HRH, The Duke of York, visits Akoni’s new home at Accenture’s fintech lab, the Trampery Republic!

The Trampery is a new shared workspace for creative and tech start-ups, which Akoni has the pleasure to be part of due to being selected amongst Accenture’s top 5 in the Retail banking stream for the Innovation Lab. Akoni is an innovative platform for ensuring SMEs are making the most of their cash, in an easy and simple manner, and was selected as a technology driver to improve financial returns for businesses.

As patron of the Trampery, HRH The Duke of York, came to meet some of the young businesses that are now based there. Among these are the various creative sectors as well as participants from Accenture’s largest fin tech innovation lab yet, including Akoni.

HRH was very impressed and said: “it’s fantastic to see fin tech alongside Art-Tech and so many other things. The number of skills melted in an organisation like this is hugely beneficial not just to the companies who are inside the building but to those outside too.”

Akoni is excited to be part of this project and we are maximising our time working with other innovative entrepreneurial start-ups as well as the incredible professional lab team.

See the full article in The Warf http://bit.ly/2kScHPg

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

 

 

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Akoni selected for the Accenture Fintech Innovation Lab

The Akoni team is excited to announce we are one of five Retail Banking fintech startups selected for the Accenture Fintech Innovation Lab in London, amongst the cohort of twenty across categories including CIB, Insuretech and Tech4Tech.    The Lab is a three month accelerator and mentorship programme uniting fintech startups with global financial services institutions, including HSBC, Barclays, RBS, Lloyds Banking Group, Citibank, Santander, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, amongst others.      The programme focuses on meeting the top execs and decision-makers at partner banks as well as legal, pitching and proof of concept mentoring.

Further information on the programme and the other startups selected can be found at https://newsroom.accenture.com/news/fintech-innovation-lab-london-kicks-off-largest-programme-in-its-five-year-history.htm

The Akoni team is ensconced in our new offices, and surrounded by an awesome environment and passionate teams, with the bonus of incredible London views.    We are looking forward to the acceleration of the experience!    Our team is working on several product releases and collaborating with various new partners over the next few months, aiming to deliver value for the UK’s 5.3 million businesses!   We are already thoroughly enjoying the shared experiences with other startups, the awesome Accenture lab team and our mentors and banks.

About Akoni:

Akoni is an innovative fintech startup which aims to improve financial outcomes for businesses while at the same time providing banks with benefits including customer loyalty and increased margin through Basel III LCR reductions.

The Akoni platform is a digital cash treasury manager and uses technology and data science to provide customers a cash portfolio manager, business marketplace which is updated daily, and personalised cash report and dashboard, as well as innovative cashflow projection tools including algorithm-based allocations, automated monitoring and utilising statistical techniques and neural networks for projection outcomes.

Akoni’s chairman and lead investor, Duncan Goldie-Morrison, is a seasoned banking CEO and Chairman. Mr. Goldie-Morrison  was previously CEO of The Americas Credit Agricole CIB, Head of Global Markets and Asia, Bank of America, Chairman of Newedge Group SA and Newedge UK, President Ritchie Capital Management and Director Kleinwort Benson Bank. The business is further supported by the Deputy Chairman, Yann Gindre, previously CEO of Natixis UK and the Americas and financial services veteran.

Founder and CEO, Felicia Meyerowitz Singh, explains: “Scientific tools are changing the way we work in financial services, right down to conventional cash management activities that are traditionally based in Excel.  Akoni plans to be a key leader and driver in delivering these changes. At last, corporates and SME businesses have access to similar cash management facilities to institutions with in-house treasurers and Treasury management systems. We are delighted to be part of the Accenture fintech lab, working with people and organisations of such calibre and looking forward to the programme innovation drive for our business.” 

Banking sector undergoes disruption

The UK banking sector is already facing a range of issues, including ‘banking as a service’, ongoing cost reduction pressures, opportunities and challenges as a result of CMA requirements, open APIs and PSD2, and the Challenger Banks bringing a new approach to services and customer solutions. Businesses are part of this change, with the latest Accenture 2020 SME Banking report showing that 70% of businesses are prepared to pay non-banking customers for financial services.

To date, fintech innovation has been focused primarily on consumer banking for B2C and lending for B2B. Now, for the first time, Akoni brings technology benefits to UK SMEs and businesses for cash treasury management, with further business products planned in future roadmap.

