Category Archives for "General"

Is Your Small Business Doing These 7 Things?

I did a straw poll of some small businesses recently, and it was interesting to find that the majority did not use a Business Plan for planning and forecasting.

It might be the same for you. Maybe you don’t have anything formal; perhaps you jot down your goals and thoughts from month to month (or, week to week)?

If you run your own business, or department within a business, you may wonder if writing a Business Plan is worth the hassle. You understand that it’s important to plan, but you’re not sure you want to spend the time doing it.

If you’ve ever wondered what the point of a Business Plan is, here are 4 reasons you need one today:

It sets out your business intentions

More businesses than you’d think waste time and money pursuing white elephants that have no bearing on their goals and objectives.

With a Business Plan, you’ll get to clarify and specify what you aim to achieve in the coming weeks and months. You can always refer to it when the next shiny object comes along; it will serve as a good way tp keeo you on track!

It prompts you to think carefully about your what your customers need

Entrepreneurs are by nature creative, and left to their own devices, could easily dream up a warehouse full of cutting-edge products and services. But…

…is anyone out there asking for them?

A well-written Business Plan poses the questions of customer demand, and how your products and services meet that demand.

It helps you zero in on your target market

A good Business Plan poses will contain a section on your target market.

So apart from the obvious bit on just who your product or service is designed for, it will prompt you to analyse and detail things like the current state of the market, how it’s changing, trends and any gaps.

Researching and knowing these things will help you position your proposition, and make the most of any gaps that your competitors are not serving.

It forces you to plan for the money

This is the section of Business Plans that people struggle with most!

It’s also THE most important part.

How else will you know how much you should aim to make as a minimum to cover your costs, and how much cash you must have in the bank each month to keep the business running?

Ignore the finances, and you could end up in dire straits very soon.

 

And, don’t forget, a Business Plan is a living document! You will get clearer on some of the elements, and you can adjust these to be more specific or realistic as time goes on.

Most business owners and bosses I speak to agree on one thing: having a Business Plan is crucial for goal-setting and the success that comes with it.

When it comes to writing that plan however, I find that actions don’t match the rhetoric!

Writing a Business Plan can appear intimidating, but it isn’t as difficult as you might think. The fear of it can make the task into a monster it’s not!

So, have you ever made these excuses to NOT write a Business Plan?

“I don’t have time”

A common reason used to get out of doing just about anything!

But as the saying goes, if something is important you’ll make time for it.

Right?

Besides, this nut doesn’t have to be cracked all in one day. You can purpose to work on one section every 2 – 3 days and at the end of the month, you’ll have your Business Plan!

“I’m not good with numbers”

And my response to that is, who is?

Not many of us can be described as mathematical geniuses, but that doesn’t preclude us from running – and planning for – our successful businesses.

While section headings in the document like “Sales Forecast” and “Projected Cash Flow” may discourage the numerically challenged, taking the time to stop and think about what those words actually mean will remove the dread you feel deep in the pit of your stomach!

For example, “Projected Cash Flow” is simply a summary of how much cash you need to run your business day-to-day, and for your Sales Forecast, put in estimates for what you anticipate your best and worst case scenarios will be in terms of sales (be realistic!). Also, work out the minimum number of units you need to sell to cover your costs.

See? It’s not so scary when you break it down.

“It’s don’t want to pay someone to do it for me”

Yes, paying for a Business Planning service like ours requires a financial commitment.

You can certainly do it yourself, and my Business Plan template here breaks it down into manageable chunks designed to help and guide you.

But if you can’t dedicate the time or effort needed to do it yourself, is the cost really worth the risk of going from one day to the next without a plan?

“It will change as time goes on, so why bother?”

A Business Plan is a living document, so yes, you will need to keep updating it.

When you plan for months, a year or more in advance, there are conditions and elements that you will become more aware of, things that will happen and need to be finetuned in the plan.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile exercise. I’ve written about why it’s something you need here.

Do have a read, and let me know if you have any queries.

(If you’re still wondering what the point of having a Business Plan is, have a quick look at this).

(I’ve put together a post explaining what the jargon in a Business Plan means; here it is. Start by reading that; it will help you with this part).

I know this sounds patronising. After all, who knows your business better than you?

I can assure you it isn’t meant to be. The point I’m making is that, as well as giving an overview of your business, you have to be able to articulate things like the main idea behind it, your mission and objectives, and who your main competitors are.

Think about what the market is like, and where it is going

So, what’s the current condition of the market?

Is it growing, fairly stable, or declining?

Are there any notable underlying trends?

What is the demand in the market, and how do your products or services meet that demand?

What’s your Unique Selling Proposition, and are there any gaps in the market which you intend to fill?

Know the audience you are selling to

Which segment of the market have you designed your products and services for?

Women, or men, or both?

Working women, or stay-at-home mothers?

People within a certain age range?

Are they based in cities, suburban or rural areas?

Are they early adopters or technophobes?

What are their problems, and which of these will you solve with your products and services?

These are some of the questions which will frame your offering. And they are crucial, because sometimes it’s easy to forget that our products and services are NOT for us.

They must meet the needs of your target market. Give the people what they want, as they say!

Brainstorm some ideas about how you will price, market and sell your products and services

Take some time to think about your pricing strategy.

Most of the time, people think this involves plucking a price out of the air, but there’s more to it than that!

How much does each unit cost to produce, and what margin will the market tolerate on top of that?

How does that then match your expectations for income and profit?

Then, you need to think about how you want to market and sell products and services. Social media makes advertising and marketing more accessible, but bear in mind that what works for a similar business may not work for yours.

So, do a bit of research, and have some intentions for how you will conduct your sales and marketing campaigns.

How will you measure your success?

“Measure your success” sounds boring, I know!

But if you don’t work out in advance how you’ll do this, how will you know what you’re working towards?

And more importantly, how will you know when it happens?

Take some time to think through the finances

This part is easy to skip, but is probably the most important of all.

You need a certain amount of cash to run your business every month. Sum up your expenses (and don’t forget to include your salary).

What does the total come to?

That’s what the amount you need to have available. Not invoiced and waiting to be paid; actual cash in the bank. Anything less, and you immediately have a cash flow problem.

Many a business has been successful on paper and in terms of invoiced amounts, but ended up filing for bankruptcy because it simply couldn’t meet its obligations when they were due.

Another key point to address is the length of time you think it will take to make a profit.

It’s not unusual for some businesses not to make a profit for some months, or even years. As long as you know that upfront and are prepared for it, that’s fine!

But if that’s the case, do you have an idea of what the losses will come to each month? How will this be funded, and how long can you sustain that?

In my experience, people either don’t plan for these scenarios, or are far too optimistic with their figures.

P.S. Where I’ve recommended doing research, please don’t think it has to be onerous.

Ask your family and friends. Use the internet. Create a poll using Surveymonkey or Google Polls. Some professional bodies – such as the Institute of Directors – offer research sessions which you can access as part of their membership. Check with your professional body and see if they can help you do some, maybe they’ve even done something similar already and have some statistics they can share with you!

The deadline to submit your self-assessment tax return is 31 January. With just over two weeks to go, it’s a good time to go over the 5 steps you need to follow to complete your self-assessment tax return.

The purpose of the return is to tell Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) how much you earned in the last tax year and based on the information you provide, the appropriate income tax you need to pay is calculated.

If you are self-employed – so you don’t earn a salary from which your tax is automatically deducted – or have more than one source of income, this applies to you!

You can either do the return yourself, or hire an accountant to do it for you (check out the ICAEW or ACCA websites to find an accredited professional near you).

If you do decide to do it yourself, there are 5 steps I suggest you follow. Before I tell you what those are, there are a few things you need to know:

·        Tax years in the UK run from 6 April to 5 April, e.g. from 6 April 2016 to 5 April 2017.

·        The deadline to submit your return and pay the tax due is 31 January after the end of the tax year*. Using the example above, the deadline is 31 January 2018.

·        Act NOW if you haven’t already, because late payments attracts a penalty! If you suffered from a serious illness, family bereavement or a natural disaster you’ll be given a pass, but forgetting or being away on holiday do not count as reasonable excuses. So don’t put this off any longer!

Check to see if you qualify

You have to complete and submit a tax return if you were self-employed in the last tax year, or earned more than £2,500 in untaxed income.

For example, for landlords with rental properties, or people who rent out rooms in their homes, if the income after expenses is more than £2,500, a tax return must be submitted.

Some of the other criteria to consider are earned interest or dividends more than £10,000.

There’s a full list of these criteria here https://www.gov.uk/self-assessment-tax-returns/who-must-send-a-tax-return, and there’s also an online tool where you can confirm if you need to do this https://www.gov.uk/check-if-you-need-a-tax-return

Register with HMRC

If you haven’t filled in a self-assessment tax return before, you’ll need to register with HMRC before beginning the process of filling in the return.

You can do that here https://www.gov.uk/log-in-file-self-assessment-tax-return/register-if-youre-self-employed

HMRC will send you a Unique Taxpayer Reference – or UTR – which you’ll need when completing the return online.

Collate all the information you’ll need

Before you start filling in the return, I’d recommend you get all your records and information ready.

You’ll be asked to provide details for a whole raft of things which I’ve listed below:

·        The total of what you earned in the year. That includes income from your business and any employment.

·        Any income earned from dividends.

·        Any income earned from rent.

·        Any income earned from business interests you may have outside the UK.

·        Any interest earned on your savings.

·        Any interest you paid on borrowings.

·        Any contributions you made to a pension.

·        Any benefits you received, such as state pension, Child Benefit or unemployment benefit.

·        Any perks you received, such as private healthcare or a car allowance.

·        Any income earned from the sale of property or shares.

·        The sum of any valid business expenses.

Complete the return online

Now, you need to fill in all this information online.

