November 21, 2018

Business Advice from Berkshire: Embrace new technology

I tend to be hesitant to embrace technology, but once I try it, I often treat it as any other tool. One example is to use video to put across your message. I made a video to promote my book Understanding Accouts for the UK Business Owner (www.understanding-accounts.co.uk) when it first came out and that video took a lot longer to make than this.

Well, I have given it a go, and here is the result of my first attempt!

Click on the link below – its very short and to the point.

WCON 1

Business Advice From Berkshire: Increase Your Profits – The Easy Way

Many business owners can get in a rut and keep doing what they have always done. Now is the time to change. Whatever you are doing, there are some things that you should do differently. What are those things in your business?

Firstly, make sure you know what you are spending your money on. Do you know what all the payments are for? Are you still getting benefit from what you are paying out? Are you getting the best deal?

My broadbaIncrase Your Profitsnd was slowing down to the point it was becoming unusable. I have BT Infinity and so I believed it shouldn’t be that bad. I gave in, resigned myself to the fact I would spend hours on the phone and took up the challenge of getting back the speed I was used to. To cut a long story short, after a one hour three minute phone call, my service is working faster than it has done for some while, I am having a new ‘box’ delivered on Wednesday which is three models up from the one I have and will almost double the speed, I will have a year’s cover and my internet will cost me £2 per month less. Time well spent.

I have also reviewed the quality of service I was getting from some of my suppliers and have given them notice and currently sourcing different ones. I am now better educated as to what I need and in a stronger position as a customer than I was when I first needed their services. You may find yourself in a similar position.

Secondly, are you charging the right price? Have your costs, including delivery costs, risen gradually over time and you have not made the necessary adjustments to your prices? Have you clearly defined what you are supplying to your customers so they don’t keep getting free add-ons? I am not just talking about putting your prices up, but simply charging correctly for what you do supply.

If you want to hear more ideas look at the Dates and Events section of my business website at Wellington Consulting and see what takes your fancy. http://wcon.co.uk/dates-events

If you have any suggestions, please leave them below to share with others.

Business Advice from Berkshire – What will make the difference?

In many businesses the most precious asset is the staff. Without good, knowledgeable, dedicated staff you cannot expect to have an outstanding business.

 What do you put in place to ensure your business is the best it can be? It may be something as simple as a headset for the phone so that staff can easily make notes while talking to prospects and customers. This also means they don’t get a crick in their neck and are happy to keep working.

penx Another area that can make a difference is knowledge. Are your staff fully trained to do what you are asking them. I recently spent a day in Somerset with an experienced member of staff who felt she was not using her accounts software to the full so the business hired me for a day’s consultancy, including the cost of travel. They realised the benefit of using what they had better, rather than being average and struggling on as they were. I am often asked to work one to one with a firm as they ‘got the software some time ago but never had any formal training’. By the end of the day they kick themselves when they realise what they could have been doing and the time they could have been saving. All it took was a small investment to quickly get returns that would last them for many years. Even if they changed the software, they can never lose the skill and expectation of what can be achieved.

 As you know, I am a great believer in training and would ask you include it in your budget. You wouldn’t give someone a ball of wool and needles and expect them to knit a jumper. Even if they knew how to knit, they would need a pattern to follow and some guidance as to the expected shape and size. How often do you request something from your staff without giving them the skills and full picture of what is expected?

What can you think of that can make the difference between being an average and being a good supplier to your customers – and your staff? Remember, you are also staff of your business so this applies to YOU!

Business Advice from Berkshire – What lessons have you learned?

Having exhibited at The Business Show at Olympia recently, it gave me the opportunity to speak with many business owners and would be business owners.

Two topics kept re-occurring. The first was that many accountants are not good at communicating with their clients and the other was that successful businesses keep a careful eye on their figures. I believe both the above to be true, but what I found interesting is the number of times I heard them being said to be over the two days of the show.

Penny WellingtonTaking the first point, difficulty in communication, what can be done to address this? If you go on holiday to a country where a different language is spoken, you know it makes sense to learn a few words even if only to be polite and be able to say thank you. The more vocabulary you learn, the easier it is for you and the natives. In many countries, the local population have learned English which means we can take the lazy approach and still be understood without having to put in too much effort. Is it possible to take this approach with your accountant? Learn a bit about their language and what they are doing and it will be much easier for both of you.

The second topic really leads on from the first. By taking an interest in the figures – and by this I don’t mean you actually have to do them – you can monitor the current position of the business and realistically plan for the future. Many business owners would like to be in this position, but expect to do so without learning the basics.

If you do decide to learn the language – and a bit about the culture – I can guarantee it will make a difference to your business. Remember Finance for Business Owners is one of the courses I offer. I also work with larger businesses where the Finance Director believes ‘nobody understands him’. This can be true as the MD is too afraid to ask questions in case he can’t understand the answer. A course in language and Book coverculture can mean everyone can get the most from their holiday – oops I mean work on shaping the business and growing the profits.

Get in touch to book a bespoke course, or for the dates of the classroom courses. Also share your own thoughts on your learnings.

