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Forming your business correctly is essential to ensure you are protected and you comply with the rules. Learn how to set up your business.

It is likely you will need funding to start your business unless you have your own money. Discover some of the main sources of start up funding.

Businesses and individuals must account for and pay various taxes. Understand your tax obligations and how to file, account and pay any taxes you owe.

Businesses are required to comply with a wide range of business laws. We introduce the main rules and regulations you must comply with.

Learn why business planning is an essential exercise if your business is to start and grow successfully, attract funding or target new markets.

Marketing matters. It drives sales and helps promote your brand and products. Discover how to market your business and reach your target customers.

Some businesses need a high street location whilst others can be run from home. Understand the key factors from cost to location, size to security.

Your employees can your biggest asset. They can also be your biggest challenge. We explain how to recruitment and manage staff successfully.

It is likely your business could not function without some form of IT. Learn how to specify, buy, maintain and secure your business IT.

Few businesses manage the leap from start up to high-growth business. Learn what it takes to scale up and take your business to the next level.

September 2016

23 September 2016

Office life in numbers

The average office worker will drink 24,684 cups of tea, fall out with colleagues 479 times and send 400,816 emails during their working lifetime. They spend more than 13 minutes a day searching for missing paperwork despite tidying their desks on a weekly basis and their average commute is 29 minutes long. These are the findings of new research by Avery looking at how people organise their time; Avery has launched an online guide to getting organised at home and in the office.

Don't be put off by tattoos says Acas

Almost one in three young people has a tattoo and yet many employers are still negative about visible tattoos when it comes to hiring new staff, according to Acas. Stephen Williams, Acas head of equality, said: "Businesses are perfectly within their right to have rules around appearance at work but these rules should be based on the law where appropriate, and the needs of the business, not managers' personal preferences. A dress code that restricts people with tattoos might mean companies are missing out on talented workers." Acas' dress code guidance has been updated and is available on the Acas website.

Understanding the over-50s consumer

The Mature Marketing Summit takes place in London on 11 October. Organised by the Mature Marketing Association (MMA), the conference offers networking opportunities as well as the chance to listen to expert speakers on best practice in marketing to older (50+) consumers. "The so-called mature market consists of an increasingly large, complex and diverse group of consumers, which marketers have yet to understand fully," said Mark Beasley, MMA chairman. "The UK has an ageing population and within 20 years the number of people aged over 65 will have increased by 50%."

Twitter count is relaxed … a bit

You can still only use 140 characters when writing a tweet but Twitter has now brought in new rules that mean non-text content, such as images, GIFs and videos, don't count towards your 140 characters - they used to use up 23 characters. Also worth noting is that quote tweets don't count either now - but links do still count.

16 September 2016

It's business as usual for SMEs despite challengesThe latest rise in employment suggests that UK businesses have absorbed the new Living Wage and have held their nerve following uncertainty over Brexit.

The latest UK jobs figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show employment is up by 174,000 jobs and unemployment has fallen to 1.63 million. Wage growth has slowed slightly - with average earnings, including bonuses, up by 2.3%, a 0.1% slower rate of growth compared to the previous period.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) says these figures tally with its own research and that they support its finding that small firms have managed to absorb the initial costs of the new National Living Wage without cutting employment or passing on the costs to the consumer. The FSB data found that the majority of small businesses (59%) absorbed the additional costs by lowering profits and making other efficiencies.

It also means that since the UK's vote to leave the EU, businesses have decided to take a "business as usual" approach to hiring for the time being, according to the FSB.

"Small employers have stretched to meet the challenge set by the National Living Wage, with many paying their staff more by reducing operating margins," said Mike Cherry, FSB national chairman. "Negotiating a Brexit which works for smaller businesses is critical, but we must not forget the many ongoing domestic economic issues … the upcoming Autumn Statement will be an important moment if we are to boost economic growth and sustain a robust jobs market."