For more information, please contact Felicia@akonihub.com

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

What the Autumn statement means for your business

Autumn

Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has delivered his first Autumn statement. Most announcements came as no surprise, with core messages about continuity of financial stability and control of public spending.

The statement was considered and concise, which is encouraging at a time of uncertainty. However, business groups interviewed by the Guardian didn’t consider the statement bold enough, and were disappointed that it didn’t tackle business rates or provide support following the Brexit vote.

Here are some of the headlines:

Impact on business

To reinforce Britain’s competitiveness while negotiating Brexit, Hammond confirmed he will stick to the business tax roadmap that was announced in March, with Corporation tax reducing to 17% and a reduction to business rates worth £6.7bn.

Funding

In an effort to boost the long-term economy and reduce the ‘productivity gap’, £23bn is going into a new National Productivity Investment Fund, including:

  • £7.2bn to tackle congestion and transport
  • £7.bn to support house-building (including £3bn Home Builders Fund to unlock finance for over 200,000 homes)
  • £4.7bn towards science and innovation
  • £2bn to accelerate construction on public sector land
  • £1.1bn for local infrastructure
  • Over £1bn for digital infrastructure (to encourage the private sector to roll out more full-fibre broadband and support trials of 5G mobile telecoms. What’s more, full-fibre infrastructure will benefit from 100% business rates relief for five years from April 2017.)
  • £27m development funding for the Cambridge-Oxford growth corridor (as recommended by the National Infrastructure Commission)

To make Britain the ‘go to’ place for science and innovation, these sectors will also benefit from an extra £2bn of funding per year for business research and development.

£400m is being invested into Venture Capital Funds from the British Business Bank, to:

  • Unlock up to £1bn of investment in innovative firms planning to scale up
  • Review to identify barriers to access to long-term finance for growing firms
  • Funding from the Department for International Trade for FinTech specialists

Benefits in kind reformed

Tax will become payable by employees who sacrifice salary to receive ‘benefits in kind’, except:

  • Cycle to work scheme
  • Ultra-low emission cars
  • Pension savings
  • Childcare

HMRC expects to gain approximately £2m through this measure.

Economic forecasts downgraded

As a result of the EU Referendum decision, economic growth is predicted to be 2.4% lower than previously expected. Here are the revised OBR forecasts:

  • 2016: 2.1%
  • 2017: 1.4%
  • 2018: 1.7%

Borrowing increased

Hammond made a distinction between borrowing to cover the deficit and borrowing to invest, and at £122bn, Government borrowing will increase significantly.

New fiscal rules

To protect against bumps during Brexit, Hammond announced three new rules:

  1. Cyclically adjusted borrowing to fall below 2% by the end of this Parliament, and public finances to return to balance as early as possible during the next Parliament
  2. Public sector net debt to fall as a share of GDP by 2020
  3. Welfare spending to be capped

Just About Managing (JAM)

Due to the state of the economy, Hammond avoided this phrase coined by Theresa May, but did announce:

  • Freeze in fuel duty
  • Offset the rising cost of foreign holidays
  • Ban on letting fees being charged to tenants
  • Income tax threshold rising to £12,500
  • Higher rate threshold rising to £50,000
  • Minimum wage rising to £7.50 (in 2017)
  • Possibility of removing the pensions triple-lock (after 2020)

Budget moved to Autumn

To allow time for tax changes to be made in advance of the tax year, the Budget is moving to Autumn. That means no more Autumn Statements – from 2018, there will be a Spring Statement instead. At least that means major changes will only happen once a year.

If legal hurdles are overcome and Article 50 is triggered at the end of March 2017, the final Spring Budget will be a significant measure of the nation’s fiscal position.

Going forward

Although there are many challenges and changes to the economic climate, the Government is committed to boosting business in the UK.

Philip Hammond said: “My priority is to ensure that Britain remains the number one destination for business – creating the investment, the jobs and the prosperity to protect our long-term future.”

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

Email Marketing Basics for your Business

One could not have failed to have noticed that the festive season is upon us once more, bringing with it the annual year end frenzied product push. Our team at Akoni thought it particularly relevant to highlight ways in which your business can optimise your email marketing to maximise sales from existing subscribers or prospective client bases.

Email marketing is the most powerful tool of a marketer – it is easy to measure ROI and is a tool that enables business to reach the customer directly. It is often mistakenly assumed in marketing that a measurement of deliverability is simply the proportion of emails that were ‘accepted’. If an email does not bounce back or is not rejected, it does not necessarily mean that it has been delivered.

