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Goliath Still Winning in Late Payment Epidemic

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Goliath Still Winning in Late Payment Epidemic 1

UK small businesses feel the cash-flow squeeze, with over half of invoices from Xero small business subscribers paid late 54 per cent of these small businesses kick off the year in negative cash flow

Analysis of FTSE 350 companies reveals watch list of sectors that aren’t treating the nation’s small businesses fairly

Xero SBI_Cash Flow

Xero SBI_Cash Flow

Xero Small Business Insights launches a new dashboard providing deep data updated more regularly than other small business data sources, giving policy and industry decision makers real-time insight into the health and conditions of small businesses

New analysis from Xero, the global leader in online accounting software, shows that despite continued pledges and policies to reduce late payments for the nation’s small businesses, over half (52%) of invoices were paid late in 2017.  The data is drawn from hundreds of thousands of small businesses that process their invoices through Xero.

Launched today by a panel of experts, including the economist Vicky Pryce, Xero’s Small Business Insights provides one of the UK’s most comprehensive pictures of small business economic health – from the late payment epidemic to the impact it has on cash flow.

Xero SBI_Cloud Adoption

Xero SBI_Cloud Adoption

This snapshot tracks the performance of small businesses across five key pillars: getting paid, cash flow, hiring people, trading overseas and the adoption of cloud technology.

The index reveals that small businesses experience the tightest cash-flow squeeze in the first quarter of the year, with only 45 per cent of Xero subscribers starting the New Year cash flow positive in 2017. Over the past year, cash flow positivity hit highs of 51.7 per cent (October) and 50 per cent (November), dipping to lows of 46.4 per cent in January 2018.

With the Government vowing to eliminate “the continuing scourge of late payments”, experts on the panel warned of the importance of protecting small businesses from the impact on cash flow and the overall economy.

Xero SBI_Getting Paid

Xero SBI_Getting Paid

The indicator shows that over the past year 30-day invoices are on average paid after 40 days, nationwide.  Yet further analysis of FTSE 350 companies show that on average they pay their invoices after 46 days, a full 6 days longer than smaller firms.

The analysis of the FTSE 350 and their invoice payment times to Xero small businesses subscribers has singled out a ‘watch list’ of consistently late paying sectors. Topping the list were Food Producers (averaging 60 days), Construction and Materials (averaging 57 days), and Household Goods (averaging 53 days).

FTSE 350 companies in the Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology sector were revealed to pay the most inconsistently, with invoices being paid an average of 47 days in 2017, a low of 37 days in September 2017  and a high of 68 days in June 2017.

Xero SBI_Hiring People

Xero SBI_Hiring People

Meanwhile, the fastest FTSE 350 sectors to pay were revealed to be Real Estate Investment Trusts (averaging 38 days), Financial Services (averaging 35 days) and the Life Insurance sector (averaging 33 days).

The Small Business Commissioner Paul Uppal commented: “Small businesses are crucial to the health of our economy so it is vital that they feel supported in all areas, but particularly in the fight against late payments. My role as Commissioner exists to help small businesses get paid on time, and while the Government works on measures to address the late payment epidemic, businesses should not be afraid to come to us for help. Now is the time to make Britain the best place for entrepreneurs to flourish.”

Vicky Pryce, economist and previous Director General for Economics at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, commented: “The impact of late payments on the economy cannot be exaggerated. Work done by the European Commission looking at both business to business and government to business payments found that late payments were directly associated with worsening firms’ cash flow positions, and particularly for smaller firms.  Many are left with no option but to request extensions of overdraft facilities and increases in their financing costs and in bank borrowings. Late payments prevent the economy from reaching its productive potential.”