Log into the HMRC system here, and input the relevant information when prompted https://www.gov.uk/log-in-file-self-assessment-tax-return/sign-in/prove-identity

You can fill sections in, save, and come back at a later time to complete it, if you need to.

Organise your records

Haven’t been that prepared this year? You can always start now to organise your records, so next year’s return isn’t so tedious! These are some of the documents I’d recommend you start filing.

·        Invoices

·        Payslips

·        Receipts

·        Bank statements

·        Pension statements

·        Benefit documentation

·        P11D expenses and benefits form.

HMRC requires that you keep records for up to 5 years after the deadline.

So even though you’ve completed this year’s return, it’s never too early to get your digital or physical filing in place for next year. I do both for a catch-all approach – you can never be too careful with the taxman!

There is a range of online accounting software you can use to keep track of all these items, and you can also file away hard copies.

 

And if you get stuck?

HMRC has lots of resources online https://www.gov.uk/topic/personal-tax/self-assessment which you can look through.

And remember, you can appoint a qualified accountant to do this for you.

*The 31 January deadline applies if you do your returns online. You can go old school with your returns if you prefer, but the deadline for paper returns is 3 months earlier in the October.

An effective headshot can give theviewer a sense of who you are more than words can say.

Here, you need to commit to some timelines.

So, remember those objectives you listed above? Break them down even further into tasks, and for each one put down a realistic completion date.

That will make sure your plans are firmly rooted and realistic, as opposed to being pie-in-the-sky aspirations that you have no chance of achieving.

The second Payment Services Directive – also known as PSD2 – becomes UK law on 13 january 2018.

From the name, it’s easy to think it only affects banks.

But hold on! It has implications for you too.

Here’s a summary of what it’s about, and the main ways it will affect you.

So, what’s PSD2?

The first Payment Services Directive (PSD) from 2009 put in place a legal framework for payments and related services across Europe.

It covered the rights and responsibilities of consumers, users and providers of payment services, and ensured that European countries implemented, and were held to, a uniform set of standards.

PSD2 builds on the success of PSD, and at its core wants to increase competition in the industry while reducing the dominance of banks.

Big banks have traditionally held all the aces when it comes to the business of payments, and when you consider the amount of information they hold on their customers – data is big business, just ask Facebook! – there’s been little incentive for them to innovate what they have on offer. Save for a few companies such as PayPal, Apple and Stripe, few have been able to make even the tiniest dent in the banks’ market share.

Why is this a problem, you ask? It means that you as a consumer don’t have much of a choice. When you look at the UK, there are 4 big banks, with VISA and MasterCard being the two dominant payment card schemes. So where do you go for a truly different sort of service?

Why was PSD2 introduced?

PSD2 is set to become law in the European Economic Area (comprising the 28 EU member states, as well as Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) on 13 January 2018, and here are some of the reasons the wheels were set in motion:

1.       To encourage new players, especially those that are NOT banks, to get into the business of payments.

2.       To encourage the introduction of new, cutting-edge technology which will revolutionise the way payments happen in Europe.

3.       As a result of increased competition and technology, the expectation is that the cost of payments will fall. A bonus for consumers!

4.       To improve security around payment processes, and the way consumer data is handled.

Who is responsible for PSD2?

PSD2 is a directive issued by the European Commission, which becomes national law on 13 January.

 

How does PSD2 affect you?

You already have many rights when it comes to protection against misuse of your data, and any potential fraud.

PSD2 takes these even further, by mandating that banks and businesses that process payments use what is referred to as strong customer authentication (SCA) for payments.

This means they have to take significant steps to make sure any payment you make is actually coming from – and authorised by – you.

So if you find you’re asked to verify your identity or payment in a different way, don’t be alarmed. It’s all PSD2-related.

Talking about your data though, in a bid to promote competition and open it up to new organisations, banks could potentially share what they know about you with these new players to the market, who will fall into 2 categories:

Payment Initiation Service Providers, and Account Information Service Providers.

Agreeing to use these services could make your online payments simpler and more seamless, and you’ll be better placed to compare what’s available in the marketplace. It also means you could make a payment directly from your bank account without using a debit or credit card, which could save you any card charges and fees.

Don’t worry, your data won’t be shared without your permission! Banks – who as well as being dominant forces in the landscape, are also the largest repositories of consumer data – are required by PSD2 to share this data when you give your permission, as a way of levelling the playing field.

In preparation for PSD2, your bank will have sent the last few years developing technical integrations to make the data sharing process easier. There’s a whole initiative around this within UK banking called Open Banking, and your bank will have already sent you something that looks like this:

 

PSD2 is also meant to end a practice that’s been a pain for consumers for a long time.

You know when you go into a shop, or book theatre tickets online, and you’re charged an additional percentage for using your credit card?

That practice – known as surcharging – ends with PSD2.

That’s not to say that shops and retailers will take this lying down; it’s hard to know how they will respond. They might swallow the costs, put their prices up across the board (which would affect ALL buyers, not just those using cards), or offer shoppers an incentive to use different ways to pay.

The jury is still out on this one, so keep your eyes peeled to see what happen when you shop after 13 January!

 

How does PSD2 affect your business?

PSD2 only affects payment institutions, credit institutions, and electronic money institutions.

If this is not your core business, there is no impact.

The only thing to note is that, if you add a surcharge for credit cards when collecting payments, this practice will no longer be allowed.

 

Will Brexit affect PSD2?

The UK government has confirmed that PSD2 implementation will not be affected by the process of leaving the European Union.

Since that only takes effect in 2019, PSD2 will be fully implemented and transposed into UK law.

 It’s never been easier to start a business.

Particularly with the internet, social media and the sharing economy there are no longer costly barriers to entry. You no longer need a huge budget, or dedicated office space on a five-year lease to run a reputable business.

Many entrepreneurs and small business owners are drawn to starting their own businesses by the flexibility and freedom it provides. Many times, that freedom they seek from what they perceive as the bureaucratic practices which slow larger organisations down.

However, the downside of such flexibility and agility is that the need for processes are often overlooked, and the overall outcome is that money is left on the table.

To make sure you make the most of all the opportunities you come across, it’s worth taking a moment to review some key areas in your business. 

So, is your Small Business doing these 7 things?

1.     Are you consistently generating AND converting leads?

To have a sustainable business, you need to have a consistent pipeline of sales.

Part of creating that pipeline is making sure you constantly generate leads, which are then converted into sales and paying clients.

There are many different ways to generate leads. Raising awareness of your brand through the consistent creation of relevant content on your website and social media is a great way to make sure your products and services stay in your audience’s consciousness.

Other ways to generate leads include having a system to get referrals from existing or past clients; attending networking events regularly; and attending industry shows and conferences.

Most successful businesses will do a combination of these in some form or another. How do you ensure there is a steady stream of incoming leads?

2.     Do you have a system for following up with prospects and existing clients?

A common gaffe with small businesses is a failure to follow up with people who have already expressed an interest in their products and services.

Phone calls go unanswered, messages aren’t replied to, quotes and proposals are not sent for days – no, weeks! – after the original enquiry was made.

If someone has taken the trouble to phone, email or contact your business in some way, it means they are interested AND motivated to buy. Warm leads are the easiest sales to make; these are people who already want to buy what you sell. Why miss out on the opportunity to turn this prospect into a customer, provide the service you know you are brilliant at, and make some sales in the process?  

Make sure your business phone, emails and social media channels are checked regularly, and any messages responded to. These days, there are a variety of ways people can make enquiries, so don’t miss out on a sale because you haven’t checked the inbox for your Facebook page for a month!

Respond promptly when providing quotes and proposals, and after giving a decent amount of time for it to be reviewed and considered, follow up with an offer to answer any questions they may have.  

3.     Do you have a website?

In this digital age, having an online storefront and distribution channel where people can learn more about your products and services, and – this is the crucial bit – PAY for them – is essential.

If you are just starting out, I wouldn’t suggest developing a website as the very first task you undertake. But there are many other ways you can do this, such as having a business page on Facebook.

Also, websites do not have to be elaborate and all-encompassing; many businesses could effectively conduct their core activities with a well planned and developed landing page, or with a simple but efficient five-page website.

These days, platforms like WordPress have thought of practically everything and are so well evolved that they have plug-ins to cover functions ranging from blogs and videos, to product / sales pages and the ability to take payments.

 4.     Can you take card payments?

Surprising, but yes, there are still brick-and-mortar businesses that cannot process card payments!

I experienced this recently. On my way to visit a sick friend, I stopped at a flower shop. To my surprise, they cheerfully informed me they didn’t take card payments, and directed me to the nearest cash machine.

And it struck me. If measured, I bet THAT is the point they lose many customers.

I’m sure that business is doing well – at least, enough to cover the cost of their premises – but it would do even better if there wasn’t a risk of losing custom every time a prospect who has taken the time to come into their shop is directed back outside to a cash machine.

And the thing is, they have no excuse for not being able to take process card payments. A few years ago, it was a long-winded process that could only be done through your business bank account provider.

Time has moved on, and with providers such as iZettle, Stripe and PayPal for Business, processing payments either through a PIN entry device or on an iPad has become quite painless.

And with increased competition in the payments landscape, banks have upped their game too, and now strive to make the process of setting up card processing easier for small merchants.

 5.     Do you have a system to fulfil customer orders?

In other words, how do you manage demand, for your products and services?

 6.     Do you provide excellent customer service?

In today’s marketplace, your small business needs a way to standout, so it can attract clientele.

When you think of competition, you probably go straight to thinking about how to make your pricing  competitive. And while benchmarking the prices of your offering against those charged by others in your field is important, prices isn’t necessarily the only differentiator.

The quality of customer service you offer can mean that, while your audience knows your prices aren’t the lowest, they are happy to pay them anyway.

