Monday, 31 December 2007

Looking forward to 2008?

As tomorrow, 1st January is a UK holiday, I am posting this entry a little early so Happy New Year!

The beginning of a new year is a good time to be thinking about what could be coming and anticipating what it means for the small and medium size business.

First of all just before Christmas we had all that gloom about the expected poor times for retailers but not unexpectedly suddenly the shops filled up just after some big price reductions. You see the UK consumer is getting used to a pattern hold off with your purchases and bingo just see those last minute reductions!

So perhaps there may be a lesson for the retail sectors i.e. don’t panic and slash your prices too early.

The move to buying via the internet also had an effect with another dramatic increase in gift buying on line.

My 2008 tip to ‘e-tailors’ in the UK though is to make sure that you look at your delivery systems especially if you have used the Royal Mail up until now people are going to be wary of doing business with anyone who relies on them. We all have seen the long lines of people trying to find out if their gifts were held up at the parcels depots. Customers will long remember being let down and especially if their kids were missing some of the presents that they were expecting.

Now onto the money, the UK fall out from the sub-prime lending crisis has had an effect on all lending especially to businesses.
I am not joining the recession bandwagon but expect a slowing of the economy as people sit back and take stock, reducing their debts.

The coming year is likely to be one where banks are more cautious. What this means for the small and medium business is the bank will keep a closer eye on your overdraft and borrowing. Requests for increases in overdrafts or additional lending will be looked at more critically so your business plan will need to be bullet proof especially the numbers, (bank mangers will try to break your projections and see if the lending proposal is still viable).

My network of senior people at the banks are telling me that they will be examining their client lists (portfolios in banker speak) and looking out for clients who could be struggling as the lending gets tighter.

The UK Bank Base Rate is I believe likely to drop 3-4 times this year by a quarter of a point each time.

If your business is affected by the housing market then I am predicting a gradual slowing of the market (no big crashes just more sensible pricing of houses resulting in a smaller increase in values). This I believe means that coupled with the introduction of the Home Information Pack (HIP) people are less likely to move as readily as in the last few years. This could mean that they will spend money on improving what they have already so opportunities there then!

The commercial property market is a different matter, there seems to be a lot of empty property available at the moment and the market feel is that the increases in value that have been gained are at risk. In the short term we could even see recent gains wiped out.

Do remember though that property is a longer term investment; so don’t panic.

So what should you be doing this coming year?

1 Examine all costs and overheads trim where you can.

2 Revisit your business plan now and see what effect a slight slowdown would have for your business forecasts. If you haven’t got a business plan then how do you expect to anticipate and be ready for what comes?

3 Examine your business finances if your overdraft is fairly consistently in the red then covert some of it to a commercial loan (it’s safer and cheaper).

4 If you are selling on line make sure that you revisit your delivery carriers

5 Someone’s losses are another one's potential gains look for opportunities resulting from the economic picture.

6 I am being biased here, but get someone in from the outside to look at your business to carry out a business diagnostic many of us don’t charge for that. If any consultancy or mentoring needs are identified see them as an investment not a cost. If the consultant/mentor knows what they are doing they will save you many times what they cost and or increase your profits.

Lastly I am not predicting a recession in the UK just some sensible and timely belt tightening.

Alan Briggs

Dynamic Business Strategies Ltd
Tel: 07917 446068


Good Practice for a Successful Business

This year again I have helped many businesses, some whom were on the road to success and needed help to step up to the next phase of growth, but also a lot that were in trouble.

Of the successful ones that I helped to grow significantly there were a number of elements that were common:

We ensured that they researched their marketplace.
We developed a good USP.
They had been set up with sufficient capital investment at the start and ensured enough finance to fund the growth.
Marketing effort was fully controlled and measured.
We also established good financial and business controls.

Lastly and very importantly they got outside advice and guidance, listened and implemented the suggestions and techniques.

Alan Briggs

Dynamic Business Strategies Ltd

The Counting House
14 Walford Place

Tel: 07917 446068


Friday, 28 December 2007

David & Goliath, or a Case Stranger than Fiction!

Sometimes I am asked to deal with a problem that everyone else has turned down i.e. ‘the lost cause,’ often these are the most satisfying and on the face of it challenging projects.

The strangest one last year was the owners of an ostrich farm based in the heart of a residential commuter area who wanted to build a family home on the site. Sounds reasonable one would think especially as the couple and their children in their twenties had been living in a mobile home on the site for ten years.

The couple had established a farm business which predominately was based on a breeding flock of some 40 female ostriches – they also had incubation and hatching facilities developed in the last few years so that they could sell young ostrich chicks and eggs.

The local Borough Council planning committee had turned down their application for an agricultural workers dwelling earlier that year, despite a Council Officer’s recommendation for approval. Although their agricultural consultant provided additional information – mainly financial and related data during the course of the previous year this did not change the elected Councillors minds, although Officers maintained their recommendation for approval throughout.

There was considerable local opposition to the business from neighbours, including the local Residents Association; it was believed that their representations had strongly influenced Councillors to go against their Officer’s advice. One or two Councillors in particular had been very vocal in their objection to the business – and it was believed to have clouded their judgement in their interpretation of the relevant Government criteria against which the business should be judged in a democratic society.

