Heard about Small Business Saturday?

Apples

Small Business Saturday has been taking place on the first Saturday in December since 2013. The campaign provides free training workshops, celebrates small business successes, and encourages consumers to support small businesses in their community by ‘shopping local’. Although it focuses on one day, the aim is to change mindsets so people choose small businesses all year round.

This year’s figures are not yet announced, but on Small Business Saturday in 2015, customers spent £623m with small businesses – an increase of 24% on the previous year. #SmallBizSatUK trended at number one all day, with over 100,000 tweets sent, reaching over 25 million people. And over 75% of local council supported the campaign, for example, by providing free parking.

100 small businesses were highlighted in the 100 days running up to this year’s event on 3 December. They attended receptions at Downing Street and The Treasury Drum with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and benefited from exposure on social media and in the local press.

One of the featured businesses in 2016 was Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet! – a pop-up disco for people who love soul, funk and disco music from the 70s and 80s. Founded in 2010, they have performed in South East London and Birmingham, with vinyl DJs, dance line-ups, retro sweets and fancy dress prizes. Ad agency, JWT, called them a “trailblazer” for targeting the under-served 50-something market.

Spice Kitchen in Walsall is a mother-and-son team producing home-ground spices and spice mixes sold online via Etsy and Not On The High Street. They were also finalists in the Guardian Small Business Showcase competition, won a Great Taste Award in 2015 for their garam masala, and received the BBC Producers’ Bursary Award 2015 for up-and-coming food producers. The owners say customers love the products, and the fact that they are a family-run business.

Marvel Plumbing was one of the first businesses to be highlighted in 2016, and organised a fun event on Small Business Saturday to bring other businesses together and expose them to the local community. The company has grown from one man-and-van in 2012 to eight vans and four full-time office staff. They have also been asked to write and deliver part of the gas course for Southgate and Barnet College, so training future gas engineers to meet their high standards.

Small Business Saturday is a non-commercial initiative headed by Director Michelle Ovens MBE. It covers all types of small business, and is free to join. The campaign is supported by high-profile sponsors including American Express, Federation of Small Business, and Vistaprint.

This year, they have even launched a free cookbook containing recipes inspired by small businesses.

Find out more at smallbusinesssaturdayuk.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

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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.

Great British Brilliance: From 15 to 67 Medals in 20 Years

Historic. Epic. Astonishing. Dazzling. Awe-inspiring. Extraordinary. Mesmerising. Heroic.

Words seem so inadequate when trying to describe what most of us are feeling about Britain’s performance at Rio2016.

The spirit of the Brazilian Olympics started like a slow burning flame. It was most likely sparked here back home on Day 2, when 21-year-old Adam Peaty, won gold for the 100m breaststroke. Then on the same day, Jazmin Carlin, won a silver medal in the 400m freestyle. The days that followed fanned that Olympic spirit flame until it became wilder and swept more and more of us along with it. There was something for everyone – action, drama, thrillers and lovestories – all unfolding live by the second, and it was addictive.

On the second last day of the Games, when we were already gasping at the dreamy results, we were in for more treats:

First, Liam Heath won Gold in the men’s kayak 200m sprint.

… Shortly after that, Vicky Holland was awarded a Bronze medal after her gruelling race in the women’s triathlon,

… then boxing flyweight, 33 year old Nicola Adams, won Gold – becoming the first British boxer to retain an Olympic title in 92 years.

… Next came Bianca Walkden, with a Bronze medal, beating Morocco’s Wiam Dislam.

… Then came one of the highlights for millions around the globe: possibly the greatest TeamGB athlete of his time, Mo Farah ran to clinch his incredible “Double Double”. Witnessing this sporting icon trip and then get back up to take the men’s 5,000m gold medal, was enough to bring many to tears. Indeed, Mo Farah made Olympic history by winning the 5,000m and 10,000m in both the London and Rio games.

