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Do you need a Business Plan?

Posted by - 28 Mar 2012

So you have decided to set up a company and have hopefully sought advice on what business structure to form. The next step is to write a business plan...or is it?

As you embark on a new business venture, you will be advised by many people to prepare a business plan, as a matter of priority. . The business plan is the strategy of how you intend to make your company a success. No matter what form your business takes, you will be advised to prepare a business plan. As a firm who acts for start-up companies of all shapes and sizes, there is good reasoning for doing so. However, despite popular belief, a business plan doesn’t necessarily have to be an intricate analysis of your business proposals.

A business plan can take many different forms and vary in length.

For example, a tradesperson looking to set up on his/her own business, as a sole trader, will not see the benefits from spending any great length of time composing a business plan. However, a tradesperson is more likely to benefit from a document outlining a strategy as to how he/she expects the company to grow from its humble beginnings.

A business plan should highlight the target market of the company and the key business objectives. It should also have a financial forecast, if only to allow you the means to compare your position at the end of year one. A business plan of this nature gives the new business owner a simple breakdown of the business so he/she can focus on what they started the company for. The business plan will also provide an invaluable benchmarking tool after the first year of trade, to assess the company’s performance against the initial expectations.

On the other hand, a start-up company that is looking for an investment from venture capitalists or from a bank will be required to produce a detailed business plan outlining every intricate detail of the proposed business. The same rule applies in that it should contain details of key customers and the key business objectives, but it should into further detail by explaining the purpose of the company and provide a detailed analysis on products, competitors and the target market. It should also contain a detailed cash flow forecast as well a three year Income Statement (Profit & Loss) forecast. Other financial information, such as asset valuations and security (where necessary), should be explored.. Perhaps most importantly, when raising finance for a start-up business, a business plan should include an exit strategy on how and when the potential investors can expect to see a return on their investment.

Four Important Rules to Writing a Business Plan

1.    User focus – adapt your business for its intended user i.e. Potential investor vs. yourself

2.    Outline functional strategies – this will help plan for success in the future

3.    Prepare forecasts – these are invaluable to assess progression to improve on prior year performance

4.    Tailor Made – every business plan should be tailored to meet your individual requirements

If you require any assistance in preparing your business plan, please do not hesitate to contact us.

 

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” Benjamin Franklin

 

Need Finance for your Small Business?

Posted by - 21 Mar 2012

Do you think today’s Budget will help small businesses?

The Chancellor offered little in the way of support for small businesses. The key small business announcement was in fact made on Tuesday with the government backed ‘credit easing’ National Loan Guarantee Scheme. However, only four banks have signed up to participate in offering low interest rate loans to small business. Do you think this is enough? Whilst the Banks are again urged to offer loans to small business, we frequently hear from business owners that Banks are not willing to lend.

There are several ways in which a small business can raise funds:

The more traditional method is to take out a loan with a Bank. On that loan, you pay interest. This is something that the Banks have been reluctant to offer in recent years. One potential way of successfully taking out a loan is to obtain a guaranteed loan, secured against an asset you own. However, with the current decline in house prices, this can prove difficult for many small business owners as the security may no longer be available with your property.

An alternative method, that is becoming increasingly common,  is to offer the Bank a personal guarantee against the loan. This provides the Bank with that comfort that you have personally guaranteed to repay the loan. If you are unable to provide a personal guarantee yourself, the bank may accept a personal guarantee from a family member.

Another possibility is to take out an agreed overdraft with your Bank.  This method can be more cost effective than taking out a loan from a Bank, provided you stay within your agreed overdraft.

The final way of raising finance through borrowing is by lending money from family or friends. This is often the least expensive option, as the interest rate is likely to be less than what a Bank would offer. However, be sure to pay the loan back in the agreed timescale, at the agreed interest rate, or you may find yourself in disputes with family members or close friends.

