A tax on retirement

When is a u-turn not a u-turn? Many members of the Forum of Private Business (FPB) would argue that the Government’s suggested £100,000 in tax relief when they sell up and retire certainly fits the bill, following, as it does, the much-vaunted proposals to change the Capital Gains Tax system.
At best, it is a small step in the right direction. At worse, a limp gesture designed to ease the swelling tide of criticism from owner-managers, lobby groups and MPs since the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon Alistair Darling MP, announced that taper relief and indexation of Capital Gains Tax would be abolished.

On board with Madonna

Madonna and the Prince of Wales are two of an estimated 3000 select people who are being invited to join the world’s first private flight sharing club in an effort to reduce the environmental impact and cost of private jets that are currently flying empty 40% of the time.
The Flightshare Private Members Guild is the brainchild of Farnborough UK based David Lacy, an aviation veteran of 26 years who was the first to introduce carbon offsets to the European private jet industry last year.

Hilton London Euston

WHAT’S IT LIKE? The Hilton London Euston is made up of two Victorian town houses joined together. It has had a few previous incarnations: as a Cora Hotel it was burnt to the ground in 1989 and after a rebuild and refurbishment it became a Scandic Hotel in 1991 and Euston Plaza Hotel in 2001. Hilton took over the property in 2004 and a year later updated the public areas and guestrooms. It looks more like a contemporary town house inside than its exterior suggests.

WHERE IS IT? Off the main Euston road in Bloomsbury, the hotel is a five-minute walk to London Euston station and a 15-minute walk into Holborn and Covent Garden beyond. Week-night business is dominated by travellers coming from the north through Kings Cross and Euston.

Guiding you from A to B

The emergence of cheap, portable satnav units really has revolutionised travel for most of us. No longer are you destined to spend hours driving randomly around city centres, and even the geographically-challenged now have a fighting chance of making meetings on time.
As the technology has got more advanced, the satnav gadgets themselves have shrunk, and now there are even mobile phones with mapping capabilities built in. When choosing a unit, it’s key to decide what sort of features you want – while basic maps are free, many providers charge for add-on services like live traffic information, for instance. If you plan a lot of travelling, it’s also worth checking you can easily change country maps – you don’t want to discover on the ferry across the channel that you need to buy a new memory card for French maps, for instance.

Switching on to Skype

Why do larger businesses seem to get the benefits of new technology first?  These companies typically have enough employees to justify replacing legacy telephony systems with new IP PBXs — they also have the budget for such large-scale investments.
But there isn’t a company, small or large, that would turn down access to 200 million new customers worldwide, let alone an opportunity to cut long-distance calling costs.  So how can smaller companies or those with small IT departments or low budgets experience the benefits of VoIP?
By calling other Skype users for free or standard phones via SkypeOut, companies can achieve significant reductions in their long-distance bills.

The ten steps towards greener technology

More and more businesses are now recognising the urgency of saving energy and developing plans to reduce their carbon footprint. Gaining control of the amount of power that a datacentre uses should be at the forefront of these strategies, as understanding where energy is wasted can make a huge impact to the size of your business’s footprint.
Currently, there is no standard for measuring datacentre efficiency which makes it incredibly difficult to benchmark efficiency performance. Generally, users of datacentres have scant understanding of where savings can be made and make little connection between their electricity bill and operational decisions. As a result the majority of datacentres are grossly inefficient.

Making sure it works

Modern businesses have started to treat IT as the fourth essential utility after water, electricity and gas. Today, IT is likely to play a vital role in the daily operations of all businesses, from bakers to banks.
Businesses of all sizes are upping their investment in all manner of IT, recognising its ability to streamline processes, improve efficiency as well as productivity and ultimately contribute to the bottom line. However, with this increased dependency on technology the availability and immediacy of good technical support has become a top priority.
One of the main reasons behind this IT services revolution is the availability of off-the-shelf standard software, as opposed to the complex bespoke systems thatwere the mainstay of offices twenty years ago. With the dawn of these off-the-shelf solutions, businesses can now buy software at a fraction of the cost it would to develop them for themselves. This means that IT support organisations are able to provide support for specific standard applications, thus ensuring the investment in technology is maximised.

Carry on Trading: Formal and informal

So you’ve decided you can’t carry on as you are and you’ve decided not to simply inject more capital.
If the business is viable if it did not have debts then you have one set of choices.  If the business isn’t viable even without debts then there are another set of options.
Let us first look at your options if the business is viable, were it not for the debts.  As we discussed last month, your energy levels and attitude to the business are as important as the balance sheet.  Let’s assume that you have energy and you want to continue; essentially, there are two possible approaches: the first is a formal negotiation with your creditors; the second is an informal one.

Picking up the post

Struggling to cope with late deliveries is nothing new for smaller business. Three years ago, when the Royal Mail’s second post was scrapped as part of the continuing drive to cut costs, many members of the Forum of Private Business (FPB) complained that late deliveries were hindering their ability to do business.
However, the latest delay is in naming the UK’s 2,500 post offices that are to face closure. This has been postponed from September and has left countless owners of small businesses on tenterhooks. Post offices are vital links in their supply chain, and many communities face prolonged agony because the process of consultation will not be concluded until October 2008, in some areas.

Going it alone

At the end of the ‘90’s the air was thick with revolution.  Offices, newspapers and gastropubs across the land were alive with rumours that the end of the workplace as we knew it was nigh.  With just a mobile phone and a laptop, people could work from anywhere, anytime. For some, tomorrow’s working world was a freelancer’s haven.  To others, it was all hype.
Whichever way you look at it, the UK’s freelance community is growing and it includes some of the country’s most experienced and talented workers who make up a highly skilled, highly mobile and flexible 21st century workforce.

Your own boss

Some of the common reasons cited for going freelance include being your own boss, making more money, having freedom and variety and striking the work/life balance.

Managing staff sickness absence

The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) published their eighth national survey of absence management policy and practice in July.  According to the survey the average employee now takes 8.4 days off sick each year, costing employers £659 per employee per year.  It is inevitable that some employees will need to take some time off sick but long-term sickness and growing rates of short-term sickness can have a huge impact upon business.  But what can businesses do to do tackle absence?

Packing the Punches: How to make your website a big hitter

Having a company website is the norm for any serious business these days, no matter what its size is, but it makes very little sense to spend good money on a website unless you can make it easy for people to find, use, and come away with a clear vision and understanding of what you’re about and the desire to return.
The best websites offer visitors something different but equally useful or entertaining each time they visit, compelling them to come back for more.  Without exception, these are websites that are in constant evolution; they are the sites that are tended to daily and regularly updated with new information.

Make ‘your’ voices heard

Businesses are the lifeblood of communities, and collectively they are the economic engine of the country. Business opinions matter greatly, and to ignore this voice would be disastrous to any government with aims of achieving economic development and future prosperity.
This year, I hope the party conferences act as a platform to promote the issues affecting businesses, and with the current ‘credit crunch’ taking hold, uncertainty at Northern Rock, and a government in power that claims it wants to utilise ‘all the talents’ available, this really should be the time for politicians to listen, learn and to wholeheartedly deliver.
So what is it that we are determined to voice? The first thing that strikes me when I travel around the country talking to businesses on behalf of the British Chambers of Commerce, is a growing skills gap. This country is suffering at the hands of an education system failing to deliver a skilled, enthusiastic and professionally minded workforce. Manufacturing, engineering and the science and technology sectors are suffering.