June / July 2018 Important dates

Date What’s Due
1/06 Corporation tax for year to 31/8/17 (unless pay quarterly)
19/06 PAYE & NIC deductions, and CIS return and tax, for month to 5/6/18 (due 22/06 if you pay electronically)
1/07 Corporation tax for year to 30/9/17 (unless pay quarterly)
5/07 Last date for agreeing PAYE settlement agreements for 2017/18 employee benefits
5/07 Deadline for agents and tenants to submit returns of rent paid to non-resident landlords and tax deducted for 2017/18
06/07 Deadline for forms P11D and P11D(b) for 2017/18  tax year
19/07 PAYE & NIC deductions, and CIS return and tax, for month to 5/7/18 (due 22/07 if you pay electronically)
31/7 50% payment on account of 2018/19 tax liability due
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Building a business development culture

As the business world becomes ever more competitive, it has become increasingly important to create a business development culture within firms. To achieve this, the whole firm must shift its focus from a culture of working “in” the business to also taking some time to work “on” the business.

Everyone has a role to play in business development
The responsibility for business development shouldn’t just lie with your sales team or your marketing team. Everyone has a role to play in developing new business for your firm. Every employee has a network of friends and associates. Perhaps some of those friends could become customers of your firm – you just need your employees to ask them for their business.

Provide training and support
Business development skills can be learned and cultivated. With the right training, feedback and support, your people can learn how to go about effective business development. It can be useful to conduct regular meetings with your people in order to brainstorm ideas and reinforce the message that “everyone can help to bring in a new customer or two”.

Remuneration and reward
Ensure that your business has effective measurement, accountability and reward structures in place for business development activity. Perhaps you can offer a percentage commission to anyone who brings in a new customer. In addition, you can create objectives for each team member, which tie in with an annual bonus structure.

Communicate
Ensure that you communicate the firm’s business development goals to all team members across the business. Give recognition to those who have contributed to the firm’s business development efforts and celebrate successes. Internal communication channels can also be useful to ask your team members for ideas in terms of improvements that can be made in order to ensure that everyone is invested in the overall objectives of the firm.

A firm that creates a culture of business development won’t have to rely on a few “rainmakers” to feed the entire business. Instead, everyone can play their part and benefit from creating a client focused firm where everyone can contribute to the success of the business and be rewarded for doing so.

Mobile Device Management

Bring your own device (BYOD) policies have become increasingly popular in the last number of years. However, this has meant small and medium sized businesses have faces new challenges in terms of how to manage company data held on the personal devices of employees.

In addition to security concerns, BYOD makes it very difficult for businesses to maintain consistent standards across various devices and platforms. As such, updating company software can become a challenge. Large enterprise-level businesses manage these logistical challenges through high-level Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions. However, until recently, these systems were prohibitively expensive and were generally out of reach for small to medium sized businesses.

Recently, major tech companies have moved to bring MDM solutions within reach of smaller businesses. For example, VMware recently joined forces with Dell in order to bring is class leading MDM services to small and medium sized businesses. For firms that don’t have in-house IT support, Microsoft has recently launched a new version of Microsoft 365 Business, which has built-in MDM features that are easy to set up and don’t require much on-going maintenance.

These solutions offer key business tools such as the ability to remotely wipe lost devices, instantly roll out updates across numerous devices and manage permissions across your company’s network.

Creating good customer experience

We can all learn something from the world’s leading businesses like Apple, Google and Amazon. These firms have invested millions of pounds in order to find new and better ways to run their various business lines. Here are some tips that can apply to almost any business:

Focus on creating an impeccable customer experience.

If your firm is going to stand out in the current business environment, it needs to create an impeccable experience for its customers. Your customers may be external (i.e. those who purchase your products or services) or internal (your employees, partners, suppliers and management team). Business owners and managers tend to focus on building relationships with external customers.  By spending time focusing on your internal customers, you can make your firm a better place to work. You can help your internal customers to become more efficient, dedicated and bought-into the company vision. This type of internal relationship management comes in many forms, including training, recognition / reward for top performers and taking time to listen to what your internal customers have to say by encouraging feedback.

