New research shows a steep decline in new UK start-ups

Data from the Enterprise Research Centre (ERC) shows a sharp decline in new UK start-ups between 2017 and 2018. Experts from the research team say that the ongoing economic uncertainty caused by Brexit is the reason behind this drop in numbers.

Figures show a decline in new UK start-ups

The ERC is a research institute comprised of a high level of researchers from several universities across the UK. From figures gathered between 2017 and 2018, the research shows a decline of 12.9%.

Start-ups dropped from 325,900 in 2017 to 284,000 in 2018, according to the Local Growth Dashboard report created by the institute. This annual report takes in a wide range of metrics when measuring the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the UK.

Perhaps most pertinently, the report shows a decline even in areas that had showed significant growth prior to the vote to leave the European Union in 2016.

Regional figures show sharp decline in Northern Ireland

Regionally, the biggest fall can be seen in Northern Ireland, which shows a decline of 15.2% in new start-ups. The launch of new SMEs in England has dropped by 13.3%, in Scotland by 10.9% and in Wales by 1.2%. This records an average drop of 12.9% across the whole of the UK.

Breaking the figures down even more shows the biggest fall in new SMEs can be seen in Swindon and Wiltshire. This region records a drop of 45% in the launch of new businesses.

The lowest number of new start-ups between 2017 and 2018 in the country can be found in Northern Ireland, with just 18. In terms of the survival rates of established businesses during the same time period, the lowest percentage is in Sheffield, with 49% failing. Across the UK, the average drop in start-up survival stands at 55%.

There is some good news

While these figures make for sobering reading for the start-up sector as the UK heads towards Brexit, there are some brighter moments. Three areas recorded an increase in the number of start-ups.

The northern area of Northern Ireland shows a 2.6% increase in new start-ups, while Liverpool shows a 2.8% rise. Worcestershire shows the best increase in new businesses, with a rise of 9.2%.

Some industry experts say that the economic uncertainty caused by Brexit is behind the fall in numbers of new start-ups. For example, the deputy director of the ERC, Mark Hart believes that entrepreneurs are holding back while they wait for clarity on the Brexit issue.

Mr Hart is also professor of small business and entrepreneurship at Aston University’s business school. He says that if the trend towards entrepreneurs hesitating on launching start-ups, there will be a corresponding decline in job creation.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “At first glance these figures are worrying for the small business sector. However, we must remember that there is plenty of evidence to show that established small businesses are continuing to grow successfully in some areas of the country.

 

“It is frustrating that the potential growth in productivity has slowed down across the majority of the country. It’s difficult to avoid the hypothesis that the uncertainty surrounding Brexit is contributing to the decline in new start-ups. Before Brexit, many areas and sectors were seeing a steady increase in start-up launches. These figures show that it has definitely slowed down, and the most likely reason is Brexit.

“Having said that, strong businesses that can prove there is a demand for their services and products are still landing funding. Indeed, across some niche sectors, there are very high value funding rounds still taking place. There is still space for businesses to grow, and entrepreneurs with a strong business idea and belief in their success, should not let Brexit hold them back. However, policy makers and the Government must take note of these clear warning signs and work to create the certainty that the sector needs.”

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.

Do you know how to ensure PCI compliance for your small business?

For small businesses, Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (more commonly referred to as PCI DSS) can seem confusing. But with the right information, that doesn’t have to be the case.

What does PCI DSS mean for small businesses?

PCI DSS is the international security standard introduced by the payment card industry. The biggest brands in this sector set the standard to assist businesses in avoiding credit card fraud while processing card payments from customers.

The standard applies for lots of credit card names, including Visa, Discover, MasterCard, JCB and American Express. The standard consists of a range of stringent guidelines covering the storage, processing and transmission of private data from cardholders.

Which businesses must be compliant with PCI DSS?

The standard affects all businesses that use credit card payments. If your small business ever uses, accepts, stores, processes or transmits credit cardholder data, then you must be compliant with this standard.

In order to do so, you must comply with specific requirements, including the following:

  1. Build a secure network and maintain it

To do this, there should be a firewall configuration installed and maintained that protects cardholder data. Never use defaults for system passwords, instead set up distinct and strong passwords for everything. Ensure they are changed regularly.

  1. Always protect data from cardholders

This is essential, and transmission of data across open networks should always be encrypted.

  1. Set up and maintain a vulnerability management system

This includes anti-virus software, and regularly updating said software. You should also develop and maintain secure applications and overall system.

  1. Utilise strong access control measures

Access to any cardholder data should be restricted internally. It should be on a business ‘need-to-know basis only. Every employee with access to the computer network should have a unique sign-in ID. All physical access to cardholder data should be suitably restricted.

  1. Test and monitor computer networks on a regular basis

This involves monitoring all access to cardholder information and network resources. Security systems and all security processes should be tested regularly.

  1. Create and maintain a policy covering information security

The policy should include information security for all employees.

These requirements are applicable to every merchant or business, whether large multinationals or small businesses. The volume of transactions handled is immaterial, which means the regulations apply even if you process very few credit card transactions. However, businesses that process higher numbers of transactions do face more stringent scrutiny in order to remain compliant.

What happens if your business doesn’t comply with PCI DSS?

For businesses that do not comply, possible consequences include a fine from your bank. Ultimately, they can completely prohibit your business from taking credit card payments if they deem you non-compliant.

If there is a data breach, your business will be subject to investigation. This will determine your level of compliance. When this has been decided, penalties may be imposed on your business by credit card companies.

Non-compliance penalties vary. You could be hit with a fine ranging from £3,000 to £60,000. You may face litigation, loss of company reputation, loss of business, and you may have your ability to take credit card payments revoked.

How is compliance validated?

There are different levels of compliance for different levels of transactions. You can get validated by inviting a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) to conduct an audit. Or, you can complete a self-assessment form online.

The levels are as follows:

  • Level 1: more than six million card transactions are processed per year.
  • Level 2: between one and six million card transactions per year.
  • Level 3: Between 20,000 to one million transactions per year.
  • Level 4: Fewer than 20,000 transactions per year.

The standard is maintained by the PCI Security Standards Council, which is backed by the five major credit card companies.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “As you can see, there are many reasons why non-compliance with PCI DSS is not worth the risk. There are many benefits to complying with the standard too, including the protection not only of your business, but also your customers.

“By maintaining procedures to ensure compliance, your business will continue to run securely. You will also be better placed to withstand any data breaches or cyber-attacks on the data your business holds. Being linked with highly valued and trusted names, such as MasterCard and Visa, will boost your credibility with customers too.

“Data breaches can cost businesses dearly, and small businesses are more at risk. As their resources and cashflow are limited, a significant data breach could mean the businesses is forced to fold. PCI DSS is also part of General Data Protection Legislation (GDPR). You can read about this in our blog.”

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.

New research shows just a fifth of small businesses are ready for a no-deal Brexit

Just one fifth (that’s 21%) of the UK’s small and medium sized enterprises (SME) are ready for a no-deal Brexit, according to new research.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has published the results of the first survey held about small business planning ahead of a possible no-deal Brexit. The results show that small businesses that have begun planning for a no-deal Brexit have spent around £3,000 each on their preparations.

More than three-quarters of small businesses not ready for a no-deal Brexit

With less than a quarter of UK SMEs saying they are preparing for the country leaving the EU without a deal, it seems there is much to be done. More than 1,000 small businesses responded to the FSB survey. More than a third of these respondents are clear that Brexit has already dented their profitability, whether temporarily or permanently.

About the same number of respondents say they are forced to stockpile ahead of the current exit date of 31 October 2019. This is further depleting any funds they have and denting their ability to withstand the pressures inflicted by the threat of a no-deal Brexit.

More sector specific information needed for small businesses

The FSB currently has approximately 165,000 SMEs as members. These small businesses have, on average, seven employees each. And the FSB says that their estimates show about 40% of small businesses would suffer under a no-deal Brexit.

Perhaps more pertinently, particularly in light of the Government’s current £150 million Brexit advertising campaign, around two-thirds of small businesses say they can’t prepare as they don’t know what they’re supposed to prepare for. There is a growing opinion among small business owners that they haven’t had enough communication specific to their sector.

According to the FSB, small business owners want more information on tariffs and trading within their sectors. They also want to know how the legalities of trade will be affected by Brexit, so that they can plan ahead.

Measures the Government is considering

The national chairman of the FSB, Mike Cherry, has specifically asked the Government to consider issuing vouchers to small businesses. He believes they should be worth £3,000 to cover the cost of planning for a no-deal.

Other measures that have been discussed include:

  • Reduce National Insurance and VAT on a temporary basis.
  • Uprate the employment allowance of £3,000.
  • Give small businesses a longer deadline to pay taxes.
  • Extend the two-year business rate discount of 33% for retailers to a bigger range of SMEs.

Mike Cherry goes on to argue that small businesses are paying a high price for the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. The combination of an unstable pound and paying out an unknown amount to try to prepare for an unknown outcome is disruptive. He suggests that the Government should use the time left before the exit date to issue support to small businesses so that they can forge a path through a no-deal Brexit.

