Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Let us all usher in 2020 with confidence and strength while building a strong foundation for the future.

This year, businesses in and around London will continue to see growth but also face uncertainty. Those who are undaunted by any challenges
will continue to press on and eventually succeed.

As your trusted small business accountants in London, we are here to provide outstanding accountancy service for entrepreneurs and small
business owners across London. Think of us as your one-stop efficient and convenient accounting services that span the full spectrum from
accounting, bookkeeping, finance, payroll and reporting.

With us working alongside you, you will have peace of mind and therefore can concentrate on growing your business. To find out more about how we can help your small business, get in touch with one of our expert advisors today on 020 7636 9094.

We wish you a fruitful 2020.

accountant hand holding pencil working on calculator to calculate financial data report

How to get the best out of your accountant

accountant hand holding pencil working on calculator to calculate financial data reportAs a business owner, it is what you require from your accountant that matters most. Since you’re going to be working closely with your accountant, it has to be the right fit too.

Do I have to hire an accountant?

No. There is nothing stopping you from taking on your financial administration yourself if your business has a low volume of transactions. However, tackling any financial obligations without complete assurance is inherently risky. Also, without having up-to-date knowledge of mandatory financial and legal legislation, there is a danger that you will make mistakes and your accounting will be incomplete.

For example, you may:

  • Fail to claim valid expenses.
  • Lose documentation such as proof of purchases.
  • Fall behind with invoicing.
  • Underestimate your tax bill and face difficulties with HMRC.
  • Be late on your tax returns and other compliance paperwork, resulting in fines.
  • Make mistakes entering data that take hours to fix and keep you short of valuable information.

Why hire an accountant?

Hiring an accountant to help you look after your business interests often starts at the moment you need to write a business plan and launch a new company, so let us go through a few areas where an accountant is most helpful to you:

  • Writing a business plan and accessing to finance – an accountant can help you to sharpen your business plan by making projections and planning different scenarios. As a result, you will have a solid business plan which you can present to your lenders or investors.
  • Launching a company – an accountant can advise about your company’s legal structure, set-up your accounting and payroll systems properly and register at Companies House.
  • Meeting statutory obligations – private limited companies need to prepare and submit VAT, annual accounts and tax returns, areas that your accountant can manage easily.
  • Giving general financial and tax advice – your accountant should also suggest ways your business can save money legally, present you with cash flow forecasts, offer sound tax advice, to name but a few.

In London, many small business owners also rely on their accountants to do bookkeeping, manage payroll and help with business growth. As having an accountant is an integral part of your business, it is essential to hire the right accountant and know how to get the best out of them, so that you and your accountant can work cohesively towards achieving your business goals.

Benefits of hiring an accountant

Hiring an accountant means you the business owner no longer need to manage the company finance by yourself, thereby providing you with peace of mind and allowing you to focus on pressing business matters and driving the success of your business. Tellingly, a survey from financial software company Intuit revealed that 89% of small businesses believed they noticed more success with an accountant on the side than without one.

The notion that you can save costs by not hiring an accountant is also not true. If you make a mistake on your accounts, it may take time and money to fix, not to mention the legal consequences if it is something serious.

How do I hire the right accountant?

We recommend hiring an accountant with a recognised professional qualification, ideally a chartered accountant. Chartered accountants in England and Wales are guided by the professional organisation ICAEW’s Code of Ethics which sets out five fundamental principles:

  • Integrity
  • Objectivity
  • Professional competence and due care
  • Confidentiality
  • Professional behaviour

In other words, a chartered accountant should be able to demonstrate the highest standards of professional conduct. To find a trusted chartered accountant, here are a few useful tips.

1. Do your research

Speak to ICAEW to help you find a chartered accountant.
Speak to friends or other businesses owners and ask them about their accountants.
Look for accountants with experience working with businesses in a similar sector (and of a similar size) to yours.

2. Interview them properly

An interview will provide a decent flavour of whether a candidate can help drive your business forward. Xero, one of the leading cloud accounting software companies, has provided a list of recommended questions:

  • How would we work together?
  • How frequently will we talk?
  • How do you usually work with clients?
  • Who will be my main point of contact?
  • Do you hire junior staff to do the day-to-day work?
  • What experience do you have in my industry?
  • What is your fee structure?
  • How would your clients describe you?
  • Why do you think we would be a good fit?

3. Verify the story

  • Ask for and check several references. Call their current and former clients if necessary.
  • Check their qualifications, experience and connections (LinkedIn is a good tool for researching this).
  • Request a copy of any accountant’s practising licence.
  • If in doubt, it is possible to outsource the background screening process.

4. Hire an accountant who understands and can meet your business needs

Knowledge of exactly why you are hiring an accountant will help you employ the right one, so ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I just need help producing my annual accounts?
  • Do I need help with all financial administration – payroll, bookkeeping, VAT returns?
  • Am I in need of tax advice and financial forecasts?
  • Am I in a position to grow my business?

5. Ensure they help you meet current legislation

Businesses must comply with current laws and legislation. A knowledgeable accountant will help your business comply with new laws, such as the government’s new Making Tax Digital legislation. For example:

  • From 1 April 2019, VAT-registered businesses earning over a threshold of £85,000 must submit their financial records to the government digitally via an HMRC-recognised cloud accounting software. From 1 April 2020, MTD (Making Tax Digital) will also apply to other businesses who fall below this threshold.
  • An accountant should be familiar with such software. Plus, they must also be knowledgeable about government compliance and keep your business out of legal trouble and prevents any fines.

6. Use your accountant efficiently

Delegate work that you cannot do yourself to make the most out of their expertise. Talk to them about tax advice and how your business can legally save money. Avoid using them for simple data-entry tasks.