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Mo Farah wins the 5,000m and 10,000m Mens track events, achieving his “Double Double” gold

But there was more to come. Team GB women’s 4 x 400m relay, won a bronze medal – Ceilidh Doyle, Anyika Onuorh, Emily Diamond and Christine Ohuruogo bringing it home in style.

Super heavyweight boxer Joe Joyce’s silver medal brought the total medal count for Great Britain to an outstanding 67, second in the world to the USA – even beating China, and smashing a 108-year-old national record for most medals won.

Compare that to the 15 medals won in 1996 – which included a solitary gold medal won by Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent, who won the men’s coxless pair in the Atlanta Games.

… That’s a mere 20 years gap between 15 and 67 medals.

Have a look at the detailed TeamGB Rio Olympic 2016 medal table here.

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Great Britain’s medal takings at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 – BBC

For any nation competing, success at the Olympics demands a focussed plan and sufficient funding to implement this plan. Funding is essential to nurture athletes from a young age, through specialist training programmes, by providing subsidies, research, facilities, equipment and expert trainers.

In Britain, the establishment of the National Lottery was pivotal to this plan to succeed, and it started funding the World Class Performance Programme – which was implemented in 1997, after the 1996 Atlanta Olympics result. The British have increased spending on Olympic sports from £5m a year before the 1996 Atlanta Games – when the UK came 36th in the medals tables, to £350m (€410m) by Rio 2016, where it came second.

Regarding focus: The Olympics is a competition where you need to be the best in the world to even qualify. Being a Jack of all Trades and a Master of none is simply not an option here.

After the 1996 Olympics, it was decided to concentrate funding and focus only on sports that we performed in. This decisive move, that caused much controversy worked. By focussing on what British teams had an advantage at already, they already had a foot on the road to a medal. The Brits also concentrated on sports are not hugely popular or widely played – this gave them more of a chance of a medal with less competition – pretty clever “niche market” strategy.

In 2006, the year after London won the right to host the 2012 Games, UK Sport became responsible for all performance funding, which is reflected in figures that have risen from just under £60m for Sydney to the current total for Rio.In essence, every citizen has donated £ 1 per year to the training of this team.

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After an heroic battle, British champ Andy Murray beat Juan Martin del Porto to win gold in the Men’s Singles tennis event

Rio Olympics – the connections that will keep giving:

On the day of the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics, UK trade minister Lord Price said in his speech at British House in Rio that the Olympic Games reminded us all that we are equals united by sport, and that this extended to other areas. He wanted Brazilian investors to know that the UK was “open for business”. He had lead the first trade mission to Argentina in May, before the brexit result was announced, and had said at the time that the growing economies of Latin America offered huge opportunity for British business.

UK suppliers won contracts in excess of £ 150m for the Rio Games, confirming that small firms are keen to trade with South America. FSB national chairman, Mike Cherry has said that the number of small businesses exporting to the continent have increased by 50% over the past five years.

Latin American countries have expressed an interest in striking free trade deals with the UK in the wake of Britain leaving the EU, and Brazil’s foreign minister, José Serra, said last month he would look to open negotiations via Mercosur, the five-member trading bloc.

With our team’s commendable behavior and performance throughout the Games, the cultural diversity in the team and diverse talents represented, Britain has really made it clear to the rest of the planet that this small Great island is Ready to do Great Business with the world.

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Team Great Britain – Thank You from every one of us, united as a nation, claiming our place on the podium at the Greatest Show on Earth

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

 

 

 

 

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Onwards and Upwards: StrongJones renames itself Akoni

There are many advantages to being involved in the very first stages of a startup: the buzz of pitching to potential investors; the pressure to innovate and invent new and improved product on a regular basis; the kick of meeting new recruits to the Dream pretty much every time you see each other. You form a formidable posse knowing that each of you has a common belief in the vision of your startup’s success.

