Stand out from the crowd with your marketing – 5 top tips from Horizonworks

Today we welcome a guest blog post from Horizonworks, a full service strategic marketing company who has worked with a wide range of businesses from the manufacturing and engineering sectors. Check out their 5 top tips for marketing…

When it comes to marketing, many companies in the manufacturing industry are faced with the same challenge: translating complex technical information into marketing messages that make them stand out.

Here are our top five tips for overcoming this challenge and maximising return on your marketing investment.

  • Have a marketing strategy, and review it!
    Running a business without a marketing strategy is like setting off on a journey without directions. A focused strategy is essential to positioning your company effectively in the market and providing a framework for growth. And as time goes on, you will need to review and refine your marketing strategy too.
  • Know the competition
    Comprehensively research your competitors, examine their activities and benchmark their strengths and weaknesses against your own. What is it that they’re doing that you’re not? Could your marketing campaigns be improved to counter the threats that they pose?
  • Know your customers
    A communications audit – taking in a sample of your customers, suppliers, employees and partners – is a great way to understand the current perceptions of your business and measure how effective your communications are. Think about what is driving customer demand and consider the customer experience: are you using the right channels? Are you meeting their needs? Have you missed opportunities for repeat business?
  • Ensure effective delivery
    Use a focused strategy to ensure that you are using the right marketing tactics in your marketing plan: these can include PR, digital marketing, direct marketing, social media and events. Multiple activities should be integrated and consistent, rather than carried out ad-hoc – this will save you time and money.
  • Stay active online
    Many prospective customers will check our tour website and social media presence, therefore it’s essential that these channels are kept up to date. Hosting a news page or a blog is a great way to build credibility and brand personality, whilst providing content for sharing via social media and improving SEO results, too.

For information on how Horizonworks can help your business, call 0845 075 5955, email: hello@horizonworks.co.uk or visit www.horizonworks.co.uk

Want funding for professional advice?  Small and medium sized businesses – have you applied for Growth Vouchers? You only have 4 weeks left…

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In January 2014 the Growth Vouchers programme launched a £30m fund aimed at encouraging small businesses to seek professional advice to help address key business issues such as raising finance, managing staffing costs and implementing company pension schemes in line with new Auto Enrolment rules.

The scheme is open to any business based in England that has been running for over one year, has up to 250 employees and has not sought “strategic advice” in the last three years.

However, the programme closes to new applicants on 31st March 2015 – so you only have 4 weeks to apply and benefit from the scheme.

Businesses who wish to apply need to:

  • Be registered in England
  • Have less than 250 employees
  • Be actively selling goods and/or services
  • Have a turnover no greater than €50m or £45m
  • Own 75% or more of their business

Why Growth Vouchers?

Statistically, businesses are more likely to grow and succeed if they have a ‘financial business plan’ in place. However, there are many areas in which an equivalent business plan will also help to generate growth and help to focus the direction of the business. The Growth Vouchers programme recognises this and provides the ability to seek financial support for advice across a range of key business areas.

With the Growth Vouchers scheme, you can receive advice for Finance (e.g. business planning, forecasting), IT strategy, HR and Marketing. Please be aware that the project has to be completed within 90 days of the voucher being awarded.

How to apply?

If you have been looking for advice on any of the subject matters covered and would like funding towards your project, please register now before the opportunity expires at the end of March.

The Growth Voucher application process is online and can be accessed here. Following submission you will be contacted and advised on the next steps (if successful).

Tait Walker is an accredited Growth Vouchers adviser and our Growth Vouchers profile can be viewed on the Enterprise Nation Marketplace.

For further advice and guidance, please contact Alastair Wilson on 0191 285 0321 or email alastair.wilson@taitwalker.co.uk.

Another CASC Update…HMRC will be writing to all CASCs once the new rules finally come into action!

After our latest communication with the CASC team at HMRC we can let you know that from 1st April 2015 (after the new rules finally come into action) HMRC will be issuing letters to all current registered CASCs to highlight the changes, and to highlight that each CASC will need to confirm to HMRC whether or not they intend to remain a CASC.

