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Success Story: Property development and CBILS

£700,000 Property Development Exit Finance - with no interest to repay TL:DR When the Covid crisis hit, one property developer struggled with cashflow when the property market ground to a halt and they were unable to sell their new development. With the help of the Rangewell Property Experts, they were able to secure £700,000 as a Development Exit Finance deal supported by the Government's CBIL Scheme, at 0.7% per month and nothing to pay back for the first 12 months. How can you bring in large-scale funding without equally large scale repayments? At Rangewell, we found a solution that gave our client the £700,000 they needed - with no costs. When the Covid crisis erupted across the world, there was little chance for most businesses to plan for it and the property sector, amongst others, has been hit particularly hard. Not only was the entire property sector effectively shut down when the government forced the closure of non-essential businesses such as estate agents, but it also became impossible to view new homes or to arrange mortgages for a period of several months. Now, even though the housing market has opened up again, those in it are suffering from a financial hangover. Homebuilders and developers have faced particular problems, with large-scale financial commitments supported by extensive lending. The inability to sell the property that they have already built means an increasing debt burden as interest mounts, as well as a cash flow issue. The government’s provision of funding has provided a lifeline for many businesses - including property developers. But the scale of funding required can be a serious obstacle to actually securing it. With developers already borrowing heavily, taking on additional costs - even with the support of the government scheme - can prove problematic. A challenging time We were recently approached by a housebuilder who had built a small estate of upmarket homes which were ready for market at the beginning of the year - but which could not be sold.  Their usual bank, which had helped them with short-term cash flow issues in the past with similar deals, was moving very slowly because of lockdown and the business owners were concerned that their already-high borrowing would count against them. “Basically, we were already borrowing to our maximum to buy the land and build the homes. It was not a gamble in any sense, because we had properties ready to sell in a location and a bracket where buyers are plentiful. But when the lockdown was announced, we saw we had a problem, and a growing cash flow shortfall.” Existing lenders needed to be paid each month, and each month that the homes stood without being sold meant a larger deficit. They called the Rangewell property team for help. We looked at the figures and proposal and saw that the business would need around £700,000 as Development Exit Funding to get through the first months of lockdown and be ready to sell as soon as the property market was open again for business.  We saw the solution by structuring a deal based on a Bridging Loan with the support of the CBIL Scheme.  About Bridging Loans Bridging Loans are secured on property like a mortgage - but, unlike a mortgage, they are designed for short-term use. The loan can be as short as one day and run up to a maximum of 12 months. Loan amounts start at around £25,000 and there is no maximum. Bridging Loans can be arranged within a matter of hours, and funds released in as little as 72 hours under certain conditions. However, Bridging Loans are different from mortgages in two other important ways. They are designed for the short term, and therefore carry a higher cost. No interest to repay Getting the right arrangement for our client would be vital to avoid increasing the burden of debt that they were already facing. With a large sum to finance and the usual high interest rates of a bridge, in normal circumstances, the approach would simply increase the client's debt and make their overall position worse with a temporary reprieve. However, it is possible to arrange a bridging loan of 12 months or even longer with interest roll-up, rather than monthly payments. In other words, the interest is simply added to the principal amount, to be repaid in full at the end of the arrangement. By using a CBILS arrangement, the need for our client to pay interest could be avoided altogether. About CBILS The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is a government-backed scheme to provide financial support to smaller businesses across the UK that are losing revenue, and seeing their cashflow disrupted, as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The scheme can provide loans of up to £5million, but in most cases will be much less - and crucially, with nothing to repay for the first 12 months. We know that, although mortgage lenders were not lending because of Covid, those who provide Bridging Loans were still lending. We contacted these lenders about our client's needs and were able to secure some offers in a matter of days. With CBILS, the government guarantees 100% of the loan and there are no fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. After 12 months the interest rate is at 2.5% a year. “Rangewell found us the cash we needed to stay afloat at a time when banks and other lenders all seemed to have shut their doors. The expertise of the Rangewell team not only meant that we had a lifeline but if we are able to sell off the properties in the course of the next year, it should cost us nothing!” Large-scale property funding Bridging Loan:   £700,000 at 0.7% per month - all interest to be paid by government funding under the CBILS scheme The client had the funding he needed for the project - with nothing to pay back for 12 months Rangewell finds the financial solutions that your business needs The Rangewell service is easy to use - and lets you talk to a funding expert to get a solution that is planned around your business needs. Just call us and one of our Business Funding Experts will be able to discuss the options and work out the most cost-effective ways to provide the funding you want - whatever the challenge your business plans present. It could prove to be a lifeline for your business. We’ll search the entire lending market to find the most affordable solutions to your funding needs - and, in most cases, our services are absolutely free. To find out more call Rangewell for an informal discussion on 020 3318 2613 or email [email protected]