However, the UK jobs market could be about to weaken, according to Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). He said: "With employment rising sharply and unemployment continuing to fall, the latest figures confirm that the UK jobs market remains in good shape. However, while one must not give undue weighting to a single month's figures, the rise in the claimant count suggests the labour market could begin to soften in the coming months if this trend continues."

16 September 2016

The latest rise in employment suggests that UK businesses have absorbed the new Living Wage and have held their nerve following uncertainty over Brexit.

16 September 2016

Winners and losers in the big rates shake-upRetailers in 11 out of 14 UK cities could be better off next year when their average rateable values go down in the 2017 business rates review.

Cities including Aberdeen, Leeds, Cardiff and Bristol will all see their average values decrease by over 30% according to analysis from CBRE. However, in Central London, rateable values could rise by as much as 170%.

CBRE's analysis shows the percentage rateable value movement from 2010 to 2017, ahead of the next rates revaluation and the publication of the proposed values by the Valuation Office Agency on 30th September.

However, the decrease will not be felt across the board and some retailers are likely to see an uplift on 1 April 2017. And the CBRE warns that, with the cumulative rateable value set to fall across the UK, the Government "will be seeking to maintain the level of tax generated by the business rates system". Therefore, it says, "the multiplier will be higher than we've ever seen immediately after a revaluation. Retailers should be aware of what the potential changes might be, and the impact on their business."

In addition, the Government has recently established a consultation that could change the business rates appeals process. The regulations state that the Valuation Tribunal will only order an alteration to the rateable value of a business if it considers it to be "outside the bounds of reasonable professional judgement".

Tim Attridge, senior director, Rating at CBRE, said: "Yes, there is the option to appeal, but this will be a very protracted process and the definition of 'reasonable judgement', is far from clear. With this lack of clarity, the key is for retailers to budget accordingly now, review their strategy and ensure they have sufficient funds in place to either challenge, or adapt to a new system in order to survive."

16 September 2016

Government steps up action on late paymentThe perennial problem of late payment for small firms has prompted the Government to strengthen its Prompt Payment Code.

New measures to support the Prompt Payment Code have been confirmed in a letter sent to signatories of the code from small business minister Margot James and Philip King, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Credit Management (CICM).

More than 1,800 firms are signed up to the Prompt Payment Code, with each one committing to the fair and equal treatment of suppliers. They agree to maximum payment terms of 60 days, with the letter confirming they should aim to pay within 30 days.

If payment terms stretch beyond 60 days, companies must demonstrate that exceptional circumstances apply. These will be considered on a case-by-case basis but could include commitments made to pay smaller suppliers faster than larger businesses.

Margot James, the small business minister, said: "Prompt payment can make all the difference to small businesses, boosting their cashflow and allowing them to invest in growth for the future. Although we have seen some progress, there are still too many business owners across the country who have not been paid on time by their customers."

James has called for a "culture change to stamp this out". The Prompt Payment Code, she said, "continues to play an important role in bringing this about, alongside a package of measures taken forward by Government and industry."

The voluntary Prompt Payment Code is administered by the CICM on behalf of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The Government says new measures to strengthen the code and increase transparency have now been put in place. The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 introduced the statutory duty for large businesses to report on payment practices. This will come into force in April 2017.

In addition, the Government plans to appoint a Small Business Commissioner to provide support on payment issues and handle complaints from small businesses.

16 September 2016

Sharp rise in HMRC asset-seizingThe number of UK businesses that have had equipment and assets seized by HMRC has risen by 145% in just one year.

It means the number of businesses whose assets were seized by HMRC in order to settle outstanding debts has gone up from 649 in 2014/15 to 1,592 in 2015/16.

The figures, obtained by Funding Options, suggest that more businesses are struggling to pay their overdue tax bills - HMRC tried to recover £42.6m of outstanding debt in the last year, an increase of 175% from the previous year where debts to the Revenue amounted to £15.3m.