7. Calibrate the costs

  • Ask for written quotes from potential candidates.
  • Consider your preferred method of payment: some charge hourly while others charge a monthly retainer.
  • Negotiate and settle the fee in writing.

Berley is your ideal small business accountant

At Berley, we are London’s chartered accountants for small businesses and we have a proven track record of assisting SMEs and start-ups with their financial matters.

If you are struggling to keep on top of your finances, our team of specialist small business accountants are here to help make your business financially stable. Whether employed on a full-time basis or merely for an afternoon – speak with one of our specialist accountants today and see how we can help your business. Give us a call on or fill up a simple form on our Contact us page.

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This post is intended to provide information of general interest about current business/ accounting issues. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. 

Female looking at financial reports with one hand on her laptop

Are your payroll services working for you?

Payroll servicesAs a business owner, there are a number of rules and regulations that you need to consider regarding the payroll for your employees.

In April 2019, the UK government introduced a new legislation requiring all employers to provide payrolls to all workers (permanent or part-time) and show hours on payslips where the pay varies by the amount of time worked.

This has undoubtedly created another layer of responsibility for small business owners who also manage payroll. For peace of mind, we recommend you outsource your payroll service to a dedicated payroll team like us at Berley.

With years of experience running payroll to our clients, we can provide the following payroll services to meet your needs:

  • Prepare your monthly payroll
  • Providing summaries and analysis for general accounting purposes
  • Preparing and distributing payslips to your employees
  • Providing any compliance work for PAYE regulations
  • Completion of P45s online
  • Completion of year-end employer return forms P35, P14s and P60s
  • Liaising with you to assist in the preparation and filing of P11D forms

Berley will help you meet PAYE regulations

Every month, nearly every company must send a ‘Full Payment Submission’ (FPS) to HMRC’s system, PAYE, which collects Income Tax and National Insurance contributions. A company, therefore, has to make these deductions for PAYE every month, as well as disclose what they pay their employees: including any bonuses and sick or maternity pay. Outsourcing your payroll to Berley will enable you to complete this as accurately and efficiently as possible.

Do I have to outsource my payroll?

No. You can run your own payroll by using paid-for payroll software approved by HMRC. However, you must ensure that your chosen software enables you to:

  • Produce payslips
  • Record pension deductions
  • Make pension payments
  • Pay different people over different periods (for example both weekly and monthly)
  • Send an Employer Payment Summary (EPS) report or Earlier Year Update (EYU) to HMRC

As the management of payroll can be a repetitive hassle that takes time away from growing your business, many small businesses outsource their payroll administrative work to a qualified payroll company like our team at Berley.

Why outsourcing your payroll is the best option?

Outsourcing your payroll will save you immense time and money, which in turn will increase your efficiency.


Submitting your payroll accurately and on time every month while keeping an eye on current legislation (to ensure you abide by law) burns immense time and energy. Let us free up time for you to spend elsewhere, on the success of your business.


Our team of payroll specialists do not make mistakes. By submitting your Full Payment Submission to HMRC detailing your employee payments and any deductions accurately, you will avoid any potential fines.

In short, if you outsource your payroll function to us, you do not need to hire a full-time employee dedicated to run your payroll, and do not need to worry about employee sickness and holidays.

Berley is here to help with your payroll function

As chartered accountants, Berley can provide you with the support and advice you need when it comes to accounts and taxes. We also have a team of payroll staff working relentlessly to support small business owners who find that it is more cost-effective to outsource the payroll function.

If you would like to know more about how we can help to reduce your payroll costs and streamline your payroll systems, give us a call on 020 7636 9094 today.

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Customer service

Customer experience: a discussion worth having

Customer serviceFor a business to successfully grow and distinguish itself in any competitive marketplace, it must focus on offering superior customer experience.

Customer experience is a subject that has always piqued our interest.

According to consultancy.uk, companies across the UK that fail to provide good customer experience could loss out astronomical £100 billion in revenues in coming years. With the rise of new technology and increased competition, many management gurus also argue that it is becoming more vital for businesses to provide a positive customer experience to help build brand loyalty. But how should one do it? We think this point is worth discussing.

At Berley, we are small business accountants and business growth specialists working with entrepreneurs across London. As chartered accountants, we are guided by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales or ICAEW’s Code of Ethics which sets out five fundamental principles:

  • Integrity
  • Objectivity
  • Professional competence and due care
  • Confidentiality
  • Professional behaviour

Working with business owners and resolving their financial and company issues are tasks that involve a high level of due care and personal interactions. There are skill and behavioural standards which our customers would expect from us and we duly deliver – in fact, we strive to exceed expectations.

Perhaps in more ways than one, our professionalism has helped us to retain customers and build loyalty. But if you are a retailer in London or run an online business, what can you do to deliver outstanding customer experience that will help build loyalty? Also, do you need to apply different methods to create an outstanding customer experience in physical and digital worlds respectively? These questions deserve a closer look, so let us go on a journey to discuss and learn together.

The importance of customer experience

Let’s kick-start the conversation by asking why we, and every company we know, want to deliver outstanding customer experience. The reasons are:

  • We know that it costs money and effort to acquire new customers. So once they become our customers, we want to retain them.
  • We want customers to advocate for us – tell their friends, mention us in their social media posts, refer other customers to us.
  • We want to be better than our competitors. As competing on price alone will not get us very far, providing outstanding customer experience is one of the few value-adds that we can offer without costing us a significant amount of money.
  • All the above reasons will contribute to profitable growth, the objective of many businesses.

Suffice to say, creating outstanding customer experience is a vital part of any business strategy.