This letter will provide each club with a summary of the new rules and provide examples and suggestions of ways for clubs to retain their CASC status within the new rules! HMRC will be expecting all CASCs to review their position and provide HMRC with how, as a club, they are going to proceed whether that is to adapt their club to comply or deregister as a CASC.

If you agree that your club no longer meets the requirements, HMRC will require you to confirm your agreement and your CASC status will be withdrawn with immediate effect! Alternatively, if you disagree they will require a reply within 30 days stating why you think your club should continue to be treated as a CASC. Remember remaining a CASC is likely to be financially beneficial for your club and so the letter should not be ignored!

These letters will not be issued to your club before 1st April 2015, but once this happens we will happily tell your club what you are likely to need to do!

Alternatively, be prepared before the rules come into action and contact sara.andrews@taitwalker.co.uk or alastair.wilson@taitwalker.co.uk  for a free review of your clubs accounts and memberships structure today!

For further information about your CASC status, please read our guide here.

Academies – are you paying Climate Change Levy (“CCL”) on your Fuel and Power?

If, having looked at your energy bills, the answer is “yes” then you need to reconsider your fuel usage and speak to our VAT specialist Nigel Smith.

A recent review of an Academy client discovered that the provision of fuel and power was inconsistent, which led to tax irregularities and a CCL windfall. For Academies that have incurred CCL, there is an opportunity to make a retrospective reclaim.

The same opportunity will apply to charities who put the fuel use to a non-business purpose. Whilst the same rules apply, each case should be looked at independently and potential saving can go back four years.

If you would like further guidance, please contact Nigel Smith at nigel.smith@taitwalker.co.uk

Charity SORP 2015 – Practical Implementation Guide

We all know that there is a new standard for charities coming very soon, which details how charities must prepare their financial statements – namely the SORP 2015 (Statement of Recommended Practice).

This new SORP applies for the first time to charities with years ending 31 December 2015 (or for most charities, who have a March year end, 31 March 2016).  In order to break down the changes required, which will include making policy choices prior to implementation, our practical implementation guide looks to assist this process.

Our latest guide has condensed the main changes brought about by SORP 2015, which will need to be considered at the transition date (this is the date the new standard applies from i.e. 1 January 2015 or for most charities with a March year end, 1 April 2015).

Thinking about these areas before drawing up the first set of SORP 2015 financial statements will enable charities to collate information in advance of the change.  This should assist charities to implement the change prior to the computational exercise of restating the prior period accounts, having thought about the impact and collected the necessary information in advance.

Please find our practical guide here. The guide is largely aimed at those charities adopting the ‘large charity SORP’ namely SORP 2015 FRS102, rather than those adopting the ‘small charity SORP’ namely the SORP 2015 FRSSE.  The small charity SORP is largely unchanged, whereas the large charity SORP is a game changer.

The guide showcases each potential area of change and can be used to compare each section impacted by the new SORP 2015 against your own charity’s accounts. You can then consider its impact, if any, when adopting the new SORP.

For further information or assistance, please contact our Head of Not-for-Profit Simon Brown on 0191 285 0321 or email simon.brown@taitwalker.co.uk

Want funding for professional advice? Small and medium sized businesses – have you applied for Growth Vouchers? You only have 5 weeks left…

GV countdown

In January 2014 the Growth Vouchers programme launched a £30m fund aimed at encouraging small businesses to seek professional advice to help address key business issues such as raising finance, managing staffing costs and implementing company pension schemes in line with new Auto Enrolment rules.

The scheme is open to any business based in England that has been running for over one year, has up to 250 employees and has not sought “strategic advice” in the last three years.

However, the programme closes to new applicants on 31st March 2015 – so you only have 5 weeks to apply and benefit from the scheme.

Businesses who wish to apply need to:

  • Be registered in England
  • Have less than 250 employees
  • Be actively selling goods and/or services
  • Have a turnover no greater than €50m or £45m
  • Own 75% or more of their business

Why Growth Vouchers?

Statistically, businesses are more likely to grow and succeed if they have a ‘financial business plan’ in place. However, there are many areas in which an equivalent business plan will also help to generate growth and help to focus the direction of the business. The Growth Vouchers programme recognises this and provides the ability to seek financial support for advice across a range of key business areas.