Under a power called "taking control of goods", HMRC can seize assets in order to settle debts from businesses that have been unable to pay their overdue tax bills. Under the system, businesses are given seven days following a visit from a bailiff to pay their overdue tax before their assets are seized. The assets are then sold at auction in order to recover the money owed to HMRC.

Although this tactic is usually a last resort, the growing number of businesses who have had their assets seized suggests that HMRC is using increasingly aggressive methods to recover overdue tax. However, Funding Options points out that the seized goods often fail to achieve a good price and if they don't clear a firm's debts, that company is left with fewer assets as well as an outstanding debt.

In addition, Funding Options claims that small businesses are "particularly at risk" of having their assets seized because SMEs are more likely to have a volatile cashflow than larger businesses.

Conrad Ford, ceo of Funding Options, said: "With the stark rise in asset seizing it's clear that HMRC is cracking down on those businesses with overdue tax bills. Businesses must ensure they have sufficient funding in place to pay tax bills on time, without taking up capital from other aspects of the business.

"Often small business owners aren't aware of the many options available to them outside traditional bank lending," he added. This includes specialist products designed to finance tax bills. "With pressure on HMRC to increase tax receipts, it's becoming increasingly important that businesses make sure their tax affairs are in order and bills are paid on time."

16 September 2016

Arrogance is biggest turn-off in job interviews

Most managers and employers (67%) find arrogance the biggest turn-off when interviewing candidates for a new job according to a new survey by LyteSpark. On a more positive note, the most impressive qualities in job candidates are: the ability to interact naturally (58%); preparation (50%) and eloquence (42%).

Just how long will the new £5 notes last?

It may be made of plastic and able to withstand a washing machine cycle but the new £5 note may not have a very long shelf-life if a new survey of consumers is anything to go by. A poll by Worldpay has found that a third of Brits believe cash will be obsolete by 2020. And, by this date, 54% of Brits also think phones will have superseded cards as the most popular payment method. "The shift that we are seeing in terms of consumer preferences and what shoppers now expect from the high street is seismic and paying with cash is an inconvenience for many of today's shoppers," said James Frost, chief marketing and commercial officer at Worldpay.

Why charity begins at work

Jobseekers increasingly prefer to work for companies that are socially responsible according to a new poll by Regus. It found that 45% of UK professionals said that it was important for their employer to be involved in charity work; and 37% would choose the more charitable company if confronted with two equal job opportunities. Richard Morris, UK ceo of Regus, said: "Corporate social responsibility has perhaps been regarded as a nice-to-have by many businesses rather than an essential element of business strategy. But, for today's jobseekers, charitable and community initiatives are incredibly important."

New Acas guide on improving productivity

Acas has published new guidance aimed at businesses of all sizes to help them become more productive. The guide focuses on leadership, people management and improving organisational skills. Stewart Gee, Acas head of guidance, said: "Poorly trained front line managers are bad for business and productivity. People skills, setting team goals and planning work ahead are just some of the essential skills that managers of well-run companies need."

9 September 2016

Businesses need reassurance on EU staff says BCCNew research by the British Chambers of Commerce reveals that 5% of businesses have lost EU staff following the EU referendum while one in ten say EU employees are talking about leaving.

The findings are based on a poll of more than 800 UK businesses that employ EU staff conducted by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). It reveals that more than two-fifths of companies say their EU employees have expressed concern over their future residency status following the vote to leave the European Union.

The BCC is calling on the Government to provide certainty on the residence rights of existing EU employees. It says the potential skills lost from existing EU workers leaving the UK would hamper businesses at a time when many are reporting recruitment difficulties. Businesses also need clarity on hiring from the 27 other EU countries during the transition period.

The Government, it says, must also "create a future immigration policy that allows businesses to plug their skills shortages with employees from the EU, with minimal bureaucracy, cost or barriers".

