The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Member Blog - Chamber of Commerce Action for Business: An Alternative Viewpoint

By Sam Forshaw - Head of Selective Invoice Finance at Creative Capital

Recently I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak at a Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce event called Action For Business which focused on alternative finance for SMEs.

Around seventy attendees descended upon Emirates Old Trafford and I was invited to take part in a panel discussion around ‘options for non-bank finance’.

Creative Capital provides a number of facilities for SMEs including selective invoice finance, trade finance and cash flow loans. These are perfectly suited to those suffering growing pains due to restricted access to finance.

We provide short term solutions that bridge the funding gap and can provide tailored facilities with a minimum value of £5,000 all the way up to £200,000 if required.  

I was joined on the panel by Gareth Edwards from United Kapital, who provide unsecured loans and merchant cash advances, as well as Andy Thomas from Maven Capital Partners, who have a £20million fund to provide businesses in Greater Manchester with loans of between £100,000 and £750,000.

The mix of alternative lending options that the three of us represented was hopefully enlightening to the audience.

It was good to sit amongst passionate peers who appreciate that we need to work together in order to give SMEs access to a wider range of finance options than are currently available via traditional providers.

One of the questions posed to me whilst on the panel was: “Are SMEs too bank-centric?”

It is a good question and of particular relevance at a time when there’s still uncertainty around where’s best to turn for support.

Many businesses are still adjusting to the fact that the banks aren’t the only source of funding – alternative lending is still a relatively new concept.  

Whilst consumers have very quickly adopted online tools and non-institutional lenders, SMEs seem somewhat wedded to traditional channels of finance.

In the case of small business owners, many are simply not aware of the full range of finance options or providers that are willing to help businesses the banks can’t or won’t assist.

As an industry, it is our responsibility to change this and we need to make sure SMEs are informed and engaged around the alternatives that are available.

Events such as those with the Chamber of Commerce are a great platform to achieve this and we look forward to participating in many more.

http://www.creativecapitaluk.com/

Monday, 29 June 2015

Member Blog: Sports professionals’ testimonials rule changes from 2016

By Kirsty MacDonald - Senior Tax Manager at DTE Business Advisers

During 2014 HMRC announced that it plans to overhaul the way in which testimonials for sports professionals are taxed.

It has long been the case that properly organised testimonials are not subject to income tax for the sports professional in question.  This is provided that the testimonial is not granted to the sports professional by their employer.  In these circumstances, a committee should be formed to organise and manage the testimonial.  If correctly organised, it is the committee which deals with the tax compliance.

Clearly, where a sports professional is paying tax at the higher and top rates of income tax, there are advantages to being the beneficiary of a testimonial  which is organised in this way.

However, it must be noted that this treatment is derived from HMRC guidance and historical case law which is open to interpretation.

Consequently HMRC have decided to withdraw the guidance and simplify the taxation of testimonials.  With effect from 6 April 2016, HMRC plan to treat any income paid to the sports professional as a voluntary payment which arises by way of their employment.  This means that in future, this income will be taxed as earnings for the sports professional, at their marginal rate of tax.  

The withdrawal of the guidance remains under consultation, with sports lawyers and associations continuing to oppose the proposed changes.  However, fans and supporters who are considering forming testimonial committees for the benefit of a sports professional are urged to try and complete this before the end of the current tax year.

Should you have any queries regarding this, please contact Alan McCann, Head of Tax Dispute Resolution at DTE on 0161 727 1291 or amccann@dtegroup.com.

www.dtegroup.com 

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Member Blog: Why travel policy matters

By Alan McDonagh - Roomex


Just like any company policy, a well-thought out business travel policy will allow all stakeholders to be comfortable around the area of business travel. Business owners and management can be sure that their staff are staying within budget, that they are meeting their duty of care requirements in terms of level of accommodation provided, and that time is not being wasted in the organisation of business trips. A successful travel policy will often centralise expense into a few key providers giving visibility on spend and therefore negotiating power.  

Employees on the other hand will appreciate the clarity around the expectations for business travel and an easy to follow procedure.  They will also feel that they are being treated fairly and with respect as they go and represent their company to clients or prospects.

So having a good travel policy makes sense at all levels, but how do you ensure it is implemented correctly? Perhaps the answer to the question best lies in focusing on the well-established 3Cs concept: Culture, Communication and Compliance. All three are interdependent and critical to consider throughout the creation, implementation and operation of travel policy.

