The last-ever Spring Budget: The business impact

Spring

On 8 March, Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his final spring budget. From 2017, the budget will be moving to the autumn, with a spring statement instead. The intention is to allow more time for changes to be made before the next tax year.

Key points

Here are some of the key points that were announced:

  • Growth in the UK economy picked up through 2016, and the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts that the UK economy will grow by 2% in 2017, at a slightly slower rate in 2018, and then up to 2% in 2021
  • Britain’s debt stands at nearly £1.7 trillion – around £62,000 for every household in the country. In 2009-10 the UK borrowed £1 in every £5 spent. This year it is set to be £1 in every £15. Borrowing is forecast to reduce by nearly three quarters by 2016-17.
  • Employment has reached a record high of 31.8 million people

How the Budget affects SMEs

Here are some of the ways that SMEs and start-ups will be affected by the recent announcements:

  • There is a cut in dividend allowance for company shareholders
  • If you are an unincorporated business with an annual turnover below the VAT registration threshold, Making Tax Digital will become mandatory in April 2019 – after that, you will have to use digital software to keep your tax records and update HMRC every quarter
  • Self-employed people will have to pay increased National Insurance Contributions to bring them closer into line with employed people. From 2018, Class 2 NICs will be abolished. Class 4 NICs will rise to 10% in April 2018 and to 11% in April 2019.
    Update 15 March: The government has announced a U-turn on self-employed VAT, as explained in this BBC report.
  • Small businesses with minimal expenses (less than £2,000 a year) will now have to pay 16.5% under the Flat Rate VAT scheme

Rising business rates

We’ve written about rising business rates before, but here are some of the ways the Chancellor is sweetening the pill:

  • Business rates are increasing for certain sectors, especially the digital economy – but no small business that is coming out of small business rates relief will pay more than £600 more in business rates this year compared with 2016-17
  • Local authorities have been granted £300 million of discretionary relief they can use to help businesses most affected by the revaluation
  • From April 2017, pubs with a rateable value up to £100,000 will be able to claim a discount for of £1,000 on their business rates for one year

Consumer protection

Your business may be fined if you mislead or mistreat consumers. For example, if you charge consumers unexpectedly when a subscription is renewed or a free trial ends, or if your terms and conditions are too long, complicated or jargon-filled.

Investment in innovation

The Chancellor confirmed the government’s support of innovation, highlighting the Research and Development (R&D) tax credit scheme. They aim to improve awareness of the scheme among SMEs, and make administrative changes to increase the certainty and simplicity around claims.

£500 million is to be invested in technical education for 16 to 19-year-olds, with new T-levels being introduced from autumn 2019 covering 15 different subjects including construction, digital and agriculture. Students doing high-level technical courses at National Colleges and Institutes of Technology will be able to access maintenance loans from the government.

£270 million has been allocated to the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, to support research and innovation in:

  • Artificial intelligence and robotics that will work in extreme environments
  • Better batteries for electric vehicles that will help improve our air quality
  • Medicine manufacturing technologies to speed up patient access to drugs

£210 million will create new fellowships and programmes to attract top global talent to conduct research in areas such as bioscience and biotechnology, quantum technologies, and satellite and space technology.

£200 million is going towards local projects to build fast and reliable full-fibre broadband networks.

£90 million will provide 1,000 new PhD places, including in science, technology, engineering and maths.

£16 million is being invested into a national 5G Innovation Network to trial new 5G technology.

EIS tax relief

It has previously been indicated that the government will be reviewing existing tax reliefs aimed at encouraging investment and entrepreneurship (such as the EIS) to ensure that they are “effective, well targeted, and provide value for money”, however, Philip Hammond didn’t mention any change to Enterprise Investment Schemes at this stage.

We can only wait and see…

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @helloakoni or connect with us here.

How Wednesday’s budget could affect SMEs

Houses of Parliament

The final Spring Budget is on 8 March. From next year the Budget is moving to Autumn, with a Spring Statement. This change gives time for tax changes to be made in advance of the tax year, and provides businesses with more time to plan, if necessary.

Forecasts are showing sharp growth with borrowing lower than anticipated, and a £45 billion tax windfall for the Treasury in the next five years. January’s tax receipts are at the highest level since 1999, but Chancellor Philip Hammond is quoted as saying: “There is no pot of money under my desk.”

In this article, we’ve compiled some of the main predictions that will impact you and your business, and look forward to hearing what is announced on Wednesday.

Business rates

According to reports, some firms face increases of up to 400% in the April business rates hike.

The Chancellor has recently indicated that he is “alive” to the impact this have on some High Street shops, and “open” about finding ways to help.

Business rates are a property tax that doesn’t apply in the digital economy, and the Government is trying to ensure that online retailers such as Amazon don’t benefit to the detriment of traditional High Street retailers.

We expect he will announce some immediate measures that will mitigate the worst effects on SMEs (such as transitional relief), with more fundamental reforms to come in the future. No additional help is expected for supermarkets and corporations.

Misleading contracts

Companies that mislead or rip off consumers are to be targeted, because Ministers want to force firms to use plain English and make key terms more obvious. If not, they face a fine.

The Citizens’ Advice service estimates that 2 million consumers per year have problems cancelling subscriptions, and research shows that 42% of people are paying for at least one subscription they don’t use, such as gym membership.