As the case had been refused a Local Council planning appeal it was now going to a Planning Public Inquiry within the next 6 weeks and they needed to get an argument ready for the planning application appeal and issue evidence to the Inspectorate quickly.

In agricultural dwelling cases there are two tests that the Government requires to be met before an agricultural tied dwelling can be built – the functional and financial tests.

There was no disagreement between the parties that the daily welfare needs of the ostriches meant the functional test was met. Furthermore, the financial test breaks down into a number of component parts as follows:-

“The unit and the agricultural activity concerned must have been established for at least three years” – the Council accept this test was met.

“The business must have been profitable for at least one of these last three years” – the Council accept this test was met.
“That the unit and the agricultural activity are currently financially sound” – again, the Council accept that this was met.

The fourth test is that the business must have a reasonable prospect of remaining so, i.e. profitable/viable/sound.

The stumbling point that was the key to the problem was the fourth test. It was this test that the Council and more especially the objectors did not accept as satisfied, and did not accept on the basis of the information that had been provided, including markets for the ostrich meat etc. that the business is likely to remain viable into the future.
So having met with the couple and their agricultural consultant at the farm I identified that the chair of the residents association happened to own the house next to the farm, also she had a long term happy relationship with the council officers and councillors and had a strong weight of local support.
I recognised that the solution was to the problem was to produce a business viability report to support the application the report needed to be heavily based around undeniable market research that proved a long term growth market for both the ostrich meat and the eggs.

The Council produced no professional evidence or other analysis to show that the market for ostrich products is likely to fail but argued that despite the reasonable past performance a large supermarket had tried to sell ostrich meat as a pilot and it had withdrawn the products due to poor sales.

The report that I produced within a week included an analysis on the likely future prospects for ostrich products within the UK- low fat, high protein, locally grown meats – sold at farmers’ markets and other specialist outlets and proved that the prospects for the business were excellent. Our key argument was that the meat produced should be marketed through what is now a vibrant farmer’s market sector where a large and growingly informed public are making food choices based on health, the environment and the wish to try new things. All of this market information was gathered using the internet.

So what was the result? The public enquiry was held and evidence was heard from the Council, the objectors and the owner’s team.

The chair of the enquiry then arrived at the decision to approve the application allowing the building of the house. The chair spoke a great length about how the decision had been swayed by the viability report’s evidence and the argument about the potential market and the change in public tastes and buying choices.

The lessons here are:

The devil is in the detail, good market research no matter how simply collected is always critical for any business situation.

Remember if you make sure that you have the right ammunition in your slingshot, then you too can fell a giant with a single shot.

Alan Briggs

Dynamic Business Strategies Ltd
Tel: 07917 446068


Thursday, 27 December 2007

Why Don't Businesses Seek Help Until Too Late?

As a business consultant probably 20% of the businesses that I have referred to me are seriously under performing or are in big trouble.

So why is that?

Well a mixture of reasons:

The ostrich syndrome, "its too painful to deal with so I'll ignore it."
The miracle wisher "if we could only get a big order it will all come right."
The change resister, (they ignore what's changing around them), and in any case, "we have always done it this way."
Ignoring the obvious, "I know we should not have reallied on one big customer for 80% of our sales, but we got on so well with them."
Ignorance, "We don't have time to keep monthly management accounts."

Often they only time many of these cases really see any figure is the end of year accounts from their accountant and even then they don't understand them.

But the two biggest reasons these businesses don't get help are:
They are too embarrassed or feel a loss of pride.
Or the old chestnut, "I don't need to pay someone else to come in and tell me what I already know."

Be honest, with yourself, If any of this sound s familiar then get help quickly, often if the businesses that failed got advice earlier on they could have been rescued.

Alan Briggs
Dynamic Business Strategies Ltd
Tel: 07917 446068

Monday, 24 December 2007

Is The Customer King?

For those of us who have been around the business world for more years that we want to admit to, the phrase ‘The Customer is King’ is a familiar cry.

Unfortunately on a daily basis I seem to be falling over suppliers, shops and businesses that have forgotten this vital rule.

My wife tells me that I am the world worst customer, I guess thats true if that means I only give one second chance to get it right to suppliers and shops.

In many cases these are businesses that are quality accredited. They have great systems to register complaints, customer service people by the drove and lots of quality policies and procedures. The trouble is that if all this forgets that at the centre of it all should be one aim,
satisfying the customer, then it’s all just been a paper exercise.

Several things should be remembered:

Customers will often remember and recommend the supplier’s who go the extra mile to put right a mistake or redress a problem quickly and without fuss, (probably more so than the suppliers who have not caused them a problem).

Quality service is not expensive, but lost business and reputation is.

At the end of the day it’s the customer who pays for the wages of everyone they deal with!

Alan Briggs

Dynamic Business Strategies Ltd

The Counting House
14 Walford Place

Tel: 07917 446068


Monday, 1 October 2007

Succession Planning for Smaller Businesses

Any business owner, especially those in a family business, will tell you how hard it was to establish their businesses, then build it and make it successful, let alone having to worry about how they might ever leave them!

