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£2,000 giveaway for advice- hurry!

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Did you know that your business may be entitled to a voucher for up to £2,000 from the government to help finance specialist business support?

Growth Voucher logoThe new Growth Voucher programme helps small businesses get expert advice on:

  • finance and cash flow
  • recruiting and developing staff
  • improving leadership and management skills
  • marketing, attracting and keeping customers
  • making the most of digital technology

and you will be pleased to know that this includes legal advice!

Provided your business meets certain key criteria and you are selected in the random selection process, you will receive a Growth Voucher for up to £2,000 to help finance specialist business support. You simply need to match the amount with your own funds.  The business support needs to be provided by an approved advisor listed in one handy Marketplace hosted by Enterprise Nation. Off to see my lawyer is an approved advisor too, so once you have your Growth Voucher, do feel free to call or email us.  Once you have been advised, you’ll be asked to take part in surveys to find out how the programme has helped you. It is as simple as that!

Details on how to apply:

There are around six stages in the Growth Voucher programme, depending on whether or not participants have been allocated a voucher.

Stage 1  Apply to join the programme on the gov.uk website.

Stage 2  Assessment of your advice needs, either by meeting with an adviser face-to-face or by completing an online questionnaire.

Stage 3: After completing the assessment, you will be given a suggestion about which area of strategic advice would be the most appropriate. You will be told, at this stage, whether or not you have been allocated a Growth Voucher.

Stage 4:You can then find a Growth Voucher adviser on the Enterprise Nation Marketplace.

Stage 5:Remember to agree on a price for the advice and check if it’s suitable to be subsidised using a Growth Voucher. Vouchers will cover up to half of the cost of paying for strategic advice up to a maximum of £2,000 (non-inclusive of VAT).

Stage 6: After receiving and paying for the advice, you then submit a claim for the subsidy. You have to provide evidence that the invoice has been paid and give details of the advice received. Claims will be processed on receipt and should be paid within 30 days.

NOTE: Growth Vouchers can only be used to obtain strategic advice that will help a business to grow. It will not subsidise activities such as building a new website or paying for membership of a professional body. DO check with your advisor before purchasing advice to ensure it qualifies for a subsidy.

‘CASH’ is the key to getting paid

Friday, August 30th, 2013

Every contract should have a clause that deals with payment terms and the mechanics of getting paid. Remember ‘CASH’ and you will cover the basics every time:

Consequences of late payment: interest on late payment, down tools, cancel the contract?

Amount to be paid: does it include VAT, delivery and expenses?

Settlement: is payment to be on completion, in instalments, in arrears..?

How will you be paid- in cash, bank transfer or cheque?

And if you do well, you can put all your hard earned cash in the  Fidelity Fiduciary Bank !

Fidelity Fiduciary Bank film clip

From Mary Poppins
Creator: Walt Disney Corporation

Are you considering starting a business offering services to other businesses?

Friday, July 6th, 2012

It is no surprise that the rate of unemployment is increasing as companies are increasingly making their staff redundant in order to save on costs.  However, companies are still hiring consultants and freelancers – and this is one reason why so many skilled and enterprising people are opting for self-employment, providing services to a number of different companies instead of working in-house for just one.

Nigel Botterill (of Entrepreneur’s Circle) states, “There are now more opportunities for start-ups than ever before in history.  We know historically that the time when most millionaires are created is during a recession and just after.”  And James King (Founder of investment house Find Invest Grow) optimistically points out, “The government’s enterprise investment schemes are providing fantastic economic opportunities [and] creating fertile ground for new businesses to raise finance, especially when compared to investments in more traditional asset classes.”

However, we recommend the following:

  • Before providing your services to another business, make sure you complete any necessary credit checks and due diligence
  • If you are operating as a sole trader, you will be personally liable for debts, and for any claims made against you.  Off To See My Lawyer can help you draft your contracts in order to keep your potential liability to a minimum.
  • Your website will need to state any authorities which regulate your industry
  • Ensure you have appropriate insurance for your business

Will Singapore become the “entrepreneurship capital” of South East Asia?