Consumer watchdog Which? found that 90% of people ticked to agree with online T&Cs in the past year but only 16% always read them. For one thing, T&Cs are often very long, for example, contracts for mobile phones can run up to 40,000 words. They also contain acronyms and legal or financial jargon that mean people don’t fully understand what they are signing.

Plans will be therefore be unveiled to fine companies that tie people into long contracts or unexpected fees in their terms and conditions.

There may also be a crackdown on rolling subscriptions that renew automatically after a free trial, with new rules to ensure consumers are offered the chance to cancel the agreement.

Science and innovation boost

The Chancellor is expected to announce a £500 million boost from the National Productivity Investment Fund, to support science and technology.

Around £270 million will be made available for pioneering projects such as:

  • Technology that operates in extreme and hazardous environments
  • Cutting-edge artificial intelligence
  • Robots for off-shore and nuclear energy, space and mining
  • Batteries for the next generation of electric cars
  • Accelerating patient access to new drugs, by developing speedy new ways to manufacture medicine

£200 million will go towards new fellowships for researchers in areas aligned to the government’s industrial strategy.

A further £90 million will fund 1,000 PhD research projects in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), with extra cash for investment in 5G communications.

Brexit

British businesses are calling for economic stability during the Brexit negotiations. The Confederation of British Industry says that uncertainty dampens investment and higher inflation erodes the growth in consumer spending.

Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-General of the CBI, said: “By supporting businesses to invest, the government can promote growth at a critical time.”

Rain Newton-Smith, CBI chief economist, said: “Prioritising stability will inject further confidence in the economy now, and help boost the country’s productivity and prosperity for the future.”

Anything is possible after Article 50 is triggered at the end of March. Bigger measures are likely to be reserved until the Autumn Budget, so the Chancellor can see how the economy reacts. Meanwhile, we know he is aiming to keep a pot of money as a safety net, to ensure the country negotiates Brexit with stability.

As always, Akoni will keep you posted.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @helloakoni or connect with us here.

Heard about Small Business Saturday?

Apples

Small Business Saturday has been taking place on the first Saturday in December since 2013. The campaign provides free training workshops, celebrates small business successes, and encourages consumers to support small businesses in their community by ‘shopping local’. Although it focuses on one day, the aim is to change mindsets so people choose small businesses all year round.

This year’s figures are not yet announced, but on Small Business Saturday in 2015, customers spent £623m with small businesses – an increase of 24% on the previous year. #SmallBizSatUK trended at number one all day, with over 100,000 tweets sent, reaching over 25 million people. And over 75% of local council supported the campaign, for example, by providing free parking.

100 small businesses were highlighted in the 100 days running up to this year’s event on 3 December. They attended receptions at Downing Street and The Treasury Drum with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and benefited from exposure on social media and in the local press.

One of the featured businesses in 2016 was Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet! – a pop-up disco for people who love soul, funk and disco music from the 70s and 80s. Founded in 2010, they have performed in South East London and Birmingham, with vinyl DJs, dance line-ups, retro sweets and fancy dress prizes. Ad agency, JWT, called them a “trailblazer” for targeting the under-served 50-something market.

Spice Kitchen in Walsall is a mother-and-son team producing home-ground spices and spice mixes sold online via Etsy and Not On The High Street. They were also finalists in the Guardian Small Business Showcase competition, won a Great Taste Award in 2015 for their garam masala, and received the BBC Producers’ Bursary Award 2015 for up-and-coming food producers. The owners say customers love the products, and the fact that they are a family-run business.

Marvel Plumbing was one of the first businesses to be highlighted in 2016, and organised a fun event on Small Business Saturday to bring other businesses together and expose them to the local community. The company has grown from one man-and-van in 2012 to eight vans and four full-time office staff. They have also been asked to write and deliver part of the gas course for Southgate and Barnet College, so training future gas engineers to meet their high standards.

Small Business Saturday is a non-commercial initiative headed by Director Michelle Ovens MBE. It covers all types of small business, and is free to join. The campaign is supported by high-profile sponsors including American Express, Federation of Small Business, and Vistaprint.

This year, they have even launched a free cookbook containing recipes inspired by small businesses.

Find out more at smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @helloakoni or connect with us here.

What the Autumn statement means for your business

Autumn

Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has delivered his first Autumn statement. Most announcements came as no surprise, with core messages about continuity of financial stability and control of public spending.

The statement was considered and concise, which is encouraging at a time of uncertainty. However, business groups interviewed by the Guardian didn’t consider the statement bold enough, and were disappointed that it didn’t tackle business rates or provide support following the Brexit vote.

Here are some of the headlines:

Impact on business

To reinforce Britain’s competitiveness while negotiating Brexit, Hammond confirmed he will stick to the business tax roadmap that was announced in March, with Corporation tax reducing to 17% and a reduction to business rates worth £6.7bn.

