an accountant's perspective

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Write your Bucket List Because Life is Too Short

What is on your bucket list?

Sometimes we are so consumed by work and the daily cycle of life that we forget we only have a finite amount of time on this Earth. When you look back over a year of toil what is it that you see?

There will be moments of joy like birthdays, celebrations, holidays and successes. Perhaps some moments of sadness, heartache and failure. But, the majority of the time, and I can almost guarantee it, will be full of work, washing up, cleaning, picking up the kids, dropping the kids off, stressing about 101 things, sleeping, feeling sleepy, illness, cooking, shopping…

We all do it and it eats away our time on this wondrous planet. Everyone makes time for the necessities in life but who stops to make time for the magical moments we ought to be searching out and embracing every opportunity we get?

At base we are still animalistic creatures craving fulfilment, seeking experience and adventure. So, why do we tie ourselves to our rigid repetitive lives? I know we all have to make a living but we are not doing that 24-7 (well most of us are not). So what can we do to save ourselves from the black hole of sleep deprivation, stress and work?

Write a bucket list. As most people know by now this is a list of all the things you wish to do before you die. The problem with them is that people tend to leave them too late. We find it very hard to live each day like it is our last. There is so much to do and most of us barely scratch the surface.

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For instance you could:

  • Trek the Himalayas

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  • Ride a skidoo or snowmobile ride
  • Do an open water swim
  • Meet your number one celebrity crush
  • Get closer to nature
  • Find yourself a secluded island for the best holiday escape ever
  • Visit the seven wonders of the world
  • Swim with dolphins

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And if you are on a budget how the heck are you meant to make the most of the world? Well you have a few options:

  • Last minute deals
  • Hostels, home exchange, camping
  • Save up: ditch the fags because life is already too short, stop paying for a lottery ticket because your chances are ridiculously slim and you will save a packet!

Or, you can dig a little deeper into your imagination and find some free, or almost free, fun stuff to add to your bucket list:

  • Mountain biking through some stunning countryside
  • Walking the length of Hadrian’s Wall
  • Visit some breath-taking heritage, scenery, natural enigmas
  • Taste new and sensational foods
  • Find hidden gems: restaurants, museums, theatres, cinemas, walking routes, shops
  • Do something meaningful like pay your respects at a war memorial, make time for a friend, research a charity you know nothing about, volunteer a day of your time for a worthy cause
  • Read a book or a trilogy you have been meaning to get around to
  • Start a course – any course
  • Visit the seaside
  • Throw a party just because
  • Start a book club, wine tasting sessions, an Ann Summers group – whatever you want!
  • Learn another language
  • Learn a martial art, origami, cookery, pottery, pole dancing!

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You can even enter your bucket list onto a website that will enable you to track and achieve your goals. It also gives you plenty of inspiration to fill your list full of crazy, creative and clever ideas. Visit: http://bucketlist.org/.

If I have not convinced you that there may be more to life than you are currently fitting into it then maybe I have not said it right.

You are here on this planet just the once (unless you believe in reincarnation in which case you may have been here before and will be again).

You have one life to experience all that you want to experience. If that amounts to work, eat, sleep, repeat – then maybe, just maybe, you are letting this single chance you have pass you by.

You do not have to sky dive, climb Everest, swim the channel, or ride a camel past the pyramids to feel fulfilled. That is not what this is about – you can be content without leaving your own country.

This is about filling your soul with wonder and joy. It is about jolting your expectations and treating yourselves to moments of awe and disbelief. You can sit at a desk your whole life and never realise how beautiful the view from your office is, how amusing the nearest person to you can be, or how fun a chair on wheels can become if you just open your eyes and break out of necessity and into a land of spontaneity.

So, spend some time today writing your bucket list and deciding what kind of life you want. What legacy will you leave behind you? Start writing it now and then start ticking them off because actioning your inner desires is going to make you smile. In fact it is going to make you grin, chuckle, and smirk to yourself every time you stop to appreciate how much richer your life just became.

Go and live life like you have never done before because otherwise what is the chuffing point?

Here are some ideas from our Alien Abacus to help you write your bucket list: abacus bucket list

 

 

 

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Business Apps that make our lives easier

There are very few people in the world these days that no not have a phone and of those phone owners most have a smartphone. And a large quantity of those smartphone owners will have a tablet and use a computer at work. So, the demand for apps that work across multiple platforms has led to some fantastic developments.

