Issue 1 November 2013
2014 The road to recovery Legislation updates
Helpline hot topics
News from Westminster
The cost of doing business
Figures released recently showed that the UK economy expanded 0.8% in the third quarter of 2013 and George Osborne tweeted: In this issue of Inform, our new quarterly member newsletter, we explore ways for businesses to take advantage of any upturn in the economy. Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation gives us her business tips and we look at ways to use social media to generate new business on page four. We also highlight upcoming legislation changes and look to encourage you to review your business procedures to prepare for the next 12 months.
“...Britain’s hard work is paying off and the country is on the path to prosperity.”
The results of the last survey on page 7 show that fewer businesses are able to pass on rising costs to their customers, exacerbating the impact of year-on-year rises.
Have your say... Enclosed is our quarterly ballot for members and we urge you to complete it and return it in the envelope provided or complete it online at www.fpb.org/referendum206 by 16th December. Telling us about the issues you are facing means we can lobby effectively on your behalf and helps us to develop the products and services your business needs right now.
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Generating leads online page 6
To get value from social media, you must share value in order to build a large following of loyal fans and customers...
Growth for the new year page 3
Focus on what you do best, stay nimble, keep overheads low and grow in the most modern way possible...
Legislation update Various legislative changes are due to come into force in January and April 2014. Make sure you are prepared by calling our helpline on 0845 130 1722 if you will be affected and need more information. The government has recently announced a consultation on the use of zero-hour contracts with a view to tackling any abuses in the system. It is expected that consultation will launch later in the year.
From January… Employment Changes to the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE) come into force in the new year, if you are likely to be to be involved in a TUPE transfer around January onwards contact the member helpline.
From April… Employment Early tribunal conciliation will come into force. Prospective claimants will need to notify Acas before lodging a claim, and conciliation will be offered. If conciliation is unsuccessful within the set period the claimant can proceed to tribunal.
The right to request flexible working is set to be extended to all employees from April. Make sure you are prepared for any requests.
Tax The Employment Allowance will give businesses and charities a £2,000 tax cut off their National Insurance Contributions bill and the main rate of Corporation Tax will be reduced to 21%. Late payment penalties will be charged in-year on a late PAYE payment for the tax year 2014-15 onwards.
Miscellaneous The government plans to transfer consumer credit regulation to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) from the OFT. The standard rate of landfill tax is to increase by £8 per tonne to £80 per tonne for disposals of waste made, or treated as made, to landfill on or after 1st April.
Helpline hot topics Our business advice line team are on hand to answer all your enquiries, whatever the subject. Since the last issue hot topics have included credit control and leasing but the number one member issue has related to business owners’ relationships with their employees. Many of our members contact us in relation to variety of ethical issues that arise from employees’ behaviour. Recent issues have been whether an employee can spend work time checking personal email accounts or reviewing information posted on social networks and how a manager deals with claims of harassment or bullying. These issues can be complicated and time consuming to deal with, but employers can take the following steps to ensure that employees are clear on acceptable standards in the workplace.
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Make sure you have detailed internet and phone usage policies. Your internet policy should also specifically address social networking and what is acceptable. Ensure you have robust disciplinary and grievance procedures in place so that employees know what to do if they find themselves in this situation. Ensure that all employees are treated fairly. This means providing every employee with a clear contract of employment which includes a clause relating to employee conduct and ensuring that this is consistently applied. Remember that our helpful team are always on hand to offer advice on any issues you may be having with your business, from health and safety to employment law. Call us on 0845 130 1722 or email email@example.com.
Entrepreneur We caught up with Emma Jones, inspirational entrepreneur and founder of Enterprise Nation, for a Q and A session. Do you have a motto that guides the way you do business? Treat people as you would wish to be treated yourself.
What have been the highlights and challenges of founding Enterprise Nation? Wow. There have been a few! The key highlights have been hearing from the many businesses we’ve helped get started through our content/books/events/funding etc. We also now represent the views of our members to government and taking 20 small businesses every month to Number 10 to meet the lead adviser on enterprise has been a highlight as businesses that ordinarily feel they don’t have a voice are being offered just that. In terms of challenges, it’s probably been a search to find the best people to help realise the Enterprise Nation vision. We have a great team and are always on the look-out for good people who want to join us on the mission to build Enterprise Nation into the UK’s most respected small business community.
You have added your support the upcoming Small Business Saturday. How important do you think initiatives like these are in supporting small businesses? Anything that raises the profile of the contribution small businesses make to the UK economy is a good and important thing. Small Business Saturday will encourage consumers to buy from small businesses on that day – and hopefully continue to buy from them! It offers small businesses an opportunity to take part in a one day national celebration, raising their own profile – and increasing sales. For these reasons, I’m supporting it!
small business owners find their way through the working practices put upon us by the government. What we are asking government (and big business) for is better recognition for micro enterprises and appreciation of their specific way of growing. For example, the majority of Enterprise Nation members are growing through outsourcing and subcontracting work as opposed to hiring people full time so we are in discussions with the government on packaging and promoting a share ownership scheme where the business owner can offer shares in the company to freelancers as opposed to full time employees. Rather than a problem of regulation, it’s about offering clarity to small businesses on what they have to do and providing tailored and relevant support to help them grow.