Funding

In an effort to boost the long-term economy and reduce the ‘productivity gap’, £23bn is going into a new National Productivity Investment Fund, including:

  • £7.2bn to tackle congestion and transport
  • £7.bn to support house-building (including £3bn Home Builders Fund to unlock finance for over 200,000 homes)
  • £4.7bn towards science and innovation
  • £2bn to accelerate construction on public sector land
  • £1.1bn for local infrastructure
  • Over £1bn for digital infrastructure (to encourage the private sector to roll out more full-fibre broadband and support trials of 5G mobile telecoms. What’s more, full-fibre infrastructure will benefit from 100% business rates relief for five years from April 2017.)
  • £27m development funding for the Cambridge-Oxford growth corridor (as recommended by the National Infrastructure Commission)

To make Britain the ‘go to’ place for science and innovation, these sectors will also benefit from an extra £2bn of funding per year for business research and development.

£400m is being invested into Venture Capital Funds from the British Business Bank, to:

  • Unlock up to £1bn of investment in innovative firms planning to scale up
  • Review to identify barriers to access to long-term finance for growing firms
  • Funding from the Department for International Trade for FinTech specialists

Benefits in kind reformed

Tax will become payable by employees who sacrifice salary to receive ‘benefits in kind’, except:

  • Cycle to work scheme
  • Ultra-low emission cars
  • Pension savings
  • Childcare

HMRC expects to gain approximately £2m through this measure.

Economic forecasts downgraded

As a result of the EU Referendum decision, economic growth is predicted to be 2.4% lower than previously expected. Here are the revised OBR forecasts:

  • 2016: 2.1%
  • 2017: 1.4%
  • 2018: 1.7%

Borrowing increased

Hammond made a distinction between borrowing to cover the deficit and borrowing to invest, and at £122bn, Government borrowing will increase significantly.

New fiscal rules

To protect against bumps during Brexit, Hammond announced three new rules:

  1. Cyclically adjusted borrowing to fall below 2% by the end of this Parliament, and public finances to return to balance as early as possible during the next Parliament
  2. Public sector net debt to fall as a share of GDP by 2020
  3. Welfare spending to be capped

Just About Managing (JAM)

Due to the state of the economy, Hammond avoided this phrase coined by Theresa May, but did announce:

  • Freeze in fuel duty
  • Offset the rising cost of foreign holidays
  • Ban on letting fees being charged to tenants
  • Income tax threshold rising to £12,500
  • Higher rate threshold rising to £50,000
  • Minimum wage rising to £7.50 (in 2017)
  • Possibility of removing the pensions triple-lock (after 2020)

Budget moved to Autumn

To allow time for tax changes to be made in advance of the tax year, the Budget is moving to Autumn. That means no more Autumn Statements – from 2018, there will be a Spring Statement instead. At least that means major changes will only happen once a year.

If legal hurdles are overcome and Article 50 is triggered at the end of March 2017, the final Spring Budget will be a significant measure of the nation’s fiscal position.

Going forward

Although there are many challenges and changes to the economic climate, the Government is committed to boosting business in the UK.

Philip Hammond said: “My priority is to ensure that Britain remains the number one destination for business – creating the investment, the jobs and the prosperity to protect our long-term future.”

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @helloakoni or connect with us here.

Great British Brilliance: From 15 to 67 Medals in 20 Years

Historic. Epic. Astonishing. Dazzling. Awe-inspiring. Extraordinary. Mesmerising. Heroic.

Words seem so inadequate when trying to describe what most of us are feeling about Britain’s performance at Rio2016.

The spirit of the Brazilian Olympics started like a slow burning flame. It was most likely sparked here back home on Day 2, when 21-year-old Adam Peaty, won gold for the 100m breaststroke. Then on the same day, Jazmin Carlin, won a silver medal in the 400m freestyle. The days that followed fanned that Olympic spirit flame until it became wilder and swept more and more of us along with it. There was something for everyone – action, drama, thrillers and lovestories – all unfolding live by the second, and it was addictive.

On the second last day of the Games, when we were already gasping at the dreamy results, we were in for more treats:

First, Liam Heath won Gold in the men’s kayak 200m sprint.

… Shortly after that, Vicky Holland was awarded a Bronze medal after her gruelling race in the women’s triathlon,

… then boxing flyweight, 33 year old Nicola Adams, won Gold – becoming the first British boxer to retain an Olympic title in 92 years.

… Next came Bianca Walkden, with a Bronze medal, beating Morocco’s Wiam Dislam.

… Then came one of the highlights for millions around the globe: possibly the greatest TeamGB athlete of his time, Mo Farah ran to clinch his incredible “Double Double”. Witnessing this sporting icon trip and then get back up to take the men’s 5,000m gold medal, was enough to bring many to tears. Indeed, Mo Farah made Olympic history by winning the 5,000m and 10,000m in both the London and Rio games.

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Mo Farah wins the 5,000m and 10,000m Mens track events, achieving his “Double Double” gold

But there was more to come. Team GB women’s 4 x 400m relay, won a bronze medal – Ceilidh Doyle, Anyika Onuorh, Emily Diamond and Christine Ohuruogo bringing it home in style.

Super heavyweight boxer Joe Joyce’s silver medal brought the total medal count for Great Britain to an outstanding 67, second in the world to the USA – even beating China, and smashing a 108-year-old national record for most medals won.

Compare that to the 15 medals won in 1996 – which included a solitary gold medal won by Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent, who won the men’s coxless pair in the Atlanta Games.

… That’s a mere 20 years gap between 15 and 67 medals.

Have a look at the detailed TeamGB Rio Olympic 2016 medal table here.

