Civil servants pay cut

I’m reading this article in the Sunday business post http://www.thepost.ie/news/ministers-move-to-cut-pay-of-top-public-servants-56874.html it relates to ministers cutting the pay of top civil servants. This is all well and good; the pay should be in line with the private private sector, My concern is the actual number of civil servants. An example is the revenue commissioners. (Whom I must point out generally give us great customer care) Recently the revenue has decided to sub contract the paying of VRT to the NCTs.

There was 3400 2nd hand cars imported in April this year.What are the staff who previously processed these cars in the revenue doing now? We paid the VRT on a car this week and there was only a cursory inspection of the tax disc and mileage. No mechanical or safety inspection was made.

The groupon bubble

groupon

I use groupon (City deals in Ireland) a bit. I travel with work and the hotel deals are excellent. Too good in fact when you consider the hotels get on average 50% of what you pay, and only after the guest has stayed. I’m sure the publicity is great for the hotels and if you have a nice stay your likely to go back.

Except in my case and I suspect many others I stay in the hotel and likely wont go back unless theres another silly priced deal.

Reuters say the IPO may value the company at $15 – $20bn , Groupon does not publish financial information but say they have been profitable since 2009. Obviously a $15Bn valuation is significant but whats it based on? Actual profit or crazy future profit expectations.

Consider Gilt groupe (another deals website)which a  group of VCs recently invested $138 million in, giving the company a valuation of $1 billion despite the fact that the site hasn’t made a profit since its launch in 2007

The entire group buying phenomenon is fascinating and looking very like the original dot-com in which scores of start-ups launched themselves into a marketplace only to see the market suddenly retract.

Recovery remains uneven – KBC survey

A new survey suggests that business sentiment has continued to stabilise during the first three months of 2011.

A new survey suggests that business sentiment has continued to stabilise across the economy during the first three months of 2011.
The KBC Bank/Chartered Accountants Ireland business sentiment survey indicates that the economy is ‘bouncing along the bottom’. It says this has been the case for some time and could continue because the broadly based positive momentum typically found in a recovery phase is missing.
The Spring survey shows that conditions continue to vary widely between sectors. It says that the manufacturing industry saw the strongest activity trends. Firms in the food sector also reported a strongly positive balance, but there were slightly fewer firms reporting gains and slightly more companies reporting weakness compared to the previous three month period.
The business services area also saw a smaller overall positive balance, while the negative balance in the construction sector was sharply lower compared to the last three months of 2010.
KBC said that 73% of Irish companies surveyed expect to be negatively impacted by higher European Central Bank rates due to weaker demand, higher financing costs and another hit to confidence.
Today’s survey reveals that employment levels continued to fall, but the number of firms which increased their headcount rose to the strongest level since the Winter 2007 survey with one in five firms reporting that they had added jobs in the past three months. One in four firms cut their workforce, but this is a somewhat lower figure than seen in recent surveys.
KBC said, however, that stronger expectations for future jobs growth are more prevalent in those sectors traditionally seen as less labour intensive. ‘As a result, it seems unlikely that any turnaround in Ireland’s job market will be a relatively slow and uneven process,’ the bank added.
Companies also said they regarded the new government programme as positive for Irish economic prospects, while they retained significant doubts that the 2015 deficit targets will be met

Taken from
http://www.rte.ie/news/2011/0407/economy-business.html
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Anti money laundering quiz

Small business budgeting

Every month large  organisations pour over budgets, Analysiing variances, updating forcasts.. But what about Small Businesses? Should they budget too? Absolutely. If you don’t prepare a budget you have nothing to aim to. Budgeting will assist with business planning and cost control ultimately success.

What Is a Budget?Although you might not know it, you prepare a budget each time you estimate how much cash you will have left at the end of the month after paying your bills.

A budget is a forecast of all cash sources and cash expenditures. It is organized in the same format as a financial statement, and most commonly covers a 12-month period. At the end of the year, the anticipated income and expenses developed in the budget are compared to the actual performance of the business as recorded in the financial statement.

