Chamberlain McBain News Blog


Anna’s blog: Prime Minister Reassures the Nation After Shock Rate Rises

Blog PictureSupporters of the Prime Minister said that he has lots of experience because he is the former Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was certainly looking to convey his financial acumen and was careful to pay great attention to detail. Of course, at this time of uncertainty and all of the bad press facing the Conservative party, he is looking to build trust in the public as he promises that he can bring down the Bank of England base rate and price growth.

2023 Promises

It was only in January this year that Richie Sunak made promises during his primary pledge to half the inflation from 10% at the time down to around 5% by December. Yesterday he said, "Yesterday, you would have heard some news about inflation; today, you may have seen what the Bank of England has announced with interest rates. I'm sure that actually fills many of you with some anxiety and some concern about what's going on and what that means for you and your families. I'm here to tell you that I am totally, 100%, on it, and it's going to be okay, and we are going to get through this."

Re-election Chances

When he finished his speech and opened the floor to questions, Sky News wanted to know if he thought his electoral chances were being harmed by his approach to the economy. So far, he has shied away from any tax cuts, kept public pay low, and has made promises to have inflation; however, he did not seem to think it was a huge problem or would damage his re-election chances. He conceded that hitting his own target was now more difficult, but he still felt it was manageable, not impossible.

Halving Inflation

Unsurprisingly, the economy is pretty much all he gets to talk about these days and soon after the interest rate hike. He was being interviewed by the Times CEO Summit. He was stoic in his commitment to halving inflation by the end of the year and confirmed that he always knew it would be a mammoth task.

Labour Responds

The opposition leader, Sir Keir Starmer, was at a by-election campaign event, coincidentally in the former constituency of Boris Johnson. He said, “The government wants to pretend it is someone else’s fault. You have to ask the question why the UK is always hit the hardest - and the answer to that is 30 years of absolute failure from this government, a kamikaze budget and a failure to fix the fundamentals,"



Anna’s blog: Jeremy Hunt Says No Alternative to Increasing Interest Rates

Blog PictureIt is the opinion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, that the UK has been left with no choice but to increase interest rates to try and stop the prices from rising so rapidly. He spoke of the challenge that we face with price rises and confirmed there was no alternative but to increase interest rates but stated that the government would be unwavering in its support of the Bank of England as they work together to do whatever it takes to slow down inflation.

April Economic Growth

The April UK economic growth was largely dominated by rising interest rates and the cost of mortgages. Although there was a 0.2% growth in the economy, The Office for National Statistics said it had been a poor month for estate agents and house builders. The cost of borrowing has been only increasing since December 2021 and currently stands at 4.5%. These rises were an attempt to slow down consumer price inflation, but this is currently 8.7%. The Bank of England's inflation target was only 2%, so this figure is dramatically inflated.

A Rise in Interest Rates

The idea behind bringing interest rates up again means that borrowing is more expensive, and people will have less expendable income, which in turn will mean fewer things get purchased, and this slows rising prices. Technically it benefits savers, but only if banks choose to pass on these rates to their customers, and it negatively impacts mortgages, credit cards and loan payments because the interest rates will be higher.

The Bank of England

In 1997, the Bank of England was declared independent, and this means that since then, the UK government does not get a say in how interest rates are set. Hunt said, "In the end, there is no alternative to bringing down inflation if we want to see consumers spending if we want to see businesses investing, if we want to see long-term growth and prosperity." In April, there was some expansion of the economy in the UK after a 0.3% shrinkage in March. Over the three months to April, it had grown, but only marginally at 0.1%.

Hospitality Industry

The Office for National Statistics presented a mixed bag saying that the construction sector had definitely suffered because interest rates were rising, and this, combined with mortgage rate costs, meant that fewer people were buying houses and instead exercising caution. It also doesn’t help that as fixed-rate mortgages come to an end, lenders are withdrawing, some products leaving homeowners with less choice. It’s not an easy time for first-time buyers, either, as they have higher interest rates, meaning they cannot afford to proceed with the mortgage, and even landlords are facing having to sell their properties which are impacting those renting from them. HSBC, who is one of the most significant UK lenders, withdrew the new residential mortgages that they would normally supply via brokers. Conversely, in the hospitality sector, bars and pubs saw a very strong trade which helped to boost growth.



Anna’s blog: Mortgage Holders Braced as Higher Rates Lead to Recession

Blog PictureAs many mortgage holders reach the end of the fixed rate period, Britain will be tipped into a recession by the soaring mortgage rates as homeowners struggle to refix a deal that is affordable. This stark warning has come from Moody’s, the leading ratings agency.

Global Technical Recession

It is not just the UK but Germany and the USA that are predicted to hit a technical recession, but it will only be the UK that records negative growth for the year. This is further evidenced by the Bank of England, which issued a statement saying it has become incredibly challenging to get control of price rises because of the persistent underlying inflation compared with other countries.

Fixed Rate Mortgages

A large percentage of British homeowners are on some kind of fixed rate mortgage deal, but it’s likely to only be short term, and this leads to a vulnerability for recession. At least half of those with mortgages will find themselves having to accept a floating rate or will have to fix a deal at a much higher rate in order to continue. This will have a negative impact on the disposable income of a typical household.

In the UK, fixed-rate mortgage deals tend to only be offered for periods of between two and five years which, compared to Germany and America, is incredibly short. Their fixed rate deals are much longer with Germany, generally giving 10-year fixed rates and the US offering 30-year fixed rates, which means a lesser percentage of homeowners are going to be affected by rate rises because they are fixed and have been for many years.

GDP to Shrink

The knock-on effect means that in the UK, the GDP is predicted to shrink by 0.1% over 2023. This is one of the biggest falls in the G20, with only Argentina and Russia predicting worse. And the bad news just keeps coming. Looking at figures since the pandemic, when moving was banned, the current data shows house sales are at their lowest level even now. In April 67,220, residential sales were registered according to HM revenue and customs. This figure is down 29% when compared with the previous month, making this the lowest for three years.

Mortgage Rates

This is all tied in with the mortgage rates; before the mini-budget in September, an average fixed rate deal of two years was just 4.7%, but this climbed rapidly in just four weeks to 6.65%. With house purchases taking on average around five months to complete from the sale agreed, there is a delay in the effects, which are now spiking.

The European Central Bank also issued a stark warning that interest rates climbing would test the resilience and potentially raise the risk of disorder of Eurozone households and companies across all markets. They also spoke of the concern that weakness had been revealed during the fight against inflation, showing vulnerabilities in the financial system that cannot be ignored, which they feel is very concerning.



Anna’s blog: UK Sees Stronger Economy in January Than Expected

Blog PictureThe UK economy got an unexpected boost in January thanks to a massive influx of self-assessment tax payments. Despite increased spending to help the most affected households with energy bills and EU payments, there was a notable surplus of cash available for the government to spend at the end of January 2023. Naturally, good news like this warrants discussion.

Self-Assessment on the Rise

If we take a look at the data, we can see that the favourable financial position the government is currently in is thanks to the increase in money from self-assessment tax returns. The number of people who paid their self-assessment tax bill is the highest since 1999 when official record-keeping began.

The result was that the government spent less money than was paid in tax, leaving them a £5.4bn surplus which could be used for other projects or simply investing back into the economy.

Incoming Budget

Despite this surplus of cash, official figures suggest that the UK is still heading for a recession, and it is unknown how tax and spending will be affected by the budget that will be delivered next month on the 15th of March by the Chancellor.

Generally speaking, experts predict that the budget may be a positive one, as the cost of wholesale energy has gone down, which means that government support for bill support will only need to be a fraction of what it was forecast to be last year.

In fact, public borrowing for the financial year just gone is £30.6bn less than was officially predicted by the financial experts. This is good news and points to the economy doing better than was initially perceived.

Wait and See

Unfortunately, it's too early to tell if we can begin to reverse the damage from the last few years any time soon. Short-term changes to the U.K.’s financial situation are not as important as some would hope, and we will need to see constant positive financial updates for at least six months before we can begin to say with any certainty as to whether or not things will improve.

Despite this, the increase in government funding available for January is a cause for celebration. It suggests that not only are our businesses profiting and generating a high turnover, but it also suggests that a lot of people are creating lucrative business opportunities for themselves, which can help a lot with the current job and wage shortage.

Final Thoughts

So, it’s clear that the projections for January were better than we expected. This is no bad thing and does point to what will hopefully be continued growth for the country. Obviously, it is a little too early to tell what will happen to the economy right now, but with a little bit of time and continued financial success, we could be in for a shorter recession than what was first predicted. For now though, it’s worth waiting and seeing what will happen.



Anna’s blog: UK Inflation Slows, But Prices Near 40-Year High

Blog PictureFood costs continue to increase in the UK, fuelling the inflation rate and driving up the overall cost of living. There has been a notable increase in sugar, olive oil and low-fat milk prices.

The current inflation rate for food is currently at a 45-year record, and some supermarkets have warned that prices will continue to stay up throughout the year in recent projections.

Inflation Falls Slowly

The overall inflation rate for the UK fell for the third month in a row since December. In January, it was 10.1%, down from 10.5%.

The main factors which slowed down the inflation rate were the decreases in fuel prices and the reduced cost of dining in public.

Inflation is measuring an increase in the price of something over time. In order to calculate what the current inflation rate is, the Office for National Statistics tracks the prices of hundreds, if not thousands, of everyday items.

If these rates fall, then it doesn’t mean that the prices of certain goods are going down but that the price is rising slowly. The general consensus is that inflation will continue to fall for the next year, but it is currently at five times the target of the Bank of England, which sits at only 2%.

An Uncertain Future

The future of the economy is currently uncertain. It isn’t easy to know what will happen in the future and how these events will impact the rest of the year. At the moment, inflation rates are falling slowly, but this could easily change.

Obviously, it’s important to remain fluid in the face of uncertain circumstances. We must be able to adapt and change to our environment, making sure that we make decisions that will ultimately give us some level of financial freedom.

We recognise that it’s difficult to try and prepare for the future when we don’t know what’s going to happen. However, if there is one thing we can say about the economy at this time, it’s still relatively unstable. It would be unwise to make any assumptions about what the future will bring or your ability to deal with it. The best thing that you can do is try and prepare vigilantly for everything.

Hopefully, this is the beginning of a return to normality, and the recession will end fairly soon, but it’s difficult to know with any real certainty. The best thing we can do is try and hope for a smooth transition back towards normality.

Final Thoughts

The continued fall of inflation rates is in line with what’s been predicted by financial experts since the beginning of the year. However, only time will tell as to whether or not this is going to be possible. The best thing that we can do is try and prepare for any eventuality, which means that we will need to work slowly and carefully to build up cash reserves and pay off any debt while we can.



Anna’s blog: Is the Recession Already Here?

Blog PictureWe’ve all been living and waiting for that dreaded day that the recession is announced. It seems like it’s an almost inevitable eventuality at this point. However, nobody considered the quietly terrifying prospect that the recession might already be here and that we just don’t know it yet. However, somebody who used to work for the Bank of England thinks that it does already live among us, and it’s interesting to think about.

The Quiet Emergence of Economic Crisis

Danny Blanchflower is a former rate-setter for the Bank of England. He recently came out as saying that:

“The UK in all likelihood is already in recession. The right thing to do is to sit back and wait and watch as the global recession probably spreads”.

Well, that’s definitely an interesting, if slightly bleak, take on things. The idea that the recession has already arrived and that there is very little we can do about it besides brace for impact is quietly quite depressing.

Economists predict that our GDP shrank 0.5% during the second quarter, so it’s not exactly difficult to imagine that we have been falling into economic problems, but the idea that the recession is already here is quite upsetting for some people.

Dark Times Ahead

It’s looking like it’s going to be a very difficult winter for a lot of reasons. Current economic predictions suggest that energy bills could rise to £3800 by the winter, which is a disturbing amount of money. Lots of people will simply not be able to afford this, and there are even rumblings that electricity will have to be rationed across the country.

Functionally, we are sailing into some very dark times, and the result is going to be deeply disturbing if we’re not careful. The economy has had ups and downs throughout the year, but it’s primarily not been doing that well. The overall consensus is that we need strong and swift action to try and reverse course, but many take the idea that we can’t do anything about it anymore. We are going to crash into a recession whether we want to or not.

Ultimately, it’s just a case of bracing for impact. After all, there are plenty of situations where the economy could improve, but we just have to be prepared to face the worst if it comes.

Final Thoughts

So, the idea that we are plunging into an economic recession and that it is, in fact, already here is quite upsetting.

Ultimately, people have a responsibility to try and make sure that they put aside some money to brace for a difficult winter. Naturally, the more money that we can save for ourselves, the better it will be. However, there is going to be a sharp rise in energy bill prices, and a recession could well be inevitable. Unfortunately, we’re just going to have to wait and see what happens and deal with each new challenge as it presents itself.



Anna’s blog: Here Comes the Recession

The word “recession” is one that we’ve been dealing with for a while now. There have been rumblings of a recession for quite some time, and people are getting a little bit nervous at the idea

However, as the economic situation in the country continues to get worse, people are beginning to get more restless. It seems like the idea of a recession is getting closer and closer, and there doesn’t seem to be much we can do about it.

Heading For Problem

At the end of the day, one of the big things that we can’t get out of is that the economy has not been doing so well all year. It’s hard for people to try and look at the big picture, which is concerning.

Most of us are trying to ignore the fact that there have been rumblings of a recession in the autumn and winter. However, according to the latest financial reports, it’s pretty much unavoidable now.

We are in a situation where it’s looking increasingly likely that we will have to deal with a recession. The economy is slowing down more every month, and a lot of the backlog from the pandemic has been fulfilled now. There is no more artificial boosting of the figures, so the reality of what’s actually being spent on a week by week basis is hard to wrap our heads around.

Preparing For Hardship

There is no doubt that the government is probably working very hard to try and prepare a solution to avoid the recession, or, at the very least, work out a way to reduce the impact. However, it’s not as straightforward as that. We are in a situation where it’s going to be difficult for people to approach the recession with confidence, so now is the time to make those final spending changes.

For example, we are beginning to see people spend less on the weekly food shop, or less on entertainment. This will only get more prominent as time goes on, so it’s very important that you try and practice being frugal and financially savvy to avoid being at a disadvantage when the recession does set in.

We are definitely going to need more government support, but whether or not we get that remains to be seen. It’s just going to be a case of waiting and seeing what happens, which is difficult to think about, but unfortunately just part of the process.

Final Thoughts

The recession is probably going to happen now, and that’s difficult for people to accept, but we just have to try and look at it as best we can. There’s not going to be a lot we can do besides grit our teeth and deal with things, so it’s ultimately just about trying to prepare. Maybe the rest of the summer will be more positive, we do have a few more months of good weather ahead of us, and the tourism industry might help, but it’s just a case of riding out the bad times for a bit.



Anna’s blog: UK Bound For Recession - So Says Lord Hammond

Blog PictureThe former chancellor, Lord Hammond, has recently weighed in on the current economic situation and is sharing the same sentiment echoed by many of our experts - the autumn is going to be a rough, challenging time regarding the economy

As the former chancellor, Lord Hammond has some interesting opinions, and they are worth listening to, so we thought we would summarise what he said for you, and see if we can’t divine the meaning from it.

Recession Inbound

So, in a recent interview, Lord Hammond recently talked a little bit about the COVID-19 pandemic and how it influenced the current economic situation, saying that:

“To think that we can somehow move on from that, leave the tab on the table and act as if nothing had happened is unrealistic, is naive.

There's now got to be a part of the cycle where we correct for the extraordinary action that was taken during the pandemic.

And a lot of what we're seeing at the moment in terms of inflation pressures in the domestic economy is a result of the people having saved quite a lot during the lockdown period and that saving getting released into the economy over the last six months."

Actions Have Consequences

Functionally, what we’re dealing with right now is the basic idea that actions do have consequences. The coronavirus pandemic did require a massive government response, and, credit where it is due, they really did step up.

However, these kinds of actions do have a consequence. The massive economic drain that we put on the country trying to keep everybody safe during the pandemic, whether it was the grant scheme or paying for the vaccine to be created, all the rapid testing, it’s had an impact. We were warned ahead of time that there would be consequences, but nobody really expected that they would come now, or that they would come in the shape that they have.

We are now seeing the full consequences of the pandemic, and it’s pretty grim. We are heading for a recession, and to be fair, a lot of countries might well be in the same position as we are within a year or two, but we are one of the first to really experience severe financial consequences. It’s definitely important that we try to look towards the positives, and work out how we can make changes moving forward.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, it seems like a recession is, for the most part, completely unavoidable. We were warned there would be consequences to our decisions, and the result has proven itself to be substantial. We are definitely living in a period where it’s about to get much more difficult financially, and whether or not we want to face that, it is going to happen. It’ll be tough for the government to provide a comprehensive solution that prevents the problem altogether, but we just have to wait and see what happens.



Anna’s blog: The UK Economy - Stopping, Shrinking, and Slightly Going Wrong

Blog PictureAs is often the case with the UK economy, we are beginning to see things go a little bit wrong again. It’s not exactly been the most productive year for anybody, and we’ve had to watch the economy slide further into problems, but the latest advice and predictions are not looking great. Instead, we thought we were told a little bit about it because, let’s be honest, everybody is concerned right now.

Grinding to a Halt

The first big problem that will likely occur is that the UK economy is going to grind to an effective halt. We’ve been watching reports for quite some time now that the economy is plunging further into a bad place, and economic growth each month hasn’t been as high as what was projected. The end result is that eventually, there isn’t going to be any more growth. It is predicted that we will simply grind to a halt. If there is no economic growth to try and match the rising inflation costs and rates of interest, then we are in a difficult position.

The Shrinkage

The biggest problem that we are facing after the grinding of the economy to a halt is shrinkage. Once the economy stops growing, one of the things that can do a start to shrink. This means that we’re not actually making growth; we’re going backwards. This would be a very problematic situation because interest rates are rising, inflation is rising, and the threat of a recession is getting closer and closer. It’s difficult to determine exactly what we can do about the situation, but shrinkage is a growing threat.

An Uncertain Future

Unfortunately, the future that we live in is now quite uncertain. Nobody knows exactly what will happen in the future, but it is not looking good. If the economy does stop growing and shrinkage occurs, then a recession becomes even more likely.

The last recession was incredibly damaging for the economy, and we were back on track to do really well until the pandemic hit. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the conflict in Ukraine, has done nothing but make things harder. We will have to wait and see as to whether or not the government unveils more support, they are committed to a flexible support scheme, but only time will tell.

Final Thoughts

So, when it comes to the economy, we are not looking like a strong country right now. Things may get a lot worse, and with the threat of a recession and the energy bill rising still to come in the autumn, it could get very difficult. We will have to brace and hold ourselves ready for whatever may happen because there is no telling just how bad this will get until it actually goes off. The only thing that we can do, the most important thing that we can do, is to try and come up with methods to deal with these challenges. We need the government to help, essentially, and this may take time, but it’s worth it if they are prepared to deliver a robust support scheme.



Anna’s blog: Economy Recap - All Quiet on the Front

Blog PictureIt seems like every week, we talk about something new when it comes to the economy. Every week there is a new disaster, a new revelation that threatens to spill out into the world and cause major damage to our country. However, for once, that doesn’t exist.

The battlefield of the UK is empty for once, no new threats marching in from the horizon. We’re waiting for a new problem to emerge now, for something fresh to turn up, and while we do, it’s important to take a moment and reflect on how we got here.

Errors Stacked on Errors

The reason why we’ve had such a problem is obvious to anyone - the long series of errors that have marked out the UK economy. It is not difficult to see that when it comes to the economy we’ve had a pretty bad hand, all things considered. There have been setbacks following our exit from lockdown, the crisis in Ukraine has forced prices up, and it’s generally been one long series of comedic errors.

Naturally, a situation of this kind is going to be difficult for anyone to deal with because it pushes people into situations where staying economically afloat is harder and harder. We’re in a sort of crisis situation, and it’s clear that the recent developments have done little but throw fuel on the fire.

Waiting For the Dawn

Unfortunately, we are in a position right now where the most we are able to do, seemingly, is wait for the next situation to occur. It seems like we are often stuck waiting for the next problem. Each week seems to bring a fresh challenge, and it is strange to not have one to report on.

Everybody wishes to see the situation improve. However, the reality is quite disappointing. It is unlikely that things will take such a radical U-turn, which means that instead, we will simply learn to adapt to the changing economic situation of the country. Perhaps we will see things get easier if the government produces more support schemes, but regarding the overall state of things? There is very little that can be done.

In this moment of brief pause, it is a good idea to look at the way we handle things. Are you approaching financial decisions sensibly? Are you remaining calm when talking about money? It’s important to develop a good attitude towards these things, especially when difficult times come around.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, there’s very little we can do right now besides brace. It’s hard to know exactly how things will play out, but it’s safe to say that there are many different situations where things become more challenging. We have to hope that the government will continue to provide a robust support system and that the financial challenges that we face every day continue to remain as low as possible. At least nothing serious is happening right now, which means for a minute, we do have room to breathe.



Anna’s blog: Government Unveils More Measures to Help Combat Energy Price Rising

Blog PictureWith the rise of energy prices becoming a real problem, it was only a matter of time before the government developed a support package to pitch in and help out the most vulnerable in society. We all knew it was coming, which meant that when it did turn up, it was a welcome relief.

Recent announcements have given us a little bit of optimistic hope for the future, especially when you consider that there are now support packages in place to deal with the projected hike that will take place in the last quarter of 2022. Let’s take a bit of a look at what’s going on and highlight the support the government is prepared to put in place.

Financial Aid Inbound

So, the recent announcements that took place in the week boil down to providing financial aid for those that needed it. Every household will receive a £400 package to support their energy bill costs. The most vulnerable members of our society, those who are on the benefits system, or anybody who qualifies, will receive an extra £650 as a payment paid out in two lump sums.

It’s a pretty generous package and is being funded by a windfall tax on the fuel sector.

Support For Hard Times

It’s pretty safe to say that this is so much needed support for difficult times. We live in a period where economic uncertainty is constant. Nobody knows if they’re going have enough money to make it through the day, which is really scary when you’ve got a family to look after or bills to pay. The support package that has been put in place is definitely needed because it gives us the chance to take stock of what’s going on and make some smart decisions.

Ultimately, this package may well evolve with the times. The government has said that as the situation develops, more support may be unveiled, so it’s just a matter of time until we see how everything is going to work. It’s important to acknowledge that when it comes to ongoing support, we need to keep trying to save money regardless. There is no guarantee of a support package from the government, so we do have to be vigilant even when things look better. It’s about taking personal financial responsibility.

Final Thoughts

So, the recent support package that was announced is definitely helpful. We definitely needed some assistance from the government to get us through the hard times that are soon to come. Obviously, the support that we do receive will evolve over time. It’s important to acknowledge that the government is committed to helping where it can.

People can take a certain amount of personal responsibility for their finances. At the end of the day, try and avoid impulse spending. Remember that there is no guarantee we’ll have the money we need. Therefore, it’s never been more important to be vigilant.



Anna’s blog: Inflation - The Constantly Rising Headache

Blog PictureHere’s the thing, we don’t actually want to sit and talk about the economy until the end of time, but it’s really becoming a problem at this point. Nobody can deny that the inflation issue that we’ve been facing for the last few months is getting out of hand, but it’s just starting to break even more records, and it’s important to know what’s going on because it paints a rather sobering picture of life in the next year or two.

Dangerous Inflation Levels

The big problem that we’re having right now is that inflation levels are rising at a speed that we haven’t actually seen for 40 years. The current rate of inflation is 9%, which is rather high and very concerning.

Financially, we could not be in a worse position right about now. We are sliding towards a recession in the latter half of the year, and government support packages are not doing any good at all, and they are in short supply anyway. Some people are looking at a £700 increase in their energy bills, which is scary if you are living on a regular salary because where does the extra money come from?

Something Has to Give

The big problem that we are facing is that the position we’re in right now is currently rapidly becoming untenable. It’s just not going to be possible to maintain this level of high inflation rates and rising costs for much longer because there’s just not enough money to go around. It’s a rather concerning situation because it doesn’t appear to have a distinct endpoint. We could carry on like this for at least another 6-7 months, and if that is the case, what’s going to happen to people's ability to live?

Everybody is looking to the government to do something about the situation right now, but we haven’t had any big announcements yet. We did have some announcements back when the budget was released, like the promise to curb the amount of national insurance tax that somebody has to pay up to a certain point and providing a rebate on council tax, but there’s been nothing new to meet the ongoing developments.

With the conflict in Ukraine still ongoing, and the gap between wages and bills getting high all the time, it makes logical sense for the government to do something now, but we haven’t really seen anything in that vein just yet.

Final Thoughts

So, with the advent of inflation rising faster than it has done for the last 40 years, it’s become clear that we are rapidly developing into a situation which cannot be easily recovered. We need swift action very soon if we’re going to stand a chance of getting things back on track, which means the government really needs to announce some concrete plans to tackle the problem. Ultimately, this is a difficult period for people economically, and it has never been more important to be smart with money, trying to save it where you can.



Anna’s blog: Recession Fears on the Horizon - Tough Times Ahead?

Blog PictureThe economic recession of the UK was a documented, well-known event for many years. Everybody fears it happening again, and in this case, we might well be about to see it come true.

The impact of our already fragmented economy has led to a rise in the number of consequences. The economy is shrinking, spending is going down, and interest rates are going up. A total crash seems to be inevitable, and it might happen sooner than you’d think.

Higher Prices Taking Their Toll

The rise in prices is beginning to showcase the current state of affairs in the UK, with people having to spend less and cut down on overall costs to try and mitigate a lack of income. Car trips are becoming increasingly difficult, for example, due to increasing fuel costs.

High-energy bills that began in April are also concerning, and their true impact has yet to be seen, but there’s every evidence that it will be incredibly difficult to keep up with them.

During the first three months of 2022, the economy grew by 0.8%. However, in March, it shrank by 0.1% as people began to spend less.

The Recession Imminent

The biggest boost to the economy came during the month of January. Both the travel and the hospitality industries finally began to recover from the restrictions put in place by the pandemic.

The resulting boost, however, was short-lived. The conflict in Ukraine had consequences, and households across the country began to feel higher prices creeping in.

As a result of all of these factors, the risk of a recession has risen, with many experts believing it will occur in the last few months of 2022 when problems hit an effective breaking point.

Can Anything Be Done?

Naturally, with such rumours on the horizon, people will be concerned and will want to know if we can prevent this future.

Unfortunately, from a purely economic standpoint, there isn’t anything the public can do. It is down to the government to design and introduce some kind of aid, and that is always going to be hard. They have to balance the future with what’s going on right now, and it is a challenge. However, there have been whisperings of more support, so we’ll just have to wait and see. It would definitely be appreciated and much-needed.

Final Thoughts

So, when it comes to the imminent threat of recession, there are a lot of considerations to keep in mind. It is important to keep in mind that there are many different considerations in play when a recession happens, and it is by no means guaranteed. Essentially, it’s a rumbling, and things can change, but it is important to know what’s happening. There are so many different scenarios that can occur, but what is important is that we brace for impact. The storm is coming metaphorically, and it could be a very difficult time for many people. We’ll just have to wait and see.



Anna’s blog: UK to Have Slowest Growth of G7 Nations

Blog PictureWatching people try and work out what the economy is going to do can be tricky because it seems to change every week. Once upon a time, we were the highest growing country in the G7 nations - but not anymore. A new global forecast has predicted that the UK won’t do quite as well as was hoped during the next few years, which is a definite sour note.

From Top Dogs to Cause Of Concern

Once upon a time, specifically just a few short months ago, the UK was set to grow the most out of the G7 nations - a group of countries and powers consisting of the UK, USA, Canada, Germany, Japan, Italy, and France - as we’d been one of the first to emerge from the pandemic and that offered up encouraging projections for the future.

However, new reports on the matter seem to showcase that the UK will not be the fastest-growing member of the group and, in 2023, will be the slowest.

A Country on the Edge

The UK economy is predicted to grow a little less than we’d like this year - down to 3.7%. This is a radical shift from the 4.7% that was expected in January. Ultimately, the problem boils down to the usual culprits - pressures on prices will slash spending, and rising internet rates are putting off investment.

In 2023, the situation looks even bleaker. We are projected to have the slowest growth out of the G7 countries. Our expected growth for that year is just 1.2%, which is down from the 2.3% figure we saw before.

Within the global tables, we’re actually predicted to have one of the slowest growths - excluding Russia, which is obviously being heavily sanctioned right now.

The biggest problem that experts have located is the high levels of inflation. It’ll mess with growth in 2023, but it’ll also start to impact the income of people, as the spending power we all have will go down a bit.

While inflation is expected to peak at 9% during the latter half of 2022, there is no denying that these inflation rates are going to damage the UK during 2022 and 2023, which is a problem.

There are plenty of government policies in place which will reduce the investment made by businesses as well, such as stopping a lot of tax breaks.

Final Thoughts

So, it’s not difficult to see that things aren’t going to look all that great in 2022 and beyond. Unless we see some radical - and increasingly unlikely - change, it’s not going to be easy to change the bleak projections we’re seeing so far.

The consequences of our current financial hardships will echo through the next few years, and it does create a knock-on effect - imagine dominoes for the best metaphor. Ultimately, when one problem starts, it sets up a few more in the future, which sets up more after that. We’ll need to see some stronger months to try and change course, but for now, hold on tight. It might get a bit messy.



Anna’s blog: The Budget at a Glance - What You Need to Know

Blog PictureSo obviously, the official budget given by Rishi Sunak recently has been the talk of economists across the country. Given the rising cost of living, the expected fuel price hike later on in the year, and gradual concerns about the economy, this budget was going to have to deliver quite a lot.

In many respects, it actually did quite well. What we got when it came to the budget was a series of announcements that would theoretically help people with life everywhere, so let's recap them.

Fuel Duty Cuts

The first big announcement that was made was the cutting of fuel duty. For the first time in a while, and the second time in only 20 years, fuel duty was cut by 5p per litre starting from the day of the budget.

Obviously, this will help people in the long run, as it means that people can save money on fuel costs. This has been a considerable concern for a while, as the latest conflict in Ukraine, coupled with diminishing resources, meant that the price of fuel had been steadily rising for a while.

National Insurance Reductions

However, the thing that made people the happiest was a reduction in the amount of national insurance people have to pay. How national insurance works is that you pay your taxes, but you also pay what is called national insurance, which directly contributes to things like the NHS and public services.

National insurance costs begin after you earn £9000 or so. However, the budget saw this threshold be raised to be consistent with income tax. This means that people don’t have to pay national insurance contributions on the first £12,570 that they earn.

Obviously, this is excellent news and will help save people money all across the country. The rules come in from next year so that the next tax year will be much easier.

The Impacts

So, it’s clear that the budget was delivered with a goal in mind, and that was to try and help the rising cost of living that many people are facing. Opponents of the Conservative government have criticised the budget as not doing enough, but only time will tell as to how this will impact the economy moving forward.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, these changes will help properly put together some respite for people.

Ultimately, these are positive changes, but they may not be enough. We’re going to have to wait and see how the economy develops over the next couple of months and how people's lives change as a result of the new rules and announcements. We can only hope that this makes things easier, as has been promised, but it’s just going to be a case of wait-and- see. After all, the future is not written in stone. We may well find a period of economic growth, so it’s essential to try and stay optimistic.



Anna’s blog: 2022 Gets Strong Start as Economy Bounces Back

Blog PictureIt’s always lovely when the economy manages to bounce back following a rough patch. We’ve had to take a lot of the economic news in the UK on a week-by-week basis. It has been challenging, but we might be due some good news at last.

The economy has grown in the period leading up to February 2022, with January being a solid month. This puts us in a stronger position than we thought and means that hopefully, good things may continue.

Increases For January

The main point that we want to convey is that we have seen a substantial period of economic growth for January. It was predicted that we would only see a 0.2% increase in the economic growth for the month, but the figure we got, in the end, was higher - 0.8%.

Naturally, this is excellent news. Growth in the economy is a valuable part of the recovery process, and the UK has needed a bit of good news for a while now.

The amount of growth that we could achieve as a population was questioned for a while. The consensus is that when it comes to our overall activities, there are a lot of different factors to consider. The effect of the war, supply chain issues, increases in national insurance, inflation - many various factors all played into things.

Hope for the Future?

It’s important to remain cautiously optimistic. Yes, there has been growth that was beyond projections. However, we’re a long way from achieving equilibrium.

2022 will be a challenging year for people - there is no way around that. We’re seeing a period where there will be more challenges, and a hike in energy bills will affect a lot of people in a significant way. We’re just at the start of a challenging year, and the impacts of that will be hard to work out.

However, that doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. There is strong evidence that we can move forward - growth of this level above projections is no bad thing.

The big question that many people now face is whether or not we can continue this growth going forward. It is hard to know if the UK can continue to grow, especially considering that cases of the virus are now finally starting to rise again.

Final Thoughts

It’s all up in the air right now whether this incredible growth that we saw as part of January is sustainable. There are plenty of situations where change like this can make a lot of difference to a problem, but ultimately it depends on whether or not there are positive results from the process.

At any rate, it is nice to see a level of growth and progress going on at the moment. We love to see a situation where the UK does manage to get better, and it’s often accomplished via economic growth, so long may it continue.



Anna’s blog: UK Inflation Raises Debt Payments

Blog PictureThe pandemic is continuing to unveil hidden impacts on our economy. It’s fair to say that the UK has had a rough ride regarding COVID-19; we’ve experienced high case levels, severe financial impacts, and a slow recovery.

Unfortunately, the latter continues to become an issue, as the latest reports indicate that government interest payments have shot up due to rising inflation. Let’s take a look at the details.

New Levels of Interest

Payments made because of interest reached an eye-watering £6.1bn in January. The amount is the highest we’ve seen since April 1997 - and also an increase of £4.5bn in 2021.

The payments are thought to be because of the Retail Price Index (RPI) measurement for inflation. The final figure was 7.8% in January.

While it is true that the interest payments in January are the highest they’ve been in years, they still fell below the current most elevated levels of £9bn, which took place in June 2021.

Some will argue these increases are inevitable, and others will point to the mishandling of the pandemic.

What Does This Mean?

So, what do these increases mean for the general public?

We’re seeing a lot of challenges that can make life more challenging. Dealing with interest and inflation is one of the major headaches for the public.

It does mean that life will get more complicated when we don’t have the necessary support in place to pay back interest. Wages aren’t rising to meet inflation which means that for a lot of people, there’s not enough cash to go around.

We’re once again living and surviving in a period of economic uncertainty. Even if we manage to correct the problems and repair the damages from COVID-19, what happens if the disparity between wages and bills continues?

The economy isn’t doing well, and 2022 will be a test. There’s the energy bill increase, the recent end of self-isolation which curbs sick pay for coronavirus-related absences, and other factors.

Functionally, correcting this problem falls on the government once again. They need to try and tackle the issues by providing support for the most vulnerable parties.

For many families, these interest payments make the difference between either side of the poverty line. There needs to be some relief for people and a way to make sure that ordinary folks get a chance to prosper even in the face of adversity.

Final Thoughts

So, the rising interest payments are part of a growing problem, and it is safe to say that the economy will suffer as a result.

The end problem that many people face is a simple lack of funding and the ability to do anything with the issues met. We need a more robust support package on board to make all the difference.

The government will probably have to review a lot of their policies to make the changes we need. However, the common theme with all the news is that people will need to brace for a difficult period.



Anna’s blog: UK Economy Hits Back

Blog PictureWe’ve recently had the latest stats come in for 2021 regarding the economy, and it’s safe to say that we’ve done well.

The economy has done a pretty good job at bouncing back over the last year despite the lockdown, and it is refreshing to see, considering we’re in a period of uncertainty with everything.

So, let’s look at what’s gone on and how it might indicate future events.

Growth, At Last

The first thing that we can note about the economy in 2021 is that it grew. That’s good, no? We’re always happy to see some success considering the absolute state of things at the moment.

There was a 7.5% growth in 2021, which is, surprisingly, the best growth we’ve seen in the country since WW2.

Now, of course, it’s essential to make sure that we remain somewhat optimistic about things, but at this point, any economic growth is a good thing.

A Glimmer of Hope

When it comes to the economy, it isn’t easy to track how it’s doing from one day to the next. It seems like we get conflicting reports every week about the economy collapsing or flourishing, and it’s difficult to put together a cohesive sense of what’s going on.

The facts from 2021 do offer a relatively cohesive sense of how the economy actually performed last year. It gives a better sense of where we are as a country, and it’s much- needed data to try and chart a course in the future.

Will the Future Be Bright?

Ultimately, trying to predict what the future will do is never a reliable thing. In fact, it’s frequently difficult to work out, but that doesn’t stop people from trying their best.

There are many who will now say that we’re in a strong position to move forward, and that’s not an unreasonable conclusion. Strength usually follows strength, assuming that we keep making intelligent decisions, and the pandemic is winding down slowly.

However, there are still other things to consider in the equation, like the growing energy bill crisis, which is important to keep in mind. That may affect the spending power of the general public.

Ultimately, it’s hard to say for definite, but we did come out in a better place than we thought. The best economic growth since WW2 isn’t a bad accomplishment by any means and goes to show that maybe the economy is in better shape than we thought.

Final Thoughts

So we’re definitely in a stronger position than before, which is nice. The economic growth of the UK is definitely encouraging, and it is important that we continue to move forward.

At the end of the day, it’s important to take a look at what’s on offer in terms of the future. There are important steps to take when it comes to recovering the economy further, but at the end of the day, we won’t know for sure. It’ll just be a case of waiting for things to figure themselves out, and hopefully, everything will progress smoothly.



Anna’s blog: What Does the Energy Bill Rise Mean For You?

Blog PictureIf you’ve been paying attention to the news this week, then you will know that there has been quite a lot of talk about the increase in energy bills.

It’s difficult to say whether the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to this, but we are now dealing with a rise in energy bills for families all across the UK.

In the interest of making sure that you understand what’s going on, we thought we would look at what the energy bill rise will mean for you.

The Increases

From April 2022, there will be an increase in the amount people have to pay for their energy bills. This covers things like gas and electricity, and the estimated annual increase is £693 per household.

Now, when you factor in that the bills are typically split over a 12 months to six months, The costs are a little bit less. It works out just under an extra £50 a month over a 12 month period, or £100 over a six month period. However, that’s not the point.

The big problem is that we are in the middle of an economic recovery, and a lot of people don’t have this extra money. When you factor in that the cost of living is already going up, you get people who are going to have to balance heating their homes versus being able to eat.

The Government Solution

The government has acknowledged that this is potentially untenable for some people, which is why they have tried to help where they can. As a consequence, there is financial support available.

There is a £200 energy bill rebate which will be available, and also a £150 council tax rebate for any households that are in the A to D bracket of council tax payments in England. It’s estimated that these brackets make up 80% of all British homes.

The Effects

The effects that are going to make themselves known over the next six months are just going to complicate life for a lot of people.

Presumably, this decision to raise energy bill prices was taken as a last resort. However, that doesn’t change the fact this is far from the optimal outcome for anybody.

Hopefully, the prices will go back down in 2023, but 2022 could be a pretty tricky year for quite a few people. For some, it will be the difference between either side of the poverty line.

Final Thoughts

So, the energy bill increases will affect everybody. It doesn’t matter who you are at this point; you will be affected in some fashion. Most of us, the vast majority, will have to pay a bit more.

However, the people who will be most affected by this are those who are straddling the poverty line. Hopefully, the government will introduce more robust assistance for those people because there are going to be a lot of families who can’t handle this price increase.

For now, it’s just a case of trying to prepare for the bad times that are coming. Hopefully, the economy will start to see better days soon enough.



Anna’s blog: National Insurance Tax Still Set to Rise

Blog PictureIn the past we’ve talked about the economy in a general sense - these things may not have much impact on you as an ordinary person, but this update will affect people.

After some debate and speculation, the national insurance (NI) tax we all have to pay as part of our standard taxes is going to rise at this moment. It’s important to recognise how this will affect people and what it means for the economy.

Why is the Tax Rising?

So, the tax is being raised to try and provide more support for the health and social care areas of society.

It is no secret that the NHS has been underfunded for years now - for a Public Health Service a surprising lack of funding has been given to it. The government is now trying to patch up the holes in the funding, especially after it has been highlighted immensely during the pandemic.

The increase in national insurance tax is designed to try and deal with the problem, and it is going to be an effective way to deal with the lack of funding, but it will mean that most of us will wind up paying a little bit more than we thought we would.

How it Will Affect You

Like we said, it will have an impact on people from all different walks of life. National insurance is defined by income. So, the more that you earn, the more that you have to pay.

Its estimate of the people who make £20,000 a year will have to pay around £150 extra, and this will scale up and down depending on your income. So, if you earn a lower amount, then you’ll have to pay a little bit less extra, but if you want more, then you pay more.

If you’re already employed, then you may not see much of a difference in your wages. Taxes are automatically deducted before you get your payslip for the months, so it’s likely that you won’t see masses of change besides an extra £20-£30 being taken out each month.

For the self-employed, this will mean making sure that you save up a little bit extra for your tax bill. Once you file a tax return for 2021 to 2022, you will be able to see how much you have to pay, and then you’ll have till the 31st of January 2023 to pay it.

Final Thoughts

So, the national insurance tax increase is going to be something to keep an eye on. It’s not necessarily the end of the world, but it does require a little bit of care to get the best results. Ultimately, you will just want to make sure that you save up as much as you need to if you’re self-employed, but otherwise, there isn’t much you need to do besides sit back and watch the taxes automatically be deducted. Hopefully, these increases will help to fund the NHS and our social care projects, and mean that the economy starts to get into a healthy shape again.



Anna’s blog: Inflation Finally Reaches 30 Year High

Blog PictureWell, at this point, it’s not really surprising that it has come to this. The rise in food prices has finally tipped us into the highest raise of inflation that we’ve seen in 30 years.

Naturally, this doesn’t bode well for the economy, but it is important to understand what has happened, what could happen, and what is most likely going to happen.

So, without much further delay, let’s take a look at inflation reaching a record high and seeing what it does.

Rising Bills

So, what is to blame for the rise in inflation?

Well, it is a combination of both rising food costs and then a concurrent rise in energy bills.

These changes drove inflation up to 5.4% in the last 12 months leading up to December, which was up from 5.1% in the previous month.

As previously mentioned, this culminated in a 30 year high in terms of inflation. The last time this was such an issue was March of 1992, when inflation was at 7.1%.

Concerningly, this could all happen again, as gas and electric costs are all set to go up in the spring, which means that things could well become as bad as it was in 1992.

What Can Be Done?

The first and most obvious question that a lot of people will have is whether or not anything can be done about the problems, and it seems on the surface, there isn’t.

Up until now, we have seen energy bills kept relatively manageable by the price cap set by the government. However, as this is due for revision in April, the solution is only temporary.

There isn’t much we can do, irritatingly - it is mostly going to be a case of battening down the hatches and weathering the storm. It could be a long storm as well - we may not see a return to better inflation rates until 2023.

A Rough Future Ahead

So, the future might be rough ahead but we can achieve a degree of optimism knowing that it’ll pass eventually.

We’re looking at a year of rising prices and challenges, and it will take a pretty high level of resilience to make it through. Hopefully the government will introduce more schemes and ways to support us, because if we are going to thrive, it’ll have to be with the help of support networks.

Final Thoughts

The rise of the inflation for the economy is definitely cause for concern, and it does make us struggle to maintain optimism during the next year.

This is perhaps one of the more obvious consequences of the pandemic, or perhaps simply a natural part of society progressing forward - it’s hard to tell. Government support will make such a difference to our success as a country, and we’ll just have to take things one day at a time. We will continue to provide you with as much support as we can, and make sure you have an up-to-date knowledge of what’s going on.



Anna’s blog: UK Economy Above Pre-COVID Levels

Blog PictureIt certainly seems like each new week brings a new take on the economy. We seemingly move from chaos to growth in a matter of days, and perhaps this is because the economy is in a state of flux right now.

The coronavirus pandemic has economic repercussions which we will not understand for many years, and it is impossible to predict what will happen. The logical guesses made by economists seem to be accurate some of the time. Right now, the economy is in a strong place, but how long will that continue?

Growth At Last?

So, what we are seeing is that the economy has finally managed to get past the pre-covid levels for the first time in November of last year.

According to The Office For National Statistics, growth was at 0.9% for the time between October and November.

This amount was actually higher than what the economists predicted, and it meant that the economy as a whole was 0.7% bigger than it had been in February of 2020, which was when the pandemic really began to come into prevalence.

What Does This Mean?

Once again, we are back asking the question of what it all means. Ultimately, this is a positive thing. It does mean the economy is at a higher level of growth than was predicted, which means that we could come out of the economic crisis that has developed as a result of a pandemic sooner.

At the same time, it’s hard to tell these days. Everything is in such a weird state of flux, because each week seems to bring new information about the effect the pandemic had on the economy, so we’re just trying to see if there is a pattern emerging in the data, or if there is a trend in terms of progress.

Ultimately, we are not dissimilar from economists, or the financial experts, or the business owners, in a sense that we’re just trying to make some kind of sense of what’s been going on for the last year or so. It’s hard to tell what kind of lasting impact the economy will have in terms of the pandemic, so we’re just waiting at this point.

The biggest problem is that there’s never been a crisis like this before. We haven’t had a pandemic this severe in recorded history, so tracking the damage is really difficult. There is no manual for this.

Final Thoughts

So, at the end of the day, we appear to be in maybe a stronger position than we thought. Obviously, it’s just going to be a case of reporting on the new findings and data as it comes through, and maybe we can start to put together some kind of pattern, and figure out exactly what’s going on. It might take time, but we are committed to bringing you the news every week, and hopefully, we can all figure out where the economy is going together.



Anna’s blog: Inflation and Product Shortages to Blame For Stalling Economy?

Blog PictureWell, we’re into 2022. It’s safe to say that things could be going better. The economy is currently stalling a bit, and it’s not looking too promising for the month ahead.

Why is this the case? What has caused the economy to effectively grind to a halt? Well, there’s a couple of different theories, and it’s probably important to look at all of them if we’re going to work out what’s going on. However, it all boils down to two things. The rise of inflation, and product shortages.

Plan B in the Way

Plan B was the initial attempt by the government to try and mitigate some of the damage that would be caused by the latest variant of the coronavirus. However, it has had a bit of an adverse effect on the economy.

The problem looks a little bit like this. Because Plan B curtailed a lot of the shopping that people would’ve normally done over the Christmas period, sales in the fourth quarter of 2021 have not been as successful as people would’ve liked. This makes a 2022 spring to summer expansion a lot harder.

Where Does Blame Go?

So, where do we put the blame for this setback? Well, depending on where you go, you’re going to get a different opinion. There are some people who put the government solely in the crosshairs, but others in the retail and economic sectors will point to rising inflation and a reduction in products being imported.

The likelihood is that it’s actually a combination of all three, and the end result is that we are struggling quite a bit to really get going in the way that was hoped in the beginning of 2022.

Obviously, people were optimistic at the end of last year that 2022 would be the year that we would break away from the lingering effects of the coronavirus, and start to recover the economy. However, that’s not necessarily the case.

Instead, we have kind of fallen into the trap of stalling a little bit. It’s become quite difficult to keep tabs on the state of things, but we’re not quite moving forward with the momentum that we wanted to at this point. Hopefully things will clear up, but for now, it’s all gone a little bit pear-shaped.

Final Thoughts

So, 2022 may not have been the roaring success that we wanted it to be. However, we are just approaching the beginning, so there is every possibility that we can recover from this slump. After all, we're only just in January, so there’s plenty of time for things to pick up, and a summer return might well be in the cards. It does depend on a few things, like for example whether or not we can get past this influx of Covid cases, but it’s important to try and be optimistic. We have to recognise that the country has been in some pretty dire straits recently, so it’s not necessarily going to be instant progress.



Anna’s blog: UK Economy Set to Outgrow Other Countries in 2022

Blog PictureWhen we look at the British economy, it’s generally in the context of what’s going on within the country. However, there is something to be said for how the British economy is doing in comparison to the rest of the world, because everybody is in the same boat at this precise moment, and the countries that recover quickest from the pandemic are the ones that will thrive.

Recent predictions by economists are positive for the UK economy when we look towards 2022. In fact, we are set to outperform every other G7 country during the year in terms of economic growth.

What Are G7 Countries?

to understand what’s going on, we do have to acknowledge that not everybody will know what a G7 country is. The G7, known as the Group of Seven, is a political forum consisting of governments from seven countries. The United Kingdom, the US, Japan, Canada, Italy, France, and Germany all make up this roster.

Estimated predictions by economists suggest that we’ll see a 4.8% growth in GDP over 2022, which makes the UK set to be the dominant force in this arena.

What Will This Mean For Our Economy?

So, what will something like this mean for the economy in terms of how life will feel for us?

Broadly speaking, we can probably expect to see a lot of economic growth. These predictions are primarily geared towards the recovery from the pandemic, and a larger economic growth suggests that we’ll be one of the first to come out of the pandemic and thus, one of the fastest to get back to a better place.

Obviously, this could be a good thing for the everyday worker, because it could suggest that we’re moving into a period of positive economic growth. Hopefully, we’ll see interest and inflation either remain where they are or decrease, and the new increases in wages should help to make things a bit better.

However, it is important to acknowledge these are just predictions and projections - they don’t necessarily point towards a future written in stone. Anything could happen in the future, and we don’t know how well any country can do. You might find that Japan or Canada experiences a surge in growth, and if that’s the case, then everything is up in the air.

Final Thoughts

So, the current projection is that we’ll do quite well in 2022 and this is good news for companies and people alike. It’s always exciting to see how the economy will adjust to some of the challenges of the upcoming year, but for the time being, it seems to be a positive growth. Outperforming all G7 countries would put us in a strong financial position, so it’ll be important to see how everything plays out and what this means for the country as a whole. It’s going to be important to approach 2022 with cautious optimism at this point, because we don’t know how things will play out until later.



Anna’s blog: No New COVID-19 Rules In England Before New Year Offers Hope For Economy

Blog PictureFor a lot of the economy, the last week has been a tense one. Rumblings of a lockdown or severe limits on public activity have suggested issues for areas like retail and the hospitality industry - aspects of the economy which thrive over the festive period.

However, the recent announcement by the government has offered a brief respite for these industries in England. Following on from some encouraging news about the new Omicron variant itself, we might be in a stronger position than initially thought.

England Escapes New Rules

As we said, it’s been a little bit of a tense week or two for the economy as the verdict from Number 10 would either spell doom for many industries or let them stay open and take in some much needed cash.

The result was positive for these industries - despite the spread of the virus, there would be no changes to the rules before New Years Eve. This means that retail, hospitality and any other industry can stay open for the biggest days of the holiday - Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Eve.

Obviously, this is a great way to bring in some health to the economy, and means that even if there are restrictions afterwards, people can still try and pick up their goods or go out for meals when it counts.

Omicron Less Severe?

Another interesting development that we have seen during this week is that Omicron seems to be less severe than first thought.

A recent study conducted seems to suggest that this variant is 40% less severe than other strains of the virus that have come through the UK. A popular theory, albeit one not yet backed by medical fact, is that with each new mutation, the virus is growing weaker in severity, which is a positive.

This news has obviously made people a little more optimistic about the future of COVID-19. If the virus isn’t as severe as other mutations, then what comes after it might not be as bad as other variants that crop up?

If that’s the case, then the overall number of restrictions that come from this will go down, which means that there is a far less likely chance that people will experience financial hardship to the same degree we saw in 2020-2021. Ultimately, this can only be good news for the economy, even if it takes a little time to get going.

Final Thoughts

For now, however, happy holidays to all of our readers. Your support this year has been exceptional, and for 2022, we aim to do as much as we can. Remember to stay safe, follow any rules the government does produce in the next few weeks, and enjoy the New Year!



Anna’s blog: Interest Rates Increase For First Time Since 2018

Blog PictureThe economic consequences of COVID-19 are still making themselves known, with even the best experts unsure as to how the country will fare in the coming years. Unfortunately, we’re already beginning to see the impacts of the pandemic.

The Bank of England has raised interest rates for the first time since 2018, increasing them from 0.1% to 0.25%. This action will have consequences for the country as a whole, as we’ll see.

The Reality of the COVID-19 Aftermath

It’s important to understand what the initial projections for the UK economy were just months ago to understand the problem now. To start with, experts predicted that the economy would slow down - people would spend less money owing to a lower average income, and that would keep the economy from spiraling out of control.

The problem is that the opposite has occurred - we’re seeing prices climbing across the board, which is why the Bank of England has voted to increase interest rates.

The Impacts of Higher Rates

The impact that can come from higher interest rates is going to vary heavily depending on whether or not you’re borrowing money or saving.

If you’re someone who has a mortgage, then you’re going to see increases in what you have to pay. If you’re a tracker mortgage customer, then on average, you’ll wind up paying an extra £15 each month. Variable rate mortgage-holders will see an average of £10 extra each month. That may not seem like a lot at first glance, but when you consider that may be an extra £180 and £120 each year, it adds up.

Unfortunately, even if you’re someone who saves money, you’re going to find that there isn’t any guarantee that these interest rates will do anything special for you. Irritatingly, even if the rates for savings accounts do increase slightly, the returns are still below the inflation rate.

Will Things Improve?

It may seem like things are hopeless in regards to the aftereffects of the pandemic, but we do hasten to point out that interest rates fluctuate.

This is the first increase in interest rates since 2018, over three years in fact. There’s no reason why we won’t see a drop in interest rates again once the economy begins to recover. For now, we’ll all just have to get used to higher interest rates for a while. Try and avoid taking out any new loans if you can, if only for the next six months or so.

Final Thoughts

The rise of interest rates is attributable to the pandemic, and it’s important to recognise that these surges aren’t permanent. There is every possibility that the interest rates will go down again, which will lower monthly repayments.

Unfortunately, we are living in a time where the aftermath of COVID-19 can’t be ignored. We don’t fully understand the consequences the pandemic will have on the economy, so we’ll just have to face each new development as it comes and hope for the best.



Anna’s blog: Economic Growth Clatters to a Halt Due to Omicron

Blog PictureEconomic growth is one of those things that we’re keeping an eye on with some mild concern, and it seems that despite the best efforts of many to try and fix the problems, the Omicron variant has caused the economy to stumble yet again. We’re seeing an unfortunate drop-off in growth, which is only a sign that things aren’t improving as quickly as we’d like.

Small Steps, Not Big Ones

When it comes to forward momentum and growth, we’re seeing a lot of progress slowing down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, the biggest problem is that when it comes to the economy, it only improved by 0.01% in October. It could have gone a lot better, but it wasn’t going to happen.

With experts predicting that we won’t really get into healthy economic growth until 2022, we’re starting to see the full magnitude of the pandemic and what it is doing to the economy. It’s not difficult to see that we’re going to need a fair amount of time to get back to a healthy place, and it’s going to be hard to manage if there isn’t a committed focus on adapting to new circumstances.

Looking to the Future

We have to look to the future to see how things will play out. There’s been a lot of controversy going on that we need to address, and for many people, that involves taking the time to adapt to the new circumstances forced on us by the Omicron variant.

Ultimately, this is all about the challenges being faced as a result of “Plan B”. These rules mandate masks once again, but more importantly, encourage working from home where possible and ultimately force people back indoors.

These restrictions are not, on their own, major issues. However, when put against the backdrop of the whole country, they serve to drive us inside yet again. When you consider that many people will now choose to work from home even if it’s not strictly necessary, and there will be less public interaction with retail, we find ourselves back in a problem situation again.

We need to have a strong focus on putting together a robust package that focuses on delivering support to the economy through lockdowns. This will probably make the most difference between getting the ideal results and falling further into decline.

Final Thoughts

So, we’re once again back at a period of uncertainty after the newest variant in the pandemic makes a full presence known. It’s definitely problematic for the economy, and growth has stalled a little, but hopefully it’s possible to work around. The focus will definitely need to be on continuing to support people during lockdown, and seeing if we can work to create a more robust aid scheme. For now, the economy continues to suffer due to the pandemic, and making sure that it returns to full capacity will be difficult, but manageable in the right circumstances.



Anna’s blog: Will the Omicron Variant Affect the Economy?

Blog PictureIt really does seem like we’re never out of the woods with COVID-19 sometimes. We make strides towards putting things back to normal, and then boom - another variant comes out of the woodwork to cause problems. For many, the Omicron variant is just another speed bump.

However, will this new variant affect the economy of the UK in a substantial way? What will it mean for the way that we do things? Let’s take a look.

Hospitality Suffers Once More

Once again, the hospitality industry will suffer because of the coronavirus pandemic. The new variant has sent the industry crashing back into problems, beginning with people cancelling reservations and abandoning dining to retreat from the new variant, which is, in fairness, much more transmissible and problematic as a result.

Ultimately, this does present a challenge for any who might want to use the Christmas season as a way of recuperating financial losses suffered. There is no doubt that we’re still seeing a major series of issues because of the pandemic, and this new variant is doing harm to the hospitality industry, in arguably what is a critical period.

Areas of Life Affected

Unfortunately, it is rare that only a single industry is affected by the pandemic, and we’re seeing that a lot of industries, and just general life are impacted by the Omicron variant.

People are going to naturally pull away from social settings where exposure to the virus could be possible. It is a challenge, for sure, considering how difficult the economy has already had it in recent times.

When you consider that we’ve only just begun to reverse the damages, this new variant and it’s higher levels of transmissibility couldn’t have come at a worse time. The economy needed a break, and instead, it’s been dealt yet another blow.

Whether or not this proves to be damaging long-term or not remains to be seen, so we’ll have to keep a careful eye on how things develop over time. It’s going to be important to react to things in the right way, carefully utilising the available resources that exist to safeguard the industry as much as possible. If another lockdown event took place, we’d definitely need measures in place to make sure things went smoothly, but it’s all going to be difficult to keep track of.

Final Thoughts

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus could be a challenge this winter so it is going to be important to keep an eye on some of the different challenges that exist. There are many situations where the economy could slow down yet again, which means that we may need to put robust support systems back into place to protect it. Sadly, only time will tell what will happen, so it will be interesting to watch and see what kinds of situations will develop as a result. One thing is for sure - it’s never been more important to stay vigilant during social events and when in public.



Anna’s blog: UK Economy First to Return to Normal

Blog PictureThe coronavirus pandemic has left the majority of the world scrambling to try and regain some secure financial foothold. Nearly every country in the world experienced massive disruptions to everyday life, and most countries have their economies severely impacted.

Now that the pandemic has developed and vaccines have been introduced, some countries have begun to return their economy to normal. The UK is probably on track to be the first to do so properly.

Why is the UK Likely to Thrive?

Not too long ago, it seemed like the British economy and the UK, in general, was one of the worst affected areas in the world by the coronavirus pandemic. So, what changed to take us from a position of great struggle to strength?

Well, financial and medical experts believe that our decision to introduce “Freedom Day“ a few months ago is the defining factor. A couple of months back, the British government removed all restrictions surrounding work and everyday life inside the UK while still maintaining travel restrictions. This has had a few consequences.

Chiefly among these benefits is that we have tackled the virus during the summer months when the NHS generally experiences less pressure in terms of winter illness. Consequently, the economy has been able to restart over the summer gradually. We are now heading into the winter months, particularly the run-up to Christmas, in a reasonably strong position.

Will Our Strength Continue?

Naturally, one of the big questions asked by many is whether or not this newfound strength will carry on through the Christmas season. Christmas is notoriously challenging during the pandemic, with last year being a particularly contentious example of the majority of the country still being in lockdown, but Christmas trying to carry on anyway.

It remains to be seen whether or not we will manage to maintain the strength over Christmas, with the discovery of a brand-new coronavirus variant in South Africa and Europe currently experiencing a significant surge in cases. Still, for the time being, the UK is in a strong position moving forward.

This means that the economy is in an equally strong position, so unemployment is down, employees on the payroll are getting more prominent every day, and the damage to the economy is slowly being reversed.

Final Thoughts

So, ultimately, the decision to unlock the country during the summer may well have been the right gamble, and it is interesting to see that the UK is starting to thrive. We are, arguably, in a stronger position regarding the virus and the economy than the majority of Europe, which is currently drowning under a sea of new cases.

