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Why business should go green

16th September 2019
16th September 2019

As teabags go plastic-free and bio-degradable – we look at the benefits of a business going green.  And next week we look at the disadvantages…

Making Cost Savings

Reduce your energy usage and you will not only save money but reduce the demand for fossil fuels thereby helping reduce carbon emissions.  Convert to a paperless office will save money on paper, printing and document storage.  Whilst it may not be too relevant for businesses in our area, employees who use their own cycle for business travel are entitled to 20p per mile – much less than the equivalent cost of an employee using their own car.

Tax Advantages

There are Government tax schemes to encourage your business to be more environmentally friendly.  The 3 main types of business who benefit most are:

  • Those that use a lot of energy
  • Small businesses that don’t use a lot of energy and
  • Where you purchase energy-efficient technology.

Government advice is here, but don’t hesitate to contact us for more information on how you can save money.

Building your Brand

Many customers prefer to do business with environmentally aware companies.  If you do go green (or greener), then it is important to let your customers know, through your website and social media.

Leading the Way

By taking the initiative and becoming greener, you will be putting pressure on your competitors to also demonstrate their own approaches to sustainability.  If you are perceived as a leader, then you are able to differentiate yourself from your competition.

Green Work Environment

A green workplace will be a more healthy workplace.  If this also means a reduction in days off sick, you will be able to achieve productivity gains.  A healthier staff group is more likely to be productive, energetic and innovative.

The Feel Good Factor

Hardly a day goes by now without dire warnings about the future of the environment.  It’s not just down to individuals to do their bit, small business also needs to contribute to saving the planet.

Is your business green?  Tell us about the initiatives you have introduced and we’ll happily share them…

How to keep your children cyber secure

2nd September 2019
2nd September 2019

It’s back to school – but are your children as cyber-security aware as they need to be?  We often cover issues around the risks that businesses face from cyber fraud – here we look at ways to keep your children cyber secure … 

Privacy Basics

It’s not just adults who can have their identity stolen.  Disclosing personal data is a big risk, so inadvertently showing your address should be avoided, on bits of paper lying around in photos, or even pics taken outside the house.

Playing the right games…

Do you know what games your children are playing online?  Take Fortnite as an example – some schools have written to parents warning them about this game in particular, which can make children “aggressive and violent”.  If you have no idea what Fortnite is, here are 7 things as a parent you need to know!

Reputation management

This isn’t just for businesses – and it may be too much to expect your child to manage their own online reputation themselves.  We all Google ourselves – don’t we??  But have you ever Googled your child?  This article gives some very useful tips on how to help protect your child without wrapping them in cotton wool.

Password protocols

Teaching children the correct way to use passwords is an essential part of them being safe online.  It doesn’t have to be hard work, as suggested here – the longer the password, the safer it is, so work on encouraging paraphrases as passwords.

360 degree security

Are all of your devices covered by malware software?  Cyber fraudsters don’t differentiate between businesses and individuals, and will have no compunction about whether the device is owned by a child or an adult.  If you take protecting your work devices, then you should check that any Internet of Things gadget in your household is similarly protected, in order to fully keep your children cyber secure.

The Future of Cash

9th August 2019
9th August 2019

In 2018, the Royal Mint didn’t make any new copper coins – 1p and 2p’s, as apparently there are enough in circulation.  The government announced a review into copper coins in 2018, but this was quickly withdrawn and assurances given that we’d still have copper in our purses and pockets.  It makes us ask the question – what is the future of cash?

There are an increasing number of ways that we can pay for things, with contactless payments, mobile apps and digital currencies all gaining in popularity.  Biometrics are expected to be the next new way to pay. 

This all means that we are moving towards a cashless society.  Already, 1 in 10 in the UK are effectively cashless – and its higher amongst younger people, with one in six 25-34 year olds being cashless.  7 in every 10 people now use contactless, with East Anglia topping the regions.  Being cashless means paying for only 1 thing with cash in a month, or none. 

What does this mean for business?  There are 5 main areas where this will impact on SMEs:

  • There will be less cash on the premises, so reduced risk of burglary and theft
  • Payments will be easier, not just with a swipe of a card but possibly even just the use of a fingerprint
  • Quicker payments should lead to greater efficiency, as less time is taken finding change
  • It will be more environmentally friendly
  • SMEs will need to keep up to speed with new developments as consumers keep searching for easier ways to pay

But there are downsides, with elderly and more vulnerable people most at risk, as well as people living in rural areas such as our own.  Banks are already talking of closing free to use ATM cash machines, and nearly 3,000 bank branches have closed in the past 4 years. 

