of hiring practices, revenue and financing.

“In the UK we can expect to see a greater number of small businesses from both genders over the next few years, as economic necessity drives opportunity for many. Accessible technology and entrepreneurial support from the Government should shore up a sector that is increasingly forming the backbone of the economy.”

About Turner Little

Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction/repair, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

The challenges of starting a small business – and how to avoid them

With some business leaders in the UK demanding a People’s Vote or a second Referendum for leaving the EU, small businesses find themselves arguably operating within the toughest economic circumstances for decades.

The effect Brexit will have on small businesses, or indeed any businesses, is still unknown. This is despite the fact that the 2018 Budget has been released and the Government is in the final stages of the negotiating process. Whatever happens with Brexit, starting a small business is a challenge. It’s also a key moment in any business person’s life, and an opportunity to turn a passion into a living.

High fail rate

Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that the number of UK businesses that started between 2015 and 2016 went up from 383,000 to 414,000. The figures also show that the number of these businesses that failed rose from 283,000 to 328,000.

So, while a high percentage of people are ready to start a small business, the number of those that fail shows a need to get the basics right. What are the challenges small business owners can expect to face and how can they avoid failure?

Creating a solid business plan

Every business, no matter their size or longevity, must have a comprehensive, workable business plan. It should cover market research, realistic and viable financial forecasts, marketing details and the benchmarks needed to measure progress.

A business plan must be a document that is constantly revised and updated. It is not a static outline that is only looked at to secure funding, for example. It should be a workable document, that accompanies the small business owner through the rest of the challenges they will face in the first years of their new company.

Understanding the legalities of starting a small business

Many entrepreneurs are all about the excitement of starting their new business. And while, the legal nitty gritty isn’t necessarily the most interesting part of the process, nevertheless it’s vital.

For those operating as a sole trader, it can be as simple as ensuring they are registered with HMRC. However, many will choose to form a limited company and need to understand payroll and corporation tax.

Forgetting about the competition

Ignoring competition is a big mistake. Business owners must be in the loop in terms of their competitors. Proper market research and competitor analysis should form part of the ongoing updates to the business plan.

It’s important to understand that this isn’t a one-off job, and needs time and resources allocated to it. By keeping fully informed about competitor activity, small business owners can get ahead. Find out what they’re doing well, what and how they’re selling and any media presence they have secured. This helps to ascertain niche markets or complementary services that can be offered by the start-up.

Forming a brand identity

Branding is vital for every small business. As the digital world expands every year, branding becomes even more important. A brand comprises different elements. It shouldn’t be thought of as simply a logo and name, but more the style and tone of all visible communications, the experience a customer can expect and how the business is run.

Building a solid, recognisable brand that lights up for customers is essential for new start-ups that want to make it in a crowded sector.

Pricing services and products correctly

How to price goods and services often forms a stumbling block for start-ups. The temptation is always there to lower costs in order to gain new business. Depending on the sector, this could be a big mistake.

Most customers, and particularly those in the B2B sector, are seeking a service that provides value, as well as competitive prices. To price correctly, a small business should consider how they are adding value for customers, and price accordingly.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “This information shows that there are steps that all start-ups should take when they decide to form a business. It’s unfortunately not enough to have the vision and ideas. Legalities, financing, business planning, marketing and much more must also factor in.

“It can be tempting for start-ups to dive in, without doing the right kind of research. And this could add them to the long list of start-ups that fail within their first year. The good news is that there are many ways to counteract the risks of starting a small or medium sized business. By taking care to create an effective and flexible business plan, taking advice on the legal side of starting a business, and carrying out thorough and relevant marketing research, a small business can ensure that some of the more common challenges don’t ruin their long-term success.”

About Turner Little

Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider and business consultancy. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction/repair, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

How prepared are small businesses for a potential ‘no deal’ Brexit?

The closer we get to the date specified for Brexit, which is scheduled for 29 March 2019, the more unclear it all appears. With the Conservative Party Conference underway now, and Prime Minister Theresa May apparently facing revolt from both ‘Remainers’ and ‘Brexiteers’ in her party, there has been much media speculation that the UK will be heading for a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

And while it’s also unclear how prepared anyone is for this scenario, according to research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), few have started serious preparations.

No deal, no problem?