Can you give a perfect experience that maximises satisfaction?

Customer experience, broadly speaking, is about how one sums up their experience with your business, your products/services, and your brands. It is also highly personal – what works for one may not work for the others. For examples:

  • In a brick and mortar shop: customer A likes to be greeted warmly and with staff standing in close proximity ready to assist, while customer B prefers to be left alone while browsing in-store.
  • Online: customer C values your follow-up email once they have made a purchase online, while customer D considers the email spam.

We believe that it is almost impossible to understand every single customer (especially if you are in retail) and render a highly personal and perfect experience to maximise satisfaction every time. However, we would like to think that there are a couple of common principles which we all can apply to help gain happier customers and build brand loyalty.

Creating an emotional connection

We humans have emotions and we use them to help us make decisions consciously and unconsciously. Marketing executives know this, which is why they design advertisements that make us smile, tap into our fear, provoke us, trigger a sense of belonging, just to name but a few.

Naturally, many companies learn the trick and now look to connect with their customers emotionally. In your brick and mortar store, for instance, you may train your staff to say something positive when interacting with customers, use humour and draw some kind of personal connection.

In the digital world, you can use content to tell stories and connect, publish testimonials to create trust, keep the purchasing journey straightforward and reduce risks (like offering money-back guarantee) to evoke a sense of comfort and trust, delight your customers with suggestions or small offers, excite your customers with contests, so on and so forth.

The key takeaway is that what you provide may not need to be a highly memorable experience, but it needs to be genuine and positive.

Using Artificial Intelligence to deliver a better experience

It seems oxymoronic that we jump right into Artificial Intelligence the moment we finished talking emotional connection but hear us out – we are not suggesting replacing human with robots, instead, this is about using AI to enhance one’s online experience. For examples:

  • Using AI to guide your customers when they navigate online, or
  • Using AI to reduce customer frustration by responding quickly to your customers when complaints arise online.

Making use of technology is a sensible approach because technology is available 24x7, it can engage with multiple customers at once, it can provide quick and measured responses, and above all, it can help sort out customers and let your staff handle more complex matters.

It is said that AI will slowly creep into brick-and-mortar retail shops too. Customer service experts predict that AI will soon help staff with enquiries, recommend options and handle dynamic pricing in store. The sky is the limit here.

Multidisciplinary approach

Using a multidisciplinary approach to deliver customer experience is a phrase that many of us hear often – but what does it really mean? It turns out it means different things to different people, and it can encompass sophisticated data science to timeless practice like making sure that your employees have the right skills.

As there is no silver bullet that will make better relationships between brands and customers overnight, it makes sense to do things from your heart, build and nourish a customer-centric culture and keep discovering.

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This post is intended to provide information of general interest about current business/ accounting issues. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

Dealing with work-related mental health issues

Mental health in the workplace

Dealing with work-related mental health issuesOctober 10 is the World Mental Health Day, so use this opportunity to promote a mentally healthy workplace.

According to Health and Safety Executive UK, one in four people in the UK will suffer from a mental health problem at some point in their life. It is estimated that mental health conditions cost UK employers between £33 to £42 billion a year. At Berley, we work with many small business owners across London and know that mental health has profound financial impacts, as increased absenteeism, reduced productivity, high turnover and compensation claims can hit the bottom line and cripple a business’s operation.

Many of the small business owners we work with are keen to foster a mentally healthy workplace, but often do not know how to go about doing it. At the same time, employees who suffer from mental health related issues are likely to display ‘avoidance’ behaviours whereby they do not want help or support from colleagues. Also, according to a survey by ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), 72% of employees believe that it is a manager’s role to recognise and address stress and anxiety in the workplace. The upshot is that we have three different ideas going on and none of them exactly interact with one another.

Dealing with work-related stress

When an employee feels there is a mismatch between what they can do versus what is expected of them, they may feel ‘pressure’, causing work-related stress that can have an impact on one’s mental health.

There is no easy answer when it comes to tackling one’s stress as it depends on the situation and one’s experience and even genetic makeup. The general advice is:

  • Take some time off and do things that you enjoy.
  • Try meditation or mindfulness.
  • Ask a doctor for help.
  • Talk to someone you trust in your personal or professional life.
  • Make a wellness action plan, as suggested by the mental health charity Mind.

It must be said that stress is not entirely negative. Some people like a challenge, like shouldering extra responsibilities or working to a deadline – these people are likely to view stress as something that pushes them to grow, personally and professionally. Some people also enjoy their work tremendously and like the sense of achievement.

Stress is also not isolated to employees. Small business owners who work tirelessly to achieve their goals may also suffer from work-related stress. One client told us that he quit his 40 hours a week employment life to start a business that requires him to work 80 hours a week. We know, we have been there before so our advice is, if you are in a situation that you are wearing multiple hats, please consider outsourcing and let someone else share the workload with you.

Dealing with workplace sexual harassment

Any unwanted sexual behaviour at work can also cause one to suffer mentally as feelings like anger and fear may lead to depression. In the UK, the definition of sexual harassment is broad, including:

  • Someone has made sexual comments or jokes.
  • Someone has touched you in an unwanted way.
  • Someone has shown you offensive material.
  • Someone has displayed sexual and offensive material on screensavers or has put up posters of such nature.
  • Someone has sent you emails with sexual content.

When it comes to dealing with workplace sexual harassment, the textbook answer is asking the victim to talk to HR, but many small businesses do not have a team of HR professionals on hand to assist. Our advice is to make sure that your team is aware that they can go to you for help and you must also act immediately.