Regional councils set up funds for Brexit preparation

At a regional level, some councils are making funds available to businesses. For example, Liverpool has launched a ‘Brexit Resilience Fund’ worth £15 million. It’s available solely to SMEs that supply businesses within the EU, or trade within the EU. The idea behind the fund is to help small businesses with any ad hoc and temporary problems they experience. Examples include covering late payments from customers within the EU or paying out for extra stock.

Small businesses that are dependent on EU trade for more than 25% of their turnover are eligible for loans from the fund. Loans go to £250,000 and are available over a 12-month period.

While funds for certain small businesses are available, there are problems facing other sectors in the UK. The country landowner association says that up to a quarter of rural small businesses could go bankrupt if there is a no-deal Brexit. This sector is particularly at risk due to tariffs of 40% that would be levied on any exports of meat.

The sector is also deep in the midst of decision making for breeding and planting in 2020, further confusing the issue. They are also more vulnerable to staffing problems with their normal workforce made up of mostly people from overseas.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “We are now into the final month before the exit date of 31 October 2019. And it appears from media analysis that a no-deal Brexit is still very much on the table. This would effectively end all of the UK’s trade agreements and many other rules and regulations overnight on 31 October.

“Given the situation, it’s concerning that, on the face of it, more than 70% of small businesses either feel like they either cannot prepare or they have chosen not to prepare for Brexit. In truth of course, we cannot be sure just how many of the 70% plus number, have considered the potential impact of Brexit on their businesses and have made a logical decision that it really will not affect them that much. Having said that, the path to Brexit has been uncertain since the vote in June 2016, and it’s still not yet clear how the country will exit. Where possible, small businesses should prepare for no-deal.

“I think it’s important at this point that there is no ignoring the headlines and hoping Brexit will go away. Readers can check out our past blog with advice on how small businesses can prepare for a no-deal Brexit. The Government has also launched its official advice at gov.uk/Brexit.”

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.

New research shows that digital tools lead to improved business performance

Most small businesses that use digital tools credit them with improved business performance. These are the findings of a new study form Deloitte, which surveyed 1,000 small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) to find out how they use technology.

The results clearly indicate that SMBs that empower themselves through judicious use of tech are more successful. Digitally empowered small businesses go on to achieve higher employment growth and improved financial results.

Why does digital tech lead to improved business performance?

Out of the respondents, 99% say they use digital technology every day. However, while just 1% don’t use any digital tech, the tools used by the majority vary hugely in sophistication.

The SMBs surveyed are divided into four categories, covering where they see themselves on their digital business journey:

  1. Advanced users: 19%.
  2. High users: 17%.
  3. Intermediate users: 41%.
  4. Basic users: 23%.

The results show a link between the level of digitisation a company utilises, and its overall business performance.

Digital tech users much more likely to gain new customers

Businesses that use an advanced level of digital technology are around five times more likely to interact with new customers from all around the world, than less tech savvy companies.

And, given that exporting goods is a huge percentage of the work done by the small business sector in the UK, there is clearly a need to understand digital technology. Using digital tools can help SMBs remain competitive in the vast global economy. This is particularly relevant for small business that rely on exporting and important products and services as the UK heads towards Brexit.

Businesses that are comfortable with digital tools and use at least five in their day-to-day work are also three times more likely to create new services and products. The survey shows they are also twice as likely to create new jobs than those who continue to ignore the potential of technology. Advanced users are also twice as profitable, and three times more likely to undergo significant growth in revenue.

Operational use of digital tech

In terms of operational use, the survey breaks down where the tools are used within businesses. More than 90% of small businesses say they use digital tools for communication purposes. Just over 80% favour apps for logistics and internal management, and more than 40% use them for managing sales and marketing.

Digital tools commonly used for communications

The range of digital tools used for communications is wide. Around 75% of respondents rely on email to communicate with clients, customers, suppliers and peers. Social media is an important digital tool for just over half (53%) of small businesses and just less than a quarter rely on the company mobile app.

Digital tools used for Internal management and logistics

More than two-thirds (67%) of small businesses report using cloud-based software to manage people and logistics. Around 30% use customer relationship manager (CRM) tools, and 24% rely on the intranet.

Other tools commonly used to ensure small businesses run smoothly include:

  • software that connects supply-chain operations with sales (21%),
  • enterprise resource planning tools (20%),
  • internal social networks (19%)

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “This study demonstrates the need for small businesses to take advantage of the technology available to them. To really compete on the world stage and match the innovation shown by other countries, the UK’s small business sector must embrace digital tools as much as possible.

“The digitisation of the business sector has clear and unequivocal benefits not just for small businesses, but for the economy as a whole. However, figures show that some small businesses are still not utilising the tools available to them.

“Data shows that a significant barrier for some small business owners is a lack of understanding of how to implement and use digital tools. This is an area that needs addressing, as investment into training and education will pay off in the longer term. We’re reaching a tipping point where small businesses that do not use digital tools will be at a serious disadvantage.”

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.

Essential apps for small businesses

No matter their industry, small businesses and start-ups have one thing in common: they need to operate as cheaply as possible. All start-ups must ensure that cashflow is the for the first 12 months. And that means being careful where you spend money, and how to get the most out of your technology.

By including as many cost-saving and efficient tools into your plan as possible, you can get a lot of value from a little investment. And while there are endless services and solution packages on the market, many of these are too expensive for small businesses. They can also be overkill in terms of what’s needed to manage a growing start-up.

Essential apps for small businesses

Instead, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) should focus on useful, efficient and cost-effective apps. Here are five excellent apps, all of which are either free or relatively cost-effective. They also offer premium and extra features that you can incorporate as the business continues to grow.

  1. Accounting app – Kashoo

Kashoo has been available to small businesses since 2008. It’s specifically designed for use by entrepreneurs, small business owners and freelancers. The app allows the user to create invoices, carry out audits and tax returns, and much more. After a free trial period of 14 days, there is a cost. At £12.75 it’s a reasonable outlay for a host of accounting features, and there’s a money-back guarantee if it doesn’t suit your needs.

The app was developed as the makers couldn’t find an accounting solution that offered the simplicity and features of an app. While there are loads of products on the market for accounting, they tend to be aimed at larger, more complex businesses. Kashoo appears fast, easy and simple to use, and has most of the features a small business owner would need.

Notable features include a function allowing you to create invoices across different currencies. Users can also use the payment gateway to accept credit card payments. There is excellent support 24 hours a day, and the app is updated constantly.

However, there are drawbacks. Specifically, the mobile Kashoo app is only available for iOS, which means Android users are out of luck. Other criticisms include the lack of functionality to bill clients at an hourly rate. 2

  1. Collaboration tool – Slack

Slack (Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge) is an easy to use, cloud-based collaboration tool. Crucially, it’s available for all mobile platforms and can be accessed via the webpage too if you prefer.

Originally an online tool for a game called Glitch, it relaunched in 2013 as a collaborative business tool. It allows businesses to divide work between various teams and clients and provides chat functions for all parties. Employees can hop in and out of chats and use the video feature to speak to colleagues face to face at any time. It works with more than 1,000 other apps, from Dropbox to Google Drive.

There is a free option, but it’s quite restrictive. The Standard options costs £5.25 per month, and the Plus option £9.75 per month. Slack does have a relatively steep learning curve but can be a great tool for the right business.

  1. Expense report tool – Expensify

Developer David Barratt came up with Expensify because he wanted to provide “expense reports that don’t suck!”. This app integrates services such as Uber, allowing the user to record expenses as they go. It also allows managers to review costs and work out ways to streamline their company expenses.

It’s competitively priced and relatively easy to use. However, you will have to spend time getting to grips with it in the first instance, as there are few direct instructions available online. Expect to pay £4 per month for each active user for the mid-tier package, and £7 for the ‘control’ tier package. There’s also a free trial option so you can work out whether it’s for your business.

  1. Office software – Office 365

SME owners can choose from many different software platforms for their business. However, Microsoft Office 365 takes some beating, and remains an excellent option for small businesses.

The web app version of Microsoft Office is ideal as everything runs from and is stored in the cloud. This means you can also log in using all kinds of mobile devices, and it’s not restricted to the office computers. It’s also easily usable on Macs as well as PCs. Office 365 offers the three big apps that everyone needs – PowerPoint, Word and Excel. OneDrive is a great automatic online backup, and other software applications are also available. These include Publisher, Access and Skype.

Different versions are available depending on your business needs. A personal edition of Office 365 comes in at £5.99 per month. If you need one for more users, the simple office package costs £7.99 per month and allows six separate users. There’s also Office 365 Business at £7.90 per month and Office 365 Business Premium at £9.40 per month.

  1. Complete business solution – QuickBooks

This has everything your small business needs in a single app. Made by Intuit, QuickBooks was originally a simple financial management software tool. However, the company quickly developed it to offer broad business solutions for SMEs. It can be downloaded or used as a cloud-based system, and used to pay bills, accept payments and administer payroll. Check the website for all the functions and price points. There is also a package available for freelancers, which includes being able to track expenses and mileage.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “This is a small selection of the apps available to small businesses, entrepreneurs, freelancers and start-up owners. Taking the time to research apps and use the free trials available on a number of these digital apps is a good way to ensure you find the best for your business.

“Small businesses don’t need the same solutions as bigger businesses. There’s no point paying out for accountancy packages designed for much larger companies, for example. Technology means there are plenty available for every size of business, and any budget. Keeping costs down is essential for SME owners, and these apps can help do just that.”