Different policies work in different companies, or different types of companies. For a modern hi-tech company then “gamification” of the travel policy might work. On the other hand, more established or traditional companies may have stricter policies which they insist be followed, purposely making anything booked outside of policy difficult to claim on expenses. Roomex advise that companies of all types should be striving for greater than 90% compliance with company travel policy. Booking outside of policy should be the absolute exception, and for good reason, but even this spend should be traceable. It is extremely important for overall visibility, billing, control and future contract negotiation, that as much spend as possible complies with policy.

Implementing travel policy correctly involves listening to the concerns of staff on the ground, particularly in different cultures and countries. By showing that the local staff have the ability to input into policy formulation then the actual communication of the final policy becomes much easier. Frustration is often created by language such as “should” and “may” which is too inexact and leads to doubts which in turn leads to non-compliance. Better to be bold and insist that things are followed by using “must”.

Buy-in on travel policy is required at the highest level of management but also throughout the ranks. Leakage from the policy will occur if the policy isn’t flexible, realistic, achievable and monitored. The role of the PA and administrative staff is particularly important as they often have their finger on the pulse of habits that may be difficult to change if not considered in the policy.

Finally, who should own the company travel policy? Is it Procurement, HR, Finance or a combi-nation of departments? While there is no real consensus on that, the general feeling is the role of HR is critical. Travel is a soft issue that can have big consequences in terms of morale if not handled properly and for that reason it probably fits best if it becomes part of the HR function.

For more information contact Alan McDonagh: alan@roomex.com

https://www.roomex.com/

Monday, 22 June 2015

Member Blog: Payroll giving schemes and skills-based volunteering – A way to strengthen the North West’s Voluntary Sector

By Ashlie Tottle - Communications and Marketing Manager, The Charity Service


The National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ (NCVO) UK Civil Almanac 2015(1), reports that in 2012/13 the voluntary sector contributed £12.1bn to the UK gross value added (GVA), a calculator used by the Office for National Statistics which estimates the value of production or output similar to Gross Domestic Product, comparable to the £8.3bn GVA of the agriculture sector.

More than a million employees made donations to charity through a workplace Payroll Giving scheme in 2012/13, according to revised figures by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and there was a rise in total receipts received and distributed by payroll giving agencies to UK charities from employees donating from their pre-tax pay from £118mn in 2011/12 to £155mn in 2012/13(2).

Whether donating to a charitable cause is driven by a personal ethos or sits as part of a businesses corporate social responsibility agenda, to give to charity via a regular donation through a payroll giving scheme is a tax efficient way to give and a valuable regular income stream for the charity. Payroll giving software allows for pre-tax deductions with monies taken directly from an employees’ wages. It gives the flexibility to give to a charity of choice and more than one charity if desired.

Scenario 1
You are taxed at 20% and want to give £10 per month to charity
You pledge £10 to the charity of your choice
The actual cost to you as the employee is £8.00
The tax benefit adds £2.00 bringing the donation up to £10

Scenario 2
You are taxed at 40% and want to give £10 per month to charity
You pledge £10 to the charity of your choice
The actual cost to you as the employee is £6.00
The tax benefit adds £4.00 bringing the donation up to £10

An organisation can apply for a Payroll Giving Quality Mark(3) to recognise their commitment to the scheme and once they reach a certain level of participation are eligible to apply for a Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum Award.

Payroll giving schemes, skills-based and employee supported volunteering as part of a corporate social responsibility policy can create positive PR leading to customer brand loyalty, improve staff moral and develop a health community which is essential to business.

Alex Whinnom CEO of Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation (GMCVO) is an advocate of payroll giving schemes as managed by The Charity Service and other agencies, supporter of Resonate Connect a new initiative to increase employer supported volunteering, and local “4 Goods” like TamesideWigan and Salford: “One percent of big names receive half of all charitable giving yet local good causes make such a difference to residents and communities in our city. Let’s give them more support!”

For further details about The Charity Service's payroll giving service visit  
http://www.charityservice.org.uk/our-services/services-for-business/payroll-giving/ or contact Ashlie Tottle, Communications and Marketing Manager: 
Email - Ashlie.tottle@charityservice.org.uk 
Mobile - 07730 217 954


 (1) NCVO UK Civil Society Almanac http://data.ncvo.org.uk/a/almanac15/economic-value/
 (2) Payroll Giving Centre http://www.payrollgivingcentre.com/facts%20figures.htm
 (3) Payroll Giving Centre http://www.payrollgivingcentre.com/quality%20mark%20awards.htm

Friday, 19 June 2015

Member Blog: Why businesses need a Cloud based POS system

Kailao Consulting's vision for the future of point of sale - By Marine Matringe, Marketing Manager at Kailao Consulting

Point of sale (POS) solutions are essential for proper operations and management of businesses in the retail and hospitality sectors.