Support is key

Supporting a team member who has mental ill-health is key and by that we mean:

  • Help them to recover, like encouraging them to seek professional help or asking them to take time off.
  • Help them to stay well, like implementing mindfulness at work.
  • It is also possible to assign an internal colleague or an external advisor to implement a series of programmes, like how to support other colleagues in distress or how to create a culture of openness.

Small business owners need support too

At Berley, we like working with small business owners because we admire their drive and determination to launch a business and create employment opportunities for their team members. But even superheroes need time to rest and recuperate between missions, so knowing how to recognise emotional exhaustion is important.

If you have been facing unrealistic demands from clients, suppliers, partners and even team members, please talk to a business mentor as soon as possible and draft out action plans to tackle every issue.

This October 10 is the World Mental Health Day, so use this opportunity to do a mental health check for yourself, your company, and also support those who need help.

Best of luck.

Everything you need to know about insolvency

Everything you need to know about insolvency

Everything you need to know about insolvencyThe prospects of insolvency can be stressful but you don’t have to undergo this process alone. Our insolvency practitioners can help you.

For business owners, the word ‘insolvency’ can be associated with several negative emotions and thoughts such as fear, worry and shame. This is completely understandable as insolvency is not exactly what anyone had in mind when they set out to launch their business. Nevertheless, if you have chosen to read this article, there is a good chance that you run a business that is either on the cusp of or is going through the insolvency process. So in this article, we aim to discuss:

  • What is insolvency?
  • Can your business avoid insolvency?
  • Are you personally liable for your company’s debts?
  • What are the insolvency procedures?

Defining company insolvency

When a business is insolvent, it means the company is unable to pay its debts and enters into a voluntary arrangement or goes into administration to deal with the debts that the business cannot pay.

The process of insolvency is to ensure that liabilities do not increase while assets do not decrease during this period of time. In some cases, the goal is to return the business to solvency, although the objective is always to guarantee that creditors can maximise their return on any owed monies.

During the process, an insolvency practitioner will be appointed to take control of whatever remaining company assets that are in place, so that all its creditors experience fair treatment. This person will also report on the conduct of the company’s directors to the Department of Trade and Industry (or DTI).

It must be noted that bankruptcy is different from insolvency. Bankruptcy only applies to individuals and not companies. For companies, they can go into administration, administrative receivership or liquidation (closing a company). However, a company can also enter into what is called a ‘company voluntary arrangement’ (or CVA) with its creditors to enable the repayment of either part or all of the debt that is due over a fixed period of time.

Can your business avoid insolvency?

If your business is struggling with debt, you may be led to believe that insolvency is your only option – but is it? Let us discuss this point in detail.

The tell-tale signs that your business is heading towards insolvency are when your business cannot pay its debts and its employees and it has no cash to continue the operation. If this is the case, it is wise to take a moment to consider the following options:

  • Improve your cash flow by cutting overheads, reducing your inventory and chasing after payments
  • Sell assets or refinance
  • Negotiate with creditors by setting up a payment plan
  • Restructure your company by using debt for equity swaps
  • Borrow from family members
  • Talk to an insolvency expert like our team at Berley to discuss your options

Keep in mind that you are not alone when it comes to dealing with insolvency. In 2018, there were 16,106 cases of company insolvency but only 3,140 of them were compulsory liquidations. Our insolvency experts will help to demystify the process so you feel more in control of what will happen next.

Am I personally liable for my company’s debts?

If you are a sole trader or have a partnership, chances are you will be liable for the debts that your business has occurred. Most people opt to apply for bankruptcy in this instance, however, as bankruptcy can affect your financial future, please talk to our insolvency experts first by calling 020 7636 9094.

If you have a limited liability company, then your company is a separate entity from any director or shareholder. As a director in the company, it is your responsibility to look out for the interests of the company – as well as its employees, shareholders and creditors. This is known as a ‘duty of care’. As long as you have kept in line with this duty of care for your company, you are not likely to be held liable for any of the company’s debts as a result of the protections offered to company directors under limited liability.

However, there are exceptions to this general outcome. You may be made personally liable if:

  • You owe income tax on cash that you have taken from the company.
  • There are outstanding National Insurance and PAYE payments.
  • You benefitted from a transaction at the expense of creditors. For example, you paid below the market value for a business asset. This is referred to as ‘misfeasance’ and it is a breach in your duty of care to the company.
  • There are liabilities that have arisen out of the company after the liquidation process has begun and you are guilty of wrongful trading. There was also no reasonable chance of avoiding the liquidation process.
  • There are liabilities arising out of fraudulent activities while you were in charge, like account manipulation.
  • You gave personal guarantees on behalf of the company – often to financiers, banks, landlords and creditors. This happens if you signed an agreement saying that if your business is not able to pay back the money, you will become personally liable for that debt.

Even if you are found not to be personally liable for the debts, you may still end up being disqualified as a director. If you are deemed unfit to be a company director, you can be disqualified for up to 15 years from being a director in any UK company or an overseas company with a UK connection, or involved in the formation, running or marketing of a company.

What are the insolvency procedures?

The process of insolvency does not mean your company cease to exist overnight. In reality, your company is likely to follow one of the following procedures – the first three of which allow your company to stay open while the last one (liquidation) is about ceasing to exist.

1. Administration: A rescue procedure designed to protect the company from legal actions taken by its creditors. In this instance, an insolvency practitioner (the ‘administrator’) will be in charge and may propose to:

  • Restore the company’s viability
  • Come to an arrangement with the creditors (through a CVA)
  • Sell the business as a going concern or realise more from the assets than in a liquidation
  • Realise assets to pay a preferential or secured creditor

The creditors will decide if they want to accept the proposal.