Airspace - making money out of thin air

Things may be looking up in the property market – literally.  The space above existing buildings could be a goldmine for developers thanks to some changes to planning laws. We look at those changes, what they could mean to the market, and how you could start making profits out of thin air. The UK has a housing shortage. But finding an answer to that shortage is not simply a matter of building on more greenfield sites. Suitable plots of land are becoming scarce and are rarely in the key locations - central, with easy access to amenities and transport - that people actually want. Brownfield sites, where old industrial units have been torn down, are already at a premium in city centres, with developers competing to fill them with as many units as possible. But there could be a huge and unexploited area ready for development in every city and town in the UK. The unused airspace. What is airspace? The area above an existing property is known as the airspace, and changes to the planning rules have opened it up as an area for development. When you own a property, you own the airspace. This prevents your neighbours erecting overhanging eaves, advertising hoardings, or even cantilevered extensions over your home. But because the space belongs to you as the property owner, it could provide an opportunity for rewarding development. Airspace, or rooftop, development is the delivery of new homes above existing buildings  Airspace or rooftop developments can usually be found in dense cities or town centres where land is scarce. The idea of airspace is already well established in other locations. In New York, for example, airspace is worth an average of $225 (£176) a square foot. Prices in London are hard to benchmark - but are likely to be substantially higher. Of course, this is not a new idea. People have been building penthouses on top of existing buildings for more than a century, since steel framing made it possible to accurately calculate the loads involved. Many highly-desirable properties combine spectacular views with an address in the very heart of great cities because they were built on top of an existing, and usually commercial, structure. But airspace development is no longer confined to the luxury end of the market. Airspace doesn’t just offer the opportunity to build more expensive penthouses in desirable locations. It is also suitable for developing affordable housing, by allowing better use of the existing footprint of local authority and housing associations homes, as well as adding residential property on top of commercial premises. Airspace development has been gradually gathering pace in the UK, and especially in London, over the last few years. Now, some changes to the planning laws may have opened up many more opportunities. What has changed? With the UK economy in turmoil after Covid, the government is looking at ways to stimulate activity – and especially the building market. In his ‘Build, Build, Build’ speech in Dudley last month, Boris Johnson set out a number of radical planning reforms. This included the confirmation of the extension of permitted development rights to make it easier for people to build upwards. Back in March, housing secretary Robert Jenrick said in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government's 'Planning for the Future' document that the government would introduce new permitted development rights for building upwards on existing buildings by summer 2020. That promise has now come to fruition. Now, since August 1, a new class of permitted development rights will come into play to make it possible to build up to two additional storeys to provide additional flats on top of purpose-built, detached blocks of flats without requiring full planning permission. The government’s announcement of the new Permitted Development Right (PDR) could shorten the planning cycle, making a whole new class of buildings suitable for airspace development – and opening the way for profitable deals and projects. The permitted development includes the construction of up to two additional storeys of flats immediately above the existing topmost residential storey on a building which is an existing purpose-built, detached block of flats. This is subject to a prior approval process, details of which need to comply with the regulations. It is essentially an ‘in-principle’ agreement. In simple terms, where there is a flat roof, there is a potential building plot - ready to be developed. The potential The potential for airspace development could be huge. It is believed that, by making use of existing flat roofs in London alone, there would be sufficient room for around 140,000 new homes. 140,000 new homes above London’s public buildings would be worth approximately £74bn, based on an average house price of £534,785. Of course, things will never be quite that simple in practice. Although it may be possible to find the spaces where building is feasible, there will still be problems of access to overcome – and many older buildings will simply not be structurally suitable to an additional imposed load. However, if you do find a suitable site, the development cycle can be rapid. With existing services on-site and ready to be tapped into, homes may be built offsite using modular construction and arrive 95% complete before being installed. Modular is one of the most exciting innovations across property development and is favoured by the Government as one of the keys to addressing delivery shortages and improving efficiency – and by developers who want to reach the profit stage quickly. It is a much quicker and less disruptive means of housing delivery given the significant percentage of work that is carried out off-site. It means that there is an exciting new opportunity for developers – whether or not you currently own suitable property. What can you build? The new planning rules could see a boom in luxury penthouses in desirable locations, where a view across the city is matched by a short walk to the office. Prices of up to £5million are common in London, especially if river views are available.  But, lucrative though these may be, they may not be the main route to profits from airspace development. Already, many local authorities are looking at putting extra floors on existing low-rise blocks when they become due for refurbishment. There are now plenty of opportunities to do the same thing in the private sector – and as public/private cooperation. Affordable homes, from studios to family flats that can take full advantage of existing infrastructure, are a potential moneyspinner, as well as part of the solution to the housing crisis. How can you start making use of the potential of airspace? If you already own suitable property, you could simply start talking to an architect about ways to use the space above it. But you don’t have to own property to start looking at airspace. The air above existing buildings can be bought, built on and sold for a tidy profit. But how much is airspace worth, and who owns it? The short answer is, a lot and whoever owns the building below owns the airspace above. In Europe and the USA, airspace is commonly bought and sold. In the UK, it’s still fairly unusual so you will need to tread carefully and be patient. The freeholder is usually seen to own the air rights, but they might be required to offer the air rights to the building’s leaseholders first before they could be sold on the open market. But beware -  it’s no longer cheap to buy airspace. If the freeholder is a private company, a local authority or a housing association they’ll know the value of what they are being asked to sell based on how much their existing building is worth per sq ft and the potential of your plans. You may be expected to pay for roof repairs, refurbishment of communal areas, and for disrupting tenants already living in the building. Airspace development comes with many logistical hurdles. Can the existing services be extended? Will new lifts be needed? Can the existing building take the weight, and what about aesthetic considerations? Is there crane access?   But if these can be overcome and if the price is right, the developer can make a substantial profit from the new units – but you will need to be sure that the economics stack up in your favour. This is one of the reasons why central London is the hub of airspace activity. The high value of the finished property makes the cost of acquiring airspace and the work to build homes worthwhile. The four routes to profit from airspace Sell or buy airspace above an existing property Develop the airspace above a property that you already own Acquire a property with potential for airspace development Set up an airspace deal with a property owner Finding the right Property Finance for your project can be time-consuming and overwhelming. Make the process easier and get the support you need by applying today If you already own a suitable property The relaxation in development rights means that property owners - and even individual homeowners - may be able to add two storeys to a detached property under permitted development rights without needing additional planning permission.  This means that if you have a suitable property you may be able to sell the airspace to a property developer, to build penthouses or flats – or take on the work yourself to maximise your profits. But there will be substantial costs involved. A suitable structure to sustain extra loading development could demand between £1,000 and £2,000 per square metre in the suburbs and as much as £7,000 at the top end of the market in upmarket boroughs such as Kensington and Chelsea.  You may choose to simply sell on the development rights, gaining a large amount of cash, essentially in return for a few months of disruption. If you decide to take on the project yourself, you may need Development Funding to help pay for the work required. If you don’t already own the property Alternatively, if you are a developer yourself you may be able to buy the airspace above commercial buildings or existing blocks of flats – or buy the entire block as part of a comprehensive redevelopment project. The ability to use airspace has changed the economics of development – and will make many property deals that previously would not have been worthwhile into potentially valuable opportunities. However, this is a new area for many lenders and although in principle it is no different from any other development project, some will not be willing to provide the funding you need to acquire airspace without the property below it.  Getting the funding you need The concept of selling airspace is new, and many lenders will have little familiarity with the concept. Consequently, few will be able to provide the type of lending you need. At Rangewell, we can help you find the lenders who are able to take a more enlightened approach. Most airspace projects will require heavy refurbishment or Development Funding. Development mortgages allow experienced property developers and investors to fund both the purchase of a property needing work or with potential for extension, and the funds to carry out the work required. The work may include conversion of a single building into multiple letting units, such as self-contained flats or a home capable of major extension above the existing roofline. As with any heavy refurbishment, the lender will want to see a schedule of works. This is a detailed breakdown of the work and costs involved in the project, together with projected timings. A valuer will comment on whether the intended budget is realistic and if the time scale is achievable.  Lenders will also want to see evidence of past projects, to ensure that you have the skills and vision to complete the work.  Costs may be substantially higher than more conventional commercial mortgages, but it may be possible to roll up all payments until the property is sold on. Development Finance is based on the gross development value (GDV) - the value of the project - once completed. This is also known as the post refurbishment works value. Loans may be available from £100k to £10m. Lenders may consider lending up to 70% of GDV, with funds released in stages. These funds may cover both the property purchase as well as refurbishment works, although funds may also be available for developers who already own a property in need of work. Terms of up to 18 - 24 months are often available, and interest payments may be rolled up in the total loan amount.  As with all Property Finance, there will also be fees: Arrangement fees: These are charged by the lender for arranging the loan and are typically 1.5% to 2% of the total loan amount. Exit fees: Not all lenders apply exit fees - those that do may charge a percentage of the loan amount or, sometimes, the gross development value. Valuation fees: Lenders will instruct a surveyor to value the property both before and post refurbishment works. The scale of these fees will depend on the size of the project. Other types of property funding Commercial Mortgage A Commercial Mortgage is one of the most common forms of finance used to buy a commercial property and could help you acquire commercial or residential block suitable for airspace development. These operate much like a residential mortgage, with a large loan secured on the property itself. Generally, Commercial Mortgage terms last for 15 years or more and, as with a residential mortgage, the premises will be at risk if you are unable to keep up your repayments However, unlike a residential mortgage, the rates for a Commercial Mortgage are arranged on an individual basis. Lenders will look at your business, your accounts and projections to ensure that it has a future and set interest rates based on the level of risk they believe it presents. Again, there will be valuation, arrangement and legal fees to consider. There can also be additional costs associated with a Commercial Mortgage for the services of professional advisors. Because of the legal and administrative costs, it is uneconomical to borrow less than £50,000 with a Commercial Mortgage, and some lenders have a minimum of £75,000 or more, but there is no set upper limit. Bridging Loans A business Bridging Loan is a short-term loan secured against property. The property can be residential, such as buy-to-let flats, or commercial, such as offices, factories or warehouses. Bridging Loans are usually repaid quickly, either by the sale of the property or by another finance product designed for the long-term, such as a mortgage and are often used to fund property purchases. The loan can be as short as one day and run up to a maximum of 12 months. Loan amounts start at around £25,000, and there is no maximum. Lenders offering Bridging Finance will carry out detailed checks and apply conservative lending criteria but are able to make rapid decisions because they can work without the bureaucracy that slows down many traditional lenders. Short-term finance is always more expensive than long-term lending. The costs of Bridging Finance can be relatively high but, in some cases, all fees and interest can be rolled up into the loan, which can be settled with a single repayment. A Bridging Loan could provide the funding for an Airspace development If you are using a Bridging Loan as a short-term solution for a property purchase, it can often be paid off by a solution designed for the long-term, such as a Commercial Mortgage. The funding you will need With the high cost both of property and of this type of building work, getting a full understanding of all the costs will be vital. Not only will you need to know how much you will need to borrow, but you will also need to know how much it will cost to borrow the finance you need. A fraction of a percentage point can make a substantial difference to what you actually pay, and many lenders are simply not able to provide any kind of funding for development. At Rangewell, we know the property lending sector and can help find the lenders who are ready to help. Whether you have a straightforward, small-scale funding need for a single property, or require a complicated ‘Jigsaw’ funding plan made up of a combination of financial products, we can work with you to find the answers. Call us now to get our experts working for you.

