4 Productivity Tips From 1 Accounts To Kickstart Your New Year

4 Productivity Tips To Kickstart Your New Year!

Many people find it hard to return to work after the long Christmas and New Year slowdown, but the pandemic has slowed many people down to a halt. It may take longer than normal for some people to return to their usual productivity levels – but why stop at “usual” when things are unusual? Why not aim higher?

To help you do just that, here are 4 productivity tips to being as productive as possible when you return to work.

1. Know what you want to be different

Think about what normally happens when you start back at work. What tasks do you do that don’t really need to be done? What high-value tasks can you do instead? How much time do you usually have before things properly kick in and you’re very busy?

If you think about what you want to change so that you can start the year right, your intentions will be clear going into your first day and you’ll be far more likely to achieve what you want.

2. Identify the habits you’ll need to change

When you know your intentions (i.e. what you want to change), you then need to think about what action you will take. What steps do you need to take every day? Do you need to break bad habits that waste time and create new ones or do you just need to adapt them?

For example, if you want to develop a habit to do business development every day, try to link this to another habit that you already have. Something like, every morning after I get a cup of coffee and switch on my computer, I will do 10 minutes of engagement on LinkedIn.

3. Prioritise the right tasks

You shouldn’t have mounting emails or multiple requests from team members on your first day back, so use this time wisely. Prioritise the tasks that give you the most bang for your buck or the essentials that usually get pushed further and further down your to-do list. Plan your work for the next few months and start getting ahead.

You can even use this time to build those all-important relationships with your network. Phone up your best clients to find out how their Christmas went, let them know you’re back and to give you a shout if they need anything.

4. Don’t forget to look after yourself

Yes, looking after yourself is essential for productivity! The worst thing you can do is return to work and slot right back into the busyness and leave all those benefits that come with having a break behind. All that will do is result in you getting overwhelmed and potentially burning out after a few weeks or months. Instead, you should use this time to implement some self-care elements into your routine which you can carry on throughout the year.

Find out what works for you. Maybe it’s writing down a few things that you’re grateful for at the start of every workday. Maybe it’s going for a walk at lunch or the gym after work. Whatever helps you to focus when you’re working and switch off when you’re not, you need to make these a part of your daily work routine. What you’ll find is that you’ll keep that holiday feeling for as long as possible AND you’ll transition into a much healthier way of working where you’re far more productive.

notepad and pen

What finance is available for small businesses in 2021?

Just thinking about how much the government has forked out during the COVID-19 crisis is scary; never mind hearing the numbers (it was £284 billion at the end of 2020, just FYI). But the funny thing about the economy is that you have to borrow to build.

Small businesses have relied on government-backed financial support this past year, with schemes such as the Business Interruption Loan Scheme and the Bounce Back Loan Scheme keeping them afloat. However, the time has come to tighten eligibility, so these came to end as of March 31st.

The wounds of the pandemic are still being felt for many, so the question is then, what help is available to get through this next stage?

What are your needs?

Before you look at the options available, it’s worth thinking about what will be the most beneficial to you. Do you need immediate short-term support or medium-term financing? Will a one-off payment be enough or will you need finance again at some stage in the near future?

Once you know what your needs are, you can look at what new financial support schemes are available and choose the one that suits you best.

Financial support

  • The Recovery Loan Scheme – replaces the loan schemes that have just closed, and the government will guarantee up to 80% of loans from £25,000 to £10m. The scheme is open until 31st December 2021.
  • Restart Grant Scheme – a £5bn fund set up for non-essential retailers and hospitality and leisure businesses. If eligible, they could receive grants of up to £6,000 and £18,000 respectively, per premises.
  • Business rates relief – businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England will not have to pay business rates for the 2020 to 2021 tax year. Check eligibility here.
  • Self-Employment Income Support Scheme – to claim the fourth grant, you must be a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership. You also have to show evidence that supports a reduction in business activity, capacity, demand or inability to trade due to Coronavirus between 1st February 2021 and 30th April 2021.