Whether or not this will have a knock-on effect on our position remains to be seen. Still, for now, it is reassuring to see many people start to re-end of the job market, industries are beginning to restore their workforce, and people are beginning to leave behind financial hardships.



Anna’s blog: UK Economy in Encouraging Position Post-Pandemic

Blog PictureIt’s safe to say that the economy has taken a beating in the two years we’ve had COVID-19 to fight. When a lot of the government-led support for workers ended - the furlough scheme and other associated benefits - there were concerns that the economy would nosedive.

However, the latest statistics surrounding unemployment paint a different picture. Far removed from the grim predictions of the economic experts, the UK is in a relatively strong position right now.

Slow Recovery

It was expected that we would see a rise in redundancies after the end of the support scheme. Many companies were projected to be unable to retain staff without financial aid.

Initially, this seemed to be the case as job vaccines rose to nearly 1.2m during the period of August to October. However, the recent stats are much more encouraging, with 160,000 new staff on payroll.

This success suggests that the economy is finally starting to recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. It was feared that the economic slump that was inevitable would take far longer to escape, but we appear to be on an upward trajectory.

Challenges For the Future

Irritatingly the same issues that we’ve been experiencing for a while now are still ongoing, so there needs to be proper plans to make everything work out properly.

Ultimately, investment and productivity are low at the moment, so we’re not seeing as much planning for the future as some would like. Ultimately, this can be mitigated by a successful and robust investment programme.

Furthermore, despite all who are in gainful employment, the underlying growth is weaker than hoped, which means that we’re going to ultimately start down a path of decline if we’re not careful.

These challenges will continue to present major obstacles in the future if people don’t commit to a regular course of action. Ultimately, we need to remedy the investment issues currently being faced, which requires us to actively tackle some of the bigger problems surrounding available funding.

It’s probably worth mentioning that these economic issues were expected to a degree. There was a high level of evidence that this was inevitable, so it was important for people to brace themselves and try and simply go with the flow. It was never going to be a simple case of returning to normality after the pandemic, so it’s very important that people actively look for new ways to adapt.

Final Thoughts

So, whilst it is true that we are experiencing a positive slant on the pandemic at the moment, we are by no means out of the woods yet. There is still much to think about, and there may be many situations where further action may be necessary.

The increased number of workers on the payroll is an inherently positive thing, and it does suggest that we are making some progress in escaping the clutches of the pandemic economy. How effectively we move forward remains to be seen, so it will be interesting to observe the impact of the pandemic for the next few months, and even years to come.



Anna’s blog: How Can We Repair the UK Economy?

Blog PictureSo, it’s not exactly a secret that the UK economy isn’t doing so well these days. The coronavirus put the country back exponentially and did major damage, and we’re faced with the task of slowly trying to correct everything that went wrong.

But how do we do that? What steps do we need to take in order to make sure that we successfully fix the economy and restore the country back to a post-COVID state? We’re going to do a bit of educated guesswork.

Fixing the Labour Shortage

The first challenge that we must face is tackling the issue of the labour shortage. It is an ongoing problem which is the direct result of the pandemic. Owing to the furlough scheme, redundancies, retraining and pandemic casualties, there have been numerous industries which are now missing key positions.

These gaps are causing significant problems for the economy and it must be remedied as fast as possible. We need to provide training for industries where possible, and offer the correct incentives for new workers. There needs to be an emphasis on hygiene as well as a more harmonious relationship between staff and workers - we often see examples of staff quitting jobs these days due to unreasonable demands from employers.

Encouraging Retail Spending

In order to restore the economy we need to take steps to provide it with the injection of cash to prop it up. There are a handful of ways that this can be accomplished. The most immediate solution would be to promote retail spending.

The high street has taken quite a beating in the pandemic. There’s been a lot of shops which aren’t open anymore because of the coronavirus. It’s therefore pretty important we focus on the ones which are.

Retailers need to take some of the emphasis off online stores and put them back on physical shops, encouraging people to get out there and spend money.

Keeping Wages High

Recently, the government announced the increase of the national living wage for every age gap, and this is positive. By increasing the national minimum wage as much as we can, we help to keep the cost of living sustainable.

To make sure that the economy recovers, wages need to be high enough to compensate. Basically, we need to make sure that people have the money to purchase the things that they need which will strengthen the economy, but also that there is enough money to spend on nonessentials.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, fixing the economy is not as simple as we make it out to be. There are quite a few things to keep in mind, so it’s important to actively look at what people can do to restore some of the economy back to full health.

It’s definitely going to be a process, and one that will take time, but it should definitely be worth it in the long run if we can successfully introduce restorative measures to the economy, and begin to undo some of the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.



Anna’s blog: Can We Decarbonise the UK Economy?

Blog PictureCOP26 put forward several schemes to help tackle the growing issue of climate change. 200 countries were asked for their best plans to cut emissions by 2030. Results were positive, but how can the UK lead the charge?

We’re going to have to cut our emissions down by quite a lot, and decarbonising the UK economy is a challenge. Here’s a few ways we might be able to do that.

Double-Down on Green Policies

A lot of the responsibility for cutting climate change will fall to companies. Green policies and initiatives have grown in popularity for the last decade, as more consumers get on the hype train for eco-friendly business. It’s a desirable characteristic now, so you know that big companies are getting on board with the idea.

Whether it’s looking for renewable energy sources, or encouraging staff to cycle to work, we need to look for green policies that companies all across the UK can implement with minimal disruption. The end result will be protecting the planet, and if we can all agree on one thing, it’s that looking after the planet is probably important.

Pushing the Eco-Friendly Job Industry

Renewable energy sources are the best way to create an eco-friendly job industry. Here’s the thing - a lot of jobs at the moment put out high levels of carbon into the atmosphere. Think about your typical factory worker, office job - they’re all powered by fossil fuels and some create them as a byproduct.

So, if we can push renewable energy sources into the spotlight, we can use that to create a whole new job industry. Engineers and innovators who can create more efficient ways of generating power cleanly, finding renewable energy sources for existing businesses - these are all solid steps to the future.


If you think about how much of the economy is reliant upon transportation and vehicles, there is a pretty good space for electrification to take centre stage.

Every construction vehicle, every freight company, every company car could be turned into an electric car. Electricity can be generated in a renewable fashion. If we start replacing petrol stations with electric charging points, and start phasing out diesel engines in favour of electric or hybrid engines, then you’ve got a situation where electrification is helping to protect the economy and make sure that transport links and freight companies can still continue.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, when it comes to delivering best experiences from a green standpoint, it’s probably important to examine all of the different options that are available. If the latest climate change summit has indicated anything, it’s that businesses are now pretty psyched to start cracking down on the dangers of climate change.

This willingness to find a solution is great, because it means that we can start to move towards a much greener society. Obviously, it’s going to be important to get the best results in terms of creating sustainable offerings for the economy, but with the right talent and some dedication, it’s possible.



Anna’s blog: Recapping the Budget - The Top Ways You Could be Affected

Blog PictureLast week saw Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, release the second Budget of the year. Naturally, he laid out a list of plans and pledges for all aspects of life, but as an ordinary person, how will the budget affect their everyday life?

To make sure that you understand a little of what’s going to happen, we’ll be looking at some of the key ways that the new Budget might affect your life.

Minimum Wage Increase

The minimum wage will go up by 6.6% in April 2022. Here’s a look at what increase you can look forward to, depending on your age.

  • Those who are 23 or over in April 2022 will see an increase from £8.91 to £9.50 per hour
  • Those who are 21 or 22 in April 2022 will see an increase from £8.36 to £9.18 per hour
  • Those who are 18 - 20 in April 2022 will see an increase from £6.56 to £6.83 per hour
  • Those who are under 18 in April 2022 will see an increase from £4.62 to £4.81 per hour
  • Those who are apprentices will see an increase from £4.30 to £4.81 per hour
The Universal Credit Boost

Anyone who works and also receives universal credit is subject to the taper rate. This is not a new occurrence.

The taper rate stipulates that for every £1 that you earn, 63p is deducted from your benefits.

The new budget will reduce that deduction down to 53p. This means that people are going to be allowed to keep more of what they have earned.

Changes to Tax Bills

Paying tax is a necessary evil of earning a wage, and recent changes will impact this.

Whilst these changes were announced before the budget; they were referenced, so we’ll explain them. The first of these changes was the freezing of the threshold for paying income tax for five years. This means that if you earn more, you may find yourself in a higher tax band.

The second change to note is that employees, employees, and self-employed workers have to pay 1.25p more in the pound as a National Insurance contribution. This is to fund new social care schemes.

Final Thoughts

There were good and bad announcements during the Budget presentation. It is clear that the living wage is going up to meet the rising demands of inflation, but taxation is increasing as well. For many, this can result in equilibrium - no further forward, but no further back either.

It will be interesting to see how the economy develops over the next year or so. For now, people can look forward to a little more in terms of wage, and income tax will stay the same for those who earn a little less.

The consequences of these announcements will become apparent in April 2022, but for now, the UK continues to rebuild after the substantial damage of the coronavirus pandemic. Employment is rising, and labour shortages are slowly resolving, but for now, the path to recovery continues to be long and challenging.



Anna’s blog: How Has COVID-19 Really Impacted the British Economy?

Blog PictureIt’s difficult to dispute the immediate impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and the loss of life has been on a scale that we haven’t seen in quite some time. The global pandemic has changed life irrevocably for many people, but looking at the effects on the British economy, it’s a grim picture.

COVID-19 hit the UK hard, like most parts of the world, but the knock-on effect of a global pandemic is that the economy is now suffering, and there are several key areas where problems have developed that may be difficult to overcome. It’s essential to understand what these problems are, so let’s review some of the critical areas where the pandemic has impacted the British economy.


Inflation is one of those things that people talk about all the time, but most people don’t generally understand exactly what it means. Inflation refers to the cost of living going up, and in this case, the cost of living has risen, but wages haven’t gone up to match yet again.

The result is daily life costing more, and many do not have the necessary income to adapt.

Labour Shortages

What we saw during the pandemic is a significant shift in the way that the labour market functions. During the pandemic, most people were not allowed to work. The economy ground to a halt whilst most unskilled and skilled workers were put into the furlough scheme, and digital working became the norm.

However, there are dozens of industries where the primary labour workforce had to retrain or left entirely, so there are countless shortages across every sector.

The Death of Hospitality?

Of all the industries impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not exactly a stretch to say that the hospitality industry was one of the most affected areas. As an industry that revolved entirely around paying customers and a physical presence, pubs and restaurants across the UK had to close, let staff go, and some haven’t been able to open back up even when restrictions were lifted.

The hospitality industry is regularly saying that it is suffering, and there’s not enough cash coming in. People are more reluctant to go to pubs and restaurants now because the coronavirus is still active in the UK, so it isn’t easy to see how the hospitality industry will ever return to what it used to be.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the coronavirus pandemic has crippled the UK economy, and it’s not exactly a stretch to suggest that some industries may never recover fully. We are still encountering new consequences to the pandemic, and consumer habits have changed, which means that the economy will have to adapt to match those habits. There are some industries, like the hospitality industry, which might never recover.

There are also some industries, like the retail world, which have had to shift into the digital era and may never return to the conventional brick-and-mortar world. It will be simply a case of trying to adjust to the new state of the country for many.



Anna’s blog: Job Vacancies Reach 20 Year High - The COVID-19 Aftermath?

Blog PictureIt is probably safe to say that for many people, the post-pandemic world is a scary and uncertain one. People are finding themselves in a position where work isn’t as accessible as before, and there are a lot of industries missing a chunk of their workforce

With job vacancies now at the highest they’ve been for 20 years, are we seeing the actual aftermath of COVID-19? Let’s look at this new development and unearth the true extent of the damage to our country.

The Hardest-Hit Sectors

It’s not a coincidence that the two hardest-hit sectors in job vacancies are the retail sector and the motor vehicle repair industry.

These two industries respectively do provide good examples of areas where the pandemic did the most damage. The retail sector represents all of the public-facing jobs that weren't possible in the pandemic, and motor repair is a fairly accurate metaphor for skilled professionals.

Together, these paint a realistic picture of what the economy is currently facing. The first problem is that we have job vacancies that need to be filled. However, there are two more minor problems which contribute to that, as well as stand out on their own.

The first significant problem is that we have specialised positions requiring qualified people to step up and fill, like motor repair, or technicians, or engineers. Still, we don’t have the people anymore. These professionals have either gone into other jobs during the pandemic or, for whatever reason, can’t work anymore.

The other major problem is that there aren’t enough people available to fill even the basic retail positions or more public-facing jobs. It’s still not 100% safe at the moment, and these positions aren’t getting filled fast enough, which means there are gaps in the industries that are affecting public services. For example, look at the current lack of HGV drivers, which is having a substantial impact on the supply chain to many retail sectors.

What Needs to Happen?

From a financial perspective, it will be vital that we focus on robust recovery measures moving forward. Retention in these industries is low right now, even though companies are increasing wages and offering bonuses for staff to stay on.

Ultimately, it may just be a case of weathering out the worst of the storm, but at the moment, it isn’t easy to see what could be done to alleviate the situation. Various high-profile economists have predicted that the labour market shortage will have a detrimental impact on the road to economic recovery but haven’t necessarily developed a strategy to mitigate that problem.

Final Thoughts

At first glance, the initial job vacancy issue is simply the inevitable impact of the pandemic. However, upon deeper analysis, we start to see a picture of the challenges faced by the economy at the moment. A lack of skilled professionals and low job retention rates result in unemployment and vacancies staying higher than they should be. Whether or not this trend is indicative of the immediate future or if we will emerge into a period of successful vacancy reduction remains to be seen.



Lisa’s blog: End of Temporary Insolvency Measures for UK Businesses

Blog PictureAs we touched on in last week’s article, the end of September bought about many changes to the UK Government COVID assistance schemes, which have been in effect since the beginning of the pandemic.

e end of temporary insolvency measures is a big one for many UK businesses, as many have struggled given the economic drawback and uncertainty that has existed due to lockdowns and restrictions in trading.

Through the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020, the temporary insolvency measures aimed to protect companies that entered into financial trouble during the pandemic from creditor actions that would ultimately see them shutting up shop.

And so now, as lockdowns are no more and restrictions have been eased, the government has phased out this COVID-induced insolvency protection and introduced another new, temporary legislation through a Statutory Instrument.

“The success of our vaccine rollout means we are seeing life and the economy returning to normal with a strong rebound, and the time is right to lift the insolvency restrictions that were needed during the pandemic. At the same time, we know many smaller businesses are rebuilding their balance sheets and reserves, and some will need more time to get back on their feet. These new measures protections will help them to do that,” commented Business Minister, Lord Martin Callanan.

The new legislation covers businesses in England, Wales and Scotland, with Northern Ireland set to introduce another, similar one. It will be in effect until 31 March, 2022 and aims to:

  • Protect businesses from having to repay creditors on “relatively small debts”, setting the current debt threshold to £10,000 or more before a winding-up petition can be initiated
  • Protect businesses by making it compulsory for creditors to seek a proposal for payment from a debtor business and allowing the debtor business 21 days to respond before the creditor can continue with the winding-up action

But with the winter months looming and action-plan options of A and B set out by the government, only time will tell how the UK business economy gets through the next 6 to 9 months and whether these new protection measures are protection enough.



Furlough comes to an end

Blog PictureSeptember 30th was the final day of furlough across the United Kingdom. The program ran for 19 months, starting back in March 2020. By the close of the programme there were still 1.6 million people relying on the scheme, though this has been the lowest level seen since its inception.

With businesses forced to close during lockdowns, furlough was a way for the government to ensure that employees were still able to keep their jobs and put money back into the economy. Around 11.6 million people took part in the furlough scheme where the government would pay 80% of their wages. This relieved the pressure from around 1.3 million businesses allowing them to stay afloat and keep/resume trading. Three sectors that were hit the hardest during this time, were the ones that shut first and were also the last to reopen. They were;

  • The Hospitality Sector (34% furloughed, around 133,000 workers)
  • The Arts, Theatre & Recreation Sector (29% furloughed, around 41,700 workers)
  • Other Service Activities (19% furloughed, around 94,200 workers)

In order to fund a scheme of this grandeur the government has spent around £66 billion, with £14 billion of this coming from borrowing.

Now that the scheme has come to an end there are concerns over what happens next for UK businesses. Some businesses are reporting a decrease in turnover by up to 30%. Currently there is a fear that due to the furlough scheme ending, many businesses will no longer be able to keep the same levels of staffing that they have in the past

Another issue is that of working from home. Due to the experience workers had during lockdown, some were able to have a better work/life balance. This has increased the want for workplaces to have more flexibility, allowing their staff to spilt their time between office working and working from home.

With the pandemic causing more workers to want to work from home, the idea of how the staff ‘works’ is changing. Currently around 18% of businesses have already put forward that they intend to use increased working from home options as a permanent business model. The reasons provided being:

  • Staff wellbeing improved (62.2%)
  • Productivity increased (53.4%)
  • Overheads reduced (50.6%)

With the economy recovering from the pandemic, the government is putting businesses as its centre of attention. As an example; the Kickstart Scheme was opened to in order to assist young people with limited opportunities. Through this scheme, employers can receive funding to create new six-month, 25 hours a week job placement for young people (16 to 24-year-olds). These are primarily for those who are currently on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment.

Sources:, Inews,, Office for National Statistics, Financial Times and the BBC



Maria’s blog: UK economy struggling to recover as debt levels soar

Concerns are mounting amongst experts as companies continue to borrow more for survival and not necessarily for growth.

The UK economy currently faces a lengthy recovery from the current coronavirus lockdown as business debt levels show no signs of slowing down. In 2020, struggling UK companies were forced to borrow nearly £58 billion in total in the form of emergency government-backed loans. In August 2021, the public sector alone borrowed £20.5 billion, which was the second highest borrowing on record.

The government recently announced that businesses fighting tooth and nail to survive the pandemic would be allowed more time to make repayments on state-sponsored loans; sums can be paid back in 10 years (instead of 6), and companies will also be given the liberty of paying back at 2.5% interest. But is this enough to bring companies out of ‘survival’ mode and back into ‘perpetual growth’ mode?

Record interest payments for the UK Government

According to a July 2021 report, the UK government had spent a record £8.7B in interest to repay its debts in the month of June alone. This is especially disturbing and unsettling for businesses because the figure is over 3x greater than interest payments made in June 2020: £2.7B.

As a proportion of the UK company, it’s total company debts, and not government debts, which are significantly larger – a mere consequence of small-medium businesses having to borrow their way through the coronavirus crisis just to survive.

From a company perspective, unpaid debts not only lead to a lot of wasted productive time and energy but also undue trouble. They are frustrating to deal with and create a myriad of cashflow problems – exactly the kind of thing you can deal without in a sinking economy and ongoing pandemic.

Inflation in the UK public sector drove interest on government debt to absolutely unprecedented levels – the Treasury paid £8.7 billion in interest in June 2021. The UK Government’s business loan schemes which closed to applicants on March 31, 2021 witnessed a total of £79 billion loaned to local businesses through 1.7 million loans. The big question remains: how is all this going to be repaid? What strategy does the government have in place, if at all?

Add to this the furlough scheme burden the government must carry on its shoulders – between March 2020 and September 2021, the cost of the furlough came to around £66 billion, as per estimates by the Office for Budget Responsibility.

How to get out of the viscous debt cycle

Many struggling businesses have shifted the focus towards a comprehensive debt recovery service rather than dig a deeper trench by borrowing more, which has greatly helped them deal with the entire process from start to finish; i.e. a service which is capable of assisting in everything from Letter of Demand through to bankruptcy or liquidation.

With a professional debt recovery advisor helping to recover unpaid invoices, companies can even free up additional resources to focus on the core areas of your business.

Get your debt recovery affairs in order – your road to financial recovery and independence starts with choosing a reliable and trustworthy debt recovery consultant. Our Miss Eller would be a good starting point.



Lisa’s blog: UK Government Pandemic Assistance Schemes Come to an End

Blog PictureThe end of September marked the end of many of the UK government COVID-19 support incentives. With so many changes happening, let’ take a quick look at what’s changed from October 1st...

  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has concluded, which helped pay the wages of approximately 11.6 million workers across the UK during the pandemic. To begin with, the furlough scheme covered 80% of staff wages, before the government later reduced it to 60% - with employers making up 20%. HMRC data shows that approximately 20% of small businesses with 2 to 4 employees were still making use of the scheme in some way or another up to at least early September.
  • The small employer Sick Pay Rebate has wound up. While there are no exact figures at the moment, it’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of UK businesses made use of this assistance. This scheme helped employers cover the cost of staff wages when claiming coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay.
  • The Apprenticeship Incentive has closed. This incentive offered £3,000 to businesses in the UK that employed an apprentice.
  • Temporary insolvency restrictions protections have also come to an end. These restrictions helped protect businesses from insolvency during the pandemic through the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020. (England & Wales)
  • October 1st also sees the VAT rate for tourism and hospitality businesses increasing from 5% to 12.5%.

National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Mike Cherry, comments: “For many small businesses, the end of September will mark a significant turning point. With challenges on many fronts, from rising energy and input costs to staff shortages and supply issues, the removal of some of the support measures brought in to hold off the worst effects of the pandemic on businesses will be tough for many to navigate.”



Lisa’s blog: UK SMEs at Greater Risk of Insolvency Compared to other European Countries

Blog PictureA new research study that looked into the insolvency risk for SMEs across Europe shows that UK businesses are more vulnerable than their European counterparts

The study, conducted by the global credit insurance company, Euler Hermes, took a deep dive into the risk of insolvency to 525,000 small businesses throughout Europe. The results showed that nearly 15% of UK SMEs are at risk over the next four years, compared to only 13% of SMEs in France and 7% in Germany.

Car industry manufacturers and suppliers were the most at risk with 33%, followed by those in the energy sector at 25% and the construction industry at 20%.

The findings come as the UK government's pandemic support schemes wind up at the end of this month. For example, VAT rates for businesses within the hospitality and tourism sectors will increase from 5% to 12.5%. In addition, the furlough scheme will close along with the grant scheme for self-employed closing and apprenticeship Incentive payments ceasing.

However, interestingly, the Euler Hermes' 2019 report showed that UK SME's were at a greater insolvency risk then, with the research finding that 17% were under threat at this time. The report surmises that this 2021 lower percentage "means that state support not only cushioned the blow of Covid-19 but overcompensated for it, with direct subsidies (including partial unemployment schemes) and tax deferrals fully covering nonfinancial corporates' losses in value added from 2020."

Head of Euler Hermes' macroeconomic and sector research, Ana Boata, recently commented, "while Government support has provided a safety net for swathes of the economy, the threat of insolvency remains all too real for many SMEs. Supply chain disruption leaves many open to shortages and inflation, which will limit growth, but we also expect payment terms and the length of time it takes to get paid for orders to rise."

To view the report, visit: HERE



Lisa’s blog: FedEx Small Business Grant Competition Opens

Blog Picture£50,000 – that'd be pretty nice, right? Well, it's the top prize up for grabs in the European FedEx Small Business Grant competition.

"Running a small business is tough at the best of times, but the last 18 months have really pushed SMEs to adapt to survive. Through the Small Business Grant Competition, we want to get behind our small businesses, help them achieve their dreams, and write the next chapter of their story," commented Helena Jansson, senior vice president, finance international, FedEx Express, and Small Business Grant Contest jury member.

It's the first time the event is being run to combine 15 European countries in one competition. Small businesses from the UK, Ireland, France, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Belgium/Luxembourg (the competition classifies both of these countries as the one – BeLux), Netherlands, Austria, Italy, Czech Republic, Denmark, Poland, Greece, and Israel are all eligible. Businesses must be a for-profit company with 50 employees or less. However, it is not necessary that the company be a current customer or have an active account with FedEx.

To enter, FedEx is asking small businesses to share their story via the online entry form. They'll answer four questions covering topics like what the business does, how/why it started, and what makes it stand out from the pack.

The grand prize is £50,000, and there are also 3 x Judges Choice Awards of £15,000 each (in the categories of Digital Excellence, Innovation Mastermind, and Sustainability Champion) as well as 15 x People's Choice Awards of £10,000 up for the taking.

Key dates for the competition are:

  • 15th September – Entries open
  • 20th October – Entries close
  • 17th November – Finalists announced
  • 17th November – 15th December – Public voting opens for the 15 People Choice Awards grants
  • 26th January – Winners are announced



Lisa’s blog: Knowing Your Small Business Edge – Attracting and Recruiting New Talent

Blog PictureSomething struck a chord with me when I wrote the article for this blog a couple of weeks back, "Small Business Index Records Back-To-Back Positive Quarters". Looking at it in the broad sense, it was a positive article in and of itself. However, the statistic of "37% say a skills shortage is hindering them from finding adequately trained staff for the business; the highest skills shortage percentage recorded in six years" is rather concerning, or at least I thought.

Attracting talent is hard. The recruitment process is time-consuming and costly. And it can be ever so frustrating if you're not able to find the right people with the right skill set for the job. As an employer, organisation's need to ensure they're always putting their best foot forward. Because firms must remember that the power doesn't lay solely in their hands; it's firmly planted in the candidates' hands as well.

Communicating the benefits that your business offers potential candidates is vital for selling why they should sign on the dotted line and join your company. But benefits aren't exclusively about the bonuses and incentives. Benefits can also be associated to workplace culture, flexible working environments, or training and growth opportunities.

"The sense of purposefulness is a vital ingredient of the SMP culture. Sharing the same values is becoming increasingly important for both SMP employers and employees. Supporting local businesses, standing for a healthy work–life balance, jointly supporting social causes and local communities, are just a few examples of the important pillars shaping SMP culture."

This is all covered in the ACCA's guide, "SMP: A world of opportunity for Gen Z? Attracting new generation talent." The guide delves into ten pillars which it advises small businesses should be promoting in order to attract new talent. And while the document specifically mentions talent attraction in relation to accountancy practices, the points discussed are relevant to workplaces outside this sector too.

To download your free copy of the ACCA's guide, visit: HERE



Lisa’s blog: Increase to National Insurance Contributions Will Hit UK Small Businesses

Blog PictureIn a time of increased strain for many small businesses throughout the UK who are still trying to recoup losses and get back on their feet, the potential increase to the National Insurance Contributions (NIC) will hit businesses hard, warns the Federation of Small Businesses. The proposed 1%-point increase (favoured by the Prime Minister) aims to raise £10billion a year - funds which will be funnelled into the nation's social care system. However, the Treasury might want to take that percentage even higher still, with a potential to raise it to 1.25%. The increase would apply to both employees and employers.

Unsurprisingly, the small business community is not a fan. "Breaking a manifesto promise by increasing NICs just at the moment when firms are struggling to get back on their feet would be devastating for small businesses and the local communities they serve," commented Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chair Mike Cherry.

"NICs act as a jobs tax, making it harder for small firms to provide opportunities and invest to improve productivity. If this hike happens, fewer jobs will be created by the UK's small business community over the crucial months ahead. This regressive levy is yet another outgoing for small businesses and sole traders to worry about against a backdrop of spiralling input prices, supply chain disruption, a deepening late payment crisis, rent arrears, rates bills returning, skills shortages and emergency loan repayments."

"Rather than floating tax hikes, it should be continuing in that vein – reducing the jobs tax to give small firms the breathing space they need to spur our economic recovery," suggests Cherry.

"The measures put in place by the Government are already aiding job creation at the point when help is most needed. This mooted tax hike would reverse that progress when policymakers should be looking to build on it, with a further £1,000 uprating of the Employment Allowance."

Any decisions and subsequent changes to the NIC won't go ahead until after the Parliament's summer recess.



Lisa’s blog: Small Business Index Records Back-To-Back Positive Quarters

Blog PicturePositivity remains strong, with the FSB’s Q2 Small Business Index for 2021 returning a positive value for the second quarter in a row. This is the first time since Q2 of 2018 that it has backed one positive quarter up with another. This positivity was felt across the country, with the omission of London, which recorded a -0.9 confidence value. The region with the highest confidence was the East Midlands, with a +50 confidence value – the same value recorded for the region in Q1.

With the easing of lockdown restrictions and the vaccination rollout continuing on strong, it seems these actions throughout the second quarter have boosted the morale of small business owners and provided a light at the end of the tunnel.

“The very solid performance in this quarter shows that the majority of businesses look optimistically toward the near future and will aim to make the most of the opportunities lying ahead,” commented Kay Daniel Neufeld, Head of Macroeconomics, at The Centre for Economics and Business Research.

Businesses within the accommodation & food services industry recorded the highest levels of confidence, followed by arts, entertainment recreation, construction, information & communication, and manufacturing. All of which recorded positive values. The retail & wholesale sector recorded a zero, or neutral, confidence level, portraying the assumption that they don’t expect their business performance to change over the next quarter.

Other key findings from the report include:

  • 43% of businesses surveyed said they are increasing their operating costs
  • 23% of exporters say they have either temporarily or permanently stopped exporting to the EU
  • 37% say a skills shortage is hindering them from finding adequately trained staff for the business; this is the highest skills shortage percentage recorded in six years

Furthermore, Nefeld goes on to warn of the times ahead, saying that “with the economic recovery underway, the focus in the coming months shifts to new challenges. On the policy front, the end of the furlough scheme looms and although the number of people on the scheme has fallen continuously over the past months, we expect a significant increase in unemployment in Q4.”

To download the report in full, visit: HERE



Lisa’s blog: 7 Top Credit Control Tips to Help Avoid Late Payment Problems

Blog PictureCashflow, cashflow, cashflow. It's crucial to the operation of any business. And for small businesses, there's often not much leeway when it comes to cash or credit to fall back on. Making sure payments for invoices sent are received promptly and within set payment terms is therefore essential, and keeping on top of your organisation's credit control is a must. Here are 7 top credit control tips to help your business avoid late payment problems.

  • Never assume – When working with a new client, it’s always best practice to conduct a credit check as well as define credit limits from the outset.
  • Time is of the essence – Invoice regularly and always on time. Don't delay with following up on invoices that haven't been paid by their due date. Contacting the client as soon as possible sets the expectation that payment deadlines will be met and shows that you're on the ball knowing when they're not.
  • Ensure your invoice details are accurate – Correct amounts, contact information, and payment terms. Double-check that you have the correct company contact information for who and where the invoices are to be sent to for all of your clients.
  • Which leads nicely into this tip; always follow-up. If you've sent an invoice to someone but have neither been paid nor had any communication afterwards, always follow-up. Staff and/or contact details can change, and it's possible you've not been updated. Following-up with a phone call is sometimes the only way to ensure you have all the correct details.
  • Build strong working relationships – Speaking to the relevant accounts team member over the phone instead of only communicating via emails helps build strong relationships and rapport.
  • Be firm, but polite – How you approach clients who have overdue payments can make all the difference in getting the result you're looking for.
  • If a client does pay an invoice promptly, thank them for it. Positive feedback never goes astray and letting clients know that you are aware and appreciative of them paying you on time helps further to foster a good working relationship.

If your business is struggling with late payments or needs assistance with debt recovery, contact the expert team at Chamberlain McBain. Their honest, straightforward advice and commitment to positive resolutions means that your debt recovery project is always in safe hands.



Lisa’s blog: Sole Traders Bearing the Brunt of COVID Downturn

Blog PictureAs the UK settles in a new COVID-normality of fewer restrictions, you'd be forgiven for thinking that everything becomes decidedly rosy again across the business world. But recent research from small business lender iwoca shows that, regardless of the relaxing of rules and regulations, many sole traders are still struggling,

In fact, sole traders, who account for 59% of the UK business population, have been hit the hardest by the nation's ongoing COVID restrictions. 58% reported they're either not trading at all, or are trading less than pre-COVID times. 14% said they are not trading at all.

These numbers are higher than those reported by limited companies; 7% of limited companies said they're not trading anymore (compared to sole traders 14%), and 29% say they have fewer customers through their doors (compared to the sole traders 39%).

A summary of some of the other key statistics from the report is as follows:

  • 39% of sole traders say they've had fewer customers shopping in-store because of having to stay COVID-secure
  • 32% reported that they're making fewer sales due to having to meet COVID-secure workplace requirements
  • 46% say they worry that they won't be able to afford to pay themselves a salary in the next six months
  • 28% say they worry about not being able to afford new stock
  • 20% are worried that they won't be able to meet the repayment thresholds for any COVID-19 financial assistance they have received, such as the Bounce Back Loan
  • Nearly 25% of sole traders said they don't expect to have any days off in the coming year
  • 59% said they expect to have less than ten days off within the next 12 months

Chief Operating Officer of iwoca, Seema Desai, comments that: “The pandemic has hit sole traders particularly hard. We need them back on their feet – hopefully the lifting of restrictions will help them to recover, which will be great for them and also for the economy more broadly.”



Lisa’s blog: UK Government's Wrongful Trading Suspension Expired 30th June '21

Blog PictureIf you're a company director, then it's understandable if the expiration of the temporary suspension of personal liability for wrongful trading might stir up some feelings of anxiety or concern. Expiring on 30 June 2021, the introduction of the wrongful trading suspension last year was the UK Government's response to the difficult times many businesses found themselves in as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keeping their company afloat bought many daily battles for company directors, such as navigating rent arrears, VAT arrears, keeping cash flow in the positive, or even attempting to generate accurate financial forecasts. Trying to run a company during such unstable times put many directors in a vulnerable position. They might "act responsibly" and make financial decisions based on the notion of keeping the company trading; however, if they are unsuccessful and the company is forced into administration, they could find themselves being held personally liable.

Given the additional pressure COVID thrust upon the commercial industry, the UK Government first suspended the wrongful trading measures under section 12 of the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 in March 2020. This initial suspension expired on 30 September 2020, before being reintroduced just under two months later at the end of November 2020.

And now, with UK lockdowns lifting and restrictions easing, from a business-sense, it's seen by the government that normality is returning. Therefore, it means that wrongful trading is also being reinstated. But what does that mean for company directors? Is there cause for concern? What is the best practice for how to "act responsibly" so that you can ensure you're protecting yourself in the event of corporate insolvency, liquidation or administration?

First and foremost, "act early and seek advice" – information which is echoed throughout the insolvency profession's trade body R3 PDF guide, "Get Back to Business: A guide to dealing with corporate financial distress." Licensed insolvency practitioners are qualified and experienced in looking for ways to save businesses and help avoid them going down the insolvency path.

For further information or to download a free copy of the "Get Back to Business" guide for company directors, visit HERE



Lisa’s blog: The Impacts of Late Payments on Mental Health

Blog PictureIts news to no one regarding how late payments affect the cash flow and operations of SMEs. The UK's "late payment culture" is a topic that's been widely publicised and is ongoingly referred to throughout business news, blogs, press releases and articles. And so it should be. Each year, approximately 50,000 small businesses are forced to shut their doors due to late payments.

But something that's not spoken too widely about, or at least, I haven't been privy to, is the impact that late payments have on the mental health of business owners, managers and entrepreneurs. Mental health has come to the forefront in the last few years throughout many different facets of our lives. However, when it comes to business, I often feel like it's centred on employee's health. And while yes, technically, managers are employees, I don't feel like it takes into account some of the added pressures that those in a managerial position may experience.

I was alarmed when I read a statistic within a Prompt Payment Directory report that found that 48% of construction company owners had experienced anxiety, depression, or panic attacks due to late payments.

So, I decided to dig a little further, and found some equally alarming statistics from research conducted by They uncovered that 88% of businesses with fewer than 10 employees worry about late payments. 66% confirmed that their work was less enjoyable because of these worries and concerns about late payments. 25% commented that late payments had some form of impact on their personal lives outside of work, with 9% having considered seeking professional advice to help them deal with the associated stress.

"Cash is still very much king for small firms, and withholding it has pushed many to the brink at a time when they're at their most vulnerable. Our endemic culture of treating small businesses as free credit lines against their will must be brought to an end," comments Mike Cherry, National Chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses.



Lisa’s blog: Skills Shortages Put the Brakes on Small Business Growth Plans

Blog PictureWith the easing of England's COVID restrictions last week, people across the country celebrated enthusiastically. Pubs and restaurants are no longer table-service only, entertainment venues have re-opened and return to full capacity, and people working from home are encouraged to start returning to work gradually. Things are looking up. This relaxing of restrictions brings about renewed business confidence, with many SME’s see business growth and expansion on the horizon.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Q2 2021 Small Business Index is out. Surveying 1,561 businesses between 24th June and 9 July, 2021, results showed that 50% of small business owners expect their business performance will experience a positive increase over the next three months. With only 32% expecting it to worsen.

Here are some other key takeaways from the report:

  • 54% say that they anticipate their company will grow in the next 3 months. This percentage is the highest positive number since Q1 2017.
  • 21% are expecting to hire staff within the next three months
  • Not being about to find candidates with the specific skills-sets needed is noted as being a major hurdle for companies, with 37% saying that they see it as being a barrier to business growth – the highest ever response rate.

The FSB’s National Chairman Mike Cherry comments, “Skills shortages and rising input costs should concern us all – anything which puts the brakes on small business recovery is bad news for the economy. Recent announcements around upskilling are welcome but will not be in place rapidly enough to provide immediate relief.

“Our late payment crisis – which was already destroying thousands of small firms a year before the pandemic struck – has worsened through lockdowns. We’ll be working closely with the new Small Business Commissioner on how to urgently readdress the widespread poor payment practices which have no place in a ‘build back better’ approach to economic recovery,” comments Cherry.



Lisa’s blog: Nearly Two-Thirds of Suppliers Say Late Payments Are Putting Their Organisation at Risk

Blog PictureCurious as to how the relationship landscape looks these days between buyers and suppliers? Ivalua, the cloud-based procurement software provider, was. Has the supplier/buyer relationship become tenser throughout the course of the last 12 months as a result of the pandemic? Have late payments increased? Is cash flow indeed flowing, or is it only coming through in dribs and drabs? Are suppliers feeling more pressure to reduce their prices as a new normal or offer more significant discounts than they feel is fair or reasonable?

The study for Ivalua was carried out by Coleman Parkes, a B2B vertical and global markets research specialist. It looked at 300 European suppliers across the UK, Germany, France, and Switzerland.

Here's a summary of some of the key statistics from the study:

  • Nearly 30% of suppliers cited that they've experienced an increase in late payments
  • Within the last 12 months, 60% of suppliers have been requested to extend their payment terms
  • 41% of suppliers have either had to open new lines of credit or extend ones already open
  • 34% of suppliers have experienced a delay in the delivery of products or services
  • 33% of suppliers have had to either increase their prices or reduce the amount of discount made available to buyers, with 89% saying they felt pressured to reduce costs beyond what they think is reasonable
  • 26% of suppliers don't think that the UK government's Prompt Payment Code will make a difference in reducing the number of late payments, or the lag time of them

"Even in tough times, organisations must build strong supplier relationships so they can tap into supplier innovation and minimise risk of supply disruptions. Improving visibility and timeliness of payments is the single most impactful way to help organisations become a supplier of choice," said smart procurement expert at Ivalua, Alex Saric.

If your business is struggling with late payments or is in need of assistance with debt recovery, Chamberlain McBain can help. Contact us today for more information.



Lisa’s blog: UK Government Funded Help to Grow Management Program Now Open

Blog PictureDelivered by top small business experts from leading university business schools throughout the UK, the Help to Grow: Management program is now open and taking registrations.

The program supports senior managers of small and medium-sized businesses to learn or develop new skills, reach new customers and help increase their organisation's bottom line. It's a practical, 12-week course designed to fit into a full-time work schedule and combines face-to-face learning, online sessions, peer support, and mentoring.

The program is offered across the country through accredited business schools from Birmingham City University, the University of Derby, the University of Nottingham, the University of the West of England, and many more.

"Our academics have a wealth of knowledge and experience, and are ideally placed to support small businesses to help upskill their workforce, innovate and realise their growth ambitions," commented Professor Kamil Omoteso, Pro Vice-Chancellor Dean of the College of Business, Law and Social Science at the University of Derby.

The Help to Grow Management program will cover various critical areas of leadership, including:

  • Financial management
  • Strategy and innovation
  • Building vision and brand
  • Adopting digital technology
  • Growing national and international markets
  • Engaging and inspiring teams
  • Adopting responsible business practices
  • Leading for high performance
  • Creating customer value

90% funded by the UK government, the participants pick up the rest of the program fee - £750. To be eligible, the applicant must be a senior decision-maker (ie. Chief Executive, Finance Director, Operations Director, etc). In addition, they must represent an SME based in the UK, and have between five and 249 employees(however, watch this space as the Federation of Small Businesses is pushing to include smaller businesses in the future). Only one person per business can attend the programme, and they must commit to completing all their sessions. The business must also not be a charity and must have been operating for more than a year.

For further information about the scheme or to register, visit HERE



Lisa’s blog: Navigating Insolvency and Restructuring with the R3’s Guide to Dealing with Corporate Financial Distress

Blog PictureIf you’re the owner of a company or a manager of a business, recognising and accepting that your business is in financial hardship can be a hard pill to swallow. But pushing these realisations to the side or delaying action is one of the worst possible things you can do. By seeking out restructuring or insolvency advice from a professional body as soon as possible, you’ll be able to give your business the best chances of bouncing back and continuing to carry on trading.

R3, the trade body for the UK’s restructuring and insolvency profession, has recently launched their Back to Business UK campaign. As part of this, they have issued a guide for directors that helps them navigate and resolve corporate financial distress.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the economy. Businesses from across every sector have had to respond to an upheaval in trading, change their staffing and working arrangements, and deal with the sheer uncertainty of operating in the context of a global pandemic. Understanding your options and seeking advice at an early stage can prevent financial problems from becoming unmanageable and may mean that more options are available to resolve your company’s financial situation. While it’s important for directors and business owners to understand what options might be available to their businesses, these options require expert advice, guidance, and support to be used effectively,” comments R3.

The guide covers both informal and formal financial distress options, including rescue and closure, company director disqualifications, creditors in an insolvency context, as well as a list of key terms, valuable contacts and sources of advice.



Lisa’s blog: Lloyds Banking Group Look to Close Another 44 Branches Across the UK

Blog PictureA reduction in customers visiting the traditional brick and mortar branches is blamed for the planned closure of another 44 Lloyds and Halifax bank sites across the UK. Over the last year, lockdown restrictions have shut down the high streets and kept people inside. As a result, even customers who may not have favoured online banking before have had to adapt and change the way they conduct their personal and business banking. Are these closures just another flow-on effect from the current pandemic world that we find ourselves in?

The news comes about when, in November last year, Lloyds announced that they would be cutting 730 positions in a move to support their major restricting programme. They said that the cuts would primarily affect staff in their retail bank and group transformation teams and that there would be "no further bank closures." This announcement was also after they made public their plan to cut 865 jobs mainly from their insurance, wealth and retail teams in September of the same year.

"Like many businesses on the high street, we must change for a future where branches will be used in a different way, and visited less often," commented Lloyds Banking Group Retail Director, Vim Maru.

The unions are not happy, citing the closures as evidence that the bank is leaving their local communities in the lurch. "The closure of 44 more bank branches will deny our communities of essential services such as access to cash and experienced highly trained staff. A local ATM is not a suitable alternative to a staffed bank branch," commented the Unite Union National Officer Caren Evans.

"Bank branches are not only critical to those who still depend on cash - often society's most vulnerable, they also serve as a draw for shoppers, meaning footfall for surrounding small businesses," Martin McTague, spokesperson for the Federation of Small Businesses, commented.

The branches will shut up shop between September and November this year and are dotted around the country.



Lisa’s blog: 4 Recruitment Tips for a Post COVID-19 Lockdown World – Part 2

Blog PictureIn last week's article, we looked at tip numbers one and two in our series of 4 recruitment tips for a post-COVID-19 lockdown world. And so, without further ado, here are our final two:

  • Reconsider your interview method – Is it lengthy and arduous, or short and sweet? If time is of the essence and you just need staff now, streamlining the interview process is more important than ever before. Also, consider the kind of interview you're running. As recruitment giant Adecco comments, "a lot of interviews are often based on technical skill and cultural fit, but these are only surface-level assessments. Using behavioural interview techniques will not only allow you to understand your candidate pool better, but you can also get a real insight into how the individual deals with challenges."
  • Put an emphasis on onboarding, post-placement care and employee well-being – So you've got your new hire or hires onboard – great job. But the buck doesn't stop there. It's essential to ensure that your onboarding process flows smoothly. It should equip your new employee with all the information and tools they need to do their job well and to the highest standard possible.

“Onboarding practices that include orientation, training and performance management programs help new employees access the right resources and better transition into their roles. This promotes employee longevity and loyalty and reduces the amount of frustration some employees experience when they don't have the information needed to do their job well, ” comments Indeed’s Editorial Team.

Furthermore, making sure that your employees feel looked after and cared for once joining the team is paramount, especially if they work remotely. Not being able to meet with peers, colleagues or managers in the flesh can hinder strong working relationships. Think about what strategies you can employ to break down these barriers, helping make the newcomer feel part of the team as quickly as possible.



Lisa’s blog: 4 Recruitment Tips for a Post COVID-19 Lockdown World – Part 1

Blog PictureThere’s no doubt that it’s of course premature to utter the words “Post COVID-19”. However, we can say, “Post COVID-19 lockdown”, as we all have our fingers tightly crossed behind our back that the lifting of lockdown restrictions continue both now and into the future.

The word on the street is that the UK economy is set to grow at fastest rate in more than 70 years. And, with UK job vacancies having hit their highest level since the start of the pandemic, it’s clearly full steam ahead for many businesses across the country.

The business landscape and the environment of our economy has changed so much recently. So before you go all gung-ho into advertising, interviewing, and getting contracts signed, now provides a great opportunity to thoughtfully and strategically consider the real needs of the business. Wondering where to start? Here are our 4 recruitment tips for a post COVID-19 lockdown world.

  • Identify the skill gaps – If you’ve had to downsize the team over the past 12 months or so, it’s inspiring to be thinking scaling back up again. And although you might be eager to get filling positions, it’s important to take a moment to take stock of exactly what skills are missing from your business before you start the recruitment process. By first identifying the skill gaps, you’ll be more strategic and sustainable when it comes to who you’re hiring and what their purpose is within the business.
  • Consider if you can grow the business from within – Building on the first point, consider if there is an opportunity to upskill staff you already have employed before you begin advertising. Recruiting staff is always costly, as the process takes the time and energy of various people across the business. Look at whether there is already someone on the books who is keen to evolve their role more and their skill sets.

Check back in next week when we look at the final two recruitment tips for a post COVID-19 lockdown world.



Lisa’s blog: The UK Should be Saying Bye-Bye to Bounce Back Debt and Hello to Employee Equity?

Blog PictureAccording to industry experts from The Federation of Small Business (FSB) and Ownership at Work, if the UK government wants to help small firms remain operating post-COVID while working to close the country's productivity gap, they should be saying bye-bye Bounce Back debt and hello to employee equity instead.

Through the means of their "A Shares for Debt Recovery Plan", launched at the end of last month, the FSB and Ownership at Work have set out their vision for the conversation of small businesses emergency Bounce Back Loans into all-employee equity stakes in Employee Ownership Trusts (EOTs).

At present, approximately 40% of the FSB's membership base deem the debt they have accumulated throughout the pandemic to be "unmanageable."

National vice-chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, Martin McTague, comments: "When the Bounce Back Loan scheme launched, we thought we'd have the pandemic under control by Christmas. That's not been the case, so there's understandably going to be a lot of small companies struggling to make the Bounce Back Loan repayments that are now kicking in."

Both the FSB and Ownership at Work say that this transference of loan debt to employee ownership stake can offer protection to small firms along with many other benefits as well.

"The UK needs employee ownership now more than ever. EO can help drive the explosion of productivity we need to support post-pandemic economic recovery. Just as important is the powerful wider social impact that EO firms have, doing more to address financial security and address income inequality, promoting employee wellbeing and personal development, and often retaining social as well as economic value in local communities," said Campbell McDonald, Chief Executive of Ownership at Work.



Lisa’s blog: Positive Outlooks for UK SMEs – One-Third Looking to Hire in 2021

Blog PictureThere's nothing quite like some sunshine and warmer weather to raise the positivity of a nation, right? That, and a vaccine rollout, of course.

There is revived optimism on the SME front, with many business owners and managers expecting their businesses to be back in the black come this summer. They're also anticipating growing their workforce. Approximately one-third of companies say they're planning on hiring in 2021, which is forecast to create 1.2m jobs across Britain.

These statistics come from recent research thanks to the online accounting software giant Sage. Here's the lowdown on some of the key findings from their report:

  • 33% of UK SMEs are expecting to hire in 2021, equating to 1.2m worth of jobs
  • 75% said they felt optimistic regarding their business's outlook and growth trajectory over this year
  • Respondents noted that the main catalysts for this positivity included the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines (45%) and being able to see their customers again physically (32%)
  • Optimism is also strong regarding there not being another lockdown across the UK, with over 80% noting that they expect to return to the pre-pandemic good times by the summer
  • 79% see their businesses running a profit by the same time
  • 37% of companies said they would also focus on improving employee's physical wellness during 2021

CEO of Sage Group, Steve Hare, comments that, “As the economic environment improves, optimism amongst our customers is increasing and as is their confidence to capitalise on the opportunities ahead. SMEs are accelerating investment in people and digital technology, prioritising flexibility, resilience, and productivity. This is a clear sign they will bring the bounce back into the economy, and why they need to be at the heart of any recovery plans.”

“We must make sure this swell of optimism is given the opportunity to become a tidal wave of growth. We have called on governments for support and investment to accelerate the recovery of SMEs during these difficult times,” said Hare.

For more information, visit: HERE



Lisa’s blog: The AAT Calls for Government Regulation of the UK Accounting Sector

Blog PictureThe Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) has launched their "Accountable" campaign, which calls for small to medium-size businesses to double-check the experience and qualifications of their accountants and financial advisors.

The campaign is motivated by results of a recent poll. In it, business owners and professionals asked about their experiences working with accountants in the unregulated sector. Key findings included:

  • 77% said they had experienced or had seen evidence of lower standards of service from unregulated accountants
  • 68% noted that they had historically experienced problems with the work of unregulated accountants
  • 44% said that, since the onset of the COVID-19, the fallouts from using unregulated accountants has become worse

Director of Professional Standards and Policy at AAT, Adam Harper, comments, "Small businesses are vital to the UK's economic recovery following the pandemic. Yet many of them are still on a knife edge in terms of their viability – and poor advice from an unregulated high street accountant or tax advisor could plunge them into a dire financial situation, potentially leading them to shut their doors altogether. With our members' survey showing the widespread impact that unregulated accountants can have on small businesses, we need the government to take decisive action on this issue now."

By leading and facilitating the campaign, the AAT aims to bring about government change. They're calling for anyone who provides paid tax or accounting advice to be a member of an over-arching industry-specific regulatory body.

"Mandatory membership of a relevant professional body for anyone offering paid-for tax and accountancy services would put accountancy on a par with professions such as nurses, architects and solicitors – all of whom must be a member of their relevant professional bodies – as well as lowering the number of agent-related complaints to HMRC and addressing issues such as money laundering and tax evasion," commented Harper.

The AAT is asking for anyone who has experience with an unregulated accountant to either take their poll or share their stories. These examples will be collated as evidence demonstrating why there is a need to regulate the sector.



Lisa’s blog: UK Hospitality Online Job Adverts Rise to Above Pre-Pandemic Levels

Blog PictureWith the reopening of pubs, bars and restaurant doors to patrons, those operating within the hospitality industry across the UK have, at last, been able to breathe a sigh of relief. Oh, what a wonder it is to be able to serve people indoors again! To sit down together and enjoy a meal, to meet down at the pub for a pint. It may have only been a year and a bit, but boy, does it seem like a lot longer.

And so, while hospitality owners and managers are rejoicing all around the nation, comes the next hurdle - staff.

Adzuna, the UK-born and bred online job search engine, released their latest survey findings last week. Their report showed that, on average, all UK online job advertisements were up 107% when compared to the pre-pandemic February 2020 average.

Specific stand-outs were the categories of "catering and hospitality", whose job adverts had increased 103%. The "transport, logistics and warehouse" category also experienced a significant increase of 235% compared to their February 2020 average.

However, so far, the job seeker application numbers have just not been there. In Maidstone, southeast England, the ratio of jobs to job seekers is 20 to 1. In Manchester, it's 13 to 1, and in Cambridge and Oxford, it's 11 to 1.

Given both the COVID-19 traveller restrictions and Brexit, the number of foreign workers looking for employment in the UK has dropped drastically. And these were often the people with which the catering and hospitality industry ran on.

"UK employers can no longer rely on overseas workers to plug employment gaps," said Andrew Hunter, a co-founder of Adzuna.

"There are clearly a lot of staff that won't come back because they are no longer in the country. There is likely to be a tightening of the labour market, partly because of Europeans going away and partly because of furlough," said executive chair of City Pub Group, Clive Watson.



Lisa’s blog: UK Mental Health Awareness Week – Nature and the "5 Ways to Wellbeing"

Blog PictureThe UK's mental health awareness week kicks off this Monday, 10 May, with the "5 Ways to Wellbeing" forming the campaign's backbone. The week aims to highlight five key areas that can have a positive effect on our overall mental health and well-being:

  • Social connections
  • Physical activity
  • Awareness
  • Education and continual learning
  • And giving back

This year, these pillars will be explored in more detail through the theme of "nature". With the easing of COVID restrictions and a step back towards establishing some kind of pre-COVID normality, getting out into the great outdoors played a vital role in supporting good mental health for many people over the last year. And so 2021’s mental health awareness week is calling for people to consider how they engage with the 5 ways to well-being through this central theme of nature.

Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the UK Mental Health Foundation explains, "During long months of the pandemic, millions of us turned to nature. Our research on the mental health impacts of the pandemic showed going for walks outside was one of our top coping strategies and 45% of us reported being in green spaces had been vital for our mental health. Websites which showed footage from webcams of wildlife saw hits increase by over 2000%. Wider studies also found that during lockdowns, people not only spent more time in nature but were noticing it more."

"We have two clear aims. Firstly, to inspire more people to connect with nature in new ways, noticing the impact that this connection can have for their mental health. Secondly, to convince decision-makers at all levels that access to and quality of nature is a mental health and social justice issue as well as an environmental one," explains Rowland.

For more information, visit: HERE



Lisa’s blog: Best Practice in Partnership Working Between Large Businesses or VCSE Organisations & SMEs

Blog PictureBeing in business is tough, and the last year has been no exception. The divide between small and large businesses has been pushed to the limits during the pandemic, as payment terms are leant on and stretched even more so than before. Lockdowns and restrictions have been necessary, but they have been crippling for some and a significant source of stress for many small businesses

In a newly released paper from the Business Services Association (BSA) and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), comes the Statement of Best Practice in Partnership Working Between Large Businesses or VCSE Organisations and SMEs. This document looks at some of the challenges endured by SMEs and identifies ways that both small and large organisations can work together to ensure harmonious and fair supply chain relationships.

Mark Fox, Chief Executive, Business Services Association, comments, “This Statement covers relationships between large and small organisations. Each has an invaluable contribution to make to rebuilding our economies and our communities. We need to draw on the innovation, flexibility, capacity and reach which different organisations bring to the table, in order to deliver the services, jobs and prosperity we need.”

Case studies within the document focus on actively encouraging SME partners and supply chains, prompt payments, aligning objectives, social value, and building relationships with SME partners and supply chains.

“We have come a long way in making supply chain relationships fairer. This Statement sets out some examples of what has been achieved. But we are all on a journey, and we recognise that much more needs to be done. We hope this Statement will highlight examples which all larger businesses can learn from and adopt,” commented Fox.

For more information, visit: HERE



Lisa’s blog: Open for Business – 6 Easy Ways to Let Your Customers Know You’re Open Again for Business – Part 2

Blog PictureFrom Monday 26 April, outdoor hospitality venues in Wales & Scotland, including cafes, pubs and restaurants, are allowed to re-open. And now, in Northern Ireland, you can get a haircut. These may be small steps, but they really are big wins for many small businesses across the UK.

In last week's article, we covered how you can proclaim to the masses that you've opened your business doors and are once again trading; from eye-catching physical signage to updating your business's website and Google listings. And now, this week, we cover three other easy and low-cost/no-cost ways you can let your customers know you're open again and ready for business!

  • . Use social media – In the previous post we singled out Google my Business. This is because you can specifically update your opening/closing hours, and let’s face it – people frequently Google a business first to see if they're open. But let's not forget about your other social media channels as well. Whether it's Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn, it only really costs time to create your post and get it out there in the world. And if you're using Facebook, you can easily choose a post to "pin to top of page". This means that any other posts on your page will go under this one, keeping your "now open" announcement always as the first post people see. Plus, it's super easy to make an attractive graphic design that people notice, even if you don't think you have a single creative bone in your body. Sign-up for free to Canva, and make use of one of the thousands of templates they have on file to create something that grabs people's attention
  • Use email marketing – Do you have a database of previous customers or people that have signed up to receive news, events or other promotions? If so, now's the time to make use of it! Send out an email to let people know you're open and trading for business again. Include something along the lines of an incentive or discount offer to rouse their interest and give them a reason why they should visit your business over that of your competitors.
  • Running a promotion – Continuing from the previous point, running a promotion or providing a special offer or discount will help your company stand out from the crowd of other open-again businesses. Try and think outside the box, and always ensure that it is of value to the customer. If you don't want to give a percentage off or a freebie, perhaps consider a loyalty card or something along those lines. Then employ any of these previously discussed points to promote the offer and drive sales to your business.



Lisa’s blog: Open for Business – 6 Easy Ways to Let Your Customers Know You’re Open Again for Business – Part 1

Blog PictureWith the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions across the UK, business owners have been breathing a deep sigh of relief as they open their doors to the public. But being able to trade again legally is one thing, and getting people through the door is another.

As a small business owner or manager, you want to shout it from the rooftops, encouraging people to "come one, come all" and support local business. So how can you quickly and cost-effectively proclaim to the masses that you're open and ready to rumble? Here are 3 easy ways to let your customers know you're open and trading again for business.

  • Use eye-catching and clear signage – First things first, make sure that your business premises looks open. It seems like a simple one, but we've all experienced it before – we go to find a shop and have to do a doubletake trying to figure out if it's even open or not. Display clear "We are open" signage, be it printed posters hung in the window, an eye-catching banner or an A-frame board on the footpath. Ensure that you're displaying any COVID-safe measures that people need to adhere to; this will help people feel safe and not at risk when they shop with you too.
  • Update your Google My Business listing – Google is the first port of call for many when searching for a business or looking for information online to see if they're open. Make sure that you're Google My Business listing has the correct opening hours and information listed otherwise people will assume that your business is not open when in fact, it is.
  • Update your website – Do you have access to make changes to your website? If so, adding a prominent banner or message panel on the home page will make it clear to potential customers that you are open for business and trading again.

Check back in next week when we cover the other 3 easy ways for how you can let your customers know you're open again for business.



Lisa’s blog: Small Business Confidence is Up As Business Doors Reopen Across England and Wales

Blog PictureThe latest numbers from the UK Small Business Index (SBI) are in, and they’re looking infinitely brighter than the same time last year or even last quarter.

Overall confidence levels for 2021 quarter 2 are back in the positives, with the measure now sitting at 27.3. This number is a very welcomed jump up from the -49.3 that was recorded in the previous quarter. Maybe it’s just because with the pandemic, things have been such doom and gloom for what seems like a long time. Either way, it’s a good news story that is very welcomed.

Here’s a summary of some of the key stats which surveyed approximately 1,700 small businesses:

  • The SBI for Q2 measures 27.3 – this is the highest level since Q3 2014, and the first time it’s been a positive number since Q2 2018
  • 58% of respondents expect their business performance to improve over this next quarter, with 31% saying they expect it to worsen
  • 51% expect their business revenue will increase over the next three months, with 24% saying they expect it to decrease
  • Over the next 12 months, 53% of those surveyed said they’re looking to grow their business
  • 14% of respondents said that they are likely to make either some or all of thier staff redundant in the next three months

National chairman of the FSB, Mike Cherry, comments: “It’s fantastic that our shops, hairdressers and gyms can get back to doing what they do best all over England from today, with some restrictions easing in other parts of the UK as well.”

