October 14, 2019

Business Advice from Berkshire Partnership Agreements

If ever I am asked about partnerships, one thing I feel strongly about is that a partnership agreement should be drawn up. Everyone knows how much upset and anger can happen when a couple get divorced, well the same can arise when a partnership has a change in partners. This can be dramatically reduced if something is put in place at the start.

Book coverAlso, it is not just about splits to, or extra partners joining the partnership, if one partner is unwell, or even worse dies, what will happen to the business then? If the partner was married does the remaining spouse want to continue with, and contribute to, the business at the same level as their late spouse? Are they technically able? If inheritance tax has to be paid, how will the business be valued? How will the tax be paid?

On a more positive note, a simple point is how the profits are going to be shared. Does each partner contribute capital and actively work in the business equally? I had a recent call where I was asked what could be done. A client wanted to invest some capital so that her friend could carry out a project to enhance the value of the investment and then share the proceeds. One would get a share of the sale proceeds over the investment as reimbursement for risk and interest on the ‘loan’ plus the return of the original investment. The other would receive the remaining share of the sale proceeds over initial investment in recognition of their efforts for the increase in value. I suggested they sat down together to consider all aspects such as running costs, anticipated date of sale, what if something happened to one of them and then draw up a simple agreement and both sign it and keep a copy. My feeling was that at least they had documented their original intention as a starting point for discussions in the future.

I have another client who, if they had done this when they entered a joint venture some years ago would not now be dealing with solicitor’s letters. It could have all been resolved four years ago rather than dragging on taking time and money to resolve.

Even if all you are doing is asking someone to do some freelance sales work for you, it is worth writing out the expectations of both sides which should, of course, include confidentiality so you start with a full understanding of who is responsible for what and how the rewards are going to be shared.

bill view pennyIf you are already working with someone but have no agreement in place, it is not too late to create one. If you choose to involve a solicitor, save yourself money by preparing your joint list of things you feel need to be included before making the appointment. A solicitor may have a template but it will not include clauses specific to your business.

Two or more people working together are usually stronger than the sum of the individuals. Two or more people fighting does not get the job done.

If you feel it would be useful to have a facilitator to prepare the list of items to be covered, contact Wellington Consulting who would be happy to help.

Is your sales forecast achievable ?

They say anything is possible, but at what cost? I have been working on my forecasts for the coming year and having designed my ideal position, I then re-visited the figures to make sure they were practical.

 The good news is that they are, but only after they had been tweaked and I accepted that, in order to be as productive as I want to be, I will be getting extra help in certain areas. As part of this plan, we have compared this year to last to see where we need to do things differently. We have prioritised our efforts and pencilled in dates for the next twelve months.

forecastWhen I say we, I mean my team and I. We did spot that I appeared to be taking extra holiday during one month – I wondered why I was getting so much in the coming year! We also worked together on where to focus and decided on actions to get certain things moving as we knew there would be some quick wins as well as certain areas that would take longer to set up.

So much for my plans, how are yours going? Will you need an investor to fund the next stage of growth? Are you looking to stay the same size but work more efficiently? Do you know where you want to/expect to be by Christmas? Will you have sufficient funds available to finance your tax bill? It is all very well starting with sales revenue, but you also need to focus on the costs and the cash flow.

 Having decided on your ideal revenue, work out what the related costs are, when bills will need to be paid, and when you expect receipts from your revenue. Then add in the VAT and tax bills and if you are a sole trader or partnership, the cash you want to draw from the business. If you are a shareholder in a limited company, consider what dividends it will be able to pay during the year. You are well on your way to having your complete financial plan.

The final stage is to decide how and how often you are going to monitor it. There is little point in putting lots of effort into a detailed plan that sits inside your computer till the end of the year. Don’t put the time in if you are not going to use it. If you are happy to rely on good luck, may I wish you all the best.

 Book coverIf you need help with your planning, Wellington Consulting are happy to work with you to create a plan. You can even come over to our offices to avoid the distractions in yours.

 Let me know whether you use luck or judgement for your plans.