Whether we like it or not apps have transformed our daily lives. There is very little that we cannot do from our smartphones these days. Work has become a 24-7 obsession for many people because we can just never escape it.

I have picked out just ten apps (I may have cheated with the last entry) that have transformed our relationship with technology. I will admit now that three of them involve file storage and may perhaps paint me as a bit of a geek. Let me stop you there. I am more of a nostalgic nerd if truth be told. As I will go on to explain virtual storage has been a real game changer. It has made our documentation secure, almost indestructible and instantly available for editing and amending making information far more up-to-date and accurate than it has ever been before.

As an accountancy firm we are well aware that the future of record keeping will be entirely virtual and to be frank – we can’t wait for it to become the norm.

So here are ten apps that we feel make a daily difference to our busy working lives:

  1. Audio Memos – The Voice Recording

Record voice notes or full transcripts – there is no length restriction though the free version will only allow you to email up to 3MB of recordings. The 69p version allows unlimited size email transfers and you can also upload to Dropbox or Google Drive. If you cannot afford a PA and you have a lot on your mind this little app is ideal for keeping track of everything on your ‘to do’ list. Making a quick recording could talk a colleague through something to help clarify written notes, half the time it takes you to create a priority list, and you can do audio files on the go. 69p well spent!

  1. Google Drive

So simple to use and instantly connects everyone in the office – but not in a social way. This app allows companies to sync and share files. The app stores documents (text, spreadsheets, drawings, presentations) in Google Drive virtually and allows multiple users to access and edit them. It saves the files automatically and people can edit them simultaneously – there is no limit to the amount of users accessing the document at precisely the same moment. Collaboration in real time and easy to download and use. And of course you can access them anywhere from the phone version of the app.

  1. Cisco WebEx

An app that allows employees to share a screen when delivering presentations online. You can conduct video conferences or meetings with multiple users at once – demonstrate ideas/findings by sharing your screen and pulling up the relevant documents. There is a handy mobile version. Of course, there is also Google Hangouts – found on Google+ that does a similar thing allowing real-time chat, video and screen-share. Meetings can be conducted from your desk with the same results as if you had been sat in front of your client in person.

  1. Microsoft Office 365

I am putting this on the list because it is just something we know well that has adapted perfectly for current and culture demand. The 365 version stores all of your documents in the cloud provided you have a web interface or mobile app (erm who doesn’t?). There is real-time collaboration available and you can edit and store Word, Excel and Powerpoint documents knowing that they are being stored safely in your virtual vault. It wasn’t long ago that we had to store important docs on a floppy disc, then we got CDs, then we moved onto data sticks and now we seem to suspend them in virtual reality. Stop to think about it for a moment it becomes a little surreal!

floppy to virtual storage

  1. YouTube

Still the third biggest social media site. You can talk about Instagram and Vine but they have got a long way to go before they come close to the King of video. Brands increasingly leverage video sites to connect with customers. The ‘how to’ guide, introductory video, animated sequences are gathering momentum – there has never been a better time to utilise the medium of video. There is the added bonus that your YouTube channel connects to your Google+ page, your Google+ page is connected to your Google Places Page and…well Google likes consistent information about one company appearing over naturally synched sites. Especially ones that they created!

  1. Dropbox

Still a favourite of mine, perhaps because it was one of the first virtual storage apps to grab my attention. Back when I suddenly spotted something better than the miniscule data stick that I kept losing at the bottom of my bag. Dropbox is used by employees to sync files across devices so they can get them on their commutes, during lunch, at home and when they really ought to be doing something non-work related! Alas, we can access our files anywhere that there is a web connection unless we have already downloaded and updated files before leaving one – in which case we are never without them. Is there such a thing as being too organised – too connected? That’s for another blog.

  1. Card Munch

A solution to the piles of business cards on your desk. Get this app on your phone and the first thing you do after every networking event is take a picture of all the cards you have collected. This is a free app, owned by LinkedIn, which turns your business cards into LinkedIn Connections.

  1. Evernote

The app that keeps you moving ideas from inspiration to completion – at least that is what they say. It is certainly very popular. Evernote keeps you organised across all your platforms/devices. It allows you to store notes, photos, to-do lists, ideas, and voice reminders in one neat place. You can search your notes and the free version of the app permits up to 60MB of usage per month. It also gives you a handy usage meter to you can see how much your have consumed for the month. This is a very slick and useful app few people can be without once they have incorporated it into their lives.

