Posts Tagged ‘accounts’
I am sure that in the last 12 months, you will have received many emails offering web design or SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) services. I am sure that like me, you deleted the majority of them as soon as you spotted the term SEO in the header or text. But did you ever see one or two that made you stop and think if you should be doing more on with your web site?
I don’t want to take about SEO companies today. But I am using them as an example of companies that don’t eat their own cat food – a term given to companies that are ridiculously bad at the services they are trying to offer to you.
Take these SEO specialist companies. If they are so great at getting web sites to the top of Google or Bing, why do they have to spam you? If you Google “SEO companies” – why are they not on the number 1 spot of Google?
What about accountants? Would you trust an accountant who has final demand letters on their door mat when you visit? Or what about marketing companies that are trying and failing to gain customers? What about cleaning companies which are based in the dirtiest office imaginable?
A copywriter to improve my own site
The reason I talk about this, is that I have started looking for copywriters to improve the content of my own company web site. I was recommended and visited a couple of sites of copywriters, who talked a good talk.
But their web sites were shocking. Some examples of problems I spotted when visiting including:
- Missing any calls to action on their site (where are the “call or email me” buttons?)
- Very basic Typos (and if I can spot them, they must be bad)
- Mixed quality of graphics all over their site (some photos, some graphics, some line art, some appear to be scanned)
- Examples of text inviting me that if I am “Interested? Sign up on the right.” – When there is nothing on the right.
- Spaces missing in their text, so words merge together (and become a jumble)
- Lots of uses of “We”, “Us” and “I” when they all say a web site should use “You” or “Your” (the very things I am trying to correct)
I could go on. But the point is, they are advertising a service to improve web sites and web site copy (words), but their own sites are in a terrible state.
In most situations, web sites are the initial introduction to the world – if a copywriter can’t get that write, why would I even think about paying them to change mine?
So I ask again, are you eating your own cat food for the service you provide?
Increasing the profitability of your business is not always about winning more business or increasing prices. Sometimes, its about just doing more with what you have, or reducing your outgoings by reviewing your companies spending. I review my own business spending twice a year – with agenda dates reoccurring in my diary for spending reviews early spring, and early winter. By putting the events in my diary to occur every year, I never forget.
This winter, I have managed to save around £180 a month (or just over £2,100 a year) without loss of functionality or service levels using the following five steps…
List your outgoings
The initial starting point is to detail for the last 12 months, all the different types of outgoings your business has. If you use an online accounts package (such as Freeagent), this will be detailed in the outgoing section of your P&L (profit and loss) report. However, to do things properly, I prefer to look at the individual outgoing transactions for all business accounts (don’t forget the credit card and paypal accounts), then sort and group by payee. This gives the information you need for the next step.
Remove outgoings which serve no value
The next step is to look for payees which no longer add any value to your business. This can be a little emotional, but for each payee listed, decide if for the amounts you pay, you get anything back in return. Where there is little or no value, cancel the payments. Types of payments I have cancelled in the past include Gym memberships (the company paid, but I was going less and less), and a solicitor monthly retainer (it worked out cheaper to pay them ad-hoc when and if their advice was required).
Haggle for those that do add value
Next, for those that remain, contact each supplier and haggle for the business. Just call them up, and say “I notice in the last 6 months I have paid you xxxxxx, which is a little higher than I am happy with – what can you do about this?”. Using this technique, I have reduced group mobile phone bills down by 30%, insurance down by 25%, and other such savings. On some situations, it may be better to swap supplier or system.
Look at how you spend
For the outgoings that remain, next look at how you make the payments. Generally, payments are set up to the benefit of the supplier, so look to see if you can push the payments back to later in the month, pay in arrears quarterly rather than monthly, or if there are discounts for payment in advance. For credit card payments, look at alternative credit cards that offer corporate rewards (air miles, free insurance, etc). Its also worth checking for forward creeping direct debits (where each month, the payment is taken a day earlier than the last). Whilst this change may not help in the profit figures, it can really help out in terms of cashflow.
Make sure you claim back
Finally, check all the outgoings to check that you have claimed back any expenses you can in terms of tax (vat, etc), or recharged any back to customers. Even if its 6 months down the line, it is never too late to quickly raise an invoice for the expenses with a note starting “As part of our accounts audit, we noticed 1 or 2 expenses which we failed to recharge.…”
Note, if you are looking for a Freeagent referral code to save 10% on the freeagent sign-on costs, there is a code at the end of this post.
When it comes to web sites, products and services, there are many different ways of driving traffic and customers to your doorstep, be it virtual or real. The vast majority will take time, money and an awful lot of effort with differing degrees of success. As a business supplier, one of the cheapest methods is the referral – customers telling other customers to use your product and service because of how good it is.