But those who are trapped in their business know is not a happy place to be. Unfortunately too many owner-managers find themselves completely shackled to their businesses because they didn’t plan ahead. Once a business is up-and-running successfully, there should be no more important an issue to address than Succession Planning, with as long a time-scale for its execution as you can possibly manage.

Clarification - Exit Strategies versus Succession Planning

Those owners who have had to raise funds to buy or develop their business may have been asked by their accountants, ‘what about your exit strategy’? If they have ever approached business angels or venture capitalists, they most certainly will have!

But, ‘exit strategies’ are not the same as ‘succession plans’. Exit strategies tend to focus specifically on how the owners may optimise the capital value of the investment in their business through an eventual sale. Of course you may not want to sell your business when the time comes to move on from your executive duties. Or you may have family members or loyal colleagues already identified to whom you want to pass the business on to. Whatever the choice, you will still need to plan for your succession.

An exit strategy without a succession plan is rather like a car with no engine: worth no more than scrap value. Neither will take you very far…

Why plan for your succession?

Here are three stories that will make you shiver – feel relaxed. Names have been changed to protect identities, but these are real people in real situations!

Alan set up a perfect business 20 years ago. Time came for Alan to move on, but he had made just one big mistake. No bank was willing to support an outside buyer because none believed his company was independent of him. Alan had no succession plan.

Alan’s business had been established for some years. Alan had found a highly profitable niche market that served a captive, long-term, customer base. His business model was sound. His company’s products carried no ‘big ticket’ purchase prices and therefore did not require main Board approvals. Even better, his products were only bought by large, financially secure customers whose main concern was faultless delivery.

Alan’s company had some great long-term contracts (which external funders will always look for), with many more prospective clients to develop (and funders love that too!), the business had a solid reputation which would support further growth - with proven potential for any new owner. Any investors would now be really excited!

Alan had a new wife and wanted to sell and go round the world with his new wife. He had three senior managers, all excellent at their jobs, but they were on ‘second careers’, working part-time for the fun of it. Not one of his senior managers was committed to staying with the business should he sell it.

Some ten years later, Alan has still not managed to find a buyer for his company. He is running a very profitable business, with part-time senior managers and still with no succession plan in place.

Alan’s his wife isn’t happy with him spending so much time on his business but he can’t find anyone who might run his business better than him.

And maybe he never will!

Liz was very different from Alan.

She established a business more than 15 years ago at the age of 50, within five years she realised she recognised that she needed a much larger infrastructure around to take the business to the next level and beyond, preferably with people young enough to take over from her in due course. So she set out to do just that.

First Liz first expanded the team recruiting younger people, which included her two oldest children as recently-qualified professionals.
However as the team developed, Liz found they didn’t always appreciate the difference between being an ‘expert’ in their professions and the vastly different management challenges of running a demanding business. Several said privately that what Liz did in actually running the business, was ‘self-evident’ and ‘trivial’ - compared to their own tactical but highly specialist contributions.
To make things worse (as many of my clients report in these situations!), Liz felt increasingly under-valued as the business founder. But, she persevered with her longer-term plans.

She then recruited some outside help for her business in the shape of a Non-Executive Director, and they drew up a strategic plan and devised long-term management development and mentoring for her next generation of managers. This was a challenging time for them all. But Liz’s visionary succession plans paid off in spades.

Seven years later, Liz began to sell her shares in the business to her management team in small parcels as they developed. She then passed on the post of MD to her eldest son and became Non-Executive Chairman.In the last three years, her business now has a hugely capable executive board comprising her two children and three other professionals, the business has grown more than threefold - and profits have quintupled. All her team have become very wealthy through her enlightened generosity. Alan would be deeply jealous!

Sometimes though, succession planning has nothing to do with your existing Team, or your own family.

Neil established a company based on his own academic research, and quickly gathered 4 more researchers like him to invest in his business idea. Of course building their business took a while because, unlike Alan and Liz, none was sure if there was a market for their ideas.

Happily, Neil and his colleagues did find a market. He also found that most of his founding investors didn’t want the tedium of business management, but they very much enjoyed contributing technically.

Neil’s had planned ahead of course – and considered not just how to commercialise the opportunities they had found, but how to develop them as a ‘real business’.

After recruiting brining in a consultant to guide him and to offer broader business mentoring, the first thing Neil did was to create a detailed succession planning strategy, to find some carefully-selected senior managers to fill the management gaps that were identified and start to devolve responsibilities in a smooth and planned way.

Less than eight years on, Neil sold his business and is a multi-millionaire. He has also made his original shareholders and senior managers millionaires.

The Moral

The lesson to be learned here is that every business and especially family businesses need to plan for succession or you will find the future that you had in mind doesn’t turn out as expected.

Contact us today on 07917 446068 or e-mail for a free business diagnostic and plan for the brighter, richer future that you want and deserve.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

New Requirements for Driving Impacts All Businesses!

A new Government initiative designed to impact businesses employing 5 employees and over could still affect those with less than 5 staff. The requirements cover both employees driving company vehicles but also employees driving their own cars during work related activities even on a limited basis.

