Chris Fry looks at some of the key challenges business owners have to face..

Posted by Chris Fry

Finance Director and Business Coach - Chris Fry Consulting Ltd

Mon 08th, Jun

Running a business has many challenges but there’s nothing more stressful than the sudden realisation that you’re running out of cash and may not be able to make payroll. Every business I have ever advised has been sitting on pockets of ‘hidden’ cash. Here are 4 of the easiest for you to get your hands on it.

 

     1. Discretionary spending

The quickest way to improve your cash position is to stop spending the money you’ve got.  And I don’t mean stop paying your suppliers!  Every business has discretionary spend.  The problem is, over time, discretionary spend becomes normalised.  It’s a bit like your Sky+ HD subscription; you might think you can’t manage without it but if you had to cope, life would go on!

 

      2. Prompt Invoicing

Don’t ever be too busy to invoice your customers. If you’re short of cash, you need your customers to pay you.  But before they can pay you, they need you to send them the bill!  Make sure that whoever is responsible for your invoicing understands how important this is.

 

      3. Debt Collection

From many years of practical experience I can assure you that most businesses don’t chase outstanding invoices.  Not for some weeks anyway. Don’t let this be you.  Pick up the phone and get your money in.  It is your money after all!

 

      4. Stock Management

Unless stock is managed proactively it grows. One client of mine had enough surplus stock on the shelves to pay off the overdraft and put cash in the bank!

 

If you’d like to learn more about the hidden cash in your business, visit my 60RUM on 26th June which will give you 10 Immediately Actionable Steps that you can use to improve business cash flow (without recourse to external finance!)

Join Chris Fry on Friday 26th for 60RUM 'Where's your cash hiding?'

Read More
Leave a comment

DTM Legal’s Mark Williams gives his top tips to ensure your contract rights are protected

Posted by Mark Williams

DTM Legal - Trainee Solicitor

Fri 05th, Jun

If you can judge how well a city is doing by counting the number of cranes towering above its skyline then in Spring 2015 Liverpool is doing nicely with 17 large cranes on building sites across the City Centre and £1.13 billion worth of development underway.

With over £520 million of investment due to complete in the City Centre during 2015, investors have returned to Liverpool as finance for construction projects becomes more accessible.

The value of major schemes completed in the City of Liverpool since January 2010 is £2.8 billion with a value of £648 million completed since January 2014. However, as the number of projects gathers pace even the smallest construction project has a potentially complex structure of contractual relationship between multiple parties.

It is important to ensure that contracts are drafted in a way that protects a party’s rights. Here are 5 things to consider when drafting a construction contract to ensure 

  • One size does not fit all – it has been highlighted in many legal blogs and articles but think about who you are entering into a contract with and the purpose of the contract. Precedents are not advisable as the circumstances, requirements and expectations often differ from project to project.

 

  • Think carefully about whom you are contracting with – a construction project often comprises the employer, contractor, architect, engineer, quantity surveyor, sub-contractors and suppliers. There is potential to be mis-guided as to who you think you are contracting with.

 

  • Strictly define roles and responsibilities – as the cost and complexity of a project increases, greater emphasis is placed on the definition of roles and responsibilities between the parties by the use of lengthy building contracts, which not only define the scope of the work, price and time, but also provide mechanisms for variation, valuation and payment during the course of the works.

 

  • Provide clear instructions and put communications in writing – a lack of written communications and confirmations between the parties will make it extremely difficult to establish who is responsible for any issues and importantly what is owed by whom at the conclusion of the project.

 

  • Be vigilant to variation – any agreement which varies the terms of an existing contract must either be supported by “consideration” or be executed as a deed. Consideration is a legal definition that can take various forms, however, in relation to a construction contract it is where the variation of the contract can benefit or prejudice either party, a possible detriment or benefit will suffice as consideration for this purpose.

 

For further information, please contact Mark Williams or Jim Morris.

Read More
Leave a comment

Posted by Steph Fisher

Bibby Travel - UK Head of Travel

  • T: +44 151 794 1201
  • E: sfisher@bibbytravel.com
Fri 29th, May

A mix of old and new, progressive and conservative, India offers fantastic exporting opportunities thanks to its pro-business government and expanding infrastructure.  Current prospects are high for the Indian market with its young population, middle class spending and large labour force contributing to its growing economy.

Business Etiquette

Don’t start talking business immediately on meeting Indian contacts – they prefer personal conversation first, so ask about them and their lives. Patience is key when doing business here so be prepared for negotiations. It does take time to develop an established business relationship but it will be worth the effort.