Ours is a startup company in the earliest phase of development. The idea behind the business is feasible – we’ve proved that with our model works well: we’ve identified our target market, and it looks promisingly large enough to sustain a business – in fact the more research we do, the better it looks. No doubt changes will be made and pretty much every aspect of the company will be revised and reviewed many times until perfected, but the point is, the ball is in motion, and it’s direction is being determined by our little team. 

As part of the development process, we’ve been trying out names for our startup. We’ve all been looking at the market reactions to the original name, StrongJones, and we’ve been engaging in much “new name” banter. This has lead to much team hilarity, as you can imagine – but it has also lead to much thought about our brand essence, and where we are heading.

As a consequence, it has been unanimously decided that StrongJones no longer suits us, we have moved on. Our target market is More in so many ways. We need a name that is more inclusive – more accessible and more current, after all our target market is professional, money-savvy, forward thinking and innovative.

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OLD LOGO AND NAME: StrongJones is being replaced with the more up-to-date name, “Akoni”

 Out with the old, and in with the new

We have decided on “Akoni” as our new business name (in case you were wondering, Akoni is pronounced: [ 3 syll. a-ko-ni, ak-oni ] ahKOW-Niy- †). Akoni is often used in the Hawaii as a name derived from the longer version Akonani – however its language of origin is Latin, it being a variant form of the English male name Anthony. Akonani, Akoni and Anthony all mean (more or less) the same thing: “inestimable or priceless”.

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NEW LOGO AND NEW NAME: Akoni means “Invaluable”

Akoni has been born out of a real need to help SME owners to find a better way to maximise the cash savings they have worked so hard to accumulate. The driven and experienced team is headed up by Felicia Meyerowitz Singh, no stranger to the finance world. Felicia, chief tech genius, Panos Stavvos, and experienced banking industry advisor, Yann Gindre, met whilst studying at London Business School, and have managed to set up an experienced and skilled team, bringing in Duncan Goldie-Morrison as the chairman. One could hardly wish for a better grouping of capable business brains whose combined extensive experience covers global and UK banking, insurance, financial accounting and systems and technology, data analysis and especially SME businesses.

So – watch out for the next steps in our Akoni evolution. This is a startup now – but just you wait. Akoni will make an enormous difference to SME businesses across the UK – and further afield – in the near future. In the meantime, the team behind the new name will keep those innovative ideas coming, because they’re passionate about making Akoni a success.

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

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Big Data, Small Data and SMEs

Data is vital to strategy and insight in the business world today, and in the future. But what exactly are Big Data and small data, and how are they useful to small business?

What is Big Data?

Big Data refers to massive sets of “raw” data (numbers, letters, symbols) that are too large or complex to store in traditional processing applications. What makes Big Data a massive challenge is how to organise, interpret and utilise this deluge of “chaotic” information most effectively – without this it is of little value.

The term, “Big Data”, was actually coined the 1990’s, and is different to other data because it has certain features – known as the three Vs:

  • Volume on an unprecedented scale, and this is increasing continuously. The global technological per-capita capacity to keep information doubles every 40 months. Since 2012, 2.5 Exabyte of data is generated every day;
  • Velocity – the speed in which it comes in;
  • Variety – the range of sources it comes from. Data is gathered from a myriad of sources: mobile devices, cameras, software, microphones, wireless networks, remote sensing, radio-frequency identification readers – and the cheaper and more accessible these become, the more data there is.

Big data is associated with large companies, however, in many cases it could equally benefit SME’s, simply due to the agile nature of these types of businesses. Even the most potent insights are valueless if your business cannot act on them in a timely fashion. Smaller businesses have this advantage, being suited to act on data-derived insights with speed and efficiency.

In the online gaming industry, for example, SME’s are already running Big Data technology within their enterprise without even thinking about it as such. Bookmaker WinUnited has put in place a MongoDB open source non-relational database from 10gen to bring its gambling products together and help it to better update betting odds in real time. This allows them to service customers and update their information as it happens – essential qualities that define this industry.