We won’t see the withdrawal of real money for some time, but the trend is clear – the future of cash is not looking that rosy. 

Protect from Fraud

26th July 2019
26th July 2019

Fraud is so common now – here we look at the main categories, and what you can do to help keep your systems safe and protect from fraud.

Fraud is becoming more widespread, with an estimated 3.6 million fraud cases in 2018 – yet only 276,000 cases were reported to the police.  The estimates show a 12 % increase year on year.

There are 4 main categories for fraud:

  • Online shopping, and online auction fraud was the most reported category
  • Advance fee fraud is where you are asked to pay upfront and never receive what you’ve paid for
  • Computer fixing fraud is most common in Norfolk, nearly double the national average.  What does this say about Norfolk people!
  • Cheque, plastic card and online bank fraud is the fourth most popular category.

Increasingly popular is identity fraud, rising fastest for victims who are over 60 and under 21.  The two most likely sources of information to enable a fraudster to use your identity are the internet, and the individual themselves. 

Latest scams that are reported in large numbers include:

  • Spoof HMRC phone calls, threatening prosecution because of apparently unpaid tax.  Where there is any unpaid tax, HMRC will initially make contact by letter.
  • Talk Talk refunds, with a link to a malicious website
  • TV Licensing scam, asking for you to update your bank records to avoid prosecution.  Over 900 cases have been reported with losses to individuals totalling £830,000.
  • BT scam offering enhanced security, where you are asked to let a technician log into your computer, which they then take control of, and ask you to log into your bank account.

How to protect from fraud

As more services are online, ensuring your computer is secure is ever more critical.  The police Action Fraud website contains useful information on how to protect yourselves, including the free cybercrime protection service Quad9 and DMARC

Quad9 is a free security solution which acts to protect your system against the most common cyber threats, and also improving your system performance and enhancing your privacy.  DMARC is designed to protect your business from email fraud.

The Global Cyber Alliance has developed a CyberSecurity Toolkit specifically designed for small and medium sized businesses.  It offers actionable guidance and tools with clear directions to protect your business from cyber attacks.  If your business isn’t protected – it’s time to act now.

Decline of the Ice Cream Van

12th July 2019
12th July 2019

We like to think that, although we are accountants, we always look beyond the numbers – as it says on our Facebook page here.  We found a fascinating article about the ice cream van business, which explores the reasons behind the decline of the ice cream van.  It’s quite a long read… here’s our summary in 350 words to save you time…

In the 1950s, there were 20,000 ice cream vans in the UK.  Now, the trade body, the Ice Cream Alliance, estimates there are between 2,500 and 5,000, but only 10% do street trading. 

The reasons for this illustrate an interesting shift in society as different factors impact on this once burgeoning business.  Competition from supermarkets, where cheap ice cream is so readily available, is only part of the story.  Children don’t play outside as much as they did, so the chimes of Greensleeves often can’t be heard above the headphones…  And there is also an acknowledgement that ice cream isn’t necessarily seen to be that healthy!

Pricing of the product is also an issue.  The article quotes a price of £2 for a small cone plus flake, £3 for a large 99.  To buy a round of 99’s for a family soon gives little if any change from a tenner.  Increasing concern about the strength of the economy means consumers are reluctant to shell out their hard earner cash, and it is the luxury items that suffer the first chop.

We have often highlighted the trend towards a cashless society – so the forward-thinking ice cream van owner has to provide a contactless payment option.  With changing palates, vegan ice cream also has to be on offer – and even ice cream for dogs!

As with so much of our current life, climate change also crops up as a factor.  The perfect temperature to maximise ice cream sales is 21 degrees centigrade.  Too hot, it melts; too wet, no-one wants a 99.

This, then accounts for the decline in the ice cream van on the streets of Fenland and West Norfolk – as an increasing number either fall out of business, or turn to the corporate and wedding reception market. 

This article makes for a fascinating read if you have the time.

Skills or degrees?

5th July 2019
5th July 2019

What was your careers advice like at school?  Here we look at the future of work, and what it means for businesses and workers.  Are traditional routes through education the way to go? Are we looking at the need for skills – or degrees?

Back in the 1970s, 5% of the population went to university.  Now it’s more like 50% who gain a degree – but also manage to acquire a significant amount of debt alongside it.  In a fast changing work environment, the question needs asking:  how can degrees give the impression of a lifelong stamp of professional competency whilst rapid technological developments change the way people work anyway?