2. Receivership: This occurs when a secured creditor appoints an administrative receiver to sell the company’s assets to pay off the secured debt. Being the company’s director, you have little options when receivership happens. As soon as you realise the company struggles to pay off any secured loans, you need to contact an independent insolvency practitioner, like us, right away to discuss your options.

3. Company Voluntary Agreement (CVA): A legally binding agreement between the company and its creditors that often leads to reduced and/or rescheduled arrangement of debt repayment to allow the insolvent company to survive. Often this can come about as a result of the administrative process.

4. Liquidation: The insolvent company is ended through a creditors voluntary liquidation (when directors know that all options of a possible turnaround are exhausted and the best route forward is to wind up the company voluntarily) or a compulsory liquidation (when one or more creditors petition to the court and force your company into liquidation). When liquidation happens, all assets will be converted into cash and distributed among the creditors.

Berley can help you get through the insolvency process

At Berley, we believe that every business owner is a superhero in their own right, but even superheroes can’t handle every challenge alone. If insolvency is on the cards for your business, let Berley’s insolvency practitioners be your trustworthy and knowledgeable sidekicks. We will explore options with you and implement a plan that gets your business back on track.

One crucial note is time is of the essence here. The sooner you talk to us, the better it is for you to explore all options and be in control. We have seen many cases where the company directors waited too long to act, and by the time they wanted to talk, the harsh realities of insolvency had become inevitable.

Insolvency is a way of life in the corporate world. At Berley, our professional insolvency practitioners understand what it takes to succeed against the odds, and we are here to support you and seek out the most satisfactory solution. To get in touch with our specialist corporate insolvency professionals today, simply call us on 020 7636 9094 or use our Free Online Enquiry form to get in touch.

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This post is intended to provide information of general interest about current business/ accounting issues. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

Things to consider

5 things to consider when starting a business

Things to considerStarting a business is a serious investment and you want to give it every chance of success. Here are five top things to consider when starting a business from the ground up.

Building your own business from scratch can be rewarding, satisfying and empowering; however, it can also be daunting, challenging and absolutely terrifying too if you are not prepared. Before going ahead to find yourself an office and start assembling a team, let our small business accountants in London work with you through a few essential start-up issues.

1. The right business structure

Once you have decided to be your own boss, the next step is to decide how you want to structure your business.

Having the right business structure in place may not just have implications for your business, but it may even have implications on your personal life too. For example, you can easily register as a sole trader and the process is straightforward and inexpensive, but being a sole trader means you now have unlimited liability for any accrued business debt, meaning your debtors can go after your personal assets if your business owes them money.

On the other hand, a limited liability company (LLC) is costlier to set-up and maintain (in comparison to sole proprietorship), but as a shareholder of an LLC, you are not personally liable for any debt that the company accrues as long as you have acted in the best interests of the company in your role as director. In addition to that, a limited company is taxed on its profit and the corporate tax structure is rather attractive in the UK. Most directors also choose to take a low salary and use dividends to make up their income, reducing their tax obligations even further.

Every business legal structure has its own set of obligations, benefits and drawbacks. And there are some ill effects that can arise from choosing the wrong structure – particularly legal and tax consequences. This is precisely why you should approach experienced accountants – such as one of our small business accountants here at Berley – before making any final decisions surrounding the structure of your business.

2. A solid business plan

While creativity and ideas may flow in the early days of your entrepreneurial efforts, you need to ensure that these dreams can become realities. Putting together a solid business plan is the most effective way to establish structured steps to reach your short-term and long-term goals.

While there is no ‘one size fits all’ template for business plans, there are certain elements that will consistently appear in every business plan. For example, a good plan often includes an executive summary, information on the company’s goals, details on how these goals will be achieved, the company’s history, a background of directors/key figures, and marketing analysis on the relevant industry and markets. Follow the link if you want to know how to create a robust business plan.

A large misconception surrounding business plans is that, once written, they are set in stone. In reality, plans and goals can and do change. You may need to adapt your business plan to issues that arise, or you may want to grow your business and need a plan to outline how this will be achieved. In other words, a business plan is not a static document that will look the same in 10 years’ time, it will evolve with your business and its goals.

3. Available funding options

Every start-up needs cash before it can start generating revenue. Many aspiring entrepreneurs we know dip into their personal savings or borrow from friends and family members to fund the business initially.

The UK government also has a company called Start Up Loans, and as the name suggests, it aims to offer support in the form of loans (as well as mentoring) to early-stage businesses that often have not had success in securing funds from mainstream banks. This government-backed scheme offers loans from £500 up to £25,000, and you can repay the loan within 1 to 5 years at a fixed interest rate of 6% per annum.

In addition, your business can also borrow from strangers via one of the many peer-to-peer lending platforms, or even from a crowdfunding site. If you would like to know more about different funding options, follow this link to the article “What is the right source of funding for you?”.

It is worth mentioning that there are three forms of funding: debt, equity and mezzanine (a blend of debt and equity). Debt is pretty straightforward – if your business takes out a loan from a family member or a financial institution, it has debt that it needs to pay back. Equity, on the other hand, means your investors own a percentage of your company. Angel investors often fall into this category – they offer starting or growth capital to your company, in return, they own a percentage of your company (ownership equity) or debt that can be converted into equity at a later date.

4. The best talent

As any small business owner will tell you, finding the right people is challenging. The deck is even more stacked for start-ups. One wrong hire and your fledgeling business may not recover. In fact, you can do everything right to give your business the best chance of succeeding, but without the right people involved your business will struggle. From fellow directors to employees, there has to be a pool of talent that shares your vision for the business, willing to do what they can to help your project get to where it should be.