Just 14% (one in seven) small businesses has begun planning for the scenario of a no-deal Brexit, according to the research. The FSB’s report shows that while another 41% of small businesses think that a no deal Brexit will adversely impact their business, they haven’t yet started planning in real terms for this eventuality.

One in ten small businesses (10%) said that they think a no-deal Brexit will have a positive effect on their business. On the other side, nearly half of small businesses in the UK (48%) think that a no-deal style Brexit will negatively affect their ability to do business.

When considering small businesses that trade with the EU, this figure increases to 66%. For SMEs that employ people from the EU, 61% think no deal means problems ahead for their business.

Planned actions

As well as discovering the percentage of small businesses who are concerned about the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit, the research also breaks down what they’re planning to do about it.

It shows that just over a third of small businesses (35%) are planning to postpone major innovations, research and development and businesses decisions. Just over a fifth (21%) of small businesses likely to be affected by a no deal Brexit will be cutting expenditure and staff between now and the time the UK leaves the EU.

Michael Watkinson, FSB Development Manager for Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, believes the findings show that small businesses are not prepared for the potential chaos that could arise from a no deal Brexit. He said: “Looking at this research, it’s obvious that our small firms are not prepared or ready for a chaotic no deal Brexit and the impact that it will have on their businesses.”

The Government appears to confirm that a no deal Brexit is likely, with Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, saying today (1 October) that the UK could be “left with no choice but a no-deal Brexit if the EU tries to lock us in to a customs union”.

Government support

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited said: “Small businesses that sell products to the EU, rely on employees from the EU or buy products from the EU are understandably concerned at how a no deal Brexit could affect them. It’s clear from research like this that many feel they are in the dark about what to expect and how they should prepare for it.

“It’s particularly concerning that small businesses are electing to delay business decisions, stopping investment and, perhaps most problematically, cutting staff. Small businesses form the very backbone of the UK’s economy and the Government must listen to their concerns as we head towards Brexit.

“With so much unclear it’s not surprising that SMEs haven’t started preparing for Brexit, as no one knows what to prepare for. In the ideal scenario at this stage, the Government would talk to and work directly with the small business sector in the UK to make sure that they are properly supported if a no deal Brexit continues to become the most likely scenario.

“We only have about six months until exit day, so it’s very much a race against time to avoid a situation where the UK will crash out of the EU in a way that will damage small businesses. It will be interesting to see what arises from the Conservative Party Conference as this is a key time for the Prime Minister’s current plan.”

About Turner Little

Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction/repair, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

Turner Little

Will AI change everything for UK SMEs?

Many believe that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will foster the fourth Industrial Revolution as it transforms how we live and work.

In the British business world, we are looking ahead to a future driven and controlled by AI. This could very well be the keystone of the next industrial revolution, but how many employers are ready for it and how can UK SMEs utilise it to push forward?

Driving innovation

A recent study has shown the current understanding of and predictions for AI by decision makers. It showed that 45% of IT decision makers are certain that AI will be behind the biggest innovations over the next few years.

This is unsurprising, when we consider the vast scope of artificially intelligent technology. Every generation sees the advent of a disruptive technology that changes everything, and for our generation this could very well be AI.

The survey considered whether UK businesses are fully embracing the possibilities AI brings, in order to increase productivity. Respondents said that AI is more important to the future than other buzzword technologies, such as VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality), which came in at 16%. Slightly more (24%) consider the internet as equally important, but AI is the clear favourite.

This is likely to be, in part, because it’s easier to directly link AI to increased services and productivity, while AR and VR usage remains less clear. They also need specific devices in order to use them, while AI can be absorbed into current devices more easily.

How will AI help UK SMEs?

Financial experts expect that the technology will allow British businesses to save trillions of pounds. This is due to the massive time and manpower savings that AI can herald.

Businesses in the UK spend on average 120 days a year on administration. This has a huge impact on productivity.  Artificial Intelligence takes the burden of mundane back-office administration tasks such as logging expenses and analysing data, allowing people in the business to focus on what matters.

It is potentially a great opportunity for small businesses, particularly when starting out, as many find it difficult to dedicate the necessary hours to the day-to-day administrative duties necessary. With small numbers of employees, it is all too easy to allow important but repetitive tasks to go undone, leading to problems in the future.