Although the new Department for Transport (DfT). ‘Driving for Work’ initiative was drafted to cover enterprises with 5 and over employees most businesses are unaware that the overarching duty of care for employees under Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 would mean that these requirements result in the need for businesses of all sizes to comply with most of the procedures. There is also a duty of care to others who may be affected by their business activities, which, in the case of driving, means all other road users. Therefore all enterprises should have a 'driving for work' policy then manage their risks accordingly.

Read the notes below and speak to us today to find out how we can help you to comply at minimal cost, for more information Click here

Still Not Convinced it’s Important That You to Act Today?

Here are some frightening statistics!

  • There are an estimated 3 million company cars on the roads and roughly 1 in 3 will be involved in an accident each year.²
  • Company drivers who drive more than 80% of their annual mileage on work related journeys have more than 50% more injury accidents than similar drivers who do no work related mileage.²
  • Business drivers have collision rates that are 30 – 40% higher than those of private drivers.
  • Every week around 200 road deaths and serious injuries involves someone at work.
    About 300 people are killed each year as a result of drivers falling asleep at the wheel.
  • About 4 in 10 tiredness-related crashes involve someone driving a commercial vehicle.²
  • Work-related road accidents are the biggest cause of work-related accidental death. Between 800 and 1000 people are killed annually in work-related road traffic accidents compared to approximately 250 fatalities due to accidents notified annually under the Reporting of Injuries Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR).

    1 National Travel Survey
    2 DFT Road Research Report No. 51

So what is the business case for this initiative?

Work-related road accidents have more hidden costs many employers realise. The cost is much more than the garage bill for the damaged vehicle and in many cases less might be covered by insurance than can be assumed. It has been estimated that the full cost to the employer might be £8 to £36 for every pound paid on an insurance claim. Some items cannot be covered by insurance.

The following is a list of items business may find they have to cover themselves:

  • Loss of company reputation and contracts
  • Fines and costs of prosecution
  • Damage to products/ plant/ building and equipment
  • Staff down time for medical appointments/attendance at court etc
  • Replacement staff costs and sick pay
  • Loss of production or production delays
  • Increased insurance premiums and excess
  • Excess on a claim
  • Offenders’ own legal fees
  • Claims from third parties
  • Accident investigation and paperwork
  • Repairs to damaged equipment
  • Alternative transport for repair duration
  • Inconvenience
  • Re-delivery
  • Management and administrative time.

Of course it’s best not to have a crash in the first place - and it’s been proven that some simple measures any firm can take will make one much less likely.

The Benefits to the Employer
The benefits of implementing and managing a driving for work policy include:

  • Reduced accident losses
  • Defence against criminal prosecutions and civil litigation
  • Lower insurance premiums
  • Lower transport costs
  • Improved business performance
  • More effective vehicle use
  • Less down time
  • Improved safety culture
  • Improved public image
  • Higher staff morale

What do you need to do?

The basic system for managing ‘driving for work’ comprises the following elements:

  • Draw up an overall policy statement
  • carry out risk assessments
  • minimise risk through control measures
  • implement rules and procedures
  • manage data recording
  • audit, communication and review

Friday, 3 August 2007

Angels Rush in Where Banks Fear to Tread

A Guide to Business Angels and Venture Capital investment

Business Angels can offer investment, particularly in the early or growth stages of development, in return for equity.
Of course because of the risk to their funds, investors expect a higher potential return than for safer, more secure investments.

Equity Finance is often a suitable option where:
• the nature of a business or project deters other debt providers, e.g. banks
• the business does not have enough cash to pay loan interest because it is needed for business activities or funding growth.

The questions business owners should ask themselves include:

• Are they prepared to give up a share in their business and some control?
Investors expect to monitor progress and most will want involvement in significant decisions.
• Are the owners and their key people confident in the business 'product/service?
· Does the product or service have a unique selling point that singles it out?
• Do they have the drive to grow the business?
• What industry experience and knowledge does the management team have? Is there a variety of skills required to grow the business?

After considering the above, owners should seek advice from a professional adviser.

So what are Business Angels?

Business Angels (‘BA’s’) are independently wealthy individuals who invest in high-growth business in return for a significant equity share in the business. Some ‘BA’s’ invest on their own, others do so as part of a network, syndicate or investment club. In addition to money, ‘BA’s’ often make their own skills, experience and contacts available to the company.

‘BA’s’ will typically invest in businesses with:

• an investment requirement of between £10,000 and £250,000, (most initial investments are less than £75,000).
• who have the potential for generating a high return for the Angel – unlike other sources of finance ‘BA’s’ are not averse to high risk scenarios
• good early stage development or expansion
• a presence in a particular sector.

If a business successfully attracts a business angel investment, they're likely to find it easier to secure further funding from other sources.

The advantage of using a business angel is that they often make an investment decision quickly, without complex assessments.
However, owners will still need a professional and tailored business plan.
Most business angels can bring valuable first-hand experience of either working in a small business or running their own business venture. They're also likely to have local knowledge, as they tend to focus their investments within a small geographical area.