 

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.

Planning for the worst-case scenario – why small business owners need Shareholder Protection Insurance

Small businesses often keep it in the family. If a company owner dies suddenly, their shares can end up going to a family member outside of the business. For the other business partners, the consequences can be catastrophic. The company could be sold off to someone outside of the family or end up in the hands of a competitor.

Sudden deaths can cause a business to become unstable. Business owners should always plan appropriately for the worst-case scenario. If they don’t, the surviving owner loses control of some, or all, of the business. This could spell the end of the company.

Small business owners need Shareholder Protection Insurance

Despite this, research shows that half of small business don’t have a legal structure place to deal with these potential issues. Without a legal document showing that they can buy a colleague’s share from his or her family members when they die, they have no say over what happens to those shares. And for lots of small and medium sized businesses (SMEs), this could mean a total loss of control over the company.

Just 43% of business owners have any form of business life cover in place to prepare for their sudden death or if they become incapacitated. This is where Shareholder Protection Insurance comes in.

This type of insurance allows the remaining directors or partners to keep control of the business should the business owner die. With no share protection policy in place, the deceased owner’s business share will most likely go to a family member not involved with the business.

Why is Shareholder Protection Insurance a good idea?

The share protection policy can avoid all of these awkward problems. It works by providing funds to buy shares, and also means existing shareholders retain ownership. Shareholder Protection Insurance will protect the business and all of its shareholders by simplifying success planning. Here’s what it can do:

  1. Provides money for the shareholder or shareholders who remain after the death to buy the deceased owner’s shares.
  2. Allows the business to continue trading in the normal way during the upheaval.

The State of the Nation’s SMEs report from Legal & General says that 53% of businesses would be forced to stop trading in under 12 months if a major business owner or key person became critically ill or died.

Around 60% of small businesses have not renewed or reviewed their company succession plans or agreements over the previous 12 months. And if a business owner or business partner dies without leaving specific instructions for their business shares, then the shares will most likely go to their estate.

The family that receives ownership of the shares then has two choices:

  1. A family member could replace the deceased as a business partner or part-owner. Should a family member decide to do this, there is no guarantee that they can make any realistic contribution to the company. It’s possible that they could even damage the business.

A sleeping partner is still entitled to their share of the business profits but could end up as a burden to the remaining partners. It’s also possible that the family becomes unhappy if they find they have no real control over the business.

  1. The family could choose to sell the business and realise the value that way. This could mean the remaining partners end up working with someone they either don’t like, don’t know, or doesn’t represent their aims. It could also be that the family can’t find a buyer, which will have a negative financial impact on the business.

Shareholder Protection Insurance covers the following:

  • Shareholder Life Insurance – if a shareholder becomes terminally ill (this is defined as fewer than 12 months left to live) or dies, the policy pays out a lump sum of money to the other shareholders.
  • Critical Illness Cover – this can be added to Shareholder Protection. This will allow the policy to pay out if the holder becomes seriously ill. The most common claims under this include heart disease, cancer and strokes. However, it also covers up to 100 serious conditions including motor neurone disease and multiple sclerosis.

Alongside Shareholder Protection, it’s advisable to set up a Cross-Option Agreement. On the death of the holder, it gives the option for other shareholders to buy the deceased’s shares and for the deceased person’s family to sell.

How do claims work under Shareholder Protection Insurance?

A claim is made under the policy.

  1. If the policy is written under trust, then the insurer will pay the amount to the trust. The trustees are therefore the remaining shareholders.
  2. These shareholders then use the money to buy the shares of the dead or critically ill person’s share.
  3. The family of the deceased, or the critically ill stakeholder themselves receive the money from the sale of their shares.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “Shareholder protection insurance is something that every business owner should have in place. As these figures show, a relatively high percentage of businesses have no succession plans. A legal agreement on what will happen should a key member of the shareholder team, or the business owner, dies suddenly is vital.”

“While a sudden death or diagnosis of a terminal illness is devastating for the person involved, what happens to their business shares can impact negatively on a far wider number of people. Depending on the number of shareholders, the protection structure can become complicated relatively fast. It’s always a good idea to speak with an expert like Turner Little for advice on the best insurance policy and compare quotes for you.”

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.

The challenge of taking time off for small business owners

There are many upsides to owning a small business. Autonomy, control, creativity and the knowledge you’re working for yourself are just some of them.

But running a business, particularly during the first few years, is hard work. There are long days, few opportunities to take a break, and little downtime. This can lead to burnout and rising stress levels. So, how important is it for small business owners to take a holiday?

Taking time off is not a priority for more than half of small business owners

More than half (52%) of small business owners in the UK say they take less than five days off a year. The report from Aldermore SME Future Attitudes also says that a fifth (21%) take zero holiday days. And this is the downside to needing to retain control over every aspect of your small business.

Maintaining oversight of every aspect of a small business is the challenge facing every owner. For some, this leads to the neglect of a work/life balance. The report covers more than one thousand leaders and decision makers in the UK. From this number, 35% take work with them when they do take a holiday. A further third ensure it’s covered by a colleague and just over a fifth (21%) cancel days off to make sure work is finished.

While there are some regional differences in the report, nationally about a quarter (24%) of small business owners continue to communicate with the office on a daily basis. London bosses report the most time spent communicating with their business, with 30% responding to calls and emails while they’re away. In the North West, this drops to 16%, with a greater percentage able to switch off from work responsibilities.

Happily, most small business owners do encourage their staff to use up their holiday entitlement. Despite the fact that many bosses fail to take their own holidays, more than 70% actively encourage their staff to do so. Just 17% say they don’t push their staff to take their holidays.

Why it’s important to take time off

There may never be a ‘good time’ to take time off. But it’s important that as a small business owner, you accept this and book it anyway. Here’s why.

  1. Holidays help to avoid burnout

No matter how hardworking and entrepreneurial you are, everyone needs to switch off at some point. Stress is a cumulative thing, and exhaustion can build up for a while before it has any tangible effects. If you don’t take the time to rest and refresh both the mind and body, you will eventually hamper your own productivity and success.

  1. Build trust in your team

Taking a holiday and being forced to delegate key tasks is a positive step towards building trust. Most small business owners struggle with letting go of tasks, but by taking a holiday they are forced to entrust their team with tasks. Leave them contact details and instructions of how to get hold of you in an emergency and trust the process.

  1. Family time is important

The drive to start a business often comes with the idea that it will be easier to spend time with the family. After all, you make the rules. However, the reality of the work involved often side-lines these intentions. And if you work long days and find it difficult to spend quality time in a normal working week, then holiday time is even more important.

Use technology to ease into your holiday

Modern technology allows more ways than ever to stay in touch but at a distance:

  1. Mobile phone

You will take it on holiday with you. After all, everyone does. But take the opportunity to give yourself some space from it at the same time. Leave it in the safe in your room and have a few hours free from all communication every day. Tell clients you are away and give them alternative contact points. You can always tell them that they can contact you direct if there is an emergency.

Your team should be fully apprised of where you are and that you should only be contacted if it’s important.

  1. Apps for project management

Many small businesses use project management apps, such as Trello and Basecamp. They make it simple to keep on top of tasks and what needs prioritising. Don’t forget to adjust the settings so that notifications are off while you’re away. This will help to create a distance between you and the office. You can always check in once a day to ensure it’s all on track.

  1. Use focus tools if you take work with you

If it’s completely unavoidable and you must do work while you’re away, use tools like Quickstarter to ensure you focus on a short but productive time.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “Small business owners are generally dedicated, passionate and motivated. Add into this mix the ability to remain connected online at all times, and it’s not surprising that holidays are few and far between. It’s difficult for many small business owners to switch off fully, and it’s all too easy to check in every day.”

“Entrepreneurial spirit is undoubtedly key to success for small and medium sized enterprises. This comes with the drive to work long hours, and the acceptance of sacrificing holiday time. However, it’s concerning that so many business leaders are taking so little time off.”

“The small business sector is the backbone of the country’s economy. And so the hard work of business owners is vital to its success. To avoid burnout, it’s important that they take breaks regularly. A good work/life balance is essential for long-term success and can also help to refresh their perspective on the business and the challenges ahead. It’s a win/win.”

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.

Switching banks increasingly popular with small businesses

According to reports published in Computer Weekly on 25 July 2019, a growing number of UK small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) are switching banks. The data shows that in Q2 2019 twice as many SMEs used the Current Account Switch Service (CASS) when compared with the same period in 2018.

CASS is operated by Pay UK, and its data shows 17,687 UK small businesses swapped banks in the second quarter of 2019. Just 8,000 UK SMEs swapped banks in Q1 2018, showing a change of attitude for the sector.

Switching banks made easy

The scheme to make bank switching easier for small businesses was launched in 2013 and is one of a number of regulatory changes designed to improve the financial services sector. Pay UK Chief Operating Officer, Matthew Hunt says in a statement: “There can be many benefits gained from switching current accounts and our aim is to continue to ensure that consumers are aware of the options available to them.”

When should small businesses change banks?

The data also shows an increase in the number of challenger banks on the market, specifically targeting SMEs. So, when is it a good time for a small business to change banks?