A perfect example of this from a big business is John Lewis. The reason I am a loyal customer who buys items ranging from electronics and cameras, to Fitbits and office equipment? Their customer service is second to none, and I know that if I ever have an issue with purchases, it will be resolved in a prompt and courteous fashion. 

7.     Do you track and follow up on unpaid invoices?

Seems obvious, but do you make sure invoices are issued when they should be every month, or as soon as you finish a job for a client?

Software such as Xero and quickbooks are user-friendly and make tasks such as creating and tracking invoices easier for you and your accountant.

And when you have sent the invoices, do you make sure you follow up if it isn’t paid promptly?

This can be a sensitive one, because people are uncomfortable talking about money. Yes, even when you have completed a brief and your invoice is still outstanding!

But, if your business is to maintain the level of cash flow it needs to survive and thrive, this is one discomfort you need to get over quickly.

Get used to sending out firm but courteous payment reminders, and don’t be afraid to have a face-to-face or phone conversation with a client about a breach of payment terms.

You owe it to yourself to do so; you’ve worked too hard to leave your money in other people’s hands.  

How To Start Your Project

I did a straw poll of some small businesses recently, and it was interesting to find that the majority did not use a Business Plan for planning and forecasting.

It might be the same for you. Maybe you don’t have anything formal; perhaps you jot down your goals and thoughts from month to month (or, week to week)?

If you run your own business, or department within a business, you may wonder if writing a Business Plan is worth the hassle. You understand that it’s important to plan, but you’re not sure you want to spend the time doing it.

If you’ve ever wondered what the point of a Business Plan is, here are 4 reasons you need one today:

It sets out your business intentions

More businesses than you’d think waste time and money pursuing white elephants that have no bearing on their goals and objectives.

With a Business Plan, you’ll get to clarify and specify what you aim to achieve in the coming weeks and months. You can always refer to it when the next shiny object comes along; it will serve as a good way tp keeo you on track!

It prompts you to think carefully about your what your customers need

Entrepreneurs are by nature creative, and left to their own devices, could easily dream up a warehouse full of cutting-edge products and services. But…

…is anyone out there asking for them?

A well-written Business Plan poses the questions of customer demand, and how your products and services meet that demand.

It helps you zero in on your target market

A good Business Plan poses will contain a section on your target market.

So apart from the obvious bit on just who your product or service is designed for, it will prompt you to analyse and detail things like the current state of the market, how it’s changing, trends and any gaps.

Researching and knowing these things will help you position your proposition, and make the most of any gaps that your competitors are not serving.

It forces you to plan for the money

This is the section of Business Plans that people struggle with most!

It’s also THE most important part.

How else will you know how much you should aim to make as a minimum to cover your costs, and how much cash you must have in the bank each month to keep the business running?

Ignore the finances, and you could end up in dire straits very soon.

 

And, don’t forget, a Business Plan is a living document! You will get clearer on some of the elements, and you can adjust these to be more specific or realistic as time goes on.

Most business owners and bosses I speak to agree on one thing: having a Business Plan is crucial for goal-setting and the success that comes with it.

When it comes to writing that plan however, I find that actions don’t match the rhetoric!

Writing a Business Plan can appear intimidating, but it isn’t as difficult as you might think. The fear of it can make the task into a monster it’s not!

So, have you ever made these excuses to NOT write a Business Plan?

“I don’t have time”

A common reason used to get out of doing just about anything!

But as the saying goes, if something is important you’ll make time for it.

Right?

Besides, this nut doesn’t have to be cracked all in one day. You can purpose to work on one section every 2 – 3 days and at the end of the month, you’ll have your Business Plan!

“I’m not good with numbers”

And my response to that is, who is?

Not many of us can be described as mathematical geniuses, but that doesn’t preclude us from running – and planning for – our successful businesses.

While section headings in the document like “Sales Forecast” and “Projected Cash Flow” may discourage the numerically challenged, taking the time to stop and think about what those words actually mean will remove the dread you feel deep in the pit of your stomach!

For example, “Projected Cash Flow” is simply a summary of how much cash you need to run your business day-to-day, and for your Sales Forecast, put in estimates for what you anticipate your best and worst case scenarios will be in terms of sales (be realistic!). Also, work out the minimum number of units you need to sell to cover your costs.

See? It’s not so scary when you break it down.

“It’s don’t want to pay someone to do it for me”

Yes, paying for a Business Planning service like ours requires a financial commitment.

You can certainly do it yourself, and my Business Plan template here breaks it down into manageable chunks designed to help and guide you.

But if you can’t dedicate the time or effort needed to do it yourself, is the cost really worth the risk of going from one day to the next without a plan?

“It will change as time goes on, so why bother?”

A Business Plan is a living document, so yes, you will need to keep updating it.

When you plan for months, a year or more in advance, there are conditions and elements that you will become more aware of, things that will happen and need to be finetuned in the plan.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile exercise. I’ve written about why it’s something you need here.

Do have a read, and let me know if you have any queries.

(If you’re still wondering what the point of having a Business Plan is, have a quick look at this).

(I’ve put together a post explaining what the jargon in a Business Plan means; here it is. Start by reading that; it will help you with this part).

I know this sounds patronising. After all, who knows your business better than you?

I can assure you it isn’t meant to be. The point I’m making is that, as well as giving an overview of your business, you have to be able to articulate things like the main idea behind it, your mission and objectives, and who your main competitors are.

Think about what the market is like, and where it is going

So, what’s the current condition of the market?

Is it growing, fairly stable, or declining?

Are there any notable underlying trends?

What is the demand in the market, and how do your products or services meet that demand?

What’s your Unique Selling Proposition, and are there any gaps in the market which you intend to fill?

Know the audience you are selling to

Which segment of the market have you designed your products and services for?

Women, or men, or both?

Working women, or stay-at-home mothers?

People within a certain age range?

Are they based in cities, suburban or rural areas?

Are they early adopters or technophobes?

What are their problems, and which of these will you solve with your products and services?

These are some of the questions which will frame your offering. And they are crucial, because sometimes it’s easy to forget that our products and services are NOT for us.

They must meet the needs of your target market. Give the people what they want, as they say!

Brainstorm some ideas about how you will price, market and sell your products and services

Take some time to think about your pricing strategy.

Most of the time, people think this involves plucking a price out of the air, but there’s more to it than that!

How much does each unit cost to produce, and what margin will the market tolerate on top of that?

How does that then match your expectations for income and profit?

Then, you need to think about how you want to market and sell products and services. Social media makes advertising and marketing more accessible, but bear in mind that what works for a similar business may not work for yours.

So, do a bit of research, and have some intentions for how you will conduct your sales and marketing campaigns.

How will you measure your success?

“Measure your success” sounds boring, I know!

But if you don’t work out in advance how you’ll do this, how will you know what you’re working towards?

And more importantly, how will you know when it happens?

Take some time to think through the finances

This part is easy to skip, but is probably the most important of all.

You need a certain amount of cash to run your business every month. Sum up your expenses (and don’t forget to include your salary).

What does the total come to?

That’s what the amount you need to have available. Not invoiced and waiting to be paid; actual cash in the bank. Anything less, and you immediately have a cash flow problem.

Many a business has been successful on paper and in terms of invoiced amounts, but ended up filing for bankruptcy because it simply couldn’t meet its obligations when they were due.

Another key point to address is the length of time you think it will take to make a profit.

It’s not unusual for some businesses not to make a profit for some months, or even years. As long as you know that upfront and are prepared for it, that’s fine!

But if that’s the case, do you have an idea of what the losses will come to each month? How will this be funded, and how long can you sustain that?

In my experience, people either don’t plan for these scenarios, or are far too optimistic with their figures.

P.S. Where I’ve recommended doing research, please don’t think it has to be onerous.

Ask your family and friends. Use the internet. Create a poll using Surveymonkey or Google Polls. Some professional bodies – such as the Institute of Directors – offer research sessions which you can access as part of their membership. Check with your professional body and see if they can help you do some, maybe they’ve even done something similar already and have some statistics they can share with you!

I’ve spent the last eleven years analysing, organising, managing and delivering projects.

In that time, one of the problems I often come across is this: how do you actually start a project off?

Now, before you switch off, thinking this doesn’t apply to you since you don’t have any big implementations, hold on for a second. Those 3new hires you want to recruit? That debt collection process you want to review and update to make sure you’re not leaving any more of your hard-earned cash out there than you absolutely have to? The piece of functionality clients have been asking for since last year; the one you can no longer postpone which now has to be added to your offering?

Getting any of these done involves a project: a temporary and unique vehicle within your business to achieve specific aims and objectives. It is finite, and will be completed within a defined period of time.

And whether you have someone in-house who delivers your projects, bring in external resource to support you, or you do them yourself, these are the 5 things I recommend you do to kick off any project in your organisation:

 1. Outline Your Thoughts & Ideas

You’re sure to have a flurry of ideas about what you want to do!

The best way to start moving these ideas into reality is to start sketching them out.

Granted, there will still be more gaps than substance in your knowledge at this point, and details will be few and far between.

What you’re doing here is the equivalent of taking an aerial shot photograph: you’re drafting out your idea at a high level.

How did your idea come about? Why do you think it is needed, and what problem does it solve in your business?

What do you want your idea to achieve, and are there any risks or major issues you know of at this stage that will need to be tackled?

A good first step is providing all this background context; you’re starting to paint a picture of what’s to be done.

2. Do Some fact-finding

Up till this point, you will have had more white space than writing on the page.

This part of the process is about filling in those gaps, and getting a clearer view of what your idea involves.

Those aims you outlined? Get specific about what they are, and how will know when they’ve been achieved.

Start to think about what would make this a success for you when it’s completed. Are there any best and worst case scenarios?