Delivery rate is a calculation of mail sent minus the volume that bounced. However, this is quite misleading as it doesn’t take into account the emails that are simply filtered into spam files or are ignored. Overall, deliverability is making sure you are doing what you can to put yourself in the best position to be actually seen by your subscribers, says Tom Corbett of Experian.

70 per cent of mail sent globally being considered spam by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), which have developed settings which the customer can adjust to suit their unique inbox preferences. These filters massively reduce the volume coming to an inbox. However, the interpretation of spam differs according to personal preference. As a result, what is becoming increasingly important is personalisation in email communication – making your email wanted is the key to a successful email campaign.

Know Your Client

Up to date research into customer behaviour and market analysis will show you where and how you should target your audiences effectively. This will help hone your campaign and make sure it appeals to the right group. This is the most important step in any marketing campaign by far, as everything starts here.

Make Customers Feel Special

Creating a feeling of belonging to an exclusive club or a select group is an extremely effective marketing tool. People are naturally competitive, and want to be made to feel special, the chosen ones – more superior. By making sure that your clients are given VIP passes, or exclusive prices or a top-class service reserved for a few, you are immediately tapping into a very powerful psychological tool by stroking their ego’s, catching their attention and creating a bond.

A Clear, Simple Message – Repeated

Know what your company does, what they stand for and why the customer needs your product. Get your branding right. Keeping to the basic core with simple, direct messages.Repeating the lines that are part of your branding core, that won’t change and are easily associated with your brand will create a sense of familiarity and a sense of trust for your customers. They will think of your brand when they hear similar words, or catch phrases. Own your taglines.

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Always focus on the customer. Personalised campaigns are becoming more and more essential.

Well Presented

Employ a designer or use the templates provided in tools available. Design is essential as we are all far more likely to read visuals than words. Make sure that you tap into this, as getting simple elements like the colour tone wrong can have expensive consequences. Watch spelling and grammar.

Regular Emails

Keeping in touch with customers on a regular basis is important. It reinforces the notion that your company is reliable and trustworthy. Keep postings or mail drops to the same time on the same day. Be aware that too many emails a week can lead to engagement fatigue – making your company an enemy as opposed to friend.

Strong Call to Action

It’s all very well having a clear email selling you something, but people need instructions. The Call to Action is the moment a potential target takes the bait – the conversion of effort to profit. Tell people what you want them to do, very short, sharp and clear, containing a verb – three words maximum. “BUY NOW” or “ENTER HERE”

Sense of Urgency

The sense that this offer is only available for a short period of time certainly makes it more valuable. Some emails have an actual clock feature that counts down the time till the offer expires. It puts incredible pressure on the customer, which is effective.

Choosing the Right Business Tools

There are many examples of excellent products out there which offer top class  email marketing software (MailChimp,  ConstantContact, Campaignmaster) through to all-in-one CRM and Sales package tools such as Hubspot, Salesforce and Pipedrive . It’s imperative to find a solution that fits your brand’s unique needs and requirements. When you are starting out, here are some key items to take note of and factor in before settling on a CRM system:

  • Does it offer support? What are the hours that support is offered in?
  • Is there training offered as part of the package? If not, how much extra will this cost?
  • Does it integrate easily with your current systems?
  • Find out how pricing scales, the longer you use it, and the more features you engage – especially regarding database size. Are there add-on features available or do you have to upgrade for more features or additional contacts? Are there hidden fees? Limits of messages sent a month? Charges to add users?
  • Find out if the software is designed for use by both sales and marketing. How it will better align sales and marketing teams? Ask for examples of how each team can use it. Get your marketing and sales teams to sample different tools before deciding on one.
  • Does the platform manage full customer life cycles, or only leads and prospects? You want to be able to engage and nurture contacts throughout the entire life cycle. After all, the best customer you can get is the one you already have.
  • Ask about email deliverability, specifically the vendor’s inbox and deliverability rate.
  • Is data available to track and assess progress?
  • Ensure the software offers mobile optimised landing pages and forms, as well as responsive email templates. Do you have additional mobile technology needs? It is essential that the software can meet your mobile requirements.

