Tax tip

Cash is king and most small businesses fail due to lack of cashflow. Even if you have a relatively small business you can use accounting software like Xero to:

  • Add a link to your invoices for clients to pay by card using Stripe, Paypal, or similar
  • Plug a small (usually free) card reader (Zettle, Square, or similar) into your phone for clients to pay by card before you leave site

How to tell if your prices are too low 

If you’re crazy busy all of the time, not just at peak periods, then it is probably because your prices are too low. You can either increase prices to make fewer but more profitable sales or you can raise your prices enough to increase your workforce. 

The other way to know that your prices are too low is if nobody ever says “no”. If everybody you quote says yes, or if nobody bounces when they see your prices on your website, then you probably have scope to increase them. 

The difference between spending and investing 

Oscar Wilde once said that “The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing” and this is often true of accountants who are associated with cost cutting. 

Here at Minerva we prefer to see spending as investing. What do we get in return for the cash? 

As a small business ourselves working for small business clients it is important that every pound we spent generates future value. It’s why we invest in things such as marketing, training and business coaching (yes, as well as being a qualified business coach I also see the value of using a coach myself). These are things that many business owners see as overheads but, spent wisely, that can help to generate future profits through growing your business or operating more efficiently. 

What is your wisest investment in yourself or your business? 

Do you know your break even point?

Do you know how many units (and the mix of units) that you need to sell in order to cover your costs and break even?

This is an important figure for every business.

Now you can work out how many units you need to sell to make a particular level of profit.

And finally, you can work out your marketing and sales plan to actually sell that number of units. (Okay, there’s a bit more to it than just working out the numbers but at least you know what you’re aiming for)

I want you to pay more tax

If you make more profit you will usually end up paying more tax BUT you also get to keep more for yourself so everybody wins.

Whilst Minerva Accountants is mainly about the compliance work of keeping businesses legal and providing management information the main business, Hudson Business Advice, is about helping business owners to build a better business.

Whether you want more profits, more time, or to increase the value of your business prior to sale you need to do the same sort of things,
– Systemise the business so that it can run independently of you and can be scaled more easily
– Automate where appropriate as this will minimise manual errors and save time
– Let go and delegate, whether to employees, outsourced services, or experts

You can come along to our free webinars or join me on one of our courses or group or individual coaching. The accountability ensures that you will take action to improve your business. And pay more tax.

Pricing for the hassle factor

I’ve just received an email from my web hosting company to say that they will be charging me more.

The reason is that two of my websites use software that is about to become obsolete so the hosting company will charge me an extra support fee from 5 February unless I upgrade.

This software has a two year life so I’ve already upgraded it once with the help of the hosting company (Fasthosts provide much better support for the tiny monthly fee that I pay them and they’re lovely to deal with). It’s not too difficult but I imagine that many people just ignore a simple message that their site will be unsupported. This way I have a financial incentive to make sure that I do the upgrade promptly. And, if I don’t, the hosting company get some extra income as they’d probably end up sorting out the mess anyway.

Which reminded me that, although Minerva Accountants is supposed to be a Xero only business, we do have one client using an older cloud bookkeeping software with less functionality. This means that we’re unable to offer as good a service. Of course I justified it to myself at the time but now, with the benefit of hindsight, I realise that I was wrong and should have followed my own advice! So I’m going to offer to help my client to migrate to Xero for a better service or to increase the fee to support an ageing app.

Where have you broken your own rules and regretted the lack of efficiency? Should you correct this even if it means losing the client?

How about joining one of our strategic planning days to streamline your business for 2023?

This year we’re running two (although you can join either one). Fri 27 January will be for any business and Wed 22 February will focus on accountants/bookkeepers. Find out more here.

Rules are there for a reason

Did you hear that a lot in your school days? Even though most of the rules seemed a bit, well, stupid? I certainly did!

A few weeks ago, I broke one of my own rules. It was a good rule and there to protect me, but I was doing somebody a favour to help them out. (You’ve probably made the same excuses yourself)

A training company was looking for a speaker at short notice and a colleague recommended me. There was a lot of backwards and forwards to see if I was a good fit which meant that time was even tighter by the time it was all agreed. And then they sent over their terms and conditions for signature which were different from my standard speaking terms in one main respect. There was no up-front payment.