Where is the best place in the world to establish a business? The UK. I say that with 100% confidence!
What is the best piece of advice you could give to members who are looking to grow their businesses in 2014? My advice would be: focus on what you do best and outsource the rest ie focus on the part of the business at which you most excel and surround yourself with experts and professionals in their own field who take on other business functions. That way, you stay nimble, keep overheads low and can grow in the most modern way possible. Emma Jones is founder of small business community Enterprise Nation www.enterprisenation.com.
Do you feel it is the number of existing regulations, or the constant change of them, that creates the real burden on business? Not really. I don’t hear people say they are put off from starting a business through regulation and, once up and running,
Using social media to generate leads Social media can be a fantastic tool to boost your business. Some businesses however make the mistake of thinking that it’s just a case of signing in to Facebook, tweeting, creating a LinkedIn profile or signing up for Google Plus. It isn’t that easy. To get value from social media, you must share value in order to build a large following of loyal fans and customers. Here are 5 golden rules to help you run a super effective social media campaign to generate leads. 1. It takes time
3. Listen first...then speak
Although it is extremely effective, social media is not a quick-fix. There are no shortcuts. Like most strategies in marketing it takes time, commitment, consistency and effort. If you are not willing to invest in social media it will never bring you the results that your business needs.
Listening to your audience and showing interest in what they have to say is one of the strongest ways to create engagement and make it a conversation. Don’t just talk and give your opinions without hearing the feedback.
However, don’t let that put you off because, studies show that small businesses and the self employed are most likely to generate leads, close business deals and find partnerships thanks to their involvement on Facebook, Twitter and the other social media sites. Patience is crucial so don’t give up after a short time. It might not happen overnight, and it does take hard work but you won’t regret it.
2. Nobody cares what you had for breakfast To get people to listen to you, you have to contribute something of value to them. If your posts are banal and boring, you will be ignored. Think about it: Why would anybody take advice from somebody who just posts trivia about their day? Quite simply, if you are not saying anything meaningful then you shouldn’t be saying anything at all. Keep your posts fresh and consistent. Always make sure that you can offer valuable, useful advice to your followers. If you position yourself as an expert, they will hang on your every word and you will have customers for life.
Remember, your aim is to encourage conversation, so give your followers ample opportunity to air their thoughts. If you are monopolising the conversation, it becomes a boring lecture instead of a successful lead generating strategy.
4. No spamming! Nobody wants to read a blatant sales pitch from you every time you post. Doing that will only accomplish one thing, and that is to turn people off what you have to say. Instead, you will gain more followers (and ultimately more leads) if you keep them engaged, keep them entertained, keep them informed and keep them wanting more.
5. Don’t lose focus If your social media marketing efforts are not leading to conversations or some sort of productivity for your business then you are wasting your time and all of your posts are pointless. Plan in advance what you want each post to achieve and if it doesn’t perform as expected then make the necessary changes.
About the author Charlie Hutton is a bestselling author, consultant and entrepreneur and has written extensively about the subjects of direct marketing and lead generation. In his books, workshops and seminars he teaches business owners how to dramatically increase leads, prospects and sales while minimising marketing expenses – www.charliehutton.co.uk.
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2014 the road to recovery The turn of the year is often a time for reflection; make sure you are ready to reinvigorate your business for 2014 Just as people often make personal new year’s resolutions, as 2014 approaches it makes sense to ensure you review your business performance over the past year and make plans for the next. Reviewing your business plan should be done regularly to make sure you are always on top of any challenges, but a comprehensive annual review will give you the opportunity to take a step back and look objectively at the bigger picture.
Improving efficiency Everyday tasks such as keeping cash flowing, managing IT systems and keeping abreast of health and safety regulations can all eat into the time you could be spending planning your overall business strategy. A recent survey by business and finance software provider Exact showed that a fifth of small and medium-sized firms have forgotten to invoice customers at least once, often for amounts in excess of £10,000. Are you too busy to invoice your customers on time? Have you looked into new technologies such as e-invoicing that could help streamline your systems? Forum members save 20% on Sage One accounting software – the ideal accounting solution for small businesses Autumn floods and winter snow are highly likely, but could your business survive if the worst happened? You need to create a robust business continuity plan to ensure you can keep your head above water in case of dire emergency.
Managing policies and procedures Keeping up-to-date with the latest regulations can be time consuming, yet failing to ensure you follow the rules could land you in trouble if a staff member should take you to tribunal. The average cost of defending a tribunal case is £9,000, and should you lose as a result of failing to follow the correct procedures, the cost will be much higher. Ensuring you give each employee a copy of their terms and conditions of employment, as well as your disciplinary and grievance policies is not only a legal requirement (after 60 days), it can assist you in managing everyday staff issues by setting out your accepted standards of behaviour. Advanced members have access to ready-made policy documents through the Employment and Health and Safety Guide templates. Call us to find out more.