  1. You’re getting hit with big banking fees

There are all kinds of banking fees your business might be charged, ranging from ATM fees to overdraft charges. Statistics show that in 2016, the big banks made more than £27 billion in overdraft charges alone. However, it’s not only big banks that charge fees.

When opening any kind of account with a financial provider, you should carefully check whether there are any hidden fees. You may find that accounts require a certain number of transactions, for example. Overdraft fees can be incurred by just one unplanned for outlay. If your business accounts are constantly incurring fees, it’s time to look for another banking provider.

  1. You’re not happy with the customer service

If you find you’re unable to speak to someone about any problems you have with your business bank account, it’s time to look elsewhere. Consumers are increasingly demanding better customer service and expect to be able to access it fast. This is why challenger banks are able to disrupt the traditional big banks. They are offering 24/7 communication and easier access to assistance.

  1. You never use offline services

If you’re with a traditional bank that offers branch assistance, yet you never use it, it could be time to switch. You’re generally paying extra in fees for services you don’t even use. More businesses bank entirely online than ever before, and just don’t need the in-branch service.

  1. The bank’s website and app just aren’t up to scratch

This may sound like it’s not a big deal, but when you use online services, whether desktop or mobile, it’s important that they work properly. An app or web service that has a confusing user interface or has too many unnecessary steps can be a deal-breaker. It’s easier for businesses to stay in control of their business accounts and cashflow if they can access everything they need easily and quickly.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “Double the number of small businesses are switching banks compared with last year, showing that consumers are reacting to the increased offerings from challenger banks in the sector. The Fintech and banking disruption caused by challenger banks is in direct response to the changing needs of business, and in particular from SMEs that are demanding more from their financial services provider.”

“This healthy competition is long overdue in the financial services sector, which has long been out of reach for many small businesses and self-employed business owners. The Government recognises the importance of the SME sector in the UK as the main driver for the country’s economy, and the more steps taken to open up competition in the banking sector, the better it is for small businesses.”

“Business owners should take stock at regular intervals and look at whether they are getting the best, and cheapest, service they can from their financial provider. If not, there is no reason why they shouldn’t shop around until they find the best services for them, whether that comes from a traditional big banking institution or a challenger start-up.”

 

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.

Government cash boost for small business innovation

Innovative businesses in the UK could benefit from a cash boost of £125 million. From this total, £100 million is available in Government grants for research that is deemed pioneering. The remaining £25 million as loans for the commercial aspect of transforming ideas into reality.

Any size of UK businesses, including SMEs, can compete to win a slice of the £125 million. If successful, the money will go directly into transforming their ideas into reality in the form of world-leading products and services.

Small business innovation grants

The £100 million is available through the Innovate Smart grant initiative, and applications are now open. Past winners of the Innovate Smart award include Magic Pony Technology, which was sold to Twitter for a reported $150 million earlier this year.

Magic Pony Technology is a London-based start-up that develops machine learning techniques based on neural networks. These systems are designed to operate and think like human brains, and are used to enhance photos, videos and to develop graphics for augmented reality or virtual reality apps. Co-founders CEO Rob Bishop and Zehan Wang stayed on as part of the deal.

The third start-up focusing on machine learning that has recently been acquired by Twitter, Magic Pony Technology benefited from SMART funding, as well as from investors including Entrepreneur First and Octopus Ventures. It’s the perfect example of what can be achieved by smart start-ups with ideas and expertise.

How to apply for Smart funding

If you want to find out about how to apply for the next round of Innovate Smart funding, see the Government website. Applications opened on 25 July 2019, so now is a good time to get involved if you have the right business idea and backing.

Smart is the new name for the Open Grant Funding programme from Innovate UK. Applications can be from all kinds of technological backgrounds, including media, creative industries, arts and design, engineering or science, and can be applied to any part of the economy.

Any application has to include at least one SME, and the project must run between April 2020 and April 2023. Different rules apply to projects, depending on their projected length:

  • Projects scheduled to last between six and 18 months must have projected costs between £25,000 and £500,000.
  • Those scheduled to last between 19 months and 36 moths must have total project costs between £25,000 and £2 million and be collaborative.

Lead businesses within each consortium must be based in the UK and can be any size. They must also be carrying out the research and development (R&D) project within the UK.

Either be an SME if they want to go through the project independently or include at least one SME if a large company that wants to collaborate.

The project team that wishes to work with the lead business must be based in the UK, and be other a business, charity, public sector organisation, or academic organisation, and must also be conducting the R&D in the UK. Other stipulations include proof that it is intended to commercially use the results in the UK.

Further support grants

There is also a further £25 million allocated through Innovation Loans to go towards projects that are in much later stages and are near to going on the market. This scheme is focusing on businesses that need help to het over the final barriers to commercialisation.

In a press release, the Government’s Business Secretary, Greg Clark, says: “Through our modern Industrial Strategy, we are backing our homegrown businesses to boost productivity and create jobs, growth and opportunity in every part of the UK.”

Many businesses have already benefitted from funding provided by the Government to support innovation, including Digital Shadows. This online digital risk company has raised £20 million to fund its innovation that was developed using a Smart award.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “Smart grants and other funding through Innovate UK are great ways for the Government to support innovation in either single businesses or collaborations between different sectors. With the deadline for the UK leaving the EU currently set at 31 October 2019, it’s important for small businesses to plan ahead.

“Applying for Government support is a way to ensure innovative ideas make it through to completion, therefore boosting jobs and the wider economy. The Government is increasingly recognising the importance of the SME sector to the economic stability of the country, which is encouraging. As we continue to move through uncertain times, it’s important that small businesses continue to push forward with innovative and disruptive products and services.”

 

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.

Equity crowdfunding – everything you need to know

If you’re in the business world, you will have heard of crowdfunding. An increasingly popular way of raising money for charity, crowdfunding moved into the mainstream a few years ago.

By 2011, equity crowdfunding became available for small businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs to raise capital. Here’s everything you need to know about raising money for business through crowdfunding, and how to begin the process.

How does equity crowdfunding work?

In this context, we’re talking about equity crowdfunding. Start-up businesses can raise capital through equity crowdfunding by selling shares through a platform regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). They give private investors at all levels the chance to invest and starting stakes can be as low as £10.

In the UK, there are three major crowdfunding platforms: Syndicate Room, Crowdcube and Seedrs. All of these platforms are regulated and offer similar services.

Equity crowdfunding has been in existence in the UK since 2011 and has grown so fast that many experts see it as a mainstream channel for fundraising. While some dispute this, there is no arguing with the figures. The total raised across crowdfunding platforms between 2011 and 2018 is estimated at between £600 million and £800 million.

Which platform works best?

If you’re deciding between platforms, there is no single site that is ‘better’ than the others. Crowdcube is bigger than Seedrs, and it has been running longer. However, Seedrs offers different packages and include relatively thorough due diligence.

Syndicate Room, on the other hand, is generally for more high-level investors and technology-based businesses. If this is your area, then it’s a good option. It requires a lead investor and is more formal in terms of structure and running your campaign.

You are charged by the platforms for successful campaigns only. The costs range from between 4% and 8% of the total money raised on the platform, and while you can spend more, the beauty of crowdfunding is that it’s a cheaper way for start-ups to gain capital. The biggest costs usually lie in the pitch and video, which costs around £5,000 on average.

There is also the time you need to put into creating the campaign and running it. This can be tricky for start-ups that need to focus on running their business. Some businesses choose to employ a specialist consultant to run the campaign and give it the best chance of success.

How do the equity crowdfunding platforms make money?

The crowdfunding platforms make money by taking commission on the amount raised from a successful campaign. Should the campaign fail to reach its target, then all investments are scrapped, and no funding reaches the company. It’s worth noting that a campaign that fails to secure more than 30% of its target during the first few weeks, rarely makes it to the finish line.

If you want to raise money for your business through crowdfunding, it’s important to clearly state why you want the funding. Investors expect to be told exactly where their money will go, and how this will push the company towards more profitability. Investors are interested in one thing – return on investment (ROI) – and you must be able to demonstrate how they will get this.

Create a thorough business plan, that includes details of where the money is going, and how this will elevate your business to the next level. You should include realistic, demonstrable projections. When you have completed this vital step, choose the right crowdfunding platform and apply.

Requirements and eligibility

Some crowdfunding platforms stipulate that you must have at least 20% already in your campaign, before they will launch it to the public. The campaign will therefore usually launch in a private mode. This allows you to gain enough funding to hit their threshold from existing contacts, and then hopefully collect the rest from the platform’s audience.

Your pitch deck and business plan video should be tailored to the platform of your choice. The pitch should be succinct, compelling, realistic and believable, and the video three minutes long. Remember that this kind of fundraising needs a different approach to angel investment and should be tailored accordingly.

Campaigns generally last between 30 and 60 days, depending on the platform. It can take up to eight weeks to prepare the pitch to the platform’s specifications and go through the requisite due diligence. It’s best to give yourself 12 weeks running up to launch.

How does equity crowdfunding work?

Equity crowdfunding is available as an option to any limited company. Having said that, it’s best suited to new businesses that are less than seven years old, or start-ups. It’s also only viable for businesses that plan for exit in order to ensure investors get their ROI.

