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Business

Who Really Needs a Bookkeeper?

This is one of the questions that tends to be asked almost like clockwork when it comes to new business owners setting up operations for the first time. In the early stages in particular, bookkeeping services can seem somewhat on the superfluous side of things for no reason other than the fact that it can essentially be tackled in-house. And of course, in-house solutions immediately curry favour in the minds of smaller business owners as a means by which to not only retain full control, but save a packet in the process.

Does anyone really need to be thinking of SEPA transfer duties this early on?

Well, the aim of any business of any size is of course to master its particular trade and build a strong, prosperous future. This in turn means that time is perhaps the most valuable resource of all and thus the more time spent wrestling with painful admin tasks like accounting, the less time there is to focus on what the business does best…or at least what it will one day do best.

So, is a bookkeeper the answer?

Checklist to Consider

All circumstances of course differ, but to offer some of the most obvious examples at least, chances are a bookkeeper would be of huge value to you and your business if:

  • You’re already finding yourself guessing or totally clueless in terms of how much money is coming in and how much is going out – records should be 100% flawless.

  • Invoices and receipts have amassed in boxes and filing cabinets in such large and disorganised numbers that you have no idea what most are for and would need about a week to find a specific one.

  • Income is suffering from time to time due to delays in issuing and chasing up invoices and payments owed.

  • Paperwork is mounting up and becoming a headache you’re putting off every day.

  • You’re finding yourself spending more time on paperwork than actually moving the business forward.

  • Numbers aren’t your thing and see you tearing your hair out.

  • You look at paperwork like the root of all evil and despise hitting the books.

Any combination of any of the above scenarios really should indicate that things are not going forward as well as they could be and that a little outside help wouldn’t hurt.

Bookkeeper Benefits

So how can a bookkeeper help? Again, service packages will vary, but the staple benefits include:

  • Massive time saving and freed-up resources.

  • Flawless accuracy.

  • Faster chasing up of all payments owed to stabilising income/outgoings.

  • Reports on performance to enable modifications to be made in the business plan.

  • Legal assistance when and where needed.

  • Peace of mind knowing all tax matters are being handled professionally.

  • Extensive cost-savings compared to buying equipment and running an in-house accounting effort.

Making the Choice

There are very few, if any businesses that couldn’t benefit from at least considering and talking to a pro book keeper– it is simply a case of finding the right one for the job. Just use a little common sense to find an individual or firm with experience in the relevant business area, the right kind of guarantees to ensure a quality partnership and as much positive feedback and accreditation as possible.

Farooq Patel is a self-employed finance professional who holds a number of high-profile contracts he manages from his office in Swindon. He is married with two children and recently returned to the UK after living and working for seven years in the US. 

Business

3 Reasons Why Working Capital is Vital for Your Business

While there are many things that are integral to the successful operation of a business, working capital is arguably the most important.

After all, without a regular and measurable stream of disposable income, businesses may struggle to drive long-term growth and meet the real-time demands of their clients. This may ultimately lead to the demise of your business, regardless of its premise or the uniqueness of its proposition.

In this article, we will look at three of the key factors that reinforce the importance of working capital for your venture: –

1.Working Capital Covers Daily Operations Costs and Unexpected Payments

Essentially, attempting to operate a business without working capital is like trying to pay bills without an income. After all, you cannot cover the basic cost of living without a source of income, while also prevents you from seeking external credit from elsewhere.

Similarly, businesses rely on working capital to cover routine costs, fund daily operational costs and settle sudden, unexpected payments. It is therefore the lifeblood of any successful venture, particularly one that is able to generate turnover consistently without the need to secure outside investment.

2.Working Capital Bridges the Gap Between Consolidation and Growth 

If your business is able to generate a healthy and consistent source of working capital, it will also create genuine opportunities for growth over time. It therefore bridges a crucial gap in business expectations, enabling brands to simultaneously consolidate their existing workloads and take on new clients.

The service offered by companies such as Market Invoice embody this competitive advantage, as they pledge to buy company invoices for completed works. This can provide a sudden cash injection into your venture, while the amount is simply repaid once your clients have settled their bill (usually after a traditional invoice period of 30 days).

The income can subsequently be used as advanced working capital and committed to the undertaking of new tasks as required. The process can then can be repeated to create a cycle of growth, and one that does not require the business to take on long-term debts. 

3.Working Capital is a Metric of Growth and Liquidity

Most businesses will, at some point during their development, look to secure a large investment so that they can implement long-term development plans. Whether this involves relocating the business or diversifying into new markets, it is most likely that you will have to seek out an external investor who is willing to commit to your business in exchange for an equity share.

Investors will appraise your proposition in careful detail before making a decision, however, with working capital one the key metrics used to determine the health, liquidity and long-term growth potential of the business. It can offer an insight to your debt management strategy and underlying business model, for example, while it also highlights the companies efficiency when it comes to revenue collection.