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Great Britain’s medal takings at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 – BBC

For any nation competing, success at the Olympics demands a focussed plan and sufficient funding to implement this plan. Funding is essential to nurture athletes from a young age, through specialist training programmes, by providing subsidies, research, facilities, equipment and expert trainers.

In Britain, the establishment of the National Lottery was pivotal to this plan to succeed, and it started funding the World Class Performance Programme – which was implemented in 1997, after the 1996 Atlanta Olympics result. The British have increased spending on Olympic sports from £5m a year before the 1996 Atlanta Games – when the UK came 36th in the medals tables, to £350m (€410m) by Rio 2016, where it came second.

Regarding focus: The Olympics is a competition where you need to be the best in the world to even qualify. Being a Jack of all Trades and a Master of none is simply not an option here.

After the 1996 Olympics, it was decided to concentrate funding and focus only on sports that we performed in. This decisive move, that caused much controversy worked. By focussing on what British teams had an advantage at already, they already had a foot on the road to a medal. The Brits also concentrated on sports are not hugely popular or widely played – this gave them more of a chance of a medal with less competition – pretty clever “niche market” strategy.

In 2006, the year after London won the right to host the 2012 Games, UK Sport became responsible for all performance funding, which is reflected in figures that have risen from just under £60m for Sydney to the current total for Rio.In essence, every citizen has donated £ 1 per year to the training of this team.

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After an heroic battle, British champ Andy Murray beat Juan Martin del Porto to win gold in the Men’s Singles tennis event

Rio Olympics – the connections that will keep giving:

On the day of the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics, UK trade minister Lord Price said in his speech at British House in Rio that the Olympic Games reminded us all that we are equals united by sport, and that this extended to other areas. He wanted Brazilian investors to know that the UK was “open for business”. He had lead the first trade mission to Argentina in May, before the brexit result was announced, and had said at the time that the growing economies of Latin America offered huge opportunity for British business.

UK suppliers won contracts in excess of £ 150m for the Rio Games, confirming that small firms are keen to trade with South America. FSB national chairman, Mike Cherry has said that the number of small businesses exporting to the continent have increased by 50% over the past five years.

Latin American countries have expressed an interest in striking free trade deals with the UK in the wake of Britain leaving the EU, and Brazil’s foreign minister, José Serra, said last month he would look to open negotiations via Mercosur, the five-member trading bloc.

With our team’s commendable behavior and performance throughout the Games, the cultural diversity in the team and diverse talents represented, Britain has really made it clear to the rest of the planet that this small Great island is Ready to do Great Business with the world.

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Team Great Britain – Thank You from every one of us, united as a nation, claiming our place on the podium at the Greatest Show on Earth

Contact Felicia Meyerowitz felicia@strongjones.co.uk / @feliciatedx

 

 

 

 

Email Marketing Basics for your Business

One could not have failed to have noticed that the festive season is upon us once more, bringing with it the annual year end frenzied product push. Our team at Akoni thought it particularly relevant to highlight ways in which your business can optimise your email marketing to maximise sales from existing subscribers or prospective client bases.

Email marketing is the most powerful tool of a marketer – it is easy to measure ROI and is a tool that enables business to reach the customer directly. It is often mistakenly assumed in marketing that a measurement of deliverability is simply the proportion of emails that were ‘accepted’. If an email does not bounce back or is not rejected, it does not necessarily mean that it has been delivered.

Delivery rate is a calculation of mail sent minus the volume that bounced. However, this is quite misleading as it doesn’t take into account the emails that are simply filtered into spam files or are ignored. Overall, deliverability is making sure you are doing what you can to put yourself in the best position to be actually seen by your subscribers, says Tom Corbett of Experian.

70 per cent of mail sent globally being considered spam by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), which have developed settings which the customer can adjust to suit their unique inbox preferences. These filters massively reduce the volume coming to an inbox. However, the interpretation of spam differs according to personal preference. As a result, what is becoming increasingly important is personalisation in email communication – making your email wanted is the key to a successful email campaign.

Know Your Client

Up to date research into customer behaviour and market analysis will show you where and how you should target your audiences effectively. This will help hone your campaign and make sure it appeals to the right group. This is the most important step in any marketing campaign by far, as everything starts here.

Make Customers Feel Special

Creating a feeling of belonging to an exclusive club or a select group is an extremely effective marketing tool. People are naturally competitive, and want to be made to feel special, the chosen ones – more superior. By making sure that your clients are given VIP passes, or exclusive prices or a top-class service reserved for a few, you are immediately tapping into a very powerful psychological tool by stroking their ego’s, catching their attention and creating a bond.

A Clear, Simple Message – Repeated

Know what your company does, what they stand for and why the customer needs your product. Get your branding right. Keeping to the basic core with simple, direct messages.Repeating the lines that are part of your branding core, that won’t change and are easily associated with your brand will create a sense of familiarity and a sense of trust for your customers. They will think of your brand when they hear similar words, or catch phrases. Own your taglines.

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Always focus on the customer. Personalised campaigns are becoming more and more essential.

Well Presented

Employ a designer or use the templates provided in tools available. Design is essential as we are all far more likely to read visuals than words. Make sure that you tap into this, as getting simple elements like the colour tone wrong can have expensive consequences. Watch spelling and grammar.