  1. Buffer

There are many social media management apps but this one is my current favourite and so it made the list. I like buffer because you can stack up posts in a queue for each platform you decide to connect. You can attach feeds to generate content from sites that you know and trust or you can chose from the 25 daily suggestions Buffer gives you from the subject areas you selected. There is a toolbar icon for you to add great articles as you come across them. The content is varied, you can schedule posts, queue them for later or post them instantly. Admittedly the paid version has more features but the free app is a good place to start.

    10. Facebook, Twitter, Google+

When it came down to it I just couldn’t choose. Google+ is great because you can store all the photos from your phone on there (it will automatically back them up, just change the privacy setting so only you can see them). Twitter is kind of essential if you are into your social media as a business because it is real-time. You have to response to mentions, DMs and trends as they are taking place or you have missed the point of Twitter really. Facebook is just Facebook – the King of social media regardless of how many new apps come along to take a pop at it. With instant messenger, the Pages app, and far reaching insights, what is not to love?

So, what is your favourite app?

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Smashing the accountant stereotype to pieces

From the very beginning accountants have had a hard deal with stereotypes and literary attacks. They have been painted as crooks, thieves, liars, greedy money hoarders, boring stiff collard nerds, and humour less droids. Ouch!

But, don’t take my word for it, have a look at how they have been captured in text and slated in recorded opinions through the centuries. From philosopher through to writer and actor everyone has a strong opinion about accountants.

The first example comes by way of the bible:

Jesus entered the temple area [of Jerusalem] and drove out all who

were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the

money changers [the accountants of their day] and the benches of

those selling doves. ”It is written, ” he said to them, “‘My house will

be called a house of prayer, ‘ but you are making it a ‘den of

robbers.’ (Matthew 21: 12-13)

It is also interesting to find that tax collectors have had an equally bad press:

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house [the home of a tax

collector], many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him

and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the

teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the

“sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he

eat with tax collectors and “sinners?” (Mark 2: 15-16)

Elbert Hubbard, the American writer, publisher, artist and philosopher is credited with this quote:

‘The typical accountant is a man, past middle age, spare, wrinkled, intelligent, cold, passive, non-committal, with eyes like a cod-fish; polite in contact but at the same time unresponsive, calm and damnably composed as a concrete post or a plaster of Paris cast; a petrification with a heart of feldspar and without charm of the friendly germ, minus bowels, passion or sense of humour. Happily they never reproduce and all of them finally go to Hell’ Attributed to Elbert Hubbard – sourced here

The psychologist Abraham Maslow once characterised accountants as obsessive, exacting, and uncreative. He saw them as only concerned only with order and control.

Let’s have a look at one literary depiction among many from modern times. The accountant in Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ is a fine example of literature mocking a stereotype:

‘I met a white man, in such an unexpected elegance of get-up that in the first moment I took him for a sort of vision. I saw a high starched collar, white cuffs, a light alpaca jacket, snowy trousers, a clean necktie, and varnished boots. No hat. Hair parted, brushed, oiled, under a green-lined parasol held in a big white hand. He was amazing, and had a penholder behind his ear.’ (1.42)

Marlow is stunned by the man’s appearance. He is constantly immersed in his books upholding extreme due diligence. Conrad portrays the accountant and the company he represents and embodies as impenetrable – machine like. He is the slick shinny example of the ideal and perhaps how we like to view accountants. The backdrop of black native African workers make him look quite ridiculous.

So, it might be time the vicious stereotypes were laid to rest. These reasons are a good starting point in the case of the accountant verses the stereotype:

  • there are plenty of women in accounting these days including 10 in the ABC Accounting Services offices
  • Accountants are responsible for tax refunds – HMRC are highly unlikely to initiate those of their own accord
  • There are much less stressful ways to make money – accountants earn their wage. More than eight out of ten suffer from stress related problems
  • Accountants have embraced social media and technological advancements which have put serious distance between them and their tweed, abacus image
  • Accountants have personality and like to laugh just as much as the next person

Beware of the director sign on doorshell doing a crazy pose belinda holding chainsaw

Hopefully, that is the end of that debate once and for all. It is time to start writing nice things about accountants’ people!