Xero SBI_Trading Overseas

Xero SBI_Trading Overseas

Other findings include:

Trading overseas

  • Leading up to the Brexit referendum in June 2016, Xero analysis revealed increases in import growth rates, with the year-on-year (YOY) growth rate in April 2016 hitting a high of 30.58 per cent
  • The UK economy as a whole performed better than expected in the six months following the referendum, with August 2016 import growth rates reaching a record high of 62.5 per cent before economic growth started to slow in 2017
  • SMEs experience positive YOY import growth through 2016 and up until December 2017, with the highest YOY growth rate tracked in May 2017 – up 57 per cent from the previous year – while export growth rate has increased at a steadier pace per month YOY, consistent since May 2016, suggesting small business owners are pushing through economic uncertainty

Hiring

  • The fastest growing industries based on those businesses using our payroll services in 2017 were revealed to be Information, Media and Telecommunications (27.3%), Manufacturing (15.8%) and Health Care and Social Assistance (14.9%)
  • March was 2017’s highest employment growth month at 2.88 per cent – coinciding with March being a relatively high cash flow month – while the worst months for employment growth are October to December

Xero UK’s managing director and co-founder Gary Turner, commented: “Small businesses are the backbone of the British economy however there is little by way of accurate and timely statistical insight into their health and productivity.

“Sharing this data and considering it in the context of the challenges small businesses face will help the small business community gain a deeper understanding of the collective experience.  We hope that a greater real-time understanding of the small business economy will help firms, and their suppliers, develop their own economies of scale  – helping them close the gap on larger enterprises which traditionally benefit from those economies.

“It will get people talking, creating new ideas and driving for growth – and that is where future success lies.”

The Small Business Insights index relies on every Xero subscriber that meets the criteria for each pillar: getting paid, cash flow, hiring people, trading overseas and the adoption of cloud technology.  This makes it more accurate than most private surveys, which have a far smaller sample size. The analysis is updated far more frequently than most small business data pools and will deepen the understanding of the UK’s small business economy providing information that’s more timely and accurate than any other data source.

For more information visit  Xero Small Business Insights at https://www.xero.com/uk/small-business-insights/.

Business

Is Digital Transformation the Key to Business Survival in the New World?

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Is Digital Transformation the Key to Business Survival in the New World? 2

After a turbulent year, enterprises are returning to the prospect of a new world following an unprecedented pandemic.

Around the country the way we interact with customers, how consumers buy, and what interests the public has rapidly changed. Successfully managing these digital transformations may be the difference between your success and failure at this stage of continuing economic uncertainty.

Of course, the investment may appear unviable, but the benefits maintain growth and profitability. Digital transformations change the way you conduct your business. It allows you to take a step back and reconsider every aspect of your business. This includes the technology you use, how your staff operate, and how customers interact with your brand.

The World Economic Forum has predicted that the value added by digital transformations across all industries could be greater than $100 billion by 2025. Digital transformations are allowing organisations to rapidly innovate.

Accepting this innovative approach to your business right now may spell the difference between company liquidation and prosperity. Here, we look at the benefits of digital transformation and why it’s essential for your business.

Transform your customer experience

The main objective for a business is to fulfil the needs of their customer. A positive experience is vital to retain customers and encourage new consumers to interact with your brand. Likewise, positive customer experience is a core principle of digital proficiency.

A recent study found that 92 per cent of the top 100 organisations have a mature digital transformation strategy in place to improve their customers’ experience. This is compared to all other organisations where only 22 per cent of responding companies have these strategies in place.

One way to achieve this is to recreate your e-commerce platforms to better represent the needs of your customers. A complete rejuvenation can help to identify problems and obstacles in your current system.

SMEs have the opportunity to base their digital transformations on the successes of other businesses. In terms of customer satisfaction, 70 per cent of the leaders reported a significant and transformational value in overall customer satisfaction.

Data-based insights

Digital transformation can help you to better understand your market. By tracking metrics and analysing the data that you collect, you will be able to better understand your customers. You can also gain a clearer understanding of how the sector operates under varying circumstances. This helps companies to make better business decisions.