Some ‘BA’s’ may be eligible to have their investment funds matched by the UK
Government under its Enterprise Capital Funds (ECF’s) scheme.
ECF’s are commercial funds, investing a combination of private and public money against a share of equity in small high-growth businesses seeking up to £2 million of equity finance.

There are of course disadvantages, business angels don't make investments very regularly and may not be actively looking for an opportunity, so they may be difficult to find. While you may decide to approach use an adviser to help you with this link up, business angels will place a lot of emphasis on the chemistry with the owner and how well they can work together directly with the owner and the management team. Tracking down the right investor may take longer than expected and can typically take several months but business owners can short cut this by working with an experienced consultant.
A consultant experienced in working with Business Angels and Venture Capitalists will guide a business owner through the minefield and help to get a business investment ready, helping to prepare an tailored business plan and to prepare the business owners for a presentation or ‘elevator pitch.’ The current TV series ‘The Dragons Den’ gives a flavour of the presentation process but of course it not entirely accurate as the ‘Dragons’ don’t get the business plan and a lot of dramatic licence is used.

The Exit
Usually at an agreed point in the future the BA will want to sell their shares and realise a significant return on their investment, when this happens in many cases the owners will want to buy out the ‘BA’s’ shareholding. Of course in a significant proportion of cases they don’t have enough money to do this. In this scenario the ‘BA’ will sell and the owner will be forced to agree or sell their share to the same buyer (this is known as the ‘drag along’ clause and is contained in the investor agreement which is set up at the beginning.
Alternatively If you the owners want to exit the business and sell their shares to a third party obviously the ‘BA’ would have to agree and would expect to also sell their share holding to the same buyer again this is included in the investor agreement (known as a ‘tag along’ clause.

This varies vastly dependent on the investment groups that are approached also there are seem to be some unscrupulous consultants charging extortionate fees to help prepare business plans and get owners investor ready.

Click here to contact us for more information and hear how we can help owners become investor ready and link owners directly to BA’s at low cost

Venture Capital
Venture Capital is also known as private equity finance. Unlike Business Angels, venture capitalists (VC’s) look to invest very large sums of money in return for some of a business' shares.

VC’s typically invest in businesses with:
• a minimum investment requirement of around £2 million, though many smaller regional VC organisations may invest from £50,000.
• an ambitious but realistic business plan.
• a product or service that provides a unique selling point or other competitive advantage
• a large earning potential and offering a high return on investment within a specific time frame, e.g. five years
• sound management expertise – unlike Business Angels, VC’s tend not to get involved in the day-to-day running of the business, although they may help with a business' strategy.
• a proven track record - for this reason start-ups are generally not considered by VC’s for investment

The advantages of securing a VC are that they can provide large sums of equity finance and bring a wealth of strategic expertise to a business. Again, like the business angel investment if a business successfully attracts a VC, they're likely to find it easier to secure further funding from other sources.

The disadvantage is that securing a deal with a VC can be a long, expensive and complex procedure. Businesses are required to draw up a very detailed business plan, including financial projections for which businesses are likely to need professional help.
Also, if owners get through to the deal negotiation stage, they will have to pay significant legal, accounting and other fees whether or not are successful in securing funds.

The Exit
At the exit point, (agreed at the beginning) normally the business is sold as a whole even if the owners don’t want to. So this needs to be kept in mind, (the only other options may be through a management buy out, (MBO) and refinancing which would normally involve refinancing the business.

Click here to contact us for more information and hear how we can help owners become VC ready and link owners directly to Venture Capitalists at low cost

Tuesday, 29 May 2007


Money is vital to any business it is the life blood that keeps it alive.

When I visit clients to conduct a free business diagnostic I regularly hear the same comments:

‘We are regularly exceeding our overdraft’!

‘We never seem to have enough money!’

‘We always have trouble getting paid.’

The starting point in putting things right is normally to explain this old business maxim which is as still true today as when it was first made:

‘Turnover is vanity, Profit is sanity, and Cash is reality’.

Unfortunately many businesses do not remember this and often chase turnover to solve the cashflow problem, after all more sales = more cash right! Sadly this is wrong and in a lot of cases businesses pays the ultimate price, bankruptcy. Businesses are commonly Over Trading or Trading Insolvently without even knowing it.

Firstly does the business have Sales, Cashflow and Profit & Loss forecasts, (they must include columns for forecast and actual, most that I see don’t).

My next move is to check that business has costed and priced their products or services correctly and are charging an appropriate price.

Thirdly do they specify their trading terms in writing and enforce them.

After that what are their debtor days, (how long are they waiting to get paid) and examine ways to improve their credit control.

Of course businesses are not always financed to the appropriate level, with enough money to fund their survival or stage of growth and maximising the use of the right type of finance is important.

The most common source of funding is the bank, however businesses often utilise the bank products and services in the wrong way.
For instance let’s say that a business has an agreed overdraft limit of £5,000 but the business constantly operates their account with the overdraft fluctuating from £3,500 to £5,000 but it never drops below £3,500.
The business should consider changing the £3,500 solidified debt into a commercial loan and then change the overdraft to cover the fluctuating debt of £1,500. This could dramatically save money in interest charges. Additionally it will secure the bank lending so that a change of circumstances or change of bank manager does not result in the risk that the overdraft could be cut impacting seriously on the business.