As most of you aren’t professional speakers, I’d better explain that, for a speaking assignment like this, I would spend 2 days learning the material (I usually spend a similar amount of time writing my own) and rehearsing so that everything is flawless without looking over-rehearsed. I spent a day travelling and a day delivering the content and incurred related expenses. 4 days work plus travel and hotel costs.

Event organisers may charge attendees up-front, but they prefer to pay their speakers after the event (Although far too many expect speakers to work for ‘exposure’, but that’s another problem). Event organisers often cancel at short notice if they don’t get enough people signed up which can leave speakers with wasted time and prebooked travel costs. This is simply solved by charging a deposit at the time of booking.

As everything was done at short notice to help out the new client there wasn’t time to negotiate a deposit.

So, I did ALL the work and incurred all the costs before invoicing them at the earliest possible moment and guess what?

They didn’t pay on their agreed date! And they didn’t even bother to let me know why not!

Anyway, several weeks later and after wasting far too much time chasing, I finally got paid.

But I won’t be making that mistake again.

Please learn from my mistakes and get paid up front where possible. At Minerva Accountants our annual fee is all paid by direct debit before the year end. Have a look at your terms and conditions and see if they could be tighter.

Good causes vs charities

Not all good causes are charities and not all charities are UK charities. Why does this matter? Only donations to UK charities are tax deductible.

Please don’t let this stop you donating to good causes around the world but I just wanted you to be aware that your donations can go further if they’re to UK charities.

I also meet a lot of people wanting to set up charities for very good causes. The regulations around running a charity are enormous so, if you’re just running a few events, it may be easier to treat it as a fundraising event for an existing charity. Why saddle yourself with all the additional accounting, admin, and audit of setting up a charity when you could use that energy to raise money for the good cause itself?

You are not a bank!

And, as far as I know, you are not a charity. So why are you lending clients money by allowing them extended credit or even working for free?

Here are some tips to help you collect money faster:

  • Invoice promptly. Xero can help with repeating invoices, invoicing from quotes, and invoicing from your phone while on site
  • For longer contracts consider getting paid up front or in instalments. Minerva’s clients pay us over 12 months as we are doing work for them throughout the year with monthly bookkeeping health checks and other advice as a minimum
  • Make it easy for people to pay you. Make sure that your bank details are on your invoice. Our regular clients pay by direct debit through Gocardless. We can also take payment by card and there is a button for this on our invoices or we use Zettle to take payments for booksales at conferences etc.
  • Send invoice reminders. We can help clients to set up the automated reminders in Xero. The first one is just a polite enquiry to check that they have received the invoice and that everything is alright. Later ones are more severe. If clients require more functionality we can help them with Satago or
  • Credit check your clients with an app like Satago.
  • Be prepared to take legal action. Clients pay for their services. Requesting services without the means to pay is like shoplifting. If they’re not paying they’re definitely not clients. Clients ghosting you is definitely a broken relationship, get paid and get out!

You work hard so you deserve to be paid.

Money, money, money

Most small businesses fail because they run out of cash. It caught out a lot of people who couldn’t cope while they waited for covid funding came through. Hopefully we’ll never have to manage a global crisis of that magnitude again but there are many things that might go wrong for individuals. I’ll talk about business continuity planning separately as I just want to consider your bank balance today.

I recommend reading the first half of Profit First by Mike Michalowicz and I think I’ve written about it before. There are some good principles and the remaining chapters just go into more detail

I have a Starling account which comes with savings spaces and I do monthly management accounts on Xero so I try to ensure that I have the following saved:

  • VAT per Xero
  • Corporation Tax per Xero management accounts (or you can save 19% of your profit)
  • 3 months of overheads in case of illness or crisis which can also be used to buffer any large or unexpected bills
  • Dividends to pay myself later in the year
  • Spare cash to pay into my pension later in the year to minimise my tax

I usually pay my suppliers immediately because, as a small business, it reduces my admin to only deal with each transaction once. You should ensure that you have enough funds to pay your suppliers on or before the due date. A business is insolvent if it can not pay its debts on time.

I also use a Starling account for my personal finances and I use my savings spaces for:

  • 3 months of household costs in case of illness or crisis which buys me enough time to sort out alternatives
  • Savings to replace my car every three years
  • Savings for holidays each year and fun experiences such as watching musicals with my kids
  • Income tax due on my dividends and other income not on PAYE.

It’s taken a long time to build up this financial security so don’t worry if you’re not there yet but, if you’d like a hand with making your business run more profitably, please give me a shout.