Use formal titles (e.g ‘Mr’, ‘Dr’, ‘Professor’ etc). These are respected in India. Equally, ensure you dress smart and conservative for meetings. The usual formal greeting between men is a handshake. When meeting a woman, wait for her to extend her hand - she may not wish to shake hands. Instead, she may greet you by simply saying ‘Namaste’.

Many Indian business people speak English and interpreters will usually be available if required.

Keep an open mind – the culture is based on an ancient and complex history.

Enjoy and appreciate the levels of service you encounter and remember to tip!

Travel Hints

The best time to visit is between late October and mid-March. April and May are hot and monsoon rains start in late May, gradually moving north over the next six weeks. It rarely rains all day, every day.

Stay in a four / five star hotel – it will be worth it, as they offer services and facilities on a par with international business standards.

Pay hotel bills and similar expenses in foreign currency, either via Credit Card, Travellers’ Cheques or cash.

Don’t drink tap water. Use only bottled water and that includes when brushing your teeth!

Entry Requirements

Before travelling, you must obtain a business visa with two blank pages. Your passport must also be valid for at least another 180 days (six months) at the time you apply for the visa.

Visas may be valid for between six and twelve months, with single or multiple entries. For each visit, the maximum period of stay in India is 180 days.

Including services charges, a six month visa costs £117.20 and a 12 month visa £287.20. You will need two recent passport-style colour photographs (50mm x 50mm).

You must supply an original signed letter from the company in the UK, explaining the nature of business and duration of visit to India. You must also supply a signed ‘Letter of Invitation’ from an Indian company on their official company letter-head clearly stating the purpose and duration for which the visa is required.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to Jammu and Kashmir and Northern India. Phalgam, Gulmarg an Sonamarg all fall within areas the FCO advise against visiting.

Medical requirements

If you travel to India from Pakistan, Israel, Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Afghanistan or Somalia, you will need a valid polio vaccination certificate. Contact your GP about any vaccinations you may require before travelling.

And finally…

don’t forget to see the sights! India is a beautiful country and homes some of the greatest global monuments in the world including The Taj Mahal in New Delhi, Kanha National park, Rudyard Kipling’s inspiration for the ‘The Jungle Book’ and its vast array of temples and mosques. 

Contact us today to see how we could save you time and money, quoting ‘Liverpool Chamber’

Find out more at www.bibbytravel.com or follow us follow us at on Twitter/bibbytravel 

Leave a comment

Posted by John Fairbrother

Business Rescue Specialist - Begbies Traynor

Wed 27th, May

When a General Election occurs it provides people with the chance to reflect on the past five years, and for many businesses, they are struggling more now than nearer the recession.

Looking back at our Red Flag Alerts for the city, 69 per cent more companies in Liverpool faced financial difficulties in the first quarter of 2015 compared with the same period of 2013.*

However the same figures also highlight that some sectors in the region are performing better than others – with the number of bars and restaurants and leisure and culture businesses facing financial troubles falling compared with the same period last year.

This could partly be due to the vibrant calendar of events that are attracting people to the city, such as the Giant Spectacular in August last year which marked the centenary of the First World War.

Over the next year the calendar is just as jam packed, with events such as the meeting of Cunard’s Three Queens and the Liverpool Loves festival continuing to promote our fantastic city.

Business events such as the International Festival for Business also shone the spotlight on Liverpool and its companies, and according to figures released following the event, £300 million of new business and 10,000 new jobs were created across the UK as a result of the festival – so it’s great news that it will be returning in 2016.

With the Election now decided business leaders can now look to the future, assessing their prospects and deciding what they want to achieve over the next five years.

Accessing finance continues to be a key issue for many firms in the region, with the Chancellor announcing in the autumn statement that the Funding for Lending scheme will be extended for another year to help encourage lending to businesses.

For companies that are already experiencing financial difficulties an injection of funding can be the boost needed to for them to continue trading, however some feel that they will be rejected for financial support if they do not have a proven record of success

Many of the city’s re-elected MPs have pledged to encourage job creation within the region. But in order to do so, continued investment in small businesses and the regions enterprises is needed.

Developments in infrastructure also continue to be a key issue, with many local business leaders lobbying for the proposed HS2 and HS3lines to help the city to improve its links with the rest of the UK.

The election of a majority Government will provide some form of stability for companies in the UK but the focus needs to remain on the small to medium sized business community, which is the driving force of Liverpool’s economy.