These are all key considerations for investors, and a reliable stream of working capital can help to reinforce your business as a viable proposition.

Business

How to make a great, first-time Airbnb listing

Founded in 2008, online marketplace and homestay network Airbnb has now spread across over 191 countries and looks like it is here to stay. As one of the biggest success stories from the shared economy boom, we’re sure that you or at least someone you know would have used the new online homestay service rather than a conventional hotel. Recently, Airbnb estimated that 2 million people used the service on New Year’s Eve 2016 – the population of Slovenia or Latvia.

Airbnb can be a fantastic way to earn some extra income from your space. If you’re ready to give it a try then here are some simple tips, which if you follow, can make your homestay listing much more attractive.

Competition

Before you start taking any snaps of your home, it’s wise to take a moment and look at what’s available around you first.

Just like in business, you’re going to be in competition with other listings around your area so you need to look at them with and objective eye.

  • How are the photographs styled?
  • What aspects of the images work well?
  • What are their unique selling points (USPs)?

It’s crucial that you do this step as it will also help with your pricing strategy. Once you’ve completed your photography, look again at how it stacks up compared to competitors.

The Host description

Although good photography is vital, don’t dismiss the importance of a great ‘Host’ description. At first, you might find this uncomfortable, but this is a space where you have to sell yourself as a host to seal the deal. Describe why you live in the area, what you might get up to in your free time and what your passions are. This will help you connect with Airbnb users when browsing. If you’re stuck on the tone of voice, just go back to competitor research and pick out what you liked about others and start from there.

Personality/getting Involved

Consider what your listing is. Will the lodger be sharing with you or family or will they have the place to themselves? This will dramatically change the way you advertise the listing. If the lodger has complete free reign on the property, then it’s better to shoot the house with more of a blank page in mind. However, if they’ll be sharing with you, your family, friends or pets then you have some creative licence to include more personality on the profile. This will help the viewer get a better sense of what the stay will be like and make them more comfortable when clicking ‘book’.

Clutter
Messy and untidy images of your property will immediately lose potential customers so use this as an opportunity for a spring clean.  We know the property is most likely still going to contain most of your possessions, however, one of the biggest faux pas in Airbnb photography is dirty rooms and untidy living areas. If you don’t clear up, you risk allowing the clutter to draw the viewer’s attention away from a room’s best features and make the room feel smaller.  Always aim to make your area seem as spacious as possible, as it helps a viewer’s ability to see potential in their visit.

Logical Progression

Many people don’t get this point right. It’s easy to make the mistake that Airbnb users will understand the design of the property like you do but don’t ever presume. Most Airbnb users are new to your city let alone your home!

Instead lead them on a journey around their potential stay. Thus, when composing your photographs, make sure that they are arranged in logical order so that browsing takes them on a natural and seamless progression. If viewers can get a confident feel for how the space is laid out, then you’ll increase your chances of an enquiry. Make sure every space which they can use is covered and that there is a mix of outdoor and indoor photography. Also, if there’s a killer view – make sure that’s shown!

Weather & recent photos

Unless you’re pitching a gloomy, horror themed stay, avoid dark stormy days when taking pictures. Natural light will make the rooms feel much more inviting and calm. Also, try to take seasonality out of the photos. Nothing says out of date like a Christmas tree in the summer. Unless you’re prepared to do more work to change them every couple of months, try to take photos which don’t show noticeable seasonal cues.

Lighting

Arguably the most important thing to get right on your Airbnb listing. The viewer’s interpretation of the space and ambiance is intrinsically linked with its lightness; darkness will make rooms seem smaller and dull, whilst bright lighting makes a room appear clean, crisp and inviting. Regardless of the room’s shape or structure, brighter lighting will lift the mood and increase the chances of a booking. Turning on most of the light is a no brainer, but be careful with natural light coming from windows. If it’s too bright, it can be blinding and reflective which won’t flatter the room as intended. Experiment with drawing the blinds if the room is receiving direct sunlight. A slightly cloudy day can actually work as your natural soft box, diffusing the light.

Lastly, if you are taking images of your garden, make sure the sun is behind to limit long shadows forming. Photos which capture the views from your property might be the exception so long as the light isn’t creating excessive lens glare and shadows on your scene.

Angles

You will often find the framing of the room looks best when taken straight on (see below). However, some other simple rules and tricks will also help present the room in its most flattering way. A wide angle lens will increase the illusion of space and keeping on the horizontal plane at the same height will help with flow; preferably mid height (1.25m to 1.50m). Shooting from head height angle can make the images feel skewed as the camera points downwards.