Is there anything that has to happen before you can start –and finish – your project?

3. Draw Some Boundaries

Now that you’ve had some time to think through the practicalities, are there some elements to your idea that aren’t a good fit right now?

Could it be that, due to the additional time they will take, or cost and other resources, it make sense to exclude them from the project for now, or keep them to be done as part of a second phase?

It’s also a good time to think about the resources that you’ll need to work on this. Who are the people and teams in your organisation that will be affected or involved in getting this off the ground?

Do you need the services of external resources? If so, what do they need to do, and for how long do you estimate that to be for?

This will start to give you some costs, which you can use next.

4. Re-visit Why You’re Doing This

Ideas are great, and if you’re the creative type, I’m sure you have bucket loads of them every single day!

However, there are valid reasons why so many end up on the cutting room floor: it’s not the right time; it costs more than you’re prepared for right now; or your business just isn’t ready operationally.

There’s no harm in getting to this point and when everything is considered, deciding not to go any further.

What WOULD be costly is pushing on without assessing the idea.

Are there different solutions to consider, and how do they compare?

I’ve written before about the importance of this part of the process, and why skipping this step is the most dangerous threat to successful projects. Take a few minutes to see what you should look out for.

5. State What You Want

You’ve outlined your idea, done some research, established some boundaries (very sensible! You’re unlikely to be able to do everything to first envisaged in one go), and made the case for it, financial and otherwise.

If your idea has stood up to scrutiny after all this, congratulations! It’s really worth doing.

You now need to explain the details of what you want, so the various elements can be delivered by that recruiter / your IT department / that external digital agency.

Referred to as requirements definition, here you should list out:

        i.           WHAT you want the solution to do, e.g. the website must be optimised for mobile devices; and

       ii.           HOW you want it to do them, e.g. the recruitment process must be completed in 2 weeks.

Prioritise everything you want; as you run though each one, are they an absolutely necessity for the project? Or are they nice additions that can wait till later if you are already over budget?

I’ve deliberately not used project terminology such as functional requirements, MOSCOW and the like. If you have a professional Business Analyst or Project Manager to support your implementation they will know what these are and what they apply to.

But this will help you know what they are doing on your project, and you’ll know what to do if you’re going down the DIY route.  

The deadline to submit your self-assessment tax return is 31 January. With just over two weeks to go, it’s a good time to go over the 5 steps you need to follow to complete your self-assessment tax return.

The purpose of the return is to tell Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) how much you earned in the last tax year and based on the information you provide, the appropriate income tax you need to pay is calculated.

If you are self-employed – so you don’t earn a salary from which your tax is automatically deducted – or have more than one source of income, this applies to you!

You can either do the return yourself, or hire an accountant to do it for you (check out the ICAEW or ACCA websites to find an accredited professional near you).

If you do decide to do it yourself, there are 5 steps I suggest you follow. Before I tell you what those are, there are a few things you need to know:

·        Tax years in the UK run from 6 April to 5 April, e.g. from 6 April 2016 to 5 April 2017.

·        The deadline to submit your return and pay the tax due is 31 January after the end of the tax year*. Using the example above, the deadline is 31 January 2018.

·        Act NOW if you haven’t already, because late payments attracts a penalty! If you suffered from a serious illness, family bereavement or a natural disaster you’ll be given a pass, but forgetting or being away on holiday do not count as reasonable excuses. So don’t put this off any longer!

Check to see if you qualify

You have to complete and submit a tax return if you were self-employed in the last tax year, or earned more than £2,500 in untaxed income.

For example, for landlords with rental properties, or people who rent out rooms in their homes, if the income after expenses is more than £2,500, a tax return must be submitted.

Some of the other criteria to consider are earned interest or dividends more than £10,000.

There’s a full list of these criteria here https://www.gov.uk/self-assessment-tax-returns/who-must-send-a-tax-return, and there’s also an online tool where you can confirm if you need to do this https://www.gov.uk/check-if-you-need-a-tax-return

Register with HMRC

If you haven’t filled in a self-assessment tax return before, you’ll need to register with HMRC before beginning the process of filling in the return.

You can do that here https://www.gov.uk/log-in-file-self-assessment-tax-return/register-if-youre-self-employed

HMRC will send you a Unique Taxpayer Reference – or UTR – which you’ll need when completing the return online.

Collate all the information you’ll need

Before you start filling in the return, I’d recommend you get all your records and information ready.

You’ll be asked to provide details for a whole raft of things which I’ve listed below:

·        The total of what you earned in the year. That includes income from your business and any employment.

·        Any income earned from dividends.

·        Any income earned from rent.

·        Any income earned from business interests you may have outside the UK.

·        Any interest earned on your savings.

·        Any interest you paid on borrowings.

·        Any contributions you made to a pension.

·        Any benefits you received, such as state pension, Child Benefit or unemployment benefit.

·        Any perks you received, such as private healthcare or a car allowance.

·        Any income earned from the sale of property or shares.

·        The sum of any valid business expenses.

Complete the return online

Now, you need to fill in all this information online.

Log into the HMRC system here, and input the relevant information when prompted https://www.gov.uk/log-in-file-self-assessment-tax-return/sign-in/prove-identity

You can fill sections in, save, and come back at a later time to complete it, if you need to.

Organise your records

Haven’t been that prepared this year? You can always start now to organise your records, so next year’s return isn’t so tedious! These are some of the documents I’d recommend you start filing.

·        Invoices

·        Payslips

·        Receipts

·        Bank statements

·        Pension statements

·        Benefit documentation

·        P11D expenses and benefits form.

HMRC requires that you keep records for up to 5 years after the deadline.

So even though you’ve completed this year’s return, it’s never too early to get your digital or physical filing in place for next year. I do both for a catch-all approach – you can never be too careful with the taxman!

There is a range of online accounting software you can use to keep track of all these items, and you can also file away hard copies.

 

And if you get stuck?

HMRC has lots of resources online https://www.gov.uk/topic/personal-tax/self-assessment which you can look through.

And remember, you can appoint a qualified accountant to do this for you.

*The 31 January deadline applies if you do your returns online. You can go old school with your returns if you prefer, but the deadline for paper returns is 3 months earlier in the October.

An effective headshot can give theviewer a sense of who you are more than words can say.

Here, you need to commit to some timelines.

So, remember those objectives you listed above? Break them down even further into tasks, and for each one put down a realistic completion date.

That will make sure your plans are firmly rooted and realistic, as opposed to being pie-in-the-sky aspirations that you have no chance of achieving.

The second Payment Services Directive – also known as PSD2 – becomes UK law on 13 january 2018.

From the name, it’s easy to think it only affects banks.

But hold on! It has implications for you too.

Here’s a summary of what it’s about, and the main ways it will affect you.

So, what’s PSD2?

The first Payment Services Directive (PSD) from 2009 put in place a legal framework for payments and related services across Europe.

It covered the rights and responsibilities of consumers, users and providers of payment services, and ensured that European countries implemented, and were held to, a uniform set of standards.

PSD2 builds on the success of PSD, and at its core wants to increase competition in the industry while reducing the dominance of banks.

Big banks have traditionally held all the aces when it comes to the business of payments, and when you consider the amount of information they hold on their customers – data is big business, just ask Facebook! – there’s been little incentive for them to innovate what they have on offer. Save for a few companies such as PayPal, Apple and Stripe, few have been able to make even the tiniest dent in the banks’ market share.

Why is this a problem, you ask? It means that you as a consumer don’t have much of a choice. When you look at the UK, there are 4 big banks, with VISA and MasterCard being the two dominant payment card schemes. So where do you go for a truly different sort of service?

Why was PSD2 introduced?

PSD2 is set to become law in the European Economic Area (comprising the 28 EU member states, as well as Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) on 13 January 2018, and here are some of the reasons the wheels were set in motion:

1.       To encourage new players, especially those that are NOT banks, to get into the business of payments.

2.       To encourage the introduction of new, cutting-edge technology which will revolutionise the way payments happen in Europe.

3.       As a result of increased competition and technology, the expectation is that the cost of payments will fall. A bonus for consumers!

4.       To improve security around payment processes, and the way consumer data is handled.

Who is responsible for PSD2?

PSD2 is a directive issued by the European Commission, which becomes national law on 13 January.

 

How does PSD2 affect you?

You already have many rights when it comes to protection against misuse of your data, and any potential fraud.

PSD2 takes these even further, by mandating that banks and businesses that process payments use what is referred to as strong customer authentication (SCA) for payments.

This means they have to take significant steps to make sure any payment you make is actually coming from – and authorised by – you.

So if you find you’re asked to verify your identity or payment in a different way, don’t be alarmed. It’s all PSD2-related.

Talking about your data though, in a bid to promote competition and open it up to new organisations, banks could potentially share what they know about you with these new players to the market, who will fall into 2 categories:

Payment Initiation Service Providers, and Account Information Service Providers.

Agreeing to use these services could make your online payments simpler and more seamless, and you’ll be better placed to compare what’s available in the marketplace. It also means you could make a payment directly from your bank account without using a debit or credit card, which could save you any card charges and fees.

Don’t worry, your data won’t be shared without your permission! Banks – who as well as being dominant forces in the landscape, are also the largest repositories of consumer data – are required by PSD2 to share this data when you give your permission, as a way of levelling the playing field.

In preparation for PSD2, your bank will have sent the last few years developing technical integrations to make the data sharing process easier. There’s a whole initiative around this within UK banking called Open Banking, and your bank will have already sent you something that looks like this:

 

PSD2 is also meant to end a practice that’s been a pain for consumers for a long time.

You know when you go into a shop, or book theatre tickets online, and you’re charged an additional percentage for using your credit card?

That practice – known as surcharging – ends with PSD2.