Tools Every Small Business Should be Using

As a business owner, you have plenty of demands on your time. Actually running a business and concentrating on making money from your core activity is a full-time job that can run to 24 hours if you let it. Managing that business - taking care of everything from payroll and accounts to marketing and the needs of staff, suppliers and customers - could easily take up another 24. Thankfully, there’s a handful of really useful business software tools that will not just take care of all the admin and routine tasks to make it easier to run your business, they can help you run it better. With the right business tools at your command you can reduce your costs, connect with new prospects and, best of all, convert them into loyal paying customers. The right software can even power your growth and profitability for the future. If you’ve taken the leap to start your own business, finances and resources are very likely to be strapped while you’re getting started. You want to get on with what you do – not worry about bringing in a suite of software tools and spending the time required to learn to use them. However, choosing the right platforms, products and software will streamline your business, alleviate some of the more tedious tasks and set you up for success. You simply can’t manage every task on your own — these tools will act like efficient expert workers, taking at least some of the workload off of your shoulders. But with hundreds of small business tools flooding the market, which do you choose? Accounting Software “Doing the accounts” has been a time-consuming chore since businesses began to use money rather than barter. Keeping a track of where every penny goes is vital to let you manage your business – and of course, it is just as important when it comes to keeping on the right side of HMRC.  The good news is that accounts have been digital for several years, and in fact, the tax office now expects your returns to be digital. The right accounting software will assist you, not just in managing your financial records, it will help you run your business more effectively and efficiently. Every business has bills to pay. Accounting software can show you your current balances and flag up important payment deadlines. It works for money coming in too – showing you at a glance which clients are overdue and need chasing up for payment. Properly used, accounting software will allow you to keep track of all that revenue flowing into your business so you can understand your cash flow patterns, where there are weak spots, and where there are opportunities. Good accounts software gives you a tool that keeps you on track, manages every financial aspect of your business – and is even easy to use. Really great accounting software will also collect your financial data and crunch all the numbers – and then turn it into tidy reports. Look at modular system that can grow with your business, from a sole trader to a multinational if your plans stretch that far. Some modular systems even offer payroll services and online payment solutions, simply by adding in more modules. Productivity and Project Management Chasing productivity can seem a luxury when it is your own business. There are no enough hours in the day to get things done, let alone making the way you work more productive… If you find yourself thinking along these lines, you are more than ready for productivity and project management software. These are essential tools that allow you to assign tasks, schedule deadlines, review work and see the status of a project in an instant. These tools will hold you, your employees, and your clients accountable for their share of the work, all according to the work patterns you decide on. They sound simple – and in fact, they often are. They allow you to see what needs to be done, break it down into tasks, show who is responsible for each task and how they are progressing with what they have to do. Good productivity and project management tools can prevent you running late with client work – avoid missing deadlines and overruns. That means your business is more efficient and likely to be the one the client turns to next time. By flagging up tasks that are running over, you can bring extra assets to bear. It might not get you close to the fabled empty inbox – but it can get you a great deal closer. Cloud Storage When the world went digital a generation ago, the work of the filing clerk was finally done, and filing cabinets were sent for scrap up and down the country. Why waste space on keeping old paper documents? Why waste time searching through them for some obscure scrap of information, when you could call it up from your computer? That was the theory. In practice, going digital created a new phenomenon, that of the computer losing the data. When a hard drive failed or mobile media - from a floppy disc to a USB drive - was lost, the data was gone forever. We were all supposed to back up our data every day. In practice, no-one did, and with data now the heart of the business, a day old backup could be an expensive liability. Fortunately, we have the cloud. Think of cloud storage as the true home for all the data you need to run your business. It is there, safe when you need to access or update it – and you can’t lose it. Office burns down and takes your desktop computer with it? Left your laptop on the train? No problem – just log back into your data on your cloud account and you are back in business, with everything - forms, contracts, spreadsheets, orders, invoices PowerPoints - all ready to use. What’s more, Cloud storage tools can be accessed and managed by multiple people at once, giving you an instant information-sharing network. They keep track of everything in one place and keep versions of the document up-to-date. For example, that big presentation can be worked on by multiple people at the same time and saved automatically. This means increased productivity, supports creative thinking, and eliminates the constant back-and-forth feedback chains. Forget about multiple versions of a document – there is only one, and it is in the cloud. Google Docs and Dropbox both have solutions that are worth looking at. Needing to bring in new equipment or software to your business to increase productivity? Find out how Asset Finance works to help you spread your costs Marketing Automation Software Marketing brings in new customers – but digital marketing is a long way from the old-style practice of putting an ad in the paper and waiting for people to call up. It is a highly scientific business with data at its heart. Fortunately, marketing software that can assist you every aspect not just of marketing, but in getting new prospects, showing the right way to turn them into customers, and helping maximise the revenue form each one, by professional customer relationship management, and so much more. Marketing automation software is a small business owner’s lifeline – saving you time and making you a marketing expert. It can help you set up your engagement campaign, send out content, deal with responses in the most effective ways and then measuring analytics and data. Sales and marketing teams can use this software daily for communicating with potential customers, closing deals, analysing customer data, tracking leads, and logging activity automatically. Social media marketing Social media has been the biggest new factor in marketing in general in recent years. It has become a major discipline, and part of every successful marketing campaign. It is no longer just aimed at young people who spend hours glued to their mobiles. Almost every demographic group is served by social media platforms, and if you are ready to grow your business and want to do so without the huge cost of traditional marketing, you need to be there too. Whether it is your business pages on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn or a product demonstration on a YouTube video channel, there are tools to help you manage your content, uploads, pages, pictures and videos easily. It is also not just a matter of putting out content and seeing who picks up on it. Using proven social media management tools, such as AgoraPulse and Sprout Social, you can schedule your future posts, develop engagement with followers and analyse the results of your strategy on a single platform. Sales Management Tools Of course, if you still use a sales team as your main sales channel, they will require proper software support too. Their time is money - and it is your business’s money - so anything that you can do to help them make better use of their time is a real plus for you. They need digital support to keep themselves organised. Keeping the record of the conversations with potential consumers in handwritten files and notes can be tiresome and frustrating – and ultimately counterproductive when an important note, contact’s details or even an order gets lost. Fortunately, there are plenty of software tools that can simplify their workload by organising every call, email conversation, note and contacts on a single platform. But the benefits don’t stop there. Tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator can actually help you find new qualified prospective clients through social networking platforms. Website Hosting and Design These days it is basically impossible to own a business and not have a web presence. To land new business, generate new leads, showcase your company’s work, and tell the world who you are and what your company does, you will need a website. It can help you find new customers, it can let potential customer assess you and your business and the products or services that you produce – and it can even take care of selling for you. Many businesses are finding that outing their products on their website is the easiest and most cost-effective way to sell them. Find a tool that offers you the opportunity to use your website in whatever capacity your business needs. Otherwise, you’ll spend too much time sorting through features you don’t want or need, and trying to make your website work when the power you need is really not there. WordPress and Wix can offer good workmanlike solutions. Tools like  Shopify can even help you set up a fully hosted online store on your website. The best part of these tools is their regular updates will always keep in trend and you don’t need to do coding. Many also provide 24/7 hours technical assistance team to help you deal with any problems. Paying for it all All these software tools are investments that will deliver substantial returns for your business in terms of increased efficiency, opportunity and profits - but like all investments, they will mean costs. Some will be available on a SaaS service, whereby you pay a subscription to use them. Others may require purchase or a licence. At Rngewell, we have found that Asset Finance can bring you the software, hardware or systems you need straight away, and let you pay over time. You can select the tools you want from any supplier or a range of suppliers, and get all the necessary finance from a specialised lender, helping you reduce overall costs. You spread the cost over the term of the agreement – while your equipment and your software tools are already working for you. Asset Finance can let you spread the cost of all kinds of business equipment. Naturally, this range means there are many different types of Asset Finance and many different providers. Not all providers work in every sector or with all types of asset. Terms and rates can vary widely. At Rangewell, we can show you all the options, with specialised funding for software.  As experts in business funding, we know the fastest ways to secure the funding you need. We can also help streamline your application - ensuring that your business can receive the funding it needs in the shortest possible time.  Call us now – our experts are ready to help you with your finance questions. 