Start-ups in London do have a better chance of attracting top-tier talent. With that said, employment costs in London also prove to be more expensive as city living costs are obviously higher than start-ups based in smaller towns. To help entrepreneurs cope with various employment issues, we wrote the post “The hiring dilemma” in which we share the different employment options as well as some useful hiring tips for small business owners – give it a read if you are keen to explore this area in depth.

5. A cost-effective workspace

Start-ups offer entrepreneurs the freedom to pick a workplace that can be more creative or, crucially, cost-effective. For example, sole traders and partnerships without a permanent employee base may use their home as their workplace. They may also choose to hire hot desks in a co-working space if they do not want their personal and professional lives to mix, or look for office spaces that are serviced.

Quite a large percentage of entrepreneurs we know choose to establish from their living rooms first, before moving into an inexpensive workspace option that offers rent and utilities at decent rates. If you are expected to grow at an exceptional speed, then you may be better off to get a large office from the start, as moving can be costly and disruptive.

Berley can help you build your business

With the right advice, approach and attitude, growing your business from an idea into reality can be a positive experience that leads to growth in no time at all. At Berley, we know this because we have been there and we have done it. Over the past 30 years, we have been using our experiences and knowledge for good by helping other start-ups and small businesses across London achieve success too. During that time, we have also worked with start-ups and small businesses across many other industries, gaining even more knowledge and experience that we can continue to pass on.

Think of us as the old hero with the wisdom and knowledge, and you are the new entrepreneurial superhero – full of fresh ideas, drive and determination. Our team of chartered accountants and small business specialists will help guide you to success through a variety of services that have been tailored to suit the needs of your business.

Our accountants can help you decide on the right business legal structure, advise on business plans, discover and identify growth opportunities, perform due diligence to help you identify potential problems, choose the right tax approach, set goals that are realistic and help you track your growth as you go. In addition, we also offer all of those traditional accountancy services to ensure your business finances are kept in a good place too.

We offer all of these services because we understand what it takes to be an entrepreneur – and entrepreneurs need the right advice from the right people with the right experience. We think like you, we act like you and we are here to help you defeat the obstacles and defy the odds that stand in the way of your short-term and long-term successes and growth.

Call Berley on 020 7636 9094 to find out more about how we can help you unleash your true entrepreneurial potential today.

Berley is here for your small business.

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This post is intended to provide information of general interest about current business/ accounting issues. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. 

From I can't to I can

Challenges of entrepreneurship: 8 things to watch out for

From I can't to I canThe life of an entrepreneur may be fraught with challenges, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t overcome them with the right approach, the right frame of mind and the right guidance.

There is undoubtedly something exciting about starting up a new business. However, regardless of whether this is your first attempt at entrepreneurship, or you have been here before, you will soon find that this excitement can dissipate as the realities of running a start-up or small business start to hit home.

According to the stats, 20% of small businesses would fail in their first year of establishment. It is a shame and got us to wonder what would happen if the company directors chose to tackle the issues that they were grappling with early on and sought the right help, would it make a difference?

At Berley, our small business accountants have spent years helping entrepreneurs in London overcome challenges, achieve their goals and, most importantly, grow their businesses into revenue-generating machines. In our 30 years of existence, we have seen all of the challenges that entrepreneurs face and we have come up with strategies to counteract these obstacles. In this article, we aim to share a few of the most common challenges that you may face (or have faced) as an entrepreneur.

Don’t let a poor business plan let you down

It takes more than a great idea to guarantee success. One of the basics behind the success of many businesses is how seriously their directors take their business plans. While some view a plan as a chore that offers little in the way of rewards, we don’t agree with that assessment. Not only will a business plan help to outline your business and its activities, but it can also be absolutely vital in securing funding. As such, a business plan needs to be excellent throughout and it most certainly should not be treated with contempt.

A business plan helps to test whether an idea really works when the numbers are broken down. It can also be a very helpful process if you find that you are a more of an ‘ideas’ person rather than someone who focuses on practical solutions. It can force you to step outside of your comfort side and throw your ideas at the wall to see if they really stick. Essentially, crafting an excellent business plan that works can help you build the discipline required to make it as an entrepreneur in both the short-term and long-term.

Additionally, no serious lender or investor is going to give you attention if you don’t spend time crafting a worthwhile, thorough business plan that outlines the financial details surrounding your business. At Berley, our experienced small business accountants often help our new clients with their business plan to make it more impactful, focused and lender-friendly.

Bad time management is costly

In the early days of a start-up or small business, owners tend to take on a lot of responsibility. Whether it is as a result of financial constraint, or an inability to ‘let go’ of control over their pet project, many start-up directors play multiple roles – accountant, sales team, operations manager, marketing director, graphic designer, web developer, janitor or even painter and decorator, to name but a few. While you may think that it is necessary to take on all, it can lead to bad time management habits if you are not careful. For instance, you may find yourself getting lost in the detail or even drawing up a blank at key moments as a result of the sheer mental exhaustion of wearing too many ‘hats’.

There are quite a few apps and planners which can help you on a personal basis to organise your time effectively and ensure you meet your own goals and objectives. If you cannot afford to hire a team, then outsource what you can. For example, bookkeeping is ‘such a thankless task’ as one of our clients puts it, especially when you don’t have experience in this field. Outsource your bookkeeping work to Berley, for instance, is highly cost-effective, as we take care of the administrative tasks while leaving you to focus on running your business.

Good time management is the key to being a successful entrepreneur, being more productive and having a better work-life balance.

Control rising costs

Every entrepreneur faces the challenge of costs. Things can start to add up as legal fees, rent, business registration fees, marketing, recruitment, utility bills, office supplies, inventory and stock management (to name but a few) begin to add up. This can be further compounded by changes to the economy that can unsettle your best-laid plans.