How prepared are businesses in the UK?

The immense possibilities for UK SMEs provided by AI are indisputable, but many survey respondents reported that they didn’t think their employers were ready to take advantage of this.

More than 55% said that they considered that their employer is underprepared for AI and its possibilities. Just 19% felt their employers were ready and able to utilise the technology.

When it comes to larger businesses, just 10% feel that their employer is ‘completely ready’ for AI, according to the results of the poll. These numbers clearly show that employees are aware of the possibilities, yet businesses are being left behind.

It’s already here

While many feel underprepared, other businesses in the UK are already seeing the positive effects of AI. This is particularly the case in the financial sector as this type of industry is already strongly implementing AI.

Other sectors are also heavily utilising the technology. For example, Ordnance Survey have utilised machine learning to train a machine model to correctly identify types of roofs. This has freed up the workforce to concentrate their skills on more complicated problems.

James Turner, managing director of Turner Little Limited (turnerlittle.com) said “Ambitious SMEs in the UK must learn from other industries. It’s important for small businesses to understand how other sectors and businesses are using AI, and to implement it themselves. If they miss this crucial opportunity, they could find larger businesses are more flexible than them, thereby losing a traditional SME advantage.

“If businesses don’t quickly grasp the vast opportunities afforded by AI, then they could face losing talented employees who move to businesses who are more forward thinking. To embrace these kinds of changes, it’s important to invest in developing skills and keeping one step ahead of technological possibilities. This is true for SME owners and their employees. Technology moves fast, and if you don’t harness it, you could get left behind.”

About Turner Little

Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction/repair, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

Contact Turner Little

Searching for the UK’s Female Entrepreneurs

According to top Industry research the UK is one of the best countries in the world to launch a business. However, research shows that women are only half as likely to start a business as men. So, why are fewer women launching start-ups in the UK? Figures about the number of female entrepreneurs in the UK has led the Government to launch an investigation into the issue of women in business. The review was unveiled on 21 September with banker Alison Rose commissioned to make recommendations about how more women can be encouraged to start their own businesses.

Entrepreneurs strengthening small businesses

In a press release following the announcement of the initiative, Alison Rose said: “If we want to strengthen the UK’s position as one of the best places in the world to start and grow a business, then no-one can be left behind. Unfortunately, statistics show that women make up only a third of all entrepreneurs in the UK.”

The Government’s plan is to better understand the reasons for the lack of women start-up owners, and then provide realistic and useful support to this demographic.

Breaking cultural barriers

There is evidence to show fewer women are starting their own businesses, according to the Government. They cite a survey undertaken by Unilever Foundry, which shows that women don’t feel as supported as men in entrepreneurship and aren’t encouraged in the same way to start businesses.

It discovered that many women who started their own business were routinely fighting cultural stereotypes to overcome other people’s expectations. They also pointed out the lack of impressive female role models in the business sector.

Popular culture

There is also a school of thought that the portrayal of entrepreneurs in popular culture almost exclusively focuses on old-fashioned ideas. For example, The Apprentice portrays entrepreneurs as stuck in macho, throwback stereotypes.

Another problem routinely faced by women is the need to work harder in the face of other people’s prejudices. Decision-makers in sectors including banking, finance and venture capitalism are usually men, and are less likely to invest in female entrepreneurs. The Daily Telegraph published a survey recently that showed two-thirds of the 750 women interviewed felt that they hadn’t been taken seriously by investors when trying to raise money for their businesses.

Men are 86% more effective in securing venture capital funding than women, according to the survey, which also showed that men are 56% more likely to secure backing from an angel investor. Women also tend to secure fewer and smaller bank loans for business, and they are charged more. Just 9% of the start-up funding in the UK reaches businesses run by women.

Government initiative

At the launch of the initiative, Robert Jenrick, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury said: “The fact that Britain is home to so many new, innovative businesses is something to be proud of. But the fact that so few of them are started by women is shocking. Therefore, it’s vital that we identify the barriers that are hampering entrepreneurial women from securing the backing that businessmen have taken for granted.”

The review will examine new ways to help to start a business by looking at:

  • the causes of the disparity between make and female entrepreneurship.
  • the kinds of actions that could be taken to reduce barriers to women starting businesses.
  • the disparities between businesses led by men and women when seeking external financing.
  • best practice examples that could be adopted by financial service firms and investors looking to avoid gender bias when considering investment options.

This is all part of the Government’s ongoing work to increase diversity in business and build a country in which small businesses can thrive. The results will be published in spring 2019.

James Turner, managing director of Turner Little Limited (turnerlittle.com) said: “All of this evidence shows that the Government has its work cut out in tackling these problems. There is a significant pool of talent that remains untapped and underutilised because women don’t have the same opportunities as men, according to the information shown in the research.

“The UK should encourage women in their entrepreneurial aspirations in the same way that men are encouraged and supported. If more steps aren’t taken then, as a country, we can’t be surprised at the lack of women entrepreneurs. It’s extremely encouraging that the Government is taking the issue of gender-bias in entrepreneurship and small businesses in the UK seriously. It will be interesting to hear the results of the initiative and discover the steps the Government plans to take next year.”

About Turner Little

Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

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Turner Little

How businesses can easily maximise their online presence

Nowadays, every small business must have a consistent, professional and high quality online presence. Around 54% of small businesses have a website, according to figures from 2017, which shows how far behind the curve many still are.

It can feel overwhelming to tackle your online presence when starting a small business. It’s also all too easy to miss key opportunities by mismanaging it. Here are some tips to avoid common errors made by many small businesses.

  1. Don’t ignore local SEO

Approximately 97% of internet users search online for local businesses. This clearly means small businesses just can’t ignore the potential benefits of local SEO. It can help you attract customers who carry out searches tied to specific locations, such as ‘Thai restaurants in Brixton’.

By optimising your website for local searches, you are bringing your business to potential customers. The best ways to sort your local SEO include:

  • Verify your ‘Google My Business’ listing, which connects you with customers. When you’ve verified your page, you can update your contact details, add a description and edit the categories to best suit your business.
  • Embed a Google Map on your website, linking to the Google Plus local listing. This will clearly display all the necessary information about your business to customers.
  • Optimise content and meta tags for local keywords, such as adding your city into the title tag to increase local search clicks.
  • Make sure contact information is consistent across all of your online channels.
  1. Be accessible to everyone

If your website isn’t accessible for every user, then you are missing out. As customers become more sophisticated and demanding, all businesses must ensure that their website is usable across different platforms. For example, make sure the user interface works across web, mobile and tablet.

A Google survey showed that 72% of mobile users think that it’s vital for a website to be mobile-friendly, and it has been proven to increase conversion. Similarly, the speed of a website is important. Even a very small delay in loading can mean a lost conversion of 7%. Around 40% of users will abandon a website if it takes more than three seconds to load.

Accessibility should be a priority for every small business. Improving the customer experience is key, as this will help you beat the competition and retain repeat customers.

  1. Take advantage of online customer reviews

Online reviews are now such a vital part of a customer’s purchasing decision that 88% of users trust them as much as a recommendation from a friend. The more reviews a business has, the more chance it has of earning customer trust.

Small businesses should always encourage and invite reviews and consider incentivising the process. Even negative reviews can be useful if businesses embrace and address them. This allows the business to build up a trusted relationship with customers and be seen to be improving its performance. Online reviews also count as new content for a website and can therefore improve SEO.

  1. Keep data consistent

Small businesses expanding their online presence should measure the effectiveness of their work. While it’s important to look at Return on Investment in terms of online marketing, it’s more so to find the best way to combine data between online, mobile and offline marketing. This will give a more useful understanding of how best to allocate a budget. Not combining this data means businesses will miss potential opportunities.

  1. Communicate effectively with customers

All small businesses must understand their customers. A business with an effective online presence is paying attention to what customers say they want, and brings them much closer to effective, two-way communication.

There are far more opportunities to increase sales when businesses develop authentic relationships with both prospective and existing customers. Building an effective online presence will mean this goal is much closer.

All these steps are easy to take and should be implemented by small businesses. For more advice from a small business expert, talk to Turner Little here.

About Turner Little

Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction/repair, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

Make your small business appear larger and more professional

No matter how small your business and how few staff you have, it’s important that you appear as large and professional as possible to customers, clients and consumers.