Employment Legislation Small Business Owners Should Know

There are many steps you need to take when you are planning to turn a small business into a larger one, but one of the most important is taking on staff. It is a big step. You are not just paying for someone’ time. You are taking responsibility for an important part of their future. You are bringing them onboard, and you have yet another reason why your new venture must succeed. Of course, there are some other challenges to consider. If you’re taking on staff for the first time, it’s crucial that you get to grips with employment law immediately – and ideally, before you even start looking at potential candidates.  It is a complicated area. Employment law is a maze made up dozens of different laws and acts in relation to the rights of employees, including disability discrimination, senior employees rights, health and safety and contracts. The term ‘employment law’ refers to any piece of government legislation designed to protect employees. In the UK, there are four areas of employment legislation that form the basis of employee rights in the workplace - recruitment, pay, health and safety and discrimination: Recruitment – this legislation outlines what employers can and cannot do when recruiting staff, and what their responsibilities are once a job offer has been made. Contracts and pay – this legislation covers pay and is designed to ensure that the pay workers receive is above a set minimum level. Health and safety – legislation around health and safety is designed to keep employees safe while they are at work for you. These are all covered in separate pieces of legislation. Because of the complexity of this field, most medium-to-large companies choose to employ solicitors or business advisers to make sure that all the procedures are watertight in terms of the law and how they treat and deal with employees and their disputes. The HR departments of larger concerns take on responsibility for ensuring that hiring is done in line with the law – but as a small business owner, you will have no alternative but to do it all yourself. Freelance workers Freelance workers, subcontractors, casual workers – the names change with different industries, but the principles are the same for all. Agency workers or freelance workers will work under slightly different rules and regulations when it comes to contracts, but in many cases, the terms for workers who are not classed as employees, are similar to employed people. They are entitled to a number of rights, such as the right to be paid at least the minimum wage, limits on working time and for their employer to adhere to health and safety regulations. Statutory rights Employment legislation starts with statutory rights. These rights cover a multitude of directives and responsibilities for the employer to adhere to. These include the right to a written contract, an itemised payslip, to be paid at least the national minimum wage, the right to at least 28 days paid holidays including bank holidays and, in some cases, paid maternity leave. Failure to comply with any of these obligations can leave your business facing substantial fines. Recruitment Recruitment is a complicated area. You can employ the best person for the job, but you must be seen to be operating a fair and reasonable recruitment process – and avoiding discrimination on virtually any grounds. You will need to meet the requirements of: Employment Rights Act (1996) – This sets out and protects the contractual rights of employees. Equal Pay Act (1970) – Ensures that salary negotiations are not biased on gender. You must offer equal pay rates to male and female employees who do the same job. The National Minimum Wage Act (1998) – Ensures that the pay meets legal minimum to allow for a decent living wage. The Equality Act (2010) – Protects job seekers from discrimination based on a wide range of subjects during every step of the recruitment process. Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (1974) – Allows ex-offenders to reapply for work without disclosing spent convictions, in order to remove bias from the decision making process. Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act (2006) – Prevents illegal employment in the UK by setting in place document checks to ensure the eligibility of every job applicant. Data Protection Act (1998) – Ensures the responsible management of any personal data relating to job applicants. Gangmasters (Licensing) Act (2004) – Regulates the agencies that place vulnerable workers in agricultural work, the shellfish collecting and packing industries. You will also need to: Check if someone has the legal right to work in the UK. You may have to do other employment checks as well. Check if you need to apply for a DBS check (formerly known as a CRB check) if you work in a field that requires one, eg with vulnerable people or security. Get employment insurance - you need employers’ liability insurance as soon as you become an employer. The penalties are very high for not having this type of insurance cover – you cannot take the risk of not having it. Looking to scale your business and team? Find help with funding your plans with a short-term finance arrangement today Contracts Contracts of employment are important for both the employer and the employee, and, again, it is vital that your contract corresponds to the relevant employment laws. The contract should set out the employee’s duties, responsibilities, rights and employment conditions. Obviously, it is usual for a contract to be written document – but be careful. It does not have to be. According to the government website, ‘as soon as someone accepts a job offer they have a contract with their employer’; it doesn’t have to be a written contract. This means you have to be quite clear about what you expect a worker to do and how you will recompense them. You also need to produce a principal statement of the main conditions of employment (Contract of Employment) for each employee on or before the day they start working for you. This is legally binding. Contract terms can be: in a written contract, or similar document like a written statement of employment verbally agreed in an employee handbook or on a company notice board in an offer letter from the employer need to comply with The Working Time Directive (1999) which guarantees the employee fair treatment in terms of working hours and time off for rest. Pay As an employer, you are required to give each employee a written and itemised pay statement which details gross salary, any deductions made and the employee’s net pay. Employees are entitled to statutory sick pay commencing the fourth consecutive day they do not attend work due to illness. As an employer, you normally have to operate PAYE as part of your payroll. PAYE is HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) system to collect Income Tax and National Insurance from employment. You do not need to register for PAYE if none of your employees is paid £120 or more a week, get expenses and benefits, have another job or get a pension. However, you must keep payroll records. When paying your employees through payroll you also need to make deductions for PAYE. Deductions From these payments, you’ll need to deduct tax and National Insurance for most employees. Other deductions you may need to make include student loan repayments or pension contributions. You must automatically enrol workers into a workplace pension scheme if the employee is aged between 22 and pension age, if they earn more than £10,000 per year and if they work in the UK. Tell HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) you are bringing in employees by registering as an employer - you can do this up to 4 weeks before you pay your new staff.   Health and safety Employers are also responsible for their employees’ wellbeing at work. This includes health and safety responsibilities and compliance, issues relating to discrimination, bullying, maternity/paternity and adoption leave. You must comply with the Health and Safety Act, which means that you must, where applicable, carry out a thorough risk assessment, have a health and safety policy and a paper-trail for recording injuries and accidents at work. Employers should also have liability insurance and have dismissal, disciplinary and grievance rules set out in writing. Employees are also entitled to time off for a number of different reasons and in the event of certain circumstances/occurrences. For example, emergency leave and maternity leave should be available in addition to standard holiday entitlements. Employees are also eligible to ask for flexibility in terms of working hours. Making sure you meet your obligations Expanding your business and employing new staff should be an exciting prospect; however, it’s important to make sure that you and your company adhere to all the necessary laws and regulations when taking and employing a growing team. For best practices, employers should consider producing an employee handbook. This can provide guidelines for new employees and also be a standard reference point to help resolve any disputes that may occur within the business. It is not a legal requirement in the United Kingdom, but it can make it simpler if problems arise. It ensures you have clearly thought through your employment policies and it allows you to communicate these clearly to your employees. A good handbook ensures there is no ambiguity about the conduct and behaviour you expect from your staff or what they can expect from you as their employer. The handbook ensures consistency in how employees are treated - managers/business owners can use it as a source of reference when answering employee questions, making decisions or taking corrective action around performance. Should an employee take you to an Employment Tribunal or seek other legal redress, an effectively written handbook provides an invaluable document demonstrating you have appropriate policies in place and have exercised a proper duty of care towards the employee (assuming you have behaved in a way which is aligned with the policies set out in the handbook!) The contract of employment is legally binding and so any element of that which is expanded upon in the handbook is likely to be deemed part of the contract (and so legally binding) for example, calculation of remuneration, annual leave entitlement etc. Therefore these should not be changed without appropriate consultation with the staff concerned. It is usually beneficial to make such things non-contractual so they can be changed if necessary without getting the consent of the workforce. You can build in a "flexibility clause" to the handbook which gives you the right to amend the handbook from time to time when necessary (e.g. when employment law changes). Here are some of the sections that you may wish to include: About the Company Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures Data Protection Policy Dress Code Drug and Alcohol Policy Staff Telephone, Email and Internet Policy (including the use of personal mobiles) Equal Opportunities Policy Flexible Working Procedure Health and Safety Policy Maternity, Paternity, Adoption and Parental Leave Probation Periods Redundancy Procedure Staff Sickness and Absence Policy Smoking and Vaping Policy Company and Personal Property Confidentiality Leaving the Company incl Retirement Whistleblowing Policy You may be able to find online templates which you can use to set up your own handbook. Help with the costs of becoming an employer The costs of growing your business can be high, and bringing in employees will require investment as well as compliance with legislation. You may need to bring in people before you can take on the extra work which will pay their wages, and that can mean a problem with cash flow. At Rangewell, we know that there are solutions - with short-term cash flow loans, designed to be paid back as soon as your new hires start generating extra profits. We can show you all the options, with specialised funding for start-ups.  As experts in business funding, we know the fastest ways to secure the funding you need for property - or for any other aspect of your growth plans. Call us now – our experts are ready to help you with your finance questions.