A point of sale available everywhere:

Point of sale systems based in the cloud have the advantage of being accessible wherever you are, simply by logging on to the Internet portal by using a mobile device with an Internet connection. A company can then start cashing in just a few minutes.

An optimised customer experience:

Cloud based POS systems offer interactive assistance to customers. Using a tablet, the seller can instantly check a product’s stock on their point of sale, as well as in other stores. Direct access to the product portfolio enables the seller to easily answer customers’ requests. Cross-selling opportunities also increase, thanks to real time suggestions provided by a Cloud based POS system.

Simplified management:

A cloud based point of sale offers real time, 24-hour access to a company’s data and analytical tools, allowing the company to anticipate future actions required, such as replenishment of stock.

A reduced investment:

Classic point of sale systems require the purchase of a license which can be expensive for businesses. On top of that, companies have to pay for the annual maintenance and upgrades.

Cloud solutions work on an annual or monthly fee basis, which can be cancelled at any time.

Risk reduction:

The risk of credit card fraud is an important issue for businesses. The use of a Cloud based POS system reduces that risk. Major credit card companies are expected to guarantee purchases made with stolen cards, and this includes companies with a cloud based point of sale.

For more information, visit www.kailao.co.uk or call 07874 630697.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Member Blog: Smartphones – is your data safe?

By Craig Robinson - Director, Cloud 53

Are you aware that a SINGLE data protection breach can result in a fine up to £500,000?

We’ve all heard the stories of laptops (even by Government people) being left on trains or being stolen that are not encrypted…. But of course these days all company laptops are fully encrypted…aren’t they?

One area often over looked are smartphones, which let’s face it we all use far more than laptops these days but, are they encrypted? I suspect not! The chances are all your company email is on your smartphone including contacts, attachments and other sensitive material. So why do we not place the same caution on the smartphone as we do the laptop?

Whilst you cannot necessarily encrypt all smartphones you can follow some easy steps to ensure that the data contained on it is safe.

Typically companies have two sets of smartphones, those provided by the company and so known about but also more worryingly those smartphones owned by staff who like to have the company email on their smartphone, these are the ones to be most concerned about!

Do you restrict staff who can access email on their smartphones? Do you have a company policy to cover this? If you answer ‘no’ to either of these questions then please give it some thought.

With mobile device management in place you can force all phones accessing company email to be protected by a 6, 8 or 10 digit password. In addition should the device be lost or stolen then a simple ‘phone call to Cloud53 can ensure that your smartphone is wiped clean of all data so whilst you may have lost the ‘phone, your data remains safe.

To find out more about this service please contact: craig.robinson@cloud53.co.uk

http://www.cloud53.co.uk/

Friday, 12 June 2015

Member Blog - Reasons to Leap Forward

By Christoph Spiessens - Christoph Spiessens Coaching Solutions

My book, Life of a Lifetime, seems secretly popular among senior managers who are keen to restore work-life balance and find that certain "missing piece" they lost while being so busy building their careers. Here is a snippet from my book, chapter 8:

One day when I was a child, I noticed what looked like a postcard that had fallen out of my mother’s diary. It was a motivational card with a picture of a frog on it. The frog was sitting on a lily pad drifting in a pond, looking at another lily pad and wondering whether it would be able to leap to the other pad without falling in the water. This was many years ago, and I can still remember the powerful effect the image on the postcard had on me. Even more powerful was the motivational quote written at the bottom of the card – “Go ahead. You can do it!

Now, I wouldn’t want to compare you to a frog! But are you sitting there, looking at the next lily pad in your life? Do you want to leap ahead but are contemplating if you should? Do you wonder if it’s safe for you to leap? If you will make it? Whether it’s the right pad? Or if maybe you should try leaping on another one – maybe one that’s a bit closer? I can give you eight good reasons why you can leap forward!

Look, even if the frog ends up in the water, it will survive. That’s for sure. And so will you. That’s also for sure. However, I don’t want falling into the water to even be an option for you. You're reading this because you feel intrigued by what it has to offer. And I believe that means you are ready to bring about some kind of change in your life. Am I right?