Ultimately, there are many costs that, if not properly managed and planned for, can prove to be fatal to a business. Whether the challenge of the costs was within or outside of your sphere of control, the struggle to keep your business afloat is the same. You may be tempted to find new clients or new investment to solve the problem but this can end up compounding the problem in the long-term – sending your business plummeting into a downward spiral from which there is no return. Thankfully, it need not have to be that way.

Here is the thing, every business has to deal with expenditure and rising costs and it comes down to working smarter with what you have got. In the article “5 ways to manage rising business costs”, we discuss in detail the five useful tips that can assist you with gaining control of your finances; give it a read if you like.

Examine your price structure

When it comes to generating revenue, you may want to re-assess how much you are charging clients and what value you are offering for that money. To do this you may want to examine how you frame your products and/or services, the way you present them and the value that they offer to your clients. One way to show value to clients is by better demonstrating the work that you are doing to make their lives easier.

Keep in mind that there is always someone out there offering cheaper prices than your business, so compete on price alone will not win. Focus on what value you can provide to your customers instead. In fact, you may be surprised by how much people value, for example, good customer service and friendly relations over the small savings offered by a competitor.

Hire the wrong people

The people whom you choose to work with can be a key component in determining if your business sinks or swims. When you hire the wrong people for the job, you can end up paying for that costly mistake. It is important to view recruitment as an investment. Think of it this way, in no other area of your business would you knowingly make poor investments, so don’t just view your recruits as automatons who can be replaced – look for people who offer distinct, individual sets of skills and traits. To ensure the success of your business, you need to hire quality people who have the right skills and temperament for the job. Don’t be afraid to try out interns or apprentices also. Many interns and apprentices are eager to apply their skillsets and have the dedication, determination and youthful energy to invest in your business and its vision.

Another excellent strategy is to look at alternative forms of employment. For example, contractors and freelancers can be employed as and when they are needed to complete projects without the additional overheads that come from permanent employment. If you would like to know more about different employment options and the 7C’s recruitment system, follow the link to this article “The hiring dilemma”.

Fail to stay on top of tax and financial affairs

There is no doubt that many business owners can be left absolutely overwhelmed by both their tax obligations and their financial situation. In fact, a recent poll of businesses by accountancy software firm Xero found that 77% of small business owners felt overwhelmed by the regulations on taxation, 54% had never submitted a tax return and 23% admitted to being fined because of an error when filing their taxes. From a financial perspective, 85% had less than one day of business education or financial education when starting their business.

This is why it is so important to hire an accountant to help you keep on top of finance and tax matters. While you may be tempted by the prospect of saving money, is the wasted time and effort worth it if you end up with a fine? Or is that energy better spent on improving your business and enabling growth? Our small business accountants at Berley can help you with all matters relating to tax and finance, ensuring that your financial requirements and bookkeeping are kept in check.

Don’t shun networking

Taking the time to network can provide incredible opportunities to your business that otherwise wouldn’t have existed.

Networking can help you build a strong contacts book of like-minded professionals whom you may be able to call upon for their expertise or services when it is needed. It may also get you in touch with an interested investor, a potential new business partner or it can, of course, provide you with a string of new, loyal clients. In a city like London, there is no shortage of networking opportunities. For many entrepreneurs running small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), networking is their lifeblood.

With that said, not everyone is comfortable when it comes to networking. If you are not a social butterfly and most definitely do not want to be the centre of attention, consider sending an employee or delegate who has all the social skills, charisma and charm to build an excellent network that will benefit you and your business.

Not having proper guidance

Being your own boss does not mean you have to work alone – in fact, we like to say that superheroes never save the day alone, they are always supported by a cast of sidekicks and well-wishers who help them achieve their goals and ‘save the day’.

As an entrepreneur, you need sidekicks to help you achieve your goals, which is exactly how we see ourselves at Berley. Our aim is to help you, our clients who run small businesses and start-ups in London, achieve your goals and be successful in your endeavours.

Berley can help your business overcome challenges

When entrepreneurial life is getting you down and the everyday challenges of your business are becoming overwhelming, it is time to re-energise and re-strategise your approach. At Berley, our small business chartered accountants are here to take the strain off of you and provide your company with a suite of services that will allow you to focus on growing your business like a true entrepreneur.

Like any good sidekick, we will handle the messy, administrative matters while you – our entrepreneurial superhero – can focus on generating revenue, reaching your goals and maybe even saving the world if you like. Our services include:

  • Outsourced payroll services: setting up simple payroll processes to save you time, money and energy.
  • Management accounts: providing vital advice, insights and reports into the financial health of your business.
  • Business finance solutions: supercharging your chances of success by helping you to find and apply for funding opportunities and investment successfully.
  • Bookkeeping: we can prepare annual and monthly accounts, VAT returns and even help you set up your own management accounting systems.
  • Company audit: our holistic ‘health’ check will provide you with an incredibly detailed audit tailored to the specific requirements of your business.
  • Online accounting: our accountants utilise the cloud-based Xero to deliver excellent online accounting that can save you time and money.

We know entrepreneurs and we love working with entrepreneurs. To find out how we can unlock your true entrepreneurial superpowers, simply aim your bat signal to the sky (or, if it is easier, call us on 020 7636 9094 today).

Berley is here for your small business.

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This post is intended to provide information of general interest about current business/ accounting issues. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

Business Opportunities

What is the right source of funding for you?

OpportunitiesWhether you have just launched a business or have kept it going for a while now, you want to boost the chances of success by having access to the right type of funding at the right time.