That’s not to say that shops and retailers will take this lying down; it’s hard to know how they will respond. They might swallow the costs, put their prices up across the board (which would affect ALL buyers, not just those using cards), or offer shoppers an incentive to use different ways to pay.

The jury is still out on this one, so keep your eyes peeled to see what happen when you shop after 13 January!

 

How does PSD2 affect your business?

PSD2 only affects payment institutions, credit institutions, and electronic money institutions.

If this is not your core business, there is no impact.

The only thing to note is that, if you add a surcharge for credit cards when collecting payments, this practice will no longer be allowed.

 

Will Brexit affect PSD2?

The UK government has confirmed that PSD2 implementation will not be affected by the process of leaving the European Union.

Since that only takes effect in 2019, PSD2 will be fully implemented and transposed into UK law.

Struggling to Complete Your Self-Assessment Tax Return? Here’s How To Do It – In 5 Steps

I did a straw poll of some small businesses recently, and it was interesting to find that the majority did not use a Business Plan for planning and forecasting.

It might be the same for you. Maybe you don’t have anything formal; perhaps you jot down your goals and thoughts from month to month (or, week to week)?

If you run your own business, or department within a business, you may wonder if writing a Business Plan is worth the hassle. You understand that it’s important to plan, but you’re not sure you want to spend the time doing it.

If you’ve ever wondered what the point of a Business Plan is, here are 4 reasons you need one today:

It sets out your business intentions

More businesses than you’d think waste time and money pursuing white elephants that have no bearing on their goals and objectives.

With a Business Plan, you’ll get to clarify and specify what you aim to achieve in the coming weeks and months. You can always refer to it when the next shiny object comes along; it will serve as a good way tp keeo you on track!

It prompts you to think carefully about your what your customers need

Entrepreneurs are by nature creative, and left to their own devices, could easily dream up a warehouse full of cutting-edge products and services. But…

…is anyone out there asking for them?

A well-written Business Plan poses the questions of customer demand, and how your products and services meet that demand.

It helps you zero in on your target market

A good Business Plan poses will contain a section on your target market.

So apart from the obvious bit on just who your product or service is designed for, it will prompt you to analyse and detail things like the current state of the market, how it’s changing, trends and any gaps.

Researching and knowing these things will help you position your proposition, and make the most of any gaps that your competitors are not serving.

It forces you to plan for the money

This is the section of Business Plans that people struggle with most!

It’s also THE most important part.

How else will you know how much you should aim to make as a minimum to cover your costs, and how much cash you must have in the bank each month to keep the business running?

Ignore the finances, and you could end up in dire straits very soon.

 

And, don’t forget, a Business Plan is a living document! You will get clearer on some of the elements, and you can adjust these to be more specific or realistic as time goes on.

Most business owners and bosses I speak to agree on one thing: having a Business Plan is crucial for goal-setting and the success that comes with it.

When it comes to writing that plan however, I find that actions don’t match the rhetoric!

Writing a Business Plan can appear intimidating, but it isn’t as difficult as you might think. The fear of it can make the task into a monster it’s not!

So, have you ever made these excuses to NOT write a Business Plan?

“I don’t have time”

A common reason used to get out of doing just about anything!

But as the saying goes, if something is important you’ll make time for it.

Right?

Besides, this nut doesn’t have to be cracked all in one day. You can purpose to work on one section every 2 – 3 days and at the end of the month, you’ll have your Business Plan!

“I’m not good with numbers”

And my response to that is, who is?

Not many of us can be described as mathematical geniuses, but that doesn’t preclude us from running – and planning for – our successful businesses.

While section headings in the document like “Sales Forecast” and “Projected Cash Flow” may discourage the numerically challenged, taking the time to stop and think about what those words actually mean will remove the dread you feel deep in the pit of your stomach!

For example, “Projected Cash Flow” is simply a summary of how much cash you need to run your business day-to-day, and for your Sales Forecast, put in estimates for what you anticipate your best and worst case scenarios will be in terms of sales (be realistic!). Also, work out the minimum number of units you need to sell to cover your costs.

See? It’s not so scary when you break it down.

“It’s don’t want to pay someone to do it for me”

Yes, paying for a Business Planning service like ours requires a financial commitment.

You can certainly do it yourself, and my Business Plan template here breaks it down into manageable chunks designed to help and guide you.

But if you can’t dedicate the time or effort needed to do it yourself, is the cost really worth the risk of going from one day to the next without a plan?

“It will change as time goes on, so why bother?”

A Business Plan is a living document, so yes, you will need to keep updating it.

When you plan for months, a year or more in advance, there are conditions and elements that you will become more aware of, things that will happen and need to be finetuned in the plan.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile exercise. I’ve written about why it’s something you need here.

Do have a read, and let me know if you have any queries.

(If you’re still wondering what the point of having a Business Plan is, have a quick look at this).

(I’ve put together a post explaining what the jargon in a Business Plan means; here it is. Start by reading that; it will help you with this part).

I know this sounds patronising. After all, who knows your business better than you?

I can assure you it isn’t meant to be. The point I’m making is that, as well as giving an overview of your business, you have to be able to articulate things like the main idea behind it, your mission and objectives, and who your main competitors are.

Think about what the market is like, and where it is going

So, what’s the current condition of the market?

Is it growing, fairly stable, or declining?

Are there any notable underlying trends?

What is the demand in the market, and how do your products or services meet that demand?

What’s your Unique Selling Proposition, and are there any gaps in the market which you intend to fill?

Know the audience you are selling to

Which segment of the market have you designed your products and services for?

Women, or men, or both?

Working women, or stay-at-home mothers?

People within a certain age range?

Are they based in cities, suburban or rural areas?

Are they early adopters or technophobes?

What are their problems, and which of these will you solve with your products and services?

These are some of the questions which will frame your offering. And they are crucial, because sometimes it’s easy to forget that our products and services are NOT for us.

They must meet the needs of your target market. Give the people what they want, as they say!

Brainstorm some ideas about how you will price, market and sell your products and services

Take some time to think about your pricing strategy.

Most of the time, people think this involves plucking a price out of the air, but there’s more to it than that!

How much does each unit cost to produce, and what margin will the market tolerate on top of that?

How does that then match your expectations for income and profit?

Then, you need to think about how you want to market and sell products and services. Social media makes advertising and marketing more accessible, but bear in mind that what works for a similar business may not work for yours.

So, do a bit of research, and have some intentions for how you will conduct your sales and marketing campaigns.

How will you measure your success?

“Measure your success” sounds boring, I know!

But if you don’t work out in advance how you’ll do this, how will you know what you’re working towards?

And more importantly, how will you know when it happens?

Take some time to think through the finances

This part is easy to skip, but is probably the most important of all.

You need a certain amount of cash to run your business every month. Sum up your expenses (and don’t forget to include your salary).

What does the total come to?

That’s what the amount you need to have available. Not invoiced and waiting to be paid; actual cash in the bank. Anything less, and you immediately have a cash flow problem.

Many a business has been successful on paper and in terms of invoiced amounts, but ended up filing for bankruptcy because it simply couldn’t meet its obligations when they were due.

Another key point to address is the length of time you think it will take to make a profit.

It’s not unusual for some businesses not to make a profit for some months, or even years. As long as you know that upfront and are prepared for it, that’s fine!

But if that’s the case, do you have an idea of what the losses will come to each month? How will this be funded, and how long can you sustain that?

In my experience, people either don’t plan for these scenarios, or are far too optimistic with their figures.

P.S. Where I’ve recommended doing research, please don’t think it has to be onerous.

Ask your family and friends. Use the internet. Create a poll using Surveymonkey or Google Polls. Some professional bodies – such as the Institute of Directors – offer research sessions which you can access as part of their membership. Check with your professional body and see if they can help you do some, maybe they’ve even done something similar already and have some statistics they can share with you!

The deadline to submit your self-assessment tax return is 31 January. With just over two weeks to go, it’s a good time to go over the 5 steps you need to follow to complete your self-assessment tax return.

The purpose of the return is to tell Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) how much you earned in the last tax year, and based on the information you provide, the appropriate income tax you need to pay is calculated.

If you are self-employed – so you don’t earn a salary from which your tax is automatically deducted – or have more than one source of income, this applies to you!

You can either do the return yourself, or hire an accountant to do it for you (check out the ICAEW or ACCA websites to find an accredited professional near you).

If you do decide to do it yourself, there are 5 steps I suggest you follow. Before I tell you what those are, there are a few things you need to know:

  • Tax years in the UK run from 6 April to 5 April, e.g. from 6 April 2016 to 5 April 2017.
  • The deadline to submit your return and pay the tax due is 31 January after the end of the tax year*. Using the example above,the deadline is 31 January 2018.
  • Act NOW if you haven’t already, because late payments attracts a penalty! If you suffered from a serious illness, family bereavement or a natural disaster you’ll be given a pass, but forgetting or being away on holiday do not count as reasonable excuses. So don’t put this off any longer!

Here are the 5 steps you need to follow to complete your Self-Assessment Tax Return:

Check to see if you qualify

You have to complete and submit a tax return if you were self-employed in the last tax year, or earned more than £2,500 in untaxed income.

For example, for landlords with rental properties, or people  who rent out rooms in their homes, if the income after expenses is more than £2,500, a tax return must be submitted.

Some of the other criteria to consider are earned interest or dividends more than £10,000.

There’s a full list of these criteria here, and there’s also an online tool where you can confirm if you need to do this 

Register with HMRC

If you haven’t filled in a self-assessment tax return before, you’ll need to register with HMRC before beginning the process of filling in the return.

You can do that here.

HMRC will send you a Unique Taxpayer Reference – or UTR –which you’ll need when completing the return online.

Collate all the information you’ll need

Before you start filling in the return, I’d recommend you get all your records and information ready.