Keep yourself informed & seek advice

2021 is looking better than 2020, but it’s still a rough road ahead. Especially for businesses. To help plan for an uncertain future, always keep up to date with announcements, check the Gov.uk website, and always consult your financial advisor for advice before applying for a scheme.

Girl holding a wad of money

How can I increase my profit margin?

As author Dough Hall correctly put it, “if your profit margins arent rising, chances are your company isnt thriving.” Makes sense when you think about it. If your profit margin is the actual money you get to walk away with after a transaction (your revenue minus your costs), you want to be continually improving this number.

To help you increase your profit margin, especially at a time where you’re unable to increase demand, here are 10 strategies that you can start with.

Raise your fees

This is the most obvious way to increase your profit margin as the more money you make on each sale, the wider your margin. If you haven’t raised your prices in a while, consider doing so.

Reduce operating expenses 

Think about how you can streamline your operations to reduce costs. Can you lower your overheads by reducing wasteful spending? Would you benefit from automating administrative tasks?

Upsell services to existing clients

Your clients already know and trust you, so they are going to be significantly more receptive to other offers that you have. Upsell your other services that they could benefit from and you’ll see this is a great way to improve your profit margin.

Increase the productivity of your staff

Increasing the output of your staff is a great strategy to increase your profits. From setting the right targets and motivating them to training your staff and helping them develop the right skills, you can do a lot to boost their performance.

Identify and fix bottlenecks

In which areas are processes too slow? In what areas is there waste in your business? Bottlenecks cost you money and decrease your bottom line so comb through your processes and see what needs to be improved. Examples of waste are not utilising talent, waiting for work from others, and poor communication channels.

Invest in savvier practice management software 

While cloud-based systems and software cost initially, they can save a lot of time and money when it comes to those administrative and manual tasks. If you train the right staff on the right software, things like client enquiries, relationship management, email management, invoicing, and social media scheduling become a lot less painful.

Improve inventory turnover 

Markdowns are known profit-killers, so avoid them at all costs. One way to do this is to better manage areas like inventory. Review your inventory turnover and make better decisions around purchasing, sales and marketing, and you’ll reduce the need for markdowns.

Increase the perceived value of your brand 

You need a strong brand, one that centres around the emotional and lifestyle values of your target audience. If you have a brand that connects with your audience and you position yourself as the go-to-expert, you can charge a premium for your services.

Improve your bottom line

You don’t have to make drastic changes to increase your profit margin and it’s not all down to increasing your demand either.

The best way to continuously improve this number is to make effective tweaks to your business over time. They may seem like small changes in the moment, but these all build up and pave the way for wider profit margins!

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Another Lockdown

Yesterday the Scottish and English governments announced national lockdowns with schools being closed. The net result being all of England and Scotland must stay at home except for a handful of permitted reasons. Wales has already been on a lockdown since mid December.

If you had been looking at the daily cases of COVID-19 it was becoming increasingly obvious that the current restrictions were just not working. This email sets out what you need to know from yesterday’s announcements. To read the English government announcement click here.

The Stay At Home Order

People cannot leave their homes apart from for essential medical needs, food shopping, exercise and work for those who cannot do so from home. If you do leave your home for a permitted reason, you should stay local. They are saying that exercise should only be once per day. Unlike March’s Stay At Home order this seems a little less restrictive as children’s parks can still remain open.

Help for businesses

Help has been announced today for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses. This has only been announced today so please click here to find out more.  And the furlough and self-employed grant schemes are still running across Jan to April 2021.

What has to remain closed until February

  • All schools, colleges and university. Learning will move online. But schools will remain open for key workers and vulnerable children.
  • Outdoor sports venues such as tennis, golf and outdoor gyms
  • Non-essential retail – but can still operate a ‘click and collect’ service.
  • Amateur Team Sports
  • Entertainment venues
  • Restaurants, pubs and hotels – but can offer a takeaway service
  • Beauty and hair salons

What about nurseries?

  • In England these can stay open, but in Scotland and Skye they will close.

What is defined as essential retail? Here are a few of the main categories, but the full list can be found here

  • Food shops, supermarkets
  • Banks, building societies, post offices
  • Medical, dental and veterinary services
  • Agricultural supplies
  • Repair services
  • Fuel stations

Any other key changes?