To kick-start a great idea, then to develop, expand and export internationally, businesses need funding boosts at various stages. At Berley, our small business accountants and business growth specialists work relentlessly with entrepreneurs across London, helping them with financial decisions.

As funding is an area that many small business owners seek to be informed in, in this article, we aim to highlight the different types of funding available and outline the steps they can take to increase their chance of securing funding.

1. Self-funding and love money

Turning to their own personal savings is often the first place most entrepreneurs look to find funds for their start-ups or when they are ready to take the business to the next level. The money could be from long-term savings or from selling personal assets.

Some entrepreneurs may also turn to their parents, family members or friends to borrow money. Known as love money, this form of funding is based on trust and may have highly flexible repayment terms.

While dipping into personal savings and acquiring love money are usually more straightforward than going to banks and filling up forms, they do have several disadvantages including:

  • Self-funding poses a high personal risk.
  • Love money may lead to ruined relationships, particularly if they have given you a significant portion of their savings and you cannot repay them due to losses.
  • Personal funding and love money are also finite, while the business may require several rounds of funding throughout its journey.

2. Start-up loans

Assuming this is your first venture, then naturally it is worth looking at start-up loans backed by the UK government. Aiming to help entrepreneurs kick-start their business ideas, the scheme provides loans of £500 to £25,000 with a fixed low 6% interest per annum. It also includes free mentoring from experienced advisers to help you set sail. You can find out more at https://www.startuploans.co.uk.

3. Bank loans

If your business has a good credit history and a healthy business plan that demonstrates robust projections and profitability, chances are, your bank loan applications may be easily accepted, given that many banks compete to help small businesses in the UK.

For instance, HSBC offers Small Business Loans from between £1,000 and £25,000 with 7.4% APR Representative. There is a list of requirements on their site as well as an Eligibility Checker that you can use to see the likeliness of attaining a loan from HSBC. In addition to HSBC, Barclays also offers unsecured business loans of up to £100,000, which you can learn more here. If you are considering bank loans, shop around first.

4. Secured finance from a specialist lender

If your loan application is refused by a traditional bank, you may be able to obtain finance from a B2B specialist lender. For instance, Nationwide Corporate Finance can offer business loans to companies without a credit history, so if you have just launched a new venture and have not had a chance to establish any credit history, this option may suit you. Expectedly, this type of loan may come with a higher interest rate. But once you successfully secure the finance, you will be able to build your credit history if you keep up with your monthly repayments.

5. Angel investors

An angel investor is a high-net-worth individual who invests his/her money in a business with high growth potential typically in exchange for ownership equity. In the UK, angel investors abound, and many of them are successful, experienced entrepreneurs who can offer honest advice and guidance – after all, as they become equity partners, your success is their success too.

There are many sites which match budding entrepreneurs with angel investors, including Angel Investment Network, Syndicate Room and Angels Den.

6. Venture capital

Venture capital is similar to angel investing in the sense that it is a form of equity funding. But instead of an individual angel, you have a group of investors belonging to a venture capital firm who looks for companies with strong, fast growth which they can take to list in the London Stock Exchange sometime in the future.

To attract venture capitals, you need a solid business plan that shows high profitability and substantial growth potential. In return, they will inject a considerable amount of money into your business and work closely with you to make it successful. Top VC firms include London Venture Partners or LVP, Spark, and Episode 1.

7. Crowdfunding

In the last few years, crowdfunding has become a hugely successful alternative addition to the UK finance scene. Crowdfunding is where individuals or small businesses seeking capital can present their project to the online community and ask for donations to reach their target. The donations are usually small amounts of money and the supporters are often offered a reward in return; for instance, if the funds are being raised to get a book published, the reward may be a copy of the book. This is an especially attractive option if you are seeking investment for a creative project, as the majority of the campaigns on crowdfunding sites are creative-based. The most popular crowdfunding sites are Indiegogo and Kickstarter.

8. Peer-to-peer lending (P2P)

Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending is similar to acquiring a bank loan, but the loan comes from individuals and you, the borrower, may receive a lower interest rate compared to the rate from a bank. There are various P2P lending sites that act as a middleman between lenders and borrowers including Funding Circle which claims to approve a new loan every five minutes (on the average) and has helped 52,000 established small businesses access finance in the UK.

9. Grants

Appearing in the form of cash, equipment or tools, grants are a great way to boost your business and there are a few schemes that you should know about. The government’s ‘business finance support finder’ directory lists over 300 direct grant agencies across the UK, aiming to help you find the right scheme for your start-up or business, including many schemes directed at young people and women to increase their opportunities.

Increase your chance of securing business funding

Before you start preparing a business plan and financial forecast, talk to a business growth specialist like our team here at Berley who has gone through this with other companies before. We can help you prepare the financial data and run through your presentation, making sure that what you pitch will be relevant to your investors.

When it is time to face your investors, the following tips may prove useful:

  • Compile your financial data into easy-to-understand charts.
  • Keep your pitch or presentation short, focusing on vital aspects like how your services or products will help your potential customers. Do not ramble.
  • Let them ask questions. Asking questions is a way of showing interest while seeking clarification and obtaining information.
  • Apart from cash, check how they can help you. Investors usually have useful connections and are well-placed to help your business grow.

Trust Berley for expert business advice

At Berley, we believe in helping entrepreneurs with their finances, including funding advise that will help the business succeed. Kick-start the conversation by calling us on 020 7636 9094 today.

In addition, our small business accountants in London can also support your business in the following areas:

  • Tax advice and tax planning
  • Completing tax returns
  • VAT
  • Payroll and PAYE
  • Management accounts
  • Bookkeeping
  • Company audit

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This post is intended to provide information of general interest about current business/ accounting issues. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances.