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

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.

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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Inspiring Women in Tech Series #1: Lady Judge buys into Tech Startup

“Lady Judge” sounds like a female heroine character from comic book series. She even looks like one – her trademark high-collared immaculately white Victorian style blouse under the tailored black suit. Her blonde hair neatly pinned up. At the same time very feminine and incredible capable – one senses her determination – her undeniable steely strength. The minute I heard of her, I have been fascinated by the brilliant Lady Barbara Thomas Judge, CBE.

A one-time chair of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, her current interests span energy and infrastructure as well as pensions. This Queen B for Business hit the headlines this week in what some would imagine is a surprising move – and one showing hugely positive faith in the future of tech start-ups in the UK. Judge is swapping her position as Pension Protection Fund Chair for another kind of Chair – as the head of 2-month-old UK based start-up, hibob. Thrilled Ronni Zehavi, co-founder and CEO of hibob, says: “Lady Barbara’s track-record in supporting British SMEs and the pension industry is second to none.”

“Small and medium sized businesses are the backbone of our economy,” said Lady Judge. “Yet the daily pressure they face to remain compliant and retain their staff is huge.”

Interestingly, Judge was working as a part-time computer programmer at University in Pennsylvania around 1966. Her influential and well-respected mother, Marcia Singer, worked as associate dean of the New York Institute of Technology. Judge sees her mother as the number one inspiration to the young Barbara Sue Singer. “She… taught women in the 1950s and 1960s that they should work because they have a brain, and that they should earn their own money because money brings independence. She taught me to get back on the horse if I fell off.”

Women are scarce in the lofty boardrooms that Lady Judge has made her territory, and her mission is to encourage women in business to succeed. One way she does this is by making policy to place at least one other woman on the same board, and ideally at least three of them.

On CNN she told Ananpour, “One woman is an oddity, two is ok – but at three you’re not “women”, rather it’s just “people”, and once you’re just people the dynamic changes.” Have a look at this interview with Amanpour on CNN in 2015 – where Lady Judge’s determination to bring more women to the boardroom is made clear:

Watch: CNN Amanpour Lady Judge interview 2015/04/13

Judge has even suggested that business be forced to use quotas (even though she doesn’t agree with quotas, generally) to top up female representation in business boards. “Women are great multi-taskers and very smart. They bring diversity to the board table.”

She strongly advocates that studying science and mathematics is the way forward for women. “A woman can boost her prospects by studying maths or accountancy. If a young woman studies maths, she will earn a third more than if she did not. I studied history and believe I have been playing catch up my whole life.”

In an interview in 2015 with Director Magazine, she said that her aim is to “…die at my desk”.

Well, let’s hope that won’t happen for a very long time!

Heather Greig (These views are entirely my own.)

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

 

#UKisOpen to #Business

As we have been advocating at StrongJones, the UK is Open for Business.   As a consistent Top 5 global economic performer, Britain has demonstrated that the full range of business products and services add value to our own domestic market as well as multiple overseas countries.   We are happy that the new Chancellor, Philip Hammond is to showcase Britain’s attractions as a place to invest in a post-EU referendum world.   This will be conveyed at the first gathering of the EU countries’ finance ministers and central bank governors since the referendum.

Hammond’s announcement came hot on the heels of London Mayor, Sadiq Khan’s #LondonIsOpen campaign which launched this week – urging investors and visitors to engage with the city.

220px-Philip_Hammond,_Secretary_of_State_for_Defence Philip Hammond

The chancellor said, “Britain is open for business and one of the most attractive destinations in the world for international investment.‎” The focus is on boosting trade and investment beyond Europe.   Have a look at the catchy #LondonIsOpen campaign video, launched as part of the #LondonIsOpen campaign, below:

Global Business Support for the Campaign

The global trade theme was immediately taken up by new British PM Theresa May, Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, a host of celebrities and major business voices including Sir Richard Branson, Hilton, Merlin Entertainments and Google.   Theresa May was quoted saying, “This is a unique opportunity to take advantage of international trade and business and strengthen our ties across the world culturally as well as financially.

… And a Word for Small Business from the new PM

“Furthermore, small business is the lifeblood of our country and I will do everything I can to maximise opportunities for everyone, not just the privileged few.”

In Britain we are a nation built on solid foundations, and we need to continue with our pragmatic attitude to manufacturing and services, to trade, support small business and function as we did before.  SME’s are part of the future of this nation’s economy. There is now, like never before, a need to create new trade links and to strengthen the old ones.  SME’s are in the “trenches” on the frontline of this new quest, and need all the hope and support from political and other institutions.

With our new StrongJones start-up, we are committed to supporting SME’s. We noticed that many SME’s had hard-earned cash earning next to nothing sitting in Savings Accounts due to the attitude of the high-street banks and their large margins and looked to change this – providing the tools and the marketplace for results.   Our team have all grown businesses and have direct experience working hard on all aspects of operations to deliver returns – teams, our lease, our production and customer services. Yet what should be simple – cash management and cash returns – has somehow become complex and time-consuming due to the way banks work.   We have created a simple solution, all with a few clicks.  The StrongJones platform allows businesses to canvas the markets with tools personalised to their business requirements and cashflow needs.     With our tools we can ensure that these cash Savings will be earning the maximum interest possible — even in times of extreme change.

Sign Up & Join Our Beta Group

We are setting up a Beta user group, and if you’re an SME in the UK with cash currently providing a minimal return, we can add significant value.

With StrongJones, you don’t have to worry about the future of your cash, you can be assured you have taken the best options to maximise your Savings. This differential can enable the business to invest in new technology or projects, or employ that extra person.

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

Image from The Telegraph, Google Images

 

 

 

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