Customer success story: Clear Accounting Ltd

With it’s rich culture, stunning beaches and exhilarating mountains it’s no surprise that North Wales was named as one of the best regions to visit in 2017 by Lonely Planet. It follows that many would choose to call the area home, including Phil Jaycock and Clear Accounting Ltd!

Experienced ‘numbers-guru’ Phil started Clear Accounting Ltd back in 2013. As any new business owner will find, breaking into a small market where other businesses are already established can be a challenge. It didn’t take long for them to stand out from the rest though, with a more personalised service based on building real relationships with their clients. To this day, you’ll still find Phil on the road commuting daily to meet his clients at their place of business (so they don’t have to!) frequently outside of regular business hours. A nice touch that is so often missing from the numbers game!

More than your average Accountancy firm, Phil has built a company that provides an exceptional and expansive service to help businesses of all sizes grow. Along with being accessible (no technical jargon here!), Clear Accounting Ltd provides a continuous service rather than your average once a year check in.

Along with large businesses, Clear Accounting Ltd has made it their mission to support up and coming small enterprises in their local community. Including sponsoring the Food & Hospitality of the Year Award at the North Wales Young Business Awards. The real satisfaction they get through helping other businesses grow and being involved in their journey has ensured Clear Accounting Ltd has won a place in the heart of their community.  

With a fun and engaging social media presence (check out https://www.facebook.com/clearaccountingltd), Clear Accounting Ltd has managed to make their mark in the local community with 92% of their business coming from word of mouth. However, with exceptional growth comes the need for a quick influx of cash flow. While exploring other options, Phil went with Capital on Tap for what he hoped would be the speed of the process. “There’s a lot of bureaucracy around lending and banks are just too slow.”

Even he wasn’t expecting the speed and efficiency of the process! From his initial request, Phil received a call within 4 minutes and one online form later the facility was in place. One of the highlights of his experience? In the same way that Clear Accounting Ltd has built a reputation on fantastic customer service, Phil praises the knowledge of the support staff for always answering his queries on the spot without getting passed around. “I was so impressed with the service, I even recommended it to a friend who is using it.”

Phil has big plans for Clear Accounting Ltd, including moving to bigger premises, getting more staff on board and building their presence even more. Their success was recognised earlier this year when they were awarded Best Accountancy & Business Support Consultancy for North Wales by Acquisition International. It’s great to be able to celebrate their success and play even a small part in their journey.

For more information on Clear Accounting Ltd., visit their website at: http://www.clear-accounting.com

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How social media can benefit your business

The way that social media has become such an important tool for business is both undeniable and also greatly misunderstood.

There is no doubt that the free-flow form of contact it offers can be of great use to businesses in any number of ways, but when it comes to being of benefit financially things can get a little bit more complicated to understand.

Customer contact

In today’s increasingly interconnected world, consumers and customers are not as passive as they were in the past.

Of course, shoppers of all types have always been able to ‘vote with their feet’, and business to business deals have always revolved around getting value for money and a good deal. Today things have stepped up several gears in all directions, because the wealth of information available at the click of a button means competition is fiercer than ever.

One way to take advantage of what social media offers is to make the most of the immediacy for direct connections between a business and existing or prospective customers. That can simply mean giving out regularly scheduled updates on offers or sales, or just creating an atmosphere online where people feel a connection and an ongoing involvement with what a firm is trying to achieve.

Click throughs

With online transactions now accounting for a higher than ever proportion of revenue for most businesses, and some even relying on it solely for their income, the holy grail is to get as many people as possible to visit your business website.

By using social media for click throughs you can generate and direct traffic to your own website in order to make a purchase or sale. Linking to special offers or time-specific deals through posts on social media can be a great way to tempt people to your site, and sometimes a funny or unusual post will intrigue them enough to want to find out more.

Visual appeal

Increasingly major social networks such as Twitter and Facebook are employing features that put visual content to the fore. Others, such as Instagram and Pinterest, are already built on the idea that ‘a picture paints a thousand words.’

With 360 degree camera options, live video feeds and extended sponsored content options that rely on attractive and attention grabbing visuals, social media is moving away from the idea that a post only contains a written message.

In fact, the network’s own data shows that social media posts that contain a visual element get more attention than those which are only filled with text. This means that there are plenty of opportunities to be creative with your posts, even if that just means re-enforcing your brand imagery and ethos.

 

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Are chatbots the future of customer service?