Monday, May 28th, 2012

There are various reasons why entrepreneurship has not traditionally thrived in Asia.  Relatively speaking, US culture regards failure in business as a positive part of the learning process, and therefore Americans are more inclined to take risks.  Asian culture, however, is less forgiving of failure.  In addition, Hugh Mason (Chief Executive of Joyful Frog Digital Incubator (JFDI)) explains that the traditional method in Asian schools is “all about getting the right answer”, and that “being smart sometimes weighs against entrepreneurship”.

Traditionally Singapore has been considered by many in the business world as a gateway to South East Asia, as it represents a relatively small market of five million people.  Investors often choose to temporarily place their money in Singapore before investing in larger markets in the region such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.  However Angel investors and venture capital funds are increasingly seeking investment opportunities in Singapore itself.

A growing number of educational institutions are running entrepreneurship programmes and providing mentoring opportunities; and the Singaporean government are actively removing regulatory barriers in a bid to encourage entrepreneurship.  Ron Mahabir (found of Asia Cleantech Capital) states that “While the government has done a great job of loans and grant programmes, culturally it’s very difficult to push entrepreneurship very quickly.”  Change, however, is undoubtedly underway in Singapore.  In fact, according to the WorldBank, Singapore ranks at Number One in the world “for ease of doing business, and Number Four “for starting a business”.

Singapore-based JFDI is working in partnership with SingTel [a subsidiary of a major telecommunications company] to run an accelerator programme for start-ups from around Asia.  This program allocates start-up teams from around the South East Asia with mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs and specialists for 100 days, after which the start-ups can pitch to investors.  Wong Meng Weng (who helped start JFDI) says, “I see Singapore as the technology and start-up capital of South East Asia, not unlike the US where you recruit from around the world and get them to come into Silicon Valley”.

Event – Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Going for Gold

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

This event is intended for existing small business owners who have a new idea for their business but aren’t sure how to take it to the next stage.

Led by entrepreneurs Stephen Frear and Mandy Haberman, the evening will provide support and advice about business strategy and sustainability; branding; intellectual property; product development; and marketing.  You will also find out about about a new business support programme “Innovating for Growth”.

The event will take place at The British Library Conference Centre on Wednesday 23 May 2012, 18.15 – 21.00; and costs £5 to attend.

In order to book a place, you can either contact the Box Office by telephoning: 01937 546546, or via the website: http://www.bl.uk/whatson/events/event131216.html

Female Entrepreneur Focus: Gennese Williams

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

The test for a true entrepreneur is to see whether the person in question has turned an adverse situation into a successful enterprise.

When Gennese Williams lost the sight of both her eyes in 2007, she decided she could no longer work for anyone again.  Far from burning her bridges, however, she built upon her existing experience in beauty, music and management to start her own business, MGW London.  She merrily believes in the mantras, “What you think you are worthy of, is what you will attract”; and “You change your reality when you change your mentality”.  In addition, when times are especially difficult, she recommends taking a break and “switching off from everyone” in order to recharge one’s motivation and creativity.

MGW London is an ambitious management and business consultancy agency.  In addition it has its own in-house production, make up, hair stylists and fashion stylists’ team, and a graphic design team (run by her brother); and together they provide a range of services to manage events, projects and brands.

Ms Williams says that the most effective way of attracting clients is by word of mouth and personal recommendations.  In addition she favours social media as it gives prospective clients “the freedom to check me out before they approach us”.

Her advice to other business owners is to remain dedicated to clients; to “be professional at all times, master your craft and listen to your clients’ needs”; and to “always be steps ahead to achieve the best and don’t sleep until you know the job is complete for that day”.

Can you afford to start up your own business?

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

If you have any misgivings about whether you can afford to start up and run a business, Jo Tall will happily meet you for a preliminary consultation.  Off To See My Lawyer are proud to have successfully helped launch many small businesses – but equally we take pride in our honest and realistic advice.  If we consider that you will be taking too many risks (– financial or otherwise) we will let you know.