So while it’s clear that some businesses in the city have yet to emerge from financial difficulties, Liverpool has a range of fantastic opportunities that can help businesses thrive over the coming years. Whichever camp you’re in, speaking with an external business advisor can help firms the make most of expansion opportunities, andprovide expert guidance on how they can begin to prosper.

*1051 business faced significant financial difficulties in the first quarter of 2013 compared to 1781 in the first quarter of 2015. 

Leave a comment

Posted by John Sutcliffe

John Sutcliffe is a Chartered Engineer and Chartered Surveyor who was appointed as Chair of the Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce in September 2012.

Tue 26th, May

Is your post-election glass half-full or half-empty?

If it’s half-full, no doubt you are relieved that power remains in the hands of those who have repaired much of the economic damage they inherited five years ago.

Your expectations are that the deficit will be kept under control; that growth will remain steady and interest rates low; that the cost of the public sector will continue to be trimmed; that the referendum on European Union membership will turn out to be as damp a squib as UKIP’s General Election performance; and that the Northern Powerhouse will lead to a genuine partnership between Whitehall and Liverpool City region’s local authorities. In your most optimistic moments, you think this region will enjoy a bigger slice of the prosperity which the new government will usher in.

If your glass is half-empty, you are no doubt worried that £12 billion worth of cuts promised by the Conservatives will do serious damage to a Merseyside economy that is still reliant on public spending to compensate for high levels of deprivation. In your blackest moments, you fear we are heading back to the 1980s: that Merseyside will bear the full brunt of the Conservatives’ drive to roll back the state; that local authority leaders will blame the government for all of our ills; and that the ensuing trench warfare will turn us into a pariah and leave everyone much worse off.

The big question is: which of these scenarios is more likely? Our city region has no Conservative MPs to argue the case for more investment in our region. And there are no signs yet that our local authority leaders are capable of the kind of dialogue with the Treasury that has borne so much fruit for Greater Manchester.

On the other hand, devolution for the English regions is being given huge impetus by Scotland’s continuing progress towards an exit from the UK. Giving more power to responsible local decision makers is the opposite of what happened during the 1980s and may be our best hope for avoiding a repetition of that era’s mistakes.

But never mind the omens – the most important challenge for our city region is to adapt to the new reality and find a way to influence and control its fate.

Leave a comment

Expansion of flight routes from JLA is good news for the Cargo industry

Posted by Tom Hughes

Business Development Director, The Parcel Centre

  • T: 0151 486 1919
Thu 21st, May

With Liverpool John Lennon Airport announcing new routes linking Liverpool to the rest of the world, now is the perfect time for us in the business sector to look beyond our sunglasses and sun creams and to the commercial opportunity we are presented.

Over the last three months, Liverpool Airport has seen an increase in passenger numbers but according to statistics, only 10% of passengers flying from Liverpool are business users.

However, the present carriers are working hard to increase this number. The Amsterdam link presents the region with a unique business opportunity.

Through Amsterdam Schiphol, we can access The Far East, including Hong Kong and Shanghai. Aer Lingus have also announced from October the recommencement of its Liverpool Dublin service. The flights are timed for easy onward travel to New York Washington, Boston, and California thru San Francisco.

As a result of the unique agreement with the United States government, you can also clear US immigration in Ireland.

Described by Aer Lingus as “ you can arrive before you depart” regular travellers to the US know the nightmare of clearing immigration stateside.

Utlimately, these services give us the opportunity to do business in the Americas, Far East and some of the emerging markets like Brazil and India.

For us in the Cargo industry, it’s an opportunity to recover the volumes of freight that used to pass through the airport.  Cargo links have now been re established to the Isle of Man and Belfast, however the Amsterdam Schiphol link will vastly increase the number of final destinations available for cargo, which has got to be great news for us, and business in the Liverpool City Region.

This week was Export Week, the perfect time for us to look at doing business with the rest of the world.

Think Samples, Think Freight, Think Export!

 

If anyone would like further information on exporting goods via Liverpool John Lennon Airport please get in touch with me at tom@theparcelcentre.co.uk

Read More
Leave a comment

What factors can affect the Pound on the currency markets?

Posted by Barbara Sutton

Moneycorp

Wed 20th, May

If your company is involved in foreign exchange transactions, you will know that the more help you get the more profit you can make.

It is important to understand that all currencies can be affected by the same underlying economic factors, which are:

 Monetary Policy

 Inflation

 Confidence & Sentiment

 Growth

Using these 4 general factors above you can start to make an informed evaluation of the strength or weakness of a currency and what direction that currency is likely to move, up or down. Using GBP as an example.