With the Growth Vouchers scheme, you can receive advice for Finance (e.g. business planning, forecasting), IT strategy, HR and Marketing. Please be aware that the project has to be completed within 90 days of the voucher being awarded.

How to apply?

If you have been looking for advice on any of the subject matters covered and would like funding towards your project, please register now before the opportunity expires at the end of March.

The Growth Voucher application process is online and can be accessed here. Following submission you will be contacted and advised on the next steps (if successful).

Tait Walker is an accredited Growth Vouchers adviser and our Growth Vouchers profile can be viewed on the Enterprise Nation Marketplace.

For further advice and guidance, please contact Alastair Wilson on 0191 285 0321 or email alastair.wilson@taitwalker.co.uk.

“Married Couples Tax Break” – new measure launched by HMRC

HMRC launched the registration for the new Marriage Allowance today, which is a tax break for married couples.

It enables married couples or civil partnerships to reduce their overall tax bills, by one member of the marriage/partnership electing to transfer part of their unused income tax allowances to their partner.

This is primarily of use where:

  • Only one member of the marriage/partnership works
  • One person works full time and the other works part time
  • One person has been on sabbatical or unpaid leave (e.g. maternity/paternity leave)

The allowance will operate as a claim, where one person will have to register online with HMRC and the change will be processed via the payroll (by coding). HMRC will confirm the recipient’s change to their Pay As Your Earn (PAYE) tax code.

It may be useful to inform your staff of this new allowance – full details can be found here.

For further advice, please contact Alastair Wilson on 0191 285 0321 or email Alastair.wilson@taitwalker.co.uk.

EBT users – time is running out to utilise the EBT Settlement Opportunity

Do you have an Employee Benefit Trust which is under enquiry from HMRC? If so, now is the time to consider your options in detail.

HMRC are closing access to the EBT Settlement Opportunity (EBTSO) as of 31 March 2015. Through the EBTSO tax liabilities can be settled with HMRC under beneficial terms.

As an added pressure Accelerated Payment Notices (APNs) are now being actively issued by HMRC. These require users of tax avoidance schemes to make upfront payments of tax in case of dispute.

If you have an EBT with unresolved HMRC enquiries regarding the payment of PAYE and INC, being forced to make a payment to HMRC is increasingly likely. With politicians and the media regularly commenting on tax avoidance schemes it appears unlikely that HMRC will reverse their policy of litigating against EBTs.

We recommend taking an informed decision over your next steps:

  • We can help you calculate the likely cost of a settlement compared with payment of the APN and potential litigation.
  • We can consider your particular situation and see whether the settlement cost could be reduced through the use of available tax reliefs.
  • If you decide to utilise the EBTSO we may also be able to help you agree a “time to pay” agreement, which may be more attractive than the APN’s 90 day payment terms.

Given the beneficial terms of the EBTSO it is likely that the cost of settling will be significantly less than the amount due on an APN. We therefore urge you to seriously consider registering interest for the EBTSO before the deadline passes on 31 March 2015.

If you would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact Alastair Wilson, Chris Hodgson or Louise Barker on 0191 285 0321.

If you owned a cash machine full of money would you insure it?

If you owned a cash machine full of money would you insure it?

I’m guessing for most of us the answer would be ‘yes’. Without wanting to end a Friday with doom and gloom, it’s important that we consider the ‘what if’ and the ‘how would I manage if’ questions that we all avoid.

If you were to be made redundant or became seriously ill and subsequently couldn’t work, how long would your savings last?

The latest ‘Deadline to the Breadline Report’ from Legal & General shows how long families would survive with the loss of income from the main bread winner.

The report found that, on average, people could be on the breadline in just 29 days if the bread winner suffered a critical illness, injury or death. This is reduced to only 14 days for working age families (18-64 years old).

Other key findings include that people believe their Deadline to the Breadline is 77 days and 35% of people have no savings. Worryingly, 36% of households do not have a plan in place to cope with possible financial difficulties.

The report also found that a 2% rise in interest rates would move the typical mortgaged household one day closer to the breadline and a 1% rise would mean that households would no longer be able to save each month and would have to rely on savings to make ends meet.