You’ll be asked to provide details for a whole raft of things which I’ve listed below:

  • The total of what you earned in the year. That includes income from your business and any employment.
  • Any income earned from dividends.
  • Any income earned from rent.
  • Any income earned from business interests you may have outside the UK.
  • Any interest earned on your savings.
  • Any interest you paid on borrowings.
  • Any contributions you made to a pension.
  • Any benefits you received, such as state pension, Child Benefit or unemployment benefit.
  • Any perks you received, such as private healthcare or a car allowance.
  • Any income earned from the sale of property or shares.
  • The sum of any valid business expenses.

Complete the return online

Now, you need to fill in all this information online.

Log into the HMRC system here, and input the relevant information when prompted.

You can fill sections in, save, and come back at a later time to complete it, if you need to.

Organise your records

Haven’t been that prepared this year? You can always start now to organise your records, so next year’s return isn’t as tedious! These are some of the documents I’d recommend you start filing.

  • Invoices
  • Payslips
  • Receipts
  • Bank statements
  • Pension statements
  • Benefit documentation
  • P11D expenses and benefits form.

HMRC requires that you keep records for up to 5 years after the deadline.

So even though you’ve completed this year’s return, it’s never too early to get your digital or physical filing in place for next year. I do both for a catch-all approach – you can never be too careful with the taxman!

There is a range of online accounting software you can use to keep track of all these items, and you can also file away hard copies.

And if you get stuck?

HMRC has lots of resources online which you can look through.

And remember, you can appoint a qualified accountant to do this for you.

* The 31 January deadline applies if you do your returns online. You can go old school with your returns if you prefer, but the deadline for paper returns is 3 months earlier in the October.

The deadline to submit your self-assessment tax return is 31 January. With just over two weeks to go, it’s a good time to go over the 5 steps you need to follow to complete your self-assessment tax return.

The purpose of the return is to tell Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) how much you earned in the last tax year and based on the information you provide, the appropriate income tax you need to pay is calculated.

If you are self-employed – so you don’t earn a salary from which your tax is automatically deducted – or have more than one source of income, this applies to you!

You can either do the return yourself, or hire an accountant to do it for you (check out the ICAEW or ACCA websites to find an accredited professional near you).

If you do decide to do it yourself, there are 5 steps I suggest you follow. Before I tell you what those are, there are a few things you need to know:

·        Tax years in the UK run from 6 April to 5 April, e.g. from 6 April 2016 to 5 April 2017.

·        The deadline to submit your return and pay the tax due is 31 January after the end of the tax year*. Using the example above, the deadline is 31 January 2018.

·        Act NOW if you haven’t already, because late payments attracts a penalty! If you suffered from a serious illness, family bereavement or a natural disaster you’ll be given a pass, but forgetting or being away on holiday do not count as reasonable excuses. So don’t put this off any longer!

Check to see if you qualify

You have to complete and submit a tax return if you were self-employed in the last tax year, or earned more than £2,500 in untaxed income.

For example, for landlords with rental properties, or people who rent out rooms in their homes, if the income after expenses is more than £2,500, a tax return must be submitted.

Some of the other criteria to consider are earned interest or dividends more than £10,000.

There’s a full list of these criteria here https://www.gov.uk/self-assessment-tax-returns/who-must-send-a-tax-return, and there’s also an online tool where you can confirm if you need to do this https://www.gov.uk/check-if-you-need-a-tax-return

Register with HMRC

If you haven’t filled in a self-assessment tax return before, you’ll need to register with HMRC before beginning the process of filling in the return.

You can do that here https://www.gov.uk/log-in-file-self-assessment-tax-return/register-if-youre-self-employed

HMRC will send you a Unique Taxpayer Reference – or UTR – which you’ll need when completing the return online.

Collate all the information you’ll need

Before you start filling in the return, I’d recommend you get all your records and information ready.

You’ll be asked to provide details for a whole raft of things which I’ve listed below:

·        The total of what you earned in the year. That includes income from your business and any employment.

·        Any income earned from dividends.

·        Any income earned from rent.

·        Any income earned from business interests you may have outside the UK.

·        Any interest earned on your savings.

·        Any interest you paid on borrowings.

·        Any contributions you made to a pension.

·        Any benefits you received, such as state pension, Child Benefit or unemployment benefit.

·        Any perks you received, such as private healthcare or a car allowance.

·        Any income earned from the sale of property or shares.

·        The sum of any valid business expenses.

Complete the return online

Now, you need to fill in all this information online.

Log into the HMRC system here, and input the relevant information when prompted https://www.gov.uk/log-in-file-self-assessment-tax-return/sign-in/prove-identity

You can fill sections in, save, and come back at a later time to complete it, if you need to.

Organise your records

Haven’t been that prepared this year? You can always start now to organise your records, so next year’s return isn’t so tedious! These are some of the documents I’d recommend you start filing.

·        Invoices

·        Payslips

·        Receipts

·        Bank statements

·        Pension statements

·        Benefit documentation

·        P11D expenses and benefits form.

HMRC requires that you keep records for up to 5 years after the deadline.

So even though you’ve completed this year’s return, it’s never too early to get your digital or physical filing in place for next year. I do both for a catch-all approach – you can never be too careful with the taxman!

There is a range of online accounting software you can use to keep track of all these items, and you can also file away hard copies.

 

And if you get stuck?

HMRC has lots of resources online https://www.gov.uk/topic/personal-tax/self-assessment which you can look through.

And remember, you can appoint a qualified accountant to do this for you.

*The 31 January deadline applies if you do your returns online. You can go old school with your returns if you prefer, but the deadline for paper returns is 3 months earlier in the October.

An effective headshot can give theviewer a sense of who you are more than words can say.

Here, you need to commit to some timelines.

So, remember those objectives you listed above? Break them down even further into tasks, and for each one put down a realistic completion date.

That will make sure your plans are firmly rooted and realistic, as opposed to being pie-in-the-sky aspirations that you have no chance of achieving.

The second Payment Services Directive – also known as PSD2 – becomes UK law on 13 january 2018.

From the name, it’s easy to think it only affects banks.

But hold on! It has implications for you too.

Here’s a summary of what it’s about, and the main ways it will affect you.

So, what’s PSD2?

The first Payment Services Directive (PSD) from 2009 put in place a legal framework for payments and related services across Europe.

It covered the rights and responsibilities of consumers, users and providers of payment services, and ensured that European countries implemented, and were held to, a uniform set of standards.

PSD2 builds on the success of PSD, and at its core wants to increase competition in the industry while reducing the dominance of banks.

Big banks have traditionally held all the aces when it comes to the business of payments, and when you consider the amount of information they hold on their customers – data is big business, just ask Facebook! – there’s been little incentive for them to innovate what they have on offer. Save for a few companies such as PayPal, Apple and Stripe, few have been able to make even the tiniest dent in the banks’ market share.

Why is this a problem, you ask? It means that you as a consumer don’t have much of a choice. When you look at the UK, there are 4 big banks, with VISA and MasterCard being the two dominant payment card schemes. So where do you go for a truly different sort of service?

Why was PSD2 introduced?

PSD2 is set to become law in the European Economic Area (comprising the 28 EU member states, as well as Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) on 13 January 2018, and here are some of the reasons the wheels were set in motion:

1.       To encourage new players, especially those that are NOT banks, to get into the business of payments.

2.       To encourage the introduction of new, cutting-edge technology which will revolutionise the way payments happen in Europe.

3.       As a result of increased competition and technology, the expectation is that the cost of payments will fall. A bonus for consumers!

4.       To improve security around payment processes, and the way consumer data is handled.

Who is responsible for PSD2?

PSD2 is a directive issued by the European Commission, which becomes national law on 13 January.

 

How does PSD2 affect you?

You already have many rights when it comes to protection against misuse of your data, and any potential fraud.

PSD2 takes these even further, by mandating that banks and businesses that process payments use what is referred to as strong customer authentication (SCA) for payments.

This means they have to take significant steps to make sure any payment you make is actually coming from – and authorised by – you.

So if you find you’re asked to verify your identity or payment in a different way, don’t be alarmed. It’s all PSD2-related.

Talking about your data though, in a bid to promote competition and open it up to new organisations, banks could potentially share what they know about you with these new players to the market, who will fall into 2 categories:

Payment Initiation Service Providers, and Account Information Service Providers.

Agreeing to use these services could make your online payments simpler and more seamless, and you’ll be better placed to compare what’s available in the marketplace. It also means you could make a payment directly from your bank account without using a debit or credit card, which could save you any card charges and fees.

Don’t worry, your data won’t be shared without your permission! Banks – who as well as being dominant forces in the landscape, are also the largest repositories of consumer data – are required by PSD2 to share this data when you give your permission, as a way of levelling the playing field.

In preparation for PSD2, your bank will have sent the last few years developing technical integrations to make the data sharing process easier. There’s a whole initiative around this within UK banking called Open Banking, and your bank will have already sent you something that looks like this:

 

PSD2 is also meant to end a practice that’s been a pain for consumers for a long time.

You know when you go into a shop, or book theatre tickets online, and you’re charged an additional percentage for using your credit card?

That practice – known as surcharging – ends with PSD2.

That’s not to say that shops and retailers will take this lying down; it’s hard to know how they will respond. They might swallow the costs, put their prices up across the board (which would affect ALL buyers, not just those using cards), or offer shoppers an incentive to use different ways to pay.

The jury is still out on this one, so keep your eyes peeled to see what happen when you shop after 13 January!

 

How does PSD2 affect your business?

PSD2 only affects payment institutions, credit institutions, and electronic money institutions.

If this is not your core business, there is no impact.

The only thing to note is that, if you add a surcharge for credit cards when collecting payments, this practice will no longer be allowed.