  • Restaurants and pubs can still offer takeaway food but can no longer offer takeaway alcohol.

The government is pinning all its hopes on getting the first dose of the vaccine out to the top 4 priority categories by mid-February. With a view that when this has happened restrictions can be slowly lifted as the most vulnerable in our society will be protected.

What does this mean for you and your business?

  1. Find out whether these lockdown announcements mean you can trade for the next 6-7 weeks
  2. Review your resourcing requirements but also how many of your staff will now have childcare duties
  3. Rethink your business plan, cash flow plan and also revisit your contingency plans

What happens after lockdown?

English Government announce new winter plan to beat COVID-19

This week seems to be a week of announcements from Boris. So, you may see a few updates from us too this week.

On Monday the English government published its winter plan to beat COVID-19. You can find the full text of the plan here. Having read through the plan it seems to be good news for most businesses.

The English government announced yesterday that:

  • Full lockdown will end on the 2nd Dec 2020
  • England will go back into the 3-tiered regional approach.

However, there are changes to those tiers. And on Thursday this week regions will find out what tier they are in.

So what will change?

  1. The stay at home requirement will end, with domestic and international travel being permitted again subject to guidance in each tier.
  2. Shops, personal care, gyms and the wider leisure sector will reopen.
  3. Collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume, subject to social distancing.
  4. People will no longer be limited to seeing only one other person in outdoor public spaces – the rule of 6 will now apply as it did in the previous set of tiers.

How has the tier system changed? 

The changes to the tiers are as follows:

  1. Regardless of your tier the government would like working from home wherever possible.
  2. In tier 2, pubs and bars must close unless they are serving substantial meals along with accompanying drinks.
  3. In tier 3 all hospitality will close except for delivery, takeaway and drive-through. Hotels and other accommodation providers must close (except for specific exemptions, including people staying for work purposes or where they cannot return home. All indoor entertainment venues must also close.
  4. The 10pm closing time for hospitality has been modified to last orders at 10pm and closing time at 11pm. This allows customers to depart gradually and provides greater flexibility.
  5. In tiers 1 and 2, spectator sport and business events can now resume inside and outside with tight capacity limits and social distancing, providing more consistency with indoor performances in theatres and concert halls.

We will have more updates this week when we have more news on the tax updates from Rishi and any further updates planned by the government.

What is working from home relief?

Working from home relief = FREE CASH

Due to the current pandemic, many businesses have been working from home this year (ours included). It looks like those who can work from home will be until March 2021 at the earliest.

We have also seen a change in attitude towards flexible working. It has become the ‘new normal’ and many employees may continue working from home in the future.

What many businesses haven’t realised is that they can get free cash from HMRC for working from home. WOW!

So what is working from home relief?

From 6 April 2020 employers have been able to pay employees up to £6 a week tax-free to cover additional costs if they have had to work from home. Employees who have not received the working from home expenses payment direct from their employer can apply to receive tax relief from HMRC.

Find out full details here –  www.gov.uk/government/news/54800-customers-claim-tax-relief-for-working-from-home.

In a very interesting twist Martin Lewis has reported that even if you work from home for just one week, you can still claim a whole years relief. This is a very public statement from Martin Lewis and we are certain that he has proof from HMRC. However there may be a caveat when HMRC realise what they have said.

Read his article here – https://blog.moneysavingexpert.com/2020/04/martin-lewis–working-from-home-due-to-coronavirus–claim-p6-wk-/

Our advice for employees 

If your employer is not paying the allowance, which they are not obliged to, log into the HMRC portal and make your claim. For basic rate tax payers this is worth £62.40 and higher rate tax payers it is worth £124.80. For 10 minutes of your time, it is worth doing!

Our advice for employers

You do not have to pay the allowance. However as we are coming into the festive season, why not incorporate the £6 per week into a Christmas Bonus? There are no PAYE or NIC deductions for the employer or employee making it a great treat for the end of this turbulent year.

What are the new business support schemes for covid-19?

What are the new business support schemes for covid-19?