The key findings from the survey are:

  • 41% of companies that employ EU workers say these staff have expressed uncertainty over their future residency status;
  • 5% of businesses that employ EU workers have seen EU employees resign since the referendum;
  • 10% of businesses have seen their EU employees state their intention to leave the UK;
  • 60% of businesses surveyed think residency guarantees for EU workers would have a positive impact on their business (28% said it would have no impact and 9% said they were unsure or it was not applicable).

Adam Marshall, BCC acting director general, said: "Since the referendum many firms have expressed concern over the future status of their existing EU workforce. These hardworking people are absolutely vital to the success of businesses, and must be retained - we cannot afford to lose talented and skilled workers. Theresa May should reassure them as soon as possible that they will have the right to remain in the UK, to provide much-needed certainty both for EU employees and UK employers."

Rachel Suff, employment adviser at the CIPD, said: "Until a clear decision is made by Government, many workers from the EU will be feeling in limbo, particularly those without UK residency status who could be worried about their future right to remain. Employers need to communicate clearly with employees, emphasising that there will be no immediate changes."

More on this topic:

9 September 2016

Local shops are thriving says retail reportThe value of the convenience store sector has grown and local shops are thriving according to the 2016 Local Shop Report by the Association of Convenience Stores.

There are just over 50,000 convenience stories in mainland UK and the sector is worth £37.5 billion in 2016, up over £400m on 2015. This growth demonstrates the value that local shops provide to local communities according to the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS).

"Running a successful convenience store requires a lot of hard work and a strong connection to the local community to ensure that the store stays relevant," said James Lowman, ACS chief executive.

Part of the reason for the success of convenience stores is their ability to adapt, according to the report. More than one in four stores (28%) now provide parcel services, with 10% offering a click and collect service and some introducing services like dry cleaning and key cutting. Convenience store owners have invested over £600m over the past year on improvements.

"Retailers have done a fantastic job of diversifying their offering in store and providing a wide range of services, which contributes to the fact that consumers, local councillors and MPs all believe that Post Offices and convenience stores are the services that have the most positive impact on their local area," said Lowman.

The convenience store sector provides jobs for 390,000 people, but the number of staff employed in each store has fallen. "For the first time since we started this research in 2012, we have seen a decline in job numbers as well as more staff working part-time hours," said Lowman. "This is consistent with the feedback from other ACS surveys showing retailers cutting back on staff hours to cope with the big increases in wage costs, not least because of the National Living Wage."

Meanwhile, the report also reveals that convenience store owners are some of the hardest working entrepreneurs in the UK, with 24% of retailers working over 70 hours per week and 22% taking no holiday at all throughout the year.

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9 September 2016

Small firms that don't export are missing outMost UK small businesses do not export their goods or services despite the fact that it could significantly boost their revenue, according to new research by the Royal Mail.

Released to coincide with Small Business Advice Week (5-11 September), the Royal Mail research found that 60% of the 300 small business owners polled were not yet selling overseas.

The key reasons for this included the cost and complexity of getting through customs (26%), lack of knowledge of the market (21%) and language barriers (21%).

However, many of the business owners polled are interested in expanding overseas, with 35% of small firms saying that Europe holds the most potential to generate new sales for their business while 28% say the USA has the greatest potential.

For 26% of small businesses, the cost of getting through customs is the main obstacle to exporting. However according to the Royal Mail, many international orders from outside the EU fall below the minimum threshold for which customs duties are chargeable, making those markets more accessible to small businesses.

Meanwhile, among the 40% of businesses who sell internationally, just over a quarter of their sales this Christmas (26%) are expected to come from international orders.

At present, 15% of small exporters are selling to customers outside the European Union; 10% of those selling within the EU would also like to expand further afield. However, only 25% of small businesses use international online marketplaces to grow their sales.

Jim Shaikh ceo of Yoomi, the first self-warming baby bottle said: "Expanding internationally was a no-brainer for us. The UK market for our product is very mature and we found that expanding abroad was the logical next step for us and the only way for us to achieve growth and survive."

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