Regular Emails

Keeping in touch with customers on a regular basis is important. It reinforces the notion that your company is reliable and trustworthy. Keep postings or mail drops to the same time on the same day. Be aware that too many emails a week can lead to engagement fatigue – making your company an enemy as opposed to friend.

Strong Call to Action

It’s all very well having a clear email selling you something, but people need instructions. The Call to Action is the moment a potential target takes the bait – the conversion of effort to profit. Tell people what you want them to do, very short, sharp and clear, containing a verb – three words maximum. “BUY NOW” or “ENTER HERE”

Sense of Urgency

The sense that this offer is only available for a short period of time certainly makes it more valuable. Some emails have an actual clock feature that counts down the time till the offer expires. It puts incredible pressure on the customer, which is effective.

Choosing the Right Business Tools

There are many examples of excellent products out there which offer top class  email marketing software (MailChimp,  ConstantContact, Campaignmaster) through to all-in-one CRM and Sales package tools such as Hubspot, Salesforce and Pipedrive . It’s imperative to find a solution that fits your brand’s unique needs and requirements. When you are starting out, here are some key items to take note of and factor in before settling on a CRM system:

  • Does it offer support? What are the hours that support is offered in?
  • Is there training offered as part of the package? If not, how much extra will this cost?
  • Does it integrate easily with your current systems?
  • Find out how pricing scales, the longer you use it, and the more features you engage – especially regarding database size. Are there add-on features available or do you have to upgrade for more features or additional contacts? Are there hidden fees? Limits of messages sent a month? Charges to add users?
  • Find out if the software is designed for use by both sales and marketing. How it will better align sales and marketing teams? Ask for examples of how each team can use it. Get your marketing and sales teams to sample different tools before deciding on one.
  • Does the platform manage full customer life cycles, or only leads and prospects? You want to be able to engage and nurture contacts throughout the entire life cycle. After all, the best customer you can get is the one you already have.
  • Ask about email deliverability, specifically the vendor’s inbox and deliverability rate.
  • Is data available to track and assess progress?
  • Ensure the software offers mobile optimised landing pages and forms, as well as responsive email templates. Do you have additional mobile technology needs? It is essential that the software can meet your mobile requirements.

There is no replacement for personal engagement with clients. People want to see that they are valued and can trust your service if they engage it. That is what marketing comes down to – convincing the your client base that your product is better than the next. Try and humanise your email communication as much as possible – making your email wanted is the key to a successful mail programme.

– Akoni Hub provides SME focused cash management tools and solutions. Follow us on twitter @helloakoni or Connect with us here

Brexit, the US Election and British Business

After a seemingly endless trail to these fraught US elections – which have featured more turbulence, twists and turns than a series of Game of Thrones – businessman Donald Trump has become the 45th President of the United States. Indeed, 2016 will go down in history as one of the most volatile financial years ever. With the uncertainty of Brexit dangling over their heads like the Sword of Damocles, hundreds of Britain-based SME’s are now facing the impact of “Trumponomics” on top of Brexit uncertainties.

As expected, the dollar immediately plummeted after Trump’s victory, and may be unstable for a while. The US economy may take time to settle before changes start to kick in. The main European markets ultimately ended the day up – as such the expected meltdown did not occur. Experts are saying that radical change is unlikely to happen immediately – which is good news for stock markets. How the US economy reacts over the next few years will be interesting to watch, however.

Trump’s victory speech certainly soothed some fraught nerves, and towards the end of the day many markets were calmer. The President Elect spoke of healing and uniting the nation, he offered his thanks to Hillary Clinton for her service and hard work over the years, and talked about global relations.

While a Trump presidency is likely to add to global economic uncertainty, analysts believe the impact on the UK economy will – at least in the short term – be limited. Capital Economics has left its forecasts for UK growth unchanged 1.5pc in 2017 and 2.5pc in 2018 following the US election result. Outside the EU, the USA is the UK’s biggest export market, with a fifth of UK goods and services sent to the world’s biggest economy, equivalent to 6pc of UK gross domestic product (GDP). But Jonathan Loynes, an economist at Capital Economics, argues that there are several reasons why a Trump presidency would not be as painful for the UK, as it might be for other European countries. He sights factors such as the plunge in the value of the pound following Brexit – ultimately helping the UK to regain it’s competitiveness; a weaker dollar against low yielding currencies could help the pound to “find a floor”, easing concerns about runaway inflation. He also added that the political consequences for the UK, due to our good relationship with the US, plus the bonus that the UK has already had its “revolution” against the establishment, as positive factors. Brexit inspired the Trump vote, while mainstream politicians in the euro-zone – especially France, Italy and Germany – will be looking on with considerable unease while populist parties take encouragement from the events that have unfolded in the US and teh UK.

Britain’s main stock index, the FTSE 100, recovered from it’s early-morning slump, gaining 0,7 percent, while Germany’s DAX was up 0.5 percent and France’s CAC-40 gained 0.5 percent. This pattern has echoed the reaction to the Brexit vote – only it happened much faster: complacency, surprise and panic followed by swift recovery. Maybe Trump will prove to be less controversial than he has promised? Let’s hope so.