The budgeting process takes a number of steps the first I would suggest is profit and loss forecast. This involves taking last years monthly profit and loss statements and teasing out budgeted figures for the following  month/ year in a spreadsheet. For example if your sales in February 2010 were €70K but you know you have a new sales person and better products this year you should be budgeting for €100K

If your phone bill was €1k last March and you’ve changed providers and negotiated a discount you can lower this amount. Its extremely important to be realistic with these figures. Otherwise the whole budgeting process is a waste of time.

Once you have extrapolated out the monthly profit and loss figures you now have the basis of your budget. Remember your budgeting is an ongoing process. Theres no point in preparing a budget and sticking it in a drawer for the year. You need to constantly measure your results against your predicted budget figures and catch small problems before they become an issue.

Here are our tips to making budgeting work for your small business

 

  1. Update the budget every month and analyse your variances. If you have your budget set up correctly in a spreadsheet this should be a simple case of plugging in figures.
  2. Set up a very simple system for your budget. If it takes too much time, you wont do it. `
  3. Build up a cash reserve. Budgeting should help you control costs and cash flow. In uncertain economic times  a cash reserve will help you sleep at night
  4. Be Conservative. Expecting a 40% sales increase in one month for no apparent reason is not going to end well. If your constantly missing your targets you will become deflated.
  5. Be Flexible. If one of your figures is way out for example you purchased new equiptment which wasn’t planned, you may find production has increased to matcth this.
  6. Accept that budgeting is a form of estimation and by that nature it will never be perfect.
  7. Don’t scrimp too much on critical expenditure which drives sales, For example marketing or sales person commission.

Call answering service

I’ve been researching call answering services (virtual receptionist) for a few weeks now, My problem is relatively simple. 80% of the time either myself or one of our staff members is available to answer the phone. But at times like Christmas and Holidays I may require some extra support.

The only professional pay as you go service I could find was Answer.co.uk
The set up was very easy, The costs are low (£1 per call) and the quality of the receptionists is excellent. Highly recommended.

Theo Paphitis book – Enter the dragon

I started into Enter the Dragon
on a short flight to London a few weeks ago. Unfortunately I left the book behind me in the seat pocket. The fact that I was so annoyed I’d lost it and bought another copy straight away is a compliment its self for this book.

Watching Dragons Den I like Theo’s attitude and manners. He’s certainly not as rude as some of the other dragons and seems quite chilled out. This shows through in the book. He appears honest and tells his rags to riches tale with sincerity.

The book is not written as a ‘how to’ guide for entrepreneurs but its certainly good reading for the entrepreneurs among us. Theo’s passion for business and genuine excitement shines through. You can buy the book here

The Taoist farmer – Finding the hidden opportunities in life

The Taoist farmer lived in a remote village in the furthermost corner of China. He was not a wealthy man, but he was content with his life, and farmed a small plot of land with his son and wife. One day, a wild horse galloped on to his land, jumped the fence and began grazing in the farmer’s field. According to the provincial law, the horse now rightfully belonged to the farmer and his family. The farmer’s son could hardly contain his excitement, but the farmer put his hand on the son’s shoulder and said, “Don’t be quick to judge! Who knows what’s good or bad?”

The following day, the horse broke out of the field and galloped away. The farmer’s son was heartbroken. “Don’t be quick to judge,” said the father. “Who knows what is good or bad?”

On the third day, the horse returned with four mares. The farmer’s son could hardly believe their good fortune. “We’re rich!” he shouted, but again his father said to him, “ Don’t be quick to judge. Who knows what is good or bad?”

The following week, while riding the horses, the boy fell and broke his leg. The farmer ran to get the doctor: within a short time, both the farmer and the doctor were tending to the boy, who was moaning and complaining about his miserable fate. The farmer wiped his son’s forehead with a cool, damp cloth, looked deeply into his eyes ad reassured him once again, My son, do not be too quick to judge. Who knows what is good or bad?”