By running Big Data through a hosted service such as MetaMarkets, the small business can benefit from immediate insight – which needs to be acted upon, and used timeously to be of value. If SMEs collaborate with a channel partner, such as Splunk, they can take advantage of some of the most effective methods to gain necessary data insight, while gaining a deep level of industry expertise. This ensures the business maximises revenues, is able to strategize and develop new products as the market feedback reflects consumer needs. It all depends on how much the SME has to spend and why what the purpose of the data is for.

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Data is useless if one is not able to interpret it, and use it effectively.

Small Data is the new Big Thing for SME’s

Small data is data that one can comprehend easily. In a way, it’s the old “data” – much more accessible, understandable and actionable for everyday tasks than Big Data. Small data is essentially what will shape our future, because where Big Data is all about predicting the future by sifting through millions of data points, small data is really all about the causation of the data, the reason behind the actions – why things happen.

Customer behaviour insight

Small Data is invaluable in SME Marketing, Client Relations and Customer Retention fields, because it clearly and quickly shows trends in product preferences which can help decipher consumer thought processes. This information is used by these departments to predict what products will be popular, how to drive sales in their target market, and gain customer loyalty by delivering to the needs of the consumer, in the right place at the right time, in the right packaging. Small data can also help to indicate where the company should be developing new product and drive their branding strategy, and therefore increase profits while lowering risk.

Even small data sets from CRM platforms, social media or email marketing programmes can also provide much-needed insight to help businesses understand customer behaviour patterns and showcase trends. Google Analytics offers free data analysis. Hootsuite, Sprout Social’s Sprout Insights, Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Moz Analytics are a few tools to consider which offer great insight into social media behaviour – all aids in helping to understand the client, hone the product delivery and gain insight into product suitability.

Learn about your SME, and gain foresight

Many companies simply want to do better analysis with the data they already have. If one’s company has been operating for a year or more, there is a likelihood that a ton of big data exists in the company records. Information from sales ledgers in various forms such as Excel or QuickBooks provide data sets and interpretable statistics to cross-reference with other information in the company provided by the Marketing and CRM departments, for example. By learning about the way in which your company behaves, one can start to predict trends and prevent potentially damaging scenarios from occurring.

Use data to gain a competitive edge

Barclays provides a free service to SMEs, whereby the business can review their market positioning – which includes a downloadable report based on your postcode, constituency or the region the company operates in. The report includes a breakdown of consumer spending in your region; income and age bands of spending growth; turnover of businesses, analysis of the largest sectors, and commentary on the broader economic situation and impacts on small business. This can be extremely useful in terms of marketing and product development, for example.

Xero, the SME cloud-based accounting platform provider, recently launched Xero Signals, giving small business access to an unprecedented level of data, launching initially for New Zealand, with more countries due to follow. It claims to represent a true signal of the state of the country’s small business economy, based on aggregated data from almost 10,000 businesses. This is incredible industry knowledge if your sector is involved in finance, for example, where cutting edge tools are essential.

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Trend spotting. Data is essential to gain insight, gain foresight and maximise profits in business of any size these days.

In the very beginning, most young SME’s probably just need a good quality CRM system, (Hubspot, Salesforce) or ERP (such as Oracle or Sage) if it’s bigger or more complex, and a proper customer contact strategy. Don’t be fooled into spending vast amounts on over-specced software and data-systems providing which are unnecessarily complicated for one’s small company. Upscale as you grow – your needs will change – but it is essential to take advantage of small data to drive strategy and profit in today’s business world.

A word of advice: An SME needs to understand clearly what it’s objectives are (i.e. to understand competitors / geographies or customers or increase prospect pipeline or sales etc) before launching into data analytics, because otherwise the process can become incredibly confusing and complicated – and fascinating – and one can waste valuable time searching and gaining very little.