That change can be a large project or perhaps a dream you want to realise, such as setting up a business or training to run a marathon. But it can also be a very personal aspiration, such as becoming more confident and self-assured. Or perhaps you want to develop your innate skills and talents further or achieve certain professional goals. All types of change are grand in their own unique way. And all types of change are within leaping reach in your pond of life. When you decide you want to bring about change in your life, you are deciding to embark on a journey. A fascinating journey filled with both hesitation and excitement. A journey to the next phase of your life. Whatever the change you aim for, the journey will lead you to a place where you’ll discover many new things and accelerate your personal and spiritual growth. But the only way to discover what the next phase in your life holds for you is to leap toward that next lily pad in your pond. And I want to give you extra motivation to do so. Here’s why I believe you can leap forward. Here are the reasons why I say to you, “Leap ahead! You can do it!”

Continue reading at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/eight-reasons-leap-forward-christoph-spiessens?trk=prof-post

http://www.christophspiessens.com/

Monday, 8 June 2015

Member Blog: Compliance Needn’t Be A Nightmare

By Ruban Rajasooriyar at Doctech (Document Management Technology Ltd)


While specific document compliance requirements vary by industry, three areas present common challenges: taxes, contracts and healthcare regulations.

According to research by the International Data Corporation (IDC), broken document processes have led to significant business risks and compliance incidents for three out of four companies.
The IDC survey found that 75.9 percent of respondents “suffered severe consequences.” Broken down further:

36.2 percent failed to meet compliance requirements
30.2 percent lost key employees
24.9 percent lost major customers
24.8 percent had a major IT breach
20.4 percent were pulled into a major audit
19.1 percent suffered a major PR crisis

Inefficient or ineffective document management results in unnecessary costs, but it also puts many companies at serious risk of a compliance nightmare. An effective document management system helps companies reduce or even eliminate these problems.

1. Tax regulations: A country’s taxation authority typically requires organisations to retain certain financial documents for specific time periods. In Europe, companies are also required to provide government auditors with automatic access to these documents. Companies that fail to retain the records necessary to comply with tax regulations may incur fines commensurate with the severity of the infraction. Combined with the time the company must spend to resolve the issue, these fines are often quite costly. With an electronic document management system, it’s possible to eliminate the risk of losing or misplacing these documents, helping ensure financial compliance. All of your documents, including correspondence, are safely stored in a central repository. This centralized storage makes finding documents fast and easy while eliminating the problem of tracking down documents that were filed incorrectly. With a document management solution, you have 24/7 access, so you don’t have to rely on employees to remember what they did with an important document.

2. Contract management: Companies may be required to follow specific regulations for documenting and managing contracts. In the event of a dispute or lawsuit with a customer or supplier, you must be able to show which contract was used at a certain time and track signatures and updates. If you’re using a paper-based filing system, locating old contracts and all of the related correspondence and documentation is time-consuming and expensive. Document management software improves visibility into processes such as contract management. With a couple of mouse clicks, you’re able to see the complete history of a contract, including dated versions, along with supporting documentation and correspondence. Instead of having to search through separate email, paper and electronic filing systems, document management gives you a single view of any project, case or discussion.

3. Healthcare regulations: Each country has certain process and documentation regulations that apply to companies working in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. For a pharmaceutical company in the United States, for example, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires specific types of documentation for drug development, testing and manufacturing. Failing to comply with these regulations could result in losing an essential certification, putting the future of the company at grave risk.

A good way to ensure compliance for specific processes is to build workflows in a document management system. These rule-based workflows help ensure that all of the steps are followed correctly, such as sending a document through quality assurance or to another department for approval.

As these three examples illustrate, using an effective document management system helps companies reduce or even eliminate many common compliance problems.

If you’re ready to learn more about compliance management software, contact Doctech today for a free consultation and comprehensive cost-benefit analysis.

Call +44 (0) 1706 833610, email sales@doctech.co.uk, or visit www.doctech.co.uk

Friday, 29 May 2015

Member Blog: The Importance of Business Travel

By Alan McDonagh - Roomex


Recent rises and falls in business sentiment have been reflected in the amount of business related travel being carried out by company executives.

As the recession bit, and costs were cut, approval for business related travel was slashed across all industries but recent reports suggest this reactionary policy was a mistake. The US Travel Association’s 2013 “Travel Effect” report detailed statistical modelling carried out over 18 years and 14 industries which indicates that for every dollar spent on business travel, US companies have experienced a $9.50 return in terms of revenue.

