Stay on top of your cash flow: grow your small business

As Xero becomes the accounting software of choice for more and more of our clients, I am more and more impressed by the way the Xero team help small businesses succeed and grow their businesses by offering “add on” advice, i.e. advice that doesn’t relate directly to the day to day use of Xero software.

Their recent article Stay on top of your cash flow: grow your small business is required reading for all micro, small and medium sized businesses.

I especially like this quote:

UK firms which use online accounting are now getting paid an average of 36 days after invoicing their customers – that’s 23 days faster than they were in 2011.

If you’re interested in using Xero software do phone me on 01539 721002 and I can arrange a 30 day free trial and if you think our firm is based a long way (Kendal) from where you are, it doesn’t matter because Xero is online. We don’t have to be sitting next to you to help you grow your business.

Where the joyride of pension reform may lead

Jonathan Eley, personal finance editor at the Financial Times, while welcoming the huge changes being made to the pensions industry (which will give policyholders far more control over their money) has highlighted the following disadvantages:

  • More people will be subject to the annual ordeal of self assessment
  • Some people will pay too much tax when they receive their money and will then have to face reclaiming it from HMRC
  • The funds, instead of being locked away in an annuity, will be taken into account when assessing contributions to long-term care
  • Too many people will end up investing the money in buy-to-let property, in his words “a singularly bad idea in many respects”
  • HMRC is trying to obtain powers to access our bank accounts to settle outstanding tax liabilities. Will they have the power to raid pension savings once they’re in drawdown?
  • Insolvency is on the rise among over 65s, could pension pots be treated as assets for bankruptcy purposes?

As always sound professional advice is essential.

No good deed goes unpunished by HMRC

This morning and yesterday morning when I came into the office I discovered messages from HMRC on my answerphone. Both quoted a PAYE reference and asked me to phone HMRC urgently.

They were obviously for clients rather than me. HMRC often have the accountant’s phone number listed instead of the client’s for some inexplicable reason. Neither number matched any of our client records so I was left with a couple of choices – ignore the messages or contact HMRC to explain their mistake.

Unfortunately I made the wrong choice – I phoned HMRC! Never again.

HMRC on answering the phone asked me for the Accounts Office Reference which is completely different to the reference in their message. Trying to explain why I was phoning, I was told there was nothing they could do without an Accounts Office Reference!

And then HMRC wonder why there is a blog titled HMRC is Shite.

How to increase sales by 16 per cent

I’ve just read an interesting article by Xero [accounting software] who conducted a survey which showed

  • Employing an accounting professional pays off:  SMEs who use an accounting professional with Xero [software] experienced a 16 percent increase in revenue over businesses that do not work with an accounting professional but use Xero.
  • Using two accounting professionals equals more revenue: When SMEs pair an outside accounting professional with an internal one and use Xero [software], they increase the prior mentioned revenue gains by 50 percent. This means a 24 percent increase in revenue vs. 16 percent when working with only one accountant.

I know there are lies, damned lies and statistics but I have always believed that businesses with access to their up to date financial information are more successful than those who don’t have any financial facts at their fingertips.




Prompt Payment Advisory Board – isn’t there something missing?

Adding Barclays and Fujitsu to the Prompt Payment Advisory Board along with the existing members – Aviva, Bury Council, City of London Corporation, Greggs, Skanska and Stort Chemicals prompts me to ask just one question

Why aren’t there any small businesses on the board?

If the best Business minister Matthew Hancock can say is

Late payment continues to plague businesses, putting a strain on cash flow and preventing plans for growth. We have committed to tackling this problem, but there is no silver bullet. This is about a change in culture, which needs businesses and government to work together

nothing will change.

Mind you it hasn’t for the last 30 years so I don’t think we should expect much.

Change will only come when MPs understand what it means not to be paid on time. I have my own suggestion as to how they can experience this which I will expand on in the next few days.


Clogs to clogs

I enjoyed reading a letter in the Financial Times recently from Vivian Bush of Bush the Opticians in Hessle, East Yorks.

Titled ‘Clogs to clogs’ keeps many a business grounded he says

Why might family-owned companies, according to PwC’s survey shun rapid growth? Maybe the generational bank of knowledge and wisdom says that aggressive expansion demands unrealistic gearing in order to generate the vanity of turnover. A healthy aversion to risk, and that old metaphor “clogs to clogs in three generations”, keeps many a family business in the land where profit is sanity, and cash reality.

KPMG and SMEs, chalk and cheese

I was amused to read in the Financial Times that KPMG (one of the Big Four) is offering a cloud-computing accountancy service for a fraction of its normal fees.

Aimed at faster-growing small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) they will be charged a monthly fee “starting at £150, rather than the £600 plus per hour charged by senior partners for auditing or advising larger companies”.

Carl Williams, northwest managing partner of Grant Thornton, like me, has his doubts

They [KPMG] will return to the big businesses when that work [tax and corporate advisory work] picks up.

I would add:

  • How much experience do KPMG have of working with small businesses?
  • I find it hard to believe that £150 will buy much advice from experienced KPMG staff
  • Those companies which need a more hands-on approach from their accountants will be paying more than the starting fee of £150
  • For a fraction of the £150 monthly fee a company can use Xero accounting software to deal with their accounting, payroll and VAT

My advice would be to contact a firm of accountants who match your business and who are geared up to work with SMEs using the latest online technology and discover that size does matter!


Don’t let the government into your bank accounts

The government is trying to give HMRC the power to access our bank accounts without recourse to anyone!

I know how often mistakes are made by HMRC and how difficult and how long it can take to correct their errors. My own Institute has said

To let HMRC take the money from bank accounts and argue later is not appropriate in a democratic society.

Please click on the link below to sign an e-petition to help prevent these proposals becoming law.

UKIP and small (micro) businesses – their views

My Tweet to Nigel Farage didn’t produce a reply, so I decided to take the bull by the horns and try and find the answer myself.

Rather surprisingly entering ” UKIP micobusinesses” into Google only produced a handful of results, two of which were links to my blog!

However, there was one from Margot Parker, a UKIP MEP, titled

UKIP is the party of real business

I have to admit I did expect a little more

The answer to Kendal’s traffic problems isn’t more money

The Westmorland Gazette kindly published a letter I sent them a couple of weeks ago about Kendal’s traffic problems

 When will Cumbria County Council realise that spending more taxpayers’ money will not improve Kendal’s roads?

Enforcing the law in respect of parking and loading/unloading will free up the town more than new roads, cycle tracks and improved bus services (Gazette, September 25, “£6.8m plan to free up roads”)


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