Here is a non-exhaustive checklist to help you assess whether you can afford to start a new business:

  1. Off To See My Lawyer provide an extremely cost effective service, but please consider whether you are able to afford legal advice.
  2. You may wish to pay for other professional advice, such as from an accountant, or a web designer, and/or advice from PR experts.
  3. You may require professional assistance in order to draft your initial business plan, and/or business plan software.
  4. Most banks incur a small fee in order to open a business account.
  5. As you would expect, there are fees incurred for incorporating a business into a company; for registering a trade mark; for registering yourself as a data controller; etc.  And you may need to purchase certain licenses and permits in order to run your particular business.
  6. You may wish to insure your business or assets.  Premium rates are variable.
  7. If you wish to rent or buy the premises from which you will run your business, you will need to consider these costs – as well as utilities bills.
  8. The costs involved in promoting your business will add up.  For example – stationery and printing; professional branding/advertising advice; etc.
  9. Machinery and equipment, and IT systems are pricey but necessary assets.
  10. It very much depends on the type of business you are running – but you may need to pay for materials from which to manufacture your products, or stock for wholesale.
  11. Of course, once your business is up and running, you cannot pocket every incoming penny, as there are various taxes to be paid!

While the intended outcome of employing staff is to increase your profits, employees add to your list of burdens and liabilities.  You will need to draft contracts of employment, deal with relevant taxation issues, invest in time (and perhaps money) in training your staff, etc.

Mayoral Election Campaign Lowdown for Small Businesses…

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Who should London entrepreneurs vote for?

Is it possible that the Mayor of London could help the cause of small businesses and entrepreneurs?  Some of the mayoral candidates hoping to be elected on 3rd May seem to think so, based upon the pledges they make in their manifestos.  So, how do their various manifesto promises compare?

Boris Johnson (of the Conservative Party) lists “Growing the London Economy” as one of his pledges.  He insists that London has already succeeded in its relative resilience against the economic downturn.  He suggests that his priority is to boost the economic well-being of the city – by stating his intent to continue his current endeavours to direct funds and tax money according to Londoners’ wishes; to secure record funding from No. 10; and not to waste money on bureaucracy at City Hall.  Johnson appears to suggest that his aim is to boost the general economic well-being of the city rather than directly helping businesses within it.

Ken Livingstone (of the Labour Party) makes no direct promises in relation to the economy, nor to assisting small businesses.  Rather, his emphasis is on increasing funds for education, in order to increase young people’s prospects of employment.  He pledges a commitment to “restoring a London-wide Educational Maintenance Allowance of up to £30 per week in term by bringing together existing funds in colleges, universities, and local authorities.”

Brian Paddick (of the London Liberal Democrats) states, “We will establish a London Small Business Fund. We will work with socially responsible banks, so all viable small enterprises get the finance they need with mentoring support and advice too.”  This promise comes under the heading of his ambitiously entitled “Jobs and Opportunities for All” pledge, which is mainly focused on improving employment prospects for youths.  He promises a “London Youth Contract” to assist Londoners up to the age of 25 to attain work experience leading to a job; a new “Adult Skills” initiative; a fund to facilitate youth opportunities in needy areas gained via a voluntary £1 a night luxury hotel bedroom levy; the creation of “Youth Hubs” to provide advice, support and socialising opportunities for young people; and an enhanced careers advice service in schools.

Jenny Jones (of the Green Party) is the only candidate who explicitly pledges to help the plight of small businesses as “an absolute priority for City Hall”, as set out in her 10-point “Small Business Manifesto”.  She pledges to:

  1. Support a renaissance of micro, small and medium-sized businesses
  2. Use the Greater London Authority budget to support small businesses
  3. Protect and re-develop the traditional “high street”
  4. Prevent chain stores taking over independent shops
  5. Encourage Londoners to “buy local”
  6. Ensure public sector contracts go to small businesses
  7. Maintain the CompeteFor system
  8. Ensure small and local businesses aren’t disadvantaged by congestion and parking
  9. Only work with banks that lend to small business
  10. Increase small business representation in the community

Carlos Cortiglia (of the British National Party) does not appear to have a website stating his manifesto for London Mayor.  A Uraguayan national who has been living in the UK since 1989, he says he is “astonished” by the “hostility shown by many of the migrants towards the British and their way of life”, and emphasises, “I want to help preserve the freedoms, values and traditions that help make this a great country to live in.”  He appears to make no promises in relation to boosting London’s economy or helping small businesses.