Oxford Economics reports that companies that held firm and continued to travel during the recession are now reaping the rewards as they are better positioned to avail of an uptake in the clients’ fortunes. Not all cuts are smart cuts and surely turning off face to face time with your clients or prospects, the very people that can help you turn around your business fortunes is the least smart cut of all.

All indicators are that business travel is bouncing back after a difficult couple of years. Roomex, a leading corporate hotel booking platform and Chamber member has just completed its Q1 2015 year review and the numbers are very encouraging, some of the key findings:

Corporate hotel bookings through Roomex for Business are up by over 50% over the same period last year
International travel has increased by 23%
Availability in key locations remains an issue as occupancy rates are often above 90%

Business travellers are on the road more often with each of Roomex’s top corporate clients having booked more room nights this year than in the same period last year. Roomex constantly strives to control the cost of this increased travel even though room rates have increased throughout UK and Europe. Business executives instinctively know the importance of their face-to-face meetings with almost two-thirds stating that increasing business travel expenditure would have a positive impact on company revenue and profitability. They also believe that 40% of existing customers would eventually be lost without in-person meetings.

As companies do begin to travel more again it is often under the control of more restrictive travel policies. Roomex for Business is founded on saving time and money for its corporate clients. Critically, Roomex has managed to return an average saving of 21% to their clients in Q1 2015 and this comes at no cost to the customer. A clear message from their customer base is that they want more control over their travel management programme. Strong contracting, technology and customer support are the key ingredients that allow that control to be ceded directly to travel bookers, giving them the tools to book hotels 24/7 on a device of their choice.

For more information contact Alan McDonagh: alan@roomex.com

https://www.roomex.com/


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Member Blog: 5 tips on achieving steady and successful business growth

Most business owners want to see their companies grow, but if you’re not prepared, it could result in financial catastrophe. Here, Warren Jacobs, MD of Manchester-based Digital Marketing firm ActiveWin Media, gives us his top 5 tips on achieving steady and successful business growth.


Be realistic about what you offer and what you don't 

Some of the best advice I ever received was to be sure about what you do and to not over-stretch yourself. Instead of trying to be a jack of all trades, strive to be the master of one - your area of expertise.

Many businesses make the mistake of offering too many services to expand into new markets. Be true to what you do and focus on what you do best. This will prevent any undue pressure on your team and business.

Set SMART goals for your team and business

Leaders in all industries know how important it is to set attainable and effective business goals.
The SMART system helps both employees and employers understand the goals that have been set and the process by which they will be achieved.

S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Achievable
R = Relevant
T = Timeline

Breaking objectives down makes it easier to measure outcomes. Target setting is essential to business success.

Have patience

Patience, we are so often told, is a virtue. And sustainable business growth requires not just patience but also perseverance.

While it’s advised that business owners and entrepreneurs enter the market as early as possible when they spot an opportunity or gap, jumping in without sufficient planning can be detrimental to the business.

Take time to consider and develop concepts, invest time and resources in building up the business and focus on your long term objectives and growth vision.

Happy employees make for happy clients (and will help your bottom line!)

Business owners focused on growth and longevity have three bottom line considerations; financial, environmental and social.

It is our responsibility as business owners to discover ways of increasing employee satisfaction, which organically leads to a better service for clients.

It is my mission as MD of ActiveWin to deliver the best experiences - not only clients, but also staff. If business owners engage with, invest in, and nurture their workforce, customer satisfaction is never far behind.

Simple, thoughtful steps can create a culture that induces employee happiness and contentment.

Listen, learn and gain trust

A thriving business understands that customer loyalty and satisfaction drives revenue. Loyalty is achieved when the other party feels connected to your brand and business and they are understood and heard.

When we partner with a new brand, the first thing we do is hold training workshops with the client to understand their business inside out. We then hold regular face to face meetings with our clients in the UK and abroad.

For our overseas clients and affiliate partners, we travel to the USA, Gibraltar, Germany, Israel, Spain and Amsterdam to meet with them. Multiple daily calls ensure our clients know exactly what we are working on. We take great care in setting realistic expectations, and maintain total transparency of activity and results to clients. We firmly believe in integrity, which leads to the building of trust. Customer satisfaction is at the heart of everything we do.

We’ve recently been awarded an International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) 9001 certificate, which shows existing and new clients that we are a trusted supplier, dedicated to providing the highest level of quality and service.

http://www.activewin.co.uk/