“It’s worrying to see such a sizeable proportion of employers fearing redundancies over the coming months. Initiatives like Kickstart, as well as incentives to take on apprentices and trainees, need to be delivered efficiently over the coming months to protect against a job market shock and support the young people that have disproportionately borne the brunt of rising unemployment.”

“Policymakers also need to look at measures to encourage hiring activity. Bringing down the non-wage costs of employment, starting with employer national insurance contributions, which essentially serve as a jobs tax, would certainly help.”



Lisa’s blog: Registrations open for the UK government subsidised Help to Grow 12-week programme

Blog PictureStarting this June, the UK government's Help to Grow initiative kicks off, with 30,000 spots available over the course of the 3-year delivery. Led by various business schools from across the UK, the 12-week programme is designed to help small and medium-sized organisations scale up by equipping them with the skills, knowledge, and tools needed to grow.

The programme is split into two modules – Help to Grow Management and Help to Grow Digital. Both courses combine practical learning with a one-on-one business mentor coach and peer learning sessions. Plus, participants can leverage the alumni network of business owners and management linked to the relevant business school.

Help to Grow Management provides management training to key leaders in organisations helping them to refine and develop their strategic skills in relation to financial management, digital adoption and innovation. Upon completion of the course, attendees will walk away with a practical business growth plan for their organisation.

The Help to Grow Digital stream is all about providing advice and guidance to participants on how technology and digital innovations can boost their organisation's performance. Discount vouchers for up to 50% off are also available for approved software such as CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools, e-commerce platforms and financial/accounting software.

"We have argued that the UK's productivity challenge needed practical changes to help small businesses to improve their operations and drive efficiency and growth. Projects like this really make a difference for small firms who are wanting to change the way they operate, expand their horizons as well as strengthen the economy for all," commented Mike Cherry, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) national chairman.

To qualify for the programmes, businesses must have been operating for more than one year and have between 5 to 249 employees. Companies from any sector are eligible except for charities, and the programme is designed to slot easily into a full-time work schedule.

The programme is 90% subsidised by the government, leaving just £750 for the participating SME to cover.

For more information, visit: HERE



Lisa’s blog: £1.5B COVID-19 Business Rates Relief Fund for non-Retail, Hospitality & Leisure Sectors

Blog PictureIt'll be music to the ears of many small business owners as last week the HM Treasury announced a £1.5 billion COVID-19 Business Rates relief fund. And that music will sound the sweetest to those businesses who operate outside of the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors. These businesses have previously been unable to leverage the already rolled out £16 billion business rates relief package, which has seen those within the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors not paying rates since the pandemic kicked off last year.

The £1.5 billion will be allocated on a local level, with local authorities and government distributing the funds throughout their jurisdiction depending on which industries have been economically the hardest hit. This is opposed to it being based it on estimates of property values. In this way, the UK government aims to get the funds distributed as fairly and quickly as possible.

"Throughout the pandemic, we have provided unprecedented support to businesses. Today are going even further with an extra £1.5 billion for councils to provide additional targeted support to those businesses that have not already received rate relief. This is the fastest and fairest way of getting support to businesses who need it the most," commented Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State at the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The news comes as, under the road map for easing England's coronavirus restrictions, non-essential shops can apply to reopen from 12 April. Furthermore, shops in England will be permitted to trade from 7am to 10pm, six days a week, in a bid to reduce the concentration of people shopping during peak times and minimise pressure on public transport.

"This will provide a much-needed boost for many businesses - protecting jobs, reducing pressure on public transport and supporting people and communities to continue to visit their high streets safely and shop locally," commented Jenrick.



Lisa’s blog: SME Gross Bank Lending Hits £104bn says British Business Bank Research

Blog PictureFor many UK small businesses, the last year certainly has put them out on struggle street. And now, the latest research from the British Business Bank really does put it into perspective as to how much SMEs have been struggling.

With gross bank lending, excluding overdrafts, topping £104bn it’s a new record for the number of SME who sought external financial support during 2020. And so far, it’s not looking like 2021 is going to be any different.

Here’s a summary of some of the key statistics from the research:

  • SME's gross bank lending (excluding overdrafts) hit 82% – totalling £104bn
  • 45% of SMEs applied for external financial support in 2020 – this is up from 13% in 2019
  • 89% of those businesses who applied for funding, did so due to COVID-19
  • More specifically, 75% of SMEs applied for the funding to help with cash flow, 8% reported that it was to pivot their service offering or business model, and 7% said that it was to help develop the digital capability of their business

In a press release from the British Business Bank, they said that “the report suggests there could be significant further demand for funding in 2021, as businesses continue to recover from the effects of the pandemic. There are positive indicators that banks currently look to have sufficient capital and could support further lending. Due to the dominance of government emergency schemes, non-bank and alternative finance lenders have been less active in 2020 and seen lower demand for their products.”

Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses comments, “That three-quarters of small firms are accessing finance to help manage cashflow underscores how Covid-linked disruption is exacerbating our late payment crisis, a crisis which destroys 50,000 firms a year at a cost of at least £2.5bn to the economy. Big corporates need to recognise that treating suppliers like credit lines is self-defeating, serving only to embed stress and vulnerability into supply chains.”

“Of the small firms that have recently accessed finance, four in ten now describe their debt as “unmanageable”. Many of those in the very hardest-hit sectors, not least events, travel and those at the heart of our night-time economies, accessed loans last summer in the hope that we’d be out of the woods by Christmas. A lot of them do not fit the narrow definitions of frontline retail, leisure and hospitality so have received little by way of direct government support,” said Cherry.

To read the full press release from the British Business Bank, visit: HERE



Lisa’s blog: Free Rapid Coronavirus Tests Available for all Businesses in England (Not Scotland)

Blog PictureCalling all businesses in England to get in quick and register for the free rapid coronavirus tests which are now available under the Government’s workplace testing programme. Businesses have until the end of the month (31 March) to register to order the lateral flow tests for their workers no matter the number of staff the business employs. The tests will remain free until the end of June

The rapid COVID-19 tests can return a positive or negative result in under 30 minutes. This speed makes it extremely useful in helping to minimise the chances of spread as a person who tests positive can immediately isolate. It could also mean the difference between a business being able to stay open or having to shut down for a period of time in order to deal with an outbreak.

With Prime Minister Boris Johnson having set out the four-step roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions, Monday marked the reopening of England's schools. The aim is that by April 12, all non-essential retail will able to be open (subject to vaccine roll-out and infection rates).

In a recent UK government press release, it’s been noted that 48,000 businesses have already registered to receive the free rapid coronavirus workplace test kits.

Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock, commented that, “regular workplace testing is a vital part of our route back to normal life. These rapid tests will allow positive cases of Covid-19 to be caught quickly, which is crucial in helping businesses protect their workplaces and employees as we cautiously lift restrictions.”

In support of the scheme, the Federation of Small Businesses has released a “Q&A on workplace testing” document which answers some of the most frequently asked questions by employers. To download the document in full, visit: HERE

To register as a business to receive the free rapid coronavirus tests, visit: HERE

Unfortunately Scotland are only providing free rapid coronavirus test kits, currently, to employers in the food production and processing businesses, such as abattoirs, meat and seafood processing facilities and dairies, as well as food distribution businesses and who have more than 25 employees.



Lisa’s blog: 3 Ways to Help Prevent Business Invoice Fraud

Blog PictureLast week we reflected on the UK Finance report “Our Fraud – the Facts 2020” which showed the staggering 2019 statistic of unauthorised financial fraud which totalled £824.8 million. In the business world, the deception scamming technique of Authorised Push Payment (APP) fraud was most often at play.

“Authorised Push Payment (APP) fraud is a growing problem as criminals increasingly use social engineering tactics to bypass bank security measures and convince customers to transfer funds. APP fraud rose by 29 per cent in value in 2019 compared to the previous year with reported cases up 45 per cent over the same period,” commented Katy Worobec, Managing Director: Economic Crime, UK Finance.

With so much at risk, what can you do to help minimise you and your company’s chance of being scammed? Here are 3 ways to help prevent business invoice fraud:

  • Stop, take a moment, and don’t rush the payment – It might sound simple, but this is a big one. So big in fact that that the UK Finance-led national campaign initiative, Take Five To Stop Fraud, is built solidly on this information and advice. More often than not, a scammers sense of urgency is strong. Requests to make immediate payment are commanding, and in the heat of the moment, you can easily get caught up in getting something complete and off your desk. Stopping and taking a moment to think about the genuineness of a request, and subsequently challenge it if it doesn’t feel right, can be a company’s saving grace.
  • Have at least two designated points of contact for your supplier’s finance department – And always check directly with these established contacts first before altering any payment or account details for a supplier
  • Send a follow-up confirmation email – For every payment made, it should be a business-as-usual practise to send a follow-up email confirming the payment has been made. Always send this email to the established designated points of contact you have for that company. They’ll soon be sure to let you know if they don’t receive the payment or if they didn’t request it in the first place.

For further information on how you can prevent business invoice fraud, visit the Take Five To Stop Fraud website: HERE



Lisa’s blog: The Rise of UK Business Invoice Fraud

Blog PictureWhether it’s personal invoice scamming or business invoice scamming, with the rise of online payments, cyber scamming is a very real, and very common thing these days. “Fraud: The Facts 2020” was a report released last year from UK Finance, a trade association that represents more than 250 banking and financial services firms in the UK.

The report focused on Authorised Push Payment (APP) scams, a form of fraud that most typically includes impersonation and where payments are made in real-time directly to the scammer's account.

For businesses, deception scamming is one of the most common APP scam occurrences. In this, scammers portray a supplier by sending a fake invoice. This is often done via email, with the scammer either intercepting emails or compromising an email account. In the email, they claim that their bank account details have changed and so to please send payment to this new account.

In addition, CEO fraud, where the scammer mimics the victim’s CEO or another person of authority, is also prevalent. In this method, the scammer requests an urgent payment be made to a supplier’s updated payment account. This involves the scammer making use of email spoofing software or being able to access the company’s email system so a “genuine” looking email from the CEO or the like is received by the finance department.

Some of the key findings and statistics from the report include:

  • Unauthorised financial fraud in 2019 totalled £824.8 million
  • During this time, banks and card companies prevented £1.8 billion in unauthorised fraud, and;
  • UK Finance members reported £455.8 million in losses as a result of APP scams (spread over a reported 122,437 incidents)
  • Of the £455.8 million in losses attributed to APP scams, £138.7 million fell into the nonpersonal or business categories
  • Cheque fraud amounted to £53.6 million – up 161% in value from the previous year. The report shows that this increase is due to more corporate accounts being targeted – where each account and claim is higher in value than personal accounts.
  • CEO fraud accounted for £17.8 million of APP scams

Next week, we'll take a look into what you can do in your business to help avoid being a victim of invoice fraud.

To read the UK Finance report in full, visit: HERE



Lisa’s blog: Rate of Redundancies Surpasses 2008/2009 Financial Crisis

Blog PictureThe UK rate of redundancies recorded since the beginning of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has surpassed the highest rate that was reached during the 2008 to 2009 financial crisis, latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show.

Measured as the number of redundancies per thousand employees, the rate of redundancies is based on data from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and captures the period between July and November 2020. While it is obvious that the economic fallout from COVID-19 will be a key contributor to the results, uncertainty surrounding Brexit will also have played a part in these statistics.

Specific statistics include:

  • The redundancy rate for men was higher than for woman – 15.5% vs 12.8% respectively.
  • Of those people who were made redundant, 71% reported that the loss of their job was due to their employer reducing staff numbers because of a loss in trade. The remaining 29% was split evenly across the reasons of “employer closing down” or “other.”
  • The administrative and support services industry ranked the highest with a 35.8% redundancy rate, followed by the “other services” industry of 30.5%. This industry includes arts, entertainment and recreation.

While some sectors have experienced a period of wind-down, others have gaping big employment holes that are calling to be filled as quickly as possible. The adult social care sector is one of them, with both short-term and long-term opportunities available for roles such as personal care, wellbeing support, supply delivery, cooking, cleaning and more.

Employment Minister, Mims Davies comments, “we are excited about the variety and breadth of opportunities available to jobseekers. There are many entry-level roles that offer on-the-job training to help jobseekers develop their skills and confidence while they work. Care, along with construction and agriculture, is one of the sectors where there is a real need for people long-term. They are part of the 500,000 vacancies we need to fill, which is why it is important that we are matching people with the right roles.”



Lisa’s blog: New £20 Million Brexit Support Fund Announced for SME's

Blog PictureWith the end of the Brexit transition period taking effect on December 31, 2020, changes to procedures and paperwork is really just the tip of a very big iceberg for UK businesses who trade with Europe.

So now, to assist small and medium sized businesses who are affected by all these changes to trading rules, the UK government is extending a helping hand in the form of the £20 million SME Brexit Support Fund.

Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, last week announced the scheme which encourages traders to apply for grants of up to £2,000. The amount is to help with importing and exporting, specifically with relation to new customs, rules of origin and VAT rules that will be imposed from April to July of this year.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster comments, “the Government has listened carefully to the issues raised by the business community through the Brexit Business Taskforce and that’s why we are bringing forward this financial support to help small businesses adapt to the changes to our trading relationship with the EU.”

“This new targeted funding will see small businesses get more of the practical support they need to adjust to the new processes and prepare for further changes as we implement our own import controls in April and July. Together we will seize new opportunities available to a fully independent global trading United Kingdom.”

Applications for the grant open in March and will be administered through the pre-existing Customs Grant Scheme.

If you're an EU trading SME in the UK, there are various other support options that are also available. These include sector-specific Brexit Business Taskforce meetings, a Brexit Checker Tool that provides businesses with individualised lists of actionable steps that they need to take, as well as helplines, webinars and more.

For more information regarding the Brexit Support Fund or the various support options which are available to UK SMEs, visit: HERE



Lisa’s blog: Mental Health Awareness; Managing mental health of your work-at-home employees during COVID-19

Blog PictureIn the previous blog, we touched on some recent studies relating to mental health statistics since the onset of COVID-19. The numbers show a significant decrease in the percentage of people who have sought help from their GP for depression, anxiety and self-harm.

And in the face of this global pandemic, the way in which many of us work and conduct business has drastically changed, playing havoc on our mental health. For now, the days of boardroom meetings, team catch-ups and water-cooler talk are no more. Connecting with each other can be a challenge, leading to people feeling out of touch, disconnected and unengaged.

As a business owner or manager, it’s imperative that the well-being of your staff during these times is always at the top of your mind. While it’s obviously not 100% your responsibility, ensuring that your business has mechanisms and practices in play that help to support your employees, will help to keep the company moving forward and coming out the other side.

Here are 4 tips for how to manage the mental health of your work-at-home employees during COVID-19:

  • Set realistic expectations regarding what is achievable during a working day or week – There's no one-size-fits-all approach to managing your staff remotely. Instead, your management style and approach should be tailored to suit each individual employee, acknowledging that one employee's output levels will not be the same as another.
  • Be kind, empathic and compassionate – While some people will find themselves to be more productive when working from home, others might also be trying to simultaneously juggle childcare or schooling. Try to keep this in mind and be empathic to your staff and the other things they might have on their plate at the same time.
  • Keep communication lines open – Have scheduled virtual or phone check-ins with your staff and stick to them. Ensure that they understand that your door is always open (so to speak) so they know they can come to you whenever they need if they are struggling or concerned.
  • Ensure that staff have the right tools at hand to get the job done – Equipment such as a laptop computer, fast and reliable internet connection, noise-cancelling headphones; all these things will help to minimise any potential pain-points for staff who are working from home.



Lisa’s blog: Mental Health Awareness; From Lockdown 1 to Lockdown 2

Blog PictureWell, it’s official; January has been and gone. And for many, I’m sure they wish they could say the same about England’s second round of lockdown which is in full force. On Wednesday last week, it was announced by the Prime Minister that come February 22, there would be a “gradual and phased” plan released for the easing of the current lockdown restrictions. The plan relies on the slowing of illness and death rates and the reduction of transmissions rate thanks to vaccines and lockdowns.

Mr Johnson said that the government hopes it will “be safe to begin the reopening of schools from Monday the 8th of March, with other economic and social restrictions being removed thereafter, as and when the data permits, then or thereafter."

This March date for the potential ease back into normality is a little light at the end of a dark tunnel for some. The effects of the pandemic have been hard on not only businesses and our economic world, but also on communities and their headspace. Research last year from the University of Glasgow which was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry looked at the impacts that the first lockdown had on people’s mental health. Specifically, it found that “one in four respondents experienced at least moderate levels of depressive symptoms.”

And now, there has been more research conducted, this time from The University of Manchester (in conjunction with The Conversation UK and the National Institute for Health Research Greater Manchester Patient Safety Translational Research Centre). In this study, they found that fewer people sought help for mental illness during the first lockdown.

“We found significant reductions in the number of working-aged people (ages 18 to 64) and people living in the most deprived communities seeking help for anxiety and depression,” the article states.

Their research looked at the health records of over 14 million people aged 10 years and up. These were people who were registered to a UK GP and who sought help for the first time regarding their mental health. Numbers showed that there was a large decrease in these percentages. Specifically, the number of people seeking help for depression decreased by 43%, anxiety disorders by 48% and self-harm by 38%.

And while these numbers may simply be representative of all the UK government “stay at home” messaging, it does raise concern. As we go into the 5th week of our second lockdown, how are people coping? And are they able to get the help they need if they need it?

Stay tuned for part 2 on this topic, where we look at how the mental health of employees who are working from home can be supported.

For more information or to see the research article in full, visit: HERE



Lisa’s blog: Changes to the Prompt Payment Code (PPC) Invoice Payment Terms = A Win for UK Small Businesses

Blog PictureA good news story was announced last week by the UK government with the changes to small supplier invoice payment times under the Prompt Payment Code. The new directive now dictates that invoices must be paid within 30 days, a reduction by half. The current timeframe allowed is 95% of invoices paid within 60 days, aiming for 30 days as the "norm". This is a big step in the right direction for the SME economy and a big win for the Federation of Small Businesses, who have been pushing for this via their #FairPayFairPlay campaign for a long time.

The changes to the PPC come into effect from 1 July 2021. “Our incredible small businesses will be vital to our recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, supporting millions of livelihoods across the UK. Today, we are relieving some of the pressure on small business owners by introducing significant reforms to the UK payments regime – pushing big businesses to pay their suppliers on time. By signing up to the Prompt Payment Code and sticking to its rules, large firms can help Britain to build back better, protecting the jobs, innovation and growth which small businesses drive right across the UK,” commented Paul Scully, Small Business Minister.

Launched originally in 2008, the Prompt Payment Code, “sets the gold standard in payment terms and plays an important role in bringing about a culture change in payment practices. This, alongside a package of measures taken forward by government and industry, demonstrates our commitment to tackling late payment” (Source:

As of March last year, there were 2,500 signatories signed into the code. The number today stands at nearly 3,000. However, late payments are still a major sore point for many SME’s across the UK, with £23.4 billion owed to businesses across Britain.



Lisa’s blog: UK Small Business Confidence Hits Record Low – 250,000 Businesses Could be Set to Close

Blog PictureThe Federation of Small Businesses has just released its Q4 2020 Small Business Index (SBI) and the figures are decidedly grim. Specifically, a major indicator in the SBI is business confidence. And so really, the numbers being so low can only be expected as the nation, and the world, battles through this Coronavirus pandemic.

This latest SBI report shows that nearly 5% of businesses surveyed say they’re forecasting closure this year. With around 5.9 million small firms in operation in the UK, this equates to potentially 250,000 businesses which may be forced to shut-up shop.

Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the FSB comments that, “The development of business support measures has not kept pace with intensifying restrictions. As a result, we risk losing hundreds of thousands of great, ultimately viable small businesses this year, at huge cost to local communities and individual livelihoods. A record number say they plan to close over the next 12 months, and they were saying that even before news of the latest lockdown came through.”

The FSB surveyed over 1,400 small businesses at the end of December 2020. Here is a round-up of the key findings:

  • UK SBI confidence sits at -49.3. This is the second-lowest number in the report’s 10-year history, beaten only by the March 2020 numbers rounding up the Q1 2020 report.
  • 80% of business owners do not expect things to improve over the next three months.
  • 58% are expecting a reduction in profitability.
  • 20% of businesses reduced their staff numbers during 2020 Q4. Over 14% expect to do the same during 2021 Q1.
  • 49% of businesses who export are anticipating a drop in international sales.

And while we covered the latest Covid-19 support grants which the UK government have made available for those within the hospitality, retail and leisure sectors, Cherry warns, “There are meaningful lifelines for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses, which are very welcome as far as they go. But this Government needs to realise that the small business community is much bigger than these three sectors.”



Lisa’s blog: New National & Support Grants Available for Hospitality, Retail & Leisure Sector Businesses

Blog PictureWith more patients in hospitals throughout England now than when compared to the COVID-19 first wave, something drastic had to be done. And here’s hoping, that the new national lockdown measures which legally came into force on Wednesday, 6 January (26th December Scotland), puts the well-being of the UK people and the economy on a straight and narrow path to health and prosperity.

“While there is an overarching need to protect public health and bring coronavirus under control, this is disheartening news for small businesses and a blow to an economy that’s already on its knees. Restrictions have been a harsh reality for almost a year and this is anything but a fresh start to 2021,” commented Mike Cherry, The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman.

Cherry went on to say that “it must not be forgotten that all this comes at a time where 69% of small businesses are now in debt, with 40% saying the level of debt is “unmanageable”. Many are trying to navigate the UK’s new trading relationship with the EU, which to avoid tariffs adds further bureaucracy and cost pressures.”

As the new lockdown laws are enforced, comes a lifeline for some small businesses. Part of a lockdown fund worth £4.6bn and handed out from Chancellor Rishi Sunak, small businesses within the hospitality, retail and leisure sectors can leverage a one-off grant up to the value of £9,000 per property. Further support available includes a £594m discretionary fund available for other businesses which have impacted. Plus a £1.1 bn discretionary grant available to Local Authorities and more.

"Throughout the pandemic, we’ve taken swift action to protect lives and livelihoods and today we’re announcing a further cash injection to support businesses and jobs until the Spring. This will help businesses to get through the months ahead – and crucially it will help sustain jobs, so workers can be ready to return when they are able to reopen" commented Sunak.



Lisa’s blog: Predictions on the UK Economic Outlook for 2021

Blog PictureNew year, new start, right? That’s the outlook that many had when they very vocally said goodbye to the ghastly year that was 2020 and hello to a brighter, onwards and upwards 2021 – despite the many COVID restrictions that are still in play throughout the UK. It’s something that I found very curious, this notion that simply with the change of a calendar year that things would instantly be different; for we are all still in the same place as we were on December 31st, 2020 when compared to January 1st, 2021. We are all still on this same road with no major changes to our trajectory despite a change in the noted year.

And as much of the UK is still trying to function amid current COVID restrictions, with much-anticipated vaccines hanging in the air, the outlook for 2021 is decidedly cloudy, with a high chance of more storms before there can be a break in the rain to let some sunshine poke through.

So what exactly is forecast for the UK economy in 2021? Here are 4 predictions on the UK economic outlook for 2021:

  • GDP – As predicted by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) in November, the UK’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was expected to grow by 5.5%. However, with the further rollout of more COVID restrictions, it’s now expected to sit more around a growth rate of 4.3%.
  • Unemployment – The OBR is forecasting UK unemployment to hit a high of 7.5% around the middle of the year. This percentage translates to approximately 2.6 million people being out of work.
  • National debt – A budget deficit of £394bn is expected to be seen for the end of the financial year to March 2021, with that reducing further throughout the following financial year ending March 2022 to about £164bn.
  • Inflation – The OBR surmises that the economy’s inflation level will remain below the 2% target rate which is set by the Bank of England until at least 2025.



Lisa’s blog: Tier 4 Tears for UK's Retail Sector Boxing Day Sales

Blog PictureEfforts are high and so is the price that is being paid by many business owners in the UK retail sector. In a bid to stop the spread of the new COVID-19 variant, the UK and devolved governments rolled out their tier 4 restrictions on Boxing Day across London and South East England as well as Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

With almost 24 million people living in a tier four area, the highest of the tiers, the effects of this were surely going to be strongly felt this Boxing Day. The restrictions calls for all non-essential shops to close, along with hairdressers, nail bars and indoor entertainment venues. As a result, foot traffic for retail business owners on what would normally be one of the busiest times of the years will be very much missed.

Figures estimated by The Centre for Retail Research Centre are that physical stores would take £1.45bn in sales on Boxing Day, with an extra £1.79bn taken online.

“We had been expecting offline (bricks and mortar stores) to provide hard-pressed retailers with sales of £2,260m, and even this would have been 25% down on last year, but £1,450m must be lower than any year since 1999,” commented Director for The Centre for Retail Research Professor Joshua Bamfield. He further went on to say that the new tier 4 restrictions had “ripped the heart out of Boxing Day sales.”

“Online retail has risen higher to compensate for the fact that non-essential stores are all closed in tier 4 areas, but only by 5%. Christmas sales were always going to be problematic in times of Covid-19 but these figures are a disaster for the sector,” said Bamfield.

And, he was on the money with preliminary results released from retail agency Springboard showing that, up to 10am, footfall was down 57% when compared to the same time last year.

“For businesses, the government’s stop-start approach is deeply unhelpful — this decision comes only two weeks after the end of the last national lockdown and right in the middle of peak trading, which so many are depending on to power their recovery,” said Helen Dickinson, the British Retail Consortium, Chief Executive.



Lisa’s blog: Applications roll in for the UK Government’s Kickstart Scheme

Blog PictureThe UK Government’s Kickstart Scheme has well and truly been kickstarted with more than 700 small firms already signed up, and that number increasing each week. The brainchild of Adecco Working Ventures (AWV) and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the scheme aims to provide work placements to unemployed people aged between 16 and 24 and has been given the go-ahead from the Department for Work and Pensions.

“We have opened an important gateway through the Federation of Small Businesses and Adecco Working Ventures to help small employers and sole traders create new life-changing opportunities for young people through our Kickstart scheme. This is a crucial part of our Plan for Jobs to create and support jobs across the UK, ensuring help reaches those who need it most and they aren’t left without hope or opportunity, “ commented The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Thérèse Coffey MP.

The setup sees AWV acting as a go-between employer, handling all the payroll, HR and administration support attributed to the 6-month work placements. It’s considered to be a win-win for both parties. For the candidate, they receive a mentor all the while developing their skills further and increasing their potential employment opportunities post-placement. For the small business or sole trader, they're able to fill any immediate holes within their team while also gaining new perspectives and/or developing the hard and soft skills of their firm which can be attributed to adding a younger demographic to their task force.

Country Head for the Adecco Group UK and Ireland Alex Fleming comments, “It’s more important than ever that we act now to avoid a long-term impact, which is why the Kickstart programme is so invaluable, as it is a strong solution for getting young people into the workforce. Additionally, gaining first-hand experience from small businesses will not only help to equip them with technical skills but also soft skills that will be integral for future success.”

For more information or to apply click HERE



Lisa’s blog: Final Extension on the Commercial Landlord Eviction Block for UK Small Businesses

Blog PictureAnother sigh of relief was felt across the small business sector last week with the news of a further extension on the commercial landlord eviction block for shops, bars and restaurants across the UK.

The three-month extension means that commercial landlords are now unable to evict small businesses from their tenanted premises until the end of March 2021. It comes after the initial extension took the block from September 2020 to December 2020. And now, with the country still amid the coronavirus pandemic and the three-tier restriction system in play, the extension comes as some welcome relief for many small businesses who are struggling to meet their rental commitments.

“This support is for the businesses struggling the most during the pandemic, such as those in hospitality, however, those that are able to pay their rent should do so,” said Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Behind the extension, is the plan that businesses and landlords will use the time wisely to hash out a plan for the repayment of rent that is currently in arrears.

“We are witnessing a profound adjustment in commercial property. It is critical that landlords and tenants across the country use the coming months to reach agreements on rent wherever possible and enable viable businesses to continue to operate,” said Jenrick.

Currently, the British Property Federation has estimated that there is £4.5bn owed on commercial property rent.

CEO of the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) Andrew Goodacre commented that, “Bira is delighted by the decision to extend the rent moratorium. We have been asking for this because of the challenges faced by independent retailers on the high street. We hope this leads to constructive discussions between tenants and landlords to find a positive solution when the moratorium ends in March 2021.”



Lisa’s blog: UK Small Business Confidence Slumps Again for Q3 2020

Blog PictureSmall business confidence has slumped further during the third quarter, with the Federation for Small Businesses (FSB) Small Business Index falling to -32.6, the second-lowest reading on record. The drop was experienced throughout the UK, with all regions and counties recording a negative index number. Wales expressed the least amount of confidence with a score of -71.6%, while London was the most confident with a score of -25.8.

A summary of the key findings includes:

  • 56% of surveyed businesses experienced a drop in revenue levels.
  • 43% are preparing for a drop in international sales in the next quarter.
  • 25% of employers have cut their staff numbers in the last quarter.
  • Sector-wise, the most confident was the professional, scientific & technical activities sector. The least confident were, unsurprisingly, the accommodation & food services and arts, entertainment & recreation industries.
  • On a positive note, more businesses expect to grow in the next quarter than they did last quarter – with 44.5% saying they anticipate expansion compared to 38.8% who answered yes to this question in Q2.
  • Likewise, more small businesses are looking to increase their investment in Q4 rather than decrease, which is a positive sign.

“Only by resolving business support shortcomings, striking pro-business trade deals and enhancing our Covid-fighting efforts can we hope to end this extremely concerning run of negative SBI readings and return to optimism once again. Our economic recovery and future growth in a world permanently changed by this pandemic will hinge on the success of the small business community. Every policy decision from here on in should be carefully assessed for its potential to spur start-ups, encourage business investment and drive commercial innovation,” commented FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry and National Vice-Chair, Policy and Advocacy Martin McTague.

For more information or to read the report click HERE



Lisa’s blog: Part 2 – Do-It-Yourself Online Marketing for Your Small Business

Blog PictureIn last week’s blog, we looked at two ways that, as small business owners, you can leverage the online world for some low-cost or no-cost digital marketing power. We started with the holy grail really of the online world – your website, and getting it optimised for search engines (otherwise known as SEO) via keywords. So now, let’s dive straight into another couple of tactics for some do-it-yourself online marketing for your small business.

  • The world of social media – It’s a good idea to take the time now while you can to make sure that your social media presence is sorted. These days, there are a lot of different platforms circulating around. But try not to feel too overwhelmed, you don’t have to be on all of them. Consider the demographic which is using each one and think about this in relation to your target market... which ones are they using? Instagram and Pinterest are very visual platforms and so are great for businesses that have a story visual story to tell. In the UK, stats from October 2020 show those aged 25 to 34 years old were the largest group of Facebook users. LinkedIn is your professional ‘business’ platform, while Twitter caters for short snippets of news or announcements with its highest demographic group of users (37%) sitting between 18 and 29 years old.
  • Google My Business (GMB) – This platform is in line with the previous point on social media and is equally important in my opinion. Because these days, Google is the search engine that you need to be found on. Which is exactly why you need to make sure that all your business information on Google is accurate and kept up to date. First up, make sure you claim your Google My Business listing. I won’t go into the steps in-depth in this blog, but take a look at this article from Hootsuite which steps you through everything you need to know: HERE . Also, it’s a good idea to make sure that you’re making regular posts on this platform as well. It shows Google that your business is active and that it has things going on, which works a treat when it comes to the ever-important Google algorithm and making sure you're doing everything you can to get yourself seen.



Lisa’s blog: Part 1 – Do-It-Yourself Online Marketing for Your Small Business

Blog PictureIt’s been a pretty crazy year really for anyone out there running a small business, be it in the UK or around the globe. For many, it’s been a struggle just to keep their business-head above the water while some, may have been forced to pivot what they do or what they offer. Others may have gone into a period of dormancy, looking to reduce their costs and expenditure any which way they can. If this last category is where you find your company at, you might have looked towards your marketing and advertising budget as a place to cut costs. And that’s okay – you have to do what you have to do.

But just because your marketing budget has been reduced, doesn’t mean you should forget about this department 100%. There are many actionable marketing tasks which you can do yourself that are either free or require minimal budgets. So many in fact, that over the coming weeks I’ll break this blog topic down into parts. And so here we here, Part 1 of Do-It-Yourself Online Marketing for Your Small Business.

  • Your website – When was the last time you had a look at your website, and I mean, really had a look at it? Is the content up to date and still relevant? Have you changed your service offering slightly due to coronavirus? It’s important now more than ever to make sure that the information that people can get from you online is accurate and reliable. Update text that needs to be updated and/or change out pictures that maybe need a little bit of a refresh.
  • Keywords & SEO – While you’re at it, it bodes well to also do a check of your website’s SEO and keywords. If you’re running your website off WordPress or Shopify then that’s great because both platforms make it super easy for anyone to update their website’s keywords and SEO. Simply Google search for “SEO made simple” and you’ll find a wealth of information available right at your fingertips. Not sure what keywords you should be optimizing your site for? I like to use a mixture of Google Trends and a free online keyword checker tool like Moz (

Stayed tuned for next week when we look at some more low-cost or no-cost marketing focuses you can do for your small business.



Lisa’s blog: Full-Time Employees Up, Self-Employment Down

Blog PictureIn the latest report on Employment in the UK to come from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), figures show that the number of self-employed people within the UK has decreased. The change from this time last year is 5 million people with a status of self-employed, to now 4.5 million. Women workers registered the greatest decrease, with a reduction of 99,000 – the biggest number ever recorded.

The same trend is also being experienced for the number of part-time employees, with numbers that have decreased to 8.11 million. This is down 158,00 on the quarter.

At the other end of the spectrum, the number of full-time employees has increased on the quarter by 113,000 - hitting a record high of 21.17 million. This time, woman workers registered the greatest increase, setting a record high of 165,000 to make a total of 8.72 million.

Interestingly, there was a big shift from the status recorded by people. In the survey, people select from “self-employed” or “employee”. A major factor in the decrease noted of self-employed people can be attributed to a change of their status to an employee. This figure also hit the highest number ever recorded of 277,000.

Could this shift of employment classification be deemed a flow-on effect from COVID-19? As more people move to the more “secure and stable” option of being employed directly with a company as opposed to the unprotected and possibly more vulnerable nature of self-employment?

Mike Cherry, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman, comments that, “Our self-employed community was fundamental to our recovery from the last recession. If we want it to play that same role again, policymakers must do more to support it.”

“Too many independents are falling through cracks in the current business support landscape – not least new business owners, sole traders earning more than £50,000 and company directors – that urgently needs to change if we want more people to take the start-up plunge and become the employers of the future,” noted Cherry.

For more information or to read the report click HERE



Lisa’s blog: England Goes Into Lockdown for the Second Time Around

Blog PictureAnd so here we all are again – the second round of coronavirus restrictions. Until Wednesday 2 December, England has moved into its second COVID-19 lockdown, with restaurants, pubs and non-essential stores shutting up shop and the general public being told to stay at home.

It’s a scene that's been a common occurrence across the globe, with many countries responding to their COVID-19 secondwave increases in much the same way as England is now rolling out.

In Australia, our southern state of Victoria has just finished their second lockdown, after peaking in early August with more than 700 new cases a day – the worst numbers seen anywhere throughout Australia. And although the numbers may be different when you compare Australia to England, the effects on the economy, on businesses and on individuals is the same.

With zero new COVID-19 cases recorded in Victoria for multiple days in a row, there is light at the end of the tunnel for any community, state or country who finds themselves staring down the barrel of restrictions, constraints and controls. In Victoria, lockdown restrictions have been lifted. Retail stores, cafes, bars and restaurants have all been able to open up again. The 25km radius travel limit has been revoked and outdoor sports for under 18’s is on again, as is non-contact sport for all ages.

And with Christmas and the New Year season just around the corner, it seems the time is now for England.

Professor of infectious disease epidemiology at Edinburgh University, Mark Woolhouse comments, ”In exchange for us giving up our freedoms, the government actually has to do something to make sure we don’t have to do this again.”

“The worrying thing about that scenario is that it also forecast that there would be a third wave early next year. Now I am not predicting a third wave, but I most certainly cannot rule it out. And if there is a third wave in another few months followed by another lockdown, I would be very concerned about people’s compliance with it on a third occasion. In essence, this is the government’s last chance to get its act together.”



Lisa’s blog: Small Business Support: The Small Business Leadership Programme

Blog Picture“Helping businesses to survive and thrive beyond COVID.” This is the name of the game for the Small Business Leadership Programme, which is being led by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Small Business Charter. A fully funded government initiative, the programme supports senior leaders via a practical learning environment, helping them to further develop the skills needed to deal with the current economic instability and uncertainty due to COVID-19.

“The Small Business Leadership Programme will help to equip small business leaders with the leadership and problem-solving skills they need to grow their firms in the wake of this pandemic,” commented Paul Scully, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Running for ten weeks, the programme is designed to be able to fit into a normal, full-time work schedule. Consisting of eight, 90-minute webinars, participants are also required to complete 2 hours of independent study and peer-supported learning each week. The webinars are delivered by a range of experienced and internationally acclaimed business schools including London Metropolitan University, Manchester Metropolitan University, Leads Business School, Coventry University and more.

The programme curriculum covers:

  • Innovation and markets
  • Leadership and employee engagement
  • Vision, purpose and brand
  • Demand creative and customer relationships
  • Operational efficiency & financial management
  • Action planning and implementation

Executive Director of the Small Business Charter, Anne Kiem OBE, comments: “The effects of COVID-19 have been particularly damaging for small businesses and providing their leaders with the experience and knowledge to survive and thrive will be essential following the Coronavirus pandemic. While cash injections are important, for the long-term, business leaders will also need guidance to ensure they remain resilient and can continue to grow throughout this period and beyond. Accessing experts from the world-leading business schools we have in this country will be an essential resource for businesses in the months and years to come.”

For more information on eligibility click HERE



Lisa’s blog: 3 Simple Ways to Keep Connected to your Customers in the Times of COVID

Blog Picture“Lockdown has posed challenges and difficulties for so many businesses, and we have constantly been looking at agile and effective ways of helping brands to stay connected and closer to their customers,’ comments Director of Commercial Sales and Partnerships at ITV, Mark Trinder. What he’s talking about here is the collaboration between ITV and NatWest and their £150,000 TV ad prize for small businesses. Now more than ever, businesses need to stay connected to their customers. But it doesn’t have to be all TV advertisements and expensive billboards. Here are 3 simple ways to keep connected to your customers in the times of COVID.

  • Leverage what you’ve already got – Connecting with your existing customer base, regardless of whether they are past or present, should always be your first port of call. The best thing with this channel too is that you already know they’re open to your product or service, because they’ve used you, or have been interested in using you before. Consider sending them a special offer or promotion, send them a survey or ask for their feedback on your business, or simply send them a newsletter-style update email using a free program such as Mailchimp. You never know how reaching out to people with even the simplest note like this can lead to a sale or opportunity.
  • Add value by being helpful – Following on from the above, what can you send to your customer base that could be useful to them or helpful? Are there important changes within your industry that people would benefit from if they knew about them? Maybe you can offer a price reduction or free shipping now that more people are buying your products online. Think about what you can offer that might be beneficial to your audience; the chances are that if you’re providing a good deal or a service that's invaluable to people, they’re going to talk to their friends and family about their experience, which in turn helps to get your business in front of other prospective customers and clients as well.
  • Go digital – Be it online advertising, social media, or simply just making sure your Google business listing is up to date with your current opening days and times, do all that you can to ensure that you’re connecting with your customers and giving them the right information online. Have you thought about search or social advertising before? These channels can cater for every budget as they allow you to set maximum amounts per day or per campaign, so they needn’t break the bank.



Lisa’s blog: Closed to New Business – The High Street New Business Bank Account Shutdown

Blog PictureThe government-backed emergency coronavirus funding has been a major lifeline for a lot of SMEs throughout the UK. With so many businesses applying for these incentives, it’s no wonder really that there has become a little bit of a backlog when it comes to the processing of all the applications. And as staff and employee numbers being kept at a minimum, it means there are fewer hands on deck, so to speak, to push through all that paperwork.

So, it seems, we’re now faced with a financial services landscape that is pretty much closed to all new businesses. Those SMEs that might be thinking of opening up a new business bank account with one of the major, high street banking rollers, will have to think again.

At the time of writing this blog, only Barclays is open to new business, with a caveat that as they are experiencing a higher than normal demand, the application processing is taking a lot longer than normal. But at least it’s a possibility.

Take Santander, TSB, and RBS/NatWest for instance; all three banks have put a stop to any new business bank accounts being opened. This in turn means that they’re able to focus what manpower they do have, on supporting and serving their pre-existing customers.

Looking more specifically at HSBC, they closed their new business bank account applications on 30 September 2020 and are currently only accepting new applications for the government-supported Bounce Back Loan Scheme from businesses which already have a HSBC business account. “As one of the only banks that remained open to applications from all UK businesses since the [Bounce Back Loan] scheme’s launch, we received a huge level of demand. With the scheme closing on 30 November, we need to focus our resources on fulfilling existing applications,” said a HSBC spokesperson.



Lisa’s blog: SMEs jumping for joy with the UK governments Job Support Scheme

Blog PictureOpening on 1 November 2020 and running for a period of 6 months, the UK governments Job Support Scheme will come as a glimmer of light for many SME’s throughout Britain. It comes as an answer to COVID and in response to the winter trading figures. Normally, for many businesses, they would see a decrease during the country’s cooler months, regardless of there being a global pandemic thrown into the mix as well.

It's designed to keep employees on the books; with a business responsible for paying employees for the actual time they have worked, and then the remainder of hours which an employee has not worked, being spilt in threes between the employer, the Government, and the employee (through a reduction in wages).

And the news couldn’t be welcomed enough by National Chairman Mike Cherry of The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). He warns however, that more support should also be planned for those who may be falling through the cracks of this Job Support Scheme.

Cherry comments that, “These new measures will bring some hope to those businesses which are still bearing the brunt of restrictions, six months on from the first lockdown, and are likely soon to have further restrictions expanded to include them.

We now need to look at what comes next in terms of further evolution of support mechanisms, especially for those who will not directly benefit from today’s announcement. With thousands still struggling to access bounce back loans, the Treasury should now be looking at what succeeds emergency loan schemes to ensure that banks keep lending to small firms beyond the end of this year, thereby stimulating the real economy.

While support is being more closely targeted at certain kinds of businesses, we must be alert to suffering right the way down supply chains. Start-ups and sole traders were fundamental to our recovery from the last recession. If we want them to play that role again we have to pull out all the stops to support them.”

For more information on eligibility criteria for both employers and employees, click HERE



Lisa’s blog: 4 Tips for Keeping Communication Lines Open in the Workplace

Blog Picture2020 certainly has been a crazy year; and there are still a few months left. While things aren't really getting any clearer, it’s our mental health which often takes a bit of a battering during these uncertain times. Feelings of concern, confusion, and anxiety can become more prevalent across the board, be it in our home life, or within the workplace.

But with clear communication, those feelings can be alleviated. Read on below for 4 tips for keeping communication lines open in the workplace.

  • Set clear routines and expectations – Whether you’re open for business and trading in a normal sense, or your employees are working from home and you’re connecting over video meetings and conference calls, making sure that all your staff know what is expected of them is crucial.
  • Check-in regularly – There are so many unknown factors at the moment, and with things continually changing, it can leave people feeling out of the whack and uneasy. Regularly checking in with staff to see how they’re doing will help you to stay in the know and make any changes that need to happen as a preventative measure, instead of as a solution.
  • Ensure staff have a safe, open forum for communication – Whether it be in person, via video chat, email, or an anonymous channel, ensure that your staff have a method of giving feedback or raising any worries or concerns they may have. Sometimes people just need to have a vent, and allowing them to do this ensures that they can get things off their chest, so you can then make a plan move forward.
  • Make it not just always about work – It’s important to remember that at the end of the day, your employees will have a lot of other things going on in their lives other than just work. Take to time to get to know people and find out what’s important to them. This will foster an environment which signals to people that it’s okay to talk about things other than just work, helping to create a company culture of compassion and care.



Lisa’s blog: UK Small Business Confidence is Up – The latest from the FSB’s Voice of Small Business Index Q2 Report

Blog PictureAfter some pretty low-lows when it came to business confidence in 2020’s Q1, there's a definite sigh of relief to see that things went up for Q2. The Federation of Small Business (FSB) has just released its Voice of Small Business Index Q2 report, and it shows that the small business confidence (SBI) level is now sitting at -5.0. While still in the minus range, it’s the highest it’s been since Q3 2018.

Here are some of the Q2 high-level statistics from the report:

  • 75% of SMEs reported a decrease in their profits.
  • Over 53% expect that their gross profits will fall over the next 3 months.
  • 23% of employers reduced their staff numbers.
  • Nearly 22% of small businesses expect that they’ll be downsizing in the next year, with the domestic economy and consumer demand being the highest ranked reasons for this.
  • 65% of exporters have experienced a drop in international demand for their products and/or services.

It was the construction industry, along with the accommodation & food, and the manufacturing industries that experienced the most confidence during Q2. In comparison, the arts, entertainment and recreation industry, plus information and communication, and the retail industry were at the other end of the spectrum, reporting to be the least confident.

On the location front, London SMEs felt the least confident, with a SBI score of -25.6, followed by Wales and the south-east at -14. The most confidence was the north-west, with an SBI score of +45.

“The remainder of the year will be characterised by government efforts to keep the virus under control while supporting economic recovery,” said the Centre for Economic and Business Research’s Director and Head of Macroeconomics, Nina Skero.

For more information or to read the report visit HERE



Lisa’s blog: Help Is Still on The High Street - 3 Month Extension on Eviction Ban for UK Commercial Tenants

Blog PictureIn the latest round of COVID-response efforts to help businesses, the UK government recently announced a three-month extension on the commercial tenant eviction ban which is currently in place. The ban, which originally came into play in April of this year, had an initial end date of September 30. But amidst this ongoing pandemic saga, and given the fact that shopper and consumer numbers are down and many retailers and restaurants are still struggling hard, comes the latest lifeline cast out for businesses to grab hold of.

Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick has said that extending the commercial tenant eviction ban for another three months would allow UK businesses to “focus on rebuilding their business over the autumn and Christmas period”, but that “where businesses can pay their rent, they should do so." The extension has come under fire from some landlords in regards to commercial businesses who are maximising the opportunities to not pay their rent when really they can be.

Chief executive of the British Property Federation, Melanie Leech, comments that, “the moratorium . . . must come to an end as well-financed businesses have been exploiting the government intervention to avoid paying rent when they are indeed able to pay, and this puts at risk our sector’s ability to support vulnerable tenants.”

It's estimated by the hospitality trade association UKHospitality that there is currently £760m worth of rent owed to landlords which is outstanding. And by the time it comes for the next quarter's rent payment, September 29, it’s expected that this figure will sit at £1.06bn. Given that commercial tenants are expected to repay these owed sums, landlords are calling for the eviction ban to be lifted as per the original end date, and not to see it extended.



Lisa’s blog: Entries Open for the 2020 National Apprenticeship Awards

Blog PictureIt’s business as usual for this year’s National Apprenticeship Awards; well, with a slight change I suppose. This year the ceremonies are going digital, as they are broadcast online for the first time ever in their 17 year history.

Regardless of the sector or industry, all employers and apprentices are invited to enter the awards, which aim to shine a spotlight on the success stories behind both apprentices and their employers across the UK. With categories that include both employer of the year and apprentice of the year, the time is now to get your entries in. The nomination period runs from 1 to 25 September. Nine regional ceremonies are scheduled to be held between 2nd and 6th November followed then by the national ceremony which is locked in for Wednesday 25 November.

Last year the awards got a staggering 1,218 number of entrants from 414 towns and cities across the UK.

“It is important that we continue to recognise the employers of all sizes, apprentices and those who champion apprentices during this unprecedented time. We are excited to announce that for the first time, the winners and highly commended will be announced at regional and national virtual ceremonies. This will allow an even wider audience to celebrate the success, commitment and investment in apprenticeships, and the impact they have. I am personally very much looking forward to being part of these exciting new online ceremonies,’ commented Peter Mucklow, Director of Apprenticeships, Education and Skills Funding Agency.

The Employer of the Year categories for the 2020 awards include:

  • SME Employer of the Year
  • Large Employer of the Year
  • Macro Employer of the Year
  • Recruitment Excellence

And the Apprentice of the Year categories include:

  • Intermediate Level (level 2)
  • Advanced Level (level 3)
  • Higher or Degree Level (level 4 or higher)
  • Rising Star
  • Apprentice Champion

For more information visit HERE



Lisa’s blog: Lifvs Delivers Digital Supermarkets Across Rural Sweden

Blog PictureThe ingenuity of people never ceases to amaze me. How, from forbidding circumstances such as COVID, new business ventures sprout. And they show us new signs of life, and new ways of doing things. Thinking outside the box, as humans, we really can excel. Whether it be because of COVID or even just because of market or industry changes, I love learning about new companies that show how adept we are at quickly changing the way we do things, the way we run our businesses, and the kinds of services that we offer.

An excellent example of this is the new Swedish digital supermarket Livfs. Different from any ordinary brick and mortar supermarket, Livfs may still have a presence in the physical world (yes, you still walk into the store), however there are no shop attendants or cashiers at the checkout or to help you pack your bags. To do your shopping from this digital supermarket you’ll need to jump onto your smartphone and log in with BankID (a national identification app which is run by Sweden’s banks). Then with a tap on your screen, you’ll be able to unlock the glass door allowing you to enter the supermarket. Shoppers are supervised by camera as they peruse the shelves. To purchase, you simply find your products, use the app to scan the barcode, and tap another button on the app to pay.

The Livfs chain of digitally-driven supermarkets came about as an answer to small rural towns (with populations as little as 400) throughout Sweden who over the years have seen their supermarkets shut up shop because they weren’t financially viable. With the current Livfs business model, the stores are open 24/7 and one employee is responsible for ordering, re-stocking, and maintaining the container-housed store.

Livfs currently has 19 stores dotted throughout rural Sweden, but they aim to soon have more of them. And who knows, as an answer to COVID regulations and restrictions, perhaps this model will be adopted for other retail businesses too. Only time will tell I suppose.



Lisa’s blog: COVID-19 Changes: The Rise of the Collaborative Workspaces

Blog PictureCOVID-19 has and is reshaping our world in many different ways. Whether it be the way we interact with one another, how we shop, or how we work – the changes are many. Fast-forward to whenever it will be that things settle down (be it vaccinations or eradications), and one does wonder what of these new ways of life will be here to stay?

Findings from a recent survey of 1,000 businesses across the UK, conducted by the UK telecommunications service provider Onecom, show that many businesses are seeing the benefits of flexible and collaborative workspaces when compared to the standard one-business office style set up.

“There has been a move towards more flexible and collaborative working for many years now, however its clear to see from this study that the impact of the Coronavirus and the lockdown has sped up this process exponentially. Many of the managers that we work with, who were perhaps a bit apprehensive about what it would be like to manage employees remotely, are telling us that they’ve found working from home remarkably easy and enriching for their teams. The real thing that people are missing is the face-to-face interaction and many businesses are now waking up to the fact that you don’t necessarily need a fulltime office for that,” said Onecom’s Operations Director Helen Myers.

A summary of the survey results include:

  • 77% of business owners or managers said that flexible co-working style offices would be more advantageous for their business as opposed to a fulltime office.
  • Broken down region by region, London businesses showed the strongest support for collaborative workspaces with 85%, followed by the North East at 81%, and the East and West Midlands at 76%. The lowest percentage was in Northern Ireland with just 63% supporting the trend.
  • When it comes to working from home, 65% said that their business’s productivity had been impacted since the onset of COVID-19; with 39% saying that it had gone down, compared to 28% who believed it had gone up.
  • 86% said they have experienced IT or communications challenges during this working from home period.



Lisa’s blog: Rallying and Reviving; July Figures Show a UK Economy on the Rebound

Blog PictureIt was only last week that I was writing the words “Recession Recession” in my previous blog post, amid statistics showing the UK economy plunging 2.2% in Q1 and a further 20.4% during Q2. But now, some new statistics that show the retail sector on the rebound, on the rise. It seems so quick, so can that truly be a light we see shining at the end of the recession tunnel?

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for the month of July show that retail sales are up. And not just slightly up. They increased by 3.6% from June’s numbers. Also encouraging is the fact that they surpassed the same month's figures from the previous year too.

And the word on the street is that this trend is continuing throughout this month of August. The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) data for August, which takes into account most industries outside of retail, is showing promising figures indeed, amounting to the highest levels yet since October 2013. Spurred on by an easing of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions and an encouragement for consumers to “get out and spend.” Take for instance the UK governments “Eat Out to Help Out” campaign, which entices people to enjoy a meal out at registered businesses by giving diners up to £10 off the price of a meal when enjoyed between Monday and Wednesday.

But one does wonder how long the government can realistically provide these financial aids and assistance initiatives that give the UK economy a leg up and push in the right direction. State debt has just hit the £2tn mark for the first time ever.

“Today’s figures are a stark reminder that we must return our public finances to a sustainable footing over time, which will require taking difficult decisions,” commented Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer.



Melissa's blog: Sheriff Appeal Court rules “debt” does not include interest post Sequestration

Blog PictureDoes the definition of “debt” include statutory interest? HMRC would have said so. Their argument relied on the context of section 17 of the Bankruptcy (Scotland) Act 1985 to be read in the context of section 51. Unfortunately for HMRC, the argument failed, and their appeal against a decision to recall a sequestration of VCY under the Act was rejected by the Civil Division of the Sheriff Appeal Court. The ruling means that a sequestrated debtor looking for recall of sequestration on the ground that they can pay their debts in full do not have to pay interest for the subsequent period on the sum due as at the date of sequestration.

VCY was originally sequestrated in March 2016 on the petition of HMRC, with the date of sequestration being 10th December 2015. The petition debt was £17,377.58 plus interest. On top of that, there were expenses of which VCY were liable for to HMRC. VCY applied to the Accountant in Bankruptcy (AIB) in July 2018 seeking for a recall of the award of sequestration on the basis that he was able to pay his debts in full, which he subsequently did in an attempt to settle the claim. The application was intimated to HMRC but they refused it, stating that statutory interest must be paid in order to secure a recall of sequestration. They claimed that VCY had no intention of paying the statutory interest on the debt in terms of section 51 (1)(g) of the Act. The AIB then applied to the Sheriff Court for a recall of sequestration, as they did not consider HMRC to be entitled to statutory interest.

It was considered significant by the Sheriff that section 17 of the Act made no express provision for the inclusion of interest. It was noted that the power to grant recall was one of discretion, and it was thereby held that it was only on distribution under section 51 of the Act and in certain circumstances that would warrant a creditor receiving statutory interest.

On appeal, HMRC argued that, where use of the word “debt” in section 17 of the Act is read in the context of section 51, it transcribes as a requirement that a debtor make payment of his debts in full. As such, it must properly be viewed as requiring creditors to receive payment in respect of all the debts for which they are entitled to rank in the sequestration. This included the payment of interest on ordinary and preferential debts (which is itself a debt in terms of section 51 (g)).

The opinion of the court was that section 51 was applicable to a situation rather different to that envisaged by section 17. Furthermore, the various classes of debt in section 51 were dissimilar from interest payable thereon. “Debt” was used in different senses in different provisions in the Act. It would have placed HMRC in significantly better position than they would have been in if the sequestration had not been awarded in the event that there was a requirement of paying interest to, say, the date on which HMRC received payment of the sum due. And so, there you have it – “debts” in section 17 did not include any interest accrued from the date of sequestration.

If your business is in need of help with any aspect of this article or debt recovery, please contact us: WEBSITE or by EMAIL or telephone us on 0131 272 2799 or 0161 242 1225.



Lisa’s blog: Recession – Recent ONS Statistics Show the UK enters Recession

Blog PictureTwo consecutive quarters in which figures decline is all it takes for the word recession to be thrown when describing a social state and economy.

And so it plays out; in the first quarter of this year, the UK’s economy diminished by 2.2%. In the second quarter, it plunged a further 20.4%.

"This is the largest quarterly contraction in the UK economy since Office for National Statistics (ONS) quarterly records began in 1955, and reflects the ongoing public health restrictions and forms of voluntary social distancing that have been put in place in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic," a representative from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) recently said in a statement.

But Britain is not alone. Although it is one of the most aggressive declines in western economies, it’s not a surprise or an anomaly among the results. The US also entered into a recession with a combined GDP drop of 10.6% for Q1 and Q2. In Australia, although figures have not officially been released yet, it goes without saying that the word recession is looming on the horizon. In Q1 the GDP shrunk by 0.3%, and in Q2 it’s very much expected that figures will show a further decrease.

Some other key statistics from the UK's ONS report show:

  • Between April and June, 220,000 people lost their jobs.
  • Between March and the end of July, this figure totalled approximately 730,000.
  • The number of those who are, or were, self-employed declined by 238,000.

With the end of the UK government’s job retention scheme not too far off (at this stage it will be all wrapped up by the end of October), there are undoubtedly more tough times ahead. The £1,000 bonus which is promised to every furloughed employee that a company employs and keeps paying until January 2021 may offer some respite, however, it’s uncertain how many businesses will be able to leverage this support option.

"The furlough scheme has succeeded in preserving millions of jobs. However, with firms continuing to face a perfect storm of increased costs, reduced demand, and diminished cash reserves, unemployment is likely to surge as the Government support schemes wind down unless action is taken," commented Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce.



Melissa's blog: HMRC preferential creditor status restored – but what does it mean for unsecured creditors?

Blog PictureHaving previously been relegated to unsecured creditor status by the Enterprise Act 2002, as of 22nd July 2020 HMRC has restored its status as preferential creditor in insolvent liquidations. This puts them near the top of the statutory hierarchy for repayments, thanks to the Finance Act 2020. When a company goes into administration or liquidation after 1st December 2020, HMRC is now a priority creditor to pay. However, their move up the rankings may have recreated an issue for many small businesses across the UK – so why has the Government taken this action, and what does it mean for unsecured creditors?

In cases of insolvent liquidation, employees are currently the only type of preferential creditor. As of 1st December 2020, HMRC will join them as secondary preferential creditors. The effect this will have for unsecured creditors is undesirable to say the least, as it causes their status to further be displaced. Nevertheless, being a secondary preferential creditor means that HMRC are only preferred creditors regarding certain types of taxes, including PAYE and VAT. As for corporation tax and other taxes owed directly by a company, HMRC remain unsecured creditors.

The consequence of this change means that Treasury takings are reportedly set to rise by £185 million a year. It may, perhaps, come at too high a cost for many SMEs that make up the majority of unsecured creditors in liquidation. HMRC’s new status of higher ranking means that they will now use up some of the funds that previously would have been shared equally among unsecured creditors, causing a ‘ripple effect’ to other suppliers. It is, therefore, a strong possibility that some businesses in the supply chain will suffer from a financial decline.

In addition, lenders with floating charges may increase the cost of business borrowing as a way to deal with a reduced security value. Whilst it is more than likely that they will request a personal guarantee from directors to support the lending to their companies, it is rather unlikely that directors will feel prepared to provide one at such a time of uncertainty, since many companies are facing trading difficulties and ill prospects on emerging from lockdown.

As a result of restricted access to finance, the expected rise in the number of business failures and increased redundancies will certainly cause a stunt in business growth. There lacks certainty on whether HMRC will offer as many Time to Pay (TTP) arrangements for businesses that are struggling to pay their taxes. Indeed, many business groups have described this policy as a threat to business lending and business rescue. Duncan Swift, president of the insolvency and restructuring trade body R3 stated: “The return of HMRC’s preferential status in insolvencies is a badly-timed and ill-considered blow to the UK’s enterprise culture. It will damage business lending and business rescue, and will affect jobs, livelihoods and the economy.”

If your business is in need of help with any aspect of this article or debt recovery, please contact us: WEBSITE or by EMAIL or telephone us on 0131 272 2799 or 0161 242 1225.