There is no replacement for personal engagement with clients. People want to see that they are valued and can trust your service if they engage it. That is what marketing comes down to – convincing the your client base that your product is better than the next. Try and humanise your email communication as much as possible – making your email wanted is the key to a successful mail programme.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

 

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6 Reasons Why Professionals Want to Work at SMEs

Statistics show that the SME sector continues to grow: 58.3% of small companies plan to take on staff over the next six months, up from 56.7% last year and just 48.9% the year before. There is no doubt that the future of business rests on the bedrock of upcoming SME’s. Small companies are vital to the economy’s growth – and even more so now after Brexit. It is not surprising, therefore, that the perks of working for a small business are being noticed by the best of the jobseekers.

When Linkedin conducted its latest Job Job Satisfaction Survey, it found that 87% of professionals that took part were keen to work for a startup or small business (employing 10 or less than 10 employees), rather than at larger companies. The survey questioned more than 10,000 professionals and over 3,500 employers worldwide. 

There were some surprises amongst the statistics: the survey found that 45% employees of small businesses were Very Satisfied or Fulfilled at work; that SME’s had some of the most loyal employees possible – 3 out of ten 10 wanted to stay where they were for the rest of their lives. Just over one in three small business employees were willing to take a wage cut to work at a startup or small business, and 77% say they would recommend their small business to their friends and family as an employer.

It was found that being able to align one’s values with one’s employers values was crucial to job satisfaction. Salary and promotional opportunities are key motivators for professionals today. Another major factor was work/ life balance (see our previous blog on this) which topped the list – even before salary – for people over 40.

So – why is it so desirable to work for a startup or small business?

1. Small business are perceived as being more flexible – “more human” – when it comes to making demands on their employees. If one is part of a small team, each member matters more – to get employees performing at their best, it is important that they are supported in their work. Working from home, flexible hours, bringing kids or dogs to work – there is often a way of making challenges into advantages for the business and the employee, with a bit of creative thinking.

2. Get ahead – much faster. Because each person in a small company is relied upon from the get go,  taking on further responsibility as the company expands, and therefore your rise through the ranks is quicker. Your talents are also more noticeable because there aren’t another hundred of you doing the same job.

3. Hard, but satisfying work: It goes without saying that you are expected to produce the goods – and often for less – but there are such great rewards. To be involved at the start of a small business is always a good thing – you will ride the wave of success, and be a part of the financial wealth when that comes.

4. Culture fix: Most small businesses are very picky when it comes to new employees – and for good reason. Apart from having to have the appropriate skill set, the candidate also needs to fit into the company culture. Creativity and genius flows in a safe place to innovate and conceptualize – and everyone’s different personalities need to gel, for maximum results. Each company has it’s own quirks and fitting in comfortably with these are essential.

5. Broaden your skill set: In small companies there is more likelihood of learning new skills and possibly even working across different departments. Sometimes everyone needs to “muck in” to finish a presentation for a deadline or cover for someone who is off on leave. You’ll see how the business operates as a whole, and develop transferable skills.

6. You can make a big difference: In an a small business it is hands-on. The chance to grow and to be there as the company develops, is exciting. Many people feel satisfied in their jobs at SME’s because they’re able to see real, tangible results of their work.

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Small business may be the most attractive employment option to professionals, yet it struggles to reach the right talent. Social media and an online presence can help boost your profile in the right places in order to overcome this challenge. Image: Pexels.com

Interestingly, SME owners who took part in the same survey said that they found it difficult to attract the talent they need, because of competition from larger organisations in the job market. They battled to become noticed.

Many SME’s don’t have a specific brand – they often grow fast and are so busy managing this, that their very persona is never honed. This is an essential step in the growth of a successful small business – if you don’t know who you are – what your authentic core values are – how are customers or top drawer job-seeking professionals going to find you? Providing happy employees the brand marketing tools to sing your praises over social media, small businesses can really make an impact in all the right areas.

Times are changing – a grand job title is not much of a motivator any more. Compensation, work-life balance and opportunities for advancement rank as the three major motivators amongst job-hunters. They want to be contributors who can make a positive impact on a business, hopefully learning new skills in the process. That is why SME’s are attracting the talent they deserve, and shall continue to do so.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

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#timetorebalance: Your Work/ Life Depends on It

As a small business owner, you are most likely a Jack of All Trades and a Master of Most. Managing your business often implies that you multitask and cope with production crises, cashflow nightmares and so much stress that you never sleep properly. Well – this is National Work Life Week, and having been a small business owner myself, I understand why it is necessary to create a national campaign around Work/Life Balance – because SME owners are far too busy and stressed to notice it otherwise!