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Self Assessment Questions and Answers

This week’s blog is all about Self-Assessment. We have written about it before but this time we are addressing the subject in a question and answer format. With the end of the self-assessment tax year beginning to draw nearer you still have time to get your bookkeeping in order and put some money to one side for your tax bills. Now is the time to act if you haven’t already.

Do you have a specific question you need the answer to? Browse the questions below and go to the part of the blog that interests you most:

  1. How much tax will I pay now that I am self-employed?
  2. Do I have to pay National Insurance?
  3. Can my home be classed as a business expense?
  4. How do I register to become self-employed?
  5. Can I claim for travel expenses?
  6. How do I record business expenses?
  7. What are the advantages and disadvantages of going self-employed?
  8. How do I pay tax?
  1. How much tax will I pay now that I am self-employed?

Once you are self-employed you get paid the entire invoice amount. So unlike permanent employment you do not get your tax and NI deducted from that total. This means that you have to avoid the temptation of taking the whole amount out and spending it as some will have to be put to one side to cover taxes at the end of the year.

As a general rule, we would recommend that you put 20% of everything you earn to one side. This amount should cover your tax and National Insurance (NI) easily. You will be able to adjust this figure over time as you get a better understanding of your tax liabilities.

Since your tax is based on profits made after allowable expenses, you need to be sure that you are claiming everything you are entitled to so that your tax bill isn’t larger than it needs to be.  Your accountant can advise you on this but as a rough guide, most direct business expenses are tax deductible.

  1. Do I have to pay National Insurance?

Yes you do. As a self-employed individual it is your responsibility to make sure you pay your own tax and NI contributions.

The most common payments are Class 2 National Insurance (NI) Contributions, which are paid at a flat weekly rate of £2.75 (2014/2015), although if your annual profit is over £7,956 you fall into the Class 4 National Insurance Contributions category as well. If your profits are between £7,956 and £41,865 (2014/2015) this is an additional 9%, and any profit over £41,865 accrue an additional 2% to pay as well.

Your National Insurance contributions go towards state benefits that include maternity leave, pension, statutory sick pay and job seekers allowance. It is good sense to make your own arrangements for your income protection insurance and a personal pension that would go above and beyond a state pension.

Your National Insurance contributions are calculated alongside your tax so you will pay them when you pay your income tax. Class 2 National Insurance contributions will be paid either monthly or bi-annually by Direct Debit to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

  1. Can my home be classed as a business expense?

Yes it can. HMRC allows self-employed individuals to claim back expenses for a room in your home, for the hours you use it for business purposes. This means that you can make a claim for:

  • Electricity
  • Heating and water
  • Council tax
  • Mortgage interest

At the times you use part of your house as office space. You can work this out by taking into account how many hours a week you are using the space and then calculate the cost of the room per hour. The accounts will clearly state this usage as ‘use of home as office’ or something along those lines.

It is a complicated aspect of self-employment to work out, made easier with an accountant’s assistance admittedly. This tax deductible entry changes if you become a Limited company and continue to work from home. At this point we would advise getting an accountant’s assistance as they will give you the most up to date and accurate information.

  1. How do I register to become self-employed?

The first stop is to register with HMRC. This is a priority because when you become self-employed failure to register this with HMRC within 3 months of starting out will potentially result in a penalty. It is very simple to do – the quickest way is to simply register online.

To enable an accountant or agent to complete this form for you make sure you have signed a 64-8 form (Authorisation for your agent). This form allows and enables your accountant to act on your behalf and deal with HMRC directly.

  1. Can I claim for travel expenses?

Yes you can and you most certainly should. You can claim for your car, any rail travel and business related travel costs incurred during a business trip. Keep hold of all receipts and a detailed mileage record so you can prove the expenses and document them accurately in your tax return.

For more information on travel expenses and mileage allowances take a look at our Tax Data Card that contains all of the up to date stats for 2014-15.

  1. How do I record business expenses?

As with most things in accountancy thorough records need to be kept. So for any kind of business expense, you need proof of purchase, usually by way of a receipt or a bank statement. These receipts are then added up at the end of the year and the total value is put on your self-assessment tax form. HMRC recommends that you keep your receipts for six years. However, it is admissible to scan them and store the records online. You can easily drop these files, once scanned, into a Dropbox, ICloud, or GoogleDrive account where they will be secure and take up considerably less space.