Lisa’s blog: 3 Ways to Help Get People Spending Again With Your Business

Blog PictureLast week we touched on tactics you can employ to make sure people know your business is back open and trading post COVID-19 lockdown. While it’s one thing to let your customers know that you’re open for business, it’s another thing to get them through your doors and spending again. So, this week, we’re looking at “3 Ways to Help Get People Spending Again COVID-19”.

  • Make sure people know you’re open – it goes without saying (but still, it must be said), make sure people know that you’re open for business and trading again. Ensure your business hours are updated on your website, on your social media, and on any online directory listings. Reach out to internal and external stakeholders to make sure they’re aware too.
  • Let people know how you’re keeping them safe – Consumer confidence with some may be low. It's therefore important that you communicate the safety measures that you’ve put in place to keep people safe if you want to physically get them through your doors. Add a pop-up banner to your website, use your social media channels to broadcast the changes, or send an email campaign or newsletter to your customer list.
  • Run a clever marketing campaign – Nothing stimulates people to spend more than a good, solid promotion. Think about what hot deals or special prices you can offer that will spike people's interest. Are there free gifts you can offer, or maybe a "pay for 2 get 3" campaign to stimulate multi-buys. If you run a service-based business, perhaps you can offer a free-consultation or prcentage discount off your standard prices. To make sure you’re still capturing those people who might still feel a little reluctant to physically venture into your place of business, why not offer a discount on shipping or even a free-shipping promotion on orders over a certain value. Also, don’t be shy about creating a sense of urgency with your offer too, ie. “offer valid until the end of August” as this can help give people that little bit of an extra push that may be needed.



Lisa’s blog: Back To Business – Ways to Easily Let Your Customers Know You’ve Reopened

Blog PictureWhile the reopening of some businesses may have been postponed, many lockdown restrictions have already been lifted as businesses across the UK are allowed to resume normal trading. While opening the doors is one thing, getting customers to flock through them is another.

On one hand, there will be many people who seemingly won’t be able to wait to step foot back into shops and venues. But there will also be a percentage of people who are a little more cautious about it. How do they know that you’re doing all you can as a business to keep customers safe and minimise any potential risk?

I was enjoying a coffee the other day in my local café and immediately picked up on the fact that some of their chairs were not positioned to meet the 2m distance rule. And I can’t say that it left me feeling confident.

So how can you assure your customers that you’re taking things seriously when it comes time to reopen your business? Here are three easy ways to let your customers know your business is up and running and good to go:

  • Get online – Whether it’s via social media or your website, first thing is first – make an announcement on these channels to let your customer base know that you’ve resumed trading. Also use the opportunity to let them know also what you’re doing to keep them safe when they do come in. Do you have online directory lists such as with Google or Don’t forget to update these listings too with your updated trading days and hours.
  • Get some physical signs – This one sounds obvious but you’d be surprised; I still see businesses in my neighbourhood who are not doing this. Get some physical signs printed and hung at your workplace. In the windows, on doors, or a sandwich board displayed outside on the footpath.
  • Send an email marketing campaign or newsletter – Do you have a list of customers who you are able to email? Send them an email to let them know it’s “business as usual, but with a few changes” so they’re aware you’re reopened. Make sure you mention what safety measures you've put in place to mitigate any community transference risks and exactly what it is that you’re doing to make sure you keep your customers safe.



Lisa’s blog: Rebuilding After COVID-19: The Sustainable Innovation Fund Grant Competition

Blog PictureRebuilding after COVID-19 is the name of the game when it comes to the UK Government’s The Sustainable Innovation Fund. Led by Innovate UK, and comprised of a total of 3 rounds, the grant competition is open to UK registered businesses and invites them to apply for a share of up to £55 million. Available for new projects which focus on sustainable economic recovery post coronavirus, projects must demonstrate how the adverse results of COVID-19 can be resolved by your projects proposal as well as addressing the factors of climate change and/or environmental sustainability.

Any UK registered business who has faced/is facing difficultly as a result of COVID-19 can enter the competition. Eligibility criteria include:

  • Your business must be operating as a UK registered business
  • You must operate and carry out business within the UK
  • Your project must include at least one SME
  • Your project must be able to be conducted within the current COVID-19 operational environment

Small or micro-businesses are exempt from these criteria however unless they are already involved in insolvency proceedings, have already received rescue aid which they have not yet repaid, or are already part of a state aid restructuring plan. Sole traders are ineligible to apply for the grants. Likewise, academic institutions and research and technology organisations (RTOs) are not allowed to conduct their project work alone, they must collaborate with another business or organisation.

Project costs must be between £100,000 and £500,000, which each business working separately or in a joint partnership with another organisation can only claim up to a maximum of £175,000.

The competition’s first-round closes this Wednesday, the 29th July at 11:00 am and applicants will be notified of the results by 28 August 2020.

For more information and for all the details, visit the UK Government’s website HERE



Melissa’s blog: Cashflow Post Lockdown – Fighting the Downturn & Being Aware of Unfair Preferences

Blog PictureAs lockdown begins to ease in the UK, businesses are slowly beginning to reopen their doors to customers for the first time since March. But the economic impact that COVID-19 has caused on the UK’s economy is profound. The Chancellor told the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee that the UK was facing a “severe recession the likes of which we haven’t seen”. Industries are trying to recover the lost costs but it may take years before we complete the path to full economic recovery.

It should therefore come as no surprise that cashflow concerns and trading uncertainty remain the pivotal source of anxiety for many directors. UK businesses’ cash generation has remained low heading into the cash crunch triggered by the pandemic, with smaller businesses being hit hardest. Research conducted by BDO LLP reported that, for smaller businesses, sales converted into free cashflow stand at an average rate of just 2.5%. This is compared with the largest 100 companies in BDO’s research boasting annual turnovers of more than £3bn – with a much healthier average rate of 9.6%.

A low level of free cash generation is undeniably putting extreme pressure on businesses throughout the UK, forcing many to temporarily close their doors, which in turn causes unpaid invoices to stack up. So, what can businesses do to fight the unexpected downturn? Some of the main steps that can be taken to improve cashflow include:

  • Chase your outstanding debts harder – send regular demands for payment, rather than statements of account;
  • Maintain regular negotiation of terms with suppliers;
  • Maximise the tax reliefs you’re entitled to.

BDO’s Business advisory partner Mark Lamb commented: “Maximising cash generation has always been vital and is one way to help protect a business in an unexpected downturn. Every business should now be looking at what it can do to grow and maintain its free cashflow.”

“To survive this crisis, you need good cashflow. Improving that cashflow, in these conditions, is harder but achievable.”

Thus, the director carefully scrutinises their cashflow forecasts, but unfortunately, he or she has concluded that it’s no longer viable to continue with trading. The company becomes insolvent and enter an administration process (or is liquidated). What now?

It’s important that directors keep mindful of unfair preferences and understand the provisions of the Insolvency Act 1986, namely Section 243. An equitable distribution of funds during insolvency is required by this piece of legislation – it ensures that no unsecured creditors are given preferential treatment at the expense of any others. An unfair preference could be created if the creditor is a ‘connected party’, e.g. a family member, friend or employee of the board. There may also be a vested interest in ensuring that certain creditors are paid prior to declaring insolvency.

The company liquidator will analyse payments that have been made within six months of entering insolvency. If he or she finds that an unfair preference transaction is suspected, action may be taken to recover it. Directors could face personal liability for some, or all, of the company’s debts if an unfair preference is found to have been made.

In some instances, a transaction like this may be obvious when checking through the bank accounts, but it’s important to remember that it isn’t always clear cut.

If your business is in need of help with any aspect of this article or debt recovery, please contact us: WEBSITE or by EMAIL or telephone us on 0131 272 2799 or 0161 242 1225.



Lisa's Blog: Which social media platforms are the right ones for your business?

Blog PictureSocial media – it’s no longer a question of if your business should have a social media presence. The question these days is more along the lines of which social media platforms you should be utilising. And really, there are so many these days. But you don't need to worry about being across all of them. What is more important is to be strategic with the platforms that you do use. To make sure you are on the right ones that get you in front of the right people.

Consider your target audience and who you are trying to reach; what platforms do they use? Think about what is the purpose and intent of your social media activity. Do you simply want to strengthen your brand presence? Or maybe you want to use the platforms to get feedback from your customer base and find out more information about what they do and don’t like. Maybe you want to run competitions, or maybe you want to use it as a communication channel for potential customers to ask you questions. It’s entirely up to you. But making sure you’ve first given it some forethought and have a strategy in place will help you to get the most out of the platforms, making it an efficient use of your company's time.

Here is a quick summary of the main social media platforms as they stand today and the demographics of the potential audience that you can reach.

  • Facebook – With an average audience age of between 25 and 54, as of April 2020, there are currently around 2.6 billion people who use Facebook every month. Facebook reaches a large number of people, making it excellent for lead generation. Especially if you want to run promotions or targeted ads. Video, photos, links, and text; like all platforms, posting content that people engage with is the name of the game so you need to make sure what you post is of value and interest to your audience.
  • LinkedIn – An ideal platform for B2B businesses and those that want to set the tone of their business as being an industry expert. LinkedIn has over 500 million users in total, however, that number is halved when you look at the number of monthly active users – which sits at 250 million. As the “business” platform, LinkedIn is best used for sharing educational content, infographics, and insights. The average age of LinkedIn users is between 30 and 49 years old, and LinkedIn is also used by many for scouting and recruiting new talent. Similarly, companies use LinkedIn as a way to sell their business too, helping to build credibility and highlight the business’ achievements and reputation within their industry.
  • Twitter – This platform is all about the right-now. Short and sweet little snippets of text, tweets, are sent out into the digital world. It’s a platform favoured by politicians and news personal – those that have comments or announcements that they want to make with undertones of urgency and immediacy. Businesses can utilise this platform to draw attention to special deals and promotions that are happening right now. As at April 2020, there were 1.3 billion Twitter accounts with an average user age of 18 to 49.
  • Instagram – As a visual-centric platform, Instagram is perfect for those businesses that want to showcase their products or services. It’s an excellent platform for driving sales, and as the sibling of Facebook (Facebook bought Instagram back in 2012), promotions that you run on one platform can easily cross over to the other. As of April 2020, 59% of users were aged between 18 and 29 years old, 33% were between 30 and 49, and 23% were between 50 and 64. It’s photos and videos that reign the supreme choice of content on this platform. Along with them being displayed in people’s main news feed, both Instagram and Facebook are placing more and more importance on their “Stories” function. Stories allow for the sharing of content which automatically has a 24 hour time limit (unless you save them as a highlight). Stories allow for businesses to still broadcast and share things that they might want to, while not having them posted permanently on their news feed. The benefit of making use of the story function is that it gives your audience more content for them to engage with. This ultimately bodes well for your profile as the more that people engage with your content (view, like, comment etc), then the greater your post’s organic reach also is.



Lisa's Blog: Late again – The FSB’s latest report on the late payment problem

Blog PictureLate payments. It’s been a hot topic on the agenda for many SMEs and governing bodies for a long time now. The UK government originally put forward a raft of late payment reforms in June 2019 including fines and binding payment plans. Still, there has been no major forward steps in implementing any of these since. “I accept that publishing reform proposals is taking longer than originally hoped… as soon as we can we will address this issue at pace,” commented MP Olivia Bloomfield.

And now, The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has just released their latest report, “Late Again: How the coronavirus pandemic is impacting payment terms for small firms.” It looks at how COVID-19 has affected small businesses when it comes to the late payment problem which the UK SME industry endures a constant battle with.

Here’s a quick snapshot of some of the high-level findings and statistics:

  • 65% of those B2B businesses have still been suffering from late or completely frozen payments.
  • More specifically, this stat is 63% for those within the public sector supply chain, 71% for those in wholesale, and 62% for those in the legal and accounting sectors or the marketing and advertising industries.
  • 10% of small businesses have had to deal with payment terms becoming longer than they were previously. This increases to 13% when specifically considering those that trade in the B2B industry

Mike Cherry, FSB's National Chairman comments, “Before the COVID-19 outbreak struck, many small firms were already under immense financial pressure because of late payments. With cashflow drying up as the lockdown took hold, this situation has worsened. Sadly, some unscrupulous corporations are trying to inoculate themselves from the impacts of COVID-19 by withholding payments, or even freezing them, at the expense of small businesses.”

“If the small firms that make-up 99% of our business community are to play the fundamental role we need them to in ending this recession, this behaviour must stop. The Government promised to act a year ago. Time is running out – we need to see delivery.”

For assistance with the recovery of sums due, please speak to your usual contact at Chamberlain McBain or email us at



Lisa's Blog: Easing the COVID-19 Lockdown Across the UK

Blog PictureRe-opening, but safely. That’s the name of the game as the UK government relaxes the COVID-19 social distancing rules. And while prime minister Boris Johnson does lay down that fact that all these steps are "reversible", the government’s chief medical adviser, Prof Chris Whitty, says that the easing of the lockdown rules and restrictions represents a "reasonable balance of risk".

Here is a summary of the different rules and different regulations across the UK:

  • England – Social distancing rules will be relaxed July 4th. Some businesses will be allowed to reopen such as restaurants, hairdressers, hotels and pubs. However people are still required to practise social distancing and stay two metres apart when possible, or at least one metre where this is not.
  • Scotland – From June 29th non-essential retail is permitted to open. From July 6th outdoor hospitality can reopen, and from July 25th all restaurants and pubs can start to once again trade.
  • Wales – Shops practising social distancing have been permitted to be open since June 22nd.
  • Northern Ireland – Caravan parks have been allowed to be open for business since June 26th. Food and table service businesses such as pubs, restaurants, and hotels can trade again from July 3rd.

Teamed with this easing of restrictions comes the government's guidance and support for businesses in terms of how to effectively, and safely, return to trading. Their Working Safely During Coronavirus website page is full of information for businesses explaining the practical steps that should be taken to ensure a safe workplace is maintained during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s broken down into many sections, relevant to the industry your business is operating in, and the type of work as well. These include:

  • Construction and other outdoor places of work
  • Factories, plants and warehouses
  • Heritage locations
  • Hotels and accommodation
  • Labs and research facilities
  • Office and contact centres
  • Restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services
  • Shops and branches
  • Vehicles
  • The tourism industry

For more information, visit the UK government website:



Lisa's Blog: Why Being Online Is Important, But Being Able To Be Found Is Too

Blog PictureEveryone and anyone who either works for or runs a business knows how important it is to be online. Having a functioning and informative website is a must. However, making sure that the website can be found too goes hand in hand. What's the use of spending time and money on building a website to have no one visit it? And now with COVID-19, even if you’re not selling products direct to a market, a website helps you to stay visible in an online capacity when people are not out on the streets in a physical one. As Dr Christopher Dayagdag so eloquently said, a “website without visitors is like a ship lost in the horizon.”

I had an interesting experience the other day when I was trying to find a company online that I knew existed in my local community. I wanted to find out more information about them and the services they offered. I Goggled them using the name of the company – standard for how any potential customer is going to find a business if they already know about them. But, I couldn’t find their website. I was getting some results for their business listing through sites such as Yellow Pages and other local search engines. But nothing that actually linked me to their official site.

Turns out the name of the company was not the name of their website URL. This can happen dependant on URL availability etc. But there was no reference to the original name of the company listed on their site anywhere; the one that is on their building, that their staff wear embroidered uniforms displaying, and that their cars are sign written in. Literally, There was nothing linking them together at all. Maybe this is a new name change and they haven’t had time to update things? No, the website was built in 2017. They’ve been known in the community as the original name now for a lot longer than that.

Being online is one thing, and it’s a very important one thing. But being able to be found is equally as. A website is a business’ calling card, a virtual front door. But no one can get to that front door if there's no direct path to it; a crucial factor to remember for any business owner.



Lisa's Blog: Supermarket Giant Morrisons Extend Their Immediate Payment Policy for UK Small Suppliers

Blog PictureLate payments are crippling to any business, let alone if you’re a small business. From paying staff to paying suppliers, rent, taxes, and all the other outgoings; small businesses rely more than ever on the money coming in so the money is there to go out. The onslaught of COVID-19 has bought many extra challenges for businesses across the world, and it's no surprise that it seems to have only exemplified the problem of late payments for some.

“Many small suppliers have seen their payment terms lengthened or cashflow held up as their big clients try to insulate themselves from the impacts of Covid-19,” said Federation of Small Businesses National Chairman Mike Cherry.

In a good news story, it’s positive to see supermarket giant Morrisons is extending their immediate payment policy to smaller suppliers for an additional three months. Applying to approximately 3,000 small suppliers (which includes 1,750 farmers), it was in March that they first announced that they would be making sure they make faster payments to the little guys to ensure they support strong cash flow channels where they can. The policy which is now extended to September applies to those SMEs who supply food and products direct to Morrisons with a value of up to £1m in turnover.

“It’s refreshing to see a large company like Morrisons championing prompt payment during this national emergency by extending its promise to pay small suppliers immediately,” said Cherry.

Chief Executive of Morrisons, David Potts, further comments, “Small food makers and farmers have helped us to play our full part in feeding the nation. They have told us they face continued financial pressure and we want to be there for them during this challenging period.”

If your business is struggling with late payments or is in need of assistance with debt recovery, Chamberlain McBain can help. For more information, or to start a conversation, contact us today: Click HERE



Lisa's Blog: 3 Tips
for Handling Stress at Work

Blog PictureWhether it be our personal lives or professional, stress is inevitable; it’s a daily factor in our lives. Dealing with all of the moving parts of life can certainly be a juggling act and keeping your calm when things pop up unexpectedly can sometimes be tough. Creating the perfect work-life balance is something that we all strive to achieve, and not letting potentially stressful situations throw you is key. Here are some strategies that you can utilise in the workplace that will help you to manage your stress levels when situations arise that may just be a little out of your control.

Minimise the reduce interruptions – Interruptions are part and parcel of a standard workday. Plan all you may, but things pop up. Some interruptions may be out of your control, and it’s important to recognise which ones are and which ones aren’t so that you can control your reaction to them. Accept the disruption when it happens and if it needs to be dealt with urgently then act on it straight away. However, if it’s not urgent, add it to the list of things that you need to achieve, but then carry on with the original task you were working on. Keeping on track helps to reduce the loss of focus, minimising a potentially stressful situation.

Keep your workspace clean and organised – They say a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, so try to keep your workspace as clear, clean and organised as possible. Designate a place for everything so that things can be put away or filed as and when is needed. This will help you to feel more like you’re on top of things and less overwhelmed.

Keep focused and complete things one at a time – In some situations multi-tasking is great but at other times it may lead you to feel a little bit frazzled and all over the place. If you spread yourself too thin and don’t give your full attention to what you’re working on at the time, it’s more likely that you’ll make mistakes. You then may have to spend time going back over things or re-doing work down the track which can add fuel to the stress-fire.



Lisa's Blog: FSB releases their
New Horizons Report

Blog PictureLast week the Federation of Small Businesses launched the New Horizons report – a policy report looking at how COVID-19 has affecting UK small businesses, and how they are manoeuvring through these tricky times.

Small firms have long been the champions of innovating, adapting and engaging with others, especially during difficult periods," commented National Chairman of the FSB Mike Cherry. Let’s face it, COVID-19 can definitely be considered as a difficult period.

The New Horizons report looks a variety of different topics such as the role small businesses have played in their community during the COVID-19 pandemic, thier digital engagement, how they’ve diversified through new service or product offerings, and how their business practices and processes may have changed. It also talks to notion of recovery, highlighting innovation, the relaxing of rules and regulations, and a focus of research and development as being key factors to help businesses come out of this pandemic stronger and better than before they went in.

A summary of the key findings and statistics include:

  • 57% of small firms have contributed to their wider community in some form of positively geared community-centric role. For example, 23% have helped out key workers through the provision of PPE
  • 24% of small businesses have donated food to their local food banks
  • 30% have changed their business practices so they could better support their employees working from home
  • 16% have strengthened their online presence
  • 10% have tweaked their service offering with 6% now producing products that they didn’t before the lockdown commenced
  • 30% have emphasised helping their most at-risk customers with 19% offering free home deliveries

For more information visit HERE.



Lisa's Blog: UK Learns
Professional and Personal Development Options via the new Online Course Platform

Blog PictureWhether it be for your personal development, to further your career, or to upskill in a way that provides extra qualifications and knowledge to a business, study is so much more accessible now than it ever has been before. From the comfort of our own home, we can develop and broaden our skill base in pretty much any area that we fancy.

UK Learns is a new online platform that delivers a wide range of multi-skill based courses to anyone who is up to learn. From hard-skill courses such as cloud computing and equity finance to soft skills such as professional resilience, self-management or how to become “career smart”, the opportunities for development and growth are varied.

Choose from a range of industry-specific courses, from those that are free or that have time commitments of one hour to ten hours, or those that can be completed online anytime or that have scheduled class time – the online course-world is your oyster. If you’re not sure what course would benefit you the most, however you are keen to learn and to put some of the extra time you may currently have up your sleeve to good use, UK Learns also offers a short quiz that can help you to figure out what might best suit.

Delivered in conjunction with Pearson, a global education and learning company, many of the courses offered are accredited and are ones that will undoubtedly stand you in good stead with any current or future employers. Being able to make sure of these unique isolation times that we find ourselves in and do something that contributes positively towards both our overall mental health as well as professional outlooks can only really be a win for all.



Lisa's Blog: The Ever Changing Landscape
of Society – How the Coronavirus Continues to Challenge Us with New Normals.

Blog PictureIt’s crazy to think that for many of us across the world, the Coronavirus pandemic only really got serious less than three months ago. Towards the beginning of March, even through to mid-March, in Australia, we were still getting together in large groups to celebrate birthdays, enjoy an end of the week drink down the pub, and play team sports within our community. Then everything started to change. I still find it amazing when I think about how quickly we’ve all be able to respond, to react, and to adapt.

Supermarket check-out employees now scan my groceries and serve me behind large, clear plastic screens. My temperature is taken before I enter through the doors of my local pharmacy. People drop back to single-file when I pass them on the street. This is currently the new norm, and this is what I’m now used to. When someone doesn’t behave in this way, then I deem them to be acting irresponsibly; by not moving to the side, by not sanitising their hands at the free sanitising station when walking into a store, by still engaging in group activities both indoors and out, I find myself feeling miffed, to say the least.

In Australia, we have just started a three-staged approach to relaxing our COVID-19 restrictions. If all goes to plan, then by mid-July 2020 we will be able to once again enjoy outdoor public gatherings of 100 people. All Australians will be able to have returned to work based on ensuring they continue to abide with adequate social distancing and strict hygiene rules. It’s a roadmap to a COVID-safe Australia.

While it will undoubtedly be at least 12 to 18 months before we have a vaccine, and even longer until we see international travel return to normal, it’s likely too that our normal routines and the way we interact with people and our community will continue to change, again and again, and again. So it’s about rolling with the tides, going with the flow, and trying to not get too caught up in the ever-changing landscape that is our current society.



Lisa's Blog: Up Up Up
Price Hikes and Rises in the face of COVID-19

Blog PictureNo matter where you reside across the world, panic buying has been a consistent flow-on effect from the coronavirus pandemic. In Australia, it was toilet paper that was the big-ticket item. Not bottled water or longlife food as you would naturally think. Toilet paper. People were stockpiling this from the get-go, buying up big and then not only storing in their home for their household use but also selling surplus stock online at heavily inflated prices. I saw a listing online for someone in my community selling ten rolls of toilet paper for $20 – the equivalent of just over £10.

It wasn’t long before supermarkets and stores imposed limits on the number of these highly sought after products, as well as the items that you would expect people to be purchasing in large quantities such as flour, sugar, tinned food, handwash, soap and other general hygiene products. While the price of these products hasn’t necessarily changed, I have noticed that they no longer come on special. Or if they do run a promotion, there are no more half-price sales or buy 1 get one free. Supermarkets know they don’t need to.

I was reading an article from The Guardian recently and came across an interesting graph illustrating figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) regarding the price rise of products during the COVID-19 pandemic. On average, UK shoppers are now paying 4.4% more for their shopping baskets than they were before the coronavirus struck. Tinned beans have seen almost a six percent increase since mid-March. Rice is another staple product which has also seen a sharp increase as well as the price of pet food which has rocketed skyhigh. Interestingly, however, the price of pasta sauce has seen a decrease, falling by 4.5%. Thinking about it though, this does make sense; with more people spending more time at home, cooking up a big batch of pasta sauce and letting it simmer away on the stove for a couple of hours is now more achievable than it has been in the past. Now that's a nice thought.



Lisa's Blog: The Cost of Coronavirus
The Take-Up of the Furlough Scheme

Blog Picture£103.7bn – that’s the latest figure which the UK government’s Office for Budget Responsibility is estimating to be the current price tag on upholding the economy during this coronavirus battle.

It comes after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released its latest findings collated from over 5,000 surveyed businesses from the period of the 6th to the 20th of April. Results showed that two-thirds of companies have jumped on board with the government furlough scheme – the first time ever in Britain’s history that such a scheme has been offered.

Officially opening on April 20, applications were made by over 185,000 UK businesses for over one million people whose employment has been affected by the COVID-19. A business can use the scheme to pay up to 80% of wages with a maximum amount of £2,500 being paid out per month.

The Federation of Small Business’s Policy and Advocacy Chair, Martin McTague comments, “When the scheme was first introduced there was a sigh and a lot of scepticism thinking that a big government IT system was going to fall over and they were going to be left the victims but actually, credit where it’s due, this has worked remarkably smoothly.”

The ONS survey results show that 80% of UK businesses which have been forced to close during lockdown are making use of the scheme’s support. In addition, 61% of those who are still open are also leveraging it.

“I am placing no limit on the amount of funding available for the scheme. We will pay grants to support as many jobs as necessary,” Chancellor Rishi Sunak said in one of his recent addresses.

Further interesting statistics from the ONS survey include:

  • 56% of businesses are looking to defer their VAT payment
  • 42% are making use of the business rates holiday
  • 30% of businesses say their turnover has been unaffected
  • Nearly 24% say that their turnover has declined by more than 50%



Lisa's Blog: The Coronavirus Response
How SMEs Business Loans Look Around the World

Blog PictureThe news that the UK Government could soon be 100% backing business loans for the country's small and medium business sector is a welcome headline to read for many. The notion comes after the British Business Bank run Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) has been on the receiving end of thousands of complaints. A difficult application and eligibility process is deemed by many as impossible for them to overcome.

So it makes me think, how are other countries doing it? What business loan support is available for SMEs around the globe to help them get through this COVID-19 period?

France - The French government has already outlaid €20bn worth of loans to over 170,000 businesses, with another €20bn promised by the end of April. Eligibility of loans is not dependant on a company’s size. On average, the loan size equates to up to 3 months’ worth of the company’s 2019 turnover.

Germany - The german government has made loans of up to €1bn available for businesses to apply for with a minimum 1% interest rate attached. Also available to some is €1bn in emergency funding, which over 18,000 businesses have already applied for.

Australia - The Australian government combined with the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority have created the Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme which supports business’s flow of credit. SMEs with a maximum turnover of $50 million are eligible for these loans. The loans are capped at $250,000 and come with a 6 month repayment holiday.

USA - The creation of the Paycheck Protection Program is available for small businesses that employ less than 500 employees. Monies received through this assistance program can be used to pay staff wages for up to eight weeks. There may be some instances where companies can also use a small proportion of the loan for other means too including rent, utility payments, and mortgage interest repayments. Depending on how many eligibility criteria a business satisfies, some loans may not have to be repaid. Others come with a 1% interest rate. Over 1.6 million businesses have applied and have been approved to date.



Lisa's Blog: 4 Tips for Staying Motivated
and Productive When Working From Home During COVID-19

Blog PictureWelcome to the beginning of another normal lockdown working week – number four in the UK. In a statement made by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Dominic Raab it appears that the country is buckled in for at least another three weeks; "There is light at the end of the tunnel but we are now at both a delicate and a dangerous stage in this pandemic. If we rush to relax the measures that we have in place we would risk wasting all the sacrifices and all the progress that has been made. That would risk a quick return to another lockdown with all the threat to life that a second peak to the virus would bring and all the economic damage that a second lockdown would carry."

And so this “new normal” is really starting to settle in. We are commuting from our bedrooms, kitchens and living spaces to our home office, which in many cases may just be the kitchen table. The salt and pepper shakers have been removed and the laptop and headphones are now out. You might find that your motivation is now waning; for the first couple of weeks it was all go, creating new routines and settling into them. Now it might just feel a bit, well, uninspiring.

As I go through this experience it’s made me realise just how much energy I actually draw from the world around me. When the world around me is not buzzing with outward energy, it can be much more of a struggle to get energetic and motivated myself. After working from home for over three years now, here are my four tips to help keep you motivated and productive during these crazy COVID-19 times.

  • Make a schedule – and stick to it!
  • Set yourself small, achievable goals – use these as your markers for your daily success. You are achieving things, you are being productive.
  • Take designated breaks – don’t get sucked into the vortex of the virtual world. Taking regular breaks helps productivity tenfold.
  • Get up – movement is key; step away from the computer and have a stretch, make a cup of tea and then get back to it.



Lisa's Blog: The British Chamber of
Commerce’s Corona Business Impact Tracker

Blog PictureIts a tough time right now for SMEs as the whole world scrambles to get their head around the coronavirus pandemic that is affecting us all in many different ways.

While governments are supporting their national businesses and economies by providing relief packages and other financial breaks, making sense of it all can be easier said than done. The support might be there, but do businesses know about it, and can they access it?

The British Chamber of Commerce’s Corona Business Impact Tracker aims to directly answer these questions. It provides an overview of the current UK SME climate when it comes to the impact that COVID-19 is having, as well as looking at their ability to benefit from the various grants and funding which the government is making available to them.

Here are the stats from the most recent survey; a sample size of 1,000 responses taken from the beginning of April:

  • 59% of SMEs knew about the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). 19% said they were planning to take advantage of it.
  • 42% of respondents said they know about some of the different grants available, with 24% commenting that they planned to use these.
  • 8% said they had not been able to get access to the CBILS due to slow processes and/or getting responses from the needed parties.
  • 41% of SMEs said that cash flow was a big issue for them at the moment with only one to three months’ cash in supply. 5% said they had at least 12 months, 16% said they have less than one month and 6% said it had already been exhausted.
  • When it comes to staffing, 37% responded that they were expecting to have to lay off 75 – 100% of their employees in the next few weeks.

“It’s vital that governments across the UK continue to work closely with business over the coming days. Every minute counts, and governments, local authorities and banks must do everything in their power to ensure support gets to firms on the front line more quickly” comments Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chamber of Commerce.



Lisa's Blog: £22 Billion to Hit The High
Streets in the UK Government’s Grants and Business Rates Holiday Package

Blog PictureIt’s the UK governments SME support response to COVID-19 – a £22 billion benefits package that sees cash grants being dished out and a business rates holiday coming into effect from 1st April 2020

For many businesses right now, cash flow is in a delicate and very tenuous position. With social distancing rules set out by the government to help flatten the coronavirus curve, social gatherings and spending on the high streets has wound back to zero. For many SMEs across the board, cash flow has completely stalled. Allowing businesses to go into “hibernation” mode is the name of the game right now, and the benefits package as released by the UK government will hopefully be the lifeline that helps to keep many of them afloat.

“High street businesses are at the core of what keeps our economy thriving” comments Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. “That is why we are taking the unprecedented step to provide businesses with the vital cash they need to ensure their survival during this difficult time, with 300 businesses having already received money in their accounts.”

£25,000 cash grants have already been paid out to many high street businesses. Those operating within some of the hardest-hit industries such as the hospitality, retail, leisure sectors and nurseries, will benefit from an exemption on their business rates for the next 12 months. For those running eligible small or micro-businesses in these sectors, they can expect grants of £10,000 or £25,000 to help them keep ticking over. Businesses who have already made their rates payments but who can benefit from the rates holiday will be refunded in due time, and will be contacted directly by their local government.

Councillor Rachael Robathan, leader of Westminster City Council, says “The first 300 grants worth more than £3 million have now gone to some of the borough’s small businesses and we are working as fast as we can to process others. Help companies now is vital to help them survive and be ready for normal trading when the epidemic eases.”



Lisa's Blog: Mindful Mental Health Tips
during COVID-19

Blog PictureIt certainly can be hard to turn off, or even down, the noises coming from the world right now. We are constantly surrounded by news and updates relating to coronavirus. TV, radio, social media feeds, talking to friends and family, it’s all around us, and it’s themes that are heavy and demanding, mentally, emotionally, and financially.

Below is some guidance to help you stay mindful of your mental health and keep things in check

  • Create space – It’s easy to get sucked into the vortex that is the world of news and social media now. You want to stay updated and informed, but it’s important to make sure you’re creating some mental space within a day so that you can switch off. Consider allocating a certain time each day so you can catch-up on the latest news (from a reputable news site), inform yourself with the right facts, and then turn it off. Maybe the morning time suits you best, or during your mid-morning or lunch break if you're working from home. Find a time that works for you and be staunch with it. Just before bed is not going to be conducive to helping you wind down and get a good nights sleep
  • Set some goals – These can be little or big, either way, everyone knows how good it is to be able to tick something off a list. Think about ways you can use the time now to better yourself for the future, for when we come out of this and are on the other side. What skills could you be developing professionally? Make use of the time to accomplish those tasks that you never had time to do before. Find those silver linings.
  • Get outside – It’s a proven fact that physical exercise does wonders for our mental health. We may all be in lockdown mode, but there are still many ways we can get that blood pumping from the comfort of our own home. Videos, apps, downloadable exercise programs – really we are equipped now better than we ever to handle these important stay at home directives.
  • Reach out – As always, reach out to friends and family and stay connected. Talk to people around you that you trust via phone, message or video call, we are all in this together

For more information, refer to the World Heath Organisation’s PDF – Mental Health and Psychosocial Considerations During COVID-19 Outbreak: HERE



Lisa's Blog: 4 Tips on how
to make Working from Home Work for You

Blog PictureTalking to many experienced home workers, they often say the same thing; they find themselves to be more productive when working from home. So if you’re new to the working from home or remote work scenario, below are four key tips to help you make the most of this new opportunity and make it work for you.

  • Setup a separate space – Creating a good working space is crucial if you’re going to be spending more time working from home. A separate room which you can setup as an office is ideal. Even if this is not possible, a clear table or a section of a room which you can mentally and physically leave at the end of the day will help you switch on and off from the working day and week
  • Keep your routine – You might not still have your daily commute but establishing and maintaining a new daily routine is important. Shower, get dressed, have breakfast, and make a tea or coffee before sitting down to catch-up on your emails. Equally important is not giving in to the tendency to get up and straight away sit down at the computer. Why not start your day with a morning walk? This can be an effective way of making use of what was once your commute time. Keeping a regular before and after work routine will help to maintain a sense of a regular work day.
  • Take a break and get outside – It can be ever so easy to keep tapping away on your computer but ensuring you take adequate breaks is so important when it comes to remote working. Get up, stretch, go for a walk outside and get some fresh air. You’ll end up being more productive when it comes time to sit back down in front of the computer.
  • Know yourself – We all have more productive times of the day than others. Take a moment to think about your working style and when you’re at your peak performance in terms of output. Work smart and plan to take your breaks during a time when you know you're normally less productive.



Lisa's Blog: COVID-19
Useful Links for Small Businesses

Blog PictureWhen it comes to the coronavirus, it really is a day-by-day situation. Running or operating a small business in these times can be a decidedly more tricky and stressful undertaking. Things are changing ever so rapidly and it’s hard to keep up with it all, knowing where to turn to and what measures we should be taking.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak recently stated that he’ll do “whatever it takes” to help keep the UK economy afloat. “I know how worried people are. What everyone needs to know is that we are doing everything we can to keep this country, and our people, healthy and financially secure.”

For those small business owners and managers, the importance of having up-to-date and reliable information at hand is paramount. Below is a list of useful links providing guidance and advice on dealing with this pandemic. These sites are updated on a daily basis and so are a good port of call.

  • The UK government’s guidance for employers and businesses about COVID-19: This site gives background information about the virus, signs and symptoms, as well as advice on what to do if an employee or other persons have been into your workplace and is suspected of carrying the virus:
  • The NHS website has information relating to how coronavirus is spread, treatment options, as well as stay at home advice:
  • The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) website gives direct advice to employers and employees and it is reviewed and updated daily. It talks to employer good practice, isolation and sick pay, and the expected duty of care that employers have if someone becomes unwell at work, if employees are told to stay home at the request of their workplace even though they are not displaying signs or symptoms of the virus, or if the employer needs to close their workplace:

Regionally as well, your local government websites as also a good source of reputable information.

  • Scotland:
  • Wales:
  • Northern Ireland:



Lisa's Blog: Getting Recruitment Right
3 Tips for Getting the Best out of your Interviewee

Blog PictureWe all know an organisation is only as good as the people that it employs. Staffing and recruitment is a massive industry. In the year to March 2019 the recruitment industry’s turnover sat at £38.9 billion. This figure takes into account temporary, contract, and permanent placements (as published by a Recruitment and Employment Confederation report).

“The industry’s progress is good news for the whole economy because good recruitment underpins growth and productivity for clients and opportunity for candidates,” comments Chief Executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, Neil Carberry.

While many of these hires would’ve been managed through a recruitment company, engaging in a third-party company to help facilitate the recruitment of staff is not always a viable option for small to medium-sized businesses. Here are three tips for helping to get the best out of your interviewee:

  • Help make the interviewee feel as relaxed as possible – We’ve all been there, on the other side of the interviewers' chair. We all know how nerve-racking interviews can be. It’s important to make your interviewee feel as relaxed as possible. This will help get the most natural responses from the candidate and paint a clear picture as to how they operate. Always start with some small talk, even a few minutes or so of this can help dissipate any nerves on both sides and reduce anxieties.
  • Think of the room setup – If appropriate, forgo long board tables and formal chairs. Instead utilise comfortable armchairs and a clipboard. The absence of obstacles sitting between the interviewers and interviewee will help energy to flow throughout the room and minimise any subconscious barriers.
  • Clarify and confirm – Experts say that it’s the candidate that should be talking 80% of the time. So as the interviewee, ensure you’re engaged and asking questions so you always completely understand what your interviewee is saying. Clarify with questions such as “how did you do that?”, “what was the thought process behind that?”, and “can you tell me a little bit more” will help you to gain a deeper understanding of the way that your potential new employee thinks and behaves in a given situation.



Lisa's Blog: But what does it mean?
Confusion and questions surrounding the new IR35 legislation

Blog PictureIR35 – it’s the new UK government legislation which allows HMRC to tap into the world of contractors which are really functioning for a business more like an employee than anything else. It’s been set in play to fight tax avoidance whereby a contractor might be providing services through say a limited company, but if that go-between was not being used, really they would be employed directly by the company they are providing the services to.

The IR35 legislation changes will come into effect April this year, and the research shows it’s the construction industry which is top of the list for the most perturbed. Understandably too, when you think about the number of different contracting roles which pertain to this industry; business owners and operators have a lot to make sure their head is wrapped around before this date.

Some research was conducted by the public and private UK digital solutions provider Bedigital regarding the legislative rollout. It found that, overall, 45% of business owners surveyed find themselves confused about what IR35 means for them and how things need to change ahead of April. Diving deeper into those who are perplexed, 56% of businesses within the construction are unsure, followed by 48% of the hair and beauty industry, 43% of the food services sector, 41% of travel, and 38% of the marketing industry.

Richard Tyler, a representative for the company, commented that, “The results of this research clearly highlight the need for businesses to gain a much broader understanding of what the upcoming IR35 means, and how it will affect their company finances. Whilst the new off-payroll rules present a level of risk to businesses in the short-term, acquiring services using outcome-based SoW’s is a sensible way of reducing risk. However, if businesses do not adequately prepare for the changes, it may quickly create unexpected costs and issues”.



Lisa's Blog: Small Business Confidence
at an Eight-Year Low says FSB's Q4 Report

Blog PictureThe Federation of Small Business’ latest Small Business Index (SBI) has just been published for the last quarter of 2019 and it paints a portrait of a not-so optimistic current situation for those operating in the UK small business world.

A summary of the key findings include:

  • Small business optimism took another dramatic downturn between Q3 and Q4 – moving from -8.1 on the SBI scale to -21.6. This is the lowest that it’s been in eight years.
  • This goes hand in hand with 42% of businesses registering a decrease in their profits.
  • The cost of labour was regarded by 43.5% of small business as being one of the key contributing factors to their rising operating costs. This figure increased to 65.6% of businesses within the accommodation and food industry.
  • An inability to find the right staff with the right skill-levels continue to plague small businesses, with 37% reporting this as a hindrance to company growth.
  • Industry-specific confidence levels have decreased across all industries, with the construction industry being the only sector that still ranks positively when compared to Q3 and Q4 of 2019. Those industries that have seen the largest decline are the consumer-facing industries – accommodation and hospitality, retail, and arts, and entertainment and recreation.
  • Looking ahead, 23% expect to see an upturn in their international sales in the next quarter.

With business confidence therefore at an eight-year all-time low, surely things should only go up from here, right? Nina Skero, Director and Head of Macroeconomics for Cebr (Centre for Economics and Business Research) comments that “Cebr expects 2020 to be a year of decent economic growth in the UK. The expansion will be supported by a variety of factors including a recovery in consumer confidence, return to stronger business investment growth, government spending pledges and accommodative monetary policy. The UK’s political and economic environments are quite different now compared to much of the period that this SBI recovers. With this in mind, it will be interesting to contrast these findings with those that will be published in Q1 2020.”



Lisa's Blog: Going Green
Tips to Help Your Business Be More Environmentally Sustainable

Blog PictureGreen, green, green; becoming more environmentally friendly and sustainable is something that we all can aspire too, whether it’s at home or at our place of work. We know of all the usual things; recycling our waste, recycling our paper, installing more energy-efficient lighting, shutting down and turning off electrical equipment at night… the list goes on.

But what are some other ways that we can make a difference? How can we think outside the box to reduce, reuse and recycle even more? Here are some other ways that you can promote a greener culture within your business or place of work.

  • Walk, cycle, or ride public transport – Why not start a “Leave your car at home” day. This is not only good for the planet but can also have a positive flow-on effect for employee’s mental health and well being. Encouraging colleagues to leave the car at home and either walk, bike ride or utilise public transport even a little bit can help; drive part of the way and walk or bus the rest. Reducing the number of cars on the road even by a small amount is better than nothing.
  • Minimise on the single-use consumption habit – Individual sugar sachets in the tea room? Disposable cups? Reducing the amount of single-use consumption items in and around the office is a win-win for the environment as well as being a win-win for reducing your company’s overheads.
  • Buy local – Your company’s carbon footprint can be drastically reduced by considering where the products you’re buying are coming from. Are they produced and sourced overseas or do they come from right here in the UK? The real question is, how local can you go?
  • Reuse, recycle, refashion – Needing some new office furniture or looking to make some changes to the décor of your business or office? They say one person’s trash can be another one’s treasure so consider first whether what you need to procure could be sourced secondhand. There are a lot of high-quality items which can be purchased on the cheap, helping to keep our landfills operating at their bare minimum.



Lisa's Blog: Starting up and Surviving
Top Five UK Cities for New Business Ventures

Blog PictureIn today’s age, it seems like starting a business is in a way, easier than ever. Whether it’s starting your own sole trader venture and entering into the world of the gig economy, or you’ve got the beginnings of what you think is a great business idea, start-ups and dabbling in the world of entrepreneurship is more accessible than ever.

It’s one thing to dream the dream, but then you have to make it happen. Once you get up and running and off the ground, getting through those first few years can be hard going; as everyone knows, the survival rate for new businesses within those formative years can be pretty rough.

Some interesting research was recently conducted by the B2B company BusinessComparison, looking at UK start-up survival rates during a new business’ first five years of operation. Drawing on figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), their research found that only 25% of UK businesses survive their first five years.

Furthermore, they also drilled down into which UK towns and cities had the highest rates of survival; and then at the other end of the spectrum, the lowest. To get the stats, they looked at the period of 2013 to 2018 and asked the question, how many new businesses that started at the beginning of this period were still in operation at the end. Here are the results.

Top five highest five-year survival rate:

  1. Bristol – 44.36%
  2. Brighton and Hove – 44.13%
  3. Leeds – 42.88%
  4. Sheffield - 42.66%
  5. Cardiff - 42.34%

Lowest five, five-year survival rate:

  1. Kingston upon Hull – 38.76%
  2. Stoke-on-Trent – 38.51%
  3. Nottingham – 38.2%
  4. Newcastle upon Tyne – 38.08%
  5. Manchester – 37.52%

Industry wise, sitting at the top were petrol and fuel refinery businesses (100% - 5 out of 5), followed then by membership organisations (59.76%), beverage companies (53.23%), residential care companies (52.25%), and those businesses within the creative/arts/entertainment sector (52.00%).



Lisa's Blog: New Strong Customer
Authentication (SCA) Rules for Online Payments

Blog PictureIt’s kind of a mouth full, Strong Customer Authentication Rules, or SCA for short. But if your business handles online payments, then it’s something that as an owner or manager you’ll need to be across.

The SCA’s are a new set of rules and regulations which define how consumer's identities are substantiated when they are making online purchases. It’s all in the name of reducing the risk of online fraud – an extra step will come into play when buyers are making online purchases; a code could be sent to the purchaser via a text message or app push notification which they need to input to complete the transaction, or a call is made to their landline phone, for example.

If your business has an online e-commerce component, ie. if your customers can make purchases through your website or mobile app, then these new set of rules is something that you need to take note of.

There are two important dates to remember dependant on where you conduct business; for EU card payments, you’ll need to be on board by 31 December 2020. For the UK, the date to remember is 14 March 2021. If your business utilises a payment gateway or payment provider after these dates which does not support the new SCA rules, then your consumer’s transaction will be declined.

And although those deadlines may seem far, far away in the distance, testing and trials may need to happen before the payment process is running smoothly.

Your business's payment gateway provider or acquirer should be your first port of call. Check with them to confirm that they’ll be supporting the technology known as 3DSecure. If your business takes card payments, and your payment provider does not support this technology, then come the 14 March 2021 (or 31 December 2020 if you do business in the EU), your customer's transactions will be able to be completed.

For more information visit HERE

Or, to download the UK Finance’s detailed report in full, visit: HERE



Lisa's Blog: Lloyds and HBOS
The Scandal Compensation Bill Climbs

Blog PictureEveryone has a duty of care in their work, a set of morals and ethics that should always be adhered to, sustained, and maintained. For six bankers and advisers at the Lloyds Reading branch between 2003 and 2007, this was something that they failed to uphold.

Corrupt bankers, which included two former HBOS executives, were key players in the scandal that saw an array of UK small businesses crumbling after being inundated with debt. Those in the position of power, who then used these profits to live the high life, stood trial back in 2017 and were sentenced to a total of nearly 50 years in jail.

It’s been a long road to compensation, as those affected by the scandal have been battling their way through the tunnel for over ten years to get to the light at the end.

A recent review conducted by retired judge Sir Ross Cranston calls out Lloyds, who took HBOS under its wing in 2008, for some serious deficiencies, not only in the evaluation process of their compensation but also for their transparency throughout the process.

Dishing out £102 million as they have previously done, is now just the tip of the iceberg, with Lloyds saying another one-off payment of £35,000 would be payable to the victims as of December 2019. Current claims are that the total figure could climb to circa £500 million. While monetary compensation is an obvious step in the right direction, along of course with those who acted wrongly being held responsible for their felonies, situations like can only create feelings of distrust and uncertainty when it comes to small businesses and the banking world.

A spokesperson for Lloyds had this to say: 'The group is committed to ensuring Sir Ross Cranston's recommendations are implemented and that customers affected by the HBOS Reading fraud are offered the option of an independent re-review of their cases, looking again at the assessment of any direct and consequential losses that flowed from the fraud.'



Lisa's Blog: Cyber High Cyber Scams
Phishing Data Breaches Sitting Top of the Class

Blog PictureWe live in a digital age. So much of our lives these days is online – both personal and business. As an individual many of us keep our private lives to ourselves (there’s a reason why they’re referred to as our private lives right?), but as a business, more often than not it pays to be seen. Businesses should be easily accessible across all platforms that could act as potential touchpoints for a customer base, be it websites or social media. In addition, we too as people and or employees are all easily accessible. We are open to being able to be contacted by anyone and everyone who has our email addresses, who has our digital contact information.

A recent analysis conducted by cyber-security awareness platform CybSafe paints a vivid picture as to the rise of cyber-security breaches and cyber-crime in today’s current day; and it is just that, on the rise, with the highest number of cyber-security breaches being reported to the ICO in 2019 than ever before. Cybsafe analysed 2017 – 2019 data from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and sitting at the top as the number one culprit was phishing data breaches, whereby secure information is gathered through the use of deceptive emails or disingenuous websites. In 2017 there were only 16 phishing breaches reported, that number jumped to 877 reports in 2018. In 2019 the number was up to 1,080, which represents 45% of all the reported cyber-security breaches known to the ICO for that year.

Oz Alashe, who is CEO of CybSafe, comments that “With GDPR causing a massive surge in reporting during 2018, we might have expected that reports to the ICO would taper off in 2019 – but this wasn’t the case. 2019 surpassed the numbers achieved in the previous year quite dramatically. In terms of human error data breaches, it was a particularly significant year.”



Lisa's Blog: UK Small Business
Confidence at an Eight-Year All-Time Low

Blog PictureNo one wants to start the new year, or the new decade, at an all-time low. However, when you’re at the bottom, they say the only way you can go is up, and so let’s hope that’s exactly where confidence goes for those circulating in the small business world.

The Federation of Small Businesses Q4 2019 Small Business Index (SBI) results may not paint the brightest picture, but now that the latest general election has been and gone, there’s hope that things will settle over the next quarter and confidence can be regained.

To produce the SBI, 1,029 small businesses were surveyed during the end of November and beginning of December 2019. A summary of the key results include:

  • The overall Q4 confidence level was reported at -21.6. This is the sixth negative reading in a row and the lowest figure since 2011’s Q4.
  • 46% of those surveyed stated they expect their small business’s performance to continue to deteriorate in the next quarter.
  • 24% stated they anticipate a boost in their business’ performance
  • Breaking down the results per industry, 66% of those within the retail sector forecast that they expect their business performance to weaken significantly during the first quarter of 2020.
  • 42% reported a profit decrease, while 27% reported a profit increase – both of these stats are at a five-year high and five-year low respectively.
  • The two major culprits inhibiting small business growth included consumer demand (36%) and labour costs (24%).
  • Furthermore, the health of the domestic economy was called out by 64% as a major hurdle when it comes to overall business expansion.
  • Only 11% of small businesses expressed their intentions to increase staffing levels during the next quarter.

Craig Beaumont, the FSB Director of External Affairs and Advocacy comments that “The small business community has been stifled by uncertainty for more than three years. This quarter, the added uncertainty that accompanies a general election made it even harder for small firms to plan, hire and increase profits.”



Lisa's Blog: New Year, New Decade
Resolutions for your Small Business

Blog PictureEvery year it can feel like time is getting away from you; the days roll into weeks, the weeks into months, the months into years, and now, the years into decades. Owning and/or operating a small business can only just add to this time warp, as you’re constantly looking ahead, making plans, forecasting and thinking about what is next.

At this time of year, one can’t help to reflect; although it may not be in a year-end, financial sense, but more in a year-end overall contemplative and introspective way. So, if you find yourself thinking like this, here are three key New Year business resolutions to take you and your small business into the next decade:

  • Keep on top of, and aware, of your business’ finances – Problems with cash flow can be the number one downfall of all businesses, but none more so than for small businesses. Make sure you’re always abreast of how your business is financially performing. Profit and loss, running costs, credit control; know who your customers are who can be notorious for late payments and endeavour to put tactics in place to manage this.
  • Deliver the best in customer service that you can – Without your customers, your business simply won’t succeed. Ensure you and your staff are doing everything possible to deliver the highest levels of customer service at all times. Are there any potential bottlenecks in service deliveries and processes that are a pain for your clients? Consider doing a simple survey that checks in with your customer base and ask for their feedback. This information is gold and can go a long way in helping a business to reach new heights; word of mouth is still often the best form of advertising.
  • Fine-tune your processes and procedures – Time is money, so make sure you’re doing things in the most efficient way possible. Just because you’ve always done things one way doesn’t mean you always should. New programs are constantly being developed and released, technology is continually advancing; so keep your eyes and ears open to how you could leverage these within your business.



Lisa's Blog: Promised Relief;
Business Rate Cuts on the Cards says PM Boris Johnson

Blog PictureHefty business rates can be a big battle for small businesses and it’s been a key contributing factor for the fading high streets across the UK which has been widely reported on recently. Enter the Boris Johnson-led Conservative government’s plan to slash business rates, providing those small operators on the UK’s high street with a direct shot of some much need oxygen.

"We want to reinvigorate communities up and down our great country, helping people put the heart back into the places they call home. That's why we're taking action to save our high streets and keep pubs, cafes, and hairdressers open by slashing their business rate bills by half" Sajid Javid, Chancellor of the Exchequer said.

The cut in business rates that sees the standard retailer discounts increasing to 50% from the already offered 33% will come into effect from April 2021. Any independent high street retailer with a rateable value below £51,000 will be eligible for the relief which could save them up to £12,500 all up. Those businesses which also fall into the entertainment category, such as music venues and cinemas, also qualify.

While this discount provides a much-needed boost to those small businesses which may be struggling, Josh Hardie, Deputy Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has been active in vocalising how the UK business rates system is "fundamentally broken", as he continues to promote a "radical reform" of its overall structure. However a full business rates review could take up to five years; then to implement the changes, well, even longer.

Mike Cherry from the FSB also backs this up, “It’s vital that this Queen’s Speech is now followed-up with a business-friendly Budget in the new year, one that encompasses the fundamental review of the regressive rates system promised today.”



Lisa's Blog: The Bright Lights of 2019’s
Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Blog PictureA bright light shined down on this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday events, both online and off. Analysts were predicting it, and so it’s a good news story that the sales from the day didn’t disappoint those small, medium and large retail business operators. Consumers were expected to spend around the £4.3bn mark, which would’ve been a tidy 2% up on the figures from 2018’s Black Friday. Barclaycard reports from Black Friday show that there was a 16.5% increase on the 2018 figures for the value of transactions, as well as a 7.2% increase in the volume of transactions. Figures from Cyber Monday were also positive, with a 6.9% increase in transaction volume comparative to last year.

Interesting was that according to retail data company Springboard, who record shopper numbers at 450 UK retail outlets, the busiest time of the day for sales was 5 pm.

The British Retail Consortium Chief Executive Helen Dickinson commented that “Electronics and clothes both benefited from big discounts, with the recent cold snap adding further urgency to purchases of winter-wear. Furthermore, as the spectre of a no-deal Brexit has been pushed back to after Christmas, consumers were more prepared to open their wallets to a little extra festive spending.” Long may it continue.

But how does Black Friday specifically impact the UK SME world? Nicole Rohde, who is the PR Manager for the handbags and leather goods boutique company Maxwell-Scott said “Black Friday 2019 has been incredibly successful for us as we managed to hit our monthly revenue target in just one day! For our UK website, we are 300% ahead in revenue compared to last year’s event. I believe that SMEs have an advantage compared to big retailers as they usually have a much closer relationship with their customer base. That means Black Friday offers can be tailored way more towards the actual needs and wants of the customers.”



Lisa's Blog: First Round Submissions
For the Management Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP)

Blog PictureDecember 12th 2019 marks the opening of the first round of funding applications for the new Innovate UK Management Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) programme. Dedicated to helping UK SMEs to grow and develop through effective business management, the programme equips small businesses and those people within them with the tools, the knowledge and the information to help them to drive their business to success.

The Management KTP programme sees applicants partnered up with a cohort of academic experts as well as a skilled graduate. Working together, quantifiable and tangible management practices and strategies are defined which focus on improving the all-round effectiveness and capability of the business.

Phil Goddard, CEO of CSols Ltd, a laboratory informatics software and services company based in Runcorn, who has previously taken part in the programme comments: “ The Knowledge Transfer Partnerships were not really on my radar but when I found out more about them I realized it was the precise mechanism we needed to realise our innovation goals. It has transformed our business, taking us into new markets and brining in fresh thinking and capability which has made us much better able to develop the kind of ideas which will expand our business for years to come.”

The business functions and activities which the management KTP programme covers specifically include:

  • Monitoring and target setting
  • Mentoring/coaching
  • Communication
  • Organisation
  • Resource planning
  • Strategic thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Decision-making
  • Commercial awareness
  • Risk management, and more.

Funding applications for Management KTP close at midday on 19 February 2020. The programme offers the opportunity for interested applicants to connect with one of their Knowledge Transfer Advisers who will first work to determine whether your management project is suitable for the Management KTP programme funding. Successful small business applicants commit to covering 33% of the cost, large businesses 50%, and then Innovate UK will pick up the remainder.

For more information visit HERE



Lisa's Blog: Job Cuts Looming
Just Ahead of Christmas for Npower

Blog PictureWhen things aren’t working, something has to change. That’s the plan of attack for Npower with reports that in the first nine months of this financial year their profits have fallen 27%. This equates to a €167m (£142.4m) loss, which is more than double its loss year-on-year. So now, the UK electricity generator and supplier of gas and power, which is owned by German-based company E.On, is set to cut 4,500 jobs in a move that aims to help them turn that figure back around.

E.On’s Chief Executive Johannes Teyssen comments, “the UK market is currently particularly challenging. We've emphasised repeatedly that we'll take all necessary action to return our business there to consistent profitability.”

That necessary action sees them look to close three call centres at Hull, Worcester, and Houghton-le-Spring. There are also plans for them to merge Npower computer systems with those used by E.On to save money. With the current reorganisation plan, small business and domestic customers would leverage the same customer service teams and computer systems while industrial clients continue on as normal.

Npower also has offices at Birmingham, Leeds, Oldbury, Solihull, and Swindon, and E.On says that they won’t know the final number of jobs which will be cut until they have finished all of their consultations with unions.

E.On representatives say that the government imposed electricity rate price cap which was introduced in January this year is a major contributing factor to the downturn in their profits. In addition to this, an impulsive electricity and utilities UK market which has seen many small-scale providers pop up as quickly as they disappear over the past few years, has many of these short-lived competitors offering unsustainable discounted and cheap deals which the large scale providers can’t meet, is also being called out for the decline.



Lisa's Blog: TSmall Business Saturday
gets set for 2019

Blog PictureIn 2018 Small Business Saturday injected £812 million into the UK’s small business economy. From cafes to butchers, greengrocers and cinemas, retailers around the country benefited from the initiative which was first conceived in the US by American Express back in 2010. Now in its seventh year in the UK and growing every year (that £812 million figure is up 8% on the previous year), this year’s date of 7th December 2019 will hopefully see that figure grow even more. Statistics from 2018’s Small Business Saturday in regards to the most-visited retailers include:

  1. Cafe 27%
  2. Butcher 24%
  3. Baker 20%
  4. Market 17%
  5. Restaurant 15%
  6. Independent grocery store 15%
  7. Greengrocer 15%
  8. Independent convenience store 14%
  9. Health and beauty shop 10%
  10. Cinema 9%

If you’re a business owner or manager of a small business and wondering how you can get involved, there are several ways that you can leverage the event:

  • Get listed and advertise your business on the Small Business Finder – Companies registered for this will benefit from being listed on the Small Business Finder map search function before, during and after this year’s 7th December date. Visitors to the site use the search function to find a business in a specific location that matches what they’re looking for (think “electrician in Manchester”).
  • Logos, marketing packs and social media – Download the Small Business Saturday logo pack which can be used on your website, social media or other marketing and advertising collateral. Pre-formulated marketing packs (available in both English and Welsh) can also be downloaded making it easy to get the ball rolling. Register your business and Small Business Saturday will give your business a shout out on their social media channels as well.
  • Upskill with iDEA (The Duke of York Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award) – iDEA is offering free, online training for small UK businesses in an effort to help minimise the digital skills gap which can hinder a small business's ability to grow and develop. Training includes modules relating to cyber-security, web development, cloud computing, customer relationship management, e-safety and more.

For more information on the Small Business Saturday, visit HERE



Lisa's Blog: The Benefits
of Being a Small Business

Blog PictureSmall business owners know all too well about the struggles of running your own business. So much responsibility, so many decisions, so many variables and so much that you just generally need to know and have your head around in order to succeed.