Your Books Under the Microscope

Last week saw a letter from HMRC asking for all the information that had gone in to the accounts for the tax return to 5th April 2012. I wrote and asked what format, as the letter said they had technical people that could help with computer system.

I had a pleasant phone call from HMRC to say could we print everything out and bundle it up for him. I explained the invoices were Word documents filed per month, the payments were in a spreadsheet per month so would he like a CD with the information. No, we needed to print out each sheet and send everything in a single package. Everything includes my year end adjustments for own use and disallowed items, bank statements for the period as well as the signed accounts.

I have spoken with the client and I think they are going off to Tesco to get some more reams of paper. We have agreed to meet up in a fortnight to make sure we have everything required and box it all up. HMRC have given us a month to get all the information to them and the member of staff at HMRC admitted he was in no rush to receive it as he had a plenty there already. I didn’t ask what the turnaround time would be!

How well would your records stand up to such scrutiny? When the accountant returns your books and says you need to hold onto them for current year plus six, do you know exactly where you have stored them? I have previously had a client who’s garage was flooded some years ago so he binned the soggy papers. He ended up with a large tax bill as he couldn’t produce proof of some payments. Do make sure your storage facility is waterproof and mouse free.

It is possible to get insurance against such investigations. This will cover the extra time your accountant has to spend in talking to/writing to HMRC. It does not cover lost papers or invented figures so make sure you can justify your payments out and be able to demonstrate the completeness of your sales.

It is not just HMRC who may want these figures, I had to produce 3 years sales invoices to an insurance company to justify my claim for loss of earnings against the other party after a road accident some years ago.

Need guidence on your record and data keeping ? Contact me for more information.

Are you charging enough ?

 

What is enough for you? This leads from the question ‘why are you in business?’ This week I had a client who greeted me with the comment: “Every year when I drive over with my books, I tell myself I really ought to put my prices up”.

She provides her services mainly to the elderly in care homes with limited incomes. Her children have both left home and the second one is now going through university. Her main reason for working was to pay for their education, but she also enjoys her work. Do you think she should put her prices up?

Pricing is not all about making the greatest profit you can, it is about understanding the figures so you can decide what is appropriate. Do you want to price yourself out of the market, or just appeal to a small niche? Someone I worked with a couple of weeks ago had just taken an order for a dining table at £35,000. That is not a typo. I can confirm that I will not be placing a similar order.

In order to ensure you make a profit, you do need to understand what costs are involved, both in the delivery of that particular sales and in the running of the business. If you don’t have precise figures available, just jot down what your overheads are in a year divide, by twelve and realise how much you need to make in a month before you even consider the costs involved in a sale. This is why you cannot afford to work for free. By all means give a sample or taster away, but make sure your customer knows this is not the norm.

If you feel that you need to talk through your pricing structure please get in touch

What if the unexpected happens?

Contingency planning is not just for large firms. Over the last week I have been working with several clients who had exactly this.

For one I am working with the loss adjustor for loss of earnings following a fire. Another client currently has a compensation claim progressing for loss of business following their road being closed for new water pipes to be laid. The third is a breakup of a partnership. Could any of these happen to you?

Disaster recovery I can helpThe easiest and cheapest one to guard against is the partnership breakup. A simple partnership agreement which sets out how the profits are to be split during the partnership, what should happen if one partner is ill and unable to fully contribute, how the business is to be valued if a partner wants to leave – or a new one join, how a partner leaving is to be paid out to list a few points. All these can be covered and agreed at the start. It makes any breakup much less painful. My client did have the good grace to admit I had suggested it when they started and they now wish they had spent the time creating one.

If you are a limited company, the same applies. If there is another director, or you choose to take one on, what are there powers, are they to have a contract of employment? If you are looking for investors, have you got a shareholders agreement? This can cover the same things as the partnership agreement mentioned above.

If you are a sole trader or sole director you may feel this doesn’t apply to you. If something did happen, who is going to wind up your business affairs? Just because you are not able to continue does not mean that your suppliers and customers will go away. These matters would all need sorting out.

When you next have five minutes, have a review of what would happen if … put something in place and with luck it will never happen!

Like some help with planning your unthinkable contact me