Yesterday the government announced more support for businesses and the self-employed. This blog takes you through the announcements and what it means for your business.

On the one hand, it is great to see the government making available this help. But this probably means we will see fairly strict lockdown conditions between now and March 2021. We hope we are wrong about this, but in your contingency/scenario planning, particularly in regard to cash, please extend this 4-week lockdown until the end of March. If you need help with your business planning, please get in touch.

Here are the full details from the Government’s announcement.

The Self-Employed Income Scheme

On 30th November you will be able to claim a grant for up to 80% of your profits, to cover you for Nov – Jan 2021. This is capped at £7500. They also declared there will be one more grant which will cover the period Feb – Apr 2021. Details are yet unknown of when this will be paid or for how much.

To receive these grants, you need to have received the previous grants.

The ‘Furlough scheme’

This has now been extended to the end of March. Which in effect means that we are unlikely to see the Job Support Scheme operational… You can Furlough any member of staff, as long as they were on the payroll before Oct 30th 2020. And the government will pay up to 80% of their wages, capped at £2500 per month.

As a result of extending the Furlough scheme the planned Jan 2021 ‘Job retention bonus’ of £1000 for any employee you Furloughed who you still employed has been deferred. Until when? Who knows?

Help with cash flow

If you haven’t taken a Bounce Back Loan or didn’t take the maximum amount available to you, you can now top this up. And you will be able to take out a CBIL or Bounce Back Loan now until the end of Jan 2021.

Mortgage payment holidays for those who haven’t taken a payment holiday will be available for 6 months, without this being noted on their credit files.

Remember that for many businesses the deferred Q2 VAT payments, general tax and self-assessment tax is now becoming due in the next few months. Please get in touch if you haven’t already identified how you will manage your cash to make these payments. We can put you in touch with finance providers or help you organise a time to pay agreement with HMRC.

How do I adjust staff working patterns?

Whether it is staggering start and finish times to reduced prolonged contact time, introducing short term working due to reduced business needs or flexible working to enable employees to meet child care commitments, a number of employers are having to think differently about how their business operates and the working patterns of their employees.

Whilst businesses should seek professional advice to ensure decisions are legal and in line with employment law such as ensuring any decision around working from home/reduced hours is not discriminatory below are a few tips on considerations you may need to make as well as tips on making different working patterns work.

Team jumping

Knowing what your employment contracts state enables you to make decisions based on what has already been agreed and understand where a ‘temporary change of contract’ may be required and therefore agreement needed from the individual (e.g. short time working).

Parents with two children

Do you need to enhance your flexible working policy to meet current and future needs of your business and employees?  Flexible and agile working has moved beyond formal agreements to reduce working hours.  Policies now need to reflect informal, temporary and permanent changes to working hours, patterns and location of work.  The should also promote a fully inclusive environment that meets the needs of the individual and business.

Two employees talking

Engage with employees to establish what their needs are and works well for them.  Where possible, involve them in the decision making process.  You also need to have a clear business rationale behind any decision that impacts working hours and/or working patterns and communicate these to your employees.

Continue to talk with employees to review success of changes to working patterns and adjust where necessary.

Traditionally, many businesses (and managers) take a time-based and ‘presentism’ approach to work and performance assessment.  With high numbers of individuals needing to work from home and many rethinking about work and domestic working patterns adjusting, a move to a more outcome based approach promotes a more productive and healthy working environment.  To help with this, managers should:

  • Set clear objectives and tasks that can be measured, moving away from a time focus
  • Agree ‘contactable hours’ where individuals commit to being visibly online and/or available for calls
  • Accept that working 9-5 is now not the norm. Many individuals may choose to start work earlier/finish later to enable them to deal with domestic responsibilities or personal activity (such as exercise)

Calendar and out of office

Utilise tools such as out of office messages, calendar’s and answer phone messages to advise people of working patterns and reduce levels of frustration when uncontactable.

agree core working hours

Having core working hours (e.g. 11:00 – 14:00) and enabling teams to arrange their working times around this gives flexibility whilst having some consistency where all employees are available for meetings.