The gauntlet is constantly being run with challenges that are thrown at you from every which way, but let’s not forget about the benefits of being a small business. Let’s look on the brighter side of things and consider the glass half full because small businesses really are the lifeblood of our economy. In the UK in 2018 there was a reported 5.7 million SMEs operating. This number accounts for over 99% of all businesses. Drilling deeper down, 96%, or 5.4 million, of these, were operating as micro-businesses (with 0-9 employees).

So regardless of if you’re thinking of starting an SME or you’re already running one, let’s take a moment to remember some of the advantages of being a small business:

  • Small businesses are more agile – This means you can respond to changes in the market quicker. Your operations are less cumbersome than larger corporations; you’re nimble which means you can adapt your offering and tweak and tailor as needed when needed.
  • Decisions can be made fast – This works hand in the hand with the above point. With small businesses, there are no multi-tiered management approvals needed to sign-off on things. Make the decision and make the change, it often can be that simple.
  • You can deliver a more personal product and service – Being on the frontline of delivering your product or service allows you to have a real impact on what you’re bringing to market. You have more control and can make a greater impact on how your customers and clients experience your product.
  • You can forecast your finances better – With simpler revenue and fewer expenses to manage you can forecast a whole lot easier and more accurately than large-scale corporations. This, in turn, allows for effective business planning and goal-setting – as long as you take the time to sit down and put the pen to paper.



Lisa's Blog: Open Banking Opportunities
A Resolution for the SME Late Payment Problem

Blog PictureOpen banking; have you heard of it? Many of us have probably used this form of quick payment in the past when purchasing something as an individual consumer. You’re online, and instead of being sent a conventional invoice with all the details for how to make your payment, you’re sent a link for payment. Click on this and you’re directed straight through to a payment page with all the details of the business and the amount needing to be paid already included. All you then have to do is click the button to confirm your payment; the amount is then automatically sent from your bank to the business’ account. No need to log in to your bank’s app or their internet banking page to manually enter the payee information – this open banking payment process makes things a whole lot quicker and easier.

So thinking of how simple this makes it for the average day-to-day consumer, could this be just the ticket for helping get on top of the late payment problem which is an on-going bugbear for UK SMEs? The latest statistics as taken from the Independent Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW) Business Confidence Monitor show that nearly a quarter (24%) of SMEs are reporting that late payments are more problematic than they were a year ago; alas, things are not getting any easier.

Finance Director of construction industry business Panton McLeod Limited, Tim Gardiner, comments that “A large part of the problem is where companies have complicated processes for the submission of invoices or claims for payment.”

Surely with open banking working fluently and smoothly within the consumer world, it could also be leveraged to work as such within the B2B world, helping to simplify what can otherwise be complicated payment processes. Furthermore, payment security is increased through the use of open banking, as the payer's account details and information is only ever sent between themselves and their bank. Seems like it could be a win-win all around.



Lisa's Blog: Creating
Wonderful Working Environments

Blog PictureAs the weather cools down and the days get longer and darker, the overall energy in a workplace can take a nosedive too. But there are some simple things which can be done to lift your employee's mood, helping to keep them motivated, engaged, and all the while promoting positive mental health.

  • Create comfortable spaces – This one is best approached from two sides, as you should look to ensure staff have both comfortable work stations (such as desks, chairs, and computers and monitors that are set up most ergonomically) as well as spaces for them to relax and chill-out in. Be it a break-out room, a well-equipped kitchen or a cosy office corner with comfy chairs, bean bags and plants, it really can make all the difference.
  • Encourage lunch breaks away from the desk – It’s a false economy that we’ve all been guilty of at one time or another; not leaving our computer or desks to take a lunch break. Endless research has proved however that taking time away from your desk and getting some fresh air and/or sunshine is not only good for your mental health well-being, but it also increases your productivity when it’s time to sit back down at your work station.
  • Look at the lighting – For those of us who work inside, this is a crucial one, as we spend a large part of our working week in environments lit by artificial lights. Following on from the point above, getting away from the desk at lunch and taking in some natural daylight is key, as is the kind of lighting which is used throughout the office. Bulbs that emit warmer tones are great for promoting calmness and relaxation so use these in your “comfortable” spaces. Blue-enriched bulbs with a cooler colour temperature will create an energetic atmosphere and promote alertness and so are best for use within boardrooms and meeting rooms.
  • Organise something social – Why not organise a social gathering or get together outside of the work environment. Time spent outside the office can help staff members build deeper relationships with each other which ultimately lead to stronger relationships when working together in a team environment at work.



Lisa's Blog: Striving ahead
Starling Bank backed by latest investment of £30m

Blog PictureAmid news reports of some not so positive news in the banking and financial services sector (queue the Royal Bank of Scotland’s reported third-quarter £900 million loss due to the ill-advised selling of payment protection insurance), it’s nice to read how Starling Bank is striding ahead, raising a tidy £30m for their latest expansion plans.

If you haven’t heard about the UK-based challenger bank Starling Bank, then don’t worry, you’re most probably not alone, as they only entered the financial services space in 2014. In March 2018 Starling first launched their business accounts, in late 2018 they announced a partnership with Post Offices which allowed for cash deposits to be made, and in February 2019 they introduced their Euro account to the market.

Despite just starting out, they’ve reaped a number of awards for their various products, including Best Business Banking Provider 2019 for their business account, and Best British Bank and Best Current Account 2019 for their personal account. Offering a “mobile-only” product, they operate entirely digitally, with banking done via their app and online. Understandably therefore, development is key. This latest round of funding will be invested into SME bank accounts, B2B bank services as well as the financial retail space. As they are reportedly expecting to reach a major milestone of their one-millionth customer within the next month or so, they’ll also be looking to increase their presence in Europe.

Chief Executive and Founder of Starling Bank Anne Boden comments that “We’ve come a long way since Merian Global Investors’ first investment of £50m earlier this year, adding new products and features and accelerating our rate of customer acquisition. This latest investment of £20m from Merian Chrysalis will support Starling’s rapid growth and help us reach one million customers and £1bn on deposit within weeks. It will also help us accelerate our global expansion, starting in Europe so that even more people can benefit from the Starling app.”



Lisa's Blog: Keeping connected
How small businesses are battling connectivity issues

Blog PictureWe’ve all experienced it before – cell phone reception dropouts, painfully slow internet browsing, downloads that seem to take an eternity. It’s one thing for us as an individual to battle with these connectivity issues, but when you’re running a small business, it can create an even bigger problem. New customers and clients can’t contact you, existing ones feel disconnected, and overall it’s just a frustrating experience for employees and owners within the business.

New research recently released from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) shows some real black spots when it comes to their current phone and internet connections. UK small businesses are clearly feeling it now more than ever.

Here is a summary of the numbers from the research:

  • 30% of UK SMEs have to settle for download speeds which are less than 10 Mbps
  • 33% of small businesses experience broadband speeds which do not meet their current business needs
  • While 40% feel that their current broadband speeds are not adequate for their future business needs as well
  • 45% experience problems with their mobile phone connections in urban areas, with 57% of businesses situated in rural areas saying they have problems with this
  • 32% say that poor cell phone reception has impeded their ability to run their company, as existing and new customers are sometimes not able to make contact with them
  • 26% believe that they have lost business because of connectivity issues
  • 30% reported that poor connections have a direct impact on the ability for owners and managers to grow their business
  • 52% have expressed their intent to adopt the nationwide full fibre broadband offering which has been promised by the UK government and which is planned to be rolled out and available by 2025

“Unfortunately, an unreliable internet connection and poor phone signal are familiar challenges for small businesses across the UK. Improving digital connectivity is an urgent priority to ensure our 5.8 million-strong small business community remains the engine of the UK economy,” FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry commented.



Lisa's Blog: The Business Basics Fund
Fighting the late payment problem with technology take-ups

Blog PictureThe late payment epidemic that is plaguing UK small businesses has had the media spotlight shone on it time and time again in recent times. And so it should, with Business Leader reporting at the beginning of September that 31% of UK SMEs have experienced problems with late payments. Put a price tag on this and it sits at approximately £10,000 per business. Add that all up over the last 12 months for the overall long-term effect on the UK economy of £51.5bn. Ouch.

Enter the Business Basics Programme – a fund that is currently in its third round and is being managed by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. Established as a funding programme, the initiative has been set up as a way of developing new and innovative ways for SMEs to leverage technologies and management practices which will help them to improve their productivity and profitability. In fact, half of the funding has been geared towards looking at the late payment problem, with calls for technology and systems that are both accessible and affordable for SMEs and that would fit seamlessly into their daily operations helping to simply invoice processes as well as their payment and credit management processes.

Minister for Small Business Kelly Tolhurst comments that, “As a former small business owner, I know how important it is to harness technology to make your business more productive. This is why we’re awarding another £2m from our Business Basics Fund and backing 12 more exciting new projects to develop their innovative ideas.

I am particularly pleased that we are making up to £1m available to target the issue of late payments, which I know can have a real negative impact on SMEs and their cash flow. I look forward to seeing the innovative ideas that this fund competition produces.”

For more information on the Business Basics Fund, visit HERE



Lisa's Blog: The UK skills shortage
is on the rise

Blog PictureIt can be hard for any business to find the right people with the right skills for the job at hand. Not to mention the fact that recruitment processes are an expensive one. Getting this right is crucial to SMEs, with less money, infrastructure, or other staff around to pick up the slack. If an SME doesn’t have the right people with the right skill sets, then the effects can be hindering or stagnating at the best of times, and potentially damaging at the worst.

UK recruitment giant Robert Half has just released their findings from an independent study which they conducted into the so-called skills gap that exists in the UK market. By “skills gap” they’re referring to the void between the skills that a business’s employees have and those skills that the business needs. This can be anything from hard skills such as data analysis, scientific knowledge or trade skills, to softer skills such as resilience, problem-solving or leadership. It is estimated that the skills shortage will, on average, cost UK SMEs £145,000 in the next year, rising to £318,000 in the next five years.

Ranking the highest in terms of negative impacting events to their businesses skills gap (ie. those factors which are at play to widen the gap), 59% of those businesses surveyed said they are most worried about a recession, 47% said Brexit, equal third was the General Election pre-2020 and IR35 at 15%, and Digitalisation ranked fifth with 12%. Flipped the other way, and it’s Digitalisation which 44% of SMEs saw as potentially having a positive impact on their business, the General Election pre-2020 ranked second with 26%, Brexit came in third with 20%, IR35 sat at 18% and a recession was fifth with 16%.

Managing director of Robert Half UK, Matt Weston, comments that “The nation is gripped by the current skills shortage. For SMEs, the priority for the next year should be identifying and filling gaps within their organisation. Training and development initiatives, with a focus on upskilling existing staff, are the obvious starting point. At a time when change is the only constant, adaptability and resilience will be the key soft skills to develop.”



Lisa's Blog: UK small businesses
calling for government support ahead of a no-deal Brexit

Blog PictureIt’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post on the big “B” word, and with some startling recent survey results, I feel like it’s about time again.

The no-deal Brexit date of 31 October is now clearly visible ahead, and many small businesses are concerned that a no-deal Brexit will hurt their business; over a third of the 1,062 firms which were surveyed by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in August this year in fact. While there is planning which can be done by some businesses, 63% of businesses believe that they are unable to prepare for Britain’s no-deal exit from the European Union, with only 21% confirming that they are prepared for such a situation.

For many small businesses, it’s the financial burdens which are hindering their ability to prepare. Survey results show that the current average price tag for no-deal Brexit preparations is £2,000 at a minimum, rising to £3,000 for those that deal in the export/import industry; and less than one third have built up their stock levels. Furthermore, almost half believe that a no-deal situation will be damaging to their business’ bottom-line and thus they would value any government financial support that was on offer.

National chairman Mike Cherry of the FSB comments that Government support in the terms of raising awareness of the impacts of a no-deal Brexit, the Government “must also turn to meaningful financial support. This is desperately needed and would certainly provide a much needed shot in the arm for those firms that have already spent money preparing. For those firms that can’t prepare, we need broader support including cutting VAT and National Insurance, uprating the £3,000 employment allowance and extending the two-year ‘retailers’ business rates discount of 33 per cent, to a wider range of smaller businesses.”



Lisa's Blog: Vanuatu Wanderings

Blog PictureTravel is such an eye-opening experience as to the way other cultures live and how other countries operate. Whether it’s a few days or a few weeks, being immersed in a new way of life, even if only for a small time, allows for an eye-opening experience as to the goings-on and ins-and-out of a place.

Having recently returned from a week in Vanuatu, I thought I would share in some of my experiences while on this remote group of islands (of which there are 130 or so in fact). First up, if you’re wondering exactly where Vanuatu is, you’re not alone. Majority of people when I said I was jet setting off to this place immediately responded with, “where is that exactly?” Nestled in among the group of south pacific islands east of Australia, it sits alongside New Caledonia, Fiji, Tonga, and the Solomon Islands. Its economy is based largely on tourism, agriculture, and fishing, with key exports including coconut oil, cocoa, coffee, beef, and timber.

Joining the Commonwealth in 1980, the island-country continually encounters all the difficult factors you would expect an isolated island to have to face. In 2015 it was rocked by tropical cyclone Pam which is still at the forefront of people’s minds and is talked about as being one of the most devastating natural disasters in Vanuatu’s history. The nation is still working to bounce back, slowly but surely; and the term “island time” is something I can say I experienced. Taxi transfers booked for 11 am show up at 12:30 pm, tours we enquired about we never heard back from, and small shops we found in local villages just never seemed to be opened. We wanted to spend more money while we were there, but alas, it seemed that people were doing other things.

A largely self-sufficient way of life, people are out catching fish, tending to their vegetable gardens or generally just enjoying the slower pace of life. It seems not operating at 100-miles per hour reflects well on the Ni-Vanuatu people, who were some of the friendliest and warmest people I have ever encountered on my travels. Returning home and reflecting on my experiences, I am reminded to slow down and stop every once and a while to enjoy the more simple things in life.



Lisa's Blog: £51.5 Billion
The Price Tag on UK Late Payments

Blog PictureSeptember 1 saw the UK government throw down new measures to help try to stifle the late payment problem that plagues the world of UK SMEs. The change dictates that big businesses that have a history of poor payment practices will no longer be able to bid for high-value public contracts that are worth more than £5m a year.

The idea of this restriction was first floated back in November 2018 with the Prompt Payment Code. This calls for any business who puts a tender in for government contracts ensuring that 95% of all their supply chain invoices are paid with 60 days.

The move by the UK government is being regarded by many as a big step in the right direction. Tim Boag, Aldermore’s Group Managing Director for Business Finance, has said that “This Government initiative will increase accountability and support the small business community in an uncertain economic climate.”

In addition, ever vocal campaigners for crushing the late payment problem, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), National Chairman Mike Cherry comments, “We welcome the new administration taking ownership of the late payment crisis with this crucial step, sending a message that late payments will not be tolerated within Government contracts.”

And one would say, it’s about time. Overall for the UK economy, the price tag on the late payment fiasco is a staggering £51.5bn; and this is just what’s been recorded.

Hitachi Capital UK, one of the major suppliers of financial solutions for both businesses and consumers across the UK, recently conducted a nationwide survey in order to put a value on how much late payments are costing UK businesses. The company surveyed around 1,000 businesses during the month of July 2019. Respondents were a mix of owners, key decisions makers and freelancers which run their business in the UK. Those surveyed were asked to estimate a total financial cost figure which they could attribute to a direct flow-on effect from their experience with late payments over the last 12 months. From here, Hitachi Capital UK used the average cost value per business threshold and multiplied it by the percentage of respondents per threshold from the total number of UK SMEs (taken from the most recent Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy data). This equates to 5,600,000 UK SMEs which, as a combined total, is dealing with at least a £51.5bn late payment price tag.

Here are the stats:

  • 74% of those surveyed have experienced a customer pay late at least once within the last 12 month period, not adhering to payment terms set out.
  • 31% of SMEs have experienced late payments which have cost their business, at a minimum, £10,000.
  • 27% have seen their profits decreased because of their customers paying them late.
  • 12% have had to hold back on paying staff because of cash flow issues.
  • 40% of UK SME business owners have had to dip into their own pockets to keep their businesses afloat. 80% of these said that they have had to use what they would describe as their own “personal savings”.
  • 21% of those surveyed stated that they have turned down future opportunities from “problem” customers as a way of mitigating the chance for having to further deal with more late payments from them.

CEO of Hitachi Capital UK, Robert Gordon, comments that “An imbalance of power between clients and suppliers, often driven by larger players abusing their position, has led to a widespread late payment culture that is damaging UK SMEs. As our research has shown, if we let this go unchecked, huge numbers of businesses will continue to experience cash flow pressures at a time of wider economic uncertainty.”



Lisa's Blog: The Wonders of Wellbeing Leave
A Xero Case Study

Blog PictureEmployee well-being, it’s been a hot topic of 2019. With more and more emphasis being put on mental health, both within the work environment and outside, it makes sense that organisations look at the different ways in which they can be supporting their staff and positively influencing their overall total at-work wellbeing.

Xero is a big company that is taking well-being seriously. They introduced wellbeing leave for all its employees towards the end of last year where Xero staff members are given a number of days off that they can use as mental health days. While Xero staff are still all entitled to their statutory annual leave days, the old term “sick leave” has been thrown out the window and instead “wellbeing leave” directly replaces this.

Xero’s Chief Customer and People Officer, Rachael Powell, comments that “it’s long been assumed that being sick is physical, but our version is that it could be physical, or mental, or spiritual or emotional. Whether it’s just been a full-on week, or if our staff are struggling with anxiety or depression and can’t face the day, we want to empower them to take the time to recharge and recover.”

So what does wellbeing leave look like? Well for some this might mean a cosy day spent inside on the couch recharging, while for others, it might be a relaxing day spent hiking or walking for others; it’s completely up to the individual.

While, as a small business owner, you might not be able to make the switch completely from the standard sick leave model to the wellbeing leave model as Xero has done, it could be beneficial to think about ways in which some of this way of thinking could be adopted.

As Powell goes on to say, “we don’t want people to feel like they have to come to work when they aren’t in the right state to be here.” Really, this is 100% the case for any business big or small. An employee’s productivity is about the frame of mind and engagement, and if either one of these is faltering, perhaps it’s more beneficial for both the business and the individual to take a moment to rest, recharge and reflect to get it back on track.



Lisa's Blog: Did you get that message?
New fraud verification laws being rolled out for online payments

Blog PictureWe’ve all experienced it before; we go to make an online purchase and before being able to complete the transaction we are sent a text message with a code that must be entered before the check-out process can be completed. Although this process may be slightly annoying for some, for others it can throw a bigger spanner in the works. Dependant of the online shopper's location, sometimes cell phone reception can be less than ideal, rendering the whole online purchasing process kaput. The UK's communications regulator Ofcom estimates that at least 3% of UK households don’t receive a phone signal in their home.

And now, under new European fraud rules relating to the Revised Directive on Payment Services, or PSD2 for short, many online consumers may be unable to fulfil their internet purchases if they do not have a mobile phone or have adequate cell phone reception. The new rules which will be rolled out on 14 September 2019, call for banks to be more rigorously verifying online payments. The most common way adopted by the banks will be via a text message which is sent to the purchaser’s mobile phone. Furthermore, if you’re logging into your internet banking to make your payment, the same goes; no longer will a password be sufficient in gaining access to your online account, you’ll also need to be inputting a code which has been sent as a text message through to your cell phone. The work-around for those who can’t get cell phone reception at home is a card reader which generates a pin code whenever a purchase is being made from a new merchant.

It is understood that customers banking with Santander must have a mobile phone registered as codes sent via text or their app are the only option, whereas customers of Nationwide, Barclays and NatWest/Royal Bank of Scotland without a cell phone or reception will be able to receive their pin code via a card reader. As another method, TSB bank is offering automated voice phone calls to landlines.



Lisa's Blog: Recouping costs
UK small businesses are minimising their ever-increasing costs

Blog PictureWith business rates continuing to rise, greater pension contributions needing to be made by employers and more robust and complex reporting requirements being handed down by the HMRC, small businesses have got a lot to keep on top of. To put a price tag on all of that, it’s estimated that UK small business costs are up £60,000 comparative to 2011.

These numbers are big and, with the Labour Party broadcasting their intentions to raise the NLW rate to a £10 minimum for all those the age of 16, it does raise the question as to how small business are absorbing all these extra costs.

In May this year, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) surveyed 1,162 small businesses’ asking questions relating to the new National Living Wage increase and the effects this has had on their company. A summary of the FSB survey findings include:

  • In response to the NLW increases, small businesses have been attempting to minimise their costs by:
    • 71% say they are lowering their overall company profits, absorbing more costs and/or have their business owners pay themselves less
    • 45% are increasing their prices
    • 29% are delaying investments
    • 23% have had to scale back on the number of hours worked by their staff
  • 51% of small businesses were already paying their staff £8.21 (at a minimum) before it became a requirement based on the National Living Wage rate which was increased in April.

Mike Cherry, National Chairman for the FSB comments, “Small businesses continue to be ahead of the curve on pay. More than half were paying all staff the current National Living Wage before they were obliged to do so – an even greater proportion were doing so in the smallest firms. We’re now seeing more small business owners than ever saying that living wage increases are impacting the bottom line. Their first instinct is usually to take the hit personally, paying themselves less rather than cutting staff.”



Lisa's Blog: Lisa is on holiday this week

Blog PictureLisa is away this week, so unfortunately, no blog :(.



Lisa's Blog: Facebook - Corporate Insolvencies
Hit a Record Five Year High for England and Wales Businesses

Blog PictureThe summer sun might be shining brightly upon the country now but the second quarter of 2019 has been a tough one for many businesses throughout England and Wales. Recently released data from the Insolvency Service details a whopping 4,321 corporate insolvencies were recorded in quarter two of this year. Numbers like this haven’t been seen since the 1st quarter of 2014.

Scotland and Northern Ireland on the other hand, however, had seemingly more sunshine in their corporate worlds. Scotland’s recorded 2019 Q2 insolvencies were 7.1% less than the previous year’s Q2. Northern Ireland was down 29.6% as well - from 125 cases in 2018 to just 88 cases in 2019.

Specific stats from the official data include:

  • 2019 Q2 corporate insolvencies were up by 2.9% from 2019 Q1 and 11.9% from 2018 Q2.
  • The biggest driver of the increase was from Creditors Voluntary Liquidations (CVL) which went up by 6.9% from 2019 Q1 to Q2.
  • Throughout England and Wales, a breakdown of the types of insolvencies making up these records include 70.4% of all corporate insolvencies being listed as CVLs, with 18.2% being compulsory liquidations and 11.4% listed as “other”. In Scotland, most liquidations were those of compulsory nature and not CVLs.
  • The accommodation and food service industries, as well as the construction industry, ranked highest for those sectors which are seeing the most company insolvencies. On a more positive note, the administrative and support services recorded fewer insolvencies, as did the transportation and support services sector.

It’s clear from these figures that it is a precarious edge that many UK businesses are balancing on. With a potential no-deal Brexit just around the corner, it seems to be getting all the more difficult for businesses to have certainty about their business operations and to be able to move forward.

On the release of the report, a spokesperson for The Federation of Small Businesses warned that “there's a real danger that a chaotic, sudden no-deal exit on 31 October will cause insolvencies to spiral further, meaning a significant hit to UK economic growth.”

See the entire report, Company Insolvency Statistics: April to June 2019, HERE



Lisa's Blog: Facebook - Slap on the wrist
Record $5 billion fine handed down in latest privacy investigation

Blog PictureIt’s was a tough week in the office last week for the Facebook giant and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg’s team. After a U.S investigation, a fine of $5 billion has been handed down as the slap on the wrist for the violation of its user’s privacy for years. While $5 billion is indeed a hefty fine, the pockets of the Facebook giant is deep (their portfolio also includes Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp among many others). They reported approximately $56 billion worth of sales alone in 2018.

At the heart of the privacy encroachments were the social media tech company’s attitude towards protecting its user's data to better leverage from its profitable advertising stream. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) handed down a settlement demand that calls for stricter regulations on third-party apps that capatalise on Facebook-user collected data. In addition, it calls for more robust regular maintenance checks on unencrypted passwords as well as marking an end to telephone numbers given for security reasons being able to be used for advertising purposes.

Chairman of the FTC Joseph Simons released a recent statement in which he said, “the magnitude of the $5 billion penalty and sweeping conduct relief are unprecedented in the history of the FTC. The relief is designed not only to punish future violations but, more importantly, to change Facebook’s entire privacy culture to decrease the likelihood of continued violations.”

It’s understood that while Facebook adapts and changes its core operating values to align with this newly handed down accord, they’ll be putting a stronger emphasis on making user interactions and their content less permanent. But what does this look like? Think more content that simply disappears and that isn’t stored. Facebook and Instagram Stories are a strong example of this, where posted content is viewable for 24 hours however, without clicking on a special “feature” button, after that timeframe the content disappears.



Lisa's Blog: Amazon Takes to the Streets;
Welcome to the new Clicks and Mortar Retail Store

Blog PictureWith the demise of a countless number of high-street retailers that seemed to plague headlines in the last 6 months, it’s intriguing to hear that it’ the online-retail giant Amazon which is capitalising on these new market opportunities. There have been many high-profile and log established retailers which shut up shop on a number of their bricks and mortar stores recently; Toys ‘R’ Us, Debenhams, Marks and Spencer, Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge, Boots…. the list goes on. Falling casualty to ever-increasing operational costs combined with a decline in in-store buying thanks to the power of internet purchasing, it’s rather ironic that it’s the online powerhouse Amazon who is swooping in on the remains.

Yes, last month Amazon opened its first bricks and mortar pop-up store – adeptly named Clicks and Mortar, in Manchester. With many more in the pipeline throughout Scotland, Wales, Yorkshire, the Midlands, and the south-east, (they’re planning on opening ten in total), Amazon is testing the waters over the next year to see just how well they can run.

The concept behind the stores in that they stock products from a range of small business suppliers who are listed on Amazon and whose stock can otherwise not be bought from a physical store. It’s the online world of Amazon bought into the real-life physical world.

This isn’t completely unchartered territory though by Amazon. The move comes after a week-long trial back in October where they opened a pop-up fashion shop in London. The Baker Street store changed out the products they stocked every two days. Not only did it sell products, but it also hosted several events such as yoga, music, beauty trend discussions, and various workshops.

Amazon UK’s country manager Doug Gurr comments by saying, “Amazon is committed to supporting the growth of small businesses, helping them boost the economy and create jobs across the UK. Small businesses are one of our most important customer groups.”



Lisa's Blog: Suffering in silence;
Why SMEs are afraid to speak up when it comes to late payments

Blog PictureThe problem of late payments in the world of UK SMEs has once again been thrust into the spotlight. This time it’s thanks to a whitepaper which has been produced by Paul Uppal, Small Business Commissioner, and Growth Street, the small business capital lending company.

Collecting information and data based on a survey that quizzed UK SMEs on their experiences with late payments, the findings are damning. However, they’re exactly on par with what we’ve been hearing so much about lately; the culture of late payments in the UK is crippling small to medium-sized businesses. What rubs salt into the wound is that so often it’s the big guys who are holding up the procession line.

A summary of findings from the survey show:

  • 43% of SMEs have experienced larger businesses paying invoices late.
  • 77% of SMEs are afraid to ruffle feathers when it comes to speaking up and out against these unjust practices for fear of damaging relationships with their clients.
  • 76% don’t speak up because they don’t want to impede them being paid full stop.

Uppal comments that “the key findings in this survey highlight that small businesses tolerate late and non-payment due to a fear of reprisal.”

The timing of this whitepaper couldn’t be better as the Small Business Minister, Kelly Tolhurst, last month released a statement saying, “the majority of businesses pay their bills on time. The amount owed in late payments has halved over the last five years.” This maybe so, but the problem of late payments, and furthermore, the problem that SMEs are afraid to speak up, is cause for concern.

Tolhurst means business though, and she brings to the table potential plans in the near future to hold large companies more accountable for meeting set payment terms. Failure to pay on time could mean fines or censure.



Lisa's Blog: Banking blunders;
Barclay's issues refunds to UK Small Businesses

Blog PictureThe financial services industry… it’s a tough old world. As news that Deutsche Bank is planning to cut around 20% of their workforce (which is equivalent to about 18,000 jobs) amid a major restructure operation to refresh both their daily operations and their reputation, Barclays in the UK is also under fire. Scorned by UK watchdog the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), Barclays have come under fire as they’re being called out for misleading small businesses into thinking they needed to open current accounts in order to access other financial services within the bank.

In a breach to legally binding rules and regulations which Barclays signed onto back in 2002, it is believed there are approximately 800 small businesses which have been affected by this banking blunder. A spokesperson for the CMA comments that “the bank’s actions led to unnecessary costs to some SMEs who were made to hold accounts they did not need”.

After reporting a £1.5bn profit in the first quarter, Barclays has been ordered to refund the affected small businesses. While the refunds are small (averaging £2.50 per business), it’s more of the principle of the error which makes you start to think; how else are small businesses being hoodwinked by the big banks?

Perhaps business owners and individuals can rest a little easier knowing that, in this instance, it was the bank that came forward and owned up to their ill-given and enforced advice. Barclays is taking full responsibility, recognising that they must improve their practices from the ground level all the way up to the top.

“We’ve been working closely with the CMA and have corrected a mistake we made which affected a small number of business customers. We’ve taken steps to ensure that this does not happen again,” said a Barclays representative.



Lisa's Blog: The UK’s gig economy
gears up a level

Blog PictureThe labour force is always evolving, and with the fear of high unemployment rates and the ever-rising costs of living, it’s no wonder the gig economy is ramping up more and more each day.

But exactly what is meant by the term gig economy? The word gig was first coined by jazz artists and musicians back in the 1920s. Fast forward to the present, and in today’s context when talking about employment, the gig economy is all about on-demand jobs that link providers with consumers. From online food ordering platforms such as Deliveroo to Uber’s highly adopted and competitively priced transport services, the gig economy is growing tenfold every year. You can pretty much get whatever you might need when it comes to professional services online now. There is a swagger of websites and apps dedicated to connecting online professionals such as graphic designers and freelancers with those that need their services for a one-off project.

The University of Hertfordshire in conjunction with the Ipsos Mori recently conducted a study looking at just how much the gig economy is booming across nations that, along with Britain, includes Spain, Italy and Sweden. Specifically, it surveyed 2,235 UK residents between the ages of 16 and 75. A summary of the findings includes:

  • Of those nations surveyed, it’s estimated about 7.5 million people have earned money at some stage via a gig economy platform.
  • 9.6% of adults have worked for an online platform at least once a week, up from the 4.7% which was recorded three years ago.
  • Those of a younger demographic (aged between 16 and 34) are most likely to work via gig platforms, with males dominating the numbers over females.

The former member of the Bank of England’s rate-setting monetary policy committee, David Blanchflower, comments that “the gig economy isn’t necessarily bad but it does show the changing nature of work – you also have to look at rising self-employment and short-term contracts in traditional jobs.”



Lisa's Blog: The UK’s Federation
of Small Businesses joins SMEunited

Blog PictureA future belonging within the European Union may not be on the cards for Britain, but that doesn’t mean that relationships UK businesses have with their European neighbours should fall by the wayside too. On the contrary, these relationships should be nurtured and looked after now more than ever.

In mid-June, the UK’s Federation of Small Business (FSB) joined the SMEunited party along with around 70 other member organisations spanning 30 European nations. SMEunited is a non-profit, politically neutral organisation which represents SMEs across Europe. Giving SMEs a voice on the European stage, the organisation keeps an eye on policies, legislation and projects which may affect SMEs. Think of them as a kind of SME watch-dog, as they aim to ensure a favourable climate is maintained so that SMEs can grow and flourish.

SMEunited reports that the 24 million SMEs in Europe count for over 99% of all organisations, along with two-thirds of all employment in Europe. SMEs truly are the lifeblood of the economy of the European continent. SMEunited are a strong campaigner of driving forward positively-impacting projects, creating networking opportunities and connecting SMES stakeholders across industries and sectors.

Martin McTague, FSB’s Policy and Advocacy Chairman comments that, “at a time when our relationship with Europe is undoubtedly changing, joining SMEunited is a sign that no matter what the future partnership with the EU looks like, we’ll continue to be working closely with our neighbours. There are many issues we can work together on such as tackling the problem of persistent late payers, helping to limit the cumulative regulatory burden on small businesses as well as improving the law enforcement response to cybercrime. I’m sure that membership of SMEunited will be hugely beneficial not only to FSB members but all SMEs across the country and the continent.”

For more information on SMEunited including their mission, strategy, policies or projects, click HERE



Lisa's Blog: Keeping your eye on the prize
Investments you can make now that will benefit your company in the future

Blog PictureYou might be a new business to market, or maybe you’ve just taken over a struggling venture and looking for ways to turn things around. Either way, once you’re through the risky stages of running a business and you’ve stockpiled together a little bit of capital, consider where that's going to be best funnelled into. Not just for the now, but for the future. I’m talking investments; investments in infrastructure, equipment, staffing, processes, and marketing.

  • Staff – Recruitment is a costly process for any business. Keeping the current staff you have happy, healthy and engaged is great for your long-term out-goings as well as your present day operations. Training is key. Keep your staff up-to-date with industry changes and trends. Enable them to attend conferences and training seminars. It will not only help them to feel like they’re a valued member of the team, but they’ll also bring that new knowledge and learnings back to the company as well.
  • Equipment and infrastructure – Hardware, software, office equipment, machinery parts, specialised tools… the list goes on as to where you can make some smart investments now that will benefit the company in the future. Is there a backlog in your accounting department? Perhaps there is a better software program out there that can help streamline things. Look for alternatives, new products are coming to the market every day.
  • Processes – Just because the company has always operated in one way doesn’t mean it’s the best way. Consider where there are bottlenecks in processes; where is time being spent that could be reduced? If you or your staff thinks something could be done better then consider what could be reorganised. If in doubt, invest in the advice and guidance from a professional consultant. Often someone who comes in with fresh eyes can help shed light on where easy improvements can be made.
  • Marketing – Your client or customer base might be okay right now but it’s important when it comes to marketing to not rest on your laurels. New competition can suddenly pop-up, supply and demands change. Think about how you’re marketing and advertising your company currently and who your target market is. Are you reaching them in the best way possible or have times changed and so, therefore, your medium should too?



Lisa's Blog: Winning over small businesses
Hancock and Gyimah’s proposed changes in the race for the Tory’s leadership

Blog PictureI’ve had to make a conscious effort to not let this blog get over run with Brexit this and Brexit that. Plus I haven’t even touched on the subject of Mrs May’s resignation. Did you notice? Either way, since there have been a couple of weeks of blog posts minus the Brexit buzz-word, I feel it's okay, I can comment on the world of politics again.

So today I want to focus on proposals made by two candidates in the running for the title of the Tory’s leadership position; Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, and former Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Sam Gyimah. These proposals are angled towards the small business market, hoping to whet the appetite of UK SME owners and win them some popularity points.

A summary of the proposed changes from each corner show:

  • Hancock – says he will abolish business rates, making it a distant memory for hundreds of thousands of businesses. This is specifically aimed to help save the struggling UK high street. As a counter, he will drive forward the Amazon Tax – a tax put on internet marketplaces, social media platforms and search engines. "I would end business rates for small businesses on high streets altogether, and I would pay for it by an increase in the new digital services tax,” Hancock comments. He also talks of increasing the National Living Wage to £10.21 by 2022, while accessing cash from Philip Hammond’s rainy-day Brexit fund of £26 million.
  • Gyimah – will swap out business rates for commercial land taxes. He also plans to lift the cap that exists on tax breaks for business investments. “Tax cuts are essential but we have to be smart about them, by getting rid of the taxes that are the worst barriers to economic growth, and simplifying the tax code so that taxes are clear and transparent.”



Lisa's Blog: WWW Dot
The World Wide Web of (Functional) Websites

Blog PictureThis week, I want to take a moment to look at just how far marketing and the world of websites have come in the last ten to fifteen years. Truth be told, the inspiration for this article has come out of a recent frustration I had when trying to make a purchase online. I had found the perfect product and gone through all the various steps to complete my purchase; imputing personal data, selecting my address from the dropdown box that came up as soon as I started typing, choosing my postage option, and ticking all the permission boxes. All the permission boxes I might add, bar one – the “Acceptance of Terms and Conditions.” The little box just wouldn’t let me tick it. Refreshing the page didn’t help. Going back to the previous page didn’t help; no, that just meant I had to renter all my information again. Zooming in, zooming out. Nothing would work.

Now I was trying to make this purchase on my phone while relaxing in front of the television decompressing after a long day. I could fire up the laptop and see if it was just a problem affecting the mobile version of their site, maybe on a desktop browser, it would be fine? But as I spend the majority of my working day in front of the computer, I simply could not bring myself to turn the computer on during my designated downtime. So I did a Google search and found another online provider, selling the same product at a slightly higher price, whose website did allow me to tick all the little boxes that I needed to complete my purchase.

Ten years ago, businesses may have been able to get away with not having a website, these days it’s 100% imperative - and a fully functional one at that. A small simple error such as an un-tickable box can mean thousands of pounds lost. Now, it’s evolving even further. Come 1 July 2019, the world’s biggest search engine, Google, will be indexing all new websites based on the content that is available on their mobile sites. Websites matter, and these days making them mobile optimised, is mattering even more and more.



Lisa's Blog: Just Save the Jobs
Scrounging for the Pieces amid the British Steel Collapse

Blog Picture14 days – that’s all the time there is to save the giant steelmaker British Steel as the company goes into operation “find a buyer.” Bought and rebranded in 2016 by Greybull Capital from Tata Steel, the insolvency doors have been opened for the company who has been denied the £30m loan needed to keep the furnaces burning.

Approximately 25,000 jobs are up on the chopping block; 4,500 employed directly by British Steel and another 20,000 that the corporation supports. With an operational cost of close to several million pounds per day (for the British Steel Scunthorpe plant), it’s no wonder that there’s a tight cap on the time allowed to find a buyer with a government source saying, “There’s no money to support it – it’s a case of weeks, not months.”

It’s been a short and sharp ride for Gerald Reichmann, who was only appointed CEO of British Steel in April of this year after moving up the ranks of the company from Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Deputy CEO. On his appointment last month, Reichman was quoted as saying how he was “delighted to have been appointed to this role and look forward to working with our employees, customers and suppliers to grow British Steel.” Albeit it was not to be. Reichman sights a weak market and a weak pound combined with high raw material costs and the on-going uncertainty of Brexit as the key contributing factors in the company’s demise. Furthermore, high energy costs and business rates have also been noted as adding to the blows which make operating in this UK industry a tough gig economy.

An important industry for the UK, jobs within this sector are both well paid and seek out highly skilled workers. With the majority of operations based in the regions of Yorkshire and Wales, average salaries sit around the £36,000 mark; this is on average 50% higher than that of the norm in these areas. These coming two weeks will be important for individuals and small businesses alike in seeing how the steel giant cookie crumbles.



Lisa's Blog: Connecting the Country:
Santander Breakthrough Events

Blog PictureWhether you’ve recently started a new business or you’ve been in operation for a while, knowing that you’re supported is always a welcomed feeling. Queue the Santander Breakthrough Events. As a series of masterclasses, partnerships and workshops, Santander Breakthrough Events aim to connect, inspire and skill-up those in the self-made or small business world throughout the UK.

Amid recent gloomy news reports of Santander UK profits falling by over one third, Nathan Bostock, chief executive, warns that we should expect “a slight deterioration in UK economic growth this year given the on-going Brexit uncertainty and weaker global growth”. Furthermore, Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), also comments that the breakdown of Brexit talks and on-going uncertainty, “is damaging the economy, holding back productivity and battering small business confidence.” To read of the Santander UK Breakthrough Events scheduled throughout the country really are a welcomed ray of sunshine.

Across London, Derbyshire, Exeter, Merseyside, Surrey, Avon and more, the Breakthrough Events start this Wednesday 22 May. Attendants should be ready to walk away with practical insights, intel from real-life case studies and scenarios and professional support that will help them to push and propel their small business to prosper no matter what stage it’s at.

A sample of the kind of events being run includes:

  • Masterclass: How to make important business decisions in uncertain times
  • Workshop: Build your business, build your brand, own your market share
  • Workshop: Brexit and Beyond: the UK and global trade
  • Partnership: British Library: How to use IBISWorld Market Research

Santander is continually adding more events to the mix. If you’re interested in attending any of the masterclasses, workshops or leveraging from the available partnerships, be sure to register in advance. For details or more information on any of the events, click HERE



Lisa's Blog: Mental Health
& Personal Debt

Blog PictureMay 13 signals the beginning of the 2019 Mental Health Awareness week in the UK. Running until the 19th of this month and organised by the Mental Health Foundation, there is no denying how much more in the spotlight mental health is today compared to that of ten or twenty years ago.

It’s news to no one that a person's environment has a major impact on their mental health. From their living situation and work to their relationships and physical health, a person’s financial situation also plays a major role too. Research recently released shows that one in three UK people worry about their personal finances to the point that it has a negative effect on their mental health. In fact, a staggering 46% of people in debt put their hand up to say yes, they also were grappling with a mental health problem.

The UK does have some systems and organisations which exist for support and guidence. The Lending Code, which is adhered to by a large number of banks, finance companies and creditors, makes sure that those companies circulating in the finance world provide reasonable support to those in a tricky personal debt situation, such as fair and just repayment plans as well as extra support if available.

Another such help network is offered by National Debtline, the leading debt advice charity offering free advice and guidance for people to help them deal with their personal debt. They offer a “How to deal with debt” guide which is available for download from their website which advises on steps which can be taken to start again and forge a better personal financial path.

“I would encourage anyone worried about money to seek free, independent help as soon as possible. More than one-third of people wait more than a year before contacting us, during which time their situation can worsen”, Jane Tully, spokesperson for National Debtline says.

For more information on the any of the debt support organisations listed above please visit: Lending Standards Board / National Debtline



Lisa's Blog: Investment Falters
In London’s Tech Scene – Thanks to Brexit

Blog PictureTech London Advocates are the authors behind a new survey, telling the story of how the beast that is Brexit has affected the London tech and IT sector. As a network of more than 6,000 tech leaders, entrepreneurs, investors and experts spanning London, the UK and throughout more than 50 other countries worldwide, Tech London Advocates are in the know when it comes to the London tech scene. This latest research shows that while Brexit has indeed had a major impact on the sector in regards to investment and recruitment, there is still a strong sense of optimism and an attitude of “let’s just get on with it” for the future.

Here are some of the hard numbers:

  • 39% of London’s tech organisations have found it hard to secure finance and capital over the past two years.
  • 60% also have the opinion that that is only set to grow in difficultly over the next 12 months
  • 23% say that investors have held off on making any major investment decisions because of the uncertainly around Brexit
  • Nearly 66% have found it hard to attract and recruit international talent
  • 29% say their staff have been outspokenly concerned about the uncertainty surrounding visa and immigration rules

Tech London Advocates & Global Tech Advocates found, Russ Shaw, comments, “It is no surprise that London tech investment fell in 2018 when so many tech companies are experiencing investors deferring decisions until they see some clarity around Brexit. One thing is certain – the political situation is harming our fastest growing industry and making access to capital and talent harder than ever before.”

However, among all this is hope for the future. The results also show that 82% of respondents believe that when all is said and done, London will still reign supreme as the tech capital of Europe. I suppose only time will tell.



Lisa's Blog: House of Commons
Government Subcontractors and Suppliers: Payment

Blog Picture“It is important to all suppliers, not least small businesses that they are paid on time. That is why I have announced that, from this September, we will exclude suppliers from winning contracts if they fail to pay their subcontractors on time. Just this month, I contacted all suppliers to remind them of this intention.” These were the words laid down by Oliver Dowden, Parliamentary Secretary of the Cabinet Office in the House of Commons Chamber discussion on Government Subcontractors and Suppliers: Payment.

The response was to the question asked by Mark Pawsey MP, Conservative for Rugby. Pawsey called for an explanation as to what action the Government was taking to stamp out the poor payment practices which many UK small businesses are often crippled by.

Dowden went on to confirm that the new policy, which will be rolled out in September this year, dictates that suppliers will be unable to win Government contracts unless they have a good track record when it comes to paying their suppliers and invoices on time. Companies tendering for contracts won’t make the cut if they have demonstrated an inability to pay their suppliers on time for two consecutive quarters.

Dowden further confirmed that currently ten out of 16 government departments are meeting the prompt payment targets that are in place to ensure:

  • 90% of payments are made within five days and;
  • 96% are paid within a window of 30 days

Things then got a little tenser when Jon Trickett, Labour MP for Hemsworth, made mention of the Minister’s own department, the Cabinet Office, which he claimed in the last two years had seen a threefold increase in late payments. Dowden dismissed the claim, saying that the latest figures from March show that 88% of suppliers had been paid within five days and 98% within 30 days.



Lisa's Blog: Entries are Open for
The Lloyds Bank National Business Awards 2019

Blog PictureDay in day out, businesses throughout the UK are doing great things all the time. It’s important to take stock every once in a while of just what these great achievements are, and the Lloyds Bank National Business Awards does just that. Recognising companies of all shapes and sizes, the list of awards categories is as diverse as it is inclusive.

Last year the top prize, Leader of the Year, was taken out by Jayne-Anne Gadhia, CEO of Virgin Money. Jayne-Anne beat other CEO contenders from top companies including ASOS, Monzo, ARM Holdings and the 30% Club. However it’s the Lloyds Bank Small To Medium Sized Business of the Year which is a category that sits close to our heart. Recognising SMEs that showcase steady growth, strong financials, displays an unwavering commitment to their customer and has a positively connected employee force, twelve companies made it as a finalist last year, with Net World Sports reigning supreme.

Entries are being accepted until June 7, with early bird registration happening until the end of this Friday, the 26th April. The night of nights will be held on November 12 at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane, London.

The 2019 categories include:

  • The Artificial Intelligence Award
  • The Experian Data Excellence Award
  • The Virgin Atlantic Customer Experience & Loyalty Award
  • The Lloyds Bank New Business of the Year
  • The Employer of the Year
  • The Lloyds Bank Exporter of the Year
  • The Vonage Business Enabler of the Year
  • The Lloyds Bank Small to Medium Sized Business of the Year
  • The Innovation Award
  • The Inflexion Entrepreneur of the Year
  • The Lloyds Bank Mid-Market Business of the Year
  • The Scale-Up Business of the Year
  • The Lloyds Bank Positive Social Impact Award
  • The Duke of York New Entrepreneur of the Year
  • The Leader of the Year

For further details see



Lisa's Blog: Birmingham Is The Place
To Be For UK Small Businesses

Blog PictureIt’s always sunny in Birmingham… at least that’s what the research says when it comes to the best place in the UK to be operating a small business. Findings from The Small Business Index 2019, a study recently conducted by the mobile payments company SumUp, suggest that Birmingham is the place to be. The combination of high levels of external support, the low cost of rent and high levels of investment make it a winner when it comes to the UK market.

The Small Business Index research looked at the 100 most populous cities in Europe and ranked them according to:

  • Density (per capita and per km2)
  • Property (rental areas and cost)
  • Availability of external support
  • The type of small businesses already established and;
  • The number of small businesses already established

Birmingham topped the ranks for England, sitting overall on the table in 10th position. Just behind it was Glasgow in 11th place. While rent is higher in Glasgow, its low density pushed it up the ranks.

Overall however, it’s Spain that takes the cake, securing three positions in the top 10. A summary of the top 10 cities include:

  1. Valencia, Spain
  2. Madrid, Spain
  3. Vienna, Austria
  4. Berlin, Germany
  5. Barcelona, Spain
  6. Warsaw, Poland
  7. Essen, Germany
  8. Athens, Greece
  9. Prague, Czech Republic
  10. Birmingham, UK

Also featuring in the top 50 for the UK; London came in at position 17, Liverpool in 25th, Edinburgh at 38th, Manchester 44th, Leeds 46th and Leicester 47th. That rounds out the top 50.

“As ambitious minds tire of inefficient bureaucracies and hierarchies, they’re investing in their own ventures that are agile, adaptable, and customer-focused. At SumUp, we know it takes resilience and drive to overcome the hurdles associated with starting or expanding a business,” commented Co-Founder of SumUp, Marc Alexander Christ.

You can see all the findings in more detail by visiting: HERE



Lisa's Blog: Downward Spirals
Rollout of the Making Tax Digital Programme

Blog PictureA loss of transitional caps, increases in the National Living Wage, increases in pension contributions, increases in reporting requirements; last week was a tough week for UK small businesses.

Monday 1st April marked the beginning of the rollout of the Making Tax Digital (MTD) programme, a change affecting up to 500,000 UK SMEs. A gauntlet was thrown down by HMRC; all VAT-registered UK businesses must now comply with the MTD programme. This programme requires firms to maintain digital accounting records as well as filing electronic tax returns using specific software; software that will cost small firms £564 each on average.

Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses comments, “The software required to comply with MTD alone is setting small firms back by hundreds of pounds – and that’s before you get to the time and resource needed to negotiate new software.”

A summary of other changes (in addition to the MTD programme) which saw the start of the last week being dubbed as Blue Monday includes:

  • An increase in the National Living Wages; from £7.83 to £8.21 for workers aged over 25 and from £7.38 to £7.70 for those aged 21-24.
  • An increase in the minimum contribution amount for the auto-enrolment pension schemes; from 5% to 8% - a difference of 3% that employers need to make up.
  • An increase in business rates for some firms which is expected to bring in an additional £206m for the government overall.
  • A loss of transitional caps, which were previously made available to SMEs to ensure that businesses weren’t hit too hard if they experienced increases in their rates bill.

Cherry summarises as, “Overall, this is a package of changes that increase the costs of running a small business. For the first time since 2010, we saw a contraction in the size of the UK business community last year. All Ministers and policymakers need to take note, and avoid bringing in new measures that would exacerbate this loss in 2019.”



Lisa's Blog: Blue Monday Week:
The Q1 Small Business Index Report 2019

Blog PictureLast week we touched on the latest Office of National Statistics report which told the story of optimistic UK labour market figures. Now this week, I’d rather not follow-up with a gloomy counter story straight after. However unfortunately, I can’t look the other way after the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) published their Q1 Small Businesses Index (SBI) on 29 March.

The report echoes sounds of uncertainty, apprehensive and hold-backs in the UK small business world. Currently sitting at -5.0, the SBI confidence level at this time last year was at a much more healthier +6.0. A summary of the report includes:

  • Nine in ten UK SMEs said that during 2019’s Q1 they did not increase headcounts
  • 12% reported that they had, or are, “actively decreasing” their headcounts
  • For Q2, less than a third of firms that sell to an overseas market were expecting an increase in their exports; figures wise this is 27% in 2019 compared with 42% in 2018.
  • 66% of firms reported a decline in their international sales
  • An all-time-high of 37% of SMEs say that company revenue is down, with only 38% expecting them to rise in Q2

But what can be done to halt this downward spiral in SME confidence levels and turn it around? In a press statement released on the very day that Brexit was originally set for, Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the FSB, commented, “small firms were told that we would be leaving the European Union today with a good understanding beforehand of what the future would hold. Instead, we’ve suffered 1,000 days of uncertainty since the Brexit referendum, leaving us unable to plan, invest and grow. Naturally, that’s impacted bottom lines. The least the Government can do now is follow the example set by Ireland and the Netherlands by providing small firms with vouchers to access the advice, equipment and upskilling they need to future-proof their businesses as trade arrangements change. Making soft loans available to small firms for this purpose is also a useful option.”



Lisa's Blog: UK Labour Market is Okay
ONS Reports On Optimistic Figures

Blog PictureWhile the news is swimming with Brexit this and Brexit that, this week I’ve decided to take a more optimistic outlook. The latest UK Labour Market Overview report released from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) tells a story of sunshine and rainbows for the British labour market reporting on all-time highs and long-awaited lows when it comes to employment, unemployment and wages.

Summarising some of the key points in the report which covers the November 2018 to January 2019 period include:

  • The UK employment rate has hit its highest figure ever on record at 76.1%. For men, this has been estimated at 80.5% (its highest since December 1990 – February 1991). For women, its highest since records began – 71.8%.
  • Likewise, the UK unemployment rate is looking healthier than it has in a long time, sitting at an estimated 3.9%. It hasn’t been this low since November 1974 to January 1975. Unemployment is considered to be anyone who is without employment, who has been actively seeking work in the last four weeks and who is available to start working within two.
  • The overall UK economic inactivity has also hit record lows, estimated at 20.7%.
  • Average weekly earnings for UK employees (taking into account inflation) have increased by 1.5% for those that include bonuses and 1.4% for those that exclude bonuses.

However, there always is another side to the story and experts, like Senior Economist Tej Parikh from the Institute of Directors warns, “the labour market continues to have the wind in its sails, but there may be choppy waters ahead. Businesses have been steadfast in bringing on board new staff and in creating vacancies, despite question marks over the future path of the economy. Business leaders are also facing a cumulative burden of cost pressures which will limit just how high they can raise wages to attract the workers they need, while the pinch of talent shortages will begin to bite harder.”

You can read the ONS Labour Market Overview, UK: March 2019 in full by visiting HERE



Lisa's Blog: How Small Businesses
Can Prepare for a No Deal Brexit

Blog PictureWhile politicians decide exactly what is going to happen on March 29, leave or stay, deal or no deal, one thing’s for sure; small businesses need to prepare for whatever that outcome may be as best they can. Uncertainty hangs thick in the air with exactly what will play out in the coming weeks; it feels somewhat like an unpredictable changing weather pattern, with no clear indication as to exactly what March 29 will bring.

As a small business owner, let’s at least look to see what you can be doing to help prepare for one scenario, a No Deal Brexit:

  • Keep abreast of key changes that could affect your business – Whether it’s regulation changes, trade plans or the like, it’s important to keep your eyes and ears open to any changes that might have an effect on your business. It’s a minefield with information out there, and it’s understandable that for many it’s an overwhelming topic to try and keep up with. An option is to seek advice from a professional consultant if you’re unsure.
  • Be vigilant with your cash flow – Now more than ever, it’s important to make sure that you’re looking after your cash flow stream. Get all those invoices out, follow-up on all those late payments, and keep on top of it as much as is within your control. Cashflow is the lifeblood of small businesses.
  • Increase stock levels – If the EU is a major import source for you or your goods transit through here, it could be wise to both stock up on supplies. As well as this, start investigating and initiating conversations with suppliers based outside of the EU that may be able to come to the rescue if needed to.
  • Keep talking to your supply chain – Understand what they’re doing in their own business that will ensure they can keep delivering on the services they provide. It’s all well and good if your business is able to navigate the ever-changing Brexit seas, but if those that supply and deliver to you cannot then you’ve got some rough seas ahead.



Lisa's Blog: Becoming A Cashless Society:
Summary of The “Access To Cash Review” Report

Blog PictureThe “Access To Cash Review” Final Report is in and the future is looking somewhat cashless. The report funded by LINK, the UK’s largest shared interbank network of cash machines, and chaired by Natalie Ceeney CBE, Chief Executive of HM Courts and Tribunals Service, is shining a very strong spotlight on the rapid decline of our cashed-up society. Coins and notes are no longer what weighs down our wallets; instead its bank cards, Bitcoins and PayPal logins.

“We’re hearing more and more talk of the ‘cashless society’. Almost every day there is another story in the media of bank branches and rural ATMs closing, or pubs, restaurants, charities and shops going cashless” Ceeney comments.

Three key findings from the report findings include:

  • The ease and convenience of digital payments is what makes them a favourite among purchasers.
  • Despite the above finding however, it is estimated that approximately 17% of the UK population would struggle in a completely cashless world. The most at risk are those that fall into a lower socio-economic demographic as well as those with physical or mental health issues, those that avoid cards and online payments as a way of minimising their risk of debt and those that need help from others to purchase products and services.
  • The UK has seen a definite decline in the number of ATMs available for public use; however, this is not the sole reason for a growing tendency towards a cashless society. Instead, a major contributor is the fact that shops and merchants are making paying on card more accessible and more readily available.

But what impact would a completely cashless world have on those that operate small businesses? Could they all cope? This is the million dollar question and one that a National Farmers’ Union spokesperson summarised perfectly; “98% of farmers own a phone, 61% a smartphone but only 40% have signal on their farms and only 30% have a good broadband speed.”

To read the report click HERE



Lisa's Blog: Strong Support for the FSB
“Fair Play, Fair Pay” Late Payments Campaign

Blog Picture“Everyone deserves to be paid on time – including small businesses.” These are the words recently spoken by FSB Chairman Mike Cherry and Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-General of the CBI, an organisation which is the voice representing regional, national and international firms to policymakers in the UK. Speaking with The Times, Cherry and Fairburn talk about how at the very core of a healthy supply-chain relationship is a respectful and on-time payment culture. None of this late paying business which has been a hot topic of late; a staggering 84% of UK small businesses say that they experience problems with late payments every year.

Hats off to the FSB who since the launch of their “Fair Pay, Fair Play” campaign has been going gusto with media releases, social media activity and just generally making loud noise about it all. Even Craig Beaumont, Director of External Affairs and Advocacy, got behind the campaign with an interview which aired on BBC Radio 4's Moneybox. Beaumont opened up the discussion on the adverse effect late payments have on small businesses. Comments on Twitter soon followed from people who have experienced late payments in one way or another. “When I worked for a hotel in Kent, we regularly got furious local traders coming in who had not received payment on time. The hotel owner, an accountant, didn't pay until the Red Letter. I know some chain hotels who [sic] do the same thing, and some charities. #fairplayfairplay” wrote one user.

And this tweet from Bill Esterson, Labour MP for Sefton Central and Shadow Business and International Trade Minister, “50,000 small businesses go bust each year through late payment, often by big business & public sector. Small firms have to pay their workers and suppliers. It's only right that they are paid promptly. Proud to support such a great campaign by @fsb_policy #FairPayFairPlay”.



Lisa's Blog: Small Businesses
Confidence on the Downhill Slope

Blog PictureBusiness can often be all about taking risks; calculated risks. But having the confidence to invest, to make noise, to get out there and operate with a clear and decisive agenda all takes a good healthy dose of business confidence, assurance and self-belief, which unfortunately, seems to be in short supply for many UK small businesses.

Bibby Financial Services, a multinational company that provides SMEs with financial services, recently released some gloomy data on these current confidence levels. It’s no surprise that the biggest detriment hinges on the ever-uncertain situation of Brexit, as well as a downturn in sales and a weak GBP, the latter which has been slumped for a long time now at, historically speaking, some pretty low levels.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the SME Confidence Tracker report:

  • Only 35% of businesses saw their sales grow in Q4 2018 – this is down from the 39% that reported growth in Q1 of the same year
  • 36% expect their sales to have grown in the 2019 Q1 – this is down when compared to 50% that reported the same in 2018’s Q1
  • 32% of SMEs reported an increase in their business costs as a direct result of the declining strength of the pound
  • 27% said that they are “holding back investment” due to questions surrounding the UK’s leave from the European Union. Specifically, this investment gap spans a £34,951 disparity; falling from £103,648 in 2018 Q1 to £68,697 in Q4.

UK CEO of Bibby Financial Services Edward Winterton comments that “If SMEs are hesitant to invest in their businesses; it means they’re at risk of going into recession territory. Growth does not come from sitting on cash or waiting for things to get better. Conversely, even as costs are rising, I urge SMEs to look at their spending for the year and set aside capital to invest in their people, products and plans. Investment of this nature is crucial for generating growth”.



Lisa's Blog: Government Policy Costing
UK Small Businesses the Earth

Blog PictureNew research completed by the Federation of Small Businesses has shown that expenses attributed to government regulation and taxes are hitting small businesses in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland hard. Figures have been analysed as part of the annual Impact of Government Policy Index which is put together by researchers from the Centre for Economics and Business Research. The index looks at the average impact that government policy has on VAT-registered business in the UK.

In the latest report, the index highlights how business costs are sitting at record highs due to business rate hikes and changes in government policy to pensions and insurances. Any good-news stories of reductions to corporation tax are merely a drop in the ocean and have not had a substantial impact on lowering the costs for VAT-registered businesses in these regions.