  1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of going self-employed?

The advantages of being self-employed are:

  • You are your own boss.
  • You wear many different hats because you are in charge of finance, marketing, human resources, sales. There should never be a dull day!
  • You can work when and where you choose to a routine of your choosing – that’s freedom!
  • You can see the direct link between work effort and reward which sometimes is not visible to an employee.
  • You can negotiate acceptable payment terms to suit your requirements.
  • You can work for multiple clients at the same time, on many different projects, which can increase your earning potential and also the variety of the work you do.
  • You may be able to command higher rates of pay depending on your skill level and the industry and market within which you work.

However, you also need to consider the disadvantages of taking on full responsibility for your earnings and having that level of freedom:

  • You do everything yourself so you are responsible for the day-to-day demands and general running of the business.
  • You will have to build resources and of course a team around you. At the start you will have to do every single task yourself ranging from cleaning the office, ordering in adequate stationary through to completing your bookkeeping and securing new clients/customers. There will be plenty of tasks that you have to do that you will dislike.
  • It is rare to take away a large salary in the first few years – some months you might not even be able to afford a full wage for yourself.
  • You may have to juggle two jobs at the beginning to fund the business and get it off the start line. It is common practice to continue with some form of employment to begin with so that you have a steady wage coming in that you can rely on.
  • You need to offer a product or service for which there is demand. This may take you in a different direction than what you originally thought and it may also lead you to learn new skills to stay current and competitive.
  • Too much expansion too quickly can be detrimental to a business as can too little.
  • Working from home is the most cost effective way to run a business to begin with. If you work from other premises, you will need to pay rent and other overheads.
  1. How do I pay tax?

Self-Assessment involves completing an online or paper tax return. You will send in information that tells HMRC your income and expenses, which ultimately gives them details of your profit figure. This is what they will tax you on. You will also give them full details of any other tax allowances or reliefs you are entitled to.

Those answers should give you a good grounding on all you need to know when approaching your self-assessment. If there is anything else you need to know or if you are contemplating going self-employed but want to talk things through, contact us on 01427 613613. You get a free 30 minute consultation so any concerns can be aired and alleviated before you take the plunge and start out on your own.

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50 Top Business and Accounting Tips

We are celebrating our ten year anniversary here at ABC Accounting Services. That means we have ten years worth of accounting and business experience to share with the world. Not just that, it also means that we have seen thousands of businesses both fail and succeed in their sectors.

The culmination of this knowledge is a list of 50 top tips for keeping your business afloat based around what we have seen businesses benefit from and what we know is sound accounting advice. They wont all be Earth shattering insights, because a lot of business involves common sense, but there will be some nuggets of wisdom in there. We have also thrown in a few light suggestions to keep you amused along the way.

So enjoy and hopefully we will continue to entertain and educate our followers for another 10 years – cheers!

1. Good bookkeeping from day one not only makes perfect sense but it will also avoid a lot of long nights and accompanying stress further down the line. Get a system in order from the start and then you will always be on top of your paperwork.

2. Talk through big issues with someone else in business. If you run a business on your own another perspective can be crucial when making big decisions. You will not always agree with someone else’s insight but it does make you consider another viewpoint to that of your own.

3. Always make time for clients when they need it, even if it is not convenient for you. The same applies to customer service for commerce companies. It has to be above and beyond what the client and customer expects if you are to build real trust and respect with your target audience.

4. Leading on from point 3, the most valuable form of marketing today is still the same as it has always been – word of mouth. People talk and the only question you need to consider is whether they will be saying good or bad things about you and your business.

5. Don’t run out of tea, coffee, sugar, or milk. Firstly, because it is really bad for morale and secondly because you will look a right dummy if you can’t offer visiting clients a drink!

6. The traditional advice is to keep personal and business completely separate. ABC has more of a family style bond where the boss is the boss but still a colleague, source of support, and when needed, a friend. Do what works for your business but be careful to keep a clear line so that everyone knows where they stand when tough decisions need to be made.

7. Ignore social media at your peril. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn are the big four. Instagram and Pinterest are the big movers. It is free marketing that will raise your profile so make sure you know your social media and get your business on there pronto.

