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The will to succeed is in entrepreneurs' DNA

September 2014
Just under half (47%) of UK respondents in a new study were optimistic for the year ahead, while 46% reported growth in their order books.
While life remains challenging, the sixth annual international Hiscox DNA of an Entrepreneur Report shows a greater confidence for the future.
The study is based on responses from 3,500 small business owners in the US, UK and parts of Europe – including 1,000 from the UK alone. 
UK firms are also most likely of all those polled to have had a request for funding agreed by a bank or other lender in the past five years, and are least likely (22%) to say that lack of Government support is a concern – good news for policy-makers.
However, this year also saw a big increase in the number of respondents citing cyber-crime as one of their biggest fears, with the UK most likely to be concerned about it (17%).
Overall, small business owners estimated they worked a shorter week this year, with British (38.7) respondents reporting the shortest hours worked. One in three (36%) of British respondents also want to work less. But what counts as work can be subjective. In the UK, 45% of those polled say eating lunch at their desk counts as work, while 71% include responding to emails and voicemails after work. UK respondents are also taking less annual leave – 20.3 days, down from 21.4 in 2013.
Bronek Masojada, CEO at Hiscox, said: 
“The findings indicate that the grit and determination small business owners have shown in previous years' studies is paying off. This is immensely encouraging, not only for small business owners, but for anyone with an interest in the small business sector – from policy-makers to academics.”
The report clearly reveals that while there is still work to do, one thing none of the small businesses lack is their determination to succeed. It's in their DNA.


Tech start-ups aim to provide storage for Londoners

September 2014
It costs a huge amount of money to rent office space in London and many SMEs simply can’t afford the luxury of generous storage space – they must either sacrifice location or square footage in order to afford high leases. 
However, a few enterprising technology start-ups could offer the ideal storage solution for fellow SMEs. This new breed of storage service providers aims to make the process easier by offering services such as online set-up, and collection and delivery options.
SpaceWays (backed by the German start-up incubator Rocket Internet), opened a 57,000 sq ft storage warehouse this month. SpaceWays provides boxes and bubble wrap to customers, but they also offer door-to-door collection and delivery within London.
Rob Rebholz, managing director says, “People often don’t take into consideration the transportation to the self-storage facility. You rent a van or hire a cab, which makes it expensive and time consuming.” 
Other companies hoping to gain a slice of the self-store market include LoveSpace (which re-launched in November and has raised £2.5 million in funding) and Boxman.
Rather than having to rent a unit or secured locker, these newer companies offer alternative solutions. It’s more usual to charge per box instead of for a fixed space, such as a shipping container or secured locker.
Steve Folwell, managing director of LoveSpace, says, “Rather than starting with a £50 to £60 [per month] minimum for a small cupboard, you can start from £4.95 for a box with us.”

SMEs spend more than 10 hours a week chasing payment

September 2014
BACs state that SMEs are owed a colossal £39.4 billion in overdue bills, a sum that is up almost 30% on last year’s figures.
It has also been noted that smaller companies are getting the worst deal from their creditors, as they exploit the fact that small companies have less power and are more time-pressured so are unable to chase as much as larger businesses.
The government pledge to give small businesses greater support when chasing overdue invoices will undoubtedly help to ease the pressure on SMEs but many believe that more should be done. For example, the Prompt Payments Code could be strengthened – this is the voluntary code of best practice that aims to shame companies that fail to pay up into making speedier payments. Another useful measure would be the enforcement of prompt payments from public sector contractors. 

SMEs must tap into benefits of older workers

August 2014
Nine out of ten small medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) understand the value older workers bring to their business, with the majority (61%), recruiting a mixture of ages, according to a survey of by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development with the Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives. 
‘Age diversity in SMEs: reaping the benefits’ surveyed nearly 600 senior decision makers in UK SMEs and found that, on the whole, they recognise the skills that workers of different ages bring. The benefits include improved knowledge sharing (56%), better problem solving (34%) and enhanced customer service (21%). 
Yet, despite the default retirement age being abolished in 2011, and an increasingly age-diverse labour market, employees over the age of 65 represent just 5% the UK’s SME workforce. Some 60% of the SMEs surveyed have never employed someone over the age of 65. 
SMEs do believe that training older employees is a good return on their investment. Yet, 34% provide no support for the extension of working life and almost half (46%) report that their organisation has no activities in place to ensure access to enough skilled and diverse people of all ages.
Dianah Worman, public policy advisor at CIPD, said: “Our research into age diversity in SMEs paints a largely positive picture.  It’s good to see that small businesses, just like their large business peers, clearly see the benefits of an age diverse workforce.  Some are working hard to cater for different workers of different ages but, on the whole, we found that small businesses have a lot more to do if they are to tap into the full range of benefits an age diverse workforce can bring.”

Call for release of admin burden on SMEs

August 2014
The Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) has called for a relaxation of PAYE reporting requirements for SMEs. “We suggest that government allows small businesses to report employees’ pay monthly to HMRC, rather than on or before each payment is made, so as to reduce the administrative burden,” says the Institute’s Employment Taxes Sub-Committee Chairman Colin Ben-Nathan. “This approach would certainly chime with a key theme of the proposed Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill, which the government has said is designed to ensure red tape that affects small business is frequently reviewed to ensure that regulations are either cut or otherwise remain justified.”
The CIOT’s call was made as part of its submission to a review of the competitiveness of UK tax administration conducted by the government’s Office of Tax Simplification, who are currently gathering input from businesses, taxpayers and their advisers. Mr Ben-Nathan added, “Last year the CIOT polled its members to gather views on the effect Pay-As-You-Earn Real Time Information (RTI) is having on employers and the challenges they face in having to report immediately to HMRC on pay paid to their employees. Over half of the respondents replied that small employers should be allowed to opt out of RTI reporting, saying their clients found it too prescriptive, time-consuming and even unworkable.”
“The CIOT fully agrees that making the UK tax system more competitive and easier to administer will increase businesses’ certainty and confidence in managing their obligations, and reduce time and money spent on administration,” he says. “This in turn will boost the UK’s economic growth.”