 

Will Brexit affect PSD2?

The UK government has confirmed that PSD2 implementation will not be affected by the process of leaving the European Union.

Since that only takes effect in 2019, PSD2 will be fully implemented and transposed into UK law.

What To Do When There’s Trouble At Work

Some of the things we put up with in the workplace are truly incredible.

One would have thought that in this day and age, tales of bullying, unfair practices, discrimination and other displays of malevolence would be few and far between.

Unfortunately, that is not the case.

I have witnessed a lot of inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour over the years. I have even had some of it actively and intentionally directed at me.

While I can look back and say those experiences made me stronger and are a part of my story, no one should have to go through that.

I was younger then, and remember feeling powerless to change my situation. I did in the end – by walking out! – but I’ve never forgotten the distinct feeling of not having any options, and seething at how organisations often get away with treating employees with contempt.

Before I go further let me make this public declaration: My politics isn’t left-leaning.

While I can look back and say those experiences made me stronger, no one should have to go through any of that

Click to Tweet

I believe in a responsible capitalism. One where people are rewarded for their gifts and efforts, but those who need assistance are not left behind.

One where risk-takers and leaders reap the fruits of their labour, but those who work for them are paid a fair wage, and are treated with kindness and fairness.

One where management and staff alike communicate clearly and openly, both sides acting with integrity.

I think of it as compassionate capitalism. Am I being naïve? I know many in the business and corporate worlds who think so!

I’m also really struck by how employees appear not to have much recourse.

I must admit I’ve never been a supporter of trade unions: my feeling is that, certainly here in the UK, US and Europe, the war for workers’ rights has been won and modern-day unions are obsolete; symbols of a bygone era and a barrier to free enterprise.

Could it be time for me to revisit that view?

It would appear that the government had a similar perspective, and as part of a cost-rationalisation exercise in the public sector in 2013, introduced fees for employment tribunal cases. This meant that anyone making a claim for unfair dismissal, discrimination and other issues at work had to pay as much as £1,200!

As well as the cost implications, I imagine the government considered the majority of cases being brought to be frivolous and unnecessary; many of those that hit the headlines certainly appeared to be opportunities for people to cash in and make a quick buck.

Taking on an employer requires unshakeable resolve, and commitment of time and money. My interactions with lawyers – which have been very limited! – confirm the stereotype of eyewatering hourly fees, which deter many from taking things further.

Two recent incidents within a client organisation have made the subject of accessibility to the legal system for conflict resolution relating to employment matters very topical for me. They actually precipitated this article, which strictly speaking, has nothing to do with my business offering beyond a sense of having a personal obligation to speak up and make a positive contribution.

So here’s the first incident: New Boss starts in a business, and is keen to bring in his own team. As a result, Person A is made redundant. As you would expect, Person A starts jobhunting. Only thing is, he does so using his work email address. Person A receives a job offer and reference request to said email address. Boss INTERCEPTS email, and sends what I can only describe as an unfavourable reference to Person A’s potential new employer, who promptly rescinds the job offer.

The second incident: Company-wide cost pressures mean there has to be a reduction in headcount. Consequently, all areas are asked to review their operations and come up with efficiencies. The Boss in a particular department concludes that Person X’s role can be done at another location for less. Boss hires Person Y at that location, and asks Person X to train Person Y.

Boss also makes it known to everyone that Person X’s role will soon cease to exist.

Everyone that is, except Person X!

Person X, hears rumours and finally realises what is happening. Person X asks for clarification on the future of his role. For the first time, Boss advises Person X of impending redundancy.

I won’t detail my thoughts about how both situations were handled, except to say that I am appalled that a member of a company’s Senior Management Team could behave in this manner.

More instructive, is the fact that he has not been held accountable for it!

I was not able to directly influence these events, but this article is about raising my voice to declare these two things:

1. This sort of behaviour is NOT acceptable

2. You do NOT have to put up with it.

This article is to share my limited knowledge of how to handle such scenarios. If I help just ONE person who has been treated this way, I will have achieved my goal.

I hope this encourages you NOT to suffer in silence, and you know what to do if you are treated unfairly at work

Click to Tweet

But before I go further, please note this: I AM NOT AN EXPERT IN EMPLOYMENT LAW. This is NOT what I do for a living, and I strongly recommend that you seek independent legal advice (it may surprise you to find that this doesn’t always have to cost an arm and a leg, as I explain below).

These are the thoughts of a passionate lay(wo)man only; my contribution to making the world a better place…

…great! Let’s have a general review of what to do if you are facing trouble at work.

Keep a Record

I hope it doesn’t come to it, but if you need to get lawyers or a third party involved, it would be beneficial to have a written record of what has transpired.

Keep a diary (preferably NOT at work where it could be interfered with), relevant emails, proof of the times you have raised concerns.

Speak to Human Resources

Even as I recommend this, I know that this is a necessary, but time-wasting step.

Just my personal bias, I’m afraid.

I wish I could sugar-coat it, but I’ve never seen an effective HR Department (maybe that’s a business opportunity for someone right there…)

Perhaps you haven’t either, but don’t let that deter you from completing this necessary part of the process.

If you have to escalate, one of the first things you will be asked is if you brought your grievance to your employer’s attention formally. The employer could then claim they had no knowledge of the issue and were not given an opportunity to fix it, which would not work in your favour.

So go through the motions; get your complaint or query on record.

And of course, record the date and time of any meetings, and summarise what was discussed.

Have you heard of the ICO?

Here in the United Kingdom, the Information Commissioner’s Office is the independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest.

While it could be argued that a work email address belongs to your employer, the employee may also be able to lay a personal claim to it, to some extent.

If a report to your HR Department does not lead to a data breach investigation, do report it to the Information Commissioner.

Start with Citizens Advice

An oft-ignored – but brilliant – resource here in the UK is Citizens Advice, a service charity that provide free, independent, confidential and impartial advice to everyone on their rights and responsibilities, on a wide range of legal issues ranging from work, debt, housing and consumer law to immigration and family law.

If you are being treated unfairly at work, I suggest reaching out to Citizens Advice as a starting point.

Last resort: Employment Tribunal

Again, no one wants things to get this far.

But it’s useful to know what your options are.

You may be aware of the Supreme Court ruling this July that the introduction of tribunal fees had detrimental consequences on access to justice, and employees’ ability to uphold their rights at work.

This re-balances the playing field, and empowers employees by removing the financial hurdles.

Just to remind you again, that I am NOT in the legal profession, and you MUST seek your own independent legal advice.

But I hope this piece encourages you not to suffer in silence, and goes some way to make you aware of what to do if you are treated unfairly at work.

Thanks for reading.

Bad Decision, or No Decision?

A bad decision, or no decision at all?

That, as they say, is the question.

Which scenario do you prefer: one where a decision taken turns out to be the wrong one; or the alternative, where any decision-making is kicked into the long grass and the situation remains vague and, well, undecided?

I often think about this, as it tends to be a position that my clients and past employers frequently find themselves in.

Maybe you’ve been there yourself: having to navigate several options at work or some other area of your life. You perceive the consequences and costs (emotional and financial) of making the wrong call to be so grave that it sends you into a state of inertia.

You freeze, because you’re terrified of moving forward, based on what you perceive to be the risks involved.

Or, maybe this isn’t just something you’ve experienced in the past; perhaps what I’ve described is exactly where you find yourself right now?

From a personal perspective, it can be crippling to find yourself unable to move on from a relationship, a job you’re no longer passionate about, or an experience that has had a significant impact.

You perceive the consequences and costs of making the wrong call to be so grave that it sends you into inertia

Click to Tweet

And from a corporate perspective, that crippling effect is amplified when it comes to businesses, because of the sheer number of people it can potentially affect.

I mentioned that this inertia, or what I refer to as a state of permanent procrastination, is something that I’ve been privy to on more than one occasion.

I described here how one of my Top 3 Project Nightmares involved a piece of work being put on hold for a period of six months while the senior management team requested all manner of due diligence, business cases, options papers and presentations. They deployed every type of navel-gazing technique you could think of!

The most intriguing thing was, they had no awareness of how this impacted team morale. It was soul-destroying to walk through the doors every day, knowing that what I was doing WASN’T contributing to a positive change in the business.

It was like running on a hamster wheel: lots of activity and energy expended, but going nowhere, fast.

I’ve always been passionate about making an impact and, seeing no way to achieve that within the organisation at that time, I ended up saying my goodbyes shortly afterwards.

And I wasn’t the only one to vote with my feet!

You’d be wrong to think such levels of procrastination only occur in the workplace, or perhaps in your personal life. It happens on the national and international fronts too.

Here in the United Kingdom, proposals to expand Heathrow Airport by building a third runway date back to 2009. Commercially, the business case made sense: Heathrow is said to be the second busiest airport for international travellers in the world, and the busiest in Europe. Having “won” the lottery of geographical location, it is the hub that connects travellers from the Americas, Africa, Australasia, the Far East and the rest of Europe.

With passenger numbers forecast to grow to 320 million by 2030 (from 211 million in 2010), approving the project appeared to be a foregone conclusion.

But apart from the commercials there were other factors to consider: local residents objected to an expansion project which would see an increase in the number of flights, and potentially noise and air pollution too.

So, not an easy decision to make!

And while the government would never admit it, there were also electoral concerns, as promises had been made to key stakeholders and party supporters about what would and would not be allowed to happen where expansion of the airport was concerned.

So, although the plans were first approved in 2009, this was reversed by the coalition government in 2010.

There were further consultations and indications that overall, it was in the national interest for the project to progress. Then it became clear that there was no political will to make a call before the 2015 election, and a decision was postponed again.