In a recent survey by a provider of reception services, members of the British public were asked to talk about any factors that influence their thoughts about businesses. The idea was to identify their opinions on branding and what makes a company seem professional when it comes to SMEs.

Online Presence

The information from the survey shows that consumers consider three major factors important regarding the professionalism of businesses:

  1. Business website – two-thirds of respondents said that a well-maintained business website is vital for a professional brand image.
  2. Social media presence – 38% of survey respondents consider a social media presence essential for companies to realistically compete with more established businesses.
  3. Customer support – a third of respondents said that 24-hour customer support and automated answering are important to establish a bigger and more approachable business.

Other features that were flagged up as important to customers include a clearly visible registered corporate address and the use of 0800 phone numbers.

Supporting small business

The idea behind the research was to gather data to help support growth of small businesses. Commercial appeal cannot be underestimated when it comes to growing the outward face of a business. While small businesses may not have the kinds of resources available to larger companies, there are ways they can control their appearance to current and potential customers.

With a few key investments, even the smallest businesses and brands can begin to build workable profiles that can realistically compete with major corporations. This kind of presence is extremely important in today’s ultra-competitive business world, and particularly within sectors including law, finance and real estate.

Professional brand

Creating a professional presence that allows consumers to view your small business on a par with larger corporations is absolutely key to success in 2018 and beyond. Luckily, the steps needed to implement this do not need to be prohibitively expensive or out of range for small businesses.

Judicious use of social media channels along with regularly updated and optimised web content will go a long way to establishing your brand as credible and competitive.

The team at Turner Little has a lot of experience working with start-ups, small businesses and newly launched businesses in various sectors. For advice, help and assistance in how to ensure your SME is reaching the right people, sending out the right message and making full use of all brand opportunities, contact the team. We’d be happy to help.

About Turner Little

Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction/repair, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

Franchise Agreements – Frequently Asked Questions

You can reap a range of significant benefits when starting a business, but this also comes with a degree of financial risk. Instead of opening a business on your own, you could enter a franchise agreement. Here you (the franchisee) sign a contract with an established firm (the franchisor) to provide goods and services under their brand. It is essential that you perform extensive research, before entering a franchise agreement. Turner Little answers five frequently asked questions on franchise agreements.

What are the types of franchise agreements?

There are several types of franchise agreement, which typically run for five years, with options to renew twice. The most commonly used is the “business format franchise,” where the franchisor grants licenses allowing you to run your firm under their brand, in exchange for fees and regular payments. The franchisor will supply you with assistance and training and product quality control services.

There are a number of other arrangements that are sometimes referred to as franchises. This includes licenses, agency arrangements, dealerships and distributorships. A “tied house” arrangement between a brewery and a pub, for instance, is often called a “first generation franchise.” You will always be required to sign an agreement, so you and the franchisor know your rights and obligations.

What do franchise contracts include?

Your franchise contract should include details on terms, fees, responsibilities, legal relationships, provisions for dispute resolution and agreement termination. Remember that franchisors will rarely be willing to re-negotiate on contract terms, especially if you are signing up to an existing franchise.

It is important to note that franchisors will frame contracts to favour themselves. For example, they may obligate you to purchase all equipment from them. While the agreement will favour the franchisor, it should not be unfair to you e.g. charge you excessive fees. Ensure your franchisor adheres to The British Franchise Association’s Code of Ethical Conduct, so both parties get a fair agreement.

What are franchise networks?

You can also join a franchise network. With this option, it is vital that you sign a comprehensive agreement, to safeguard your interests. The agreement should detail your obligations e.g. operating the firm according to the franchisor’s instructions, carefully. Under this arrangement, you will be liable for your own expenses e.g. taxes, wages, legal fees and business rates.

What if you break your contract terms?

In this case, the franchisor will probably have the right to terminate the contract. You could be required to pay fees and costs, including those incurred via closing the company. If you fail to pay fees to the franchisor on termination or if you cause them to incur losses e.g. by damaging the reputation of their brand, the franchisor could issue a legal claim against you. If you lose this case, you could be liable to pay your own and your franchisor’s legal costs, plus damages and you would lose the firm.

You will also risk legal action if you simply stop paying your fees to the franchisor, or cause them to lose revenue. In these cases, they are likely to terminate your contract with immediate effect, so you would have to cease trading straight away. Under the agreement, your franchisor will usually have the right to enter your premises and enforce the terms. You may also have to adhere to any restrictions on running a competitor company, preventing you from defending yourself against any legal action.