There are 3 different ways of getting referrals:
Customer direct referrals – This is where customer A tells customer B how good your product/service is, you have no involvement, and the first you know about it is an email, phone call or visit from customer B. Great – more business, but how many times has it happened for you?
Customer requested referrals – For this, you need to go cap in hand to customer A (possibly at the end of a project) and ask if they know of any other companies who could benefit from the same product or service. If they provide details (and even if they call company B on your behalf) you are only one step ahead of a cold call.
Customer incentive referrals – This type of referral is almost the same as the customer direct referral, with the exception that there is an incentive for customer A to contact customer B.
Let’s take two real world examples of these referrals.
LoveFilm – If you are a member of lovefilm, the online film rental company, as well as sending you your requested DVD or BluRay movies, every so often you will get cards from them giving new customers a months free subscription for you to pass on to friends to encourage them to join. This is all fine and good, but the big question is – what do I as an existing customer get out of it? The answer is nothing.
FreeAgent – Now if you are a user and subscriber of the Freeagent small business online accounting solution, you have a page on your accounts screen for referrals. Freeagent encourages you to pass on the good word – if somebody takes your advice and signs up to Freeagent, then they as a new user get a 10% discount. But the difference here is that Freeagent also gives you, the existing customer the same 10% discount.
So in the two examples above, Lovefilm gives me nothing for proving their link above, whereas Freeagent gives me 10% off all my fees in the future if somebody clicks it and signs up. But it also gives you the same 10% if you sign up. In the Freeagent system – everybody wins. My link gives me 10% off my existing account, you get 10% off and freeagent gets a new customer with zero marketing cost. Everybody wins.
It’s viral marketing at its very best, but in this case you are not forced to watch a video of a computer generated frog, a man painted orange slapping people, or a dog roller-skating.
So that leaves two questions….
1) Where in your business can you use the Freeagent model to have existing customers pass on your details for a future reward in the form of discount, gift, free days, hours, etc?
2) If I wasn’t getting the 10% discount from the Freeagent link, would I still recommend it? The answer is a big YES, even without the 10% referral, it’s the best thing for small business since sliced bread
The referral code is included in the above links. But if you are looking for direct entry of a Freeagent referal code, use 34o5sqzm
If I could recommend any one product to anybody running their own small company, above all others it would be FreeAgent. Freeagent is a web based small business accounting package. But its more than that – it’s an example of how all things should be done.
I first came across Freeagent about 8 months ago when I had a fall out with my small business accountant that I used to my companies accounts. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say we had a disagreement on some aspects of how the accounts were being done, and I was becoming more and more unhappy at the rising costs of doing my accounts.
When I started looking around for alternative accountants, I was originally looking at another normal accountant and actually met with 2 or 3 to talk rates and work I needed them to do. But a few people in the same industry as me started to direct me towards a number of online accounts packages including clearbooks and sage. But the one that stood out for me was freeagent – and I was impressed from the start.
Freeagent provides everything a small company owner could ask for – estimates, invoices, purchasing, bill payments, automatic chasing of late payments, full accounts, payroll, taxes, vat calculations and year end calculations, plus full online book keeping. But the best bit is, you don’t need to know anything about accounts to use it – its just works, straight out of the box. If you need advice or tips (and it’s really not difficult – if I can understand it anybody can), there is a very good support group.
Freeagent does all the things my accountant did, for a fraction of the price. For me, the best bit is that it provides day-by-day view ability of my (small) company’s state of play, from profitability, to outstanding invoices, pending quotes, tax position etc. With my accountant doing my accounts, I only got this picture at the end of every quarter or at the end of the year.
Some of the many features of FreeAgent includes:
* Quotation of Estimates and quotations (from scratch or using a price list)
* Project setup and time tracking
* Expenses (both tracking) and payment
* Converting quotes into invoices (or new invoices from scratch) , including project time and expenses
* Print the invoices, convert to PDF or automatically email them to the customer
* Chase late payments
* Bank account transaction tracking, including download from most banks
* Tax calculations as you go, including PAYE, corporation and VAT
* Automatic submission of VAT to revenue and customs
* Payroll processing and reporting, including PAYE and dividends
* Tracking of multiple accounts, including paypal
* Full accounting reports; balance sheet, P&L, payroll, expenses, transactions, etc
Maybe the best thing about FreeAgent is you dont need to spend a lot of time on it, or know anything about accounting – it steps you through and does everything for you. It is so simple. Its saves me time, it has saved me lots and lots of money, it provides me a clear picture of the state of my company, and its online so other people can access the information at the same time. It’s already as cheap as chips, but if you use this link, you get a further 10% of the fees. Plus you get to try it free for 30 days, so you have nothing to loose and everything to gain.
If you run any sort of small business, take a look – you really won’t regret it!