One survey on the use of data in business showed that 49 per cent of businesses believe that analytics are of most use in driving business decisions. Two-thirds of businesses surveyed believe that data plays a pivotal role in driving strategies.

There’s a plethora of ways that businesses can collect essential data. These include surveys, transactional data tracking, social media monitoring, and in-store traffic monitoring.

Greater collaboration across departments

By centring your organisation around digital infrastructure you can create a consistent working experience. Sharing data and information with your staff can promote idea sharing and innovation.

Organisations are beginning to create companies based on a digital culture. This shapes the way that staff communicate with each other and how technology influences the way they work. This culture reinforces their other digital strategies.

It’s important to maintain engagement with staff during a digital transformation. One report indicates that 79 per cent of companies that focus on culture sustain strong performance throughout their transformation.

When organisations are built around a common goal, business transitions will be smoother.

Improved agility and innovation

Digital transformations allow your business to stay agile, in that it is always prepared to and welcomes change.

The most successful organisations do not follow the beaten track. They look to see how their company can diverge from their original mission and build on their successes. Technology allows these new approaches to be developed alongside extending business enterprises.

One survey shows that 68 per cent of businesses believe that agility is within their top three most important initiatives. This means ensuring that every interaction between customer, technology, and staff is meaningful.

These agile interactions can include, for example, the development and improvements of chat-bots. It all works towards helping locate the best possible options for staff and customers.

Frequent technological innovations  make it difficult to predict what business will look like in the future. Organisations can prepare themselves for this through digital transformations, allowing any future developments and changes to integrate into their business operation.

Being recognised as a digitally transformed business, customers and staff will recognise your attempts to innovate and provide the best possible service. The ability to create additional revenue also highlights the need to adapt to the digital age. The future is showing its face through technology. Businesses must take advantage of the transformed society to change how they operate and reap the rewards.

Sources

https://www.weforum.org/press/2016/01/100-trillion-by-2025-the-digital-dividend-for-society-and-business/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2017/07/13/why-digital-leaders-focus-on-customer-experience/#4b97fa896228

https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/Deloitte-Analytics/dttl-analytics-analytics-advantage-report-061913.pdf

https://www.futureseriesfuse.com/insights/digital-transformation

http://go.nuodb.com/2016-database-report.html

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Virtual communications: How to handle difficult workplace conversations online

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Virtual communications: How to handle difficult workplace conversations online 3

Have potentially difficult conversation at work, like discussing a pay rise, explaining deadline delays or going through performance reviews are hard to do successfully under the very best of circumstances. Now many of us are faced with the additional challenges that remote working presents meaning you need to have these kinds of conversations virtually. A little preparation and advance thought about the direction of the discussion can really help to make the interaction feel more natural and improve your changes of a successful outcome.

Tony Hughes, CEO at Huthwaite International leading global provider of sales, negotiation and communication skills development, shares advice on how to handle difficult workplace conversations online.

Plan your communication airtime

Planning for a call can be an unpopular task, but taking a few minutes to think through the structure and purpose of your conversation can really help you to achieve your objectives – assuming you know what they are! Work out your primary, and also secondary objective as a fall back, so you will not have to rely on pressing for just one outcome if that becomes too difficult to resolve in one conversation.

Think about how you will show empathy

It can be difficult to observe someone’s body language over a virtual camera call so tone of voice is more easily interpreted. Listen carefully for clues to how the conversation is going from their tone and note that nerves tend to make the voice higher and this can be very noticeable – a warm drink may help to relax your vocal cords and deepen your voice. Smiling when you speak (if appropriate) will also help to relax you and the other person. If you need to get it all right first time, practice makes perfect. Practicing with a friend of colleague can help to produce the relaxed tone of voice necessary to sound sympathetic or authentic.