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Here are some tried and true tips I have practiced – hopefully you’ll find them useful too. Listen Up – it’s time to take stock, #timetorebalance:

Remember why you started your company in the first place. You spend a large percentage of your life working – you go through stress and sacrificing many things for your SME to succeed. You need to remember the passion that lead you to getting it off the ground. Keep coming back to that. That is what will get you up in the morning.

Learn to delegate. You won’t believe how liberated you’ll feel when you hand that work that you hate doing and aren’t very good at anyway to someone who specializes in it! Now you can concentrate on what you are best at, and this will be much more rewarding and enjoyable. By delegating, you will lower your stress levels. Use tools and apps to cut down on one’s workload and money spent on travel and outsourcing significantly. Here is a range of some that may be useful:

  • Cash management and accounting tools such as Xero, Freshbooks, Quickbooks, Sage are the most widely used, and all are excellent products, well worth investing in. (Have a look at our Akoni blog on Cashflow Tips for SMEs for some more on this subject).
  • Try Skype, Google Hangouts, ClickMeeting for online meeting and webinars. These can be used to conduct webinars, teleconferencing, online meetings and presentations. No more travelling out of town or even across town – saving you money and time.
  • Asana is a task and project management productivity tool for team collaboration and communication that eliminates the use of email. Free for up to 4 users. With Asana, you can set up projects, and tasks within projects. Add staff or clients to tasks and projects to keep everyone up to date.
  • Apps like Producteev and Harvest let you see how you’re spending your time, what’s on target and what requires follow-up.
  • Pocket – this allows you to store videos, articles or anything else you find of interest. It’s all in one place and ready to look at when you have time.
  • Evernote – one of the most popular apps for managing a to-do list and keeping notes. It even has an app to make it faster to read blog posts and articles by showing them in a simple format.
  • WorkflowMax: An end-to-end time tracking and invoicing solution, seamless integration with Xero Accounting software.
  • Hootsuite for social media management
  • For some more interesting tools, have a look at useful tools for SMEs

Learn to set boundaries. If you are open about realistic timings at the beginning of each project, explaining why you need that time to do a good job, your clients are far more likely to understand – because they need the best quality product you can deliver.Turning down work is hard, but is it worth taking on if you and the client are going to be dissatisfied with the result? Your reputation may suffer, which affects future work and client relationships.

Write things down. In this age of electronics it sounds archaic, but often the simple task of writing down ideas and thoughts or tasks that you think of suddenly will reduce your stress levels. Write a  TO DO list before lights out. It clears your head, and facilitates sleep, knowing that you will have your list when you wake up. Same goes for those 2am thoughts – write it down and there is a good chance you’ll get to sleep again.

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Activate your brain and body. Your body can’t take stress for extended periods without it having often serious health consequences. Find something that you enjoy doing. The brain and body benefit far more if you practice an activity you prefer instead of dreading your training sessions. Yoga, running, lifting weights, walking – just get out and do something fun. Your brain needs blood flow to function at it’s best, and different environments are stimulating.

Family is important.  As a small business owner, speak to your employees about what they would suggest in terms of flexible hours and/or the option to work from home. Being flexible in one’s approach will have benefits all round: happier employees, better quality work, you’ll attract quality talent when recruiting and your clients will ultimately benefit from dealing with a motivated company. Have a look here for some more tips as an employer.

Remind yourself what success is. Ian Sanders, author of Juggle: Rethink Work, Reclaim Your Life and Mash Up says,I recommend creating a personal dashboard where you set out the things you want in life and the reasons why you are doing them. You should write down all the things that are important to you, whether it is making money, creative stimulation, spending time with your kids or playing tennis. These are your definition of happiness and success. Then you can monitor this regularly to see how you are doing.” 

In this frenetically-paced age, it is important to keep your eye on what Really matters – your health, your happiness, your family and your goals in life. Enjoy what you do, otherwise change it. A frazzled, crabby and stressed business owner is not going to be any good to anyone. You owe it to your family, your staff and clients to be the Best Version of You possible. And that means gaining perspective by getting away from work every now and then – really make an effort to unplug from all those digital devices, look up at the sky and B-R-E-A-T-H-E deeply. Your life depends on it.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

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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.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

 

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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.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

Cashflow Tips for Your Expanding SME

As an owner of a small business for over ten years, I’ve seen my fair share of cash flow 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: Cash Flow 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 timeously – 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.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

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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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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

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

 

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