Women on Top: Positive Effects on Business

Democrat candidate for the US presidency, Hillary Clinton, has said in the past that she wants to be known as the “Small Business President”. During her impressive performance on Monday’s extraordinary Presidential Debate, she made it clear that she was determined to make to small business a priority, should she be elected to office. Clinton vowed to make “starting a small business in the United States as easy as opening a lemonade stand”, which certainly spoke to a wide economic sector and a significant voting body.

Clinton has a personal affinity with the small business owner, afterall, her father was one. He owned as small printing business, and it provided for the family. “ When my dad ran his small printing business—he printed drapery fabrics in Chicago—it put food on the table; it gave us a good, solid, middle-class home and lifestyle. And I don’t think it’s old-fashioned to say that’s what I want for every family that wants to work for that here in our country today.”

If she takes over the reigns from Obama, Hillary Clinton’s strategy for promoting the growth and support of small business in the USA will be made up of several exciting features, many of which the UK government can relate to. (see http://www. great business.gov.uk/).

Her strategy includes, briefly: more accessible funding; streamlining the process of the licensing startups; revising taxes for small business; and incentivising healthcare benefits for small business employees; opening up new markets and promoting trade; providing recourse for small businesses that get “stiffed” – or aren’t paid by their dues (Trump is famous for not paying his contractors); by providing incubators and training and support for business owners; and making the government more user-friendly, making a 24-hour response time to small businesses with questions about federal regulations and access to capital programs, standard.

Back on this side of the ocean, Theresa May has been vocal in her support of small business since becoming the UK PM. She recognises that Britain’s 5.4 million small and medium sized businesses provide people with jobs, put food on families’ tables and underpin the strength of our economy and listening to, and working with smaller firms is the answer to building an economy.

Like Clinton, May is keen to promote the global expansion of UK small business elsewhere, and Brexit provides UK small business with a golden opportunity to do just this. “I also want those firms, across all the sectors of our economy, to be able to take advantage of the opportunities presented by Brexit, such as exporting to new destinations.”

The British Prime Minister has recently disbanded the business advisory group, which was set up by Cameron during the 2010 coalition, with a view to making the body more representative. The new members, Number 10 has said, will come from business big and small. This is another example of May showing her support of SMEs, and has been welcomed by small business leaders including the Federation of Small Businesses, saying that they hope for a larger voice now that the Brexit negotiations are taking place.

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Strong women at the top (l – r, above – below): Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon, UK PM Theresa May, Angela Merkel, PM of Germany and US Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. (Pic source: http://atlanticsentinel.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Nicola-Sturgeon-Theresa-May-Angela-Merkel-Hillary-Clinton.jpg)

According to a recent new study, a third of British women in business have felt that they had been positively affected by strong women leaders. Clinton, along with PM Theresa May, Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon and Germany’s adept Angela Merkel, amongst others, are having a marked effect on women worldwide – and on business in the UK. Crunch’s operations director, Justine Cobb, said “It’s fascinating to see that the female business community in the UK is feeling buoyed by the rise in female political leaders.”

This group of political heroines are leading by example and this is translating into economic growth in the UK. Backed up by the data collected, Crunch found that the number of women starting their own businesses had grown 42 per cent since 2010, and almost a third of all the new businesses are now founded by women. Obviously, a third is still someway to half, but at least the progress is in an upward direction.

In times of economic uncertainty, it is clear to see how valuable competent role models are, and how they can become catalysts for change in society. With inspired examples of what is possible in one’s sight, it is easier to set positive changes in our personal lives motion. The sooner that female leadership is normalised in society, the better for young girls around the world. Let’s hope that the “Small Business President” becomes just that. The small business community is watching the race for the Oval Office in hope – and with bated breath.

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British SMEs: Beating the Brexit Blues

SMEs were the focus of much attention from both sides of the Brexit campaigns, and there is no surprise why. These businesses are the bedrock – the wheels and cogs – that keep our economy going.