Later that year, the Airport Commission published its recommendation to build the new runway, but the government again deferred making a firm decision…

…it wasn’t until late 2016 that current Prime Minister Theresa May gave the green light for the expansion.

On the international stage, those old enough will remember the atrocities in Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s.

In both cases, the international community “ummed” and “ahhed” its way through indecision, bureaucracy and long-winded United Nations resolutions, while innocent lives were lost.

When the much-needed intervention finally arrived in those countries, it was long overdue and tragically, too late to save millions.

In these circumstances, the consequences of procrastination and delay were fatal, and will continue to have an impact on both nations for generations to come.

But enough of the history lesson!

My original question was, which do you prefer: a bad decision, or none at all?

My recommendation is: Show leadership and make that call

Click to Tweet

In my opinion, is it far better to stand up and be counted.

My recommendation is: Show leadership and make that call.

Procrastination is really disguised fear: fear of poor outcomes, and subsequently, fear of being held accountable for those poor outcomes.

And fear has a paralysing effect.

When it comes to your business, there are ways to assess and quantify what’s really at stake, so you can make an informed decision on how best to move forward.

Consulting with your key stakeholders, identifying the risks involved, categorising them and assessing how they could impact your people, processes and systems are some ways of eating the elephant one bite at a time (in the proverbial sense only!)

I’ve heard fear described as False Evidence Appearing Real, and what these steps do is provide you with the facts you need to proceed.

I’ve seen too many management teams lose a good workforce, their businesses grinding to a halt because they refuse to do the background work, and take decisions which might be difficult.

And if it doesn’t work out? What if you make a decision, and it turns out to be the wrong one?

You can present your background work as proof, and ensure lessons are learned and recorded for posterity.

Unfortunately, the culture of blame in many organisations is one of the reasons why people shy away from taking decisions. When people aren’t allowed to take calculated risks – emphasis on calculated – they can’t learn or develop.

Better to make a decision you can learn lessons from, than to stall and wonder what might have been.

And, if you need to perform a Risk or Impact Assessment in your business, I would love to support you. Contact me here to discuss how I can help you make THAT crucial decision about a process, system, supplier or project.

4 Lessons Every Business Should Learn From the Rio Olympics

This article was first published in The Huffington Post on 24/08/2016

The 2016 Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro has come and gone!

I love the spirit the Olympic Games engender. For the fortnight it’s on, everyone is cheerful and supportive, willing on their country’s athletes (and their favourites) to victory.

The Olympics has demonstrated its ability to bring people and nations together over and over again.

And it’s not just inspiring from a sporting perspective. The way I see it, there are 4 lessons every business should learn from the Rio Olympics.

I’ll go through them briefly below.

Size Doesn’t Always Matter

Being an island of a mere 70 million or so did nothing to limit the ambitions of the United Kingdom’s Team GB.

Their aspirations were gargantuan, and their targets seemed implausible. But it all paid off, with our tiny nation finishing 2nd overall in the medals table, and beating larger nations such as China, Germany, India and Russia.

If you run a small or medium-sized business, are you intimidated by the “big boys” in your field?

Do you sometimes suffer from impostor syndrome, wondering why anyone would want to buy from YOU?

Full Disclosure: I sometimes do!

If you run a small or medium-sized business, are you intimidated by the "big boys" in your field?

Click to Tweet

Being small has its advantages. It means you can be nimble and agile; you can make decisions quickly; and you can respond to your customers and market trends faster than a large business ever could.

All you need is limitless ambition, a strategy, and an actionable plan to follow through.

In one of the many interviews she’s given in the past fortnight, I heard the Chief Executive of UK Sport Liz Nicholl say that getting the return on investment in any Olympic sport takes about eight years. So, preparations for Rio began just after the Beijing Games in 2008.

You can achieve great things too, regardless of how big your business is, or how much capital outlay you have at the start. What you absolutely cannot do without is a great plan!

Acknowledge Your Mistakes

We often fall into the trap of thinking that admitting to failure in an area will expose us as somehow inadequate.

But when we deny our mistakes – or even worse, try to cover them up – the issue is exacerbated and the consequences much worse than we imagined.

Case in point? See Ryan Lochte. The gold-winning American swimmer took advantage of security concerns about the host city to cover up an act of alleged vandalism.

He could have faced up to his actions and offered to pay for the damage; that would have been that.

But his story caused an international furore, and the fallout has cost him his reputation and lucrative sponsorship deals.

The lesson? Own your mistakes. Learn from them, and use them as a stepping stone to greater things. If you cover them up, you won’t be able to control the fallout.

Bring Your People on the Journey

The inspirational performances were sheer feats of strength, discipline, endurance and perseverance. Usain Bolt’s triple-triple, Mo Farah’s double-double, Nick Skelton’s iconic gold at his 7th Games at the age of fifty-eight, the two Simones (Biles and Manuel) blazing trails in their respective events and for women of colour everywhere, to name a few!

But, where were the spectators and adoring fans? The build-up to the Games was plagued with stories of exhausted funds and budgets which had been blown. Then, after pulling off an incredible opening ceremony, many of the events were held in venues which were half-empty.

Locals in Rio said there was no way they could afford ticket prices if they weren’t discounted in such a way as to reflect the standard of living and current economic issues in Brazil…

…and therein lay the problem. To run your projects and business successfully, getting buy-in from your stakeholders is crucial. Achieving lasting success is more challenging when you neglect to take people along with you.

Getting buy-in from stakeholders is crucial. Lasting success is challenging if you don't take people along with you

Click to Tweet

It could be your team, or your customers, or both. It could mean revising your pricing strategy, or putting a rigorous communication plan in place. Don’t forget to make sure they come alongside as you navigate your business through different projects, promotions and phases. It won’t benefit anyone if you sprint off into the distance, leaving everyone else baffled and disengaged.

There’s No Such Thing as Overnight Success

When watching the athletes cross the finish line, it’s easy to forget the process they go through to achieve their accolades.

Everyone loves the glory; wants it. However, no one is there when they wake up at 4.00am to train. When they train for eight hours a day, six days a week.

We don’t feel the “pain” of their strict nutritional plans. We see the finished articles and their results…and wonder why we don’t have the same speed, strength, agility or six-packs!

Are you ready to do the work?

It’s no different in business. There might be someone you admire – for me, it’s Sir Richard Branson. Nothing wrong with that; it’s useful to have a role model. We can, however, make the mistake of comparing where we are now to people who are ahead of us, forgetting about the process and journey they’ve undertaken to get where they are today.

Overnight success doesn’t exist. Not enduring success, anyway!

It takes consistency of commitment, discipline, hard work and perseverance over time…

…and don’t forget to savour every moment of the journey. That in itself, is half the fun and victory.

My Very First Blog Post

Hello there!

This is the very first Mastermind Strategies blog post, and I thought I would use it as an introduction and a means to give you a bit of background, tell you what we’re all about and perhaps, what you can expect to see and read here.

So, what is Mastermind Strategies, and who’s behind it?

Mastermind Strategies is a consultancy founded by me, Adanna Bankole.

I have had a successful career in business analysis and change management for more than a decade, and developed a strong track record of project delivery in the financial services industry during that period.

I now focus on working with established businesses across a number of different sectors, helping them deliver results that increase their efficiency and profitability.

What exactly do you do?

Mastermind Strategies is dedicated to helping your business be the best it can. We will help you identify opportunities to increase revenue and reduce inefficiencies, by improving the way you deliver your services. We specialise in analysing businesses and managing change of any kind, whether it’s driven by your people, processes or technology.

Mastermind Strategies specialises in analysing businesses, and managing change of any kind

Click to Tweet

More specifically, some of our areas of expertise are:

Identifying opportunities to improve your business, and making recommendations on how you can put those opportunities into effect.
Re-engineering your existing business processes so they eliminate waste and are fit for purpose, and can address any specific challenges your business faces.
Ensuring you have a clear path to success by defining the right Target Operating Model for a department within your business, or the business as a whole. This framework helps you pre-define your vision, which is essential when undertaking a significant change in strategy.
Designing, analysing and documenting your project or programme requirements. You’ll need to define the scope of your project before you start nailing down the requirements…and we can help you do this too.
Managing and implementing change in your business. Whether it’s planning for a new business venture, delivering a report on the feasibility of a project, helping you choose a supplier, liaising with a range of stakeholders, facilitating workshops and helping your teams arrive at key decisions, or working with technical teams to ensure smooth implementation of a system, we help you manage initiatives in your business…in the most effective (and least disruptive) manner.

Who writes the blog posts?

I do! (There's a bit more about me here)

Though I anticipate there will be times when I ask my peers, clients or experts in other fields to write guest posts, especially when this benefits YOU. In time, this may grow to include team members and even third party suppliers, but we’ll see!

What sorts of things will you write about?

My intention is to share my views on the things I am passionate about: business analysis, facilitating change efficiently in businesses, strategies and technology that make a difference in the marketplace, entrepreneurship and start-ups, and of course, there’ll be updates on the Mastermind Strategies team, what we’re doing, projects we’re working on, clients we’re working with, initiatives we’re running and new products and services.

How frequently will you upload new posts?

The aim is to post a minimum of once a week.

We’ve all seen blogs which start off enthusiastically and slowly peter off after a few posts, only to crash and burn shortly afterwards. I’m going to work hard to keep this one going, regardless of how busy my week turns out to be.

My plan is to have a general “theme” every month – it could be Strategy, Business Planning, Defining Requirements – and majority of the posts that month will address a particular aspect of said theme, in a way that is relevant for YOU.

Will there be a Comments Section?

Not sure about this one at the moment. While I absolutely want your feedback, I need to ensure I can commit to giving commenters the responses they deserve in a timely fashion.

So there you have it; I hope this gives you some insight into what’s coming.

Thanks for stopping by to read this, and here’s to the first of many more posts!