The following week, war broke out in the province, and army recruiters came through the village and conscripted all of the eligible young men – all except for one young man who was unable to fight due to a broken leg!

This parable was taken from The Flipside: Finding the Hidden Opportunities in Life

Single Business Number

In our home market of New Zealand we’ve been dialing up the awareness of a Single Business Number (SBN). An SBN is a public unique identifier for each small business.

Single ID number for firms

Australia already has a Single Business Number (called the Australian Business Number – ABN) as does Canada, the US (Employer Identification Number – EIN) and a number of other countries. Where a Single Business Number exists, these have normally been created by Government departments for the purpose of making it easier to collect information from small business.

In a cloud computing environment, a Single Business Number comes alive for the small business owner and is a key building block for a number of new services.

Possibilities

One of the key differences between cloud computing compared to desktop software is your data can be linked to other information. Take for example entering a new customer. You have to know their name and address and if they move you may not know for several months. In the cloud it would be great to be able to connect to that customer and have their latest address details load automatically into your system, and if these ever change, have them automatically updated.

If a new customer approaches you with a large order, wouldn’t it be great to do an immediate credit check. If they come back with a less than clear bill of health then you still might do the business but insist on a cash payment up front. Both parties win.

Another example is sending electronic invoices. It seems crazy that a small business creates an invoice in its own accounting system with structured data, then flattens that data into a paper invoice, which is essentially a picture, and then the customer has to retype that invoice back into structured data in their accounting system. (We’ve started on this at simpleubl.org)

Wouldn’t it be useful to have as the last page of your monthly management accounts an anonymous benchmark of similar companies in your space. You can see how well you are doing against your competitors and peers. That 1% growth you’re achieving might compare with an industry average of -2%, showing that your strategies are working and you are gaining market share in a tough market.

The Single Business Number is a key building block for all these scenarios.

What number?

So what could the Single Business Number be? In New Zealand it’s likely to be the GST (Goods and Services Tax) number as it’s already a number that each business uses to interact with our Inland Revenue Department. There may be a suffix or prefix to make it match other international numbers like the ABN. There is some Government policy work required to enable the GST Number to be used for this purpose.

But that may be a too literal interpretation of a Single Business Number. Another candidate identifier might be the physical address of head office. Essentially this is a physical key that already exists for many businesses and can be easily populated using a geo interface like Google Maps.

Another alternative is the Companies Office record. In New Zealand the Companies Office has recently implemented a new Companies Register which could generate a unique url for each business. (e.g. business.govt.nz/company/xero2006). The problem is the Companies Office does not have a register of sole traders and partnerships and is therefore missing the majority of small businesses. A policy option might be to allow sole traders to (initially at least) voluntarily register themselves to obtain a validated listing in the Companies Register. We believe that providing certainty over who you are trading with is an accelerator for most businesses.

Start the ball rolling

As anything involving Government can take a while, the industry can potentially just get started with some of these candidate keys and match them up later, but that is not as powerful as having certainty. We believe the traction cloud computing vendors are achieving creates the business case for businesses themselves to get interested in SBN. That leads to a massive opportunity for productivity gains and increased commerce for small businesses. We think that’s important.

Let us know what you think.  We’re keen to understand if there is any resistance to SBN so we can talk through those issues.

Yodlee bank feeds update for Australia

We’re making excellent progress with the first phase of our Yodlee integration which will extend our bank feeds to many more financial institutions in Australia. We had been hoping to launch this new service on Monday 18 October, but we need some more time to complete the testing to ensure that everything works as it should from day one.

We’re now planning to release this service in the week after the 18th. We’ll post a release outage notification in Xero a few days before, confirming the final release date and time.

We’re sorry for this short delay, but we promise you it is worth the wait. Thanks for your patience!