How to Find Your Target Market

Who is the target customer for your product or service? If you answered ‘anybody’ you have not grasped a fundamental rule of selling. You cannot sell any product to anyone. Your product or service may have a broad appeal – like bread – or it may appeal to a niche market – such as advice on copyright law. But whatever it is that you offer, you will be wasting time, effort and money if you are attempting to sell it to the wrong target market. This means that defining your target market is one of your most important tasks. It’s the foundation of all elements of your marketing strategy, from how you develop your products or services to the marketing channels you use to promote them. You need to know who needs, will want and will buy your products – that’s your target market. When it comes to your marketing, nobody else matters. Target market definition A target market is simply the specific group of people you want to reach with your marketing message. They are united by some common characteristics, like demographics and behaviours. So if you sell outboard motors, your target market is obviously small boat owners. Sometimes it is less obvious. If you sell diamond rings, your products will be worn mainly by women – but in many cases, they will be bought as engagement rings, by men. Not all men – you are only after those who are ready to get engaged. The more clearly you define your target group, the better you can understand how and where to reach your best prospects. You can start with broad categories like millennials or single mums – but that is only a starting point. Don’t be afraid to get highly specific. This is all about targeting your marketing efforts effectively and making the best use of your marketing budget. Remember, you are not stopping people from buying your product by tight targeting. Those outside your target market can still buy from you— but they are not your focus. You may have some idea about who your target market is, but you need to be scientific. Defining your target market should be based on audience research, not a gut feeling – but there are some simple steps you can take to define the market you need. Look at your current customers Who will buy your products in the future? Very like those people who have bought them in the past! So you need to understand who is already using your products or services. What data do you have? If you sell face to face, you may be able to see what the common factors are – but if you sell via a retail distribution chain or from a website things are a little more difficult. You probably should not ask direct questions – people don’t like having to give their age and shoe size before buying a set of garden furniture, or anything else. But you may be able to look at social media analytics as a great way of filling in the gaps in your customer analysis. They can also help you understand who is interacting with your social accounts, even if those people are not customers yet. If you are selling via social media and using it to interact with your clients, you can use the analytics provided by your platform to discover a great deal about your customers and prospects. Age: You don’t need to get too specific here. It won’t likely make a difference whether your average customer is 22 or 28. But knowing which decade of life your customers are can be very useful. Are your customers likely to be college students? New parents? Parents of teens? Retirees? Their attitudes and interests will depend on their age. How they will interact with your communications, and how they use your products will depend on their attitudes and interests. Job title: if you are selling to a B2B audience, knowing the job title of the people who are buying from you can be vital. Not only will you be able to address potential customers with a similar title, but it can also make it much easier to find ways to contact the prospects you need. Are you marketing to the CEO? The CFO? The social marketing manager? Understanding who you need to speak to within the company is a critical first step to making a sale. Location: Where do your existing customers live? In an internet-based world, your marketplace can be global – but if you find your customers have a focus on one particular country or location, it is valuable information that you can use. Not only can optimise your sales material for the key market, but you can also tailor your service to their time zone. Don’t assume your customers speak the same language you do. You can assume they speak the dominant language of their current physical location.  Spending power and patterns: How much money do your current customers spend? How do they fund purchases in your price category? Do they have specific financial concerns you need to address? Could you sell more if you dropped prices? Should you think about other ways for them to spread the cost of a purchase? Identifying price objections and overcoming them is key to selling. Needing help to fund your start-up business? Find out more about the common finance options available to you Look at what your competitors are doing Your target market is probably very much the same as your competitors' target market. It, therefore, makes sense to see what they are doing. Are your competitors going after the same market segments as you are? Are they reaching segments you hadn’t thought to consider? How are they positioning themselves? You need to benchmark your own results against the large-scale players, and try and do what they do - but better. Armed with this information you should be able to define your target market with a statement like this: Our target market is [gender] aged [age range], who live in [place or type of place], and who [activity] who need [product]. Having a statement like this can help you concentrate your marketing activity on the right people. But you may be able to do more. You may be able to support your statement with some extra information. This could include: What newspapers and magazine they may read. This has two purposes – it lets you decide where to place press advertising – it also helps you see the kind of language they use. What websites they are likely to visit. Again, knowing the websites they use and the social media they prefer to see will help you target your advertising. What their current needs are. Knowing what a potential client needs is a vital first step to turning him orf her into a customer. If you can talk to them about a need they have, you can turn the conversation onto an answer you can provide to them. Help with the costs of marketing The costs of marketing can be astronomical - but good targeting can keep costs under control - and properly done, you should be able to see a rapid return on your investment. At Rangewell we can help you find the financial solutions you need when you want to invest in your marketing. We can show you all the options, with specialised funding for start-ups.  As experts in business funding, we know the fastest ways to secure the funding you need - and the most cost-effective. Call us now – our experts are ready to help you with your finance questions.

Sustainable Business Ideas & How to Make Yours More Sustainable

We hear a lot about sustainability and ‘going green’. It may be tempting to dismiss it as a fad, or as a distraction from the real objective of your business, but it is having a real impact on the world of business. A business that is not sustainable is bad news for the planet, but it is also bad for the business - because customers will be less keen to work with companies that cannot demonstrate green credentials, and investors will be less keen to invest. Opting for more sustainable practices in your business isn’t just good for the planet – it could also work wonders for your brand reputation, overall sales and bottom line. In Britain, almost a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions come from businesses, according to government statistics. But increasingly, consumers want to buy from companies they see as green, and investors are becoming keener on buying into businesses that have sound eco-credentials. Increasingly people want to work for green companies and want to see environmental practices during their working day, so here are some of our top tips on going green. Recycle We all recycle paper and ink cartridges but that is only the beginning. Look at your packaging - recycling packaging can be easier than you think. Polystyrene beads may be great for packaging fragile items but they are terrible for the environment. You can reduce your impact by simply reusing them, helping ensure they never reach the outside world. But it is not just the obvious where recycling can help. Upcycled furniture can fit out offices, and you can even buy reconditioned electrical and IT equipment. You save money as well as the environment. Zero waste to landfill The second problem of the 'use once and dispose of' approach is not that it is wasteful of precious resources (even though it is), but what happens to the material you dispose of. Careful planning and effort across a business can make it possible to stop sending any waste to landfill. There are lots of simple steps your businesses can take towards this goal. One of the first is to engage expert waste treatment contractors, who will provide recycling streams for your business. They can provide separate bins which will make it easy to separate tines, paper and plastic, allowing them to be efficiently reprocessed. You will also need to look at how your business operates. Disposable items may be replaced with reusables, from the cutlery in the staff canteen to your staff overalls and protective equipment, and even in a post-Covid world, safely reducing your environmental impact as much as you can is beneficial in the longer term, for example, by employees using their own mug which isn't used by others.  If you have an office kitchen or a canteen, look at composting your kitchen waste in its own bin. It may take a little more work, but it will make you greener and reduce costs. Keeping your old electronics out of the landfill is another important way to help the environment and benefit those in need. Electronic waste (e-waste) is the fastest-growing waste stream in the world, with an estimated 48.5 million tons produced each year. If your business is replacing electronic items such as computers, monitors, tablets, smartphones, or printers, they can be put to good use by schools or charities in your area. Alternatively, computer manufacturers such as Dell and HP have technology recycling programs that allow credit for trade-ins on used equipment and donation programs for charities Make sure you remove all sensitive information from any devices before you recycle them. Let employees work from home As the Covid experience has shown, it is possible to work from home and not only remain productive – but increase individual productivity. Remote working can have a huge impact on a company’s environmental footprint. As far back as 2014, the Carbon Trust suggested that increasing the number of people working from home in the UK could save more than three million tonnes of carbon a year. The benefits come in many forms. Your staff don’t commute, which is better for the environment, and for their own health and well-being. They don’t need electricity and facilities at work, which reduces your energy and heating bills. In fact, they don’t even need space at your offices, which reduces the cost of one of your biggest outgoings. The list goes on. There will be fewer offices supplied used and wasted, less waste produced to be dealt with, less demand for heating, for water… For some businesses, like manufacturers or vets, for example, working from home may simply not be feasible. If you do have to have staff on your premises, at least you can reduce car use. Make sure your premises are bike-friendly, provide secure bike racks – and if necessary arrange a staff bus and pickup points convenient for your workforce. You can also encourage carpooling and use of public transport where appropriate and safe to do so. Don’t get it down on paper Reducing the amount you print is another important step. Paper is costly to buy, print on and above all file, and digital communications can do everything that paper can at a fraction of the cost – and completely avoid the environmental impact of paper. There is a halfway house if your business is still addicted to paper. Integrating print and scan solutions, so that documents can be shared, edited and stored digitally. An optimised scanning infrastructure with a managed print service is the best option for businesses looking to monitor usage and identify ways of increasing productivity and efficiency. It is a new way of working that may take some time getting used to, but it is a big help to reminding staff that they are working in a business committed to working in the most environmentally friendly way Cut your energy use Energy is a costly resource and means a big carbon load. Reducing your carbon footprint is vital if your business is to go green – and fortunately, cutting the use of energy also means cutting your energy bill. There are little things that you can do. Converting all lighting to LED is a good first step, cutting your energy usage for the light you need and the cooling requirements of your business – LED bulbs produce a fraction of the heat of old-style incandescent bulbs. But you may need to look at all at the electronic equipment you use, both in your office and your production floor. Replacing old and inefficient equipment can substantially reduce your energy needs – and your costs. Buy green One of the best ways to make your business much more environmentally-friendly is to practice a green procurement policy. This involves sourcing goods and services that are produced and supplied in a sustainable way. Sourcing from local suppliers rather than ones far away can be a good place to start. Reducing transport miles cuts pollution and energy consumption. Review your procurement policies, and make sure everything that you buy: Is manufactured in a sustainable fashion Does not contain toxic materials or ozone-depleting substances Can be recycled and/or are produced from recycled materials Does not make use of excessive packaging Is designed to be repairable and not throwaway By buying green, you are reinforcing your own green credentials – which is something that investors may be looking for. There are many ways to become more environmentally friendly, from making changes in the office to using green energy. Find out how you can fund eco-friendly equipment and make your business more sustainable Reduce water usage The climate has become more unreliable in recent years. Droughts are becoming more common in parts of the UK and, if you are a major water user in a production process, you will already know the problem this can bring. But all water users need to cut back on the water they use. Ways you can reduce water usage on your business premises include: Fixing dripping taps, plumbing leaks and installing low-flow toilets Moving to drought-tolerant landscape design, with drip irrigation and rain sensors where necessary Using a high-efficiency pressure washer for cleaning jobs Reduce water usage in processes Adopting a water recycling approach Reduce your Building Energy Footprint Buildings use about 40% of the country's energy for lighting, heating, cooling and appliance operation. The drive to reduce building emissions has spawned a rapidly growing industry in high-efficiency architecture. Net-zero and passive construction methods employ super-insulated shells equipped with solar and geothermal systems to reduce energy usage by 80—90% over standard construction. Whether you're constructing your own business premises or renovating an existing building, make sure you investigate the various rebate and incentive programs that may be offered for upgrading insulation, solar systems and appliances. You can embark on an expensive retrofit to make your office and workspace greener, but there is a simple solution that can provide real benefits at a fraction of the cost. Bringing shrubs and plants in your building can massively help improve the air quality which is essential for your employees. In addition, this will also help your business look a lot more attractive. Bringing more nature into the office means more oxygen is produced, creating a happier space for your employees to work in – and it can help reduce your energy needs, by cutting the need for air conditioning. Reduce your vehicles' energy needs The latest generation of hybrids can offer far better energy performance than older cars and vans. Replacing your fleet is a regular cost. Replacing it with e-vehicles, whether hybrids or pure electrics, can mean a massive reduction in operating costs. It may be vital to adopt electric delivery vehicles if you serve city markets, simply to avoid the huge costs of emission zones. It is not only your road vehicles that may need to be looked at. How are your yard vehicles and fork-lift trucks powered? Go to the cloud Technology has been responsible for a great deal of waste and environmental demand since the industrial revolution but that may, at least, be changing. The cloud allows you to have your computing power and data storage offsite, meaning that you can work from anywhere and need a much smaller investment in IT hardware. With stacks of servers and miles a network cabling fast becoming a thing of the past, you can cut your costs, energy usage and even support costs. As company information is hosted in the cloud, there is no need for your business to purchase and maintain expensive, power-intensive servers. Employees can share and access information from anywhere, reducing travel costs, carbon emissions and printing costs of your small business. The way forward Sustainability needs to become such an integral part of your business that it is part of everything that you do, and part of your brand identity. To that end, you need to keep evolving as a sustainable brand and set targets to achieve this, along with deadlines when they should happen. It is an ongoing process. Once this is completed, look again at how you operate and think how your business could be even more sustainable. There is always room for improvement and going greener still. Of course, some measure you will need to take will require investment. Replacing inefficient equipment with new and greener alternatives will have a capital cost implications, even if the payback in reduced operating costs and enhanced green credentials will make it very worthwhile. At Rangewell, we can provide the solutions that you need when you are looking at funding for greening your business. They can include asset finance, which will et you bring in new and better equipment – from your production floor to your office and even to your sales team’s vehicles – and spread the costs.