No-one now expects to have a job for life, and many people are actively rejecting the notion of working for someone else.  More flexible working patterns, increasing numbers of freelancers, and more self-employed, with people often balancing more than one job – all these factors point to the need for workers to be very flexible about how they work. 

Getting a degree now may actually be restricting opportunities later.  Technological advances mean that new jobs and specialties will emerge.  The World Economic Forum found that 65% of children entering primary school will end up in jobs that don’t actually exist at present. 

There is a strong trend which indicates that the future of work may not be about degrees – but rather, it will focus on skills.  Education won’t end with a graduation, but re-skilling throughout one’s working life will become essential if workers want to be relevant. 

Employers can reap the benefits of this flexibility, but will also need to recognise the importance of allowing workers to develop skills within their employment.  We’re looking here at not just upskilling, but re-skilling as technology progresses and disruption spreads. 

Will your business be able to adapt to this fast-changing workplace environment – or be left behind? 

Celebrating 10 years in business!

21st June 2019
21st June 2019

We are celebrating 10 years in business – Nickie looks back over the past decade…

In many ways it seems only 5 minutes ago since I decided to venture out of my position in an accountancy practice and set up in business on my own. In the 10 years I have had many great experiences, new challenges and sometimes difficult moments along the way, and I have learnt so much while taking the business from a small start up to an established practice with a team of employees by my side.

My career began 23 years ago as a trainee working in Kings Lynn where I studied and sat my Chartered Certified Accountancy exams and completed the training required to become qualified and then to gain my practicing certificate. After 13 years of working in King’s Lynn I decided to take the step and set up my own business.

I started with a small handful of clients who have been with me since the business began and I would like to thank them for their continued support and business. The client base has grown over the years covering a wide variety of business sizes and industries. This mixture of clients is always a great challenge.

I have many memorable moments over the 10 years. I clearly remember the first six months on my own and enjoyed the initial steps in working for myself, taking on new clients and learning to be in business for myself after years of working in practice and advising businesses every day. I feel that the experience I have had in setting up my own business is invaluable, and I pass on and share my experiences with all clients I have now going through similar steps.

Some of my highlights

Employing my first team member……. to my 6th

Very soon after starting up I soon realised I had to employ someone to help me support our clients. Such a daunting step and one not taken lightly. I was now going to be responsible for someone else’s earnings. Having said that from the first to our most recent appointment I have always embraced the steady growth.

Moving into a bigger office, and again, and again

Similarly, as the team grows the space required grows. Another challenge in the moving and the extra running costs. We have moved four times over the 10 years, always within the same building but into bigger offices or bringing two offices together to create the large open plan space we now use. The Boathouse has worked well for us and our clients.

Taking part and winning local business awards

Two years after starting I was approached to enter the Fenland Business Awards and I was surprised but very pleased to win Small Business of the year 2011 and Woman in Business the following year. Sometimes when you are the boss there isn’t anyone to tell you well done so this is a good feeling that you are doing something right.

Barwell Babies

Over the 10 years we have welcomed several babies in the team. Some more eventful than others with team members going into labour in the office….

Staff meals and days out

We always try to get out for a lunch a couple of times a year and have had day trips to London as well. This is always a favourite for us and a good way to spend time as a team without it being all work related.

Cakes

Many people know I have a hobby outside work of baking, frequently trying to pull of whatever has appeared on this weeks’ Bake Off and sharing cake in the office is always on the agenda. Who doesn’t like tea and cake!!

Meeting with customers

Every day I get the most out of meeting or talking with current and new customers, its why I wanted to do this, I wanted to have that relationship with my customers and really feel part of their businesses and work with them to support their current needs. I am passionate about building good relationships with them to ensure I can provide the best service possible.

None of this would have been possible without the support of my family and team of staff. I am truly grateful for everyone’s input in this journey and look forward to sharing the next 10 years with you all.

The team and I would like to thank all our customers past and present and look forward to the next 10 years.

Is a three day working week the future?

17th June 2019
17th June 2019

How does a three day weekend sound?  Would you take Friday or Monday off?  Or how about a four day weekend?  Richard Branson thinks a three day working week is a good idea – read on to find out why…

Many of us benefit from flexible working arrangements, which helps us achieve a better work/life balance.  Richard Branson’s proposals push this a step further though, as he claims that new technology should enable us to work fewer hours and be equally, if not more, effective. 