Business Advice from Berkshire – I’ve got round to it – when will you?

There are some things that sit towards the bottom of my ‘to do’ list as I know I ought to do them so won’t actually remove them. They won’t make me instant money nor will they, on the surface, cost me money by not doing them, so why don’t I choose to do them?

IntuitSometimes it just takes will power to go ahead. I have been training QuickBooks since 2004 and been listed as QuickBooks Advisor for many years. Last year they bought out an accreditation scheme so you could take an exam, and become a ‘certified’ version. I downloaded the course material, read it through, decided it was fine as I knew and taught most of it, but never did the exam. This year they have also bought out an accreditation for their On-Line QuickBooks so, as I am on the stand next to Intuit – authors of QuickBooks at The Business Show at Olympia, I thought perhaps I ought to go for it. I am glad to say I passed both exams to a high level so can now be one of their elite team. The only question now is why didn’t I get round to it before?

I have done my personal tax return, I have done my VAT return, how about you? Are there jobs that you don’t fancy that are not time critical yet but you will feel so much better when they are done. It may be they were part of this year’s New Year Resolution. There is still time to complete it before the end of this year.

Go on, take the plunge and share with me what you have or will achieve over the next month.

Business Advice from Berkshire – Are your Accounts in order ?

Earlier this year I wrote an article with the above title. Earlier this week, I was sent a copy. It had been reproduced in The Entrepreneur Magazine (November 2013 edition page 53).

The content is still true today. If you would like to get hold of a copy of the text, drop me a line and I can send it to you – or you could buy the magazine!

thumbsWhy do I mention this? Well, a client of mine, having signed the accounts emailed me and asked – what about the other £10,000 of dividends I took in March, where do they show in the accounts? I have looked at his bank statements, and can only see £2,500 taken during March. The answer is that it was June he actually withdrew the amount – his emails also confirm this. I do feel better now.

What this tells me is that he has looked at the accounts, he has understood them and although he leaves entering the transactions to me, he is aware of what has gone on. The only thing I would say is he could do with looking at them a little more often. How often do you look at yours? As we are nearing Christmas, he would like to know how large a dividend he can take. Although I can advise on the basis of profits to date and potential tax bill as a result, I do not know whether his main contracts are coming to an end, how much work he will be doing over Christmas? It is this sort of information that he, being closer to the business, knows which I don’t without quizzing him. What I can suggest is that he might consider not drawing some money now and waiting for his personal tax bill which will be due the end of January. Even as director of a company, his profits are high enough to potentially push him into higher rate tax when salary is added to dividends. Do you know how much you need to put aside for the end of January?

Book coverBy keeping your accounts up to date, you and your accountant can do tax planning. Another client asked how much he could back date in pension contributions to reduce his tax bill, having explained I was not an IFA and could not advise on pensions, I suggested he saw one soon rather than later. More opportunity for planning if you know where you are now.

I am looking forward to hearing what you have spotted in your accounts. Remember, if you want a copy of the printed article, let me know by dropping me an email or leave a message below.

Business Advice from Berkshire – What are you hiding ?

Do you sometimes wonder why things are not going to plan? Do you have a plan? If I gave you a wipe board and asked you to draw up where you were advertising, where your leads were coming from, what business you were getting from these leads, and what leads you were getting from this new business, would the board be big enough?

So, having drawn up what is actually happening, how does this compare to you plan? Sometimes doing this simple exercise highlights where assumptions have been made, where links are missing and where you could do better.

Penny tennisRecently I was asked how my Finance for Business Owners courses were selling. Not as well as I had hoped was my answer. I then did the exercise above, and guess what, I found out why. Having set up the details on several course sites, I had not set the course to ‘Live’. It is now on Eventbrite, with dates, and the ability for customers to pay. The next thing to do is make sure I tell people!

Another stage I was falling down on was referral business. I had good intentions to contact course attendees, but intentions don’t make things happen, actions do. I have contacted those I taught last month to ask them for feedback. The feedback included “Penny’s presentation was very practical with anecdotes relating to real situations.” And “I found it to be extremely helpful and gave me confidence when I provided training for our client.” This is from a firm of Chartered Accountants in Cornwall. Do I want lots of referral business in Cornwall? I do already have one client down there. But what it did mean was I could pass the contact details on to a firm of Accountants in Kent who were asking about my QuickBooks for Accountants course.

It is good to have an excellent product or service, but even better to tell people about it! That is the bit that makes the money. Just make sure you are charging enough and not just doing it because you enjoy it. See, I had to bring figures into it somehow.

Should you wish to attend the Business Owners course, either give us a call or go ahead and book via Eventbrite. https://pennylowe.eventbrite.co.uk

Business Advice from Berkshire: Do you use your budget?

A budget is a plan for how much you intend to sell and how much it will cost you. Do you have one?

The majority of smaller businesses do not have a budget. They struggle to keep on top of history, let alone plan for the future. Are you one of those? Why would you want to spend time and effort creating a budget?