There are other ways to fund cashflow.

Firstly examine if the terms of trade with your suppliers can be extended. At the beginning businesses are usually paying on Pro-forma (payment with order or cash on delivery, C.O.D.). Once some trading history has been built up it is usually possible to agree improved terms ie 30 days. Sometimes this can be increased to a longer period dependent on the industry norms. But remember just simply taking longer to pay your supplier can damage your relationship or even affect your credit history and rating when you try to get other products or services on account. And you never know when you will need a favour from your supplier.

The source of funding that should always be pursued is savings or family & friends but make sure that there is an agreement drawn up to protect all parties.

Invoice Discounting
This is also known as ‘factoring.’ Put simply the finance company inspect your books and agree to pay you a percentage of the value of invoices that you send to your regular clients at the time you issue them and pay most of the rest of the value when they get paid.
They can either run your debtor book for you chasing the payments or you can be responsible for chasing payments. Obviously in the first case it relives you from that time consuming and some times uncomfortable chore but the cost are higher and you may feel that your clients might not like someone with whom they do not have a business relationship chasing them form money.

Asset Based Lending
This is a similar form of financing and the finance company agree to provide you with a percentage of the value of your sales even before you invoice, this is especially helpful to businesses who do not invoice until the end of the project. The facility allows manufacturing businesses or other industries like builders to fund the cost of materials and labour or other processes which extend the time before the business gets paid. Again the finance company inspect your books and agree to pay you a percentage of the value of the sales. Debts can be secured against stock, machinery, premises, invoices and even brands

E-mail me today to receive a Finance Options Table showing various funding options, costs and initial guidance to help you to select the best option for your situation.

These issues are just the starting point.

There are other financial issues for businesses, Commercial Loans, decisions about how best to buy an asset (Leasing Vs Purchasing).

Then the thorny subjects of equity investment in the business, capital purchases, bringing in outside investors etc.

Those are all subjects for another day so watch out for the next finance posting.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Code for Leasing Business Premises

A new code of conduct has been developed which aims to promote fairness in commercial leases, and recognises a need to increase awareness of property issues, especially among small businesses, ensuring that occupiers of business premises have the information necessary to negotiate the best deal available to them.

‘The Code for Leasing Business Premises in England and Wales 2007’ is the result of collaboration between commercial property professionals and industry bodies representing both owners (Landlords) and occupiers (Tenants).

The Code is voluntary so occupiers should be aware that not all Landlords will choose to offer Code-compliant leases. The Government, however, takes a keen interest in ensuring the property industry complies with this voluntary Code.
The Occupier Guide is not a substitute for professional advice and tenants are encouraged to seek professional advice as soon as possible.

The Code consists of three parts:

10 point requirements for landlords in order for their lease to be Code-compliant; click here to receive the document

A guide for occupiers, explaining terms and providing helpful tips. click here to receive the document

A model Heads of Terms (which can be completed electronically and downloaded). click here to receive the document

Click here to receive the entire code (PDF 1.3MB).

Remember even after you have reviewed these documents or completed the Draft Heads of Terms it is important to seek professional advice regarding you individual situation!

The Code for Leasing Business Premises is endorsed by:
The Association Of British Insurers,
British Council for Offices,
British Retail Consortium,
Confederation of British Industry,
Communities and Local Government,
British Property Federation,
CoreNet Global,
The Forum of Private Business,
Federation of Small Businesses,
the Welsh Assembly Government,
Investment Property Forum,
The Law Society of England and Wales,
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

DISCLAIMER - PLEASE NOTE: The ideas and information shared with you in this email are intended to inform rather than advise. individual circumstances do vary it is important that consult your adviser before implementation. If you do or do not take action as a result of reading this information, before taking professional advice we will accept no responsibility for any financial loss incurred.

Dynamic Business Strategies Ltd

The Counting House

14 Walford Place




Registered in England. Reg No.5418835
Tel: 07917 446068



Thursday, 26 April 2007

The 10 Business Commandments Essential to Success!

Here are 10 essential business rules to follow as you start or grow your business, whatever business you are in the rules always apply.

  1. Produce a SMART, (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant & Time Based), Business Plan with a clear vision.
  2. Draw up and update your Cash-flow and Profit & Loss forecasts monthly, (there should be Actual figures as well as the usual forecasts). Always ensure that you have enough £'s to meet your forecasts. It's lack of cash that kills businesses not lack of sales.
  3. DON'T buy what you don't need or can't afford.
  4. DON'T talk turnover, think PROFIT & CASH.
  5. Find out what your customers really NEED and satisfy them, at a profit!
  6. Without sales:- stock, products and services = SCRAP.
  7. REMEMBER the Pareto Principle (aka "the 80/20 Rule") 80 % of your business will come from 20 % of your customers. 80% of your profit will come from 20% of your products/services.
  8. Under Promise & Over deliver NOT the reverse.
  9. ASK for problems then Solve them.
  10. Dissatisfied customers tell 13 others, happy ones tell 3 or 4.