Lawrence James Webb (of Fresh Choice of London) is affiliated with the UK Independence Party.  Of his various manifesto pledges, those of relevance to small businesses include:  cutting rates for “local businesses employing local people”; “saying ‘No’ to open-door immigration” in order to “create more jobs for Londoners”; and fighting any “EU red tape strangling London businesses”.

Siobhan Benita talks at length of her intentions to “create jobs and boost economic growth” in her Manifesto.  With regards London’s budget she promises to establish an “Independent Office for Budget Responsibility”.  For jobseekers she proposes free travel, and reduced fares for low earners.  For youths she pledges her commitment to working “with councils and businesses to ensure apprenticeships effectively deliver real employment and career prospects”, and working “with businesses, schools and colleges to improve pre-apprenticeship training”.  Of greater interest to Off To See My Lawyer clients, she states that she “will work with landlords to make better use of empty commercial property, including temporary use for community projects and for entrepreneurs to trial their ideas, negotiating Business Rate discounts and exemptions for innovative new businesses… My initial priorities will be the support of the creative industries and the life sciences sector.”

Perspectives from within the Eurozone

Monday, April 30th, 2012

We are all aware of the various endeavours being made by the British Government to improve the UK’s economy: managing the State budget; encouraging the activities of budding entrepreneurs; asking banks to lend more money to businesses; etc.  The emphasis is very much on how Britain can pick itself up in competition with other nations, and how the status of the British Pound can be raised.  As our media charts the progress of the French presidential elections, however, the British are starting to realise the extent to which the attitudes in France towards the current economic crisis differ to that in Britain.

Augustin Paluel-Marmont (Co-founder of Michel et Augustin) says that it is difficult for small firms in France to make the jump to becoming medium-sized, and that they are frequently bought up by foreign companies.  He is less concerned, however, about the strength of the French economy in isolation.  Rather, he supports the success of the European Union as a whole, believing that entrepreneurs in Europe should focus on the European market rather than simply that of their own native country.

Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet (Co-founder of Priceminister), also supports the European single currency, emphasising, “My company is very Europe-minded…  I think that is a good thing for the French economy.”  He adds, “I think the euro is something that is needed.  I’m really very disappointed with the English behaviour on that… You can’t build a new world by being selfish. You have to share values, currencies and you have to build things together.”

Henri de Castries (Chairman and Chief Executive of Axa) is optimistic that the Eurozone will ultimately thrive, once its member states have learnt how to pull together into “a more co-ordinated game”.  Expressing concern about the French national debt, and the fact “public spending is too high”, he proposes a structural reform in order to keep money “in the hands of those who know how to invest it, rather than having it taken by the state for additional unproductive spending.”  It seems he would prefer for the French Government to have a laissez-faire attitude towards its internal market – and for it to instead concentrate its efforts on co-operating with its neighbours in the Eurozone to make Europe succeed as a whole.

Event: Getting To Grips With Finance Workshop

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Where: O2 Workshop, 229 Tottenham Court Road , London W1T 7QG

When: 12 June 2012 from 10:00 to 14:00

How much: £65.00

Johnny Martin has extensive experience turning around businesses such as Baring Venture Partners, JO Hambro and Monument Trust.

Mr Martin will be leading the Getting To Grips Workshop, offering financial advice for setting up a business, working with accountants, raising capital, and cash flow management. Attendees are asked to bring their laptops!

To book your place, visit: www.women-unlimited.co.uk/getting-to-grips-with-finance-worksho/ (Note that for £65, you will not only get to attend the workshop, but you will receive a few added extras and bonuses!)