Monetary Policy: The Bank of England (BOE) will increase or decrease interest rates to control inflation. If there is low inflation (growth in the economy is shrinking) they will lower interest rates to stimulate growth resulting in cheaper loans and people start spending etc. If on the other hand inflation is too high, the BOE will raise interest rates to bring inflation back down to the 2% BOE target. When interest rates rise the GBP exchange rate will rise, and vice versa, any decisions on interest rates by the BOE can and in most cases will affect the Pound.

Inflation: Inflation plays a crucial role in the value of the Pound. In general, countries with higher inflation compared to that of other countries will see their currency value depreciate. To gauge the levels of inflation in the UK you can follow the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and changes in the prices of goods & services purchased by consumers in a given period, and the Producer’s Price Index (PPI) which shows inflationary changes in raw materials.

Confidence & Sentiment: These are surveys that gauge the market on how the majority of people in the UK are feeling about the economy. Gfk Consumer Confidence and National Consumer Confidence are the two main numbers to review and monitor, more information can be found at:

Growth: The overall level of economic activity in the UK is another key factor that can impact Sterling’s value. The primary measure is Gross Domestic Product (GDP), essentially the value of what the UK produces. Many will supplement this report with more frequent economic indicators such as Retails Sales and the Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) which is an economic indicator derived from monthly surveys of private sector companies. Generally the better a countries GDP figure the stronger its currency will be. Finally it’s good to watch the UK’s Current Account which shows how much the UK is importing (buying) and exporting (selling) and the differences between them. In general a Current Account surplus is positive for GBP, the more money flowing into a currency initiates a rise and a deficit is negative for the Pound for the opposite reason.

During the last UK election in May 2010 the Pound against the US Dollar was at $1.54 on 27th April and dropped to $1.44 just 10 days later. If history repeats itself you can expect there to be some volatility for Sterling against the US Dollar and Euro as well as other currencies before and after the election.

Looking ahead the Pound may have a bumpy ride with the looming general election and a possibility of a hung parliament, continued quantitative easing in Europe and with the added possibility of a Greek exit (Grexit) as well as a number of other factors both known and unknown.

For further information you can get daily and weekly market updates by email, just subscribe here  

 

Moneycorp works in conjunction to the Chamber to help you to save money when involved in Foreign Exchange transactions

Read More
Leave a comment

Recent survey shows manufacturers are recognising the power of exporting

Posted by John Longworth

British Chambers of Commerce Director General

Tue 19th, May

There has never been a better time for British businesses to broaden out their horizons and explore international markets.

Improvements in trade finance, online connectivity, and trade agreements have dramatically increased access to markets worldwide. 

The results of the Quarterly International Trade Outlook (QITO) for Q1 2015 are a testament to this point. Manufacturers are turning to export markets abroad to fuel their growth ambitions as weak industrial growth persists in the UK.

The proportion of manufacturing businesses reporting increased export orders and sales rose in the quarter. This is a credit to the strength and expertise of the UK’s manufacturing sector.

Furthermore, almost half of the manufacturing firms we surveyed added new staff to their labour force – with the vast majority of these new roles being full-time positions.

While the recent strong performance in the economy has continued to build momentum, this has not been accompanied by a corresponding increase in exports. To address this imbalance, we need a clear focus from the government to implement ambitious plans that will help Britain recapture its reputation as a premier trading nation.

Chambers of Commerce are doing their bit to support businesses interested in accessing markets around the world.

Whatever the size or nature of your business, international expansion can be daunting with many hurdles to be negotiated. To take the fear out of exporting, we’re building an international business network of overseas British Chambers and business groups that provide British companies with practical advice each and every day when they start to do business in markets around the world.

By building trusted and proven international networks and removing barriers to trade, we will encourage more British businesses to look beyond our shores. The world is alive with business opportunities, so let’s get behind our British exporters and help them trade the world and shine on the global stage. Only then will we eliminate the UK's stubborn trade deficit - and unlock future economic growth

Contact export@liverpoolchamber.org.uk to find out how your local Chamber can help you trade overseas

Read More
Leave a comment

Ensure a strong relationship with your bank to mitigate risks

Posted by Vince Ferguson

Managing director - Inciner8 Ltd

Mon 18th, May

Inciner8 Ltd is a provider of specialist incineration products to international markets. Established in 2006, the company has since secured sales to over 145 different countries.

Our systems are used for a variety of medical and industrial uses including the safe and controlled destruction of materials exposed to the ebola virus in West Africa for The International Red Cross, DFID and the United Nations. The company has grown to a turnover of £6 million and employs 18 people at its manufacturing facility in Southport.