Dynamic Business Strategies Ltd
The Counting House
14 Walford Place
Registered in England. Reg No.5418835
Tel: 07917 446068

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Tax Tips; Working from Home/ VAT Cash Accounting

Self-employed and working from home

HMRC have recently revised their guidelines for self-employed persons working from home and claiming for the cost of using a home office.
Prior to these new guidelines, which effectively apply from the 6 April 2005, the Revenue could challenge claims for the business use of home facilities unless the area allocated to business use was used exclusively for business purposes.

They have now decided that:

"If an expense is incurred for more than one purpose, we will not prohibit a deduction for any identifiable proportion of the expense which is incurred wholly or exclusively for the purposes of the trade."

So lets say that you had a spare bedroom set up as an office, and part of the time it was used as a business facility and at other times as a place where your children did their homework, then you would be allowed to claim for the identifiable costs when it was being used as a business office.

But beware - if the room has two desks one of which is used for business, and at the same time the other is used for non-business purposes, then tax relief could be denied! Also they have decided that an estimated £2 per week is a reasonable cost for the business use of home facilities - this is now in line with the £2 a week that can be claimed by employees working at home.

VAT Cash Accounting

After 1st April 2007 HMRC have announced major changes to the cash accounting scheme. As a result many more businesses may be eligible to join the scheme and benefit from cash flow savings!
The changes set much more generous turnover limits for registration:
The annual turnover limit below which businesses can start to use the scheme will increase from £660,000 to £1.35 million.

The annual turnover limit above which businesses must leave the scheme will increase from £825,000 to £1.6 million.

Ordinarily your VAT liability is calculated as the difference between the VAT you have added to your sales invoices, and the VAT included in the purchase invoices you receive. A cash flow problem can arise if the VAT you have added to sales invoices has not been paid when the due date for payment of the VAT is reached.

Deciding to switch to cash accounting allows you to pay over VAT when you receive payment from your customer - likewise you can only claim back VAT when you pay your supplier.
Businesses that have significantly more money owed by customers than they owe to suppliers would potentially see a cash flow advantage by changing to the cash accounting scheme. The initial calculations can be complicated If you want to review your circumstances and see if you could benefit you should speak to your accountant or your Revenue & Customs Office.

DISCLAIMER - PLEASE NOTE: The ideas and information shared with you in this post are intended to inform rather than advise. Taxpayers circumstances do vary it is important that consult your accountant or tax adviser before implementation. If you do or do not take action as a result of reading this information, before taking professional advice we will accept no responsibility for any financial loss incurred.

Dynamic Business Strategies Ltd
The Counting House
14 Walford Place
Registered in England. Reg No.5418835
Tel: 07917 446068


Monday, 23 April 2007

Budget Overview March 2007

Gordon Brown surprised every body by leaving his most "impressive" tax cut until the end of his Budget speech – and cut the basic rate of income tax by 2p, from 22p to 20p in the £ from April 2008. As you will see from the more detailed commentary below the 2p cut is not the complete story!
Most of the changes in allowances and tax rates for 2007-2008 are already published. However there are a number of interesting changes to report for 2008-2009.
Please be aware that this report has been produced from the Budget Notes released after Mr Brown's speech. We will have to await the publication of the Finance Bill 2007 to examine the fine print!
Personal Tax Issues
Income Tax
From 6 April 2008 the basic rate will be reduced to 20% (previously 22%).
The starting rate of 10% will be removed for earned income and pensions, but will continue to be available for savings income and capital gains. For tax payers whose income is primarily earned or from pensions this further change will reduce some of the benefit received when the basic rate drops in April 2008.
Personal Allowances for the over 65s will be increased by £1,180 over indexation in 2008-2009.

National Insurance
The upper threshold for primary National Insurance up from £33,540 to £34,840
Combining the personal allowance and the new basic rate band, we see that most people will only begin to pay higher rate Income Tax in 2007/8 when their income exceeds £39,825.
So, it's pretty much business as usual for 2007/8. The following few years, however, will see some rather more significant changes:
  • Basic rate income tax to reduce from 22% to 20% from 6th April 2008.
  • 10% starting rate band to be abolished for earned income and pensions from 6th April 2008.
  • Upper threshold for primary National Insurance Contributions to increase by £3,900 more than inflation for 2008/9.
  • Age-related personal allowances for all taxpayers aged 65 or more to increase by £1,180 more than inflation in 2008/9.
  • Personal allowances for taxpayers aged 75 or more to be increased to £10,000 by 2011/12.
  • Higher rate Income Tax threshold to increase by £800 more than inflation for 2009/10.
  • The upper threshold for primary National Insurance to be aligned with the point at which taxpayers begin to pay higher rate Income Tax from 6th April 2009.

    The last point may not sound very radical. However, it spells out the potential for a major change to the UK tax system: the abolition of National Insurance!

This is because of the fact that once the primary National Insurance threshold is aligned with the point at which higher rate Income Tax cuts in, for most people we will effectively have a simple two-tier tax system.

All basic rate taxpayers will also pay primary National Insurance contributions (currently 11% for employees and 8% for self-employed taxpayers) on all of their earned income and all higher rate taxpayers will be paying National Insurance at just 1% on their earned income in excess of the higher rate threshold. This will create just two effective tax rates from 2009/10 onwards. For employees these rates will be 31% and 41% and, for the self-employed, 28% and 41% (as things currently stand).