According to government figures, SMEs accounted for 99.3% of all private sector businesses at the start of 2015 and 99.9% were small or medium-sized businesses. SMEs employed 15.6 million – 60% – of all private sector employment in the UK, making their contribution to the economy enormous. Did you know that the combined annual turnover of SMEs was £1.8 trillion or 47% of all private sector turnover in the UK? Rather impressive stats.

As a previous SME owner myself, I must confess that I was absolutely gutted when the Brexit referendum results were revealed, and wondered how many of my fellow SME business owners would be affected by the predictions of a full-on recession.

But what is heartening news is that there have recently been some surprisingly upbeat post-Brexit surveys and barometer results published – it seems that SME owners are rallying against the forecast economic doom and gloom:

According to the September 2016 Owner Managed Business (OMB) Barometer from Bank of Cyprus UK, over half (51%) of business owners and small businesses expect revenues to increase in the next 12 months, with a mere 15% disagreeing.

Commenting on the research findings, Nick Fahy, Chief Executive of Bank of Cyprus UK said that despite the general post-Brexit blues, the UK’s business owners and small businesses remain optimistic about their prospects. There was an immediate reaction to the Brexit news, but that the nation’s vital bedrock of businesses – the shopkeepers, family-owned businesses, the small and medium business owners and the independent traders have remained stable. It was vital that the UK government kept the SMEs in mind when negotiating the best deal with the EU, as to fail to do so would let down the British people.

What was quite noteworthy in the survey, was that 55% of small business owners did not think that the UK’s Brexit trade negotiations would necessarily boost key activities – sales, export, commercial opportunities, customer base and talent pool – for their businesses. It seems that many businesses are UK based and UK focused, while others may be trading/ or planning to expand their business to with non-EU customers.

One could say that the massive fintech revolution that has taken place in the UK could be spurring these statistics on. New York, Singapore, Hong Kong , Australia are the fintech hubs outside the UK, and may be making trade with the EU less vital in that sector.

If the UK government emphasized the positive advantages of trading with the UK, creating incentives such as an attractive tax regime, and geared-to-growth regulations, this would certainly drive this industry forward and set the UK up as a more competitive option than Europe to international traders and investors.

Another huge bonus was that, according to the same survey, a large portion of SME owners (45%) believed that the UK economy was in good shape, with a 28% saying they didn’t agree.So much for the doom merchants and nay-sayers. The overwhelming feeling is that British SME owners are doing what they are best at, and simply carrying on regardless, making the best of the situation.

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So far, so good. Brexit is not having quite the negative effect we thought it would on SMEs. Google Images

In another recent survey  conducted by CitySprint, that over half the SME businesses that thought that their businesses would suffer post Brexit have now changed their minds, and believe in a more positive outcome. Two-thirds of the respondents reckoned they were in a better place than they were this time last year.

The fall in the pound may have resulted in better exporting deals for SME that trade internationally. This has encouraged overseas buyers to snap up British-made goods, because they are available at a lower price.

City AM also recently reported that two large banks – JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley – had adjusted their outlook to a more positive one, following news that the services purchasing managers’ index (PMI) soared from 47.4 to 52.9 in August. Results below 50 indicate economic contraction – and two consecutive contractions indicate a technical recession. This recent result was an unexpected outcome – and one that showed that the economy is much more resilient than expected.

The two Morgans have now revised their expectations for the UK economy, Morgan Stanley saying that it can now predict that the UK will avoid a technical recession, to grow by 1.9 per cent this year. The bank had previously foreseen the economy shrinking by  0,4% in the third quarter, but it now foresees growth of 0.3 per cent. Which is a very positive result after all Britain has been through.

With more than half a million new businesses being created every year on this little island, we are right up there with the best nations in the world in terms of resilience, innovation and enterprise. As the Brexit blues clear, the doom-mongers are being pushed to the sidelines. Backed by more-positive-than-expected predictions from the financial sector, SMEs have every right to feel buoyant and bullish about the future British economy.