Legal & General have created a Deadline to the Breadline calculator to show your potential situation and it may help you to decide how to better manage your finances.

It is vital that you understand the importance of planning to ensure your family and your wealth are protected. If you’d like to discuss managing your finances with one of our specialists, please contact us on 0191 285 0321 or email advice@taitwalker.co.uk   

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Tait Walker Wealth Management is a trading style of Tait Walker Financial Services Ltd which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

For those dreaming of buying their business – the truth behind a management buy out

For many company directors, a management buy out (MBO) is an ambitious dream as it allows them to buy the company that they have spent many years building up.  Typically it allows them to invest their own money along with that of other funders, using the future profits of the business to pay back those funders, and then continuing to grow with the aim of repaying investors when they finally sell the business.

In recent years there have been fewer MBOs occurring amongst small and medium sized businesses in the North as there are less funds available for this particular type of transaction.  In the first [9] years of Tait Walker Corporate Finance we advised on [58] MBOs. In the last [6] years, since the onset of the credit crunch, we have advised on only [10].

Perhaps the true meaning of those three letters is getting lost and is poorly understood amongst the current crop of company directors.

It was with great delight that I was able to advise Chris Hyde on his MBO of JDP Contracting Services Limited, which was completed in November 2014.  Three months post-completion, I caught up with Chris over lunch and agreed to write this blog to summarise the truth behind a management buy out from the managing director’s perspective.

Q: Why did you want to buy your business?

A: I joined JDP in 2013 with a view to growing it and I soon realised that it was a very well-run company with massive potential. JDP is the North East’s premier installer of rooflines; it employs 30 people and has an established customer base, spanning a number of local authorities, housing associations and contractors across the North East, Yorkshire and the Midlands.  I wanted to do the MBO early so that I could benefit from delivering growth rather than seek to buy the company after I had increased its value to the vendors.

Q: How were you able to borrow the money to buy it?

A: The funding came from a number of sources; UK Steel provided the largest amount, HSBC provided the bank overdraft and myself and a colleague put money in ourselves.

Q: How much money did you put in personally?

A: A substantial amount!  I also had to provide personal guarantees for the bank funding so if I were to recommend an amount for others in my position, I would say be prepared for a contribution equating to approximately two to three year’s salary.

Q: How did you find the fundraising process?

A: It started very well – the business plan and forecasting process were very useful and it helped to see the whole strategy in a document and to see it being challenged by advisers and investors.  Getting the money from the equity investors was easier than I expected; UK Steel were very keen from the start and were able to make an offer which soon got put in to heads of terms.  Finding bank funding proved harder – our business has lots of contracts which made it hard for bankers to value the trade debtors and so their preferred choice of invoice finance didn’t work.  It was a complicated deal too which didn’t help and fortunately Alison Routledge at HSBC was able to see the potential of what we were planning and eventually we were able to get the right level of bank funding.

Q: What made the deal complicated?

A: Two reasons spring to mind.  Firstly, we weren’t just buying one company we were actually buying two, as JDP had been part of a private equity deal eight years ago. That created a lot more paperwork.  Secondly, we had to take our time at the start to make sure that we had the correct shareholder structure for investors, vendors and funders and that took a lot of time for all advisers to feel comfortable.  In the end we had three sets of lawyers who knew the deal inside out, as well as Tait Walker’s taxation team (led by Adrienne Paterson who was very helpful).

Q: How long did the whole process take?

A: About nine months from start to finish.

Q: What was the whole process like?

A: Exhausting but exhilarating!

Q: Knowing what you now know, what would you recommend to others?

A: I would say, ‘Go for it!’ The MBO process did take longer than I had realised, especially the legals at the end, and it wasn’t without its issues and sleepless nights.  But now I am an owner I can see that all of that time and planning has been properly invested and has been worth it. I have now a great incentive to grow the business and I intend to do just that.

Written by Steve Plaskitt. Steve is a Partner at Tait Walker Corporate Finance, who are celebrating their 15th year in 2015.

If you require any assistance in regards to management buy outs, please call 0191 285 0321 or email steve.plaskitt@taitwalker.co.uk.

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