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Issue 2 February 2014

Growth & efficiency The future looks a lot brighter but challenges remain. We’re committed to providing you with the support you need to see sustainable growth in 2014.

Legislation update

Helpline hot topics

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News from Westminster

Looking forward to 2014

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Over the last month a number of surveys and other indicators have pointed to positive growth over the next year. Our own most recent research also shows that members expect 2014 to be a much better year. However the Forum is all too aware that the small business community faces ongoing challenges as it looks to move towards growth in 2014 and we are focused on providing whatever support we can to members. Advice is on hand to help you make the most of what 2014 may offer on everything from exporting to marketing. To ensure that our members can focus on the investment the UK economy needs, we will continue to lobby for further measures to tackle key threats to a sustainable business recovery, including the rising cost of business and key issues such as late payment.

Have your say... Enclosed is our quarterly ballot for members which this quarter is on banking, finance and cash flow. Giving us your views means we can lobby effectively on your behalf and helps us to develop the products and services your business needs right now. Complete the ballot and return it in the envelope provided or complete it online at www.fpb.org/referendum207 by 10th March.

Forum of PrivateBusiness

Tweet away Page 3

Tips to stop social media taking over your working day

Cash is king! Pages 4–5

Prevent poor cash flow harming your business

Remember we’re here to help and advise you whatever your business challenges. Call us on 0845 130 1722

Visit fpb.org


Legislation update Various legislative changes are due to come into force in April 2014. Make sure you are prepared by calling our helpline on 0845 130 1722 if you will be affected and need more information. Transfer of undertakings Changes to the TUPE regulations came into force in January 2014; if you are involved in a TUPE transfer give us a call for more information.

Tribunals Early conciliation: from 6th April 2014 before bringing a claim to the Tribunal claimants must notify Acas, and conciliation will be offered but may be rejected by either party. If conciliation is unsuccessful within the set period the claimant can proceed to lodge a tribunal claim.

Statutory payments The rate of maternity, paternity and adoption pay will increase to £138.18 per week from 6th April.

In the pipeline... Zero hours contracts Following much media coverage, the government has a consultation on the use of zero-hours contracts which is open

until 13th March 2014. This seeks views on various aspects of zero hours contracts including exclusivity clauses, improving guidance and Codes of Practice. If you are interested in contributing visit www.gov.uk/ government/consultations/zero-hours-employmentcontracts or contact publicaffairs@fpb.org.

Flexible working The right to request flexible working was due be extended to all employees with 26 weeks’ continuous service from 6th April 2014, but this has now been postponed. We will continue to keep you updated on any further developments to the extension of flexible working; visit fpb.org.

Shared parental leave Shared parental leave is due to be introduced in April 2015. The essence of the scheme is that both parents will be able to share parental leave and claim shared parental pay after the compulsory two week maternity leave period. We will keep you updated on the progress of this as we are working to ensure its potentially huge impact on small businesses is minimised.

Helpline hot topics April 2014, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) will begin taking over the regulation of consumer credit from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), assuming full control in 2016. In July 2013 the FCA wrote to firms holding consumer credit licences asking them to pay up to £350 for an interim licence to cover the period from April 2014 to April 2016. Several members contacted us – quite rightly – to complain about being asked to pay for an interim licence, having already forked out for so-called indefinite licences, and we put pressure on government and the FCA to get businesses reimbursed. Following its consultation about the regime change, the FCA announced it would issue rebates and last month the government set out how these rebates will be worked out and

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paid. The refunds will be based on the amount of time left on holders’ licences ahead of the change to the regime. Most licensees will have received an email from the FCA about the rebate scheme but if they don’t hold an email address for your firm, they will write to you. If eligible, you will either automatically receive your rebate or you will need to apply to the FCA to receive it. Remember that our helpful team are always on hand to offer advice on any issues you may be having with your business, from regulations and health and safety to HR issues. Call us on 0845 130 1722 or email helpline@fpb.org.


Finding time for social media

Twin Design / Shutterstock.com

Managing social media can be time-consuming – and this puts many small businesses off – but it doesn’t have to be this way. There are a wealth of free tools and practical ways to help you manage social media efficiently, so you can spend more time doing what you do best. Set aside the same time every day

Use Google alerts

If you’ve got a business presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+, managing your different social media accounts can quickly become a full time job, taking you away from running your business. You should dedicate a small amount of time each day and get in to the routine of doing this at the same time so social media doesn’t take up all your working day.

Monitor what people are saying online about your brand or market by setting up Google alerts so you get an email every time someone mentions you or keywords relating to your business. This allows you to respond to comments about your business quickly, and also keep up to date with the latest news without trawling websites.

Update all your accounts at once

Create a content schedule

Gone are the days of having to update your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts individually. Use social media software like Hootsuite to manage all your accounts at the same time. They allow you check direct messages, your followers’ updates, mentions of your business and your timelines all on the one screen.