At the end of the day, the aim of data is to enable companies to make clearer business decisions and plan for the future – and this is definitely possible using both Big Data and small data for SMEs. It all depends on what the purpose of using the data is, and whether you have a budget. Both are incredibly valuable and essential tools to have in business today. Always remember though: it’s not what knowledge and information one has, it’s what you do with it that counts.

What are your experiences using new FinTech products? We would love to hear from you, please post your comments or or get in touch via our website: Akoni

About Felicia Meyerowitz: I am passionate about technology and innovations in financial services adding value to Small and Mid-size business in a practical way. I work as a co-founder at Akoni, aiming to bring innovation to the key asset within all enterprises – cash. Follow me on @Feliciatedx.

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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Inspiring Women in Tech Series #3: Eileen Burbidge, MBE

Eileen Burbidge (@eileentso) has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. “I saw really smart people get nothing but others who hit the jackpot — even though they weren’t that hard-working but because they had timed it right. One of my guiding principles now is that the best you can do is try to increase your exposure to luck and recognise lucky options.”

One can be presented with opportunities, but securing them is another talent altogether. Describing herself as an “accidental venture capitalist”, Ms Burbidge credits her progress with being naturally curious and adventurous, her workaholic tendencies, good communication skills and quick thinking.

Her Chinese parents (her father was an engineer and her mother worked in finance) instilled in her a tough work ethic from an early age. In an article by Ben Rooney, Eileen says that she couldn’t see what the big fuss about Tiger Moms was. She laughs now, but said that she thought that was how everyone was raised. “My parents had this view that they had to work much harder than non-immigrants. They impressed the same view upon us as kids. ‘You are not going to get the breaks when anyone looks at you,’ they would say, ‘so you have to prove that you belong there.’

In the US, for Burbidge, the fact that she was a woman was secondary to the fact that she was ethnically different. “I have had more to prove, and more to overcome, looking Chinese, than I have for being female. I grew up thinking that if I were white, I could do whatever I wanted. I thought white girls had it easy. It never even occurred to me that white girls would say they were disadvantaged.

As one can imagine, Burbidge is passionate about being a great example of how women can thrive in the tech world. She says that women should use the fact that they are a minority to their advantage  – “being conspicuous can be an opportunity to stand out“, and revels in memories about when she has been in meetings as a token female and has ended up flooring the men around the table with her intelligent contributions. She has said many times that being a woman has not been a hinderance to her in this field, and that in fact it is an industry where you can create whoever you want to be behind the computer screen.

Eileen-Burbidge

Burbidge studied computer science at the University of Illinois, “before it was trendy”, and started her career in San Francisco working for a telecoms company. This was the start of the tech boom in Silicon Valley and she rode the tech boom wave, becoming Market Development Manager at Apple Computer. Between 1996 and 2003, Burbidge lived the life, likening the atmosphere in Silicon Valley to Wall Street in the 70’s. She moved across to London in 2004, thinking that gaining international experience would be a good idea, expecting to return to the US after 2 years. Lucky for London, she stayed. “It’s so much more fulfilling to work in tech in the UK because it is earlier in its life cycle and you can shape it more.

Her career path took her to iconic tech companies which were relatively new – Skype, Yahoo and Ambient Sound Investments. She went on to co-found White Bear Yard with Stefan Glaenzer and Robert Dighero, who became her partners at Passion Capital, a leading early-stage technology and internet VC firm, which was launched in 2011.

Apart from working at Passion Captial, Eileen acts as board director for DueDil, Digital Shadows, wireWAX, Lulu and other portfolio companies. When assessing potential startups to invest in, her criteria for possible  are rather interesting: be friendly to the receptionist. Relationships are important. People are your company. How you treat people is vital. Burbidge looks for dedicated individuals who are willing to put in the hours and the passion required to make a success of their ideas.