The methods outlined above are all forms of lending which create debt in the company. Therefore, before taking such a step, you should speak to an independent financial expert for further advice and information

There are of course other ways of raising funds for your small business that don’t create debt in the company. For example, if you obtain an investment from a venture capitalist, your ownership would be diluted, but you would have a debt.  Whilst you would have to share your profits with the investor, there may not be a requirement to repay the investment.

If you decided to set up a limited company, you may be able to get investments from family or friends and in return, offer them shares in the company.. This would again dilute your shareholding, but would not create debt in the company.

Whilst certain criteria would need to be met, subject to you being eligible, you may be able to receive a government grant or sponsorship. This form of funding is not repayable and is something you should consider.

Finally, if your cash flow is tight, there are other ways of obtaining finance such as invoice finance. This can take the form of invoice discounting or factoring and both can be beneficial to a business experiencing short term cash flow problems.

As you read this blog, you will no doubt be hearing different views on whether the Banks are lending money to small businesses. Whichever view is correct; there are a number of alternatives which you should consider if you require finance for a business.

If you wish to discuss your financing options in more detail, please do not hesitate to contact Hodgsons for further advice.

 

Sole Trader vs Limited Company

Posted by Rikki Burton - 07 Mar 2012

I frequently meet with prospective clients who are seeking advice on whether to start a company as a sole trader or as a limited company. There is no simple answer and this will clearly depend on the specifics of your proposed company. The purpose of this blog is to assist you in making an informed decision.

There are several issues which you should consider before deciding which corporate structure to choose. They include but are not limited to the following:

Legal Status

As a sole trader, you are the business and owner and therefore have full liability for the debts of the company. With a limited company, the business is a separate legal entity. As such, you are not personally liable for the debts of the company

Tax

As a sole trader, you would be taxed on your trading income throughout the year. This trading income is taxed as standard Income Tax. You would also pay Class 2 and Class 4 National Insurance Contributions (“NIC”), rather than class 1 NIC, which is deducted at source if you were an employee. As a sole trader, you would also be required to complete a self-assessment tax return each year for your Income Tax and NIC’s.

As a director of a limited company, it differs in that you would have to pay Corporation Tax on the company’s taxable profits. Employees are subject to PAYE and Class 1 NIC’s on their earnings from employment. Further, if you receive additional income by way of a dividend, that dividend would also be taxed.  There are of course tax benefits to being an owner of a limited company. By way of example, you can control how you receive your salary and ensure that it is paid to you in the most tax efficient manner. There are also some tax advantages to being a sole trader. They include gaining capital allowances for certain company expenditures which may reduce your taxable income. This is a complex area and we would be pleased to advise you further in this regard.

Accounting Records

Once your company has been established, we would strongly advise you to keep accounting records. This is the best way to monitor the performance of your company.

As a director of a limited company, you would be required to prepare annual accounts under the provisions of the Companies Act which are then required by HMRC for Corporation Tax returns.

However, as a sole trader you would only be required to prepare basic annual accounts. You may decide to submit these with your self-assessment return, but there is no requirement to do so.

General

With regards to the administration and management of the company, as a sole trader, you can do what you deem to be appropriate. As a company director, you are however responsible for adhering to company administration according to statutory regulations with regard to the limited company accounts, statutory books and management. In essence, the duties imposed on a director are more formal than a sole trader and shareholders/directors often find the requirements to be fairly onerous. This is something we would be able to assist you with to ease the burden.  

Other Practical Considerations

There are of course many more considerations when deciding whether to start a company as a sole trader or a limited company. Such considerations include how the expenses are going to be dealt with and whether you will want to purchase a company car. Purchasing a company can often bestow a tax saving, but this depends on the business structure chosen. Furthermore, substantial tax savings may be available as the result of incorporation from a sole trader to a limited company. This is something that you should consider as your business grows.

Conclusion

If you are thinking of setting up a business on a small scale, we would recommend setting up a sole trader business. This is to enable you to concentrate on the growth of your business and avoid dealing with the onerous demands that are required with a limited company. However, this decision requires careful consideration and we would recommend that you speak to a specialist accountant or financial advisor before making any final decisions.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me.

 

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