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8. Making mistakes and learning from them is the most valuable skill that you will learn. No mistake is irreversible unless you do not face it head on and put it right.

9. Keep all receipts from fuel, office supplies, overheads, work clothes, equipment, and hospitality/social functions so your accountant can claim full expenses entitlement against your tax bill .

10. Keep morale high by empowering staff, training them to be the best that they can be, and actively encouraging light relief and social events when the team need them.

11. Write all the important dates on a wall calendar where you cannot miss them: Year End, VAT Return, PAYE, Business Insurance Renewal, Website Hosting Renewal, Employee Birthdays…you get the idea.

12. Buy tons of pens because they have a habit of going missing!

13. Pass on your expertise – make sure people know what you know because it is great for your business, it means that one day you can reduce your hours and share your unrelenting responsibility with others who have followed in your footsteps. It also keep the company ethos strong and in line with what you set out to accomplish.

14. Expand your network so you are connecting with new people over social media and face-to-face on a weekly basis. If you can add one person to your network of contacts each week imagine where you will be in a year and then in five years.

15. Have plan A, plan B, and plan C ready at all times because the first attempt isn’t always the best attempt.

16. Keep reminding yourself why you started your business and ask yourself if it still matches your original objectives and ambitions.

17. Stick post-its on your computer but make sure they are for the most urgent task you have to do at that moment in time. It will help you prioritise critical issues and then once they have been dealt with you can throw the post-it away.

18. Your website is potentially your most valuable asset so make sure it reflects you and your business. Fill it with strong content, make sure it is optimised for searchability, loads fast because visitors have short concentration spans, and is attractive/original.

19. Automated posts, phone systems and digital communication cannot replace the human touch. Make sure your clients/customers know there is a person behind their service and someone who cares, can relate to them, at the end of a phone.

20. National Minimum Wage (NMW) often goes up on the 1st October, it is illegal not to pay employees NMW so keep updated on changes.

Alien minimum wage 2

 

21. Give yourself the credit you deserve and acknowledge your success because you should feel proud of your achievements. Otherwise all you will ever feel is stress and responsibility and that is no fun.

22. Following on from point 21, celebrate successes because you are bound to beat yourself up over mistakes – the Universe likes balance.

23. Try not to say no too often, yes opens more doors that lead to more opportunities. Say no and you never know what could have been.

24. Learn to delegate, as much as you want to do everything yourself, you cannot maintain that level of commitment and workload forever.

25. Schedule in personal time. Block out days to spend with the family, trips away, and holidays. If you block out days in your calendar you will respect their importance and make them psychologically harder to put off or rearrange.

26. Connect with local businesses so your can exchange services/products, agree discounts, work on referral arrangements and have a friendly face at networking events to seek out.

27. Only take out a loan if you absolutely have to and make sure you get solid forecasts done to check and check again the feasibility of your business plan.

28. Have a mix of men and women in the office if you can ethically because the opposite sexes tend to have different qualities/strengths. They are not set in stone but generally speaking men and women can often provide different values to the team that compliment each other.

29. Have a dress code and stick to it. It doesn’t have to be suits and skirts, you may prefer a more causal approach. Many technology companies have a casual Friday to boost morale and give everyone a ‘ahhhhhhh’ day. If a policy is in place it is easier to address unsuitable attire issues.

30. Pay it forward by helping the next wave of entrepreneurs or by employing apprentices. Contributing to the future of business in both of these capacities can be financially rewarding in the long-run but it is for the personal satisfaction that most do it.

31. Keep your business account and your personal accounts separate. It makes bookkeeping far easier so if you are doing it yourself it will not take as long. If someone else is doing it that means it wont cost you as much. Sure, you can pay your business account back but will you always remember and keep the appropriate records. So much easier to keep them separate.

32. Call an expert when you are not sure of something. Many experts in pensions, insurance, banking, accounting, the legal sector, and the marketing sector to some extent are happy to offer free advice and may even provide a free consultation. Sometimes you need outside help so make sure you know when to access it.

33. Spend a lot of time interviewing people. Invite them in for trial days and make sure they fit in and you can imagine them being part of your company. Smarts count for a lot but you should also go by your gut – do they feel right? It’s your business so your feelings count.

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34. Keep a close eye on in-comings and get a system in place early on that includes chasing outstanding invoices. Too many people sit waiting for the money to appear or forget about half of the invoices they have sent out. That’s your money!