After 2009 we may see a total integration of the two taxes so that everyone pays 41% in higher rate tax and, perhaps, 31% in basic rate tax. Once the Income Tax and National Insurance thresholds are aligned this would be easy to do. The vast majority of the electorate, with mostly employment income, would not see much change, so it would be politically acceptable.
The self-employed, pensioners and landlords would all suffer effective tax increases however, as the benefit of paying lower, or zero, National Insurance Contributions would be eradicated.

Homes abroad owned through a Company
Legislation is to be introduced in the Finance Bill 2008 that will remove any benefit in kind tax charge if you have purchased a property abroad, through a company, and have an element of personal use of the property.
Without this legislation owners who direct and control the company may get caught by the living accommodation benefit charge.
Certain conditions will need to be met to secure the exemption.
Change to filing date self assessment returns
For the year 2007-2008 and subsequent years the filing deadlines are revised.
Paper Returns must be filed by 31 October. The 2007-08 returns must be filed by 31 October 2008. (The present deadline for paper returns is 31 January following the end of the tax year).
Online Returns continue to be due by 31 January following the end of the relevant tax year. So for 2007-08 returns must be filed by 31 January 2009.

Business Tax Issues

Corporation Tax
The current main corporation rate of 30% remains unchanged until 1 April 2008 when it will be reduced to 28%.
The small companies rate will increase as follows:
In 2007-2008 - increase from 19% to 20%
In 2008-2009 - increase from 20% to 21%
In 2009-2010 - increase from 21% to 22%

Research & Development Tax Relief
Support for SME companies with fewer than 500 employees will be introduced in the Finance Bill 2007 - the operative date is yet to be announced.
From 2008-2009, and subject to State Aid approval, the enhanced deduction available to SMEs in respect of qualifying expenditure will rise from 150% to 175%.

Increased rate of Capital Allowances for small businesses.
The temporary 50% first-year capital allowance will be extended for a further year. For the self-employed until 5 April 2008, for companies paying corporation tax until 31 March 2008.
The rate of first year allowance for medium sized businesses remains unchanged at 40%.

Reform of Capital Allowance system proposed for 2008-2009
From April 2008 it is proposed to abandon the present system of FYA's (first year allowances) in favour of an Annual Investment Allowance. The scope of the allowance is subject to consultation but will be applied to the first £50,000 of expenditure on plant and machinery.
Changes in writing down allowance
From April 2008 the annual writing down allowance on "pooled" plant and machinery will be reduced from 25% to 20%.
From the same date the 6% rate of writing down allowance on long-life assets will be increased to 10%.
Industrial Building Allowance (IBA's) /Agricultural Buildings Allowance (ABA's)
As part of a major reform of business tax it is proposed to phase out both IBA's and ABA's over the next 4 years. To prepare the way balancing adjustments and recalculation of writing down allowances will be withdrawn for all transactions on or after 21 March 2007.

Business Premises Renovation Allowance
The long awaited commencement date for this tax allowance has now been published - it will be applied to qualifying expenditure incurred on or after the 11 April 2007.The allowance will provide a 100% write off for capital expenditure on the renovation or conversion of business property in disadvantaged areas. The allowance will only be given if the building has been vacant for at least one year.

VAT and Other Duty

VAT Issues
The registration and deregistration limits have been increased, effective date 1 April 2007. The new limits are:
Registration limit £64,000
Deregistration limit £62,000
The general principles to be applied remain unchanged.

Fuel Scale Charges
VAT fuel scale charges will be based on CO2 emissions for accounting periods beginning on or after 1 May 2007.

Vehicle Excise Duty
The Government is raising the rate for the most polluting cars (band G) to £300 in 2007-08 and £400 in 2008-09; and reducing the rate for low carbon band B cars to £35 in 2007-08, with that rate then frozen for the subsequent two years.

Until 2012, all new zero carbon homes up to £500,000 will be exempt from stamp duty.
Landfill tax will rise by £8 each year from April 2008
Rise in climate change levy rates from 1st April 2008 in line with current inflation.

DISCLAIMER - PLEASE NOTE: The ideas and information shared with you in this posting are intended to inform rather than advise. Taxpayers circumstances do vary it is important that consult your accountant or tax adviser before implementation. If you do or do not take action as a result of reading this information, before taking professional advice we will accept no responsibility for any financial loss incurred.

Dynamic Business Strategies Ltd

The Counting House
14 Walford Place
Registered in England. Reg No.5418835
Tel: 07917 446068


Achiving Business Success

This is the first posting of what will be a regular Blog providing information, advice and guidance to business wishing to achieve business success.
With over 16 years experience of providing advice, guidance, training and consultancy services to businesses at all stages of development from start-up though high growth and declining performance, I have seen a vast range of issues many of which could be have been avoided or anticipated.
The aim of this Blog is to provide information, advice and guidance to help businesses to anticipate issues and plan for them.

Alan Briggs MD
Dynamic Business Strategies Ltd

Add to Google Reader or Homepage