What if the franchisor’s claims were untrue?

After signing an agreement, you may find that claims made by the franchisor were untrue. You would need to rely upon UK contract law here, as it is unlikely that your agreement will include any provisions allowing you to terminate the contract for false representations, but this option is rarely advisable. You could gain damages for any losses you incurred due to untrue claims, but there are significant costs and risks involved, which is why it is vital to do extensive research before signing an agreement.

Seeking legal advice 

It can prove beneficial to sign a franchise agreement, but this option also comes with significant risks. This is why it is crucial that you seek legal advice before entering a franchise agreement, in order to safeguard your interests and capital. As part of our corporate services, Turner Little provides a business and legal advice service retainer, helping you make informed business decisions.

Turner Little

Turner Little was founded in 1998 and it has since become a well-established UK based professional Company Registration Agent, Registered Bank Intermediaries and Business Consultants, as well as Trust provider. You can receive our monthly newsletter by signing up using the form below.

Social Media Is Key To Launching A Successful Product

Turner Little discusses new data, which indicates that the majority of marketers believe that social media is the most effective tool available, when it comes to promoting new products to consumers.

Launching products

There are a range of tasks you must complete when launching a new product. You should protect the associated intellectual property, through vehicles such as trademarks, to gain an edge against your market competitors. As specialists in the area, the Turner Little can help you register trademarks.

You also need to market the product to consumers. After conducting market research, you need to determine which platforms you will use to promote your product. Consumers are increasingly engaging with businesses online, so digital channels should form a key component of your firm’s marketing plan. Considering the fact that a third of Britons are influenced by social media engagement every month, you would be advised to use these channels, to reach a vast audience.

Social media marketing

Research found that 74% of respondents believe that social media is key to promoting new products successfully.

When asked about the most notable benefit of social media, 46% cited its potential to spread awareness of a new product among consumers. Meanwhile, just over two thirds (64%) of those questioned admitted that when creating campaigns they utilise social listening, ensuring that they can monitor online conversations surrounding their product, so they can address consumer concerns.

Social media has become the most important way to generate buzz for new products and services before they appear. Shareable content and social engagement allow brands to create a groundswell of pre-launch interest in a way no other channel can match.

Successful launch

The research also shed light on other marketing trends. According to 72% of those polled, the creative ideas behind launch initiatives have become braver over the past five years. Meanwhile, 81% said that since 2011, the time between the conception of a marketing idea and the launch of a product has shortened, with 70% admitting that they can now complete this process within six months.

Social media marketing is popular for launching products because it allows marketers to executive brave ideas quickly, while reaching a vast audience. In order to execute social media marketing effectively, you need to have a strong company website, which consumers can visit from your social profiles to find out more about your firm. Here at Turner Little, we provide the internet services, such as website development, that you need to ensure your social media marketing efforts prove lucrative.

Turner Little

Turner Little was founded in 1998 and it has since become a well-established UK based professional Company Registration Agent, Registered Bank Intermediaries and Business Consultants, as well as Trust provider. You can receive our monthly newsletter by signing up using the form below.

How to Protect Your Business’ Intellectual Property

Your business’ intellectual property (IP) such as logos and designs which you use for commercial purposes, are extremely important. You can use your IP to edge out the competition and attract new business, so it is vital you safeguard your IP from infringement to keep your business secure. Turner Little explains how to protect your business’ intellectual property.

Protections checklist

There are a variety of ways you can protect your company’s IP. Here is a checklist of some of the most effective measures you can use to ensure that nobody gets the chance to infringe on your IP.

  • Write strong contracts: You need to ensure that anyone who works for your business – from employees to consultancies, strive to protect your IP. It is essential that you state your ownership of all IP developed for your company in contracts, to limit the risk of infringement.
  • Record the evidence: Keep a record of evidence during the IP development process. You could store dated and signed copies of drawings for example, when creating a company logo. You can use this evidence to illustrate your ownership of the IP, should a dispute arise.
  • Corner your market: It may be a case of making sure your competition does not get the time or opportunity to infringe upon your IP. If you are launching a new product, for example, corner your market as quickly as possible, so your ownership becomes well established.
  • Take legal action: If someone steals your IP, one of the best ways to protect it is to take legal action. This can be costly but it can also be effective, allowing you to claim compensation and make a statement to anyone else who is thinking of imposing on your rights.