It’s difficult to get exact figures of how many campaigns have been successful, but estimates show more than 1,200 funded companies. These numbers are increasing every year, as equity crowdfunding becomes more mainstream.

Each platform will usually have between 20 and 30 live campaigns going, and around two-thirds of these won’t make it. The most common reasons for crowdfunding to fail include poor quality presentations, a poor idea that can’t be scaled, overvaluation of the company, selecting the wrong platform and failing to secure the minimum threshold before launch.

While equity crowdfunding is regulated in this country by the FCA, there are high risks for investors. However, it does give them the opportunity to get involved with start-ups at the beginning of their journey. They choose to invest based on an educated estimate of the chances of getting ROI, but some also invest smaller amounts based on the rewards offered.

 

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “Smaller investors also get their money back through tax breaks and through the perks offered at different stages of investment. Good start-ups and businesses that are raising money this way will always include investors in the ongoing success and growth of the company.

“This is definitely a viable way to raise funds if you are a start-up owner looking for backing. However, you must have a watertight business plan, and evidence to show investors that they will get their ROI at some point. Any company that doesn’t plan ahead effectively before crowdfunding is likely to fail to reach their target. And as this does require some time and money invested upfront, it’s worthwhile taking advice from an expert in equity crowdfunding before you go down this route.”

 

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.

How to set up a share option scheme to incentivise employees

Retaining and incentivising key employees should be a priority for small and medium sized business owners. And one of the best ways to effectively do so is through a share option scheme.

Share options are tax efficient for both the employees who will benefit, and the company itself, making them a sensible option. However, it’s important to understand the ins and outs of share option schemes before committing, in order to achieve the best outcome. Here’s what you need to know.

How to get the most out of a share option scheme

The most commonly used share option scheme is the Enterprise Management Incentive (EMI). When a start-up is established, the owner will offer employees share options under the EMI scheme. Usually, employees can only use the share option when the company is sold on. This means they don’t have any other rights as shareholders other than to receive the value when it’s sold, thus incurring no direct cost to the business or its owners.

If the EMI scheme is implemented effectively, employees are able to pay capital tax (rather than income tax) on the money they make after the sale of the shares. They also might be able to claim entrepreneur tax relief, which will reduce the capital tax they owe.

The company itself is able to claim a deduction in corporation tax for the cost of this scheme, as well as the extra market value of the shares over the amount paid by its employees.

Does the EMI scheme work for all small businesses?

The EMI scheme only incentivises employees who buy into it. Therefore, a small business must also include other incentives for employees who don’t wish to do so. These could include other share option schemes, or types of bonuses.

If the key employees aren’t full time employees, and instead work as contractors, freelancers, work for less than 25 hours a week then they aren’t eligible to benefit from an EMI scheme.

Other schemes offering tax advantages include a company share option plan (CSOP), which is similar to EMI. Alternatively, the company could implement share incentive plan (SIP) or a Save As You Earn (SAYE) scheme, both of which have very different structures.

Rules and regulations for share options

Before a small business can implement a share option scheme, the shareholders’ agreement and any articles of association must be checked. If they don’t allow for the adoption of such a scheme, then they must be formally amended.

In addition, there are statutory requirements:

  • The company must have a turnover of less than £30 million.
  • It must have fewer than 250 employees (full-time).
  • It must be independent, which means it can’t be a subsidiary of another company or controlled by another company.
  • Any subsidiaries must be at least 51% owned.

The company also has to introduce clearly communicated rules so that everyone knows the ins and outs of the share options scheme. This should include the following:

  1. A clear explanation of when the share option can be exercised. For example, whether it is after a certain number of years, or only when the company is sold.
  2. The conditions that apply to exercising the option for employees.
  3. When the share option should lapse if the employee leaves the company.
  4. What happens should the company undergo a formal reorganisation.
  5. What the existing shareholder protections are.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “A share option scheme valuation should also be sought so that taxation on the exercising of the option can be clarified. EMI options also have an individual limit that can be held by a single employee. Therefore, it’s necessary to agree the market value of the share options with HMRC.

“We would always advise getting professional assistance when setting up an EMI share option, as there are various complexities that must be understood in order to implement the scheme effectively. Share option schemes like this can be essential for unleashing a company’s potential, and to give valuable employees a valuable exit option.

“However, not every company will benefit from an EMI scheme, and it is necessary to thoroughly analyse the company’s needs before selecting the appropriate share option scheme.”

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.

Amazon’s small business initiatives boost

While Amazon may not immediately spring to mind as champion of small businesses, the multinational behemoth has shifted focus over recent years. And this is in recognition of the growing gig economy.

As part of this drive to integrate small business owners into its overall business model, Amazon is teaming up with Enterprise Nation in the UK. The small business network and Amazon are launching ten pop-up shops across the country, called ‘Clicks and Mortar’.

What do Amazon’s small business initiatives involve?

The first Clicks and Mortar shop has opened in the centre of Manchester, with Wales, the Midlands, Yorkshire, Scotland and the South East following suit. The shops offer an opportunity for more than 100 small business online brands to interact with customers face-to-face. The idea is to boost both high street and online growth for small businesses.

This pilot programme will operate for 12 months around the country as an experiment to see whether online brands can reach high street consumers. The UK Government will analyse independent research about the scheme’s success. They will use the analysis to construct and inform the Future High Streets Fund strategy.

Government support for UK SMEs

The fund aims to support plans for local areas to improve town centres and high streets to future-proof small businesses against the rise of online sales. The Government says in the plan that they recognise changing consumer patterns and the need to adapt high streets to meet new demands.

An emphasis will be on the general experience levels of high streets, to offer something that can’t be found online. The current Government says it is committed to helping town centres adapt as part of its Our Plan for the High Street initiative, which carries funding of £675 million.

The Government also says it will cut business rates by a third for two years, offering this to selected retail properties. The Future High Streets Fund, which Amazon’s research will contribute towards, is part of the wider plan and will provide funding for transformative projects.

What is Amazon’s SME Apprenticeship Fund?

In addition, Amazon is also providing its new SME Apprenticeship Fund, which is worth £1 million. This is part of a package of new measures to practically help SMEs by training their workforce in digital and retail skills. It will create more than 150 roles that cover digital marketing, customer services and business administration.

The apprentices in these roles will work full time for SMEs that sell products on Amazon. The idea is for these apprenticeships to boost UK SME productivity by upskilling the workforce. The apprenticeships run for at least 12 months and offer online, at work and classroom training.

Any SME registered in England that owns a brand selling on Amazon can apply. To be eligible your business must have a turnover of less than £2 million.

Free training for UK small businesses

As well as the Apprenticeship Fund, Amazon is announcing its Amazon Academy 2019 programme. This brings a range of completely free training events across the country offering practical training to help UK small businesses. The training focuses particularly on helping small businesses boost their export sales and reach more people around the world.

Founder of Enterprise Nation, Emma Jones MBE, says that the intention behind teaming up with Amazon is to help small businesses by combining the best of high street and online retail. In Amazon’s blog she says: “This new concept will provide small businesses with the space, technology and support to experience physical retail for the first time while enabling customers to discover new brands on their local high streets.”

Adds James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited: “There is an increasing and welcome awareness from both the Government and multinationals of the importance of the small business community in the UK. For the UK’s economy to survive the impact of Brexit, and to thrive in a post-EU trading environment, it’s essential that small businesses are supported in every way possible”.

“These initiatives from Amazon and Enterprise Nation are welcomed by struggling high street retailers. There is a pressing need for the British High Street to adapt to the new expectations of consumers used to shopping in a digital online world. By finding a way to amalgamate physical bricks and mortar shops with online brands, a new era for High Streets can be formed.”

Small businesses are one of the most important sectors in the UK, and initiatives like this will provide a boost in skills, job creation and growth across the country. All of which will contribute to a stronger 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, 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 importance of getting terms and conditions right

In the rush to cover everything needed to launch a small business, certain aspects can be neglected. For example, many underestimate the importance of terms and conditions for small businesses.

Ensuring terms and conditions are prominent, accessible, easily understood and legally correct is vital for small businesses to avoid potentially expensive legal action. Customers are legally entitled to information that shows exactly what they’re buying and what your business terms are. This is particularly important if your business operates online.

Terms and conditions for small businesses

Terms and conditions (T&Cs) for small businesses are those contract clauses that spell out the obligations, rights and legalities pertaining to both parties entering a contract. Businesses that hide their T&Cs or attempt to blur boundaries with wording or accessibility, are still liable.

A mistake some businesses make is believing that, if they hide pertinent T&Cs in the small print and a customer signs the contract, the customers is still bound by them. In the eyes of the law, this is not the case.

Legal precedent for T&Cs

In 1940, there was a landmark legal court case regarding a local authority’s T&Cs. It centred on whether the local authority could legally rely on a disclaimer against personal injury, which was on the reverse of a ticket given to a person who hired a deckchair from them.

The courts said that this kind of disclaimer must be clearly and obviously brought to the attention of the customer when the contract was being made. Therefore, the local authority should have spelled it out at the same time the customer bought the ticket. However, in this case, the customer received the ticket (with the information printed on the back) after he had paid the money to the local authority. Therefore, the court ruled the disclaimer was not valid as the customer had had no opportunity to refuse the contract based on the actuality of the terms.