As camera technology has moved leaps and bounds over the last ten years, this issue is less prevalent. It sounds obvious, but make sure you’re using a good camera or modern smartphone if you don’t have one. Use a tripod or see if you can use something to keep the camera steady when shooting. Blurry, out of focus images will be a real turnoff from what could have been a great photo. Also, avoid editing the photos too heavily. There’s nothing wrong with a small touch up, but anything too heavy will seem dishonest and definitely try and keep all the photos to the same style. One heavily filtered photo from Instagram will seem out of place and ruin the flow.

So put your best foot forward on Airbnb with these tips and we think you’ll save hours of time reshooting the property or rewriting the description. Vivo Property Buyers wishes you the best of luck!

Business

Covenants at risk as restructurings rise

After a spike in corporate restructuring actions, a report has warned pension trustees and sponsor employers to keep a closer grip on the details of their covenant. The research, included in an Insight report from Punter Southall Transaction Services (PSTS), cites the challenging economic climate as the driving force behind the rising restructuring trend. 

Against a backdrop of corporate defaults, businesses are restructuring their financial and operational systems to avoid insolvency and a range of inclement factors, like a deterioration in trading performance. Lorant Porkolab, leading the PSTS covenant advisory team, urged businesses to show a consideration of the impact of changes to a pension scheme: 

“Many restructurings affect the legal shape of the business,” Porkolab said. “It is critical for trustees to understand where this leaves the pension scheme and its sponsoring employer.” 

Defined benefit pensions schemes are at particular risk to material changes in the strength of their employer covenant. The list of companies that have instigated some sort of recent restructuring process include Premier Foods, TUI Travel, JJB Sports, Logica and Punch Taverns. 

While PSTS raised concerns over vulnerable covenants, a separate report from Gazelle Pensions Advisory revealed that sponsor defaults may not be the biggest threat to pension security. Based data from 25 years of the FTSE 100 Index, the findings showed the erosion of the pension “promise”, by corporate transactions, strategies and performance, presents a bigger problem to schemes’ financial futures. 

Gazelle Pensions Advisory’s study extended to blue-chip companies, where trustees handled a high level of scheme funding risk. The findings showed: 

  • While only 7% of companies defaulted, 26% experienced a level of financial stress which would have materially affected their ability to fund their pension schemes.
  • 83% of companies experienced some sort of major transaction (including multinational takeover, merger, or restructuring) which would fundamentally change the strength of their employer covenant.
  • Only 17 of the FTSE 100 companies surveyed had not experienced a major transaction, like restructuring. 

In the wake of the findings, pension trustees are being urged to re-adjust their expectations of the capability of their schemes’ regulatory framework to handle the adverse situations linked to restructurings. In practice, this means ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the employer covenant – ensuring REGULAR REVIEWS or using professional COVENANT REVIEW SERVICES

 Chairman of Gazelle Pensions Advisory, Simon Willes, focussed on the changes pension trustees will have to make to bolster the security of their schemes. Willes’ emphasised weaknesses in the current regulatory framework to deal with funding risks posed by “corporate activity and change” – in particular from unsecured creditors. 

“The transaction clearance regime is voluntary and appears to be largely ignored,” said Willes. “If regulation is about ensuring pensioners receive pensions from defined benefit schemes, the status and ranking of pension schemes from long-term unsecured creditors is central to the debate.” 

Covenant reviews are often carried out by Independent Trustees. More information about why independents are brought in to work with pension schemes can be found here. Pension Clarity has further information concerning the nature of covenant reviews as part here.

Business

What To Do When You Want To Change Your Career?

There are many moments in life when we realize the fact that we want to do something else. While in the past it was quite impossible to change careers, nowadays everything is a lot simpler. There are various education options that are available and in the event that you do not actually know what to do and you want to change your current career path, here are some things you should consider.

What Jobs Are Available Now?

This is a question you have to ask yourself. It is useless to get education if you cannot actually find the job where you live. Sites like Xpat Careers aid you to see what is currently in demand and can be a great starting point for your research. It is not the only option that is available but it is something that you have to consider. Make a list of the different opportunities available and always take your personal wishes into account.

Necessary Education

Based on the career path that you want to take, there may be some alternative education options that can be considered to make the switch faster. For instance, if you consider becoming a plumber, you can go through an apprentice program instead of actually following formal education. In the event that you do not have enough time to go through the necessary education, you may want to consider other alternatives. You want to be really good at the new job that you will do.

The Financial Aspect

This is the most difficult thing about changing your career. In the event that you make a switch and you already went through some raises in the past, you can find yourself in the unwanted situation in which the new career will not make you enough money to sustain your current lifestyle. Never dismiss this fact since it will have a huge impact on your life.

On the whole, changing a career is not at all difficult. You need to make a list of all the options you should consider and then, eventually, choose one new career path. Make sure that you take your time and that you understand all the pros and cons of the options that you are considering! Remember that you can make many mistakes when changing your career.