The London tech scene has exploded, with the digital economy growing a third faster than the UK economy as a whole. Earlier this year, the Tech City cluster of businesses reported that 1.56 million people were employed in digital companies in the UK, with 328,000 of those in London.Digital is already 10 per cent of UK GDP and it is forecast to be 15 per cent in 2017… (It’s) the sector with the greatest job creation compared to the national average and we have 10 times as much venture financing coming into London tech as we had five years ago…. it’s fantastic that the Government has recognised it — economic growth is consistent with its mantra as a government but also in terms of job creation.” 

Listen to Eileen Burbidge being interviewed by TechCrunch here:

Despite the Brexit vote, Burbidge remains positive. The UK, and London “remains the biggest tech centre in Europe and continues to attract the best talent and companies from all over the world. These are attractive factors for any investor and there will be plenty of opportunities for investment in the coming months and years ahead,” she responded to a recent report by the investment database Pitchbook for London & Partners, the promotional body for the London Mayor’s office.

With the passionate-about-tech Eileen Burbidge here as Chair of TechCity UK, as HM Treasury’s Special Envoy for FinTech and Tech Ambassador for the Mayor of London.our official Tech Ambassador – are we surprised the message for UK’s tech scene’s future is a bright one?

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

 Featured photograph by Techworld.com

 

 

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CMA Pave the Way for an “Open Banking Revolution”

This is a real banking revolution: the CMA (Competitions and Markets Authority) announced some stringent rules for banks in the UK to comply with by 2018. This throws the gates wide open to competitors, and will have banks scrambling to attract customers.

As the banking industry has been slow to respond with innovations, the CMA has made it clear that it expects to utilise its own enforcement powers, in addition to expecting reform from the government to push through change. While some commentators believe the change is not far enough, I am of the view that steps in the direction of major change start slowly and momentum builds quickly.

These changes include:

–       Open Banking by 2018 – by which the CMA means to accelerate mobile banking in the UK retail banking sector.  SME’s and individuals will be free to share their banking data securely with other banks and third parties, enabling them to manage their accounts with a range of providers through a single App – thus having more control over their money and also being able to shop around for better deals. Banking on the move, having your bank in your phone is the way of the future.

–       Accurate, unbiased information about their services and truthful information about products and quality of service – from their branches to their websites. there is much agreement that with a significant range of fintech investment both within the industry itself, as well as new players, banking as it currently stands will undergo drastic change.

–       Making event- based communication compulsory – for example if a branch closes or there is an increase of charges, they have to send their customers notice of these happenings.  THIS was raised to provide trigger points for review of banking products – like the insurance sector which has an annual policy renewal as a trigger to prompt considerations of cost, cover, benefits and performance of an insurerer.

The CMA has also made it clear that it is to be made easier for customers to search for banks offering more competitive rates and to enable easier account switching.

Apparently only 3% of individuals and 4% of businesses ever change their banks in a year, despite the huge savings this could provide.

A range of other measures has also been announced – for example, those of you who may have been surprised to find that you are in an unarranged overdraft, without ever having arranged one, the CMA has introduced specific measures including that the bank needs to alert you before this happens, and offer you a grace period. It was found that banks in the UK make an unbelievable £ 1.2billion a year from unarranged overdrafts.

Businessman-in-Istanbul-000052231446_LargeBy 2018, SME’s should be in a much better banking position after the Competition Marketing Authority’s findings

Businesses and individuals win all round with the banks having to provide accurate information on banking services and charges for small business.  One of the key assessments is that small business had lacked the tools needed to assess fair credit and availability and service quality.

In order to progress further, the CMA will be supporting Nesta.  This requires banks to provide financial backing and technical support for this innovation-supporting charity that aims to partner and work with organisations who need information and expertise on the practice and theory of innovation.

This initial level of game-changing recommendations will make the United Kingdom the most attractive banking hub for customers as well as provide another example of leading the way in innovation, particularly relating to small and medium businesses.

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

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