Legally, the same applies to T&Cs. They must be clearly brought to the customer’s attention before contracts are signed. The only sure way to do this is to make sure that they are easily visible, clearly written and highlighted. Often, this is where the tick box comes in when you buy something online. The text accompanying the tick box says something along the lines of: “I the undersigned have read the terms and conditions and am happy to proceed.”

 Clarity is key for small business T&Cs

Small businesses should leave no room for ambiguity when it comes to T&Cs. If they are poorly drafted and rendered unclear, then customers might interpret them incorrectly. Ensure that there is absolutely no room for misunderstandings, by drafting succinct and exact T&Cs.

Simple terminology and an absence of legal jargon are best, as most people don’t have a thorough understanding of complex legal language. The more complex the wording used is, the less likely a customer is to read it. This could put them off the transaction. Some terms are more general. These include limiting liability, disclaimers and IP (intellectual property). In these cases, it’s acceptable to use pre-written clauses. More specific T&Cs for your business should be written from scratch.

If a client or customer says they were unaware of your terms and conditions but ticked the box complying with them, they do not have much recourse. Exceptions to this include if a term included in the T&Cs could be construed as ‘unreasonable’ or is legally unenforceable. If the customer wants to pursue the case despite this, the onus is on them to show clear evidence that the T&Cs are unenforceable. This is why small businesses should always include a tick box online before a customer signs a contract.

Every small business should include an easily accessible complaints procedure online. If a customer does pursue a complaint through this, it is always in the company’s best interest to try and resolve it immediately.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “Small businesses should engage the services of a professional to ensure their T&Cs are working in their best interests. It’s not always clear whether a certain term is enforceable or legal, and specialist advice should be sought.”

“Every small business should have unambiguous, well-written, clear and accessible terms and conditions. They should be drafted to fit in with the specific needs of the business and should be considered legally enforceable and reasonable. This must be made clear to the customer before they sign a contract or buy a product or service. The rules are simple, but they are absolutely vital for small businesses who want to avoid possible legal headaches further down the line. T&Cs should also be periodically checked and redrafted if necessary, to comply with changing legislation or to better suit the company.”

 

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.

Choosing the best business finance for start-up growth

Small businesses have many options for business financing. But this, in itself, can be overwhelming, particularly for start-ups focusing on multiple strands of growth. Deciding which finance option is best for your small business is imperative for growth plans to succeed. Here’s a breakdown of some of the types of business finance for start-up companies.

Defining business finance

Business finance for start-up – what is this? It refers to any funding raised by start-ups to help them grow. There are two main types of business finance:

  1. Debt finance – where a business borrows money from a lender and agrees to pay back in full plus interest. The money can be paid back in a lump sum, or through a long-term payment plan. The business does not have to give up any control or shares to access funding in this way.
  2. Equity finance – when a business raises funding by effectively selling shares to investors or another business. The stake’s value depends on the success of the business selling, which means investors retain an interest in its profitability and growth. Often, investors also bring their experience, skills and networking to the deal, in order to help the business grow.

It is rare for a start-up to be able to fund itself independently, which means the vast majority must raise business finance of some kind.

Which business finance should a start-up choose?

Both debt and equity finance both have pros and cons for small businesses.

  1. What are the advantages of debt finance for small businesses?
  • Tax relief is available on interest payments.
  • It’s relatively simple to plan ahead to make repayments.
  • Terms can be tailored in the best interests of the business.
  1. What are the disadvantages of debt finance for small businesses?
  • Penalty charges apply if you default on payments.
  • Cashflow can fluctuate, which could affect the ability to pay.
  • Lenders will analyse business and personal credit history.
  1. What are the advantages of equity finance for small businesses?
  • Investors can provide further funding as the business grows.
  • Investors can bring invaluable skills, expertise and resources to the table.
  • Investors take on some of the risk as they own a share and want to help the business succeed.
  1. What are the disadvantages of equity finance for small businesses?
  • Businesses dilute ownership.
  • There are lots of legalities to cover.
  • Raising equity demands time away from the business.

Business financing is the lifeblood of a small business, and particularly start-ups. The most recent analysis from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows the business ‘death rate’ is continuing a steady rise (for a number of years). This is stark evidence of just how tough it can be out there for small businesses and start-ups that want to survive and grow.

Potential sources of business funding for small businesses

Following the financial crisis in 2008, some traditional forms of financing for businesses dried up. This opened the door for some alternative, or less traditional forms of funding, for example, crowdfunding. Here are some of the main sources of funding available for both categories, starting with debt finance.

  • Bank loans – work well for large, long-term investments.
  • Bank overdrafts – useful to fund shorter term business plans or finance day to day working capital.
  • P2P lending – peer-to-peer lending uses online platforms that match borrowers with potential lenders. Loans can be small amounts or go up to millions. The platform charges a fixed fee or lenders outbid each other with competitive interest rates.
  • Asset-based financing – this covers both asset-based lending and invoice financing.
  • Hire purchase and leasing – useful for physical assets like company cars and office equipment. The option to buy is generally available at the end of the agreement. Works well for businesses that need equipment but can’t afford to buy outright.
  • Export finance – this covers a number of financial banking products designed to make it easier for businesses to trade internationally. It reduces defaulting risks or delayed payments, and bridges payment gaps when necessary.
  • Trade finance – helps businesses buy goods from domestic and international sellers. This generally covers specific goods shipments over set periods of time.
  • Mezzanine and growth finance – both of these are tailored to the needs of a business, so that the repayment plan matches its revenue forecast. Usually used to fund the expansion of existing businesses.

Potential sources of equity financing

  • Angel investment – ‘angel’ investors are wealthy people who put money into businesses in return for equity. They either invest alone or through a syndicate.
  • Equity crowdfunding – uses online platforms to link angel investors with businesses needing funding.
  • Venture capital – venture capitalists seek out unique businesses they believe will deliver high returns. They invest in a number of businesses, knowing that a percentage will fail. Often invest in early stage start-ups.
  • Private equity investors – they aim to improve a business’ profitability and to do so invest in new services and products, or into plans for expansion. They introduce a corporate and management structure to the business. The investment goes on for around five to seven years, after which the investor sells its shares and lists the company publicly.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “This is not an exhaustive list of all forms of business financing, but it is a useful basis for start-ups unsure how to proceed. All small businesses need to access some kind of funding, and while it can seem a distraction in terms of time invested in securing the right kind of funding, it is key to growth.”

“Small business and start-up owners should carefully consider which form of funding is right for their needs. It may be that as they grow and expand, the type of finance needed changes. It’s always a good idea to engage a professional for advice on the best kind of funding for your business, particularly if you’re starting out.”

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 vital to small business success

When you’re starting or running a small business in today’s always-online world, it’s very easy to become distracted. While there are many demands on your time, the primary goal behind every small or medium sized business always comes back to sales revenue.

Sales are the backbone of your business, regardless of sector, product or service. And if this aspect of your business is struggling, then all other parts will inevitably follow. As with most factors of success in business, the answer lies in proper preparation and time spent on market research.

Market research shapes the future of small business success

One of the most important and powerful tools you always have access to lies in small business market research. Every business must have a plan for its future, and a clear roadmap for success. The best roadmap is one that generates the maximum number of sales possible.

Networking, talking to contacts, surveys and other forms of online and offline market research will give you insight into how to improve sales. Here’s why putting time into research can shape the future of your business:

  1. You will reach new customers and clients

You need to pull in new clients and customers. Whether this is physically through the door, to an ecommerce site, or any other platform, this is your number one priority. By conducting efficient market research, you will be able to monitor not only your own success in achieving this, but also that of your competitors.

By properly understanding how your direct competitors are faring, you will be able to adjust your strategy accordingly. Research is not something that should be carried out once for your initial business strategy, but constantly and often throughout the business year.

Making decisions regarding where to advertise, which online channels to use, and properly utilising the huge opportunities of social media, you can attract customers who are unhappy with your competitors. Adjust your offering to meet their needs, and you will gain new customers.

Tracking consumer responses to competitors will also show you where opportunities lie for partnerships with companies that could help you grow your business.

  1. You will increase customer spend and customer loyalty

A common mistake made by start-ups and SMEs is to only concentrate on winning new customers. Far more important in the long-term is cultivating and increasing a loyal, long-standing customer base. This is why thorough and consistent market research is key.

A key metric to include in research is Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). This concept hinges on understanding that your customers are assets that should be managed. Their value, therefore, should be measured and monitored. Proper assessment of CLVs are particularly important for small businesses creating services that are directly customer orientated. However, it’s also an important metric for other businesses that are offering secondary services.

CLV relates to the amount customers spend across every transaction. Research in this area allows small businesses to understand what consumers want and to adjust offerings accordingly. Market researchers can also ascertain why past customers have decided not to come back, and further adjust the direction of customer offerings to accommodate this.

  1. You will be able to set accurate and achievable goals

The most successful SMEs understand where they stand in their chosen market. They also have clear, realistic aspirations and goals. Market research that correctly combines qualitative and quantitative data helps business owners produce accurate long-term forecasts that they can realistically work towards.

If it is discovered that realistic predictions fail to match aspirations, then that’s the time to work out ways to improve. Research is a motivator, as well as an instigator of judicious change.