Active listening is essential

Listening is what separates skilled communicators from unskilled and using active listening is key to ensuring the conversation goes well. We demonstrate active listening by acknowledging statements. Acknowledging is not the same as supporting, by acknowledging we show we are listening but do not necessarily show agreement. Using phrases such as ‘I understand’, or paraphrasing statements show that we are aware of their opinion and their thoughts without necessarily agreeing with them. Taking care to allow people to fully express themselves, especially if they are agitated or excited, is key to defusing the situation.

If we must disagree with them, we should take care to make a positive statement before and after the disagreement. This means saying things like ‘I fully understand what you’re saying, and will do my best to help. However, I will need some time to investigate the situation. Let me come back to you in X time’.

Remember counter offers can be counterproductive

Communicating online can bring a sense of urgency to get the conversation over with quickly, especially if people are not used to virtual communication methods. This unnecessary pressure can cause people to make hasty, often ill-considered counter offers or proposals in a bid to reach an agreement about the difficult conversation they’re having or to tick the task off our list. Whether this is agreeing to workloads for the week, or discussing a pay rise – rushing conversations and making hasty proposals can be counterproductive and may show you’re not really listening and intent on pushing your own agenda. Good communication is about listening and understanding the needs of others, whilst maintaining a strong stance.

Avoid irritating verbal behaviours

Having a difficult conversation in the workplace is hard enough without the added complication and tensions that communicating virtually may present! Try to avoid adding to this by keeping the conversation free from irritating verbal behaviours. This means avoiding self-praising declarations by using words such as ‘fair’ and ‘reasonable’ when talking to people. This can cause tension as they can undermine the person you’re speaking to and may cause lasting damage to your relationship.

Other verbal behaviours such as telling someone you’re ‘being honest with them’ or ‘that you’re trying to be frank’, can indicate that you may not have been completely honest in the past, or that you may be suggesting your counterpart is being intentionally dishonest. Steer clear of this use of language. It can lead to tension and a breakdown in communication further down the line.

Remember to show emotion

Perhaps surprisingly, skilled communicators show their emotions and indicate how they are feeling towards a situation more than the average communicator. This skill is particularly important what dealing with a difficult online conversation. For example, phrases including ‘I am pleased we are making progress’ or ‘I’m worried that this won’t work out’, can be used as a substitute for an outright agreement or disagreement as it’s difficult to argue with someone else’s emotions. This verbal behaviour also reveals something personal, which is likely to encourage trust within a conversation. If someone expresses that they’re concerned a deadline won’t be achieved – it’s then difficult to retort with ‘no you’re not.’ When used in the right context, showing emotion is a highly effective way of deescalating confrontation.

Ensure you avoid defend/attack spirals

Defend/attack verbal behaviour is when the focus shifts from the problem to the person and the conversation becomes personal. Skilled communicators avoid this behaviour during a difficult conversation, as it can generate frustration and end very negatively. Usually, involvement in a defend/attack spiral is a heat of the moment reaction and it can be tricky to avoid. Difficult conversations tend to be high pressure, so to avoid this behaviour communicators should aim to understand and resolve, rather than react. This allows the conversation to become open and a solution to be achieved harmoniously.

If you want to learn more about how Huthwaite International can help your team develop a highly effective virtual communications strategy visit: https://www.huthwaiteinternational.com/business-performance-solutions/delivery-options/virtual-learning

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Brand guidelines: the antidote to your business’ identity crisis

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Brand guidelines: the antidote to your business’ identity crisis 4

By Andrew Johnson, Creative Director and Co-Founder.

How well do you really know your business?

Do you know which derivative of your logo to use on a pink background? Have you got a preferred font for PowerPoint presentations? Would you be able to look at a range of social posts and pick out the ones from your brand?

If your answer to any of the above is no, it’s probably time to think about your brand guidelines. Whether you’ve already got a set but feel they need a refresh or you’re starting from scratch, it’s crucial to have a firm grasp on your marketing do’s and don’ts.