How to Reduce Your Business Energy Costs

Running any business means keeping tight control of your costs. There is no point in running your business at all if your expenses - the money you pay out each month - exceed the income you draw in. Anything you can do to reduce your costs can increase your profits – so it makes sense to look at one of your major cost factors – your energy use. Electricity and gas costs can be very high these days. Industry averages estimate that even the smallest businesses spend around £2730 per year on electricity and £1050 on gas, totalling £3780. If you run a factory with a large base of machines, or even if you run a large office, you can find that your energy use has become a steadily increasing expense. As a result of constant energy usage within your business, not only are you adding unnecessary costs to your budget, but you’re also emitting additional carbons on the environment and having a serious negative impact on the way it functions. For the good of your business – and for the good of the planet – you need to look at how you use energy, and where you can save on it.   You need to run an energy audit. Questions you need to ask Are you running process or production machinery? How old is it? Is it using energy-efficient motors? Do you have special environmental needs – refrigeration or minimum temperatures? Are there always lights on in your business? What kind of lights are they? How long are the lights on for? 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.? Is the heat always on during the winter? Is the air conditioner always on during the summer? Are you doing anything already to eliminate the need for a heater or AC unit? What type of temperature are your employees comfortable in? You can hire an energy audit company to do an energy audit of your office, but many utility companies offer a free energy audit program to ensure that you are using energy efficiently. Give them a call and see if they can help you identify areas to trim down your energy needs. Putting what you have learned to work Once you have the results from your energy audit, you should be able to see where you are wasting energy and start taking steps to improve things. Establish energy-efficient working. Depending on the utility company you are paying, they usually have off to high peak times during the day. Can you perform energy-intensive processes during the low or off-peak times? Using off-peak energy for smelting baking and other heat-sensitive activities can cut energy bills by a third or more.   Look at your lighting Lighting for display and security may be always on. If you are still using old-style incandescent and fluorescent lighting it is time to change. Replace existing bulbs with CFLs - CFL and LED lights consume less power and offer much longer lifespans. Commercial lights qualified by the DesignLights Consortium (DLC) or Energy Star can even reduce energy consumption by up to 75% and increase the lifespan of your fixtures by 2-3 times, meaning substantial savings in both energy and maintenance. There may also be a secondary saving. Old-style lighting wastes energy as heat. In a large sales floor or showroom, or even in a large open plan office, lighting may make the air uncomfortably hot. This requires the use of air conditioning. Replacing bulbs may mean you can turn the air conditioning down – or even off altogether. Of course, the costs of replacing every light fitting across your business will be substantial, but you may be able to cut the cost by replacing the luminaire - the bulb itself - instead of the entire fixture This is known as retrofitting and will reduce costs by a cheaper light costs along with easier installations. Hibernate and switch off Forget screen savers and use the hibernation feature of computers and laptops. The hibernate feature in laptops and desktops allows you to save your existing work as it is and you can continue from the same point the next day. You can schedule your workstation to switch to hibernate mode after working hours and during weekends. Better still, switch off equipment when not in use. Make sure that you turn off all printers, scanners, microwave, lights, air conditioners, coffee vending machines at night, during weekends or holidays. They continue to draw power even if they are plugged in. Switching them off after working hours will conserve energy, reduce heat waste and cut your energy bill. Go easy on air-con Your air conditioning systems may be essential in summer but you may not need it all year round, especially if you can open a window instead.  And remember there are alternatives. While a typical central air conditioning unit uses 3,500 watts of energy when running, the average ceiling fan uses only 60 watts — even when running on high.  Remember it’s good practice to replace air conditioning filters on a regular basis – ideally bi-monthly. Replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner's energy consumption by 5-15%. Reducing waste heat in your workplace will reduce the need for your air conditioning – making it a double win. Keep exterior doors closed For retail businesses, an open door can be a real plus, inviting in shoppers who might otherwise walk past. But if you need to see an increase in custom as Christmas approaches, keeping the door open can bring the chilly air in too, forcing you to crank up the heating. It’s important for retailers to provide an inviting environment for shoppers by keeping it warm inside, so make sure the door is kept firmly shut to help conserve heating. Revolving external doors can provide an efficient solution to this issue, providing a barrier against the chilly air outside. Defrost fridges and freezers Your workplace fridges and freezers are taken for granted and often not given the best care and attention. But taking time out once a year to give these vital, hardworking appliances a bit of support can reduce their consumption significantly, extend their service life, and even help you avoid health and safety issue. Leaving freezers frosted up or not keeping the fridge well-stocked all reduce the running costs. For the average domestic fridge freezer, the annual running cost is estimated to be around £62.00– but this is much higher if you don’t help it to run efficiently. The costs of running a commercial freezer are naturally much higher still. Need to replace inefficient and costly equipment in your business? Find out how Asset Finance can help  Buy energy-efficient devices Energy-efficient devices cost more upfront but, over years of use, they’re going to save you money. This holds true for any equipment that runs on electricity – spending a little more can result in significant savings over subsequent years. If you run a large production floor, you may have an estate of machines that are less energy-efficient than they should be. Specialist firms exist who can retrofit machines with new controllers, motors and ancillaries which can help reduce energy waste. Machines that run cooler can last longer and give more accurate results – improving your production standards as well as cutting your costs. A little known fact : Laptops use up to 85% less energy than desktop PCs. Stay comfortable Keeping staff comfortable can increase productivity. Invest in a programmable thermostat that can automatically adjust the temperature of your workplace when no one is working, which can add up to significant savings for your business. In older buildings, look out for small drafts that may leak the air. Small drafts can result in businesses losing substantial portions of their heating and cooling costs. Proper air sealing of the work environment can eliminate this kind of energy loss. You can’t afford to make your premises uncomfortable, but you can’t afford to spend too much either. Keeping your office temperature one degree down during winters and one degree up during summers can reduce the power it uses by up to 10%. Work smarter Changing your working practices can help reduce your energy needs. Educate your employees about the energy-saving features of air conditioners, printers and microwaves, and let them use those features to cut energy costs. Discard old gadgets if they don’t have energy-saving features and buy energy-efficient peripherals to replace them. If your old heater or air conditioner is not working at maximum efficiency, it could draw unnecessary power which may cost you money. Replace your decade-old heaters and air conditioners with energy star ones. Use technology to hold virtual meetings. New technologies like Webex and Skype allows you to hold virtual meetings, give presentations and make long-distance phone calls without even going to your client’s premises. You can save money on the amount of fuel and tickets. Give your employees an option to work from home on alternate days. With VPN technology, an employee can connect to the office network safely and securely. With fewer employees in the office, less lighting and cooling would be required. Technology gives employees the advantage of flexible work arrangements. Consider switching providers The simplest way to reduce your energy costs is to evaluate whether or not you can get a better deal for your electricity elsewhere. This can often be done by using an online comparison tool. There are a number of factors impacting the amount that businesses pay for their electricity – including location, the type of business and usage habits. But there are also factors that you can influence. Ofgem’s 2017 ‘State of the Energy Markets’ report found that smaller UK businesses are paying 50% more for electricity than very large consumers. This may be because larger business customers have more leverage to negotiate better deals or switch to a cheaper supplier. It pays to shop around. There are currently 60 energy suppliers in the UK, but over half (58%) of small businesses have never switched suppliers, or have only switched once. In a competitive market, this is a massive missed opportunity. And another way to reduce energy costs There is another way to reduce energy costs is to produce your own energy. However, until recently, doing so has been expensive, and required investment in boiler houses and generation equipment. But now with as the latest generation of solar, wind and combined heat and power (CHP) technologies work in tandem with power storage, on-site energy generation could be within reach – turning you from a net energy user into a net producer, with an extra income stream. Renewable technologies are already providing on-site power solutions to manufacturers, retailers and other businesses, and are proving adaptable solutions for businesses concerned with cutting their power bills or considering a combination of power and heat solutions. On-site generation solutions vary in scale, complexity and cost, and can be engineered to fit the specific requirements of each and every business. They include on-site solar photovoltaic (PV) solution, which gathers solar energy and cuts reliance on power imports from the grid, is a great solution for many companies that are seeking to cut their power bills. However, in areas that receive less daylight, many organisations interested in generating large quantities of their own power and heat would be best served by investing in a CHP solution, integrated with process machinery.  Another solution may be wind power. Wind is a resource that Britain has in great abundance, depending on where you’re located. And being an endless clean source of energy, the potential for making savings is literally blowing over your head, should you decide to make use of it. Plus, thanks to technological advancements in this area, onshore wind turbines are also becoming more efficient than ever before, and are continuing to do so. Remember, if you generate any surplus energy you could to sell this energy back to the National Grid or your energy provider under the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) scheme. Therefore, as well as saving your business money, it could also be used to generate an income. Just remember that if you are intent on building a wind turbine for your business and sell surplus energy, the equipment must be fitted with an accredited Ofgem generation meter and you’ll also need to form an agreement with your Distributed Network Operator Getting the funding you need If your business needs to reduce the cost of energy, it might be necessary to invest to do so. New energy-efficient equipment and light bulb upgrade programmes will take investment - and if you want to look at bringing in your own energy generating equipment, the costs will be high. At Rangewell, we can help you find the funding you need, with solutions such as Asset Finance, which could let you bring in new equipment - from more efficient appliances to complete energy generating systems and spread the cost - or even avoid any upfront costs altogether.  Our team of business finance experts work with you to get to know your business and understand the kind of arrangement and features you need - and help find the lenders most likely to help. To find out more, call us at Rangewell on 020 3637 4150 - or email  [email protected] Our service is free.