If the predictions fall short of your aspirations, this will be the perfect time to plan how to improve the situation.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited, says: “Starting a new business, and running an SME is an incredibly challenging job. There are many aspects that need to be in harmony for a company to fulfil its potential. In the UK, we rely on small and medium sized businesses to bolster the economy, and while innovative ideas are one part of launching a successful company, the ability to manage long-term success is just as important.”

“A market research strategy that goes beyond initial customer expectations of your product or service is a vital part of success. Organisation and thorough, in-depth analysis of the response to your business, and to that of your competitors, will push you past your competition. Market research will allow you to accurately predict future success and adjust your product or service accordingly. It should be part of your long-term business strategy from the start.”

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.

 

Research shows small business sentiment is more optimistic

Getting a true picture of small business sentiment can be tricky, particularly as the business world waits to find out how Brexit will affect them. But Business Tracker, a tool created by Impact Social for the Daily Telegraph uses social media to analyse general sentiment.

And the latest analysis shows a distinct shift, this time towards optimism.

New analysis shows optimistic small business sentiment

The tracker analyses posts on Twitter from 25,000 UK entrepreneurs, small business owners and enterprises. Recent data examined 32,500 Tweets posted between 23 April and 27 May 2019.

During this period, 14% of the Tweets were positive about small business prospects, while just one in nine (11%) were negative. The tool eliminates all posts that could be considered neutral opinions, including marketing and advertising, leaving accurate opinions, which give an indication of the general trend towards more optimistic business prospects.

The analysis shows that 56% of small businesses are positive about their future, with 44% less sure. While this may not seem like much of a difference, it represents a change in sentiment. The previous three trackers were on a downward path, and between 31 January and 22 April, almost two-thirds of posts were negative. So, this latest data shows a real shift towards positive business sentiment.

Industry awards boosting mood

Businesses are celebrating winning industry and specialist awards, with 18% of the positive Tweets celebrating various trophies. In April 2019, the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise awarded the efforts and achievements of more than 100 SMEs, recognising their huge contribution towards innovation and international trade. A month later, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) held its annual awards, and EY also released the UK finalists for its international Entrepreneur of the Year competition.

While awards were the most popular positive commentary on Twitter, 14% also expressed public relief at the extension of Article 50. With Brexit now delayed until 31 October 2019, it seems that some small businesses are feeling more positive.

Other small businesses shared tweets about Brexit that show frustration at the delay (41%). Some say that the delay makes it more difficult to plan ahead. For example, Phil Cookson heads a recruitment agency called Creative Resource, and says on Twitter: “Should we invest in growing the firm or should we save rainy day cash in case of a no-deal?”

Around 15% expressed negative sentiments about Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to resign on 7 June. Concerns expressed include the worry that the Tory leadership battle will distract the Government from Brexit, potentially wasting the opportunity the extension has offered.

Moving away from Brexit, other success stories from small businesses include successful investment (16%), more sales (12%). Around 10% of the positive growth stories come from regions outside of London.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited, says: “Despite the ongoing frustrations and delays over Brexit, and the announcement of the Tory leadership battle, it is encouraging to see many signs of optimism in the small business community”.

“Small business, entrepreneurs, sole traders and microbusinesses are the driving force behind the UK’s economy. During tough economic times, or periods of political instability, it is vital that the sector continues to move forward with growth plans. We may not yet know how the change of Prime Minister will affect plans for the UK to leave the EU in October, but it’s clear that compromise and consensus is needed for the country to move forward. Despite the challenges facing the business sector, it’s encouraging to see that optimism is growing among small businesses.”

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.

Will Open Banking help small businesses grow?

Open Banking is here, and it is potentially the most seismic change for financial services in a generation. Since reforms were introduced in January 2018 regarding financial data sharing, Open Banking has transformed the financial services market. Access to innovative, disruptive, easy-access financial services will profoundly change the way banks and their customers work together.

For small businesses, it means that for the first time more options are available to them to manage their finances. Instead of being restricted to a select few services provided by high street banks, small businesses can use tailor-made, specifically honed financial assistance in the form of apps, products, alternative lending and new tech platforms.

How will Open Banking affect small businesses?

We’re currently seeing the transition from traditional business banking to Open Banking. And while it is still early days, it will deliver a profound sea-change in financial management, on a personal and business level.

Most UK small businesses are yet to grasp the opportunity available to them, but research from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) indicates a steadily increasing willingness to use Open Banking. At the moment, 40% of small business owners are happy to share their financial data for Open Banking purposes. By 2022, this will increase to 72% as SME owners grow their understanding of the benefits available to them. This means that by 2022, 4.8 million small businesses and 32.7 million consumers will be utilising Open Banking to manage their finances.

The propositions that will be created and offered by Open Banking to small businesses include:

  1. Bespoke, tailored lending based on an analysis of the SME’s account data.
  2. Improved cash flow management.
  3. Integrated tax and accounting services.

Transformative financial management

Open Banking is the term used for a set of reforms implemented in January 2018, following calls for reform from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). It essentially forces UK regulated banks to allow customers to share financial data with other providers that offer apps or banking.

This is subject to the provider being authorised, and the consumer or small business giving permission. It’s hoped that this will end the monopoly of the traditional banking sector and improve financial management services for both consumers and businesses. The authorised parties are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and are on the FCA Register or the Open Banking Directory.

Opening up the market will improve small business finances

In 2018, there were 5.4 million small businesses registered in the UK, making up 96% of the total businesses in the country. This is a huge number of small businesses forming the very backbone of the UK economy.

Challenges faced by microbusinesses and SMEs include access to financial management, services and products. With few staff and fewer resources, often time is just not available for financial analysis. This can lead to small businesses missing out on assistance, loans, information and general financial help that could be critical for survival.

Statistics show that almost half of small businesses that failed to secure the full amount they wanted from a business loan simply gave up, cancelled growth plans or put their business on hold. More than two-thirds are willing to give up growth plans rather than borrow money.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited, says: “The general reluctance to access financial management assistance is one of the reasons behind the introduction of Open Banking. Small businesses will benefit from more competitive products and services within the financial sector. Open Banking is becoming a very exciting opportunity that could help to boost the country’s position on the world stage”.

“However, it can seem low priority for small business owners who are dealing with the day to day immediacy of running a business. They will begin to see more products and services opening up, even if they are not aware of the changes in the background. This can help small businesses in many ways, from speeding up access to cash, funding and loans, to assisting with realistic plans for growth. From expenses tracking to tax assistance, there are already loads of apps and services available that small businesses and sole traders should be aware of. These innovations are specifically designed to help real-life problems faced by small businesses and are provided by Fintech innovators”.

“Fintech and Open Banking have the power to give small business owners full control of their financial future. We are in the early days of this transformative time within the financial sector, but through adoption of innovative solutions, small businesses will be able to further support the country’s economy and thrive.”

 

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.

How small business owners can recoup late payments

One of the biggest problems start-ups and small businesses face are late payments. The costs to small business owners adds up to £6.7 billion per year just to chase outstanding invoices.

Clearly this is a major problem for small businesses with limited resources, and tight cashflow, as we highlighted earlier this year. In this blog we’re looking at what you can do as a small business owner to recoup late payments.

Late payments cause problems for small businesses

The threat of late payments is an ongoing problem for small businesses in the UK. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond, included plans to “tackle the scourge of late payments” in his Spring statement. This includes a requirement that big companies report how they are fulfilling their payment obligations to small businesses.

According to statistics from the Federation of Small Businesses, about 80% of small businesses have experienced late payments. The bank transfer service, Bacs, calculates that the UK’s small businesses spent £6.7 billion in 2018 collecting money and chasing invoices.

The same data shows that more than 25% of small business owners have had to pay their own suppliers later than the agreed deadline, as a knock-on effect. Just over 28% say they have slashed their own salaries to keep their business going while they wait for payment from large corporations.

Government measures on hiatus

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) states that late payments lead directly to more than 50,000 small businesses closing every year. This costs the UK economy around £2.5 million. The Government’s measures are welcome, but, as yet, there is no date set for consultation and implementation. Small businesses are still in the same position regarding late payments, until further clarification comes from the Government.

Tracking payments, chasing invoices and ensuring payment is made is an important part of managing the cashflow of a business. However, it is not always simple, particularly for small businesses and start-ups, which are forced to direct energy, time and money into customer service, business development and content marketing. Chasing payments can take up a large part of a small business owner’s day and keep them from equally essential tasks. If this sounds familiar, here are some tips on recouping payments.

How to recoup late payments from clients

The majority of small businesses are already using accounting software and processing invoices online. If you’re not, this should be your first step. Sending invoices via email means faster processing and fool-proof record keeping.

While a simple spreadsheet can be enough in the early start-up stages, dedicated invoicing software is recommended. This will allow your company to grow and seamlessly deal with invoicing. Plenty of software vendors offer a limited, free platform, so try some out before you decide which works best for you.

Keep invoices simple and professional

This may sound simplistic, but your invoices should be clear and professional, and properly reflect your brand. By ensuring clarity on your invoices, including all company and financial information relevant to both parties, you are simplifying the process of payment collection. Make your invoices so clear that there can be no misunderstanding on either side.