Practically speaking, there is a bit of breathing space before all these policy changes would come into being. In a Brexit scenario, the process of leaving the EU will take two years before it is phased in. The US president is sworn into office in January 2017, after which policies that President Trump has mentioned in his campaign will need to be passed by the Senate – and his revolutionary policies may or may not be approved by the extremely conservative administration in place.

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Extraordinary times call for caution and sensible business practice.

In terms of practical advice for businesses, it is crucial that they use this period to renegotiate, reassess and re-strategise to manage all foreign exchange risks. Many companies buying US dollars have already shortened the length of their forward contracts significantly, dropping these from an average of 90 working days per contract to less than 70 days, in anticipation of financial upheaval. Some 75 per cent of the earnings of the UK’s largest 100 companies come from overseas with many reporting their results in dollars. If we are faced with a situation where the pound becomes weaker, the knock-on effect may be felt down entire supply chains.

It is also on businesses to make sure that these supply chains are performing super-efficiently and cost effectively. It is a good idea to try and renegotiate future deals with one’s current suppliers, or in some cases, seek new suppliers who can offer the best possible deals.

It seems that UK business owners are relentlessly carrying on with business as usual. Given the difficult economic conditions in the recent past and the unpredictability of the future, business owners here have come to believe that with a combination of new technology available (i.e. access to effective ways to market their products online and many business tools) together with their own hard work, an innovative approach and good business management, there is every chance  of succeeding in this economic climate. After all, small businesses are essential to the economy of the UK, and the government knows it. Trump is all about business, hence the world is all about business as never before.

One part of Britain that will have their eye firmly on developments in the USA is Wales. For 70 years the US has been Wales’s top investor, accounting for 40% of the foreign money invested in it, and therefore the ramifications of the Trump administration’s economic policy are of massive interest there. Around 275 US companies are employing 48,000 people operating in the region – a significant chunk of the economy. Welsh exports to the USA are around £2.7bn while imports from the US to Wales are valued at £0.6bn.

Theresa May’s diplomatic message to the President Elect was that Britain and the USA have had an enduring and special relationship based on the values of freedom, democracy and enterprise in the past. The USA has been a close ally of the UK, with British foreign policy being closely coordinated with the US.  This special alliance has been strengthened by close cooperation through the World Wars, the Korean conflict, the Persian Gulf War, in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and in Afghanistan, and through trade agreements such as NATO. The two countries are in constant contact on foreign policy issues and global problems.

After Trump’s election result was confirmed, the UK government has made it clear that it is open to beginning a new trade relationship with the US. Keeping an eye on the business ball but adopting an optimistic outlook, wouldn’t it be excellent if trade relations with the US were favourably negotiated for Britain – offering new and favourable markets as an alternative, or an addition, to existing European markets after Brexit kicks in?

As long as businesses are prepared for the inevitable ups and downs ahead by having various risk mitigation plans, including buffers and insurance strategies for padding, there is a great chance that the effects of these upheavals can be minimised – even optimised.

Felicia Meyerowitz Singh (@Feliciatedx) is CEO of Akoni – email her here.

Onwards and Upwards: StrongJones renames itself Akoni

There are many advantages to being involved in the very first stages of a startup: the buzz of pitching to potential investors; the pressure to innovate and invent new and improved product on a regular basis; the kick of meeting new recruits to the Dream pretty much every time you see each other. You form a formidable posse knowing that each of you has a common belief in the vision of your startup’s success.

Ours is a startup company in the earliest phase of development. The idea behind the business is feasible – we’ve proved that with our model works well: we’ve identified our target market, and it looks promisingly large enough to sustain a business – in fact the more research we do, the better it looks. No doubt changes will be made and pretty much every aspect of the company will be revised and reviewed many times until perfected, but the point is, the ball is in motion, and it’s direction is being determined by our little team. 

As part of the development process, we’ve been trying out names for our startup. We’ve all been looking at the market reactions to the original name, StrongJones, and we’ve been engaging in much “new name” banter. This has lead to much team hilarity, as you can imagine – but it has also lead to much thought about our brand essence, and where we are heading.

As a consequence, it has been unanimously decided that StrongJones no longer suits us, we have moved on. Our target market is More in so many ways. We need a name that is more inclusive – more accessible and more current, after all our target market is professional, money-savvy, forward thinking and innovative.

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OLD LOGO AND NAME: StrongJones is being replaced with the more up-to-date name, “Akoni”

 Out with the old, and in with the new

We have decided on “Akoni” as our new business name (in case you were wondering, Akoni is pronounced: [ 3 syll. a-ko-ni, ak-oni ] ahKOW-Niy- †). Akoni is often used in the Hawaii as a name derived from the longer version Akonani – however its language of origin is Latin, it being a variant form of the English male name Anthony. Akonani, Akoni and Anthony all mean (more or less) the same thing: “inestimable or priceless”.

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NEW LOGO AND NEW NAME: Akoni means “Invaluable”

Akoni has been born out of a real need to help SME owners to find a better way to maximise the cash savings they have worked so hard to accumulate. The driven and experienced team is headed up by Felicia Meyerowitz Singh, no stranger to the finance world. Felicia, chief tech genius, Panos Stavvos, and experienced banking industry advisor, Yann Gindre, met whilst studying at London Business School, and have managed to set up an experienced and skilled team, bringing in Duncan Goldie-Morrison as the chairman. One could hardly wish for a better grouping of capable business brains whose combined extensive experience covers global and UK banking, insurance, financial accounting and systems and technology, data analysis and especially SME businesses.