Here are the stats:

  • The average annual cost for an SME remained consistent to that of last year - £481,000;
  • Businesses in Wales have experienced an increase in costs by 15.2%;
  • Northern Ireland business costs have increased by 14.9%;
  • Scotland by 14.7%;
  • London business costs have lowered by 13.7%.

There is however a substantial difference in the number of VAT-registered businesses operating in these regions. This difference could lead to slightly skewed averages. For instance London has 1,563 registered companies per 10,000 people whereas the other regions are much lighter; 897 in Northern Ireland, 774 in Wales and 735 in Scotland.

When it comes to industry sectors, the construction industry has been hardest hit, with these businesses experiencing a 28% increase in costs. This has been attributed to a combination of rising wages and labour taxes coupled with a hefty increase of 20% in manufacturing costs.

With the minimum wage rise to happen in April this year, going from £7.83 to £8.21 per hour, it looks like running costs for UK businesses are unlikely to take a nosedive anytime soon.



Lisa's Blog: #FairPayFairPlay
The FSB Late Payments Campaign

Blog PictureMark the date in your diaries – 18 February – as a day to get vocal. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is launching a new campaign that will try to stamp out the current UK late payment culture that exists. They’re asking for UK businesses small and large to vocalise their thoughts and experiences on how they have been or are affected by late payments. By businesses posting their stories on social media and using the hashtag “#FairPayFairPlay”, the FSB hopes to shine more light on the late payment culture that dampens the UK business economy.

An estimated £18bn is held up in the limbo state of late payments; where invoices have been issued but the receiver is yet to have made payment. A recent report from the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, or BEIS, further highlights the impact that this can have, particularly on small businesses. Putting the spotlight on some key players in the retail industry, it shows how WHSmith has lengthened their payment terms to between 90 and 120 days, Boots now sits between 75 and 120 days and how it’ll take an average of 88 days for the suppliers of travel agency Thomas Cook to get paid.

FSB Chairman, Mike Cherry, has made no secret of the fact that despite the government’s best endeavours over the last few years, the culture of late payments is not getting any better. “We have had a lot of initiatives that do not work,” he has said. “The poor payment practices that run rampant through UK supply chains is a national disgrace with the country falling behind almost all other industrialised nations in our ability to pay small businesses on time. These practices are putting small businesses at risk forcing many to turn to personal credit cards or overdrafts just to survive. Sadly, we estimate late payments lead to 50,000 small businesses a year closing their doors, costing the economy £2.5 billion annually.”

What experiences have you had with late payments? Voice your thoughts and experiences on the matter across social media this February 18 and make sure you remember to use the hashtag “FairPayFairPlay”.



Lisa's Blog: More Job Cuts
Npower Turns Down The Brightness

Blog PictureCuts and competitions – they are the two factors that energy giant Npower are saying are the main contributors to their need to trim down 900 positions from their operations. The gas and electricity supplier that was founded in 2000 and has its headquarters in Swindon says that the 900 jobs will be phased out over the coming year with staff being consulted on the cuts throughout the next month.

Npower’s chief executive Paul Coffey says that Npower is forecasting “significant losses” for the year. This news of the financial pressures that Npower is under comes after the long-awaited price cap on default tariffs was rolled out in January. Ofgem, which is the government regulator for the gas and electricity markets in the UK, pushed the go button on the price cap which is claimed will help British households jointly save £1bn – based on average energy consumption this equates to around 11m households saving £76 a year. For energy companies, this means a reduction in their profits by approximately 5%.

Coffey comments, “The retail energy market is incredibly tough. Ofgem forecasts that five of the big six energy companies will make a loss or less than normal profits this year owing to the implementation of the price cap. And with several recent failures of new energy suppliers, it is clear that many have been pricing at levels that are not sustainable.”

Add on top of this the competitiveness that the energy market operates in with regards to fixed deals and it’s safe to say it’s a tough gig for these energy companies to stay burning. But is there any light at the end of the tunnel? Perhaps; as the price cap is movable, it has the ability to be increased or decreased twice a year dependant on the costs of the energy companies. Ofgem is set to publish an update on the cap in April – so watch this space.



Lisa's Blog: Financial Ombudsman Service
Available for UK Small Businesses

Blog PictureIt’s good news for UK small businesses; the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) confirmed last week that the Financial Ombudsman Service will soon be able to be leveraged by SMEs. The change comes after a long list of differences keep rising to the surface particularly within the business banking world (think recent HBOS and Royal Bank of Scotland dishonours).

The changes are packaged up in the FCA’s new “near-final rules” which currently is looking to increase the maximum amount of compensation the ombudsman asks financial services companies to pay - up from £150,000 to £350,000. The final rules expected to be released and come into play by 1 April 2019.

Prior to this news, the ombudsman service was only available to individual consumers and some micro-businesses (ie. organisations with annual turnovers of less than £1.75m and fewer than 10 employees). However with the proposed changes, small businesses with an annual turnover of less than £6.5 million and less than 50 employees, or those SMEs with an annual balance sheet of £5 million or below will be eligible to escalate their unsettled disputes to the ombudsman.

FCA chief executive Andrew Bailey comments that “the changes we are making are as far as we think we should go within our powers, but they will provide access to the ombudsman service for a significant number of smaller businesses. Before this, their only option was potentially a costly legal one through the courts. We will work closely with them to ensure that they are ready so that SMEs are able to benefit from the new rules as soon as they come into force.”

The changes are estimated to impact approximately 210,000 SMEs across the UK who will be able to make use of the ombudsman services. This number includes a high number of charities and non-profits who will benefit greatly from this change.



Lisa's Blog: FSB Advises UK Government:
Late Payment Three-Point Plan

Blog PictureThe Federation of Small Businesses, or the FSB for short, are calling out to the UK government loud and clear; make firm changes to enforced payment practices or risk more Carillion-style collapses.

It’s been a year now since the major construction company Carillion collapsed back in January 2018. Employing circa 43,000 people, it’s become one of Britain’s largest construction bankruptcies. The giant’s collapse showcased the drastic consequences and effect that late payments can have on companies; when Carillion went under, they owed approximately £2bn to some 30,000 suppliers.

Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the FSB, comments that: “The collapse of Carillion was a watershed moment that brutally exposed the shocking ways that some big businesses treat their suppliers. The construction giant used its dominant position to squeeze smaller firms with late payments and unreasonable payment terms in an attempt to shore up its own precarious position. These practices did not save them and their failure has resulted in very real human consequences. Many small businesses were left with nothing for the hard work they had undertaken beforehand and given nothing in compensation after. Some didn’t survive.”

Strong words, but there is undoubtedly a lot of truth in them. And so, the FSB is proposing the Government dive head first into a three-point plan that will stamp out the poor payment practices that seem to be taking over the way many businesses within the UK do business. The three-point plan calls for reforms on:

  • The Prompt Payment Code – introduce tougher penalties handed down by the Small Business Commissioner for companies that are found to be breaking this code.
  • Project Bank Accounts – should be used, and used correctly, for all major public sector contracts; proper parliamentary accountability will help to keep them in check.
  • Non-Executive Directors – those who are responsible for supply chain relationships and payment practices should also have positions on the board for big companies

“These reforms are not the silver bullet that will immediately bring an end to the scourge of poor payment practices but they will certainly go a long way to achieving this”, Cherry said.



Lisa's Blog: Business Booming;
The Veganuary Trend

Blog PictureKeeping your business relevant to the times as well as to your audience is crucial no matter what industry you’re operating in. Society changes, the popularity of lifestyles ebb and flow and trends come and go. If you haven’t heard of Veganuary then I’m not sure where you have been over the beginning few weeks in January. It’s all across pretty much anywhere and everywhere you look; social media, television, newspapers, advertisements across bus shelters, posters pasted across buildings… the list goes on.

Veganuary calls for people to get behind the vegan trend, inspiring and supporting them to try vegan for the month of January and maybe even, if they can, to stretch it throughout the rest of the year. And so, I’ve seen many a business that I thought would be straggling behind to grasp this concept of plant-based living paving the way. Showing them how it can be done. Not to mention the amount of profit that there can be in it.

The world is continuing to change, and so is the demand from what consumers are willing to engage in. Take Greggs for example, the largest bakery chain in the UK. Basically an institution in the north of England, they specialise in savoury meat and pastry baked products such as sausage rolls, pies and pasties. Now however, they also provide the option of a vegan sausage roll. It hit the shelves on January 3rd, which was no coincidence; Gregg’s wanted it to be available for the beginning of Veganuary. Their vegan sausage rolls have been selling out across their stores and they simply can’t keep up with the demand.

Greggs shares have increased by nearly 7% to an all-time high of £14.61. Chief executive of Greggs, Roger Whiteside, commented that “it’s literally flying off the shelves. I think it demonstrates how our business has changed. In the year ahead we will continue to innovate with products designed to reflect changing consumer tastes and by opening in new locations that make Greggs even more accessible to customers.”



Lisa's Blog: No Shortages
of Skills Shortages

Blog PictureBig or small, if you’re running a business within the UK manufacturing or services industries, chances are you may have found yourself struggling with being able to find the right staff with the right skills of late. With UK employment rates being at their highest since 1971, and unemployment rates at their lowest since 1975, these positive statistics mean that companies need to present attractive packages to prospective employees now more than ever, be it higher salaries and wages, incentives and perks. But you have to have the right prospective employees around to entice after all.

It’s news to no one that since the Brexit vote to leave the EU was thrown down, the numbers of EU27 nationals who are immigrating to the UK to live and work has been on the decrease. In fact, net migration from Europe to the UK is currently at the lowest point it has been in the last six years. This is a reflection one would think of both the uncertainty that hangs in the air thanks to Brexit as well as a weakening and volatile pound.

And now, reports from a British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) survey that involved over 6,000 respondents from across the country tell a loud tale of many businesses struggling to find the skilled staff they need. In the latter half of 2018, more than 80% of UK businesses within the manufacturing industry found it hard to find the specialist staff with the specialist skill sets that they were after. Furthermore, 70% of businesses within the service industry complained of the same struggle.

The UK government are currently getting all their ducks in a row in regards to the restrictions that will be placed on EU nationals working in the UK after the Brexit sun sets. It’s looking likely that immigration from the EU will be cut by 80% as well as minimum salary thresholds being extended. One does wonder just how the new restrictions will affect UK businesses when it comes to recruiting for specialist skill sets.

Director General of the BCC, Adam Marshall, comments that “business concerns about the government’s recent blueprint for future immigration rules must be taken seriously – and companies must be able to access skills at all levels without heavy costs or bureaucracy.”



Lisa's Blog: Staying Connected
The IT Tech Pains of 2018

Blog PictureAs the year comes to an end, I always love a good reflection on the year that has been and is, in a matter of days, gone. I recently stumbled upon a survey that highlights the three main technical issues which UK SME owners and management claim have been their biggest technical, or IT tribulations, during 2018. In short, internet issues, GDPR compliance and cybersecurity.

A deeper dive into the 2018 survey, conducted by the tech company Q2Q, shows that:

  • 52% of small business owners experienced issues with their internet such as slowness, drop-outs and general instability
  • 41% said that GDPR compliance was still a cause for concern within their business, stating that even though it was introduced some six months ago there is still an air of confusion surrounding it
  • 36% of management stress in SMEs was attributed to cybersecurity worries
  • 38% reported that the most common scam emails were either emails from foreign billionaires or fake financial requests

Managing Director at Q2Q Andrew Stellakis has said that “hearing that internet issues are still responsible for over half of SME’s IT-related headaches is simply inexcusable in this day-and-age. There are plenty of things which can cause a slow connection, but understanding the root cause is key to getting the most out of our systems, employees and the working day.”

Whether you are a freelancer, or remote worker, or working from home, the library or local cafes that are your office. While I can definitely say I experience internet dropouts at home (no name shall be mentioned as to who my internet provider is), when I’m in the centre of town at a library or on a business premises, I expect the internet to always stay connected and be flowing at high speeds. I’m emailing documents, uploading to the Cloud, downloading from shared drives, messaging, chatting, video calling – the list goes on. For those that work in a more traditional office setting, it’s exactly the same only on a bigger scale; storing and retrieving important documents from cloud-based servers, video conferencing, emailing; being connected to the internet is the oxygen which helps small businesses breath in the modern business world.



Lisa's Blog:
The Export Effects of Brexit

Blog PictureBetween a hard Brexit or a soft Brexit, the Norway option, the Singapore option, deals and no deals… how Brexit is actually going to play out over the next few months is anyone’s guess. This uncertainty over the future of UK and the EU plays havoc in the business world. Trying to cover all the bases of possible eventualities is pretty much impossible. Business owners around the country have needed to stay alert since the vote to leave was thrown down back in 2016, devising plans and preparing as much as possible for every possible scenario which could play out.

For those businesses that trade with the EU, Brexit throws an extremely large spanner into the mix. The Guardian published an interesting story last week about a Bristol-based online retailer who has sat in a state of limbo for many, many months. With a staff number of 85, unless there is a “Christmas Brexit miracle” (as he called it), he said he will be looking to relocate a large part of his business to Germany because of looming export tariffs to the EU. In fact, he’s already established an office in Bucharest, Romania’s booming capital, with seven staff. While for his UK-based team, he anticipates that come January, the company will have to start making staff redundant, ramping up the European-division and downscaling the British.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mel Stride comments that “those who are importing or exporting into and out of the EU 27, in the unlikely event that there is a no-deal at the end of March, will need to take certain steps. They need to do that now." He advises that businesses should "get a customs agent on board" or "look at the software they can use to make sure (of) their import and export declarations".



Lisa's Blog: Doing Things Differently
With Apprenticeships

Blog PictureThinking about doing things differently in 2019? Looking at where there might be gaps in your company’s employee skills? Employing an apprentice might not be something that you’ve considered before, however it can deliver value and benefit to your business, bringing with it new thought processes as well as injecting fresh ideas to the mix.

The National Apprenticeship Service’s divisional apprenticeship director Karen Woodward comments that for businesses both large and small “hiring an apprentice is a cost-effective way to both recruit new employees and up-skill their current workforce. Nearly eight out of 10 employers have said that productivity has improved as a result of taking on an apprentice.”

She goes on to say that “employers who get the most out of apprenticeships are those who are looking ahead, and seeing the potential to invest in their staff to help their business grow, improve productivity, help meet any skills gaps and add creativity and ideas.”

But can smaller businesses and SMEs support the apprenticeship model? Woodward says that apprenticeship “participation is spread across businesses of all sizes. The latest figures show that 44% of apprenticeships are offered by small employers – those with fewer than 50 employees – and 41% are at companies employing 250 people or more.”

But what are the key things you need to know about apprenticeships? (England - Other regions have different rules and different funding)

  • A standard work week for an apprentice includes four days working within the business and one-day off-site studying towards their professional qualification.
  • Apprentices under 19 years of age, or for anyone in their first year, must be paid at least the £3.70 minimum wage. If apprentices are over the age of 25, this must then rise to £7.83 (the national living wage) after the first year.
  • The UK Apprenticeship Levy funds part of the apprentice’s takings. British companies who have a wage bill of more than £3m per annum (approximately 2% of UK businesses) pay 0.5% of their wage bill into the levy which becomes their apprenticeship training budget. For smaller companies that do not make payments towards this apprenticeship levy, the UK government will cover 90% of the training costs, and you, the employer, covers the other 10%.
  • If the apprentice is between 16 and 18 years old or has less than 50 employees, the government will fund the whole cost.

For further information and details, contact the National Apprenticeship Service or visit their website: HERE



Lisa's Blog: CCJ’s On The Increase
Report Findings of the Q3 2018

Blog PictureA report has recently been released by The Registry Trust which highlights an increase in the number of county court judgments, or CCJs as they’re more commonly referred to. The year-on-year report compares Q3 of 2017 with that of 2018 and finds that there hasn’t just been an increase in the number of CCJ’s, there’s also been an increase on the number of and average value of High Court judgements too.

A summary of the report findings include:

  • An increase of 47% in the number of CCJs against companies
  • A decrease in the average value of CCJs – down by 6% to £3,072
  • An increase in High Court judgements of 79% from Q3 of 2017
  • An increase in the average value of High Court judgements of a whopping 1790%. The average value sits now at £1,406,292. It should be noted however that the total number of High Court judgements in Q3 of 2018 was 25. As some of these cases had extremely high values (four that were over £1 million pounds and one that was over £22 million), this percentage and average value number are rather disproportionate.

These increases in the number of both CCJs and High Court Judgements goes to show that UK and Irish businesses aren’t just choosing to simply write their debts off; instead, they’re willing to take them down the path of legal formality, fighting back in a hope to actively recoup some of their uncollected monies.

Operating as a non-profit organisation for over 30 years, The Registry Trust provides a great source of public information on judgment and decrees associated with companies across the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man and Jersey. They operate TrustOnline, a searchable register which provides access to the Official Statutory Register of Judgments, as well as the Orders and Fines for England and Wales. Visit their website for more information: HERE



Lisa's Blog: Late Payment
Christmas Countdown!

Blog Picture‘Tis the season to be jolly… or so they say right? If you’re in the world of small business though, being paid on time can be an on-going battle that is not always so easily won. A recent study conducted by cloud-based accounting software giant Xero has shown that the average time for SME’s 30-day invoices to be paid is actually 40-days. As we move into the Christmas month, it’s safe to say that going by these statistics, there will be many UK small businesses that won’t be getting that cash injection delivered from Santa as they should.

This culture of late payments and the delay in being paid has many flow-on effects for small businesses. Some business owners have to dip into their own personal cash stash to keep things ticking over. Others might need to apply for emergency finance, overdrafts or bank loans just to help them through while they wait for their payments to clear.

But that’s just the actual day-to-day running of a business. What about the impact that delayed cash flow has on businesses forging forward? The report also found that “over 80% of SME owners say that uncertainty means that they can’t grow their businesses in the way that they want. What’s more, 67 per cent have to make sacrifices such as salary, holiday or hiring due to late payment.”

It’s something that shouldn’t be an issue, something that small businesses and entrepreneurs shouldn’t have to add to their list of things they have to manage. Late payments shouldn’t be an obstacle on their path to success. It’s estimated that 20% of businesses encounter an average loss of £31,300, writing off these debts. Furthermore, 9% have written off debts greater than £100,000. These late payments figures are hard to swallow for any business, let alone small businesses.



Lisa's Blog: Brexit
The Economic Effect on the GBP

Blog PictureWhen you’re running a small business it’s needless to say that you’ve always got a lot on your plate. From staffing to financials, legalities to the competition, staying abreast of changes in your industry, changes in the market and changes in government regulations are enough to keep even the best of them up at night.

There has been an air rich in political uncertainty since the arrival of Brexit years ago. Now, as the March 2019 date becomes more and more visible on the horizon, things too seem more and more precariously balanced than ever before, and it brings with it an air of insecurity on the strength of the pound.

A recent survey conducted on over 1,000 UK SMEs by YouGov, an international global public opinion and data company showed that:

  • 33% believe the GBP will fall dramatically once the UK has left the EU
  • 34% said they think it will fall by more than 10%
  • 11% are feeling more optimistic responding that they think the GBP will rise by 10%
  • Nearly 66% said they were not doing anything in preparation for a potentially weaker GBP

But what do the economists think will happen? Deals versus no deals, cabinet ministers resigning; there are so many moving parts that are continually affecting the strength of the pound. These will undoubtedly continue well into the lead up to March 2019, as well as long after. One thing is for sure however and that is that analysts agree it’s pretty much impossible to foresee how the exchanges rates will perform in the next few months.

Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown has said that “We can expect the pound to be volatile for the foreseeable future as Brexit hopes and fears manifest themselves in currency prices. No-one can predict with any accuracy the direction of the currency so those who want to hedge their bets can exchange their pounds in stages, thereby converting at a range of different rates.”



Lisa's Blog: HMRC – The New Preferred
Creditor For Business Insolvencies

Blog Picture“We’ll make HMRC a preferred creditor in business insolvencies… to ensure that tax which has been collected on behalf of HMRC - is actually paid to HMRC.” These were the words spoken by Chancellor Philip Hammond in his recent speech on the proposed 2018 Budget. Currently when companies file for insolvency, funds are dished out to other creditors ahead of the HMRC. With the changes proposed by Hammond however, it’s expected that the government will see approximately £185m extra in tax payments reach their pockets.

The proposed changes mean that those creditors owed money in the private sector will be pushed down the hierarchy. The HMRC will still remain below some other preferential creditors including the Redundancy Payment Service. However, for unsecured creditors such as small businesses, defined benefit schemes and pension schemes, they’ll all now come after the HMRC. To this, the government has countered that “other unsecured creditors - such as suppliers - are usually unable to recover any of their debts and so most will be unaffected. They currently only recover 4% of debts owed on average."

The changes are scheduled to come into effect from April 2020. Only those taxes which have been collected and held by businesses on behalf of taxpayers qualify. These include VAT, PAYE and employee NICs. Corporation tax, employer NICs or any taxes owed by business will be unaffected.

Neal Todd, Head of the Tax group at law firm Fladgate comments that “HMRC is often the first creditor to threaten to put a company into bankruptcy. Many companies will be concerned that extending preferred status to an already trigger happy HMRC will lead to more taxpayers having to fend off bankruptcy claims in circumstances where the underlying business is financially viable but suffering temporary cash flow shortages.”



Lisa's Blog: The UK Christmas Economy
Waxing or Waning?

Blog PictureYou’d have to have not stepped out of your house for the last few weeks to have not noticed that the 2018 Christmas season has well and truly started. Even in saying that, you’d have to have not stepped out of the house, not turned on the television, not received any junk mail and not searched for anything on the internet via desktop, mobile or tablet; Christmas advertising has kicked off and is revving its engines in high gear.

And so we are buckled in for the next two months which is angled to consumerism. Whether it’s buying gifts, dining out for Christmas dinners after Christmas lunches or soaking up all those festive feelings, smells and tastes at the ever popular Christmas markets, we’ll all probably be pumping more into the local and global economy over the next couple of months then we would normally average throughout the rest of the year.

However, maybe it won’t be as much as it used to be. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), last year’s spending in December fell by 1.5%. This was after some super-strong November figures were recorded thanks to Black Friday sales. It seems that people are getting more and savvier these days in regards to when they’re making their purchases; many seemed to buy up big across Black Friday sales days presumably stocking up on soon-to-be Christmas gifts.

Lloyds Bank representative Keith Richardson commented on the 2017 figures that “it really was a blue Christmas for retailers, especially on the high street. The supermarkets managed to keep the tills ringing with sales of mince pies, Prosecco and craft gins, but even this wasn’t enough to hide the fact that non-food suffered a sluggish month.”

With a continued uncertainty this year still in play due to Brexit and the questionable strength of the UK economy, only time will tell as to how this year's Christmas impacts on spending.



Lisa's Blog: Nominations Open for
2019 Small Business Awards

Blog PictureChampioned by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the Small Business Awards highlight those small enterprises and one-man-bands that contribute a staggering amount to the UK economy. With an estimated 5.7 million small businesses throughout the UK, the awards are an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the great things being achieved by the little guys in the world of UK business

There are eleven categories of which UK small businesses and those that are self-employed can enter. Entries are free and there are no limitations to industries, sectors or the number of entries per business. Categories include:

  • International business of the year
  • Ethical – green business of the year
  • Business and product innovation award
  • Micro business of the year
  • Start-up business of the year
  • Scale-up business of the year
  • Family business of the year
  • Young entrepreneur of the year (aged 30 years and under)
  • Employer of the year
  • Community business of the year (area level only, not UK wide)
  • Digital innovation award

The awards are broken down into geographic areas (ie. West Midlands, Scotland, North East etc.). Entrants that win their area category then go on to the UK final in Battersea Evolution in London on 23 May 2019

Closing dates for entries vary across the UK; with the earliest being 7 December 2018 (in the North West) to 8 March 2019 (London).

Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the FSB comments that “small businesses and the self-employed from across the UK contribute so much to our economy and our communities. The FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards recognise the best, most innovative and most determined of these, from every sector, industry and background. This is why we choose to keep entries to the awards free, and have them open to all smaller businesses and self-employed people, whether they are current FSB members or not. The entrepreneurial spirit in the UK is alive and well, with small businesses now numbering an incredible 5.7 million. Everyone should help us to celebrate that.”

For more information on the Small Business Awards or to submit an entry, visit: HERE



Lisa's Blog: Financial Ombudsman Service
Available for UK Small Businesses

Blog PictureIt’s good news for UK small businesses; the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) confirmed last week that the Financial Ombudsman Service will soon be able to be leveraged by SMEs. The change comes after a long list of differences keep rising to the surface particularly within the business banking world (think recent HBOS and Royal Bank of Scotland dishonours).

The changes are packaged up in the FCA’s new “near-final rules” which currently is looking to increase the maximum amount of compensation the ombudsman asks financial services companies to pay - up from £150,000 to £350,000. The final rules expected to be released and come into play by 1 April 2019.

Prior to this news, the ombudsman service was only available to individual consumers and some microbusinesses (ie. organisations with annual turnovers of less than £1.75m and fewer than 10 employees). However with the proposed changes, small businesses with an annual turnover of less than £6.5 million and less than 50 employees, or those SMEs with an annual balance sheet of £5 million or below will be eligible to escalate their unsettled disputes to the ombudsman.

FCA chief executive Andrew Bailey comments that “the changes we are making are as far as we think we should go within our powers, but they will provide access to the ombudsman service for a significant number of smaller businesses. Before this, their only option was potentially a costly legal one through the courts. We will work closely with them to ensure that they are ready so that SMEs are able to benefit from the new rules as soon as they come into force.”

The changes are estimated to impact approximately 210,000 SMEs across the UK who will be able to make use of the ombudsman services. This number includes a high number of charities and non-profits who will benefit greatly from this change.



Lisa's Blog: The End of an Era;
House of Fraser Manchester Store To Close Down

Blog Picture182 years is a long time to be in operation, and unfortunately, House of Fraser’s Deansgate store will not be celebrating their 183rd birthday. The iconic Manchester department store will be sadly closing its doors in the 2019 New Year, and although this outcome was a potential that has been looming on the horizon for some time, it still comes as shock and definitely a reality which is hard to swallow.

It’s far from breaking news the fact that large, high street retailers are struggling in today’s fast-growing online shopping economy. But when Sports Direct added the large department store chain to their portfolio in August this year, the future was given a fresh breath of life with plans as to how the affectionately nicknamed Kendal’s would stay afloat. Glasgow’s House of Fraser was saved by Sports Direct after they purchased the building for an estimated £95m, along with 22 other stores.

Unfortunately though, this was not to be, with reports claiming that there has been a “breakdown in talks” between Sports Direct and the Deansgate House of Fraser’s landlord. These failed conversations and the inability to reach a resolution means the loss of jobs for hundreds of employees, both for those employed directly by the department store as well as those staff working for the brands which are represented inside the store.

A #SaveKendals campaign has been launched as a last bid effort to the save the Manchester department store, instigated by Manchester councillors Pat Karney and William Jeavons. Councillors Jeavons has said that "it's shocking news. From our point of view, we want to save Kendal's. It's jobs, it's the economy, it's the history of Manchester.”

House of Fraser released a statement after the news broke of the store's closure saying: “We have suggested various options to the landlord that would have enabled us to save the store in Manchester. Sadly, these have been declined.”



Lisa's Blog: On holiday
Now That’s Customer Service

Blog PictureEven when on holiday, as long as I have my computer, a power supply and the internet I really could be anywhere in the world and do some work. This week I chose to make Morocco my office space, a country that has for a long time been on my list as somewhere that needed exploring while residing in the northern hemisphere.

I love seeing the way other countries work, hearing the stories of how people live and what constitutes their norm. A no-lane road system – no problem. No street signs – who needs them? A tour company with no signage turning up at their set meeting point, a busy street corner, and trying to locate their tour participants quickly – I can think of an easier way of doing it but who am I to judge.

Their service levels here, on the whole, have been second to none. What the customer wants the customer shall have, an attitude that is not always replicated in my experiences in the western world. On purchase of some postcards from a little corner store my friend asked innocently “and do you sell stamps?” A quick reply followed, “no Madame but if you give me half an hour I will come back with some stamps.” A warm, genuine grin spread across my face; wow, now that’s service. This man is going to drop what he’s doing and presumably leave his shop unattended (or maybe call in a friend outside?) to go up the street to get me some stamps. Ten points for business acumen and dedication to customer service. I presume he would’ve put a mark-up on them, but to be honest, I would be okay with that, he has run up the road in 35-degree heat. Either way, he was willing to go the extra mile in the business exchange even though he already had the customer and that’s what I call great customer service.



Lisa's Blog: £9.5bn of unpaid invoices
within the UK SME industry

Blog PictureThe volume was definitely turned up at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham on Wednesday last week with the Theresa May government warning of an intended crack down on the crippling culture of late payments. Putting their best foot forward, the government has signalled that they will take charge of the situation by taking the lead, with a promise to ensure they’re paying their own small business suppliers within a five day period.

There will be a push for 90% of all of the invoices issued by small and medium-sized contractors to the British Government departments to be paid within five days. This a step in the right direction and one that hopefully other businesses will soon start to follow. It does beg the question though, isn’t this what any government should be doing by way of supporting not only their SME industry but all industries across the board?

Other strategies were also discussed as a way to help reduce the number of SMES affected by their serial late payer customers including the nomination of a company director who is held accountable for their company’s adhesion to meeting fair payment practices.

This comes after news last month that the government has put forward new laws that provide small businesses with access to invoice finance. This new law will give SMEs the opportunity to leverage funds from monies that are owed to them in unpaid invoices. These new laws are set to be rolled out at the end of the year, and it’s estimated that the total value of unpaid invoices within the UK SME industry is a whopping £9.5bn.

Business minister Kelly Tolhurst comments that: “These new laws will give small businesses more access to the finance they need to succeed and will help ensure they have a level playing field from which to set fair contracts with the businesses they supply.”



Lisa's Blog: All Aboard
The 2018 Small Business Saturday Bus Tour Gets Ready To Hit The Road Again

Blog PictureVisiting thirty towns across the UK over five weeks, the Small Business Saturday bus tour is back on the road from October 25. Now in its sixth year, the bus is part of a nationwide campaign offering support and stimulating growth from inside the UK small business industry.

Travelling up and down the country visiting towns and cities throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, this year the Small Business Saturday UK bus starts its tour in Blackburn before finishing up in London on November 28.

Small businesses and their owners are invited on board the bus which, among many things, offers free mentioning sessions and advice; just make sure you’ve signed up online in advance using your My Small Business account.

Small Business Saturday Director Michelle Ovens comments that the mentoring component of the bus tour “really was driven by feedback from small businesses saying that what they felt they needed was more expert mentoring. They said their questions on running a business may not fit into a neat category, like marketing or accountancy, but actually, they needed more general advice and having someone to turn to.”

“So in each location, we have local mentors that businesses can meet on the bus tour. Hopefully, they’ll also develop a relationship, so they can go back and ask for help even after we’ve gone.”

At each stop of the tour, businesses will also have an opportunity to showcase their products or services using the Small Business Saturday bus exhibition table. Although there is no selling allowed due to street laws, the table can host up to 20 businesses that are able to present more information about their company. These spots must also be pre-booked through the Bus Tour section of your My Small Business account.

For more information on the Small Business Saturday Bus Tour, visit: HERE



Lisa's Blog: Culture of Late Payments
2018 Q2 Sees An Increase in the Late Payments

Blog PictureChasing late payments; no business wants to do it. For small businesses especially it can be their Achilles heel, stalling growth and hindering productivity at the best of times, and at the worst of times, potentially tipping a company over the edge.

A recent study performed by commercial data, analytics, and insights company Dun & Bradstreet, has found that there’s been an increase in the number of late payments made to UK businesses in the last quarter. A summary of the findings include:

  • An increase in the amount of UK businesses who battle with late payments – from the Q1 metric of 31.3% to to 31.5% in Q2
  • Payment delay averages of 15 days – two days more than the European average
  • Industry specific percentages saw the Health/Education/Social sector worsen by 1.7% and the Finance/Industry/Property sector by 1.4%
  • Encourage further development – Whether its career advancing courses, workshops or conferences, let your staff know that you’re open to ways to help them develop in the direction that they want to go. This not only lets your staff know that you believe in them and want to see them grow and advance, but will ultimately lead to more value being added to the business as well
  • Improvements were noted in the Consumer Manufacturing sector as well as the Eating and Drinking sectors (0.8%) and the Materials Processing/Mining sectors (0.6%)

Interestingly the results tell a story of how it’s the large corporations who are the biggest culprits; companies of 251 employees and over only pay 8.1% of their payments on time, a shockingly intriguing statistic when you compare it to smaller companies of 250 employees or less of which 25.7% make their payments promptly.

So what is it about the UK and this culture of late payments? Senior Economist at Dun & Bradstreet Markus Kuger comments that: “Although there is legislation in place to assist small businesses with their struggle against late payments, the majority of the time they take no action for fear of alienating their larger customers.”

Is it then that companies, especially the big ones, assume that smaller businesses will be less vocal when it comes to their credit control departments, exhibiting less enthusiasm for chasing them down because they simply don’t want to ruffle any feathers?

Either way, one would agree that there needs to be a shift in the culture of late payments in the UK, especially in an age where online payments and bank transfers are at the tip of our fingers



Lisa's Blog: 5 Simple Ways
to Make Your Staff Feel Valued

Blog PictureEvery company owner knows that their business is only as good as the staff that they employ. Ensuring that your staff feel valued and appreciated is a key way of helping to keep your company staff retention rate in tiptop shape; reducing your employee turnover will ultimately save your business money in the long-run as the recruitment process is a costly process indeed.

Below are five simple ways to help make your staff feel valued and appreciated. They’re not big acts or gestures that are going to break the bank; quite often it can be the little things that help to make your staff and employees happy in the place they come to work.

  • Recognise and celebrate your staff’s good work – This could be in the form of a monthly staff recognition award, complete with a certificate or thank you card, a bottle of bubbly, a box of chocolates or a voucher for dinner. Being recognised amongst peers will help those warm and fuzzies flourish
  • Celebrate birthdays – A morning tea with some cake can go a long way
  • Ask your staff their opinion – Nothing says you’re respected and appreciated more than to be asked your opinion. This is one of the best ways of creating engagement in a company or team as well
  • Encourage further development – Whether its career advancing courses, workshops or conferences, let your staff know that you’re open to ways to help them develop in the direction that they want to go. This not only lets your staff know that you believe in them and want to see them grow and advance, but will ultimately lead to more value being added to the business as well
  • Have a clear HR avenue – From remuneration questions to comments or concerns, it’s important that staff have a clear understanding of where to go or who to speak with if they want to raise anything of this nature. Giving them the space to be able to raise these matters in a supported environment will help to make them feel appreciated and valued.



Lisa's Blog: High Street Help:
The FSB’s New High Streets Hub

Blog PictureA couple of blog posts ago, I touched on the two-point O version of The Grimsey Review, the independent report which forecasts grim figures of the UK high street economy. Flanked by the rise of the online shopping (amid the flourish of media reports last week heralding Amazon for reaching its trillion dollar company status, the only other company to join Apple among the ranks), also affecting high street stores and businesses are the ever-increasing rent prices and the general cost of maintaining a bricks and mortar store.

Recognizing the on-going battle of keeping things afloat, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has launched their High Street Hub, a new online platform that details the help available for UK small businesses aided by government and local councils.

The platform hinges on five key areas that the FSB have recognised as being the Achilles heel for high street businesses:

  • Increasing business rates
  • A complicated and complex rates bills appeal system
  • The rate relief rule which inhibits small businesses expanding into further premises
  • The supply and access customers have to free parking around high streets
  • The reduction in access that high street business owners have to access cash and banking services

National Chairman of the FSB Mike Cherry comments, “It’s clear the pressure is mounting. Spiralling business rates and ever-increasing rents are piling on to small retailers, hospitality businesses and others on the high street. The high cost of town centre parking, poor infrastructure, the blight of potholes and the loss of vital banking services are also ramping up the pressure.”

“We know that small business owners are resilient and are used to adapting to market forces. But we want to see Government and local authorities come together to look at real solutions to these issues so that our high streets are not only able to survive, but to thrive.”

Find out more by visiting the FSB’s High Street Hub, visit: HERE



Lisa's Blog: The Rise of UK Coffee Culture
– Coca Cola buys Costa Coffee for £3.9bn

Blog PictureCoffee is king, or so it seems it’s on the path to becoming in the UK. With numbers rising from 10,000 in 2007 to 24,000 in the present day – a whopping 31,000 coffee shops are forecast to be serving up cups of ol’Joe all around the UK come 2022. And Coca-Cola wants in on that action

With the reduction in the western world’s consumption of sugar-sweetened fizzy drinks, Coca-Cola was yet to have an entry point into Britain’s ever-growing caffeinated beverage world, until now. In a £3.9bn deal that will come into power in the first half of 2019, Coca-Cola will own 4,000 Costa stores throughout 32 countries, including 2,400 in the UK and also 8,000 self-serve express machines, like those that you see in petrol stations and the likes

Chief Executive of Costa Coffee’s owner Whitbread, Alison Britain comments that “they [Coca-Cola] have no coffee in their range. You could see Costa absolutely everywhere, in vending machines, hotels, restaurants, pubs, cafes – in all the places you see Coke today.”

Mintel research, a London-based market research company, released figures last year that forecast UK coffee shop sales to grow by 29%, becoming a staggering £4.3 billion industry. However, it was only last year that Citigroup researchers predicted that only four to five years growth was remaining in the UK coffee market, citing an over saturation of shops on UK high streets and shopping centres. Costa sits at the top with the highest number of stores, followed by Starbucks, Caffe Nero and Wild Bean Café.

But that doesn’t seem to be something that Coca-Cola are worried about. “Hot beverages is one of the few [drinks] segments where Coca-Cola does not have a global brand, Costa gives us access to this market with a strong coffee platform,” said James Quincey, Coca-Cola’s chief executive



Lisa's Blog: UK High Streets
Time to Rethink the Retail

Blog PictureDiversification – it’s what experts are saying UK high streets need to start being better at ahead of the seemingly on-going closure of shop after shop after shop. Between department store House of Fraser, giant retailer Toys R Us, electronics supplier Maplin and budget-friendly Poundworld (plus many others); the highest rate of retail store closures was recorded from January – June 2018 since the financial crisis.

The release of an independent report entitled The Grimsey Review 2, which has been led by former chief executive of Iceland and Wickes, Bill Grimsey, show some grim figures forecast for the story of the dwindling UK high street economy. It estimates that 100,000 shops will be empty within the next ten years, and that on top of the 28,000 jobs which have already been lost, another 40,000 are estimated to disappear by the end of 2018.

The rise in online shopping is thought to be one of the main contributing factors to this decrease in high street trade. This was most probably always written in the stars when you think that the term “high street” has origins which go back to the 12th century, where the term “high” was used to describe the most important road or street in a town. Fast-forward to the 21st century, and the term is now more generically used to describe a chain of shops or stores where shopping centres and complex are located outside of town.

But it’s not all doom and gloom – it’s just about a reshape of those business and their functions that are filling UK high street real estate. The Grimsey Review 2 recommends how town centres and their high streets need to focus more on community building ventures such as those within the leisure, entertainment, education, art and housing industries, and less on the retail.

“We have to accept that there is already too much retail space in the UK and that bricks and mortar retailing can no longer be the anchor for thriving high streets and town centres. Town centres need to be repopulated as community hubs”, Grimsey comments.



Lisa's Blog: The No-Commitment
Zero Hour Contract

Blog PictureIf you’re running a small business and enduring the rollercoaster ups and downs that this can ensue, then hiring staff on a zero hour contract maybe something that you’ve implemented once or twice or at least considered at some stage or another.

A formal agreement between employer and worker, a zero hour contracts guarantees just that – zero hours. There are no obligations of the employer to provide the worker with any hours, and likewise, there are no obligations of the worker to accept those hours if given. It’s a no-commitment relationship that is flexible, and of course, come with the obvious pros and cons for both parties.

In unstable economic climates or where business is extremely up and down, a zero hours contract can provide somewhat of a “get out of jail” free card for companies. Businesses within the service sector such as bars, shops and restaurants can particularly find it favourable as they’re able to tailor the number of people rostered on based on the demands of the business, scaling up or scaling down when it’s busy or not. For employees, having the freedom and the flexibility to work a variety of jobs if they so choose could outweigh the lack of security and knowledge that they have a fixed sum coming into their accounts each week.

A report has recently been released from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) showing that regardless of rising business costs and the high cost of employment, UK small businesses are shying away from employing workers on a zero hour contract. 84% of UK small businesses said that they did not employ workers on a zero hour contract. 60% even said that they were already paying at least £7.83 an hour before the NLW rate was increased in April this year – a very positive statistic.

National Chairman of the FSB Mike Cherry comments that “very few of our members use zero-hours contracts. Where they do, they’re creating arrangements that work for both employer and employee alike. Small firms often play host to the kinds of supportive, flexible and family-centred working environments than can be found lacking in big corporates. What today’s findings show, once again, is that they also reward staff fairly.”



Lisa's Blog: The Positive Effects
of Summer of UK Businesses

Blog PictureGoing into my local computer repair company yesterday in the Greater Manchester region, I asked the technician how his day was. “Slow”, he replied, “we’re never really busy during summer. Fewer people are sitting inside in front of their computer; they’re out and about and doing things. It’s not until around September that trade picks up for us.”

Interesting I thought and yes, it must be true. While some businesses will boom more throughout summer (I’m thinking ice cream shops, outdoor leisure and entertainment, travel and tourism businesses) there must be some on the other hand that do notice a downturn. Fewer people on their computers, fewer people inside getting cosy on their couch in front of their Netflix, and fewer people spending lazy afternoons inside in the pub avoiding the English winter weather; although it appears that maybe they just move to sit outside in the sun instead.

Who can forget the forage of media reports on the CO2 shortage that was hitting those within the food and beverage industry hard? A lack of the magical carbonating gas wasn’t necessarily because there were too many people consuming too many fizzy beverages compared to previous periods, it was more to do with the fact that only two of five plants that supply CO2 were operating at the time. Consumption was indeed up though (thank you World Cup).

A recent report from large-scale research company Nielsen released last month showed that some UK retailers experienced their biggest rise in annual revenue that they’ve seen in the last four years. Plus it seems that more people are enjoying eating and drinking outside, with a rise of 11%. And also notable was sales of hand-held ice creams which increased by 24% year-on-year.

Summer or winter it just goes to show, it’s swings and roundabouts in the world of consumer business.



Lisa's Blog: Levelling Up
How To Grow Your Small Business

Blog PictureYou’ve done the seemingly impossible and what can be the undoing of many small businesses – you’ve made it through the first year, or maybe the first two or three. Your small business is moving along and its outlook is bright and positive.

While some businesses experience rapid success in the first few years, others will experience a slower pace of growth; potentially even feeling like someone hit the pause button on their growth chart. So how can you take your business and its profitability to the next level? Consider the below three things which although may seem simple, can be very effective when helping to cultivate success for your small business:

  • Take risks and experiment – While sticking with the status-quo can feel comfortable and secure your business is unlikely to suddenly increase its profit margins tenfold if you simply keep doing the same things in the same ways. A certain amount of risk is imperative to a company’s growth. Experiment with different marketing and advertising. Consider different ways of structuring your business – is your business model scalable for your growth plans?
  • Know what works and what doesn’t –It’s important to understand your market and what has been working for you. Even more important is to know and understand what has not worked for you in the past. Where do your customers come from? What has been your biggest business wins historically? Focus on the sources of these and channel your business’ energy and revenue into these aspects. Continually monitor, review and refine. Always make sure that you learn from any mistakes along the way too.
  • Continue to learn and develop. Be ambitious and have a clear vision – Stay abreast of your industry and your market. In today’s modern world technology and society is moving at a fast pace. Businesses need to stay relevant in order to stay meaningful and useful. Be determined to achieve success and have a clear path and vision for how you’re going to achieve it.



Lisa's Blog: Personal Debt and
Insolvencies Hit an All Time High

Blog PictureStatistics from back in the 1990’s had UK households at their most solvent. Fast-forward to today and the story is a lot different with the number of people taking out individual voluntary arrangements hitting a six-year high during the second quarter of 2018

There were 28,951 individual insolvencies recorded during the 2018 second quarter, which is an increase of 4.4% on the previous quarter and 27.3% on the same period last year. Across the UK it was Stoke-on-Trent who returned the highest number of personal insolvencies during 2017, ranking above those towns coming in second, third and fourth - Plymouth, Hull and Scarborough respectively.

An individual voluntary arrangement, or IVA as they’re abbreviated to, sees debtors agree to repay their creditors some or all of what they owe. High inflation, limited wage rises and cuts to benefits are singled out as being key contributors to this all-time high.

President of the insolvency trade body R3 Stuart Frith comments that: “There are plenty of reasons why people might be feeling the pinch. Wage growth is barely higher than inflation after a long period of real wage falls. Although unemployment is low, there are more people earning variable amounts in the gig economy, which can make budgeting difficult. Meanwhile, outstanding consumer credit volumes have been growing, as has the average amount of debt per head.”

With the Office of National Statistics recent report detailing how the average British household is spending £900 more than they are earning, it seems as those personal insolvency figures will only continue to increase unless there is a major change.

The Bank of England is expected to be raising interest rates in the coming weeks which analysts are hoping will encourage Britons to save more as well as having a positive knock-on effect for households overall finances. But as StepChange’s Chief Executive Phil Andrew comments, “the reality is that too many households, here in Britain, in 2018, simply cannot make ends meet, however hard they try.”



Lisa's Blog: Seemingly Smaller
UK Government Small Business Spirals Down

Blog PictureThe latest release of the Central Government spend with SME’s over the 2016/2017 period show that the UK government are leaving a lot to be desired when it comes to working with small businesses. The data shows that small businesses won just over 20% of the central government’s business last year which was down 24% from the previous year.

With the official target of 33% of public work to go to SMEs by the year 2022, The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) suggests that those larger government contracts and procurement jobs be broken down into smaller contracts and follow strict guidelines when it comes to the payment terms between government and SMEs.

The collapse of Carillion in the beginning of this year provides further ammunition when it comes to the case of spreading government procurement spend across multiple businesses as opposed to relying on one main contractor. The demise of Carillion, the facilities management and construction services giant which played a major role in many large-scale government contracts, reportedly cost UK taxpayers an estimated £148m. When the company went into liquidation, Carillion was reported to have around 420 UK public sector contracts, employing over 11,500 workers.

Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Meg Hillier, bites back saying that "my committee is looking at the wider relationship between government and large suppliers. There are 27 other companies with large contracts across government. We need to really examine this relationship between these large outsourcing companies and government. We'll be talking to those big suppliers over the next few weeks and publishing our findings by the summer."

National chairman of the FSB Mike Cherry says however that the UK government is simply “wasting taxpayers” money when just hiring big firms. “The latest drop in central government small business spend shows urgent action is needed. Smaller firms need to be given every chance to compete and secure public contract opportunities. Opening up the public service market is a win-win for everyone involved in the supply chain because when small businesses are used effectively, they are able to create jobs and growth.”

For more information or to view the Central Government Direct and Indirect Spend with Small and Medium-sized Enterprises 2016/17 Transparency data, visit: HERE



Lisa's Blog: The Simple Procedure
Perhaps Not So Simple?

Blog PictureBTO LLP associate Lewis Richardson recently wrote an interesting article published the Scottish Legal News in regards to the decision from the Sheriff Appeal Court in the case of Cabot Financial UK Ltd v Gardner and Ors, [2018] SAC (Civ) 12. Three cases all relating to debt recovery for assigned credit card debts were raised under the simple procedure which applies to monetary claims of less than £5,000.

With 17 different appeals pending, Cabot had previously had cases dismissed because they were unable to provide relevant documentation to the claims. With this track record, the sheriffs pertaining to these reported cases requested the claimant to provide documentation even on undefended claims. However, with the common school of thought that undefended claims equal an automatic acceptation of a payable debt, it begs to ask the question, is this a power play by the sheriffs?

The simple procedure rules do encourage judicial intervention and as Richardson comments, “in the words of the Sheriff Appeal Court, a more inquisitorial approach to be taken.” With this in mind, it seems as though the sheriffs have taken it upon themselves to inquire just that little bit further, making requests for documentation even in these undefended cases. But did the Sheriff Appeal Court see this as warranted and welcomed? No, they did not; instead deciding that the sheriffs had gone too far when they ordered Cabot to produce these claim documents.

Richardson also touched on the thorny question of expenses and in partuclar, in relation to party litigatants; "One of the key goals of simple procedure was to make it straightforward for party litigants to raise and conduct without a lawyer, thereby limiting expenses. However, expenses arguments continue to abound. It is therefore perplexing that to understand the position on expenses a litigant would require to examine the rules, primary legislation and a statutory instrument and, even then, they may be none the wiser!"

He goes on "There have been several reported and unreported decisions on expenses which illustrate the fact that expenses questions are continuing to pose difficulties for both practitioners and the judiciary. If simple procedure is expected to be understood by party litigants then it cannot be desirable for them to require to consider not only the rules and statutes but also case law."

In summarizing the article and in reflecting on the lessons learned from these cases, Richardson comments that “the case outlines the limits of shrivel power in undefended claims. It is striking that a simple procedure case has resulted in a 40-page judgment from the Sheriff Appeal Court addressing this fundamental point…. If this suggests to you that simple procedure is turning out, in some respects at least, to be less than simple, then you would be correct… The rules are developing and the Scottish Civil Justice Council, who drafted the rules, recently closed a consultation in which it sought views on how the simple procedure rules were working in practice. Whether this consultation will result in any amendment to the rules remains to be seen.”



Lisa's Blog: From London to Frankfurt
Shifting Positions In The Face Of Brexit

Blog PictureWhile the news that Barclays is planning to move between 40 and 50 investment banking jobs from the UK to Germany shouldn’t come as a shock, it does go against views which were previously expressed from the banks CEO back in May 2017. Barclays’ chief executive Jes Staley commented that he saw no reason as to why any British jobs at the top UK bank should have to shift to Europe at all as a result of Brexit. “We do not currently see a need in our options to shift British jobs or significant operations elsewhere”… oh what difference a year can make.

The German financial capital of Frankfurt will be the primary location for the shifted Barclays investment banking jobs. Although the positions would technically be employed from their Irish unit based in Dublin, the positions will most likely be filled by candidates based locally in Frankfurt, and not necessarily British citizens relocated from London.

Dublin, Frankfurt and Paris are the top three cities which seem to be benefitting currently from this financial services shift as a result of Brexit. Goldman Sachs is said to be splitting their EU focused team between Frankfurt and Paris, HSBC is said to be favouring Paris and JP Morgan will soon be settling 1,000 staff in Dublin.

The news comes simultaneously with the latest release from the Office for National Statistics on the current productivity Statistics for the nation. No surprise really that the economic output per hour or work has dropped in the UK by 0.4% in the first quarter of 2018. Chief economic adviser to the EY Item Club Howard Archer comments that “there is a risk that extended uncertainty and concerns over the UK’s economic outlook could end up weighing down on business investment and damaging productivity. Prolonged difficult Brexit negotiations could increase this risk.”



Lisa's Blog:
The Importance of Debt Recovery

Blog PictureGood cashflow is important for any business, but for small businesses, it can be more critical than it is for large companies. With leaner financials, small businesses can carry a fragile backbone. Business operations simply can’t continue for long without a steady stream of income and so access to cash and credit is essential. If you’re not being paid on time and are constantly having to issue reminders and chase late payments, a strain is undoubtedly being put on your small business, hindering it’s growth, its development and ultimately costing you money in the long run.

Time is of the essence when it comes to debt recovery and debt collection. Staying on top of your business’ credit control function is paramount. Make sure you’re keeping accurate and up to date reports on who owes what and by when. Keep on top of those customers that have a history of late payments. You never know what is going on behind closed doors and dependant on your debtor’s situation if you wait too long to try to recover your unpaid money they may have even already shut up shop. Plus, the more time you wait then the more frustrated and strung out the situation becomes. Debt collection techniques that are centred on a cool, calm and collected approach are always the most successful.

If debt recovery is on your mind and you think you’ve exhausted your ability to get the end result that you’re looking for, speak with the team at Chamberlain McBain. As professionals in the debt recovery industry, Chamberlain McBain is a cost-effective option when it comes to debt recovery, charging only for the work carried out, and never charging commissions. Interest and compensation (where appropriate) are calculated and added to the sums due to you without charge and the free online portal allows you to keep an eye on each of cases.

Chamberlain McBain will work with you to begin the formal debt recovery process and to help ensure your small business cash flow is doing just that – flowing.



Lisa's Blog: Tough Pill To Swallow
The Rescue Plan For The House Of Fraser

Blog PictureIt’s a tough pill to swallow but in the world of business, sometimes it needs to be done. In a drastic attempt to save House of Fraser in the long run, 31 of its 59 department stores will be closing their doors in the early part of 2019. This plan of action comes out of a company voluntary arrangement, or CVA, which although being deemed as “unpopular”, is a necessary step to ensure the department store giant can and will continue to operate for years to come.

It is estimated that a total of 6,000 jobs will be axed as a result of the department store closedowns which sees some big stores including London’s Oxford Street, Shrewsbury and the Cardiff store, which dates back to 1856, shutting up shop. Landlords from affected stores across the UK have been outspoken in their dislike of the rescue plan which has Chinese owner Yuan Yafei planning to sell a 51% stake in the business to C.banner, another Chinese company who promises to inject £70m into the business.

Chief Executive of Naissance Capital Real Estate, Azeemeh Zaheer, the estate agent who owns the House of Fraser’s Cardiff branch has confirmed that he was “shocked” when he found out the night before the CVA plan was made public, that their Cardiff store was on the chopping block. Zaheer goes on to comment that they had been open to various options which would help the store stay open, including drastically reducing the floor size. “We had been discussing reducing the floor plate of the store and spending money on architects and surveys so we could create a viable shop for them to trade out of.”.

Unfortunately, the news of these House of Fraser store closures isn’t anything new. Media reports have been flowing thick and fast in recent times of retail store giants such as Toys R Us shutting up their high street shops. Rises in internet shopping, increased business rates/council taxes as well as a decrease in overall spending by consumers, mean that times continue to get tougher and tougher for those running physical stores made of bricks and mortar.



Lisa's Blog: SME's Urged To Get Together
For The Great Get Together

Blog PictureAdd this date to your calendar; Friday 22 to Sunday 24 June 2018 and get together for The Great Get Together.

Inspired by Jo Cox, the British Labour Party politician who was tragically murdered in 2016, The Great Get Together encourages people to do just that; to get together with the people around you in a bid to foster feelings of community and support in a world that can sometimes leave people feeling disconnected and alone. The Great Get Together invites people to sign up and host a get together in and around their local community or to join one that is already happening near them. A picnic, a BBQ, a morning tea; the get together can be packaged in any way, but the end results of bringing people together are ultimately the same.

So how does this relate to small businesses I hear you ask? With more and more people deciding to venture into the world of self-employment, remote work, or the wearing of many hats in their own small business, research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) shows that isolation is one of the top three difficulties that self-employed people face. Furthermore, a March 2017 report from Aldermore, a retail bank providing financial services to UK SMEs, found that 39% of self-employed respondents said they had felt lonely since becoming their own boss.

FSB’s National Chairman Mike Cherry comments, “We welcome and support The Great Get Together and other work the Jo Cox Foundation is doing to tackle the UK’s epidemic of loneliness. Loneliness can damage our economy by around £32 billion per annum and cost employers an estimated £2.5 billion a year. Loneliness can diminish productivity and creativity, both of which are so vital to the success of the small business community. A community which accounts for an annual turnover of £1.9 trillion a year – 51 per cent of all private sector turnover in the UK.”

For more information or to signup online, visit The Great Get Together’s website: HERE



Lisa's Blog: Contactless Payments
Going Up, Up, Up

Blog PictureThere’s no denying that the world of cash is becoming less and less. In fact, it’s probably only a matter of time before the wallet or purse of generations to come have never even seen a £10 pound note or a golden pound sterling coin. It used to always be about the plastic, with customers pulling out their credit or debit cards to pay for purchases in-store. However these days it’s more about the whipping out of a smartphone as that physical connection between money and purchasing becomes less and less connected with the continued rise of contactless payments.

According to recent Worldpay figures, in-store transactions made via a contactless mobile device method has increased by an astronomical 328% - that’s 126 million transactions with a value of over £975m. Worldpay comment that a third of UK customers are using their smartphones to make payments in shops, with supermarkets being the highest on the list, followed by bars and pubs. Furthermore, Barclaycard’s “Time is Money” report proposes that “touch and go” spending will continue to increase to 317% by 2021., with 40% of contactless payment retailers expected to be completely cash-free within the next five years.

Barclaycard first introduced their contactless payment offering in 2007 and every year has seen an annual increase in contactless spending. The latest growth figures show the top 10 cities outside London to be spending via contactless mobile payments:

  • Belfast – 60%
  • York – 59%
  • Newcastle upon Tyne – 56%
  • Norwich – 54%
  • Stockport – 54%
  • Guildford – 53%
  • Coventry – 53%
  • Edinburgh – 53%
  • Exeter – 53%
  • Glasgow – 52%

Barclaycard Mobile Payments Business Development Director Adam Herson, comments that “the surge in popularity of wearable and mobile payments creates exciting opportunities for shoppers and brands alike. Consumers can now choose the type of accessory or device they want and match it to their lifestyle or fashion taste, all while enjoying the speed, ease and convenience that contactless brings.”

For more information or to read the Barclaycard’s Time is Money report in full, please visit: HERE



Our Mr Murphy heads off to New York
School Mock Court Project

Blog PictureOur Mr Murphy is heading off to New York tomorrow, taking students from Dunbar Grammar who won the Seniors Section of the School Mock Court Case Project. Joining them in New York and presiding over the case in the New York Federal Court is fellow Trustee, The Rt Hon Lady Dorrian, Lord Justice Clerk, who has issued the following:

"It is a great pleasure to me to support the Mock Trial Project as one of its trustees and to be involved in judging the international moot which will take place between Scottish and American school students, in the Federal Court, New York. For the students, this presents an amazing opportunity. The Scottish participants have already had the chance to try out their skills at home and gain considerable insight into the operation of the civil law in Scotland. Now they have the opportunity of doing that on an international stage, where they will learn something of the American, and in particular, the federal, legal system. Apart from having to prepare and conduct their case, the students have a packed programme of events. They will have the opportunity to spend a day at an American High School, to compare the experience with their own school in Scotland, and to tour the United Nations headquarters. It is hoped that it will be an unforgettable and enriching experience for them. For my own part, it is a pleasure to help the students learn about, and develop an interest in, Scots Law. We know that there are now law students whose first exposure to law as a career came from their involvement in the Mock Trial Project. It is also of great interest, and value, to me to spend time with judges from another jurisdiction."

The Mock Court Project is a registered charity, and we would not be able to run such exciting programmes were it not for the generosity of our sponsors."

In addition to Chamberlain McBain, the charity is supported financially by the likes of Brodies LLP, Ernest Cook Trust, The Gannochy Trust, the WS Society and the Chartered Institute of Credit Management.



Lisa's Blog: Statistics of Scotland’s
Personal Debt – An Overview
from the StepChange Report

Blog PictureIt seems 2017 was a tough year for many people in the UK and even more so for those in Scotland. With a 25 year history, in 2017 the non-profit UK organisation StepChange Debt Charity, witnessed the highest number of people contacting the organisation needing a helping hand in their personal debt matters… a staggering 620,000 people. 20,000 of these were in Scotland.

Overall statistics from the report concluded that although there has been a decrease in the debt average in Scotland by 1.5% (from £12,677 in 2016 to £12,488 in 2017), this decrease still sees the overall debt average higher than in years before. With lower average net incomes in Scotland comparative to the rest of the UK, those in Scotland have approximately 10% more debt than the rest of the charity’s UK clients. More plainly put, for every £1 of monthly income StepChange’s Scottish clients received, they also had £9.96 of debt.

The report summarises the economic trends and societal happenings that give way to these findings, and it’s pretty much the same, usual suspects. People’s income may be increasing but the increases in the overall costs of living are still way out in front as they continue to rise at an insurmountable rate.