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Cashflow Tips for Your Expanding SME

As an owner of a small business for over ten years, I’ve seen my fair share of cashflow crises. It’s the one thing that all small and medium (and large) business owners experience somewhere along the line, and dread.

Here are some tips we’ve compiled to help SME business owners plan ahead, and may help avoid the cash flow crunch:

ONE: Cashflow Forecasting

The first thing to do is to predict where and when the business’s cash is coming in to cover what is going out, and make some profit on the side. Imagine if a client didn’t pay on time and plan for that. Set realistic earnings targets a year into the future, planning ahead week by week. List your SME’s income and expenditure on a spreadsheet, taking factors such as the peaks and troughs of trade, the overhead costs of running the office during the various seasons and staff leave, amongst other factors, into account.

TWO: Accounting Software

Cloud based tools allow SME’s to scale up and migrate their software as the company grows. Depending on your business profile, some of the most popular cloud-based tools out there are Xero, Freshbooks, Quickbooks and Sage, which provide solutions that are affordable and easy to use. They feature time-saving features such as automated entries, invoicing, bill payments, expense reports, financial reports and reconciliations – all key to keeping your cashflow fluid.

THREE: Strong Business Process

By definition, a business process is an activity or set of activities that will accomplish a specific organizational goal. Ensuring that your business has a strong business process, and is focussed on growth and  financial success makes the company more streamlined and efficient – which will translate directly to  your cashflow, as you will be getting the maximum out of your company to earn the best turnover for the least amount of input possible.

Ensure fiscal control by segregating duties in the financial department –  i.e. separate people working on the bank reconciliations and invoice billing.  If the SME is small, the business owner should always check the bank reconciliation, making sure they keep up to date with company finances. Enhance the business process by, for example, integrating CRM programmes that facilitate and streamline one’s marketing and client relations strategy, or by using cloud based invoicing which link your marketing and sales teams.

FOUR: Optimal Payment Terms

Always remember that your clients have different business priorities to your company’s. The longer they can delay paying your company, the better for their business. Negotiate terms with your clients that suit both sides – and bargain hard. On long-term projects, explore progress payments, never accept back-to-back payments (you get paid when the client gets paid) and make sure you are getting the most agreeable terms possible from your suppliers. Negotiate the best deal woith suppliers, but keep them on your side by settling their bills within their terms too. Business is all about relationships, and building up a loyal supply base is one of the secrets to success.

Offering clients incentive to pay early is a good way to ensure bills are settled in a timely way – small discounts or free delivery for early payment goes a long way to fostering good client relations, and getting the payments in quicker.

Make sure that you are using the most cost effective manner of payment – bank charges on card transactions can be steep, online payments may take days to clear – ultimately you need something to investigate the most effective payment method for your business needs.  You can speak to your bank relating to the most efficient services provided and the costs per transaction.

coffee-cup-mug-deskFIVE: Funding Your SME

When your business needs funding, the first place to go is the high street banks -still the largest funding source for SME’s. There are also a number of challenger banks out there, offering great deals. Should you need alternative funding sources, then consider  financing though companies like TradeRiver or FundingCircle (who provide a thirty second eligibility check, with no impact on your credit rating, and has a £60million facility via the government-back British Business Bank) or BoostCapital (online application and an answer within 24 hours, with access to the funds within two days).

SIX: Deliver the Goods

Make sure the customer has no excuses not to pay. Deliver a good quality product, on time and within the brief. Realise that without customers you don’t have a reason to exist. Customer complaints should be taken seriously as these will alert you to problems that could indicate a serious leak in your cash flow. Disputes hold up payments, which leads to cash flow problems.

Listen to your clients – if they have suggestions to improve your User Journey, or your product, implement them. You should see the difference in your bottom line. Ask your happy customers to write company review on TrustPilot or Which.co.uk or s similar website. Good reviews are what drive sales. Sales translate into cash. Regular cash coming in helps your cash flow.