So – watch out for the next steps in our Akoni evolution. This is a startup now – but just you wait. Akoni will make an enormous difference to SME businesses across the UK – and further afield – in the near future. In the meantime, the team behind the new name will keep those innovative ideas coming, because they’re passionate about making Akoni a success.

Heather Greig (@HMAndersonGreig) is PR and CRM at Akoni – email her here

Big Data, Small Data and SMEs

Data is vital to strategy and insight in the business world today, and in the future. But what exactly are Big Data and small data, and how are they useful to small business?

What is Big Data?

Big Data refers to massive sets of “raw” data (numbers, letters, symbols) that are too large or complex to store in traditional processing applications. What makes Big Data a massive challenge is how to organise, interpret and utilise this deluge of “chaotic” information most effectively – without this it is of little value.

The term, “Big Data”, was actually coined the 1990’s, and is different to other data because it has certain features – known as the three Vs:

  • Volume on an unprecedented scale, and this is increasing continuously. The global technological per-capita capacity to keep information doubles every 40 months. Since 2012, 2.5 Exabyte of data is generated every day;
  • Velocity – the speed in which it comes in;
  • Variety – the range of sources it comes from. Data is gathered from a myriad of sources: mobile devices, cameras, software, microphones, wireless networks, remote sensing, radio-frequency identification readers – and the cheaper and more accessible these become, the more data there is.

Big data is associated with large companies, however, in many cases it could equally benefit SME’s, simply due to the agile nature of these types of businesses. Even the most potent insights are valueless if your business cannot act on them in a timely fashion. Smaller businesses have this advantage, being suited to act on data-derived insights with speed and efficiency.

In the online gaming industry, for example, SME’s are already running Big Data technology within their enterprise without even thinking about it as such. Bookmaker WinUnited has put in place a MongoDB open source non-relational database from 10gen to bring its gambling products together and help it to better update betting odds in real time. This allows them to service customers and update their information as it happens – essential qualities that define this industry.

By running Big Data through a hosted service such as MetaMarkets, the small business can benefit from immediate insight – which needs to be acted upon, and used timeously to be of value. If SMEs collaborate with a channel partner, such as Splunk, they can take advantage of some of the most effective methods to gain necessary data insight, while gaining a deep level of industry expertise. This ensures the business maximises revenues, is able to strategize and develop new products as the market feedback reflects consumer needs. It all depends on how much the SME has to spend and why what the purpose of the data is for.

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Data is useless if one is not able to interpret it, and use it effectively.

Small Data is the new Big Thing for SME’s

Small data is data that one can comprehend easily. In a way, it’s the old “data” – much more accessible, understandable and actionable for everyday tasks than Big Data. Small data is essentially what will shape our future, because where Big Data is all about predicting the future by sifting through millions of data points, small data is really all about the causation of the data, the reason behind the actions – why things happen.

Customer behaviour insight

Small Data is invaluable in SME Marketing, Client Relations and Customer Retention fields, because it clearly and quickly shows trends in product preferences which can help decipher consumer thought processes. This information is used by these departments to predict what products will be popular, how to drive sales in their target market, and gain customer loyalty by delivering to the needs of the consumer, in the right place at the right time, in the right packaging. Small data can also help to indicate where the company should be developing new product and drive their branding strategy, and therefore increase profits while lowering risk.

Even small data sets from CRM platforms, social media or email marketing programmes can also provide much-needed insight to help businesses understand customer behaviour patterns and showcase trends. Google Analytics offers free data analysis. Hootsuite, Sprout Social’s Sprout Insights, Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Moz Analytics are a few tools to consider which offer great insight into social media behaviour – all aids in helping to understand the client, hone the product delivery and gain insight into product suitability.

Learn about your SME, and gain foresight

Many companies simply want to do better analysis with the data they already have. If one’s company has been operating for a year or more, there is a likelihood that a ton of big data exists in the company records. Information from sales ledgers in various forms such as Excel or QuickBooks provide data sets and interpretable statistics to cross-reference with other information in the company provided by the Marketing and CRM departments, for example. By learning about the way in which your company behaves, one can start to predict trends and prevent potentially damaging scenarios from occurring.

Use data to gain a competitive edge

Barclays provides a free service to SMEs, whereby the business can review their market positioning – which includes a downloadable report based on your postcode, constituency or the region the company operates in. The report includes a breakdown of consumer spending in your region; income and age bands of spending growth; turnover of businesses, analysis of the largest sectors, and commentary on the broader economic situation and impacts on small business. This can be extremely useful in terms of marketing and product development, for example.

Xero, the SME cloud-based accounting platform provider, recently launched Xero Signals, giving small business access to an unprecedented level of data, launching initially for New Zealand, with more countries due to follow. It claims to represent a true signal of the state of the country’s small business economy, based on aggregated data from almost 10,000 businesses. This is incredible industry knowledge if your sector is involved in finance, for example, where cutting edge tools are essential.

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Trend spotting. Data is essential to gain insight, gain foresight and maximise profits in business of any size these days.