If your company website includes a blog or news section, you need to keep it regularly updated. Setting up an editorial calendar – either in a spreadsheet, on paper or in your email calendar – helps you to plan ahead, think of relevant, timely stories and stay focused. Plan social media campaigns ahead of time and map out your goals for the coming months. Tie it in with your ongoing promotional campaigns and you will never be searching for things to post about.

Schedule updates You can either do this manually using reminders in your calendar or use free software like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to do it for you. This makes it possible to write all your tweets first thing in the morning and have them update throughout the day (even when you’re asleep) without you spending every minute on the computer. Most social media software has a corresponding app that can be used on smart phones and tablets, allowing you to update on the go.

Use Twitter lists

For more advice and free downloads on social media and a whole range of other subjects including PR, SEO and direct marketing Advanced members can take advantage of our new Ask Marketing service. Email askmarketing@fpb.org.

If you follow hundreds or thousands of people on Twitter, keeping up to date with their latest updates can be a chore. Twitter allows you to set up lists for different groups of people you’re following – i.e. business contacts, journalists, friends – so you can manage your contacts more easily.

Read blogs and news in one place Imagine if you could read all the blogs and news sites you like to visit daily in one place – like your own personal newspaper. RSS readers such as Feedly or Bloglovin aggregate all the tops stories from the sites you follow into one site, allowing you to scan the headlines without having to trawl through numerous websites. It’s also a great way of finding topics to tweet and blog about.

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How to improve your cash flow It’s an old cliché that cash is king. It’s something that every business owner knows. It’s perfectly possible for your business to be profitable, for your sales team to hit target, but for poor cash flow to choke your business. If you can’t collect the money that’s owed to you when you expect it to be paid, there may not be enough cash in your account to pay critical bills like payroll or rent. The question is, when times are hard, what can you do to improve cash flow in your business? Fail to plan, plan to fail Too many SME owners in the UK bury their heads in the sand when it comes to future outgoings. If you’re not aware of every direct debit and every supplier invoice due to be paid in the next month, chances are you don’t know how much cash you need to have in your business account day-to-day. Many small business owners swear by basic cash flow forecasts in Microsoft Excel to help them manage daily income and outgoings, whereas others use specifically built software such as Sage or online tools like Ooble. However you do it, it’s a good idea to keep a realistic forecast, broken down day-by-day, of the next three months. Estimate when customers are really going to pay you, and factor in any possible unavoidable outgoings.

Having a worst-case scenario cash flow forecast will allow you to plan ahead and, if necessary, get financing plans in place with plenty of time to spare.

One size doesn’t fit all Don’t assume that, because you’re selling to other businesses, you need to extend payment terms of 30 days as standard. Do some research into the credit risk attached to any new customer, and negotiate to get the shortest payment terms possible. In many cases you can also ask for a down payment up front. Ask them what their accounts payable procedure is – do they pay all invoices in batches, once a month, or once a week? If so it might be necessary to adapt your payment terms to fit (if they only pay out once a month there’s no use in you invoicing with 7 day payment terms, for example). Not only should you negotiate with your customers as to when they pay you, but also with your suppliers as to when you pay them. Some suppliers will be happy to receive payment later than others, so have that conversation with them and ask if they would be happy to extend payment terms beyond the standard 30 days.

Can invoice finance help? If your business is making a healthy profit but credit control is getting you down, one option is to take one of the many invoice factoring deals available in the UK. By selling your receivables onto a finance provider you can get access to cash as soon as your invoice is raised, instead of waiting for your customer to pay you.

all their customers. However, you can choose to retain that relationship if you so choose, by using an invoice discounting service instead.

An added benefit for many firms using factoring is that the finance provider handles credit control too, so that business owners can retain a friendlier relationship with

If you need help to manage your cash flow, or are considering invoice finance, give us a call on 0845 130 1722 to explore your finance options.

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Beware there are a number of fees that can add up so if your margins are extremely tight this might not be for you.


Stay in control of creditors Credit control is a crucial part of any B2B business, so make sure you have airtight procedures in place. Here are our top five tips: 1

Speak to the right person

Don’t waste time speaking to a junior employee in their accounts payable department – make sure that when you send and chase invoices you’re sending them to the right individual, and label all correspondence to them personally.

2 Have an escalation process in place Even if it’s just you, you could set up a system where customers get email reminders about due invoices and only get a phone call when they’re overdue. An escalation procedure will keep your ‘good’ customers on your side, and will define boundaries with your ‘bad’ customers.

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Ask for a payment date

Conrad Ford Managing Director of Check Business

4 If necessary, be flexible If, after a frank discussion over the phone, the customer genuinely cannot pay in full, consider taking a part payment from them. It might be the best way to get access to cash quickly. However, if the customer is late on a regular basis then it’s time to renegotiate terms with them.

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Know your debtors

Use a credit checking service like Check Business to check the riskiness of your debtors. It’s important to know if one of your customers is going bust, or if they’re so small that the money they owe you is disproportionate to their turnover. Check Business will show you a simple dashboard overlaying credit risk data with your debtor book.