Similarly, displaying clear and accessible payment information will help when sorting VAT and a clear and concise delivery note can be proof of clear communication should there be a dispute. Make your invoices easy to read, with a clear and accessible layout. Your aim should be to make it as simple as possible for the client to pay your invoice. Anything that could be misinterpreted or misconstrued should be omitted.

Give your clients payment options

While some small businesses still collect payments by cheque or bank transfer, be aware that some of your clients may prefer to pay by debit or credit card. In short, don’t assume you know their payment preference, and offer alternative options where possible.

By setting up electronic invoices that allow clients to pay with one click or just a couple of steps, your software should be able to reconcile your accounts automatically. This frees up time that would have been spent manually going through records to ensure reconciliation. In turn, this saves you money.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited, says: “Unfortunately, the reality is that large corporations generally pay their suppliers late. As small businesses are often the suppliers, they are the hardest hit. However, late payments don’t just damage individual companies, but also cause harm to the wider economy.

“This is why the Government are promising to act in favour of small businesses by making larger companies accountable for their payments. The Chancellor is proposing to tackle late payments, but as this is not yet in place, small businesses must take the initiative themselves.

“Small business owners can take steps to improve payment times, by following this advice. Consider how you can ensure the entire payments and invoicing process is as easy as possible for your clients. By using clear, accurate and detailed documentation, you will minimise complications and queries. These can slow down payments even further, so by taking pre-emptive measures, you can cut down on waiting times for invoice payments. These are steps which every small business can implement immediately to help manage cashflow.”

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 consultation, 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.

 

Image Credit: tirachardz / freepik.com

What are angel investors looking for from small businesses?

Securing funding is a priority for all start-ups, entrepreneurs and small businesses. Without cashflow, it doesn’t matter how promising a business idea is. And one channel many entrepreneurs pursue for funding are angel investors.

How do angel investors work?

An angel investor is someone who uses their own personal money to invest in a small business, one that they personally consider worthwhile. They will choose businesses that have growth potential. Usually, they provide that business with equity finance and receive shares of the business in return – think a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style transaction.

Angel investors use their own experience, skills and knowledge to decide who to work with. They don’t rely on an external agent or advisor, it’s about them making gut decisions based on face-to-face meetings, or via online platforms.

A key differentiator between receiving funding from a bank and an angel investor is that you will also benefit from the angel investors contacts, experience and knowledge. Angel investors bring a lot more to the table that just funding, they can bring all kinds of networking opportunities to help the small business grow and succeed. Some choose to act passively as part of a group of investors or be the lead investor on a deal.

How can small businesses find an angel investor?

Networking is key here. The most productive way to approach an angel investor is through an introduction, either from a contact, client, other entrepreneur or even a friend. Angel investors are approached by many people with a lot of different pitches, so it can be difficult to get an ‘in’.

Events are also a possible avenue, with groups such as the UK Business Angels Association (UKBAA) regularly hosting investor forums. These can present opportunities to meet with business leaders, other entrepreneurs and potential investors. They also host regional hubs offering higher visibility of investors to entrepreneurs.

What interests an angel investor?

Investors want to understand how you are solving a problem or challenge present in society or a specific market. They will want to see market research that proves your start-up or project meets an actual need. It also must bring something disruptive or tangibly new to the market.

They also what to know that your business can be scaled, how you plan to grow, how you expect to make money and whether you’ve tested prototypes on customers. You must be able to prove there is real interest in your project. It’s not enough to turn up with an idea and expect funding, rather a strong business case must be crafted.

As well as short-term scalability, angel investors want to know about international possibilities. How will your start-up eventually fit in on a global stage?

Is there a limit on how much they can invest?

While some angel investors choose to do so alone, it’s more common to invest alongside others through syndication. The average angel investment from an individual is about £25,000. Syndicates provide approximately £190,000 on average.

Bigger SMEs on the cusp of international expansion naturally require more investment than a start-up. Investors tailor support to fit the project, something that is usually not possible from traditional lenders. Investors and the start-ups involved benefit from this flexibility.

Investing in this way usually doesn’t see a return or a possible exit for at least eight years. How long angel investors choose to remain part of the business again depends on individual circumstances. They rely on guidance from people who have long-term experience in building businesses to make decisions, as well as their own in-depth knowledge of the sector.

Start-up investment is increasing in the UK

Start-up investment is more popular and accessible in the UK than ever before. There are enough successful start-ups (for example, ASOS, JustEat and Zoopla) providing a clear framework for investors to make a decision. In addition, there are increasing policies and legislative changes implemented by various Governments to support this sector.

The biggest impact has come from the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) in the late 1990s, and the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS), implemented in 2012. Both reward investors with generous tax breaks. For example, under SEIS, it’s possible to gain up to 72.5% of the investment as tax relief.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited, says: “These kinds of tax relief schemes have been exceptionally popular with private and angel investors. Each year. They invest more than £1.5 billion into high-growth opportunities using EIS and SEIS. This is why we are seeing more angel investors wanting to become involved at the early stages of start-ups.

“Angel networks are excellent tools for investors as they present various opportunities through online platforms and pitching events. Tech start-ups in particular are seeing results from angel investors, and it offers a financing opportunity that is more flexible than traditional banks.

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.

How small business owners can become recognised as industry experts

Becoming a visible industry expert, thought leader and authority in your chosen sector helps you to build credibility and attract and retain customers. For small business owners, implementing a communications and reputation building plan will ensure that you can make your mark in a crowded field.

People will always want to listen to authority figures. Experts in their field are invaluable, encouraging customers to follow advice, engage with them, buy into products and services and remain loyal to a small business. This is the power that industry expert/authority marketing has.

Small business industry expert/authority strategy

Small businesses should capitalise on their industry expert knowledge, and combine it with a planned, strategic branding exercise. The idea is to become recognised in your particular field as the authority worth listening to.

Becoming an authority in your field isn’t quick, and it isn’t always easy. But it is important. Here’s how to maximise the potential of your small business using four industry expert/authority marketing techniques. The idea is to clearly demonstrate authority, knowledge and expertise in an accessible way, so that customers know to trust your business when they see its name.

Maximise your presence online

Every small business should have a web presence. Statistics from the Federation of Small businesses (FSB) show that, at the end of 2018 there were 5.7 million small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the UK. This accounts for more than 99% of all businesses in the country.

A substantial proportion (roughly 29%) have no web presence at all, and just under a third are not using social media channels in their marketing. An online presence is vital for running and growing a successful small business in the UK, and an integral part of building an authoritative marketing plan.

Your website is where the majority of customers will head. It’s design and UX (user-interface) is extremely important, particularly while you are working on building brand awareness. With the correct high-quality, relevant and search engine optimised (SEO) content on it, your website is the hub of your online authority.

As well as information on your business, products, services and e-commerce channels if applicable, include a specific page to showcase the company’s authority. This can either focus on the team, or you as the business owner, and should be high-quality, well written information. A dedicated page will give you the space to explain your knowledge of the industry, your company’s place within it and what you can offer.

Blog with authority and intent

High-quality blogs can go a long way in expanding your industry authority. Not only can they establish you as an industry leader, they can rank your business for relevant keywords and expand your audience and influence.

Your strategy should include regular, well-written, professional blogs. Use them to answer specific questions, to provide expert commentary on new stories involving your sector, to explain new products and services and demonstrate your overall knowledge.

If the blogs you produce are well-written, include relevant keywords and answer specific questions in an accessible way, they may well help your business to rank in Google’s search results. Many small business owners may find they don’t have the time to write high-quality content, in which case it is beneficial to outsource to a specialist content marketing agency.

Use social media to engage your audiences

Site content and blogs can be shared on your social media channels to further spread your messages and authority and involve people in your conversations. You should have a presence on social media, particularly on LinkedIn

Cultivate positive yet credible reviews

The impact of online reviews is massive. Around 93% of people say they use online reviews to make decisions when considering a product, service or business. Further data shows that 84% trust online reviews in the same way they trust recommendations from their friends.

These statistics show the power that customers have. Keeping people engaged and happy with your products, brand and services is crucial. This is particularly the case with small businesses, as you may only have a few online reviews. This makes even one negative review appearing quite damaging.

Satisfied customers show that your business is good at what it does. And if your small business does receive a negative or less than stellar online review, respond in a manner that can change it to a positive. This means listening, responding and actively working with the customer to improve their experience.

Create your own special niche

No-one can be an authority on everything, and anyone who attempts to present themselves as such will lose credibility. Customers looking for specific products or specialised information will go to a business demonstrating knowledge in that area.

To become an authority, it’s vital to be specific and demonstrate thorough and wide-ranging knowledge in your field. One way to do this is to develop and grow a business based on a relatively narrow focus. This way you can keep authority marketing, content strategy and website information focused.

 

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited, says: “It’s no longer enough to be have a great product or service and years of experience. For small businesses to stand out from the crowd, it’s important they find their voice in their specific sector. This can seem a daunting task, but by including it in your business strategy from the start, your business voice will grow with your company.

“Consider how you can harness the potential of your small business or start up to position it as an authority in your field. Even if your chosen sector is a crowded one, judicious use of social media, high-quality content and a defined strategy can ensure your voice shouts louder than the competition.”

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.