SEVEN: Make Your Cash Work

SME business savings are often a blindspot when it comes to the banks, and now there are an increasing number of alternative savings accounts out there that are tailored towards the SME market. If you have your business’s cash savings stored in a savings account earning next to nothing, we at StongJones suggest you shop around for a better deal. There are many banks such as Investec, ICIC, SBI as well as the challenger banks which are offering competitive rates. There is a growing awareness amongst financial institutions of the need to cater for SME’s, recognising that they are the future of business in the UK.

Finally…

Being an SME owner comes with many challenges. Well known businessman and entrepreneur Sir David Tang once said that the three most dreaded words in the English language were “Negative Cash Flow “. However, if one can get the basics right, and gets a good operating system in place, then your business has a far better chance of surviving the first few crucial years, and will be well prepared for future expansion.

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Andy Murray: Tech Startup Champion

Winning gold for the second time at the Rio Olympics has cemented the Team Great Britain hero’s place in the annuls of sporting icons. The current reigning men’s senior singles Wimbledon champion, has a string of tennis titles to his name, 39 to be precise. He has recently added a title of another kind to his name: that of Advisor in the business of tech startups.

Even if his flag-bearing skills are in question, (and please forgive me, I couldn’t resist including this clip) his business skills certainly aren’t.

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Being a wily Scotsman, Andy Murray (@Andy_Murray) is putting his talent for spotting opportunity to work – only this time it’s off the court – by investing in tech.

“Giving recognition and support to British entrepreneurs is really important to me, especially those who are the driving force behind growth-focused businesses,” Murray said in a statement.

“Every one of these entrepreneurs is passionate and dedicated to succeeding and I’m excited to have invested in their future growth.”

His talent for investing in tech startups has cemented a long-term relationship with Seedrs, where he is an advises on areas of strategic interest, as well as being an active investor himself. The Seedrs platform allows people to invest upwards of £10,000 into companies that they like the look of in exchange for equity.

Murray has invested in fifteen startups to date – with focuses as wide ranging as a dog-tracking GPS device (Dog Tracker Nano), to Beeline – a GPS navigating device and app for cyclists to beauty – blow LTD – a London-based beauty on demand service.

“Andy is a great example of an investor who understands early stage investment and the importance of building a diverse investment portfolio aligned with a wider investment strategy. Seedrs was named the most active investor in private companies in the UK last month, and our continued growth and leading position in the market are testament to our reputation and the support from people like Andy,” said Jeff Lynn, CEO and Co-founder of Seedrs.

If his tennis career is anything to go by, this man is bound to succeed.

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http://businesslife.ba.com/Media/images

He’s been in the game since the tender age of 3, when his mother, Judy, would take him to their local tennis courts in Glasgow. He played in his first competitive tournament at age five and by the time he was eight he was competing with adults in the Central District Tennis League.

The world-ranked number two has competitiveness in his genes – his brother, Jamie is a two-time Grand Slam winner and a Davis Cup champion, currently the world No. 4 doubles player and a former doubles world No. 1. His mum, Judith “Judy” Murray (née Erskine) is a Scottish tennis champ herself, having won 64 titles in Scotland during her junior and senior career.

The young Andy Murray could have easily followed in the footsteps of his maternal grandfather, Roy Erskine, who played professional football for the Hibernian Football Club in the 1950’s – deciding to focus on his tennis career in, despite having been invited to train with Rangers Football Club at their School of Excellence.

In 2012, by beating Novak Djokovic at the US Open, incredible tenacity and grit resulted in Murray being the first British player since 1977 and the first British man since 1936, to win a Grand Slam singles tournament. In 2013, Murray was the first British player to win the Wimbledon Championships, and entrenched his influence over SW19 winning again in 2016, becoming the first British man to win multiple Wimbledon singles titles since 1935.

On or off the court, this man is a true champion who is bound to conquer whatever he turns his attention to, because he has a fiercely competitive will and the work ethic to back this up.

Feature image: http://cdn.crowdfundinsider.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Andy-Murray.png

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