Specific safeguards

There are also several safeguards you can take advantage of, depending on the nature of your property. If you have created an invention for example, you will need to get a patent to shield your IP and there are a lot of options here. You can conduct patent searches during the early invention development process, to ensure nobody else has the patent for it. It is also a good idea to keep inventions a secret initially, so you have time to determine whether it is worth the cost of patenting.

There are a range of other means you can adopt with patents. It can sometimes be wise to file an initial patent protection – giving you the breathing room needed to cultivate and sell your idea without the risk of infringement. After you have patented the invention properly, you could then pay renewal fees to maintain this protection for 20 years and you can also pursue this option for trademarks.

You will need to apply for a trademark, if you have developed marketing tools for your business’ brand, ranging from logos and colours, to sounds and associated phrases. If you receive a trademark for this IP, you can provide it with adequate protection, but IP law is complex and the criteria you will need to meet is strict, so it is wise to hire experts to help you navigate these waters. We have a lot of experience in this area, so Turner Little can supply you with the robust trademark services you need.

Around the world protection

As you expand your business into new markets, you will need to register for IP protections in each country you are operating in. It can be costly and time-consuming to navigate IP legal frameworks for multiple territories, but you must handle this task effectively, to ensure you can leverage your firm’s IP and create more profit. This is another area where we can help, as at Turner Little we are experts in international IP law, so with our guidance you can ensure your IP is always adequately protected.

Turner Little

Turner Little was founded in 1998 and it has since become a well-established UK based professional Company Registration Agent, Registered Bank Intermediaries and Business Consultants, as well as Trust provider. You can receive our monthly newsletter by signing up using the form below.

Ten ways to make your business more profitable

There’s no doubt that Brexit uncertainty is affecting SMEs and it’s likely that the final deal will continue to impact enterprises of all sizes. This is particularly likely to be the case for companies that export products.  In these challenging times, it’s essential to be as economical as possible. Here are ten ways we’ve come up with to streamline your business and make your business more profitable

  1. Get utility smart

Two of the biggest costs facing businesses of all kinds arise from electricity and gas usage. But they’re also an area that can be tackled to make savings. Research shows that utilities account for about 20% of the running costs on an office building and these are set to rise as more tech is utilised as standard.

Every year you should look for better deals and review your utility bills. Often smaller companies can offer better value.

  1. Spruce up your website

Your website is the number one channel of advertising for your business and it should be up-to-date with relevant content. Old websites that look dated and have no new information aren’t going to feature in web searches.

  1. Use social media to foster brand ambassadors

Reaching out to customers and forming online relationships can be effectively undertaken using social media. Promote the best aspects of your company and engage with customers who share your posts. This way you will gain loyal customers who will share information about you without being paid.

  1. Always negotiate

Every successful venture has a good sales team who can close a deal. Business owners must be great negotiators too, as there are so many deals to be done. This could be surrounding the rent of your office or employing your team. Negotiating should be practiced as the more you do it, the better you’ll be.

  1. Use in-house skills to make you more profitable

Rather than employing consultants or outside help when you come across a problem, ask the people already in your team. Encourage employees to suggest solutions and communicate openly. This could save you money and give you some great new ideas.

  1. Don’t allow delays to cost you

When it comes to business travel and arrangements, losing time will literally lose your business money. In many cases, business owners accept delays without chasing compensation. If your train, plane or bus is delayed while travelling for business, always take the time to claim compensation.

  1. Work smarter

Rather than driving to conferences or flying to meetings, consider holding video conferences. Online conferencing is easier than ever, and accessible by everyone, meaning you can communicate with anyone at any time without compromising on sound or vision.

  1. Market your business intelligently

To make a successful business, you need a great product or service. But you also need a great marketing strategy to effectively engage with customers. Marketing is an expense, but if done correctly will provide true return on investment. Use technology for your marketing and make the most of the many social media channels available today. You can get your business seen effectively and quickly by a massive number of possible customers.