The report findings specifically include:

  • Disposable income is becoming less – although there have been increases in the average Scottish monthly income (5% over the last 5 years), rises in inflation supersede it.
  • Those essential costs of living aren’t getting any easier – with stagnating income and the ever-rising essential costs of living, the debt gap continues to widen for everyday Scots. Surpluses in household budgets are also getting squeezed; in 2013 this amount sat at £24 per month, in 2017 it’s down to an average of £15.
  • It’s a renting market – true homeowner numbers are fewer and the number of people with household tax in arrears continues to grow. Council tax arrears sit at the top, with 45% of households experiencing this pinch, followed by electricity arrears at 37%.

For more information or to read the StepChange report in full, please visit: HERE



Lisa's Blog: The Fight, Again,
For Scottish Independence
The New Growth Commission Report

Blog PictureIt seems like the ring is being reset for another round in the fight for Scottish Independence, and this time a different economic angle is being bought to the debate. The recent release of The Growth Commission Report, commissioned by Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party (SNP), proclaims that Scotland’s independence could boost the country’s economic growth, ultimately making the people of Scotland £4,100 richer every year, all for a price-tag of around £450m.

At the centre of this reinvigorated drive and refreshed determination from the SNP is the promise that the pound sterling will stay firmly in the pocket of Scots for at least 10 years after their independence day comes. This does mean that Scotland would have their hands tied by the Bank of England’s monetary policy, but it is a major differing factor from those plans laid out prior to the 2014 referendum, and one that the SNP hopes has a major impact on the outcome of round two in the Indyref battle.

The Growth Commission Report comments that Scotland would only move to its own currency once stability in the independent country has been achieved. Measurable factors for this include the establishment of a solid Scottish central bank, stable foreign exchange rates being accomplished, and certainty among businesses being achieved.

Finances of an independent Scotland would be sustained through population, participation, and productivity. For the population, it seems the grass is greener in Scotland and a further key message of The Growth Commission Report is that Scotland immigration campaigns would be scaled up. Tax cuts would be offered for those living and working in Scotland on highly skilled migrant visas with an aim to grow net contributions and in turn, taxpayer contributions. Society inequalities such as gender pay-gaps would be squashed, helping everyone in Scotland to participate in a newly independent country. Exports would be focused on for the productivity arm.

At this stage, you might be thinking “what about the oil?” – a definite feature in the 2014 whitepaper. This time around, money from oil and gas is being put firmly into a "fund for future generations".

So, four years on and it seems a lot has changed in this economic debate for Scotland’s independence but is it enough to win over those previous sceptics? The SNP are sure hoping so.

For more information or to read the Growth Commission report in full, please visit: HERE



Lisa's Blog: Choose Ethically
Banking Ethically in World of Finance

Blog PictureAs we sit and read the latest news article to hit the press about how the Lloyds bank CEO is paid 95% times that of one of their average bank workers, the words “ethical banking” or “fairness” definitely float into the forefront of mind.

It’s recently been released that in 2017 António Horta Osório, CEO of Lloyds Bank, took home a pay package of £6.4m, which was already up 11% from her 2016 package of £5.8m. This came to be highlighted after the advisory group, the Institutional Shareholders Services (ISS), found a bonus stricture in play which has been described as being “complex” as well as there being a “lack of clarity in the company’s public disclosures on how bonus outcomes are actually determined”. The ISS states that “although pay ratios have not been disclosed, ISS has calculated that the CEO’s pay is 95.0 times that of the average employee in the organisation.”

Screams for banks to operate in a more open, public, and fair manner can be heard from any direction you turn. Transparency is the name of the game. Insert Ethical Consumer, a not-for-profit and independent co-operative which have created an ethical rating system not just for banks, but for a range of more than 40,000 brands, services, and products.

So in the world of finance and banking, which banks have been given the thumbs up? While it might not come as a surprise that the big bank Lloyds doesn’t feature, neither do some of the other large players such as Royal Bank of Scotland/NatWest, Santander, and HSBC; none of these guys achieved more than five out of the possible 15 points that Ethical Consumer have on their rating system.

On the positive side, physical and online/app based banks such as Monzo (who took out the top prize), Ecology Building Society, Royal London, Aviva, Triodos Bank, Charity Bank, Co-op Insurance, and Ecclesiastical Insurance all rated highly.

For more information on the Ethical Consumer app, visit HERE



Lisa's Blog: SMEs Are Using Facebook
To Grow Their Customer Base

Blog PictureFinding new customers can often be a difficult task for any business, but for SMEs, it can even be a seemingly harder task than what it is for the big guys. You don’t have access to a mountain of budget to spend on big advertising and marketing campaigns, and ultimately your reach can be pretty limited.

However, with the rise of social media marketing, small businesses all over the globe have been given a leg up. Those challenges of getting in front of new audiences have been drastically reduced specifically with the rise of social media. The likes of Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and many other social media platforms can easily provide a small business in Edinburgh or Birmingham with a direct connection into an audience anywhere in the UK, and in fact, anywhere in the world.

A recent addition to the Facebook paid advertising arsenal are their cross-border tools, which help businesses of all shapes and sizes find new international customers easily and quickly. By using Facebook “lookalike” audiences, businesses are able to use the profile information of their existing customer base (ie. those people who already like and follow their company page) to find people who are similar in terms of their age, demographics, interests, and a whole lot more.

“But why would a person in the Netherlands be interested in buying my product from my shop here in Manchester?” you might ask. It’s not new news that audiences are becoming more global, and therefore are becoming more open to purchasing things cross borders. Heck, ordering online and waiting by the post box for your purchase to arrive is becoming more and more standard day. Sure, it might not be applicable to those SMEs who are selling a physical service (you can’t post a manicure let’s face it), but it is very applicable to those SMEs in the products or even online service base.

For more information on the capabilities of Facebook advertising visit HERE



Lisa's Blog: The Effects
Bank Branch Closures on Small Businesses

Blog PictureLast week we reported on the news that even after a positive profit result for the first quarter of 2018, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) still planned to be closing a number of their UK branches. As more and more people move to online banking, the number of walk-ins and in-store queries have drastically dropped over the last four years, with the RBS reporting that they’ve experienced a 40% decrease in the number of their customers who visit branches in person, while their mobile transactions have increased by 73% over the same period.

While it’s one thing for you and I or any other individual to manage their banking through internet banking or their bank's app, it’s another thing to have such a minimal touch point if you’re also using the business banking side of things for your small to medium enterprise.

The Federation of Small Business (FSB) conducted research in 2016 on the impact of bank branch closures for small businesses, and while the research and findings may have been released just less than two years ago, it is of the opinion that the key impacts are still key impacts experienced in the present day.

Those small businesses which formed part of the focus groups recognised they experienced impacts on:

  • Communication – From the get-go, small businesses expressed feelings of a reduced amount of communication between them and their banks. Initial letters and notifications of their local branch closure were often minimal and often didn’t provide enough information on how and what the effects would be and where they could turn to.
  • Support and advice – For any small business, the advice and support which is offered by advisors in local bank branches can be extremely valuable. Being able to speak to someone in person offers a wealth of psychological support that over the phone or virtual advice can’t contend with.
  • Cash access and availability – Small business customers noted that they experienced limited access to cash when bank branches close, as well as making it harder to find ATMs in the areas where they once were. Many small businesses also commented that they were forced to keep larger sums of money on the premises as they were not able to bank this as regularly as before a local branch closed its doors.

These were just three of the key findings. You can read the complete report by visiting HERE



Lisa's Blog: Royal Bank of Scotland
Profits Rise but Branches are Still Set to Close

Blog PictureReports and stories of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) closing one in four of their branches were coming out thick and fast only less than six months ago. The main instigator of this need for RBS to close 259 of their branches (62 Royal Bank of Scotland and 197 NatWest), and cut approximately 680 jobs? The favouring of online banking amongst in customers as opposed to the traditional walk-in methods.

In fact, RBS reported that the use of branches by their customers had fallen 40% since 2014 with an RBS spokesperson commenting that “more and more of our customers are choosing to do their everyday banking online or on mobile. Over 5 million customers now use our mobile banking app and one in five only bank with us digitally.”

But since then, Q1 profit figures have been released and what a turnaround they have seen. RBS has returned a positive profit result, actually a £1.2 billion profit result. However, there has been no word of a turnaround from RBS, no word of a reduction of any of those branch closures.

National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Mike Cherry comments that “with RBS’ finances improving, it’s disappointing to see the majority taxpayer-owned bank continuing to reduce in-person support for the public. Local businesses rely on local bank branches, as do their customers.”

Relationships with their local bank branch are often an important relationship to those running small businesses, especially in rural or non-metro areas. Access to information, services, products, and real face-to-face advice and support, are just some of the ways that small business owners feel they miss out on when their local branch shuts its doors.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog where we look further into how bank branch closures impact on UK small businesses.



Lisa's Blog: Stress in the Workplace
April is Britain’s Stress Awareness Month

Blog PictureAre you constantly reaching for the stress ball which has a prime position on your work desk? Whether it’s in the workplace, at home, or just in your everyday life; stress can be as debilitating as it is exhausting and counter-productive.

While a low level of stress can have a positive effect, it’s important to understand just where that level is at for you. Too much stress in the workplace and employees can be sapped of all motivation, have difficulty concentrating, are more accident prone, and can experience a reduction in productivity as their engagement levels drop. With work-related stress being a growing problem around the world, it’s affecting both the health and well-being of employees as well as the productivity of organisations.

The month of April is stress awareness month throughout the UK and it’s important to understand some of the key pressure points and situations within the workplace that can be a cause of workplace stress. These include:

  • Organisational culture
  • Conflicting management styles
  • Job pressure, demands and long hours
  • Physical work environment
  • Relationships among colleagues
  • Lack of support

Teachings from stress awareness month say that the most important point is to always look after number one – you. Recognise when you’re starting to feel stressed or anxious and learn to remedy that; slow down, take a break, and start practicing saying no to things that might just be too much for you at that point in time.

Some key symptoms of stress and tell-tale signs include:

  • Headaches or other aches and pains
  • Disruption to sleeping patterns including insomnia or constant fatigue and oversleeping
  • High blood pressure
  • Worrying thoughts or feelings of anxiety, anger, irritability, moodiness or difficulty concentrating
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Upset stomach

For more information on stress awareness month, visit HERE



Lisa's Blog: struggle for efficiencies
as UK SMEs report a productivity problem

Blog PictureIn a recent report released from Opus Energy, 86% of UK SMEs say that they struggle with productivity levels. At the heart of a company’s productivity level is its staff; ensuring that workers are motivated, engaged, and feel a sense of worth in an organisation is a must in order for them to the operating at their most effective.

Opus Energy Chief Operations Officer Nikki Flanders has commented that, ‘it’s a wake-up call to hear that 86 percent of SMEs across the country are struggling with productivity. Given the gravity of the situation, as business leaders, we need to think of different ways to engage with and energise our teams – we all know that our businesses are nothing without them! We need to consider reward and development opportunities in the broadest sense to boost our employee offering.”

While London was one of the worst locations with a collective 93% saying they experience productivity issues, SME’s in the North West of the UK have taken the lead after the report and are actively trying to combat these slumps in productivity in the workplace. 85% of North West businesses said they have an on-going struggle with productivity levels and so have made a conscious move to help motivate and inspire their staff through tactics which include:

  • 47% offering flexible working options and other positive wellbeing options
  • 35% offer monetary rewards such as bonuses and additional “work-perks”
  • 33% of North West UK SME’s say they pay above-average salaries to their staff to help them feel valued in the business

Flanders goes on to say that “It’s positive to see the North Western region leading the way, reporting some of the lowest levels of productivity issues compared to other regions. Their regional employment is certainly boosted by a third of SMEs there offering a higher than average wage, and with others going above and beyond with incentives and wellbeing provisions, they are putting employees first – something we can all learn from when considering our own employee offering.”



Lisa's Blog: The Karma Effect
Donating to charity is good for your business

Blog PictureWhat goes around comes around right? Well, it seems that those UK small businesses who regularly give to charity perform better than those who do not. In recent findings reported on the site, the more SMEs were giving to charity then the better result their bottom line displayed.

Key findings from the research show that;

  • 67% of businesses who donate to charity see a positive impact on their profitability
  • SMEs on average give 1.8% of their annual turnover to charity per year. This is the equivalent of an average of around £32,000.
  • SME’s that donate to charity more than 0.5% of their turnover are:
    1. 20% more likely to see an increase in profits
    2. Two times as likely see an increase in their company reputation
    3. Approximately 50% more likely to improve their staff retention rate

But how exactly does donating to charity help UK SME’s be more profitable? With conscious consumerism being more apparent than ever these days, donating to charity can help to attract new clients. It can stimulate discussions and provide exposure to a new audience that a business may not have been visible to before. Furthermore, employees are more engaged which in turns creates a stronger staff retention rate for a business. Employees are happier as they feel as though they are helping to make a difference, and that they are working not only for their own income but towards a greater good as well.

In additional research that was conducted by the Greg Secker Foundation, a social development charity, it was found that the 54% of their UK respondents believed that it should be the law for UK businesses to donate a percentage of their annual profit to charity. Interestingly the results show to what extent a company’s public reputation and support can be influenced by whether or not that company donates to charity. Respondents claimed that if they knew a company was giving 5% of their profits to charity:

  • 43% would have a more positive opinion of the company
  • 20% would choose this company over other companies
  • 17% would recommend the company to friends/family

For our part, Chamberlain McBain is delightly to be actively involved with the School Mock Court Case Project SCIO, an educational charity that this year witnessed the 10,000th student pass through it's prgramme. Expanding next year to the North of Scotland will see even more students taking part.



Lisa's Blog: Outsource to free time
Working with Freelancers

Blog PictureAnyone running a business will tell you that time is money. You hire people based on A. the business’ need for that position and B. the skills that your prospective new employee will bring to the table in order to fill that gap.

In today’s modern age, the words “freelancing”, “outsourcing”, and “remote working” are definitely buzzing around the business world more than they used to be. With some taps on the keyboard and the click of a button, you can have put a call out online and be reaching freelancers from around the world. Software or web developers in Dubai, small business accountants in Scotland, graphic designers in Canada, social media experts in India, data entry wizzes in New Zealand – the list goes on with pretty much every skill set you can think of available through freelancers for you to make the most of.

Regardless of whether it’s a specific short-term project that requires a specialist skill set, or something that could potentially be more long term, sometimes choosing to work for a freelancer may make more business sense than hiring a permanent or contractor employee.

So what are the benefits and advantages to working with a freelancer?

  • Affordable: you won’t be stuck with the overhead costs of a typical permanent employee.
  • Flexible their hours of work aren’t usually the Monday to Friday, nine to five – meaning you could email them on the Friday and have the work done by Monday.
  • Freedom: you can engage with them on an “as-needed” basis meaning you can easily scale them up or down as required by the business.

But where do you find these freelancers and when would be the time to utilise them? Finding the freelancers is easy, a simple Google search using the words “freelancing platform” and sit back and scroll as access to the whole freelancing world opens up. These platforms provide you piece of mind by verifying and vetting both freelancers and clients so you can be assured you’re working with legit people. Freelancers will also have been given ratings from previously completed jobs and there is generally always an escrow or similar money protection scheme which has been put in place letting both parties rest easy.



Lisa's Blog:
Update on the Carillion

Blog PictureIt’s been a couple of months since the collapse of Carillion; when people of the UK watched centre stage as they witnessed one of the largest construction companies in the UK crumble and dissolve right in front of their own eyes. As a company responsible for employing 43,000 people worldwide, 20,000 of those in the UK, it’s an understatement to say that many people, families, and companies were affected by the demise of a company that managed to accumulate over £1.5bn in debts.

But now that the initial dust has settled and the spotlight has been moved from one major news story to the next, let’s get an update on where things stand on the Carillion calamity story.

  • The current numbers: As at the beginning of March 2018, the official receiver has put the numbers of saved jobs at 8,216, with 1,458 employees having been made redundant.
  • Buyout deal fallout: A deal with the Canadian real estate and facilities management company BGIS, has not eventuated. They were planned to take over a number of public sector jobs and would of, in turn, saved 2,500 jobs. A spokesperson from BGIS released a statement simply saying that the deal “will not be proceeding, as certain closing conditions have not been met.”
  • Finance Directors investigation: A misconduct investigation led by the Financial Reporting Council’s (FRC) conduct committee has been initiated on the two Carillion Finance Directors, Richard Adam and Zafar Khan. The FRC has previously been focused on investigating the ethical and technical actions of KPMG between 2014 and 2017 in regards to their prepared financial statements for the company, but now makes the move to examining these two key players.
  • PwC and the Carillion cash-cow: Accusations are running thick as to the conduct of PwC throughout the Carillion collapse. Between 2012 and 2017, PwC were chief advisors to Carillion’s directors in regards to their pension liabilities. After the Carillion collapse, PwC had the responsibility of trying to salvage money for the Pension Protection Fund, with the fund said likely to take care of 11 of Carillion’s 13 pension schemes. Along with PwC, other large accountancy firms such as EY, KPMG, and Deloitte have taken around £72m in total for work they conducted with Carillion in the 10 years leading up to its collapse, with some MPs accusing these accountancy firms of “feasting on what was soon to become a carcass”.



Lisa's Blog: Upping productivity
How to help make your employees more productive.

Blog PictureIn an interesting case in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, industrial workers have won the right to work a 28 hour week for a period of two years in order to spend time with their families. With a constant strive to get that perfect work-life balance, it’s interesting to look around the world at other nations and see how they compare against one another.

In Britain, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), workers clock up on average 1,676 hours a year – which works out to be around 32 hours per week. Confining results to the European continent, Greece ranks the highest with 2,035 hours worked per year on average, followed by Poland with 1,928 hours and Latvia with 1,910. So all in all, the UK is doing okay in comparison.

However, working the hours is one thing, but productivity is a whole other kettle of fish. Research by the UK government has found that the average British can lose up to 70 working days per year because of low productivity. So how can you help to make your employees more productive at work? Ultimately they say it boils down to one key thing – keep your employees happy.

Now obviously this is quite broad; don’t different employees want different things? Well yes, while this is true at a micro level, there are some things you can do at a higher level that can help all your employees be as happy as can be within the workspace.

You can help to make your employees feel valued, appreciated, and ultimately, more productive by:

  • Giving them a nice space to chill in – Having a decent place away from the goings-on of the business is crucial for your employee's wellbeing. Providing a place where people can relax and take a break from their work even if the weather outside is glum will, in turn, see them return to the job more refreshed and revived.
  • Giving them the little perks – A coffee machine and microwave in the kitchen, a dart board on the wall, bean bags, some plants, a few magazines – these are all cheap and good ways that you can add a little bit of those comforts that will go a long way.
  • Giving them the right tools – Proper office chairs, anti-fatigue standing mats, proper lighting; make sure your business is providing its employees with the equipment that is needed to get the job done.
  • Encouraging proper break times away from work – Studies have shown that even a 15 to 20-minute “breath of fresh air” can do wonders for an employee’s productivity levels once they’re back at the helm.



Lisa's Blog: Going up
Growth is on the cards for UK SMEs

Blog PictureA nation’s economy is always under continual scrutiny by economists, business owners, the media, and pretty much the majority of the public. An article in The Guardian recently reported (Thursday 22 February 2018) that the UK’s economy trailed behind some of the other big EU players in the last three months of 2017. The UK's Office for National Statistics downgraded its estimate to 0.4% for the UK's growth in the 2017 fourth quarter – and economists are saying this will realistically be how it stays. This puts the UK economy’s performance at the weakest it’s been in five years.

However, a recent survey conducted by Flexspace Business, a UK provider of flexible workspaces and offices, begs to contradict this statistic, at least for where SMEs are concerned. It reported that 80% of those SME owners surveyed say that they have growth plans at the top of their agenda for 2018.

Flexspace surveyed 150 UK small and medium business owners in what they have dubbed the “Sentiment Survey”. The survey was only open to those SMEs making use of a Flexspace centre across the UK and 98% of these respondents have an annual business turnover of £5 million or less.

Let’s take a look at some of the key findings from the survey:

  • 80% of owners are anticipating moderate to substantial growth rates
  • 78% anticipate their confidence in the UK economy will grow or remain the same for 2018
  • 43% of business owners have recruitment in the pipeline for 2018, with 32% saying they hope to recruit upwards of 4 employees for their UK SME

Managing Director of Flexspace Lee Maytum comments that “with uncertainty around productivity, the UK economy and a changing global landscape, it may be easy to assume small businesses are pessimistic about the future. Yet this survey suggests the exact opposite. Small businesses are feeling positive with plans for growth.”



Lisa's Blog: The effect of
Beast from the East on UK small businesses

Blog PictureCancelled trains, cancelled buses, cancelled flights, and closed roads – a blasting of weather, regardless of its temperature can have an adverse effect on the UK economy

Over the recent week, the UK and many parts of Europe have been hit hard by the storm dubbed “The Beast from the East”. With red alerts issued by the UK national Met Office and state troops deployed from Lincolnshire, it seems it was disaster mode for the UK. As a cold front swept across the country delivering weather that was, on average, 7°C colder than what is normal for this time of year, people were warned to “stay indoors”

An extreme weather event like The Beast from the East obviously has an impact of the UK economy. Reports from The Office for National Statistics after December’s 2010 weather that included widespread heavy snow and freezing temperatures, resulted in UK retailers experiencing one of their worst Decembers on record. Retail sales dropped 0.8pc during on the months that, in the lead up to Christmas, should’ve been one of their strongest. When there was more heavy snow in both January and March 2013, the UK economy experienced a dip again with many businesses remaining closed due to the weather

The Office for National Statistics’ went on to summarise their findings by saying that extreme weather events cause a temporary drop in the UK economy’s overall economic growth. Industries that normally suffer the biggest blow in times like these include the retail sector, along with the travel, tourism, hospitality, and hotel industries as people are advised, or forced, to cancel their travel plans and stay inside.

Then, of course, there are also the costly aftermath effects of damage caused to properties and businesses such as burst water pipes and failed heating systems. But it’s not all doom and gloom, however, as once everything returns to normal, the need for trades and services to repair and restore everything back to working order pumps money back into a halted economy. Furthermore, with the rise of cloud technology, some businesses can still operate from remote locations meaning not everything has to shut down. Office based businesses that make use of cloud-based servers and emails can still have employees working from home and being productive even on designated snow days



Insolvency figures
Scotland and England figures released

Blog PictureBoth the Accountant in Bankruptcy (AiB - Scotland) and The Insolvency Service (England and Wales) have released their respective figures for the last quarter. Overall, Scotland fairs better than England in both personal and corporate insolvencies

Corporate insolvencies in Scotland have decreased to 202 in the last quarter compared to the same quarter in 2016/17. Equally, personal insolvencies have decreased by 3.8% with a drop in bankruptcies of 4.2%, offset by a rise in protected trust deeds of 6.9%. The less popular DAS scheme (573 cases v 1,089 bankruptcies and 1,602 protected trust deeds) has also seen a reduction in the amount repaid, despite an increase in the number of cases of 8.5%. The report can be found here.

The Picture is different in England where corporate insolvencies increased by 4.2% on the year previous, with some 17243 companies effected. There was an increase in the number of creditor voluntary liquidations within this figure of 8.2%. Personal insolvencies saw a 9.4% increase mainly driven by the rise of individual voluntary arrangements (IVAs). IVAs increased by 19.8% to their highest ever record of 59,220. A copy of the report can be found here.

If you need any assistance, please speak with your usual contact at Chamberlain McBain



Lisa's Blog: Rising Trend or Fraud Risk
Cash Payments v Contactless Payments

Blog PictureIt was only six months ago that the British Retail Consortium released figures showing that, 10 years after their initial release in the UK market, contactless cards payment had seemingly “won over” the UK public.

Known also as “pay wave” or “tap and go”, the Consortium reported that contactless card payments were attributing to approximately one third card purchases. 2016 saw the first year when card payments, as an overall payment method, took the number one place in Britain over cash payments, accounting for more than 50% of all transactions.

The mindset behind this transition from cash to card payments is interesting indeed, with Niro Sivanathan, a London Business School professor, commenting that parting with cash is “psychologically painful”, whereas paying for necessities with a contactless card “anaesthetises the psychological pain that accompanies payment, seducing us into splashing out”.

Equally curious now, is a recent article in The Guardian which interviewed a number of UK residents and asked them their feelings on the cash to contactless card payment trend that is on the rise. The Guardian has stated that the bulk of respondents said that while they enjoy the ease of contactless payments they “fear the risk of fraud”, and so it seems that the public see security as an issue that stops them diving head first into the world of contactless payments.

One of the Guardian respondents, a 73-year-old man Peter, said that he and his wife were victims of fraud when their debit and credit cards were cloned after they used them in a contactless payment situation in a restaurant and petrol station.” He goes on to comment that, “I use my debit card in reliable supermarkets, but I usually withdraw enough money from a reliable cash machine to keep me going for two to three weeks. Going cashless makes you vulnerable to rip-off frauds.”



Lisa's Blog: Retail World Slow Down
what will be the new look of the industry?

Blog PictureThe word on the high street is that the retail sector is facing a long-term slowdown. The latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics have proved to not be as perky as many had of hoped and after a less than ideal December, both the short term and long term retail forecast is not looking overly bright. Declining wages, consumer debt and the higher borrowing costs are being blamed for this lack of consumerism on the UK high streets with many of the big names in the retail world taking a big hit.

And it is the big retail names that have been getting a lot of media attention of late as they teeter on the edge. Big brands such as House of Fraser, Debenhams, Maplins and Toys R Us have all been feeling the pinch as shoppers are no longer walking into their high street stores and instead are turning to cheaper online alternatives from the comfort of their living room sofa.

So long term then what does this mean for the big retail brands with their big retail centres? After the 2016 collapse of the 88-year-old department store BHS, more than one- third of their stores are still empty with the prospects of large-scale retail tenants who can take on such large spaces minimal, to say the least. While the likes of Primark and Wilko have taken over some, others have been transformed into many smaller shops.

Director of UK shopping centres for Hammerson Peter Cooper has commented that “with more and more shopping done online, malls and town centres need to provide experiences that can’t be enjoyed at home.”

It’s about diversifying; it’s about offering a new retail and shopping experience. Cooper goes on to give the advice to retailers and landlords; “you need to understand your market, be creative and use lateral thinking”. People are still expected to head to cities like London, Manchester or Birmingham when they want that big store experience, but even so, oversaturation is something that won’t bode well for the market.



Lisa's Blog: £100m support package
Carillion Contractors as redundancies & job losses continue

Blog PictureIt was announced last week that hard hit contractors of Carillion will be able to apply for a government-backed £100m support package. High street lenders are banding together to provide both individuals and UK small businesses who are owed money from the construction giant who went into liquidation in January whilst still owing up to 30,000 businesses around £1bn.

High street lenders will be supported by the British Business Bank to deliver these loans to Carillion contractors who would more than likely not be eligible for loans due to their small size or lack of viable assets to guarantee their loan security. The British Business Bank specialises in providing financing for smaller businesses and although it is 100% owned by the government, it is independently managed.

Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark has commented that “we want to signal very clearly to small and medium-sized businesses who were owed money by Carillion that they will be supported to continue trading. The banks have responded to my request by agreeing to support businesses and individuals affected. This further guarantee will help those businesses who may not be able to provide the usual security for a loan.”

A total of 930 workers who were employed by Carillion have been made redundant since the company’s demise. The latest round of 101 employee cuts are majority back-office and engineering support staff who aren’t required by the new suppliers that are picking up the pieces from Carillion’s collapse. 2,250 jobs however have been saved, with the Official Receiver being able to safeguard certain public and private contracts across the city council and the facilities management services industry.

A representative from the Official Receiver has said that “those who have lost their jobs will be able to find support through Jobcentre Plus’ Rapid Response Service and are also entitled to make a claim for statutory redundancy payments.”



Lisa's Blog: 2018
Year of the UK Small Business Startups?

Blog PictureA nation’s economy needs to be in a good place to foster growth right? Well it must be looking good for Britain then as a recent report released from Digimax, a digital marketing agency based in London, has predicted that 2018 will be a year for the UK small business startups.

Their survey found that 76% of business owners claimed to be working on new business ideas, with 43% saying they are aiming to be launch-ready this year. The report found that tech startups ranked supreme over any other sector; 77% commented that the media would be playing a big role in their successful go-to-market launch strategy.

Digimax CEO’s Shaz Memon comments that "in 2016 startups received more investment than in any previous years, and that appears to have continued through 2017 and potentially into 2018. The fact that the UK is leading the way in this is fantastic news for the economy, with the ability to bring long-term growth and security.”

It seems most of those surveyed by Digimax are already business owners and that their startup ventures still in the pipeline are off-shoots to their main company and day-to-day. So if you’re new to the SME game and are just starting out, what are three key things you should be considering?

  • Finding the right investors and keeping them – To find the right backers you need to be able to sell the right story, the right ideas. You’ll need to ongoingly be able to prove why there is space in the market for your product or service and why people should keep giving you money for it.
  • Choosing the right investments for the company – In the beginning stages of any business there will always be investments that need to be made to help the company get ahead; for example taking on more staff so that key drivers in the business are able to strategize more, promote more, or sell more. You might need to invest money into R&D or marketing. Make sure you’re being strategic with where you’re investing your startup’s money so you can ensure you see as much ROI as possible.
  • It’s all about the talent – Always keep in mind that the talent you hire is ultimately what is going to help drive your business forward. Finding the right staff and retaining them is key; people that are committed, engaged and that believe in your vision and what you’re trying to achieve is more important than ever within an SME startup.



Lisa's Blog: Personal and Business
Insolvency Numbers on the Rise

Blog PictureThe latest figures released from The Insolvency Service are reporting a 9.4% rise year-on-year of the number of people who have declared themselves insolvent. A total of 99,196 households went bankrupt in 2017, the highest number post the last major financial crisis.

Collating all of Britain’s personal debt together totals a whopping £1.6tn as many a household turns to individual voluntary arrangements or “bankruptcy-lite” deals. These so-called rescue packages allow individuals to reorganise their debts and contribute much lower size payments in a bid to pay off their debt.

A spokesperson from The Insolvency Service has said that “one in 467 adults (0.21% of the adult population) became insolvent in 2017, up from 507 in 2016”. Credit card spending and car finance deals are thought to be at the crux of the debt, with people turning to their credit cards more and more often for their general everyday spending.

In the business world the figures have risen since last year as well. Approximately 17,243 UK companies entered insolvency in 2017, a figure which is up 4.2% on 2016. Slowdowns in the economy are blamed for the rise, along with the uncertainty created after the Brexit vote. Keep in mind too that these figures are preceding the demise of Carillion which is bound to have a major knock-on effect for many SME’s throughout Britain who are unable to keep their business’ head above water amid monies owed and debts unpaid.

It was a year ago that KPMG reported on the 2016 vs 2017 insolvency figures with the firm recounting the rise in numbers – from 1,111 in 2015 to 1,174 in 2016. Head of Restructuring at KPMG UK Blair Nimmo was reported as saying that “while it’s something to keep an eye on, it’s certainly not cause for alarm”. A year later and we’re still in the same boat; is it cause for alarm now?



Lisa's Blog: Signs a storm was brewing
The sun sets on Carillion

Blog PictureIt’s been the news of the week and for many, it’s come from the blind side. However, the warning signs must have been there right? One of the largest construction companies in the UK responsible for employing 43,000 people worldwide and 20,000 alone in the UK, can’t just go into liquidation one day without there being some tell-tale signs that a storm was brewing?

With the accumulation of debts around £1.5bn, many companies will be affected by Carillion’s downfall. Responsible for managing prisons, schools, hospitals, maintaining the homes of thousands of military personnel as well as having a £1.4bn joint venture contract for the new HS2 high-speed rail line, monies owed to SMEs around the country from Carillion may, in fact, be a key contributing factor to their downfall as well.

The story goes that even the company’s directors had no idea what was on the horizon. The annual company report published in March clearly stated that there was no reason to think that the company would have any financial difficulties in the next three years. Fast-forward ten months on and clearly, that is not the case. Delving into it further and it seems that investors had actually begun betting against Carillion shares way back in 2013. So what did they see then that even the company directors couldn’t make out now?

High average margins – Reporting average margins of about 4%, this is twice the standard rate for construction companies. With work contracts spanning across the globe, some of the extra margin could be a result of their high-margin work in the Middle East, but at the end of the day, if you’re not getting paid for these contracts then ultimately the cash flow isn’t there. It’s been reported that when it went bust, Carillion was owed about £400m from these seemingly “lucrative” contracts.

Late payments to sub-contractors – When the cash flow isn’t there and things are tight, you just can’t pay your subcontractors. This was definitely a sign of the trouble that was brewing for Carillion who was making some of their subcontractors and suppliers wait up to 120 days before they were able to be paid.

Hidden debts – In an effort to speed up payments to their subcontractors, Carillion made use of the Early Payment Facility which allowed their suppliers to take their invoice to one of Carillion’s lenders to be paid. These lenders would charge a fee to Carillion and so the debts just continue to mount up and up and up. At the time of their last annual report, Carillion registered approximately £850m of debt; however, this wasn’t taking into account the accumulated debt in fees which was being published under a different heading in their accounts. Not ideal.

Philip Green, chairman of Carillion has said it’s a "very sad day" for the everyone involved in the company, whether that be workers, suppliers or customers, it’s a very sad day indeed.



Lisa's Blog: The Highs and Lows
of the retail Christmas results

Blog PictureThings are not looking so bright and shiny on the UK high streets these days with many of the country’s biggest names returning less than favourable results for the Christmas period.

Marks & Spencer witnessed a decrease in sales across both their food and clothing arms – with slumps of both 0.4% and 2.8% respectively. In the 6-week lead-up period to Christmas, House of Fraser also saw their in-store sales fall by 2.9%. These figures were released amid news that the department store giant was looking to cut their store size to minimise their rent, aiming to reduce their overall high street outgoings by 30%.

It hasn’t been all doom and gloom however with some things turning out better than some analysts were expecting. Supermarket chains Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrison’s all reported rises with 3.4%, 1.1% and 2.8% respectively. There was much speculation surrounding the performance of homeware and fashion chain Next as well, but against their anticipated 0.3% fall they achieved a 1.5% increase in their total sales in the 54 days prior to December 24 – much better than expected.

The best figures however have undoubtedly come from the world of the internet with online shopping performing particularly well. In the world of AO World, in the three months leading up to the New Year they posted a UK revenue growth of 11.4%. Online fashion retailer Boohoo also saw great revenue goals achieved and have since reviewed their full year group revenue growth by 10%, taking it from 80% to 90%.

Still, amid the highs that some businesses received it’s still certain to say that the current UK economic outlook is looking a tad shaky. With Toys R Us signalling the close down of a quarter of their stores across the UK resulting in the loss of approximately 800 jobs and Debenhams shares plunging after their festive season sales drops, it certainly is looking stormy out there in the retail world.

If you or your business requires information on how to recover your debts to help maintain cash flow contact Chamberlain McBain today. Chamberlain McBain offer a wide range of cost-effective services including debt recovery, litigation and more. Get in touch with the team today by calling 0131 272 2799.



Lisa's Blog: late payments trends for
SME's set to continue in 2018

Blog PictureLate payments are never something that bodes well for any business – but this is especially the case for SMEs. Cash flow issues can cripple a business, and small businesses rely more than ever on the money coming in so the money is there to go out.

The latest in findings from MarketInvoice, a business finance company, forecasts that the late payments trend which the UK small business world has been grappling with recently is only set to continue, and potentially even get worse. MarketInvoice looked at over 80,000 invoices issued in 2017 from UK SMEs and found that 62% of these were paid late. Worth over £21 billion, this is up 60% from 2016. Ouch.

Let’s look at some the key findings to come out of the study:

  • The average value of an invoice was £51,826.
  • Around a third of invoices paid late took more than two weeks to be paid from the original agreed date with the longest taking almost six months.
  • Sectors that took the longest to pay invoices in terms of the timeframes included those in the Transport industry (25 days), Utilities (23 days), and the Media businesses (21 days).
  • Business sectors that were the worst culprits included the Food & Beverage industry (83%), Energy Businesses (80 %) and those in the Wholesaler business world (79%).
  • Region wise, Northern Ireland is at the top with a whopping 93% of invoices being paid late, followed by East Anglia at 68% and East Midlands at 66%.
  • The survey looked at invoices sent internationally as well. At the top of this table was Germany who took an average of 28 days longer to settle invoices than what was agreed.

MarketInvoice spokesperson Bilal Mahmood commented that “the problem is being compounded by 90-day payment terms demanded by larger organisations, which are becoming more common. SMEs need to understand what measures they can take to reduce the risk, such as making T&C’s clear from the outset, chasing payments down and enforcing the right to claim compensation for late payments.”

If late payments are a problem for your business, then speak with Chamberlain McBain who can offer a cost-effective option when you need to speak with a team of professionals. Unlike most other services, they charge only for the work carried out, for the most part limiting costs to those recoverable from the debtor or offering a fixed cost. Get in touch with the team today by calling 0131 272 2799.



Lisa's Blog: General Data Protection Regulation
What you need to know about the GDPR

Blog PictureIt’s been in the pipeline for the last couple of years, and now the time is nearly here – on 25 May 2018, the new GDPR, or the General Data Protection Regulation, will come into effect. Overhauling the way both public and private sector UK businesses handle personal data, it’s forces businesses to rethink how they are collecting, using and storing personal data. Let’s look at some of the main factors you need to know about the GDPR.

  • Who is affected? – The GDPR applies to both large and small businesses however not all organisations will be subjected to meet the same compliance standards. Those that are considered to be high risk or are processing a large amount of data will have to submit more resources when it comes time to proving their compliance.
  • What is the change? – There are new rights for people to be able to access the information that companies hold about them, as well as a change to the way data is managed within both large and small UK businesses, and a new system of fines.
  • What are the effects? – Employees are already able to access their personal data as set out in the currently enforced Data Protection Act 1998, however when the GDPR comes into effect, these rights will be greater including an ability for individuals to request that they be “forgotten” or have their personal data erased. Companies may need to have data protection policies set in place, conduct data protection impact assessments and be able to make available clear process documents for how they’re processing data. In the case of a company being a public body, collecting sensitive personal information, or if its core day-to-day business involves large-scale data processing, a data protection officer may need to be appointed.
  • What is the fine for non-compliance? - Enforced by The Information Commissioner's Office in the UK, fines can go as high as €20 million or four per cent of an organisations global turnover (whichever is greater), which can be much larger than the current £500,000 penalty the ICO currently lays down.
  • What about Brexit? - Once Brexit is fulfilled, the UK government is planning on implementing a new Data Protection Bill which will feature many of the same compliance features of the GDPR, and so although there will be some changes, by and large, the same laws will be applicable.

You can read about it in more detail by visiting HERE



Lisa's Blog: Small Business Trend
Predictions for 2018 – Part 2

Blog PictureIn the last blog post, I looked at the first three trends predicted for 2018 that would have an impact for small businesses, and in this post, I’m wrapping it out with numbers four, five and six:

  • More machines take overs in customer service – It’s like a flash of reality from one of those futuristic movies but it’s the way things are moving. Machine learning is basically a field of computer science that gives computers the ability to learn without being necessarily programmed. Its’ AI, or artificial intelligence, when it comes down to it. Voice recognition software and speech analysis tools are perfect examples of machine learning, and this is set to become more accurate and more cost effective in 2018. With this comes the predicted trend that sees machine learning playing a bigger role in sales and customer service roles; businesses recording and monitoring more calls and callers being guided through using speech analytics and tools as opposed to keying in numbers and physically prompted.
  • An increase in the number of remote workers – As flexible working hours are being more and more desired and technology infrastructure continues to develop and improve, the ability for employees to work remotely is only looking to keep increasing in 2018. What used to be the “occasional work perk” will be moving to become more standard, as long as the job can be done remotely of course. Workplaces will become more modern and flexible too, with shared office spaces looking to continue to grow as small business look for smarter ways to do business while minimising overheads.
  • Mobile payments – Customers are consuming more and more via digital channels these days and this is only set to continue to increase in 2018. Along with this comes the desire for them to be able to conveniently pay using their mobile devices such as their mobile phones or tablets. If you have a storefront it can’t just be able the cash, you need to be able to accept cards as well. And charges for card payments? A pain point for consumers for years. From 13th January 2018, businesses will not be allowed to add any surcharges for card payments. The worst offenders currently are airlines and food delivery apps, and small businesses which typically add a fee for cards. In 2010 alone consumers spent £473m on such charges, according to estimates by the Treasury. It follows a directive from the European Union, which bans surcharges on Visa and Mastercard payments. However the UK government has gone further than the directive, by also banning charges on American Express and Paypal too.



Lisa's Blog: Small Business Trend
Predictions for 2018 – Part 1

Blog PictureThe New Year is nearly upon us, and the end of a year is a time when I’m always reflective on the year that’s been, as well as being contemplative about the year that lies ahead. What will the New Year bring? What does 2018 have in store?

For small business owners, staying at the forefront of an industry is important, and things can change in the market fast. In part one of this blog edition; let’s take a look at three of the top small business trends being predicted for 2018:

  • The move from the Cloud into “Microservices” – The technology and IT market is expected to see a big shift in 2018 with the buzzword of the Cloud being replaced with the next big proposed IT trend – “microservices”. Microservices architecture essentially sees businesses utilising a smaller suite of software and hardware applications instead of the one big and complex beast of one. The benefit of a microservices setup means that having a number of smaller applications makes it easier to scale up and down, meaning that a business can be more responsive and more adaptable. It also in turns decreases risk while increasing efficiencies – all good things for a small business.
  • An increase in potential cyber-attacks on small businesses – As the internet and the digital world continues to grow, so does the frequency and seriousness of potential cyber threats. More online payments, more mobile banking, and more important business information held in the digital world means more opportunity for attacks and so a focus on cyber security is paramount for all UK small businesses.
  • Personalised marketing and advertising is where it’s at – As we all continue to be bombarded with marketing and advertising on a daily basis, the need for a small business’ efforts to stand out in the marketplace is more important than ever. Achieve this by endeavouring to make your marketing and advertising as personal as possible. If you send email marketing make sure it’s relevant to your customers and their interests. Include their name in the subject line and ensure you’re speaking directly to them and providing high-value to them in what you’re trying to get your email content to say. Make your calls to action clear, direct and personal.

Stay tuned for next week’s article where we look at the other three top business trends predictions for 2018.



Lisa's Blog: From procurement to payment
£26.3 billion overdue & payable

Blog PictureEvery day, of every month of every year, thousands of UK businesses small and large are dealing with the financial fall-backs of late payments. Along with this comes the effects of potential cash flow issues which can ultimately and scarily jeopardise a business’ ability to operate and findings from a payment processor Bacs report released back in January that showed nearly half of UK SME’s were experiencing some form of late payment.

A whopping £26.3 billion was estimated by the UK government in January this year to be owing to companies in the form of overdue payments, and at the same time that they released this figure, they also released new regulations requiring both large companies and limited liability partnerships (LLPs) to report twice a year on their payment practices including the average time it takes them to pay supplier invoices

Now, new research has been released from the Tungsten Network that continues to highlight the problems businesses are facing in regards to late payments. The report looks at the key issues faced by businesses globally that seem to hold up the stop signs up along the path of procurement to payment. Surveying 422 global businesses, the Tungsten Network has created a new benchmark known as The Tungsten Network Friction Index which provides a level of reference for future years to come in order to ascertain whether the friction of the procurement to payment process is improving or not

The survey questions were centred on payment processes and cycle time, costs and visibility. Tungsten Network’s CEO Richard Hurwitz comments that “late payments impact economic growth. Chasing payments is a source of frustration for suppliers and buyers alike. Our research shows that when it comes to late payments, clunky internal processes and slow paper-based systems are the predominant causes, leading to friction in the supply chain.”

Specifically, the research has found that leading culprits for the slowdown from procurement to payment include a high proportion of paper invoices and the manual processing of invoices; this was cited as the number one issue. Coming in a close second was businesses dealing with too many non-PO based invoices as well as a high volume of supplier enquire regarding the status of their payments.

You can view an infographic showing the research and the findings in more detail at: HERE



Lisa's Blog: Get a slice of the £27bn online
shopping pie. PayPal study shows
websites needs to be mobile-friendly

Blog PictureA recent study conducted by PayPal predicts that shoppers are set to double the amount they spend on purchases made on their smartphone. So how much are they expecting people to spend? Just a casual £27bn this year alone, with further expectations that this’ll hit £43bn by 2020. Wow.

These figures scream the importance of making sure your website is mobile optimized. What this means more specifically is can online shoppers easily view your website on their mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Your small businesses may already be there, with an automatically scaling website that displays nicely no matter what device it’s viewed on. However for many others this doesn’t seem to be the case, with the survey finding that only 18% of UK small businesses saying that yes, they did have a mobile-friendly website.

Let’s look at some of the other figures to come out of the survey:

  • 33% of UK small businesses said they don’t feel like they need a mobile website because they “do well enough as it is”.
  • “Lack of a mobile-friendly website” was the number one ranked frustration by consumers when they’re trying to buy something online on their mobile device.
  • 44% of 16 to 25-year olds say they plan to increase their smartphone-based online shopping.
  • Over 33% of businesses noted that an average value of an individual sale is between £10 and £30. PayPal’s research however has shown that consumers who are looking to buy a product via the digital world are happy to pay up to three times more – with an average spend of £84 on a smartphone and £103 on a tablet for each individual sale.

Nicola Longfield, Director of Small Business at PayPal UK, comments that consumers are now “willing to go through with quite sizeable transactions on their mobile, so for small businesses, if they don’t have that secure and easy way for consumers to buy on their mobile, the chances are they will lose that sale.”



Lisa's Blog: Autumn Budget 2017
What it means for small businesses

Blog PictureThe plan for the UK economy has been laid bare by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, after the Autumn budget 2017 was released last week. Hammond comments that the Budget aims to “look forwards, embrace change, meet our challenges head-on and seize the opportunities for Britain’.

But what does that actually translate to for UK small business? Previously the Office for Tax Simplification had suggested that the threshold for compulsory VAT registration be lower to £20,000 – which would have hit many UK small businesses hard; so the fact that this rate has been frozen at £85,000 for the next 2 years (at a minimum) is extremely good news. In addition to this, business rates are scheduled to be lowered by 1% from April 2018 – always good news.

So let’s take a look at a high-level of some of the Autumn Budget 2017 changes and the items that may affect Britain’s small business world:

Overall economics

  • £3 billion will be set aside for possible Brexit outcomes
  • Debt will hit a peak of 86.5% of GDP this year, but will fall in following years
  • The UK’s growth forecast has been reduced to 1.5% from 2%
  • GDP forecasts have been cut to 1.4%, 1. 3%, and 1.5% for the following years
  • Borrowing is forecast to fall from this year on – from £39.5 billion in 2018-19 to £25.6 billion in 2022-23


  • For the next 2 years (minimum) the VAT threshold will be frozen at £85,000
  • Business rates will be indexed to CPI from next year, which could see a rates reduction of around 1%
  • After the next revaluation, business rates revaluations will occur every three years
  • The main R&D tax credit rate will be increased to 12%
  • There will be a rise in April 2018 on the vehicle excise duty for diesel cars that do not meet latest standards
  • No tax hike for van owners
  • The diesel supplement in company car tax to rise by 1%
  • The tax-free personal allowance will increase to £11,850 from April 2018
  • The higher rate tax threshold to rise to £46,350 from next year


  • £2.3 billion will be set aside by the government for investment in R&D
  • UK SMEs will be given an extra leg up as the British Business Bank makes £13 billion available for funding
  • A national retraining scheme will be launched that focuses on the construction and digital skills industries
  • A planned expansion of the Enterprise Investment Scheme will make investments in growing tech businesses is easier
  • £500 million to be invested for 5G mobile networks and fibre broadband
  • £540 million to support the growth of electric cars, including more charging points

Wages and employment

  • As of April 2018 the National Living Wage will increase by 4.4% from £7.50 to £7.83 p/hr
  • An additional 600,000 people forecast to be in work by 2022



Lisa's Blog: 4 tips for getting your SME
up and running on social media

Blog PictureIn the last article we looked at why social media is so important for small businesses; but where do you start when you’re looking to get your SME up and running? Here are four key tips to help make what can be a daunting task just a little bit simpler:

  • Define your social media strategy – This doesn’t have to be an eight-page long document, even a short and simple couple of pages can hit the spot. The important thing is that you’ve taken the time to consider what you want to achieve from your social media, so that you know what success looks like for you and your business. The most important points to cover include:
    • Your target audience – Who are you trying to reach with your social media? What are their demographics? What are their interests? Defining this will help you to create compelling content that they will engage with.
    • Your social media personality – How do you want to be perceived by your target audience? What kind of personality does your brand have? Make sure that the content and subject matter that you share and post is aligned with this.
    • Your social media goals – Do you want to increase the number of customers coming into your shop? Or maybe your social media efforts are all in the name of getting your small business brand exposure. Make sure you think about what you want to achieve so you’re able to figure out down the track whether it’s working or not.
  • Choose your social media platforms – There are a multitude of social media platforms to choose from; Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest…. the list goes on. There really is no need to sign up to them all, unless they are all relevant to your product or service. Think about your audience and where you are most likely to reach them. For those SMEs that move in professional circles then LinkedIn is a great option for you. Is your business in the fields of fashion, art or music? Then Instagram and Pinterest, those channels that present more visual opportunities to portray your brand, make a great choice.
  • Create a content plan – This can be as simple as listing ideas about the kind of content you will post or articles, links and photos that you will share. This list will no doubt keep growing and altering as time goes on, just make sure you keep in mind your social media personality always and ensure that the content you are putting out there stays true to your SME and its brand.
  • Monitor, measure and modify – Social media is an organic beast and you should always be looking to monitor and measure your results. What do your target audience respond to and like the most? What is failing to stimulate them? Measure your results against what you set out in your initial strategy and modify as needed to sure you keep you hitting the mark and reaching your social media goals.



Mock Court
Winners - Seniors 2017

Blog PictureFor weeks schools from across Southern Scotland have been preparing for their Mock Court. After seven weeks of tutorials, which included a visit to Edinburgh Airport Fire Service, tutors in the field of medicine, prosthetics and engineering, the students undertook their intermediary trials in the Court of Session and the High Court of Glasgow. The winning Pursuer and Defender teams from each region then went head to head in the finals in Glasgow Burgh Court before The Rt Hon Sir David Edward

The Awards Ceremony took place last night in the Signet Library where Dunbar Grammar were announced as the overall winners of the School Mock Court Case Project - Seniors, with Prestwick Academy as runners up. The award was present by The Rt Hon Lady Dorrian, Lord Justice Clerk and our Mr Murphy who is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees to the School Mock Court Case Project SCIO.

The winners will now go to New York, sponsored by Brodies LLP, to compete with a school there, as well as attend a local school, before taking in many of the sights New York has to offer

Many of the Seniors have applied to attend the Hague ICC Moot competition in the Netherlands in January 2018 against 18 other countries. Six will be selected to attend and our Mr Murphy will be leading this.



Lisa's Blog: Social Media
Important for Small Business

Blog PictureFor a small business social media is more important than ever. With all of your target audience in one place, the need for a social media strategy no matter how simple or complex is definitely an area of the business which needs to be thought out. Plus, one of the best things is it’s free – apart from the time spent by someone doing the legwork in order to post content, signing up and becoming present in the virtual social world doesn’t cost you a thing.

But why exactly is social media so important for your SME?

  • You’ll reach a wider audience – Even if you’re not running a paid promotional campaign through your social channels, you’re still bound reach a larger audience organically then you would have otherwise without. When your followers like or share something that you’ve posted there’s a chance that the people they’re connected with will see this also – giving your company and brand more exposure.
  • It helps to build your brand and its trustworthiness – Social media isn’t just about advertising the services that you offer, it’s also about advertising your company as a whole. Showing behind-the scene glimpses into your company gives it a feeling of “we’ve got nothing to hide” which helps to create transparency and trustworthiness among your prospective customers and clients. Furthermore, most prospective employees will undoubtedly do a Google search of your business before they send in their application for an advertised position, and so your social media accounts should also portray the personality and people behind your company that will help to sell it. If your company does a mid-week Christmas event then don’t be shy in posting these photos – show the community of your organisation and the perks of working at your company
  • You’ll better understand your market and gain insight – The analytics behind social media are all there for you to delve into and they can provide a great sneak peek into the world of the people who are engaging with your business and your brand. What content do you post on Facebook that get the most likes, shares or comments? What subject matter generates the most conversation on Twitter? All of these insights are useful when it comes to understanding your target audience more
  • You’ll find ways to improve your business – By talking and engaging with people via social media you’ll no doubt find areas where your company can improve. Don’t be afraid of feedback you might receive on social media, it’ll provide you with a heads-up on the areas for improvement as well as giving you an opportunity to respond in a respectful manner that is tactful and thought out.

But where do you start? Social media doesn’t have to be a daunting task and there are some simple things to keep in mind when you’re looking to create your social media platforms or define your strategy. Stay tuned for the next article where we touch on the key aspects to consider when getting your business up and running on social media.



Lisa's Blog: UK job vacancies increase
A boom in the UK job market

Blog PictureSomething’s been cooking in the oven which is the UK job market, with advertised job vacancies on the rise. Latest figures which have been released from independent UK job website CV Library show that compared to last year’s Q3, the UK as a whole has experienced a 12.2% increase in advertised job vacancies, with some cities registering a growth of over 20 or even 30%.

Much of the south of the country has witnessed strong increases with Portsmouth, Brighton, London and Bristol seeing good growth rates. With London ranking high in the top spots, this is encouraging given the general feelings of uncertainty across various markets, and which has been thick in the air particularly in the nation’s capital. What’s also encouraging to note is that the Scottish job market is streaming along strongly as well, with three key cities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow making it into the top ten. Northern England rounds out the other top ten places, with Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester also experiencing a mentionable job vacancy boom.

The rankings as they stand for the top ten cities that have experienced this Q3 year-on-year advertised job vacancies growth include:

  • Portsmouth – 35.9%
  • Brighton – 33.3%
  • London – 25.8%
  • Bristol – 22.5%
  • Sheffield – 22.2%
  • Aberdeen – 20.6%
  • Edinburgh – 20.3%
  • Leeds – 14.7%
  • Manchester – 13.8%
  • Glasgow – 12.5%

When it comes to which industries have seen the most positive job vacancies growth figures, Retail sits firmly at the top with a 15.7% growth rate for a Q3 year-on-year comparison, followed by Customer Services at 12.2% and Charity at 11%.

Furthermore, it seems this business confidence for Q3 also stretched over into salary levels as well, with Scotland leading the pack in this chart; salaries in Dundee have risen 34.4% year-on-year, followed by Aberdeen at 21.2% and Inverness at 10.3%.

CV Library comment in their report that one can surmise that these strengthened figures are as a result of the lower net migration of workers entering the UK from the EU, with overall immigration traffic falling by 4.3% in the past 12 months. This decrease in the number of European workers has, in turn, led to a need for businesses to increase the salaries which they are offering to job hunters, in order to entice and charm. The big question is, can British companies support this salary increase in the long term? Only time will tell.

For a link to the CV Library full report, please visit: HERE



Lisa's Blog: 3 Tips for Innovation
in Small Business

Blog Picture“Don’t reinvent the wheel” – how many times have you heard this around the boardroom table, in meetings, or among your peers and colleagues? While this is true in many cases, there comes a point as well when the need to do something different almost seems compulsory; you need to position your business differently in the market, you need to create a unique selling proposition, you need to be seen to be leading the pack and not just following – you need to be innovative.

Here are three easy tips to follow that will help to get the innovative process started in your SME:

  • Innovation can be simple – Don’t be overwhelmed by the word innovation by believing that you need to think of something that is going to solve all your business problems in one go. Innovation can be bite sized and easy to digest, such as creating new templates for marketing campaigns or considering the manufacturing and packaging of your products and how small tweaks could be made to make this better.
  • Listen – This strategy stretches far and wide; listen to your staff, listen to your customers, listen to your suppliers, listen to the market. These are the people who are living and breathing your industry and a frustration or the inability to achieve something because of some reason can often lead to the spark of an innovative idea. Although McDonald’s definitely wasn’t the first company (fast-food or otherwise) to implement the business concept of a drive-through, they decided to add this restaurant style to their port-folio back in 1975 as an effort to aid military members who weren’t allowed to get out of their car to enter the restaurants while wearing their fatigues. Drive-throughs now tally 70% of McDonald's US business.
  • Make innovation part of your every day – Put time aside on a regular basis to create the space to think about innovative strategies and practices. Set both achievable and stretch goals for the business and think about new processes or improvements that could be made. Facilitate staff brainstorming sessions or allow time for staff to research and read, this short-term time sacrifice could easily translate to long-term cost savings if a staff member finds a new timesheet or expense process for the whole company that is more efficient than what is currently being used.



Lisa's Blog: Bitcoin
Operating outside of the mainstream markets

Blog PictureBitcoin – it’s all the buzz right now, and what better to throw something into the limelight than to break a few records. Even though over the weekend we’ve seen the Bitcoin price decline from $6,150 to $5,880, it’s still up overall by just a casual 42% in month alone.

"Bitcoin was designed to operate outside of the influence of governments and central banks, and is doing exactly that," said Iqbal Gandham the retail trading app eToro’s Managing Director, who have been witness to the massive increases in the cryptocurrency’s trading volumes. At less than nine years old, Bitcoin is still seen to be in its juvenile, or say teenage years; unpredictable, impulsive, and highly volatile, especially when staked up against the more traditional and conventional and currencies and assets.

But just how far could the cryptocurrency go? Analysts have suggested the potential for the price of Bitcoin to teeter around the $10,000 mark if it can achieve $7,000 over the next few days, and many investors seem to be shrugging off warnings on the risks of buying into this booming market.

Swiss bank Swissquote opened their Bitcoin trading two months ago and Ryan Nettles, their Head of FX Trading and Market Strategy comments that ”people are just wanting to be part of it", stating that much of the interest that they’ve been seeing has come from brokers, banks, and hedge funds. Interest has been strong, and maybe a bit too strong for some countries, with the central banks in Russia banning cryptocurrency trading websites while their president Vladimir Putin warned of the "serious risks" of this ballooning market.

Yet it seems all news is good news, as it adds fuel to the Bitcoin fire which is raging; Nettles further comments that “the interest really stems from the media hype." SEMrush, a data analytics specialising in search engines such as Google, recently released figures demonstrating the rising Bitcoin price had a 91 per cent correlation with people’s Google searches, indicating that the school thought, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”, reigns true in the current world of Bitcoin.



Lisa's Blog: Our Online World
Encryption, protection, and cyber privacy

Blog PictureI remember when I first realised that my Messenger was being monitored, or was at least having algorithms applied to it that helped it to recognise what I was talking to my friends or family about. It was then feeding me advertisements through my Facebook feed that were centred around these conversations – flights to Australia, travel insurance, or the latest online deals for Jamie Oliver’s latest cookbook. All I could think of was “the nerve!” – to be monitoring my private messages between myself and my family or friends and then dishing me up information or trying to get me to consume products that had been mentioned or that had come up in conversation – how very invasive, intrusive, and what an infringement on my personal privacy.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some online places where I do expect that my conversations are being monitored – I just didn’t realised that it was happening within Messenger and then being used across its vertical products for consumerism and commercial gain. I suppose maybe I am just naïve?

Online platforms however are a good example of where I do expect that the communication between myself and my buyer/seller are being monitored. As a Freelance Writer, I have a lot of communication with different people across the world via online job and freelancing platforms, with people that I have never met with before, people I have never seen face to face and most probably never will. Across these platforms I suppose I hold a degree of expectation that, for both parties protection, our conversations via messages or emails within the platform are being monitored, recorded, and stored somewhere somehow out there in all those zeros and ones. And, that if I ever needed to raise a complaint or I had an objection to something, I would be able to draw upon this information. But it turns out that this is not always the case.