Planning for growth Effective procedures will keep your business running smoothly and give you more time to spend planning for the future. Take stock of key areas such as marketing and look at trends and developments to see how you can reinvigorate your strategy. The growth of social media marketing is exciting but it can take time unless you work to a planned strategy; see our article on page three for social media campaign tips. Review your growth plans by updating your SWOT analysis and identifying opportunities you have not yet had time to explore.
How the Forum can help you... We help you do business more efficiently, productively and profitably. Our expert helpline advisers can answer all your business queries and membership also gives you access to comprehensive legal expenses insurance, the best deals on a range of essential business services, support to ensure you are following the most up-to-date regulations and help devising strategies for growth.
Are you are making the most of your membership? Call us on 0845 130 1722 to see how we can help you develop your business for 2014. www.fpb.org
News from our Westminster policy team Alexander Jackman Head of Policy
Late payment It may only be a consultation but the government is finally stepping up the war on late payers. A notoriously difficult area in which to try and support small businesses, government has been reluctant to regulate in business-to-business transactions but is continually looking for new ideas to help tackle the scourge of late payers and extended payment terms. The Forum has been running a Hall of Shame for late payers since 2009 and we are putting together a comprehensive set of proposals to improve the Prompt Payment Code, tackle worries around reporting late paying customers and make changes to audit processes for larger businesses to increase transparency in their payment practices, priming the landscape for possible penalties for those that are paying late. If you have a case study we can use (publicly or anonymously) please get in touch with the policy team at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Procurement Following feedback from members, we have recently told government how their procurement processes can
be improved so that more small businesses can access contracts. Among the suggestions we put forward was for standardised pre-qualification questionnaires across national local government, more support towards helping businesses to start e-invoicing and better monitoring of supply chain payments to ensure all businesses are paid on time. The government’s Mystery Shopper scheme continues to be useful for suppliers to complain anonymously about poor practices in government contracts. This tool has led to real time changes to contracts that are beneficial to small businesses.
Zero hours contracts The Labour Party has promoted a voluntary deal to part compensate businesses that pay a Living Wage for the extra costs involved. What are your views on the Living Wage? Do you already pay it, or more? Is it affordable in the current climate? What level of incentive would you want from Government in order to pay it? Send in any views to email@example.com.
Autumn statement 2013 The Chancellor is due to make his statement on 4th December... In our submission to the Chancellor this year we make recommendations in two areas – promoting and supporting better finance for business, and helping businesses to reduce the cost of doing business. As the economy heals we want our members to be able to take advantages of new opportunities. The recent 2012 Small Business Survey reported nearly half (47%) of small businesses faced late payments. That’s why, in response to the survey evidence from members, we have recommended the Chancellor support changes to the Prompt Payment Code and to have larger businesses publish their payment times.
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Whilst businesses can expect £2000 under the Government’s Employment Allowance next year, we have made some further suggestions for how the Treasury can support businesses to reduce costs. 97% of members tell us that property taxation is too high. In response to that we have called on the government to freeze business rates this year, to mitigate the above inflation increases from the past few years. Finally, we have asked the Chancellor to address continuing confusion over the transfer of powers from the Office of Fair Trading to the Financial Conduct Authority. Though it may not sound crucial, many members have been calling in to highlight the confusion this is causing those that need Consumer Credit Licences. We hope to get clarity on this soon.
The cost of doing business In the last issue of Referendum, we asked for your views on the rising cost of running a small to medium-sized business in the UK. Hereâ€™s what you told usâ€Ś
Running a business is getting more expensive...
Costs are rising faster for SMEs than the rest of society
of businesses have seen an increase in costs over the last 12 months
The most costly areas for SMEs are:
raw materials staff costs
What does this mean for businesses?
How can the government help?
Make laws fairer
Get tougher on late payment
of businesses arenâ€™t passing this rise on to customers
Better regulate the energy market
Cut red tape
Find out what recommendations we are making to government following the research at www.fpb.org/Referendum.
73% Cash flow issues 63% Limited growth 51% Unable to employ 50% Unable to invest www.fpb.org
Events Business Show Benefit from our expert seminar programme
Autumn Statement The government’s latest plans for the economy
Small Business Saturday Celebrating small businesses
Survey deadline Tell us what you think
Forum Licensed Trade Workshop The Forum’s Knutsford offices recently played host to a workshop aimed at licensed traders. The sector continues to face major challenges and the workshop featured presentations on key areas for licensed businesses with briefings on employment law, health and safety and marketing. Presenters included Martin Mulholland of MD Health and Safety Management, Claire Critchley from Security Services as well as Ian Cass, the Forum’s Head of Business Development. Commenting on the workshop, Ian Cass said: “Licensed traders continue to face a whole host of issues including managing costs, attracting new customers and staffing issues. The workshop gave landlords and other licensed traders the chance to share best practice and thoughts on the issues affecting their business.”
The Forum continues to be strong supporter of Fair Deal for Your Local, a coalition of 10 organisations including the Campaign for Real Ale that is supporting calls for a statutory code and for tied landlords of large pub companies to have the option of paying rent-only to the pub-owning company. For further information on Fair Deal for Your Local visit www.fairdealforyourlocal.com.
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Ian Cass Photograph by Juno Photographic
2014 Road to Recovery