Google ensures that its researchers, engineers, and product managers all work together throughout projects, which creates feedback loops for Google’s projects. This feedback ensures that internal customers remain creative, empowered, and motivated. As a result, the management team is also better informed.

Employee retention

The best businesses focus on capturing the experience and know-how of their people. The purpose of a business is for it to serve its people, not the other way around. As such, you want your internal customers to be your biggest fans, because the growth of your company depends on it. Apple’s employees love the idea of working for their favourite tech-company. In order to retain these quality employees, Apple must ensure that it remains their favourite tech-brand.

Communication is key to employee retention. The core messages should be that no ideas are too small and that there is no such thing as a silly question. Employees should be encouraged to engage in open communication with people across the business. Another great way to retain employees is to create a work-life balance, which ensures that your people are mentally and physically healthy and happy. You can help by providing programmes that promote healthy living. Happy workers who love their job are far more likely to remain with your firm.

THE ART OF COPYWRITING

In the digital age, content is king. Businesses want to communicate with customers and targets on a regular basis. Firms are now producing more content than ever before for websites, blogs, newsletters, social media and press releases but the quality of that content can vary dramatically. 

Many businesses create their content internally. It is usually produced by subject matter experts or enthusiastic amateurs. Others employ external experts to do the hard work. There is no right or wrong way of producing your content but it is important that there is a degree of consistency across all of your firm’s copy so that the brand values and “feel” of the messaging is consistent.  For example, if your brand majors on providing simple but effective solutions which are “to the point”, then allowing some of your people to produce long-winded content would go against your brand and could effectively undermine it.

Most businesses will have some sort of internal review process which content must go through before being approved for distribution. It is important to have an appropriate number of stakeholders involved in your approval process. Too many and they could drag the approval process out and make the copy very “watered down” compared to the original version. Too few and there is an increased risk of some inappropriate or incorrect content making it through and being published.

How many individuals are involved in the approval process depends on the type of business that you operate. For example, if your firm is a regulated entity, in say, financial services or the legal sector, then you may need to have compliance people involved in your approval process. However in a less regulated industry like fashion, perhaps the approval process should involve a subject matter expert and a product manager.

Regardless of the type of industry that you are in, creating engaging content is key. Whatever you produce must be on-message and should be of interest to your readers. You should aim to tell a story, draw your reader in and show how your product, service or knowledge adds value for your customers or potential customers. Your copy should be well crafted, balanced and should flow. If you are inserting key words for search engine optimisation (SEO) purposes, you should intersperse them throughout your text in a way that seems natural to your reader.

Finally, it is good to have a 4-eyes approach – i.e. 2 people read the content before it is finally published. This helps with sense checking and typo spotting.

Brand consistency

Your firm’s brand isn’t what you say it is. Your brand is what your customers say about your firm when they speak to others about your business.

The brand is the personality your business has developed through your leadership and the systems you and your management team have put in place. Customers will be treated consistently and see the same products or be able to buy the same services.

Lack of brand consistency stands out like a sore thumb. When your customers experience your products or services, look at the website, visit your premises, receive business cards or visit your social networks you want the experience to be consistent. Take a look at a Big 4 accounting firm, their offices around the world will have a consistent look and feel. Their reports will have a similar look, feel and quality regardless of whether they were produced in Bristol or Glasgow. That is brand consistency. Regardless of what you see, feel or experience, you will know it’s their brand and brand consistency isn’t the expensive concept you might think.

Messaging

Your products and / or services should also carry some of the same messaging. If your brand is, for example, “high quality service delivered to all of our clients”, then your messaging should refer to this. Equally, in this example, the product or service itself must be of a very high quality.

Service level

You need to agree, as part of your firm’s strategy, what the service level is that your firm wants to offer to its customers. Whether you want to offer the best service with a premium price or a low price product/service with a budget level of service, this needs to be consistent across your business. You need to set the expectations of your customer and deliver to those expectations. A customer who is attracted to a budget offering will not necessarily expect premium service, for example.

Look and feel

The look of your business should be consistent across products, marketing materials, websites, business cards, signage, offices, etc. Your firm should agree standard colours, fonts, logos and even staff should project a consistent image for your business.