It wasn’t that long ago that all through the media were the stories of how WhatsApp were refusing to build a backdoor for the UK government, who ultimately were looking to these platforms in order to gain intel on the world of terrorism, helping them to see into the black holes which are created by platforms like WhatsApp and Telegram. Applications such as WhatsApp use end-to-end encryption that scramble messages through a series of code; so there is no visibility over the content within messages that are sent, and WhatsApp only ever see metadata such as an account name or email address.

In response to this cry for help that the UK government, Apple’s Tim Cook warned that weakening the encryption of these Apps would ultimately hurt the public, as terrorists would always just find new ways to communicate. Furthermore, WhatsApp responded with the statement - “we carefully review, validate, and respond to law enforcement requests based on applicable law and policy, and we prioritize responses to emergency requests.”

Gumtree is another example of where this encryption between private sellers and other parties reigns supreme – with a quote from their FAQ’s stating “if you’re a private seller, we keep email addresses private – messages will come from a unique address that looks a bit like gobbledygook.”

On one hand I can understand and support this, on the other hand though, when/if you ever get caught in the spot where you’ve been hard done by or you know you’re in the right, and you just need the help of these platforms to prove it, the encryption that is employed just frustratingly gets in the way of justice and a lawful outcome.



Lisa's Blog:
European led SMEs taking the lead...
but is Brexit leading to a “brain drain”?

Blog PictureBrexit – there is 100% no question around the UK government’s current stance on immigration, speaking prolifically over recent times about the “tightening up” of immigration and the firmer controls they’re looking to gain. And it seems to be having an effect, as the UK is already seeing thousands of EU citizens start to leave the country as well as less people coming into the country to settle and live.

Recent statistics released from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that the UK’s net migration has fallen by 25% in a year period, with Seamus Nevin, head of Employment and Skills Policy at The Institute of Directors warning that the UK could be staring down the barrel of a “brain drain”. With the continuing Brexit uncertainty over the rights of EU citizens, an environment is being created which is seeing a depletion in the number of skilled workers who are already living in the UK as well as those skilled European’s who are choosing to emigrate to Britain.

European immigrates have long been adding value to Britain’s economy by contributing to vital UK industries. Take for instance the recent research conducted by Opal Transfer which surveyed more than 4,000 businesses on their profitability throughout 2014/15 to 2015/16, and found that SMEs steered by a British Director grew at a rate of 4.5%, whereas those which were steered by a European Director grew at a figure over double that – at 10.5%.

Managing Director of Opal Transfer Gita Petkevica has said that “‘the UK business environment has enabled many of these businesses to flourish. It is important that the UK government continues to put forward policies that encourage the best in Europe and around the world to do create businesses and jobs here.”

At this stage it is still unknown what long term effect will Brexit will have on the UK economy, however the common assumption that Britain-based European led companies would most likely relocate to Ireland or continental Europe if it meant they could continue trading within the European single market seems like a pretty solid one, especially if the CEO or Managing Director isn’t tied to Britain.



Lisa's Blog: Season to be Merry
Planning the Office Christmas Party

Blog PicturePlanning the office Christmas party; it’s no small feat. Regardless of how big or small your workplace is, getting the Christmas party right and planning an event that everyone enjoys can certainly be a pressure-filled task. Opinions and expectations can run high, so let’s look at some of the key elements to cover when planning your office or work Christmas party that will ensure you cover all the bases and organise a well thought out party with all the trimmings:

  • Plan ahead – It might seem like the last Christmas party was only a few months ago but the more time in advance you can start planning the better, especially if you’re after a sought out venue or location; activities can get booked out quickly.
  • Discuss with your boss or management, set a budget – It could be the first Christmas party you’veplanned, or your tenth, however it’s always a good idea to have even a brief chat with the powers that be and get their thoughts on the festivities so you have a clear understanding of their expectations. Make sure you’re clear on the budget as well so you know what you have to play with when planning.
  • Schedule it out – When you’re planning for the day make sure you think about the details and try to visualize the exact proceedings for the day. Making an excel spreadsheet and thinking about the logistics of the day, step by step, will help to ensure that you’ve organised everything that you need to.
  • Theme it; it’s not only about the food – A great Christmas party has some entertainment or activity as well that gets people mingling. Your venue may have activities or entertainment as part of their offerings, or maybe you make your party a dress up theme; giving people something fun to do can take the focus off just the food and the drinks and help make for a great day.
  • Have fun and get photos – When it comes to the big day, make sure you take conscious moments throughout the day to relax and enjoy it; you’ve done a lot of organising to get it to this point. Make sure you remember to get photos as well, they always make for some great reminiscing over the next few days and weeks at work at what a great celebration the day or night was.



Lisa's Blog: Financing for Small Businesses
Finding Funds / Raising Capital

Blog PictureYour company could just be starting out or maybe you’re looking to raise extra capital for a one-off project, regardless of the motivating factor, if you’re operating an SME there may come a time where you will need to raise financing to either get your business either off the ground or help to get it in front of the pack

Unfortunately, sometimes this can be a more difficult feat for the smaller guys out there in the trading world; just as the MacMillan Committee report found in 1931 when they examined the financing of SMEs and concluded that raising long-term finance in amounts of less than £200,000 was extremely difficult. This shortfall of amounts was coined the ‘MacMillan Gap’ and, despite over the years there being a number of new initiatives and changes to the marketplace that provide more options and ways to raise finance for small businesses, it can still be a tough gig for SMEs to find the finance they need.

So what are some of financing options for small businesses?

  • Traditional lenders – A small business loan from a bank is always an option. Keep in mind that it can often be a more difficult sell if you’re needing the loan for the initial start-up capital as opposed to if your business is already up and running. Also consider the credit profile of you and/or your business and what kind of collateral or assets you’re able to offer as security on the loan.
  • Investment companies or corporate venturing – This is where large, already established companies look to invest funds in SMEs. International news agency Reuters for example, put money aside for their “greenhouse fund” which spreads pockets of investment funds across various small businesses within the technology sector, banking on the fact that a proportion of the companies that they invest in will become large and successful in the future.
  • Crowd funding – A lot of hype has been surrounding this finance raising method recently and there are a multitude of different crowd funding platforms available all with their additional benefits, “freebies”, and selling points. Make sure you do your research and read all the terms, conditions, and fine print before deciding on the platform that’s right for you.
  • Personal networks – Dependant on your circles, this can often be one of your best shots for getting the finance to get your small business off the ground. Ensure you take it seriously and pitch it professionally to your potential investor, treating it as if you were standing in front of a large company. This area however, could be one of the more difficult areas, should things go wrong, resulting in lost relationships/friendships.



Lisa's Blog: No piece of the pie
for Scottish Small Businesses
The Flexible Workforce Development Fund

Blog PictureDoes your business pay into the UK Apprenticeship Levy? If not, then it’s unlikely you’ll be able to take advantage of the £10 million Flexible Workforce Development Fund (FWDF) which has just been announced is up for grabs by the Scottish Government.

The Flexible Workforce Development Fund (FWDF)is a fund set out to deliver an in-work skills training programme to businesses throughout Scotland. With a clear focus on the up-skilling and re-skilling of Scottish employees, the FWDF is in its pilot stage, with the project being given a one-year trial.

Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Employability and Skills, said that this ”unique pilot scheme will enable Scotland’s employers to make training and skills development available to their staff, addressing knowledge gaps and improving productivity. Training and skills development is beneficial for employees of all ages and levels and I would encourage all organisations subject to the levy in Scotland to get in touch with our colleagues to learn more about the opportunities available to them.”

However, as Hepburn hinted at, this fund is only available to those businesses that are subject to and have been paying into the UK Government’s Apprenticeship Levy. Introduced on 6 April 2017, the Apprenticeship Levy is payable by all UK employers who have an annual pay bill over £3 million, which accounts for all payments to employees including wages, bonuses, and commissions.

With many small businesses not meeting this £3 million pay bill threshold and therefore not paying into the Apprenticeship Levy, it means that the majority of Scottish small businesses will not able to access to development and training fund for their business or for their staff.

Andy Willox, Scottish Policy Convenor for the Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) has said that “unfortunately this fund will do little to help smaller employers up skill their staff, especially those who are looking to address skills shortages as the UK leaves the EU. The Scottish Government should think again.”



Lisa's Blog: 4 Simple Ideas
Make Your Business Eco-Friendly

Blog PictureMaking your business more environmentally friendly doesn’t have to mean massive office overhauls or major operational changes, simple things can be done bit by bit to give your business an eco-friendly remodelling. The changes you make will not only help the environment out, but can also save your small business money in the long run, as reducing, reusing, and recycling can cut down on expensive overheads and help to minimise your business’ outgoings.

Here are four simple eco-friendly tips for small businesses to easily get you started:

  • Recycle – Recycling isn’t only about the paper in the photocopier, the scrap paper bin, or separating out the glass, plastic, and aluminium waste in the kitchen, also consider how you can recycle office furniture and equipment. Reupholstering tired office chairs or getting computer monitors serviced instead of adding them to the rubbish pile can often be cheaper than buying these new if you’re looking to upgrade things around the office. Finished with that old desktop computer? Consider how you’re disposing of it and whether or not some parts could be salvaged by someone else who might find them useful
  • Turn off and shut down – Get your employees into the habit of turning off their computers and monitors when it comes to the end of the day. On one hand it helps to save power (saving potentially up to 50% of that days energy), but it’s also been proven to increase the lifespan of electronics as well – a money saving win win. Also ensure that the last ones out are turning off all the main lights, a simple but an effective way to save on power for the environment and save on electricity bills for you.
  • Buy local – Supporting the local community is not only good for the economy but is also a key way your business can help to minimise its impact on the environment. Having your stationery products delivered from a local supplier will save on emissions while also helping out companies often deemed the “small guys”.
  • Buy sustainable – From cleaning products to energy efficient light bulbs, choosing sustainable products wherever you can makes a positive difference to the world around you. Choosing sustainable growth forest paper for your office paper, selecting biodegradable cleaning products, and buying in bulk to reduce packaging waste (and of course save you money) are just some simple ways to use your purchasing power within your small business to make eco-friendly contributions to the world around you.



Lisa's Blog: Cheque Checking Out?
Use of Cheques in UK Businesses

Blog PictureCheques have been around for centuries, actually nearly four to be exact. And although you might personally struggle to remember the last time you wrote or cashed one for your own personal reasons, 75% of UK businesses say they have either written cheques by received payments by cheque in the past month.

These are findings which have recently been released in a report by Cheque & Credit Clearing Company (C&CCC), who conducted market research in July 2017 on the use of cheques across consumers, businesses, and charities. C&CCC surveyed 1,000 UK businesses over the phone, asking questions centring around their use of and attitudes towards cheques, their knowledge on cheques, and the impending change to the banking industry in regards to cheque imaging.

Cheque imaging, which enables banks to process and clear cheques faster and more efficiently by using scanned digital images, gives customers the ability to pay cheques in via secure mobile banking apps,smartphones, and tablets. Chief executive of the C&CCC James Radford, comments that the development of cheque imagine will "put cheques firmly in the 21st century" and benefit "the many individuals, charities and businesses that regularly use cheques". Set to be introduced by some banks at the end of October 2017, and by all banks by the second half of 2018, although this change in the industry has long been on the cards, the C&CCC report found that only 20% of UK businesses are aware of the cheque imaging introduction, a statistic which is largely similar to 2016 (at 21%).

Other interesting statistics relating to the use of cheques throughout UK businesses include:

  • The average number of cheques written per month by businesses has been decreasing since 2008, from 26 then, to 5 per month now. This is with the exception of last year in 2016, when the number jumped back up to 12 from the previous years of 7
  • By far the largest use of cheques is for paying a trade supplier, with 72% of businesses saying this is what they are writing cheques for, followed by other ad-hoc payments to businesses at 47%, and regular business commitments at 33%.
  • 75% of businesses would have some degree of problem (major or minor) if they were unable to write cheques, stimulating the questions as to whether or not there needs to be further education for UK businesses on alternative methods to paying and receiving money

But what is the expected change in the use of cheques across business industries? C&CCC’s studies show that, over the next 3 years, 38% of those businesses who are currently using cheques will no longer.



Lisa's Blog: The Highs and Lows
Of the Pound Sterling

Blog PictureIt’s safe to say that we’ve all noticed it, felt it, or have been talking about it – the recent drop of the pound Sterling. Predicted by many economists, the GBP suffered the biggest intraday drop ever in its history the morning after the Brexit vote was announced, and it’s continued to drop ever since. In the last year it’s fallen to multi-year lows, including a 16% drop against the Euro, and more than a 13% fall against the US Dollar, along with a swagger of decreases against other currencies as well.

Most economists are expecting to continue to see the pound drop as Brexit negotiations progress, however slowly that may be. The longer the EU and UK take to decide on the specifics of “divorce” payouts, trade deals, or the rights of EU citizens, then the longer we’ll all have to stand on this shaky ground and the unlikeliness that we’ll see the exchange rates go back up in favour of our national currency.

But it’s not all doom and glow, as the flow on effect from a weakening Pound Sterling does have its ups as well as its downs. A slumping GBP can make it particularly tough for those people who purchase foreign currency, or any other goods or products outside of the UK. However, for those with business in the tourism industry, it’s proving to be a much better story. Recent June reports from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that a record number of overseas visitors are visiting the shores of Britain, up 7% on the same month a year ago and with a 2%, or £2.2bn, spending increase. With the majority of these overseas visitors being from Europe and North America, one would hypothesize that a major contributing factor to this increase is the better performance of their currencies against ours, making a quick jaunt for business or pleasure to the UK more possible than ever before.



Lisa's Blog: Responding to
your employee pay rise request

Blog PictureRegardless of who in the company is making the pay rise request, often the conversation can come out of the blue and you may feel taken aback. It’s important to remember though, that by making a pay rise request, your employee is actually showing an investment in the company, coming to your first and raising the difficult question before looking outside of the company family for other opportunities which may exist.

To give yourself the best chance of handling your employee’s pay rise request tactfully and diplomatically, here are three key tips that are helpful to remember if and when an employee requests a pay rise:

  • Have a clear process in place – having a system where employees fill in a self-evaluation form is not only getting them to think their raise request through and justify it, but this also creates time and space for you to think it through thoroughly and consult other people within the business if needed.
  • Take it seriously – your employee has probably worked up a lot of courage before asking for their raise, so ensure you take the request seriously and don’t play it down. Having a system in place like a self-evaluation form as previously mentioned, helps to create this meaningful tone as well. If the request has come out of the blue, you can then set a date and time for a more formal remuneration meeting.
  • Do your research – before going into any formal remuneration review ensure you have done your research, both in terms of the individual’s performance and the current average salary in which the market is paying. Make sure this takes into account not only the position of the employee, but also the industry that you are operating in.

Denying a pay increase can be demotivating for employees, so if it’s deserved and the business can support it, then it’s important to reward your well performing staff. If your company can’t support the pay increase, consider other alternatives that may be possible such as extra flexibility with working hours, additional allowances at work, or a generous voucher for a dinner out with a loved one to show them that they are a valued member of staff. Be honest with your employee as to why you can’t offer them an increase at that stage in the game. If it’s regarding their work performance, then ensure that they clearly understand the steps that are in their control to help them achieve a yes next time around. And if it’s because of the company’s performance, then be honest with your employee and set another date for a review so they know the discussion is still on the table; ultimately they are bound to respect the transparency that you are offering and this will help to ensure they remain committed to your business.



Lisa's Blog: Branding tips
lead your small business to success

Blog PictureBranding; it’s an essential ingredient to the success of any business. Customers look for companies with reliable, trustworthy, and likeable brands because at the end of the day, no one would choose to work with or engage with a brand that isn’t credible. But when we talk about branding, exactly what does that encompass?

Branding doesn’t just begin and end with your company’s logo, sure, this is part of it, but it’s also about a much bigger picture; about creating a unique name, image, feeling, and emotional connection with your customers when they think of your business.

So how can you create a strong brand for your business? The following are some branding tips that will help your company to truly connect with its audience and clientele base, leading them to only think of your business when they find themselves surveying the market place:

  • Clearly define who your audience is and understand them – recognise what motivates them and what they look for when they’re looking to engage with a business in your industry.
  • Speak a language that your audience comprehends – the language you use to communicate to your audience should always align with that group; a law firm would communicate differently to the audience of a day care centre. Make sure you’re relevant.
  • Make it personal – think of your company as a person with its own personality; for example, your company might be providing an online service to your clients, however, never forget that ultimately people buy services from people, so think of your company as a person that you would like to do business with.
  • Be consistent – companies and brands will evolve over time and that is expected, but it’s no good if your business’ logo is changing every month. Furthermore, make sure you’re being consistent with delivering on any promises you make to your customers, ensure you pay your suppliers when you say you’re going to; providing a high quality and consistent customer service should always be a priority.
  • Make sure your company has a clearly defined mission and vision statement along with strong, simple and easily digestible values. Trustworthy and credible brands stay true to these at all times and throughout their day-to-day business will continually reflect on these; from the way your staff interacts with your customers, to the way the company interacts and supports its staff – a well branded company remains true to their belief systems both internally and externally.



Lisa's Blog: Managing small business
cash flow through uncertain times

Blog PictureAre you staring down the barrel of bank overdrafts, seeing a slowdown in profit growth, or continually finding yourself with the unpleasant task of chasing late payments? As Brexit negotiations are in full swing, now is a pivotal time to ensure that your small business is successfully managing its cash flow; and, as Philip King, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Credit Management (CICM) has said, “fixing the roof while the sun is still shining will help to head off potential issues in the future”.

Periods of uncertainty and dips in confidence when it comes to the business world aren’t often a key ingredient when it comes to the recipe for business success, regardless of whether that business is small, medium, or large. So let’s look then at some tips you can employ that will help you to stay abreast of cash flow issues, forecasting, and credit management and that will put you in good stead in this currently uncertain Brexit time:

  • Make sure you know what’s going on with your customers and clients. What does their environment and business landscape look like? Is there potential that they could move their headquarters off UK shores? Are they likely to cut back on the services or goods supplied to/from you?
  • Reconcile your payment terms to those of your suppliers. Is there a gap or an overlap between when you’re expecting payments to come through versus your suppliers’ or customers’ payment terms? If the two terms do evoke a payment break make sure you’ve got a contingency plan to fill this gap just in case you need it.
  • Ensure you have a robust process for dealing with outstanding invoices and late payments. Never be shy about claiming the late payment interest you’re entitled too – as long as it clearly states so on the invoices you are issuing.
  • Exchange rates are bound to move so ensure you have reviewed your budgets and forecasts so you that know how these ups and downs will affect your cash flow.

For more information or guidance on helping your business to get on top of your cashflow or credit management, contact one of the expert team at Chamberlain McBain today.



Lisa's Blog: Late payments
Crippling end to many businesses

Blog PictureLate payments when you’re a small business can be crippling. From paying staff, to paying suppliers, rent, taxes, and all the other outgoings; small businesses rely more than ever on the money coming in so the money is there to go out.

The Federation of Small Business reports that approximately a third of payments to small businesses across the UK are late, and with this, it results in around 50,000 business deaths per year. With an average payment of £6,142 being owed to businesses in each late payment debt, this is totalling a whopping £2 billion pounds a year across the nation.

The problems that flow downstream for small businesses who struggle with late payments being owed to them involve cash flow difficulties, bank overdrafts, and a slowdown in profit growth; late payments are crippling. In fact, reports show that of the above problems, 37% of small businesses have had to deal with cash flow problems, 30% have had no other option but seek out an overdraft, and 20% have seen a slowdown in their profit growth – all a result of having to deal with late payments.

If late payments are a problem for your business, then speak with Chamberlain McBain. Chamberlain McBain are a cost effective option when you need to speak with a team of professionals. Unlike most other services, they charge only for the work carried out, in the most part limiting costs to those recoverable from the debtor or offering a fixed cost. There are no nasty percentages of the debt taken nor do they charge inflated hourly rates, instead they provide a cost effective team of professionals who can work with you to start the formal debt recovery process and help your business out of the dark and into the light of day.

Stay tuned for next articles article where we look at some tips you can employ in your small business that will help you to manage your cash before it gets too late.



Lisa's Blog on Holiday: Country Cost Comparisons
From Czech Republic to Austria

Blog PictureHailing from Australia, and then living for the last 8 years in New Zealand, what I find the most fascinating about travelling throughout the European continent is just how easy it is to cross borders from one country to another and quite often, you don’t even know it’s happened. This simply isn’t something that you encounter when you live on an island country, as traveling into another country isn’t just something you can “accidently” do. In Europe though, if you haven’t seen the “Welcome to Austria” sign (if there even is one?), maybe the first thing you’ll notice is a change in the road signs, the language used in advertisements, or the licensing of the car registration plates.

I can remember one occasion recently when we were driving from the Netherlands to Belgium, the one thing we noticed that made us realise we had in fact just crossed the border was the change in the wind turbine design; the Dutch wind turbines standing almost twice as high as their smaller, orange striped Belgium counterparts. But what becomes strikingly obvious once you step out of the car or the bus or the train is the difference in costs. Obviously countries’ economies differ, but it just always intrigues me as to how we cross these invisible lines, and so quickly the price of a pint of domestic beer can change from 1.15€ to 3.50€ - a 204% increase.

For my latest boarder cross from the southern Czech Republic town of Český Krumlov into Linz, a city in upper Austria, this was much more obvious. A 2 hour train ride in the Czech Republic equated to about 4€; a 2 hour train ride from Linz to Munich, Germany – 60€.

But at the very basic level of service or goods delivery, what is the different? My favourite example of this over the past 2 weeks travelling was my Czech Republic experience aboard a Regio bus - first-class service that goes beyond any experience I’ve ever had on another country’s bus transport system; in fact, it was something more akin to travelling with an airline, and not a low cost, no-frills airline at that. Individual screens in the back of each seat that played movies, games, or music, an attendant that strolled up and down the aisle handing out headphones, newspapers, and magazines, as well offerings of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate. And all this for 6€? I can tell you it would’ve easily cost 5 times this if I was travelling on that same bus in Austria, without a doubt.



Lisa's Blog: Small Business Relief Fund
Where is the promised relief?

Blog PictureAfter over half a million companies started paying higher business rates in April this year, and in turn, Chancellor Philip Hammond promised a £300 million relief fund to help those small businesses which had been hardest hit. The hike resulted in some businesses facing increases of up to 50% on their interest rates, which is a hard pill for any business, let alone those in the SME sector, to swallow. And yet, although businesses started paying these higher rates in April the current lay of the land still sees the majority of them holding their breath as to when that relief is going to come.

Perhaps one could think that there have been delays because of the general election. But then again, it was only back in April that Communities secretary Sajid Javid said that there would be no delay to the relief provided to small business because of the general election and that “it’s going ahead, exactly as planned. Councils are free to start using the scheme and helping local businesses.”

However, this is not the case, and the majority of those businesses which have been affected have not seen any of this relief come their way. Mike Cherry, National Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), has commented that “55% of small businesses told us they were planning to reduce, postpone or cancel investment in their business. Additionally, 19% of those businesses affected by increased rates said they may ultimately consider closing down or selling their business as a result of the hikes in their bills.”

In response to these delays, and to try and act as a much needed catalyst, the FSB recently sent a letter to Javid asking for the department to urge local councils immediately to implement their local relief schemes. But exactly when may these reliefs come? The FSB and Cherry have further predicted that, “looking at the current timetable, businesses won’t get any relief for another month or two at the earliest.”



Lisa's Blog: Cyber Security
Protecting your Small Business

Blog PictureCyber security is a hot topic, especially after the recent “brute force” Westminster cyber-attack which compromised around 90 email accounts through MP’s weak passwords. A “brute force” attack is where a trial and error method, often facilitated by automated software, is used in order to determine security information such as a PIN number, or in this case, user passwords for their email accounts.

The hackers of this attack repeatedly probed passwords of MPs which were deemed “weak”, forcing parliamentary officials and administrative staff to lock politicians out of their email accounts while they tried to minimise the potential consequences.

Situations like this raise the important question as to what security measures your business has in place to ensure IT systems and information is kept as secure as possible. It’s not just company financial data which hackers could gain access to; depending on your business, it could be anything from your customer and client’s sensitive information to complete payment information. It doesn’t matter about the size or shape of your business or your industry – there are risks for every business.

So what can you do to protect your business against a cyber-attack?

  • Protect yourself against email spam, phishing emails and ransomware – these are often the methods in which malicious software can get into your IT system. Ensure you have a trusted, reliable anti-virus and protection program installed and keep it updated.
  • Ensure you have backups of data on an external hard drive, server, or cloud-based services.
  • Ensure all your staff are aware of what they can do to protect themselves and their data, including making sure their passwords are changed regularly and make use of a variety of special characters, numbers and capital letters to increase their strength.

A further step of action you can take is to ensure your business is as protected as possible by completing the government backed Cyber Essentials certification - a scheme that, once implemented correctly, can stop the majority of cyber-attacks. For further information on this click: here.



Lisa's Blog:
Forecasting For New Businesses
Looking Ahead to Business’ Future

Blog PictureForecasting is crucial to any business – small or large. Helping you to manage your company’s finances, they are quite simply a future prediction of your business’ financial performance. Obviously, when you’re first starting out, this is a difficult thing to project; how do you know what could potentially be on the cash flow horizon when you have no real historical data or past accounts to be informed from?

Regardless of this, it is important to ensure that you are creating good routines and habits for your business that will carry you into the future. If you get into the good habit of closely monitoring and reviewing your finances on a regular basis now, then you’ll be able to better predict and foresee any potential problems that could be down the line and implement strategies to protect your business from potential downfall in the future.

So what should you be considering when it comes to your small business forecasting?

  • Start-up costs – these include any legal or accounting fees, insurance, the cost of fitting out your office/business for trade, marketing, funding to tie your business over in the beginning stages before you’re able to invoice etc.
  • Sales – this can be difficult at the start of any business. Consider basing this on industry benchmarks and market research.
  • Expenses – such as operational costs, including rent, wages, advertising etc.
  • Cost of goods – this includes the cost of any physical products you sell and the amount attributed to their production or their stock. It’s important to keep in mind that if you’re forecasting an increase in sales and you’re selling a product, then obviously the cost of goods will also increase as they are both connected to one another.
  • Cash flow – this provides an overview as to all the money coming in and out of your business and will help you estimate and forecast when you may have extra cash available or when it may be lacking.

Forecasting for your small business as accurately as possible is worth getting right from the beginning as it provides you with the overview of your company that will give it the best chance of survival in the long run.

According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy there were 5.5 million private sector businesses at the start of 2016 - a 2m increase on 2000. Small businesses account for 99.3% of all private sector businesses. SMSs employ some 15.7m people, around 60% of those in the private sector and the combined turnover of SMEs equates to £1.8 trillion - 47% of all private sector turnover.



Lisa's Blog: Insolvency
Knowing when to call it

Blog PictureNo one starts a business thinking that there will come a time in the future when they will cease to trade. Being able to objectively look at the situation your business is in and recognising the warning signs is paramount; coming to terms with the fact that you need to set the wheels in motion and seek our professional guidance is the first step to swallowing the tough pill of potential insolvency.

As the Director or CEO of a company, there are two questions which you should look to have answered in order to ascertain whether or not the company should be moved into a phase of administration:

  • Do the company assets exceed liabilities?
  • Can the company pay monies owed to debtors when the time comes?

If the answer is no, then it’s looking likely that the company is cash flow insolvent and as a Director, it is your responsibility to recognize this otherwise you could face potential harsh legal penalties and repercussions..

It could be normal for the company accounts to have its cash flow ups and downs. Given the nature of the business and natural business cycles, it could be in the best interests of the company to battle through the rough patch, or patches. However, when these patches are no longer the exceptions but instead the norm, then that light at the end of the tunnel may be no longer be feasible to work towards.

Once the company is entered into the administration or liquidation process, it is the job of the insolvency practitioner to consider the conduct of those in positions of accountability to determine whether or not they have acted in a responsible manner or not. Therefore, as a Director, it is important to be able to demonstrate and prove from the beginning that you were taking all matters in due consideration and professional advice was sought at this stage.

There are different procedures for companies’ dependant on whether you’re operating in England and Wales or Scotland and Northern Ireland so it’s important to keep this in mind and ensure you’re seeking out the correct information and advice dependant on your location.

For more information regarding insolvency and administration, talk to the experts at Chamberlain McBain



Lisa's Blog: Changes to Small Business Policies
given Hung Parliament

Blog PictureUncertainty reigns supreme as the 2017 General Election has resulted in a hung parliament – with the Tories dropping a staggering 12 seats, they have been unable to secure the majority that they were hoping for in advance of the soon approaching Brexit negotiations on 19 June. Doubts within a political landscape never create the best environment to see small businesses flourish. With business owners and the likes unsure what policies will be rolled out or ruled out, the path for the foreseeable future is currently a hazy one. In times like these, growth plans can be put on hold and business investments and advances can be halted all the while business owners sit tight to wait for the government to sort themselves out. Of course each political party had their hard and fast pledges and promises relating to their differing policies and, with a majority party ruling, this would’ve been clear cut. But what does the 2017 General Election hung parliament result mean for small businesses and what was in the Conservative party pipeline that could now be moved to the side line?

  • Full business rates review – After the April 2017 business rates review resulted in big tax increases for business owners, the government promised a re-evaluation of the rate review system and nationwide review.
  • Digitalisation of Tax – Set to be introduced for all small UK businesses from 1 April 2018, this would see the frequency of small business owners filing company taxes go up to four times a year.
  • Export voucher scheme and tax credits – Initiated by the Small Business Taskforce, which was created in 2016 by the government to be the voice of UK small businesses in the international market, export vouchers were coined to offer small subsidies for advisory services for overseas trading for those first-time exporters.

With all of these movements and policies being designed in a time of a more stable political environment, now it would seem as though the priority needs to be given to forming a workable government, which in turn is likely to see these pushed onto the back burner for the foreseeable future.



Lisa's Blog: SME Election 2017 Promises
Skills, Infrastructure and Investment

Blog PictureElection week is here, and while in previous posts we’ve taken a closer look at the proposed changes in employment laws and taxation policies, this week we take a snapshot on the SME election promises when it comes to skills, infrastructure, and investment.

Employment laws are a big ticket item and so are the proposed policies regarding the nation’s skills. On the Labour side of the fence, they are looking to:

  • Create a National education Service for England
  • Protect the funding available to SMEs that hire apprentices
  • By 2022, double the number of apprenticeships which have been completed to NVQ level 3

The Liberal Democrats are pledging to:

  • Double the number of businesses
  • Deliver more high-level vocational skills by developing more national colleges
  • Encourage all schools to participate more with businesses while also increase the advice which is given in schools in regards to self-employment and entrepreneurship career paths

The Tories are interested in:

  • Launching the new T-Levels, a vocational qualification which covers 15 different subjects including engineering, health and sciences, design, digital and construction
  • Delivering over 3 million new apprenticeships by 2020
  • Establishing new institutes of technology in every major city in England

Rail and road investments are something that all 3 major parties agree upon, as well as them all being behind the HS2 and Crossrail 2 rail projects. Furthermore, they also agree that more housing should be built along with more access for homes when it comes to high-speed broadband internet.

Labour are further promising to:

  • Over the next 10 years, invest £250bn through the creation of a National Transformation Fund
  • Move previously privatized rail companies back into the public sector, as well as utilities such as water, energy and the postal service
  • Increase the budget for research and development by 3% by 2030

On the infrastructure and investment front, the Tories are promising:

  • To also create a new fund, the National Transformation Fund, which will invest £170bn into research and development, housing, infrastructure and skills
  • To increase the budget for research and development by 3% over the next 10 years



Lisa's Blog: Election 2017
Small Business Taxation Promises

Blog PictureLast week we dived into the different parties proposed employment law promises and this week we’re taking a closer look at the pledges being made ahead of the 2017 election in relation to taxation. There have been many cry outs recently requesting party leaders simplify the, what can be, tiresome and onerous VAT tax process. However, despite all the parties promising to sit tight on VAT rates and not increase them, there has so far been no mention of simplifying the complicated process, which would in turn make it easier for small business to complete their returns come tax time.

So what is specifically being promised then for the 2017 election by the different parties when it comes to taxation? Well Labour promises to:

  • Complete a full review of business rates
  • Increase income tax for those who earn over £80,000 per year
  • Increase large business corporation tax
  • Introduce a lower small profit rate of corporation tax for SME’s
  • Axe quarterly reporting for all businesses with an annual turnover of under £85,000
  • Hold National Insurance and VAT still; there will be no increase to either of these

A cut in business rates are first on the agenda for the Liberal Democrats, with this being a major priority for the party. Furthermore, they are pledging to:

  • Complete a full review of business rates (in combination with the aforementioned business rate cuts)
  • Increase income tax by 0.1%
  • Reverse the Conservative’s cuts to corporation tax and capital gains
  • Roll out a new Entrepreneurs scheme that helps those people starting a new business by providing £100 per week for 6 months to support their living costs while they get up and running

The Conservatives are standing strong with their pledge to not increase National Insurance, a promise that was a complete backflip on their originally planned budget. The Tories have then further promised:

  • To increase personal allowance for income tax to £12,500 per year as well as raising the higher rate threshold to £50,000
  • Hold strong and not increase VAT
  • Cut corporation tax to 17% by 2020



Lisa's Blog: SME Election Promises
What’s on the Table?

Blog PictureEmployment laws, taxation, investments, skills, infrastructure… the list goes on as to the different political parties promises regarding small business’s and their election promise. SME votes hold a lot of power when it’s comes to Britain’s elections and employment laws are a big ticket item, so let’s have a look at the major parties and the Small Business election promises that are being made ahead of the 2017 election.

Labour promises to:

  • Increase the living wage to £10 per hour by 2022
  • Ban zero-hour contracts
  • Put a stop to unpaid internship
  • Increase the minimum wage for those aged 18 years and over
  • Increase the power of trade unions
  • Improve employee rights (including those with “temporary” employment) so everyone has full rights from their first day on the job
  • Increase paid paternity leave
  • Strengthen the rights for women at work as well as those who have children at home
  • Change the law surrounding the “gig economy” – a term coined to define the prevalence in the employment market of short-term contracts or freelance work (as opposed to permanent employment). Labour proposes a change to this so that a worker is assumed an employee of the company unless specifically stated and proved otherwise by their employer
  • The creation of four new public holidays

The Conservatives are awaiting the publication of the “Taylor Report”, which, compiled by former Adviser to Tony Blair Matthew Taylor, will look further into the “gig economy” and self-employment. Once this is out, there is an expectation that they will have further policies surrounding this. Furthermore they also promise to:

  • Increase the costs for small businesses that employ non-EU workers by doubling the immigration Skills Charge to £2,000 per year
  • Provide a national insurance holiday for businesses who agree to take on workers with disabilities, mental health issues or are an ex-offender

Liberal Democrats share some similarities with the proposals from the Labour party as they promise to:

  • Shake up the new employee rights – like Labour they want workers to have full rights from day one
  • Put an end to zero-hour contracts
  • Create a formal right for employees to request a fixed contract
  • Uphold the current rights under the EU law such as maternity leave and the expansion of paternity leave



Lisa's Blog: Helpful Tips
Chasing Down your Small Business Debt

Blog PictureWith the inevitable launch of the new pre-action protocol on 1 October this year, which aims to encourage the communication between businesses and individuals when it comes to outstanding debt claims, now is the perfect time to review the practices that your business follows that helps you succeed when chasing down your outstanding small business debts. According to research conducted by Direct Line for the 2015/16 financial year, small businesses in Britain wrote off £5.8bn of bad debts, with 10% of those companies that had written off some debt indicating that they had in fact stopped chasing amounts owing £100,000 or more. A further third declared in another study, that they were hesitant to pursue slow-paying customers as they were empathetic to their situation and didn’t want to upset them further or make them feel embarrassed. However, the world of small business is tough, and late payments and unpaid monies can be the curse, and downfall, to your small business. Consider the following tips for when chasing down your outstanding small business debts:

  • From the very beginning, ensure your customers know and understand your credit terms
  • Ensure all invoice details are correct, this avoids any confusion and ensures that the invoice is in fact payable
  • Issue invoices and statements of accounts regularly – so there is no doubt or misconception as to where the customer’s account lies
  • Invoice early and start chasing payment as soon as it is missed. Acting quickly here is essential and a personal phone call is often the most effective way of understanding the situation and what the hold up with the payment might be. This is also an effective way of resolving the matter before things snowball. Listen and try to understand the context of everything. Discuss a payment plan or strategy that is going to work for both parties
  • Keep the lines of communication open, and be persistent

If you feel as though you have exhausted all the options, however your business is still not seeing any results, then perhaps it is time to start the more formal debt recovery process. This is when you should speak to Chamberlain McBain.



Lisa's Blog: Changes on the Horizon
New Pre-Action Protocol for Debt Claims

Blog PictureThe times are a changing - on 1 October to be exact, and this time with the adoption of the new pre-action protocol for debt claims, that aims to encourage communication between the two parties in a hope that the issue will be resolved before getting into the courtroom. The concept of this new protocol goes as far back as 2010, when Lord Justice Jackson endorsed the idea of the establishment of a pre-action protocol (PAP) for debt claims. Seven years and a number of draft proposals later, this new PAP is applicable to any business (including sole traders) who are chasing outstanding debt payments from individuals (not including business-to-business debt, except where the debtor is an individual like a sole trader and although not specified, an unincorporated partnership) and defines the issue management the Court expects before a Claim Form is issued. One of the key changes is reflected in the “Letter of Claim” form, which has been bulked up and now calls for more attention to the details surrounding the specifics of the debt. This includes things such as detailing, if an oral agreement, the where, the when and the what words were spoken by both parties in order to create the agreement. Or, if a written agreement, specifics such as the date, the parties involved and an ability for the written agreement to be able to be provided by the creditor. Furthermore, a statement of accounts attributed to the debt needs to be enclosed, ideally up-to-date, but if this is not possible, then the most recent statement which is possible including the amount of interest incurred. The debtor has a 30 day window to reply; failing this, the creditor then has the ability to instigate the court proceedings. The impact to creditors could be significant as some debtors may well use the 30 days as a way of extending credit terms and by delaying payment may impact on cash flow. Delaying the issuing of the demand letter will surely become a thing of the past as Credit Controls will have to keep a tight reign on defaulting debtors. Likewise, failing to obtemper the new rules could see court action being dismissed which will prove costly to creditors. Once rolled out in October, these changes will apply to both England and Wales, with thoughts that Scotland will surely not be too far behind. But will the new PAP indeed do what it’s setting out to do and reduce the number of claims coming before the court? Perhaps, however, given that there are plans to launch a new Online Court in 2020 which any claims under £25,000 (ultimately the vast majority) are not required to have gone through a PAP, then it may in fact have a short expiration date indeed. For more information or to view the new protocol in full, visit here



Lisa's Blog: No relief in sight
Small businesses dealt with another blow

Blog PictureAfter thousands of small businesses were hit by recent government changes to business rates it looks as though they will be dealing with another setback – this time with the delayed arrival of the £300 million relief fund which was promised as a counterbalance to the financial tough times that some are now finding themselves in. Coming into effect 1 April 2017, the controversial business rates revaluation saw small business property rates increased reflective of their new property values recognised in the latest valuations. At the time the hike was disclosed, Mike Cherry, the National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said that the increase in business rates would “leave many UK entrepreneurs considering the future. Despite welcome interventions from the Government at the Budget, small firms in pockets throughout the country are still vulnerable to staggering increases”. The Government was subsequently put under pressure to provide support to reduce this potential economic impact despite their claims that three quarters of businesses would not be affected at all with rates either staying the same or falling. However, since the new rates went public, these heavy increases have threatened some small businesses dramatically with research from CVS (a UK business rent and rates reduction specialist) showing that the average rateable value of shops in England and Wales has increased by 8.5%. But this is just the tip of the iceberg, with businesses in other areas increasing by more than 100%, a rise simply indigestible for a lot of small to medium enterprises. The Government recognised in the recent Budget that this new rates system was unfairly hitting some, with a number facing astronomical increases and so pledged to deliver the £300 million relief fund in order to mitigate some of the negative impact that small business were feeling. However, its release is being caught up in bureaucracy and red tape, and despite the Department for Communities and Local Government having completed their implementation consultation, businesses are now waiting for the Government to publish their response which could take several months given the quick-fire election which is now absorbing much of the government and political agenda attention in the UK.



Lisa's Blog: The Ongoing Competition of Business
Toshiba’s Fall From Grace

It’s hard for any business, regardless of the product, to compete with companies that come in and undercut current players with lower-priced alternatives. The price point that these aggressively marketed products and services can often come in at makes consumers and their competitors do a double take, as everyone wonders “how can they do it so cheap?”. And that’s precisely what is believed to be a main contributing factor in what has caused Toshiba, the 142 year old Japanese tech powerhouse, to be teetering on the edge of a fall from grace. Toshiba’s recently released financial report has cried out that there is “substantial doubt” about the company’s ability to continue manufacturing the electronics such as TVs, phones and computers that it has been in the business of doing so for so long. Over the first nine months of the fiscal year, Toshiba has reportedly lost US$4.8 billion ( £3.8 billion) and warns that the loss could easily hit the US$9.2 billion mark ( £ 7.4 billion) by the end of the year. Once a major player in the production of home electronics, over the years it has stopped producing the televisions and desktop computers that it was known for, now simply focusing its efforts on laptops, hard drives, telecommunication systems and other accessories. Unfortunately for Toshiba however, it has failed to produce over the last decade any one major market-enticing product that has seen it convincingly compete with other highly-competitive electronic producing companies. But it’s not only the cheaper competitor products and Toshiba’s inability to produce a flagship, best-seller that’s led them down this dire financial-situation garden path. Their US nuclear unit, Westinghouse Electric, recently filed for bankruptcy after the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima. Although it seems that this was maybe too little too late as major dents have already been left in the wallet of the company, with billions of US dollars in overruns costing them dearly. Still, their attention now turns to efforts of selling a majority stake in the business in order to keep it afloat. After numerous delays before the actual release of their financial report, the report was finally released without the final tick of approval from Toshiba auditors and, without their acceptance, it could see Toshiba being dropped from the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Troubled times ahead for a company that was once a major player in the technology market.



Lisa's Blog: Transparency - Britain's new pay gap law

Large firms will soon have to publish figures in order to make public the pay gaps that exist between male and females who are performing equal jobs. The new law will see large British companies (those with more than 250 employees) be required by law to publish four figures each year; the gender pay gap, gender bonus gap, how men and women rank in terms of pay within the organisation, and the proportion of men and women receiving bonuses.April 2018 is the deadline for companies to present these figures which aim to close the wage gap that exists between the two genders. These figures will be required to be made available on both the company’s own web site as well as a government site, with information not needing to be necessarily certified, as it can be provided by each company independently. A report from 2016 found that women earned, on average, 18% less than men. Minister for Women and Equalities, Justine Greening, said, "helping women to reach their full potential isn't only the right thing to do, it makes good economic sense and is good for British business.” Consulting firm McKinsey Global Institute has estimated that reducing the gender wage gap could result in an additional £150 billion being fed into the country’s annual gross domestic product by 2025. This announcement comes after Iceland’s push in March to make employers prove that equal pay for both men and women is offered across the board regardless of ethnicity, sexuality or nationality. This was stipulated for employers with more than 25 employees, which calls for companies to become certified in order to prove that there is no difference in pay amongst differing genders that are doing the same work.



Payment Practice Report from April 2017

On the 6th April 2017 sees the introduction of The Reporting on Payment Practices and Performance Regulations 2017, where by large companies and organisations (public or private, listed or not) must report every six months in terms of the payment practices (among other things). The must disclose the percentage of payments that were made under 30 days, between 30 and 60 days or over 60 days and the reporting must be filed on a government website within 30 days of the end of the six month period. However, despite the introduction of the new regulations in April 2017, organisations need only start reporting once the start of their financial year is after 6th April 2017. So if an organisation's financial year starts on 1st April, they will not have to make their first report until 30th October 2018. Further, the reporting only affects organisations that meet any two of the following three criteria that determines a large company (reviewed periodically): Turnover for the given period exceeds £36m, Staff numbers are greater than 250 and the balance sheet total exceeds £18m



Lisa's Blog: The Real Cost of Small Business Debt

Personal income. Time. credibility. The cost of debt for your small business can be big. Values as high as £11.6 billion a year have been estimated for the costs attributed to small businesses in England and Wales by survey findings from the Federation of Small Businesses. In a five year period, chasing unpaid debts is an action that 70% of small businesses have had experience with. And when it comes down to it, the personnel resources, time and the costs of chasing down monies owed can be a taxing activity. Small business operators, General Managers, Managing Directors and the like, may believe their time is well spent on making calls regarding outstanding payments. But general internal credit control, continually reminding customers about payments needing to be made and chasing invoices early isn’t always going to lead to healthy, ongoing cash flows. So at what point should a business, no matter how big or small, look to take a different approach to the matter and try something new? Weighing up the time you/your business is losing chasing distant customers is definitely a good place to start. How much time could be spent on developing relationships with customers that will “come through with the goods” as opposed to wasting time on those that should be left by the wayside so you can focus your endeavours on what lies ahead? There is no doubt about the cost of debt - especially when it comes to the timesheets and the payroll for a small business. The question is, how much is too much for the enterprise to absorb and when is it in your best interests to remove some of those pressures and free up your time? If you're wondering if you’ve reached that point, then get in contact with Chamberlain McBain - we know that each and every client is different and will consult with you to find a solution that works.



Chamberlain McBain supports
Taking Control Report

Calls have been made for the next bailiff reform after a recently released report authored by seven major UK debt charities describes how current laws are not adequately protecting those who are in vulnerable situations. This comes on the 3 year anniversary of the last reform which, in 2014, saw the government impose tough new restrictions on bailiffs that the then Justice Minister Helen Grant commented would ‘help to clean up the industry and ensure bailiffs play by the rules.” The 2014 changes focused on putting a stop to the aggressive nature of some bailiff collection techniques such as performing house visits after 9pm, taking household chattels such as white goods or entering homes when only children are present and rejecting sensible repayment arrangements. This new report instigated by debt charities such as Advice UK, Money Advice Trust, and Z2K, looks at evidence which has been gathered from their clients post the 2014 reform and provides multiple arguments and case studies as to why there is still work that needs to be done in the bailiff industry to make things “fairer”. The report writes that “people contacting debt advice charities still report widespread problems with bailiffs – now officially known as enforcement agents – and our evidence suggests that in the absence of an independent bailiff regulator, or a clear and accessible complaints mechanism, the new regulations are being contravened by many bailiffs in practice.” Chamberlain McBain supports the general recommendations of the report and specifically, attending the premises of the vulnerable or where children are present. Chamberlain McBain has always encouraged it’s clients to look seriously at any sensible repayment proposal and to use enforcement officers only as a last resort. Chamberlain McBain will refuse to use any enforcement agent where it is shown they have entered premises illegally, where only children are present or have dealt with vulnerable people is a less than appropriate way. The full report can be viewed here.



Lisa's Blog: The Cost of Divorce - The Looming Brexit Bill

March 29 2017 is the date set for the UK’s formal declaration of the intention to leave the European Union, with the wheels being set in motion as British Prime Minister Theresa May triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. It’s expected that the bill, which is being dubbed by many as “UK’s divorce bill”, will set the country back around £52 billion - a number Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, says is “not a punishment”, but simply the cost attributed to settling Britain's outstanding liabilities. He goes on to say that the bill simply reflects “former commitments [made] by the British government and by the British parliament. There will be no sanctions, no punishment, nothing of that kind”. These commitments are centred around project costs that the UK had previously agreed to help fund, unpaid spending commitments, as well as EU official pensions, property and repayable loans. EU negotiations, Juncker confirms, will be done is a friendly and fair way, and he goes on to say “we are not in a hostile mood when it comes to Brexit because I do think, and I do want, and I do wish to have with Britain in the next decades a friendly relationship”. Reports claim however, that Britain will attempt to recoup some of these imposing costs by claiming a significant share of the £127.5bn worth of European Union financial assets, despite May having received advice from Government lawyers dictating how Britain could legally leave without paying. A draft copy of the EU’s negotiating strategy which has been recently leaked by the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, quotes an official as saying that if Britain did refuse to pay, that the EU would take the matter to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Once Article 50 has been triggered on March 29, the next key date is April 29, which sees all 27 EU leaders gather to discuss further Brexit plans.



Lisa's Blog: The Economic Impacts of an Independent Scotland

With Ms Sturgeon’s calls for Scots to cast another vote on the question of yes or no to becoming an independent Scotland, claims are flying left, right and centre over the facts that Nicola Sturgeon may be guiding Scotland "over a cliff like lemmings to economic ruin" - a brazen vocal point made recently by Richard Drax, Member for South Dorset. The comment is representative of the arguments for and against Indyref2 that are running thick and fast. At the centre of the debate is the effects that the vote for independence from Britain is bound to have on the export and trade industry, stinging it hard. The value of the UK market to Scotland when compared to that of the EU can’t be denied; recent statistics published by the Scottish Government showed a drastic difference in the 2015 value of sales to Britain, worth almost £50 billion, compared to the EU, sitting at a much less lucrative £12.3 billion. Keith Brown, Scotland's Economy Minister, commented “that since the vote to leave the European Union, [Scotland] must continue to be seen to be a country that is outward facing and open for business. The EU market is eight times the size of the UK market, which highlights the importance of remaining in the single market. I want to be clear that Scotland should not face a choice between exporting to the EU or UK. We can do both.” Additional anti-independence campaigning is centred around the heart of the Scottish economy – the oil industry, which has the North Sea contributing £10 billion to the Scottish economy. The key to this point is the fact that, as oil reserves putter out, high costs and hefty bills loom on the horizon associated with the decommissioning of equipment no longer needed for operations. These bills, spread across oil companies and taxpayers, will be a whole lot harder to swallow when the population of paying taxpayers helping to foot this bill is drastically reduced from the whole of the UK to just the Scottish taxpayers. Furthermore, with some major financial institutions already signalling that they would likely move headquarters and jobs out of the UK and into mainland Europe as Brexit changes are rolled out, they’re also thought unlikely to remain in Scotland even if the country is to leave the UK and rejoin the EU. However, in a recent speech Sturgeon argued that Scotland would become a magnet and hot spot for talent and investment across the UK if it stayed in the EU single market. Then there is the currency debate. In the 2014 referendum the “yes” campaign promised that both the pound would be retained as the Scottish currency and the country would still be part of the EU, however, now the question must be asked and answered as to how quickly an independent Scotland would be able to re-enter the EU. It is not 100% that Scotland would keep the pound if it claimed independence from the UK and, as it has to reapply for EU membership it’s not guaranteed to be able to take the euro that easily either. Could the need for a new currency be looming on the horizon? Some experts have rejected all these economic cases opposing the Scottish independence, arguing that the information pertaining to areas against the vote has either been broadly estimated or are based on insufficient evidence. London Professor and Tax Expert Richard Murphy points out that there is bound to be a change in the economic environment of the country as the “government of an independent Scotland will have a very different structure to that imposed now”, so therefore how could the final outcome be forecast as the economic environment of a new Scotland would ultimately be moulded and governed differently. With a whole lot of things not for sure, one thing definitely is and that is to watch this economic space of Scotland as irrespective of the Indyref2 vote, things are changing.



Lisa's Blog: Indyref2 - Take 2 for the independence of Scotland?

Theresa May says “now is not the time”, but Nicola Sturgeon is all for it. Announcing plans to seek another Scottish independence referendum in either 2018 or 2019 is something which Sturgeon has made clear was on the cards since the results were known from the 2016 Brexit vote. Which isn’t unexpected really, with 62% of Scottish voters expressing they wanted to stay in the EU and only 38% voted to leave. It’s no wonder then that Sturgeon is calling for the referendum, saying she is representing the majority of Scottish people. The previous Scottish independence referendum was held in 2014, and it saw Scotland vote against the independent move away from Britain; 55% to 45%. However May is calling for Sturgeon to hold fire until the end of the current Brexit negotiations before asking Scotland to make a decision on the independence movement, so they have all the information at hand on how Brexit is playing out. Furthermore, Sturgeon can’t just call for the vote and make it happen, as there is the need to get Westminster’s okay. With May claiming that there would be no chance of a vote before at least 2021, people must vote once Brexit has been and gone, waiting until long after the UK has left the EU. There are some big arguments circulating around for and against the vote, but economically speaking, what would Scotland's potential independence mean for the country? How would the country fare up out on it’s own and what impacts on the currency, trade, and services industries could be expected? Read more on this in tomorrow's blog “The Economic Impacts of an Independent Scotland”.



Lisa's Blog: Good debt bad debt - knowing the difference

Student loan. Car loan. Credit card overdraft. Buying your first home. There will undoubtedly be a time in most people’s lives where debt looms on the horizon. Not all debt is the same though, and some of these situations shouldn’t automatically come with the negative connotations attached to a word that so often makes us flinch. Good debt could be a low interest loan, or taking out a mortgage to buy a home; something which puts you in a better position long term than where you started in the beginning. A student loan for example, could provide you with the leg up needed in your industry, giving you the ability to secure a more lucrative job down the track because of your higher qualifications and skill level. Of course you can’t always know how things will turn out and to make a “good debt” decision isn’t a 100% guarantee to always stay that way. A loan to get your tech startup business off the ground may not actually help you get it off the ground at all, instead sending you down a different path altogether. Or maybe that house you were so sure was in an up and coming neighbourhood could see its value plummet dramatically when the housing market takes an unexpected dive. It doesn’t have to always be doom and gloom however when it comes to personal debt. The important factor to remember is that layering debt upon debt is not the answer and will never be a good way to approach the situation. Consider what is necessary and whether or not the step into debt will more than likely benefit you long term. Always have a contingency plan, as life can take unexpected turns at any point and you need to ensure you’ve always got a get out of jail free card handy in your back pocket.



Finals, Juniors School Mock Court Project

Chamberlain McBain are proud to be the principal sponsors of the School Mock Court Case Project. As part of that role, we organise the finals for the Juniors section on 27th February 2017 which will be held at Central Hall in Edinburgh. Presiding this year will be Judge Forrester, The Rt Hon Sir David Edward and The Rt Hon Lord Armstrong. Judge Forrester sits in the General Court of the European Union in Luxenburg and will be flying over on the morning of the Trials. The Rt Hon Lord Armstrong sits in the Court of Session. We are expecting an audience of some 700 and clients of Chamberlain McBain are warmly invited to attend - just speak to your usual contact for further information. UPDATE: Congratulations to Leith Primary School in Edinburgh who won the Mooting Cup following tough competition with five other teams



Festive Period - Holidays

We would like to wish all our clients a safe and merry Christmas and we look forward to working with you during the coming year. We will be closing our offices early on 23rd December and 30th December 2016. Our offices will be closed on 26th & 27th December 2016 as well as 2nd & 3rd January 2017, but we will be open in between Christmas and New Year.



Accountant in Bankruptcy (Scotland) consultations

The Accountant in Bankruptcy (AiB) has launched a consultation as part of its review of the Bankruptcy and Diligence etc. (Scotland) Act 2007 ("the 2007 Act"). This review will assess, wherever possible, the impact of the diligence measures introduced by the 2007 Act, including those provisions which are not yet in force. You review the consultation paper here. Responses need to be sent in by 30 November 2016



Simplified Procedure and Fees

The new Simplified Procedure takes effect in Scotland as from 28th November 2016, replacing the current small claim and summary cause actions. The new portal that would allow claimants to lodge claims online has been delayed until "early 2017". No actual date has been given as of yet. The new case management system instructed to the Scottish Courts recently have seen staff encountering problems that are resulting in delays. Although the next rise in warrant dues (court fees to issue proceedings) was not scheduled to take place until April 2017, the Scottish Government have increased some fees with effect 28th November. All debt actions under £5,000 will see the fee increase from £78 to £100. Recoverable costs for defended actions less than £5,000 are also set to increase and the increase could be substantial, especially for party litigants. For debt actions raised in the Sheriff Court where the principal sum is greater than £5,000, the fee increases from £96 to £120. Needless to say, the courts are seeing a rush of new actions being raised in order to avoid the increase.



Awards Ceremony - Signet Library

Chamberlain McBain continue its work with the School Mock Court Case Project SCIO. The Awards Ceremony for the Seniors section was held in the Signet Library on 3rd November, kindly sponsored by the WS Society, with our Mr Murphy being the Master of Ceremonies. The Eve Crowe Mooting Cup was presented by Lady Dorrian, the Lord Justice Clerk, to the overall winners, Kirkcaldy High School. Joint runners up were Dunbar Grammar and George Watsons College. We would like to thank the pupils from many of the schools who performed to the audience and our very own Miss Sarah Lamb who sang. It was announced during the evening that owing to the success of this project a Seniors project will open to the schools in the West of Scotland as soon as the next academic year.



Bill of Sale Reform

Bills of sale are a way in which individuals can use goods they already own as security for a loan. They are governed by two Victorian statutes, dating from 1878 and 1882. In September 2014, HM Treasury asked the Law Commission to review the Bills of Sale Acts. Our 2016 report recommends that the Bills of Sale Acts should be repealed and replaced with modern legislation that imposes fewer burdens on lenders and provides more protection for borrowers. A copy of the report can be found here.



Panda Visit & Business Chatter

Following on from the success of the meeting in May the East of Scotland Branch of the Chartered Institute Credit Management, together with Chamberlain McBain, are organising a visit to Edinburgh Zoo ... to see the Pandas and to hear from three experts in various fields of business. Come and hear from three speakers (Laura Irvine, BTO Solicitors LLP TOPIC: Data Protection - Joanna Cashmore, Bibby Factors Scotland TOPIC: Alternative Funding ... Factoring - Mike Butchart Qdos/Powered by Integra TOPIC: Insurance / Accountancy) Delegates are asked to arrive for 4.45pm for a 5pm sharp start. The event will conclude around at 7pm. A light bite and drink will be provided. This event has been oversubscribed - sorry no more registrations can be accepted.



School Mock Court Project

Chamberlain McBain remain the principal sponsors of this educational initiative. Now spanning four projects - Juniors - West of Scotland, Lothians and Tayside & Fife - Seniors Central Scotland, the project attracts some 2,000 students from some 45 schools. Both the Lothians and Seniors project get underway this month, with the West of Scotland starting in September and Tayside in October. Finals on 27th February 2017. For more details see here



Civil Court Review (England)

Lord Justice Briggs report is now available which looks at the review in terms of procedure in the civil courts. Details can be found at



Proposed Court Fee Increase - Scotland

The Scottish government has issued a consultation paper in which possible increases of 24 per cent are being discussed in an effort to recover the cost to the public of providing the services of the courts. The consultation sets out proposals for fees in the Court of Session, the High Court of the Justiciary, the Sheriff Appeal Court, the Sheriff Court, the Sheriff Personal Injury Court, and the Justice of the Peace Court. It has been said that court fees are a major source of income for the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service and it is now apparently necessary to increase fees in order to achieve full cost recovery. The consultation seeks views on two options each of which is aimed at providing full cost recovery. The first is a flat rise – increasing all fees by 24 per cent. The second is targeted increases – increasing fees for only some actions while leaving others untouched. Following the introduction of this consultation the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, Gordon Jackson QC, has sparked a note of concern about access to justice in light of proposed increases in civil court fees. Mr Jackson said: “The Faculty will consider the paper and respond in detail in due course. My immediate concern would be maintaining access to justice and I would be anxious to ensure that no change would adversely affect that. The Scottish government said the aim of increasing civil court fees was to raise around £5m-£6m per annum which "should ensure full cost recovery." In addition, a new simple procedure is to replace summary cause and small claims procedures and the consultation sets out the proposed fees for this new procedure.



Charging Order - England

Since the 6th of April 2016 all applications for charging orders or attachment orders must be made to the County Court Money Claims Centre. The Claimant must serve the interim Charging Order within 21 days of the date of the interim order. This is an important change to the previous procedure. Under the old rules claimants were required to serve the interim charging order within 21 days of the hearing. These rules presume the interim order will be made to claimants promptly, something which we will need to wait and see in practice. The idea is that most applications for a Charging Order (where the Defendant does not object) will remain at the County Court Money Claims Centre where the final order will be made without a hearing. If the Debtor does object to the matter it will be transferred to the Debtor’s home court.