Don’t just call to have a friendly chat with a debtor who’s already overdue – make sure you get a commitment to pay on a certain day. Explain that you need to know so that you can plan cash flow. Then if they don’t honour their promise, you have a legitimate reason to get tough with them.

Our partner Check Business offers Forum members an exclusive 40% off an online credit checking tool that makes it easier to: • Keep an eye on your own business • Monitor your customers • Find sales prospects

To find out more call us on 0845 130 1722 or visit fpb.org.

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News from our Westminster policy team

Growth Vouchers

Employment Allowance

At the end of January the government launched the Growth Vouchers programme which aims to help small businesses maximise their growth potential.

From April, all businesses and charities that employ staff can benefit from up to £2,000 relief on their National Insurance bills. The rebate will be claimed as part of the normal payroll process through HMRC’s Real-Time Information system. More details on the scheme can be found at www.gov. uk/government/publications/national-insurance2000-employment-allowance.

The scheme is open to any business that has been trading for at least a year, has fewer than 50 employees and has not paid for any strategic advice within the last three years. The vouchers can be used to contribute 50% of the cost – up to a maximum of £2,000 – of advice in the following areas:

• • • •

Managing cash flow, late payments and negotiating finance Developing skills and taking on staff Improving leadership and management Marketing

Digital technology

To apply for a voucher, visit www.gov.uk/apply-growth-vouchers. All eligible businesses will go through a diagnostic process to identify the most appropriate type of strategic support. Members in relevant sectors can also apply to become an approved provider for the growth vouchers programme at https://marketplace.enterprisenation.com/marketplaces/users/new. For more information on this scheme contact publicaffairs@fpb.org.

Late payment In January we responded to the government’s consultation on late payment. We made some specific proposals that would support businesses wishing to remain anonymous when highlighting late payment by their customers. We also called for a change to reporting for some PLCs to highlight good payment and for some practical strengthening of the Prompt Payment Code. Please continue to send examples of good and bad payers to publicaffairs@fpb.org.

Upcoming influencing meetings The Forum’s policy team meets regularly with officials and ministers from across government to champion the views of our members. If you have any issues that we can raise on your behalf at the following meetings get in touch at publicaffairs@fpb.org.

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25 February

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The Forum is a member of the regulatory review group, an independent body that reviews regulations and provides recommendations to the Scottish government on how to remove regulatory barriers.

Big 5 banks Our policy team meets with representatives of the big 5 banks – RBS, Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC, Santander – to hear what they are doing to promote lending to businesses and to raise member issues.

4 March

HMRC Small Business Forum

5 March

Payment Council Business Forum

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Scottish Regulation Meeting

This one of the ways the Forum influences the department’s policy development and provides an opportunity for our policy team to flag significant issues affecting members.

This is another avenue for us to raise specific concerns around payments, from cheques to e-invoicing.


Looking forward to 2014 In the last quarter’s Referendum ballot, we asked for your views on your plans for the year ahead and what were the barriers to achieving it. Here’s what you told us… customer satisfaction 41% improve

86%

new products or services 42% introduce new customers in the UK 60% target

businesses intend to grow in 2014

What’s stopping you from growing? Barriers in your business

38%

26%

13%

lack of time

lack of cash

lack of expertise

Barriers outside your business

46% crippling business rates

40% cost of utilities

The good news… businesses are no longer citing cost as a 12% ofbarrier to accessing finance.

Don’t forget to have your say in this quarter’s enclosed ballot, or online at www.fpb.org/Referendum207

Visit fpb.org

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Key dates & events to be aware of in the small business calendar

Revised estimate of GDP Q4 2013

26th February

National Apprenticeships Week Raising the profile of apprenticeships

3rd-7th March

Survey deadline Tell us what you think

10th March

The Budget The Chancellor’s annual financial statement

19th March

Common Commencement Date

6th April

Stay safe Did you know? Failure to comply with health & safety legislation can lead to an investigation and fines averaging £35,938*. Spot checks can also occur in high risk industries or where companies have been reported. We can provide you with health and safety expertise that you can rely on, with step-by-step guidance to ensure that you are not only legally compliant but are also providing a safe working environment for your employees and customers. It’s all covered as part of our comprehensive Practical Health and Safety package, designed to give you peace of mind when it comes to health and safety matters in your business.

With checklists, flowcharts and templates of key documents, including risk and fire risk assessments, it will form the basis of health and safety compliance in your business. The latest Health and Safety Guide is currently in production and will be available at the beginning of April. Don’t risk a heavy fine; call us now to subscribe 0845 130 1722. *HSE 2012

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Forum of Private Business - Inform February 2014  

Business Growth and Efficiency - The Future looks a lot brighter but with challenges remain. We're committed to providing you with the supp...

Forum of Private Business - Inform February 2014  

Business Growth and Efficiency - The Future looks a lot brighter but with challenges remain. We're committed to providing you with the supp...