Consistency makes you memorable

Before we get into the details of what to include, why do you even need brand guidelines? The simple answer is consistency.

Consistency is arguably the most important element of marketing. It makes your brand recognisable and helps you become known for a certain look and feel. Having a consistent brand also builds familiarity with your audience. People want to know what to expect from you. If you’re persistently using the same logos, imagery and tone of voice (TOV), people will start to take note and, over time, become fond of your brand. This is how brands become household names.

What’s more, just because you think you know your business inside out doesn’t mean everyone who joins your team does. For anyone creating marketing materials for your business, brand guidelines are an invaluable tool to ensure everything is in line with your desired look and feel.

Building your brand

Having a set of concrete brand rules will help your company look its best at all times. So, what type of things should you include in your brand guidelines?

  1. Define your vibe with TOV

Tone of voice is your brand’s personality coming through in words. Do you want to appear funny or serious? Casual or formal? Cheeky or respectful? Enthusiastic or matter of fact? Your TOV will be a blend of these different elements and work on a scale.

In your brand guidelines, you should clearly state “we write like this” and “we don’t write like this”. Are there any words you don’t like? Can you use casual contractions (“you’re”, “it’s”, “can’t”) or would you prefer to take the more formal route and avoid them? Are you comfortable shortening your brand name from, say, “Hyped Marketing” to “Hyped” or should the full name be used at all times?

These are all important things to consider if you want to make sure anyone writing marketing materials for you is on the same page.

  1. Pick (and stick to) your colour palette
Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson

Colours have a remarkable way of evoking certain feelings. For example, blue is often associated with trust, which is why you’ll see banks and hospitals use it a lot. Once you’ve chosen your colour palette, it’s important to stick to it to create a cohesive feel across all materials.

Your brand guidelines should contain CMYK, RGB, Pantone and Hex colour references for each colour in your palette. These references make it easy for anyone producing or printing materials for you to ensure they have an exact colour match — rather than just taking a wild guess!

  1. Learn your logos

Your logo should reflect what your company does day-to-day and marry together your colour palette and TOV into one little emblem.

Most businesses have derivatives of their primary logo, which should be used wherever possible. Your choice of logo will depend on where it appears. For example, you might use a white version of your logo on a solid colour background or a black version when colour printing isn’t available. Icon logos (with no accompanying text) also tend to be more suitable for social media profiles.

It’s also important that your guidelines include the correct proportions, opacity, colour usage and exclusion zone so that your logo always appears as intended. No one likes a squashed, off-colour logo!

  1. Tune into typeface

Selecting one or two fonts to be used across all materials is vital for maintaining consistency and expressing your brand personality. Do you prefer serif or sans serif? Sans serif is becoming increasingly popular (particularly for online materials as it’s easier to read on a screen) but serif still has a more formal effect.

In your guidelines, define where these fonts should be used. For example, you might use one  for internal communications and another for external or different ones for online or offline materials. It’s also worth choosing one font for headings and another for body copy or sub-headings. Make sure you note which colours from your palette should be used as well.

  1. Include the right imagery

Elegant copy, snazzy colours and a slick logo are all essential for your brand’s identity. But what about images? It’s key to include a section in your guidelines about the kind of imagery that should be used across your marketing materials.

Do you prefer photographic or illustrative imagery? Should your images feature people? Will you take the photos yourself or are you sourcing them elsewhere? If so, where are you sourcing them from? Get it all written down to ensure all imagery used is in line with the look and feel you want to create.

It’s never too late…

You may be reading this and thinking it’s too late for you to draw up brand guidelines for your company — but it never is.

While it may feel daunting to overhaul the way you produce your marketing materials, progressing with more consistency only cements what works for your brand and helps dispose of anything that doesn’t.

Are you looking to refine your brand and ensure it’s instantly recognisable? Get in touch with us today to learn more about our branding services and how we can help create brand guidelines and a TOV document for your business.  

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