From the first business plan, export markets were a key target for us and they now account for 90 to 95 per cent of our sales. If we had limited ourselves to domestic markets, the company would employ far fewer people, have fewer sales and a much lower turnover.

Our success has been enabled through the guidance we initially received from the UKTI and the strong relationship we have with our bank. One thing we have done is stick rigidly to our payment terms which mitigate much of the risk of international trading. We demand payment in advance or a letter of credit for our systems and we have never had a single bad debt in the last nine years.

The final thing I would add, would be to say that we have been pleasantly surprised how much currency being a British company has in overseas markets. We have found that Made in Britain is an incredibly powerful asset overseas. We manage our reputation carefully but you can’t buy the kind of recognition being a British company brings - the best thing is, it’s free.

www.inciner8.com

Leave a comment

Employment Partner Zee Hussain explains the issue of mental illness in the workplace

Posted by Zee Hussain

Employment Partner - Colemans-ctts

Fri 15th, May

Mental health problems cost employers billions through lost production and absence; the benefits of good mental health among the workforce can have a large impact on the business.

To deal with mental illness effectively, it is important to address its effects as soon as possible. However, there are certain factors that influence an individual’s mental health that employers cannot control.

Personal relationships, finances and conditions at home are issues that organisations may not be able to help their employees with. However, they can make small adjustments to enable a member of staff to continue doing their job. Monitoring workload, workspace environment and workplace relationships are a good way to start.

Communicating with an employee to create awareness of the issues is key. As an employer, creating a culture in which employees feel able to discuss their problems is important.

Proactive management of employees’ mental health can bring many benefits, including reduction of sickness absence, greater staff engagement and productivity and reduced staff turnover, recruitment and costs.

Legal obligations and mental illness in the workplace

If an employer fails to spot the signs of mental ill health and treats an employee less favourably, they can find themselves in breach of their legal duty and at risk of potential claims of discrimination.

The Equality Act 2010 considers a mental health condition to be a disability. A person is defined as disabled if they have a mental or physical impairment that has a substantial long term (ie, for more than 12 months) effect on their normal day-to-day activities.

Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities, in order to ensure that they have the same access to everything involved in getting the job done as a non-disabled employee. Therefore, employers are under a positive and proactive duty to take steps to remove, reduce or prevent the obstacles that a disabled worker faces.

Sensitive personal data

When it comes to dealing with mental illness in the workplace, there is something else that employers need to be aware of. The Information Commission Office (ICO) sets out recommended best practices for dealing with sensitive personal data about an individual’s mental health.

The ICO carries a very clear message that businesses must be completely transparent about how they are going to process sensitive personal data concerning a person’s mental health. Unless an individual knows from the outset what their information will be used for, they are not in a position to make an informed decision.

Best practice is to obtain explicit consent from an individual before using or dealing with data about their mental health. Employers will need to train their staff on how to explain the policy and to obtain this consent.

The ICO makes clear that an organisation should not assume that it will be reasonably obvious to an individual who shares information about their mental health and how that data will be processed, and so it should not, therefore, conclude that an explanation is not required.

Practical tips for dealing with mental illness in the workplace

Taking all this information into consideration, what can you actually do to deal with mental illness in the workplace effectively?

  • First of all, putting the individual at the centre of the discussion is vital for agreeing workplace adjustments, in order to understand and meet their specific needs. Using the advice and guidance of other professionals, such as the individual’s GP or asking for support from occupational health and HR, can also be invaluable in finding solutions.
  • It is important to promote awareness of mental health issues in the workplace and create a culture where employees feel that they can talk to managers about any concerns they may have. Effective communication and consultation is key, coupled with an appreciation of mental health problems and a willingness to help other employees. It can help to raise any concerns with the employee – keeping communication channels open is critical.
  • Employers should watch out for any signs and intervene as early as possible. It’s also important to ensure that line manages are well-versed in the importance of dealing with employees exhibiting signs of mental illness.
  • Employers must ensure that clear procedures and policies are in place. They should ensure there is a mental health policy in place and check they are are asking the employee for explicit consent in all cases.

It is clear that mental illness is a difficult topic to address – for employers as well as employees. It is important to start talking about it in a constructive manner and break the taboo. Both employer and employee will benefit from this, and it will hopefully contribute to a more positive work culture.

Original article written for Personnel Today

http://www.colemans-ctts.co.uk/

Need more info? Benefit from our free HR service

Read More
Leave a comment