In the very beginning, most young SME’s probably just need a good quality CRM system, (Hubspot, Salesforce) or ERP (such as Oracle or Sage) if it’s bigger or more complex, and a proper customer contact strategy. Don’t be fooled into spending vast amounts on over-specced software and data-systems providing which are unnecessarily complicated for one’s small company. Upscale as you grow – your needs will change – but it is essential to take advantage of small data to drive strategy and profit in today’s business world.

A word of advice: An SME needs to understand clearly what it’s objectives are (i.e. to understand competitors / geographies or customers or increase prospect pipeline or sales etc) before launching into data analytics, because otherwise the process can become incredibly confusing and complicated – and fascinating – and one can waste valuable time searching and gaining very little.

At the end of the day, the aim of data is to enable companies to make clearer business decisions and plan for the future – and this is definitely possible using both Big Data and small data for SME’s. It all depends on what the purpose of using the data is, and whether you have a budget. Both are incredibly valuable and essential tools to have in business today. Always remember though: it’s not what knowledge and information one has, it’s what you do with it that counts.

What are your experiences using new FinTech products? We would love to hear from you, please post your comments or or get in touch via our website: Akoni

About Felicia Meyerowitz: I am passionate about technology and innovations in financial services adding value to Small and Mid-size business in a practical way. I work as a co-founder at Akoni, aiming to bring innovation to the key asset within all enterprises – cash. Follow me on @Feliciatedx.

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6 Reasons Why Professionals Want to Work at SMEs

Statistics show that the SME sector continues to grow: 58.3% of small companies plan to take on staff over the next six months, up from 56.7% last year and just 48.9% the year before. There is no doubt that the future of business rests on the bedrock of upcoming SME’s. Small companies are vital to the economy’s growth – and even more so now after Brexit. It is not surprising, therefore, that the perks of working for a small business are being noticed by the best of the jobseekers.

When Linkedin conducted its latest Job Job Satisfaction Survey, it found that 87% of professionals that took part were keen to work for a startup or small business (employing 10 or less than 10 employees), rather than at larger companies. The survey questioned more than 10,000 professionals and over 3,500 employers worldwide. 

There were some surprises amongst the statistics: the survey found that 45% employees of small businesses were Very Satisfied or Fulfilled at work; that SME’s had some of the most loyal employees possible – 3 out of ten 10 wanted to stay where they were for the rest of their lives. Just over one in three small business employees were willing to take a wage cut to work at a startup or small business, and 77% say they would recommend their small business to their friends and family as an employer.

It was found that being able to align one’s values with one’s employers values was crucial to job satisfaction. Salary and promotional opportunities are key motivators for professionals today. Another major factor was work/ life balance (see our previous blog on this) which topped the list – even before salary – for people over 40.

So – why is it so desirable to work for a startup or small business?

1. Small business are perceived as being more flexible – “more human” – when it comes to making demands on their employees. If one is part of a small team, each member matters more – to get employees performing at their best, it is important that they are supported in their work. Working from home, flexible hours, bringing kids or dogs to work – there is often a way of making challenges into advantages for the business and the employee, with a bit of creative thinking.

2. Get ahead – much faster. Because each person in a small company is relied upon from the get go,  taking on further responsibility as the company expands, and therefore your rise through the ranks is quicker. Your talents are also more noticeable because there aren’t another hundred of you doing the same job.

3. Hard, but satisfying work: It goes without saying that you are expected to produce the goods – and often for less – but there are such great rewards. To be involved at the start of a small business is always a good thing – you will ride the wave of success, and be a part of the financial wealth when that comes.

4. Culture fix: Most small businesses are very picky when it comes to new employees – and for good reason. Apart from having to have the appropriate skill set, the candidate also needs to fit into the company culture. Creativity and genius flows in a safe place to innovate and conceptualize – and everyone’s different personalities need to gel, for maximum results. Each company has it’s own quirks and fitting in comfortably with these are essential.

5. Broaden your skill set: In small companies there is more likelihood of learning new skills and possibly even working across different departments. Sometimes everyone needs to “muck in” to finish a presentation for a deadline or cover for someone who is off on leave. You’ll see how the business operates as a whole, and develop transferable skills.

6. You can make a big difference: In an a small business it is hands-on. The chance to grow and to be there as the company develops, is exciting. Many people feel satisfied in their jobs at SME’s because they’re able to see real, tangible results of their work.

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Small business may be the most attractive employment option to professionals, yet it struggles to reach the right talent. Social media and an online presence can help boost your profile in the right places in order to overcome this challenge. Image: Pexels.com

Interestingly, SME owners who took part in the same survey said that they found it difficult to attract the talent they need, because of competition from larger organisations in the job market. They battled to become noticed.

Many SME’s don’t have a specific brand – they often grow fast and are so busy managing this, that their very persona is never honed. This is an essential step in the growth of a successful small business – if you don’t know who you are – what your authentic core values are – how are customers or top drawer job-seeking professionals going to find you? Providing happy employees the brand marketing tools to sing your praises over social media, small businesses can really make an impact in all the right areas.

Times are changing – a grand job title is not much of a motivator any more. Compensation, work-life balance and opportunities for advancement rank as the three major motivators amongst job-hunters. They want to be contributors who can make a positive impact on a business, hopefully learning new skills in the process. That is why SME’s are attracting the talent they deserve, and shall continue to do so.

Heather Greig is PR and CRM at Akoni – contact her here