He puts this into practice with the Virgin staff he employs, where they are offered unlimited leave and a work from hone option.  His argument is simple: “it’s easier to attract top talent when you are open and flexible.  It’s not effective or productive to force them to behave in a conventional way”, he argued in a blog.

It is advances in technology which is driving this transition.  Innovation should make it possible to do more work in less time, freeing up employees to have more personal time.  Branson has always advocated for more fun, but increased time off would also enable families to spend more time together.  It may also take pressure off parents who often have to choose between pursuing their career or devoting more time to their family – to the cost of their work future.

He argues that flexible working has to be built into people’s jobs, rather than bolted on – just giving someone a laptop so they can work from home won’t achieve the goals for employee and employer.

What is not disputed is that happy workers make better workers, with a high degree of job satisfaction being reflected in higher productivity.  There is also the option for reduced costs, for example where staff work from home instead of in an office. 

There is no doubt that the pattern of working will change in the future as increased automation alters traditional work roles.  But is a three day working week a step too far, too fast?  It clearly won’t work in some sectors, but might just be a way forward in some.  After all, Fridays and Mondays off does sound very tempting…

What is the future for High Street gift cards?

6th June 2019
6th June 2019

How many of you have Topshop or Miss Selfridge gift cards or vouchers?  Read on as we explore what is the future for High Street gift cards…

The Arcadia Group, which includes Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Burtons, and Dorothy Perkins amongst other well know High Street brands, is in crisis talks about its future.  It’s just the latest retail group to run into trouble, and many are predicting it will collapse into administration.

what is the future for high street gift cards

Gift cards and vouchers are still popular, especially for presents with a gift card being an easy option for the elderly relative, particularly around Christmas and birthdays.  Last year, sales of gift cards and vouchers amounted to more than £6billion in the UK.

A large proportion of that is effectively lost though, as cards get lost, they expire, or a balance is left on them that can’t be spent. 

What is most worrying, though, is when the business goes into administration.  In recent years, other high street retail failures have included HMV, House of Fraser, Maplin, Toys R Us and Evans Cycles, all of which were popular with the gift card market. 

When a business does go into administration, these gift cards become effectively worthless, as the business can legally stop accepting gift cards.  So the message is clear – use your Topshop or other Arcadia group gift card now, or risk losing its value completely. 

If you have bought something already but want to exchange it or ask for a refund, it’s the same message – act quickly.  It would be sensible to not accept a credit note but ask for a replacement item instead.

So whilst gift cards have never represented that good value for money, with the High Street in crisis, it makes sense to cash them in quickly rather than run the risk of losing them completely. The future for High Street gift cards looks bleak…

Is the restaurant sector in crisis?

31st May 2019
31st May 2019

Who doesn’t enjoy eating out?  But who would want to be a restauranteur these days?  In the week that Jamie Oliver’s chain of restaurants, the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group goes bust, we ask ‘is the restaurant sector in crisis’, and why this is the case…

Over the past year or so, several big-name brands have entered rescue schemes – including Prezzo, Carluccios and Gourmet Burger Kitchen.  The restaurant trade is suffering – 37 of Britain’s top 100 restaurants are loss-making.  Why is this?  As always, there are a number of contributing factors:

  • Rents on property have shot up, particularly since 2015 
  • Business rates have gone up
  • Other costs are increasing – such as food, utility and wage costs

The demand side has been hit too, with weak consumer confidence reducing spending, as well as an increasing interest in more imaginative and diverse foods. 

restaurant sector in crisis

With a local presence in Cambridge and Norwich, many of us will have eaten at one of Jamie’s restaurants, so why did the business fail? Experts have identified 5 things that went wrong with Jamie’s chain:

  • It proved difficult to translate his personality into a chain of restaurants – personal branding isn’t enough to guarantee success
  • The food offering wasn’t interesting enough
  • Customer reviews pointed to a lack of quality in the food offering
  • Instead of bringing in established, experienced management, he promoted his brother-in-law who had no experience of running a chain of restaurants
  • Poor timing – as the factors identified above combined to put pressure on the business.

Too often, the larger restaurant chains are too slow to adapt to changing trends, and are left behind as more imaginative independents deliver new eating and dining experiences.  The rise in popularity of vegan and vegetarian diets is one indicator of changing consumer habits. Far from this signalling the end of eating out, perhaps it’s just offering more of an opportunity for independents?

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