What is Business Mentoring & Why is it Important?

While some entrepreneurs believe that they do not need a mentor and should only follow their own instincts, many successful businesses have founders who learned a great deal from mentors. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg was mentored by Steve Jobs.  Steve Jobs had, in turn, been mentored by Mike Markkula - an early investor and executive at Apple. But you may not be working at the cutting edge of high tech. Do you really need someone else to tell you how to run your business? The answer is that probably, you do. Having a conviction that you can do everything yourself will do you and your business more harm than good in the long run. None of us has all the answers. We don’t know everything we need to know, especially when we are starting out, and there will be times when help and advice from someone who has already been where we are going and made the mistakes, as well as the right decisions, could help us avoid making the same mistakes ourselves. One of the signs of a great entrepreneur is admitting that they cannot always know everything they need to know in order to succeed and that they are not too proud to get the help they need. So, how do you find the help you need to move your business forward, grow, and learn as an entrepreneur? By finding a mentor. What is a mentor? A mentor is someone who has the business experience you have yet to acquire. They will have built up and run businesses of their own which means that they have built up an abundance of knowledge and experience, including mistakes and successes. In most cases, they will have stepped back from running their own businesses. This means that they can tell you about the consequences of the decision you are considering now, and where they lead, often because they have been down that particular road themselves. They can also suggest solutions when challenges seem insurmountable. A good mentor will have a wealth of experience to call on which you can invest in your business. Just as important, they will want you to succeed. They will have reached their targets for personal success and fulfilment, and they will want you to do the same. The benefits of business mentoring Building a relationship with a mentor can have a positive effect on your business, whether you are just starting up or are already established. It is more than simply vague advice and encouragement. A mentor can help you develop important business skills, provide access to a network of valuable business contacts and support you in making important decisions. It's likely that your mentor will stay in regular contact with you through meetings, telephone calls and emails. The nature of the relationship may vary from being fairly casual - a monthly telephone call or informal visit - to being more formal and structured - setting meeting agendas and business objectives. Some mentoring services are free. Others are paid for or available by subscription to an organisation. Not all mentors have to be formally established as such. Friends, family and business contacts can all become involved in informal mentoring. If you know that you have a gap in your knowledge or experience, mentoring could work very well for you. For example, you may have a great idea for a business but need a bit of guidance to turn it into a successful venture, simply because you don’t know where to start. Your mentor will have started businesses themselves and can help take you through the steps to do the same. A mentor can help you with: Starting your business – the basic steps to setting up Overcoming the start-up challenges, from finance to marketing, accounts, suppliers and the law Guidance on developing and improving your business – taking it to the next stage Inspiration for new products or services, or new ways of working Troubleshooting based on practical experience of the same kind of difficulties Access to a network of contacts develop key business skills Improve your problem-solving abilities Build confidence and support your personal development A business mentor won't sort out all your problems for you, or even tell you what to. They don't act as consultants or take the place of any existing professional advisers – but they can provide wide-ranging support which will help you to make the most of your business You can’t expect a mentor to magically fix all your mistakes, or even to point out all the pitfalls. The advice your mentor gives you will only work as far as your ability to learn and act on what they say. So, you need to approach the relationship with your mentor openly. Accept their honesty; it’s what makes their advice so valuable. In return, be honest with them about your capabilities, your weaknesses and your fears. So before your meeting with a mentor think about and ask yourself what are your weaknesses? What can your mentor help you achieve? What sorts of obstacles do you need to overcome? Having these questions in mind will help you and your mentor understand what needs to be done and how to find the answers. Find the most appropriate start-up finance options to get your business going How to find a business mentor You may already have mentors. Look at your current boss, manager, professor, or even family and friends. Perhaps there is someone life you can turn to now who could help. Another option may be paying for mentorship through a programme. There are several organisations that make mentors available to UK businesses. Many of these are represented on the national business mentoring network, Mentorsme.co.uk, which provides access to around 10,000 mentors - offering both free and paid for mentoring.  There are many other sources of business mentors, including some geared specifically towards supporting local businesses, young entrepreneurs or specific business sectors.  Networking events can provide an opportunity to meet like-minded entrepreneurs and establish a relationship with a business mentor. Online business mentoring or 'e-mentoring' is a new development that has grown in importance in recent years. It provides the interactive mentoring relationship remotely and can work well when it's difficult for mentors and mentees to meet face to face. Websites that provide this sort of mentoring often call it networking and forum advice. There are many websites offering business mentoring or networking services targeted at specific sectors, such as Freelance Advisor and Enterprise Nation. Young entrepreneurs can visit the Shell LiveWIRE service, which is aimed at people aged between 16 and 30 who are starting their own business.  The funding you may need Funding will be one of the topics you will talk about with your mentor. As they will explain, in the current market, getting the funds you need can be a challenge, particularly if you are looking at starting a business. Traditional lenders are only interested in lending to established businesses with years of audited accounts. Even the new breed of online business lenders usually want evidence of a year’s trading, with online accounts and VAT returns before they will consider an application. As a start-up your business has no trading history - so they have no evidence that they will be repaid.  Fortunately, there are solutions which can help start-ups, even in the current economic climate. As an experienced business professional themselves, your mentor might be able to introduce you to the Rangewell service, which is designed to provide expert support in all your funding needs. Whatever type of funding you are looking at, the expert team at Rangewell can support you to find the most appropriate and affordable solutions from a wide range of finance options - from VC alternatives to specialised start-up finance and more.  At Rangewell, we have experts who are always keen to discuss the possibilities and to work with you to find the solutions you need.