35. Always remember to let your customers know where to go with calls to action. Never let them navigate around your site aimlessly, read your blog, or scan your flyer, without giving them their next destination – a strong pull or hook to something that will tell them more, offering them something better.

36. First impressions are made in seconds – are you giving a good one? Is your team giving a good one?

37. Prepare and practice your introduction for networking events so it comes across smooth and polished and says everything you intended to say.

37. Set expectations that you can exceed. The ultimate goal may take you some time to reach so put in short and medium term goals that give you a motivational push when you need it and a moment of joy and victory when you achieve them.

38. Be passionate and communicate to people with feeling. There is no shame in being excited, energetic and enthusiastic about your business. Too many people fear public reaction to a little confidence and pride but if you are happy then don’t suffocate that. The majority of your audience will actually find that refreshing and endearing.

39. Follow up on leads straight after events. For one thing it is easier because you can remember who you have talked to and are more likely to recall a detail that adds a personal touch to the email/phone call. And they also like immediate contact because it lets them know they were remembered and you are also fresh in their mind.

40. Singing around the office shouldn’t be done on a regular basis but a bit of music and self expression is great for morale and can be highly amusing. Just a thought!

41. Respect everyone that you meet and be courteous to the horrid people you immediately dislike. Why? Because you never know when you might need them or who they may know/be connected to.

42. Only sell what you would buy yourself. Only offer a service that you would be happy with yourself. It is a simple mantra but if everyone did it then we wouldn’t have call centers in countries overseas containing employees that customers just cannot understand. We wouldn’t be able to buy poor quality clothes that only last three washes or vehicles that break down around the corner from the garage!

43.  Manage your email by creating sub-folders so that you can filter emails into dedicated areas for each client/staff member/subscription/service provider. You can also have an ‘important’ folder to make prioritising your emails far simpler. Then just make sure you stay on top of them.

44. Rich Tea do make great dunkers but they taste a lot like cardboard. Hobnobs, chocolate digestives, custard creams and ginger biscuits are preferable. Offering clients a cuppa or a coffee is essential, offering them a biscuit is just plain nice (also good dunkers)!

45. Appreciate and encourage staff to motivate them. Pulling them up on mistakes is sometimes necessary but if you smile and provide a solution and incentive to revise and refine that solution then you can turn a negative into a positive. Never leave a conversation on a negative unless the mistake was business or life threatening.

46. Step out of your comfort zone because that is usually where opportunities await you. Everyone would be successful if it didn’t take a few brave steps into the unknown. Be prepared to try new things, trust new ideas and embrace change.

47. Negotiate energetically on price and never take the first quote without a little bartering. You never know what you might save and it isn’t cheeky or rude it is just business.

48. Measure everything and use that data to drive decisions so you always have solid facts to reinforce the direction your business is taking. It will also make you analyse decisions with logic rather than feeling.

49. Budget for tax. Budget for VAT. You will have to pay them both whether you ignore them right up to the deadline or not so it makes sense to set money aside and be ready for them.

50. Do not give up. Most people who are self-employed go through tough patches where they are penniless, disheartened, and beginning to doubt their future. The ones that survive grit their teeth and push on hard. They drag themselves into tomorrow and manage one day at a time until they start smiling again. Not giving up is the core skill embedded in most business owners.

abc35

As with any advice this is just what ABC Accounting Services Director and team would advise based on their experiences. Everyone is different and you have to learn to navigate your own path and learn from your own experiences. If Ginger Nuts are not your thing then buy in Bourbons. Follow your gut but more importantly follow the figures and continually measure your success against key performance indicators (KPIs).

The very best of luck and if you want to discuss your ambitions or issues with someone then we offer a half hour free consultation so just give us a call: 01427 613613.

 

 

 


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Gainsborough Woman Celebrates 10 Years in Business

Belinda Darley started her accountancy firm in a porta-cabin in 2004 and now celebrates its 10 year anniversary with a growing team behind her.

corringham road premises

She has taken the number of clients on the firm’s books from 50 to over 1500 and has recently had the ABC Accounting Service’s offices refurbished to accommodate growing demand. Belinda grew up in Gainsborough and the majority of businesses that her firm supports are from the area.