  1. Organise your expenses

While business owners generally know about the larger expenses leaving their business accounts, it’s very easy to let the smaller outgoings add up. If you’re not on top of it, they can take you by surprise. Smaller expenses that can slip through the net include stationery and cleaning costs.

  1. Outsource specific tasks

Your business will always come up against specialist challenges, particularly as it grows and changes. These could involve accounts, graphic design and potential tasks such as translation of product packaging, for example. Employing full time staff to deal with these kinds of staff can be very expensive meaning you are less profitable.  It often makes more sense to outsource to specialist companies and individuals.

At the heart of your cost saving should be cutting all extraneous costs while maintaining a high product or service quality. While this can sound daunting, it’s likely to become even more important in the post-Brexit business environment. Start now and you’ll find it’s often simpler than you think.

For more advice or guidance on how you can make your business more profitable contact the team at Turner Little.

About Turner Little

Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction/repair, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.

How to Launch Your Small Business in Another Country

By launching your firm in another country, you could expand into a new market, potentially increasing your customer base. But this can be daunting, especially as you will be unfamiliar with its customs and business laws. Turner Little explains how to launch your small business in another country.

Choose your country carefully 

It is inadvisable to choose your new market, without conducting extensive research beforehand. Ask yourself, where does the greatest opportunity lie for your business? It is critical that you examine factors such as language, current market behaviours, business legislation and certification, as well as competing firms, to ensure you select the most favourable market for your firm.

Survey your consumers

Your business model may be unique, making launching your firm in a new country especially advantageous, due to lack of competition. However, you must first ask yourself, whether there is a target consumer base, in a country which is unfamiliar with the products or services that you sell. Here, it is advisable to conduct market research and focus groups in your chosen territory.

You can gather consumer data quickly and conveniently by utilising online research tools like Survey Monkey. With this tool, you can communicate with different consumer groups in your new market from anywhere in the world, as users have access to specific customer profiles. You can also utilise the services of marketing groups which focus on your field, but this can be expensive. The advantage of this approach, however, is that these groups are operated by qualified individuals, who can avoid steering the group towards one specific outcome, supplying you with unbiased consumer data.

Consider your distributor

If you are not familiar with the primary language of your new market, you will need to partner with a local distributor. Contact non-competing firms in your industry, to determine which distributors they use. Ensure you get references for the distributor, to determine whether they provide first-rate services. Remember to sign a sole agreement with distributors, rather than one which guarantees exclusivity. This way, if legal issues arise, you can provide your goods and services directly to retailers.

Research regulation

It is critical that you research business regulations in your new market, so you can determine the administrative costs of expansion. With this strategy, you will be able to ensure that your firm meets all the legal requirements to trade within your new country and has the certificates major retailers will need to sell your products and services to consumers. This applies to your manufacturer, as some retailers will require them undergo ethical standards audits, to ensure they conform to regulations.

We should note that if you are planning to expand into an EU country, Brexit may have an impact on your plans. For example, Brexit could change trademark protection, requiring you to register trademarks for new products in both the UK and the EU, once the UK’s removal process is complete. As experts in this field, Turner Little can advise you on trademark registration matters internationally.

Alter your packaging

You may also have to create new packaging when expanding into another nation. Your brand name could be popular in your own market, for example, but boast completely different connotations in another, requiring you to change your name and thus develop new packaging, in order to appeal to your new consumers. If you decide to adopt a new name, you will need to trademark it within the country, to protect your brand from competitors and this is another area where we can help.

What will you charge?

Before moving your firm into another market, ask yourself, what will you charge? What may seem a fair price to your existing consumers, may be outrageous to your new customers, so by using your existing price models, you could outprice your goods, losing custom. Here it is key to research what your competitors within your new country are charging. You should also factor charges such as duty costs, which can vary from nation to nation, into your pricing, to ensure you accrue a decent profit.

Get online

You can reduce the costs of expanding your company into another market, by setting up an online presence within the country. It is advisable develop an international website with one domain, so you can handle domestic and foreign business conveniently. We supply the internet services you need, such as domain name registration, to conduct business online anywhere in the world.

Turner Little

Turner Little was founded in 1998 and it has since become a well-established UK based professional Company Registration Agent, Registered Bank Intermediaries and Business Consultants, as well as Trust provider. You can receive our monthly newsletter by signing up using the form below.