Guide on How to Chase Late Payments From Clients

Your small business’ cash flow is, not surprisingly, dependent on cash coming in. Retailers can expect to have cash that keeps pace with sales – because the money goes into the till immediately – even if it does so in electronic form. But businesses with clients or customers who pay after the receipt of an invoice are a different matter. They may tend to pay when it is convenient for them, and late-paying clients can be a burden for a small business owner. Trying to get clients to pay can become a real-time drain. In fact, a 2017 study found that small business owners spend an average of 1.3 days a month chasing down money that’s owed to them by their customers It not only drains the time that you need to run your business and generate profits – it drains your cashflow too. In the worst cases, your business can become unable to pay its own bills, because customers are using the money they owe you – your money – to pay their own. Obviously, you will need to provide some form of payment terms to your clients. Providing free credit is actually what you are doing, and it has become a fact of business life, established over hundreds of years. But it is costing you money even when things go as they should – and when it doesn’t, and customers take more than the 30 days that are standard in most industry sectors, it starts costing you even more. Remember, whatever business you are in, you are not in the business of providing interest-free loans, which is what you are doing with late payments. 60- or 90-day payment terms are common, but you don’t have to work with them just because others do. Determine what deadline you want based on what your cash flow needs are. Does a 60-day deadline risk draining your own cashflow, and throwing off your own monthly payments for rent, stock, or wages? Then request a 30-day deadline - or even 14 days if that works best for you. As a small business, late payers are something that you simply cannot afford. The problems come when payments are past your 30-day payment term and you still haven’t received the cash you need. Your client is wasting your time by making you chase a payment that should be sat in your account, and costing you money. You are probably paying a lender to borrow funding that, by rights, you should already be paid. So, how do you chase unpaid invoices? Remember it is your money Chasing people to pay what they owe is difficult for most of us. It goes against British reserve or the habits of a lifetime – or it may simply be that we think if we are too pushy we will not get any more orders from the people we chase.   Whatever the reason, many small business owners can struggle with late-paying clients. But remember, it is your money you are asking for, not a favour. Getting paid is the basis of business, and if you need to chase for payment, that is part of your business too - and if the late-paying clients don’t like it, all they need to do is pay what they owe. You may have to develop a slightly thicker skin – and use some of our helpful hints to ensure that getting paid on time is less of a problem. 1. Establish Clear Payment Deadlines The first hint is to make payment terms clear at the start of the relationship. Establish immovable payment deadlines in a contract that clients sign before you start work. Always pick a timeline that suits your business needs. Then make it part of your contract, and make sure your client has put his name to it. Explain that it is the way to do business, that your accountant insists on it, whatever you like – but ensure that they sign. People are less likely to take liberties with your money if they recall they are working under a contract, and it will make things very much simpler if you need to escalate things. What if the client refuses? If the client has already agreed to buy from you, it is harder for them to disagree with a reasonable payment period. If they do, it could be a red flag. When it is a new client, always do your due diligence. Check that they are legitimate, and not about to fail. If they have only come to you because they cannot get products or services elsewhere, because they have not paid other suppliers, they are planning on doing the same to you, and they are not worth doing business with. If you feel the client is legitimate but really does have longer payment needs, feel free to negotiate. You could discuss the costs – perhaps your low price includes a prompt payment discount that they would be missing out on. Just make sure whatever compromise you reach still suits you, and is set in stone with an updated contract. 2. Don't be afraid to chase In the early days of running your business, it can feel difficult - even rude - to contact a client to ask for payment. It’s not – this is business after all. You’ve done the work or supplied the goods. The client is happy, or he or she would have let you know about it and you are entitled to be paid on time. By not sticking to the payment terms you both agreed, it’s the client who is being rude. Call, be polite, but be firm. It is difficult when you start out, but as you become more experienced in business, you come to understand that chasing invoices is all part of the course and that clients who seem to be offended by being reminded of their obligations are simply trying to take advantage of you. 2. Charge Interest on late payments Government legislation has been introduced that allows you, as a small business, to charge up to 8% interest plus the Bank of England base rate on late payments. You can also pass any debt recovery costs onto the client. If you haven’t already agreed exactly when the money is due to be paid, the law assumes the payment becomes late 30 days after either: The customer receives the invoice; or The goods or services are delivered. However, you don’t have to charge the full 8% and you can set your terms as long as they’re within the government’s guidelines. Some businesses choose to charge 2% interest on payments made after 30 days, rising to 4% after 60 days. However, before you start adding to the invoice you should warn your clients that interest will be charged if your invoices are not paid on time. It is often enough to show that you know the law and are not a soft touch. Is your business suffering from late-paying clients? Find out how an Invoice Finance solution can free up your cashflow and even include bad debt protection 3. Have a measured response When you don’t receive payment on time, the temptation is to think the worst and assume the client is trying to get away without paying at all. However, a legitimate business will rarely try to do this. In most instances, the client will have simply forgotten to pay or have a prescheduled date when their payments are made – although they may be trying to improve their own cash flow at the expense of yours. Stay calm. If you get angry every time you chase a payment you may very quickly burn through clients you don’t want to lose. You need to maintain a cordial relationship with even late-paying clients. Don’t send angry messages. You need a carefully-measured response which will allow you to escalate the pressure. First, wait a couple of days - and no more - after the payment was due before sending a polite reminder. Your initial Late Invoice Letter or Reminder payment reminder should be polite and written in the right way. Simply stating that the payment is now overdue is often enough to prompt payment. Something as simple as the following is fine: Hi, … (use their first name, you need to be friendly at this point), Just to let you know that invoice 155 is now due for payment. I’d appreciate if you could settle as soon as possible. I’ve re-attached the invoice for your reference. Many thanks, …. If no payment is forthcoming and you do not receive a response from the client asking for an extension, you should then send another email. This time, explain that the invoice is now overdue and include a statement of the outstanding cost. This should be on your letterhead and look formal, but your email should still be friendly and polite in its tone. At this point, if you still have outstanding work for the client, you should put it at the bottom of your to-do list. After all, it’s hardly worthwhile to complete more work you might not get paid for. If you still haven’t received the money, its time to start calling. It’ s easy to ignore an email but it's much harder to ignore a request for payment made over the phone. Putting the client on the spot in this way should give you a clearer idea of their intentions, and help you decide what course of action to take next. If the client still doesn’t pay, then you still need to chase. If payment is promised, ask for the date it will be made by. You should also make it clear that you will cease all work for the client until the invoice has been paid. 4. Call in the law If it starts to become clear that the client is not going to pay, its time to take legal action. Telling the client that you are escalating the problem is often enough to solve it. Explain that you are considering County Court action. A County Court Judgement against a company can adversely affect the credit rating of a company for six years. Often the threat of a CCJ will get the desired response within the processed 28 day period. You could also consider a Statutory Demand. A Statutory Demand must be sent by registered post or similar to prove it has been received, and it can be a powerful incentive to pay what’s owed. It gives 18 days to resolve the issue and, if not, the debtor must pay in full within a further three days (21 days in total). Once this period is up you can wind the offending company up (compulsory liquidate) to try and get what is owed.     What about a Debt Collection Agency? Despite their negative reputation, good debt collectors are responsible, organised and reputable businesses who can simply take the hard work out of a challenging situation for you. They don’t have any special powers, they have long experience and a rigorous protocol in place for getting the job done. They usually charge between 5% and 15% of the unpaid invoice as a fee for their services, and many of them will operate on a ‘No Win, No Fee’ basis. What about Invoice Finance? There is another solution to late-paying customers – Invoice Finance. Rather than having to wait for an invoice to be paid, it lets you use that invoice as the security for a loan. What this means in practice is that you can receive up to to 90% of the cash tied up in your unpaid invoices immediately after you send them. The remainder will be paid to you, minus fees, once the customer settles the outstanding balance. Invoice Financing provides an ongoing credit facility that protects you against late payment – because it ensures you get paid fast even when customers are slow. The more work you do, the more cash you will have to call on. How does Invoice Finance work? Invoice Finance provides ongoing cash advances based on the value of invoices you have issued, but have yet to be paid for. You provide a service or product to your client and agree on payment terms, and follow up with an invoice. You then notify your invoice finance lender, who will advance you up to 90% of the value of the invoice as a cash advance, usually within 24 hours of the notification. Once your client pays the invoice, you receive the remaining value of the invoice. At this stage, the lender takes their fees. There are various types of Invoice Finance arrangement and, with some, the lender will take care of chase the late payers for you. Some even offer the option of Bad Debt Protection as part of their service, which means even if your customer goes bankrupt or for other reasons fails to pay, you don’t lose out. How Rangewell helps you find the Invoice Finance you need There are many Invoice Finance providers, and the costs and charges they apply can vary. What’s more, some providers specialise in certain business sectors. To get the most appropriate Invoice Finance arrangement for your particular business, you need expert help. At Rangewell, our team of business finance experts work with you to get to know your business and understand the kind of arrangement and features you need. They can help you find lenders who work in your sector and secure the most competitive deal, complete with any extra services – such as bad debt cover – that you require.

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