ABC Accounting Services was started because Belinda thought clients deserved a more tailored and cost-effective accounting service than the one large chains and franchises provided. The premises and charge-out-rates have always come second to straight talking communication and an open house policy.

Her local spirit is strong, Belinda proudly stated: ‘I would never leave Gainsborough, it is part of who I am and what ABC Accounting Services stands for – we have tons of local clients that pop in for a chat or just a natter all the time. This town is going in the right direction commercially and I am very happy to be part of its future.’

Of her ten years in business she had this to say: ‘you never get chance to relax and take stock of what you have accomplished. But, when I think about what I had when I started this company and where I am today it makes me want to laugh out loud in disbelief, grin, and cry, because it is so much more than I ever planned’.

The team at ABC will be celebrating ten years to the day in business on the 4th October with a few drinks in town courtesy of the boss!

accountants desk


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Accountancy Topics Making The News

There has been a lot happening in the accountancy profession this week with Tesco dropping a big ball, Direct Recovery of Debts becoming a serious bombshell and Minimum Wage increases just around the corner. Here is an update to catch you up to speed with what is news worthy in the world of accounting.

Direct Recovery of Debts from bank accounts

The government is set to take direct action to recover tax and tax credit debts. They are currently consulting on proposals that would give HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) the ability to recover cash directly from the bank accounts, building society accounts and ISA accounts of debtors who owe the taxman £1,000 or more.

ATM

In some articles they have deftly labelled the victim as the taxpayer and are quick to point out that DRD will ‘help to level the playing field, ensuring the honest, hardworking majority are not disadvantaged by the minority that dodge their responsibilities’ (Gov.uk).

They estimate that 17,000 cases a year warrant the extension of these extraordinary powers to HMRC. To ensure that only those refusing to pay are targeted there will be strict safeguards:

  • Debts must be established and have passed the timetable for appeals
  • Debtors must have ignored repeated attempts to make contact
  • Debt must be over £1,000
  • A minimum of £5000 must be left in the debtor’s accounts
  • A hold lasting 14 days will be placed on the accounts in question giving the debtors time to contact HMRC and arrange payment

Like so many government initiatives it sounds very thorough on paper and has been articulated well. The question that remains is how it will actually be actioned. Any company is entitled to chase debtors with escalating force, HMRC in that way should be no exception. If they can manage this humanely and target the correct people, which always sounds like a big if when considering such a large and disjointed organisation, then this may be a potent solution to an escalating problem. Let’s hope it is actioned as well as it is proposed.

Minimum Wage goes up 1st October 2014

It is that time of year again. National Minimum Wage (NMW) is set to increase. This is great news for employees but sometimes a bit of a shock to employers. There will be a big step up of 19p for the 21 and over category. As always we are clear on one message: It is against the law for employers not to pay NMW. ABC will remind you in advance and throughout the changes to your staff wages. It is important to note though that we didn’t raise the NMW ourselves and HMRC are clamping down hard on those who choose to falsify records and break the law.

The rates from October 1st 2014 are as follows:

  • 21 and over = £6.50
  • 18 to 20 = £5.13
  • Under 18 = £3.72
  • Apprentice = £2.73

These rates apply to pay reference periods beginning on or after that date. So, this year the 1st falls on a Wednesday, meaning anyone being paid weekly will be paid two days on the old NMW rate and two days on the new NMW rate.

For help or advice you can always email our Payroll Department Managers: Rachael@abc-accounting-services.co.uk or Fiona@abc-accounting-services.co.uk.

 

Tesco make a massive accounting blunder

On Monday Tesco admitted that they had overstated their half-year profit guidance by £250m. These days, following a rocky year for the supermarket chain, £250m is no longer pocket change.

The UK’s accountancy watchdog has announced that Tesco is being monitored. The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) said it was ‘monitoring the situation closely’ but they would not take any action until Tesco’s own investigation had been completed. The FRC have a range of powers that include:

  • Issuing fines for misconduct
  • Suspend individuals via an independent panel
  • Suspend firms from the professional accounting body via an independent panel

It could mean more bad news for Tesco if the FRC decide to take regulatory action. The FRC do not have the powers to monitor or require restatement of unaudited trading statements which do not have to be checked by an external accounting firm. Tesco are carrying out their own investigation so much will ride on the findings of Deloitte and the group’s external legal advisers Freshfields.

trolleys

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