Clean-up Nicklins Blackberry 145If you go on a journey, you firstly decide where you want to go. You then decide which method of transport you will use to get there. You will then look at possible routes and costs and then, possibly, review your preferred method before making a decision and scheduling the trip. You should be doing the same for your route to greater profits.

Many business owners say they want to make more money without specifying how much they are aiming at, or what their route is to get there. It is because they are working good intentions rather than to a plan. This is where the budget comes in. The budget specifies how many sales and at what cost over a specific period. Having put the effort in to creating this, you can then monitor actual against budget to see how close to the plan you are. If you are exceeding your plan, it needs to be reviewed to see what you can do more of to ensure it is sustainable. If you are falling short of the plan, why and what can you do to improve the situation.

If you have never worked with a budget, and don’t know where to start, contact me and we can discuss what you need to do to create one. If you have one, but not using it, a quick hour of strategic review may be enough to get you back on track.

wconAsk around people you know who run a successful business, I bet you find they use a budget and would recommend you do too. Let me know your thoughts and why you would recommend drawing up a budget.

I can be contacted via info@wcon.co.uk or you can see some of the classes on offer on the web site www.wcon.co.uk.

Advice from Berkshire: Doing it is not as bad as you think!

What jobs do you have that you keep putting off? What will it take to make you do them?

All of us have something where the thought of doing it is worse than the act itself. Business owners often put off doing the tasks that they believe are not why they went into business. For some this may be as simple as changing the ink in the printer, for others it could be chasing outstanding invoices, for me it was raising my presence on the internet by putting videos on YouTube.

wconI knew it needed doing, some years ago I went on a very good course that showed me all the way through from researching what I should focus on, to filming, to uploading onto YouTube. I did one ‘film’, struggled with technology so put off doing any more. Earlier this year I did another to promote my book ‘Understanding Accounts for the UK Business Owner’ (www.understanding-accounts.co.uk) but then stalled again. I was happy with content, happy with filming but didn’t want to waste my time if I couldn’t upload it.

The truth is that technology has moved on over recent years. Uploading is easy. There are options to automatically resize, trim and other editor type tasks. Employing a professional is the best option, but I can now say I am prepared to have a go. I know what is needed and could give them the best chance to produce an excellent job, or I can do an adequate job for my purpose. Take a look at my latest Youtube offering here

Yes, you know what I am going to say next. Keeping your books of account up to date are just the same. The thought is worse than the deed. Doing it little and often means it is not that giant intimidating you and causing you to be like a rabbit in the headlights and stand there immobilised. Technology has moved on. If someone can show you what to do each week, and after several weeks you realise that it is not as bad as you thought, you can then keep doing it. You then start to see the fruits of your labour. Keeping on top of customer debts, planning your cash flow, seeing which activities within the business are bringing in the money and which are costing you. I was training a dentist last Friday and I suggested having a heading called ‘don’t know’ so if he met a bank payment he didn’t recognise he could park it and come back to it later rather than having an excuse to abandon his work.

Who will you choose to help you get started? Wellington Consulting offer private and very small group classes on Finance for the Business Owner. If you compare the cost of a course with the extra profits you can make as a result, you would be making a wise business decision to come along. Contact us at info@wcon.co.uk to book your place.

The courses are mostly held in Wokingham, but if you would like me to travel to you, I am happy to do so, providing you cover the costs. Yesterday I had an enquiry from Truro in Cornwall today I am in Croydon and tomorrow in London. Thursday I have a course in Wokingham and Friday I will be doing accounts work – and replying to emails. Further filming may have to wait till Saturday, but I now know that I can do it.

Business Advice from Berkshire: How to fund your marketing

If you consider changing your car, what factors do you consider? Initial outlay, running costs and possibly the resale value are all taken into account. However, I suggest the over-riding factor is what do you want to use the car for. Is it to tow a trailer, take the children to school – and their friends or simply to give you the pleasure of driving when you choose to use it?

penny1What link has this got to your marketing? You need to ask yourself what is the purpose of your marketing. Once you decide what you are trying to achieve, you will be able to judge how much you can afford to spend. By looking at the financial returns, you can see what your budget should be. I appreciate this is easier said than done. Planning your cash flow is easy for cash going out, but not so easy for cash coming in. An advert that brings you customers might only do so because they have become familiar with your name through the six previous adverts that didn’t result in them buying.

This suggests that the cost of acquisition of your customer needs to include the raising of the profile of your product or service, not just the final marketing activity that leads them to buy from you.

Having started to look at the possible costs, the next step is to look at the returns. How much profit do you make from each sale? How much of that profit can you afford to spend to generate a greater number of sales? This is typically not an infinite number as most businesses will be restricted by their capacity to fulfil orders – at least in the short term. This brings me back to the question, what are you trying to achieve. Once you decide on that you will know how much you have to spend to achieve your goals. The difficult question is then where do you spend it.

Penny 2If you need help calculating the figures, get in contact. Not only can we work out the figures with you, but show you how it is done and how to monitor your returns. Remember ‘You can’t manage what you don’t measure’