We’ve all uttered the words “there is an app for that” at least once, but what we should ready ourselves for is the upcoming version that goes “there is a bot for that.” What are chatbots and could they be the next big shake up to an ever-evolving customer experience?

By definition a robot designed to hold a conversation with humans, chatbots rely on artificial intelligence to communicate with users. They have been around for quite a while now – remember the last time you asked Google to convert a currency to another? Or asked Siri to remind you of your next dentist appointment? However, their ability to help you sell more has only recently been tapped into.

As artificial intelligence becomes more and more advanced, chatbots are now turning out to be great ‘employees’ for businesses looking for new ways to get their customers’ attention. You can now text companies to place new orders, send an email to a supplier to request an invoice or send a Facebook message to a company to obtain more information about a particular product, and get a reply from a chatbot. No human interaction is involved in the responses (bar the actual brains behind the virtual ones), which means that the response is quick, effective and available 24/7 at no extra cost to businesses using the bots.

Chatbots continuously learn, and whereas their language and commands were quite limited in the past, they can now interact with your customers on a more familiar basis. Remembering specific details about ordering habits and analysing trends, which enables them to suggest similar products to buy. Not only do they handle your customers’ requests, they also advertise your other offerings, allowing you to sell more while potentially reducing your costs in staff and advertising.

People now use social media platforms less than messaging applications, and with the lack of real commercial functionality available on these at present, chatbots are set to revolutionise the way businesses interact with their customers in years to come. If you wish, dig deeper into the new trend already. It is as easy as picking up your smartphone and ask Siri, Cortana or Google to tell you more about chatbots!

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5 advantages of SMEs and how to exploit them

Though we often hear about the benefits of big business, the potential advantages of small and medium sized businesses don’t get as much press. This is particularly surprising as SMEs make up the vast majority of the U.K. economy and are essential to its growth. In reality, small organisations boast an impressive array of characteristics that often give them an advantage over their larger counterparts. With this in mind, we take a look at five of the biggest advantages of SMEs and how entrepreneurs can exploit these qualities to create a successful business model.

Flexibility

The adaptability of small and medium sized businesses is one of their greatest strengths. Most smaller organisations are far more responsive than larger companies, allowing them to alter course and react to customer and market demands far more efficiently. This can be exploited by ensuring bureaucracy is kept to a minimum. Keep clear and simple channels of communication and maintain focus on what your clients want from products and services.

Team spirit

By their very nature, SMEs usually depend on far smaller teams and reduced employee numbers. This often generates a far tighter sense of community and camaraderie and helps employees develop an attachment to the business. This results in staff that are personally invested in the company’s future and will do their utmost to secure its success. Managers can make the most of this by ensuring they foster a sense of belonging and team spirit, maintaining a culture that emphasises a healthy work/life balance and rewarding the team when it performs well.

Closer relationships with customers

The more personable nature inherent in smaller teams also applies to the relationship between a business and its customers. SMEs will normally have far fewer clients on their books, interact with them more often and build stronger links than larger companies. This makes listening to your customers, working to fulfil their needs and ensuring you communicate regularly and clearly, all essential parts of running a small business.

Community based

SMEs are often far more integrated into their communities than larger companies. This is due to the fact that people are able to put a face to a brand, directly witness the impact small business can have on communities and often prefer them to the expansive, inhuman organisations of larger companies. This can be taken advantage of by engaging with your local community, hiring from within its ranks and supporting causes important to the area.

Easier to innovate

Big businesses can finds themselves hampered by size when it comes to innovating. Adapting existing business practices is a lot harder when they have to be altered on a mass scale, as factors like tradition, expense and risk all act against and inhibit change. SMEs are able to shift direction, innovate and take risks in a way that is unthinkable to larger companies. Exploit this by encouraging a culture of innovation, being receptive to new ideas –no matter who or where they come from – and by always looking to develop and expand.

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Working from home for SMEs

Modern technology has now reached the point at which working remotely is not only feasible, but also relatively cheap and accessible. So why haven’t more small and medium sized businesses adopted such technology and moved away from the confines of the traditional office space?

Whilst many bigger businesses have fully embraced the benefits of mobile technology and remote working opportunities, SMEs still lag behind, despite there being obvious benefits to the tech.

A recent study from Steelcase has shown that only half of all workplaces in the UK are set up to make the most of remote working, with 77% of employees having access to a desktop and only 39% using a laptop. When it comes to phones, the figures are even more shocking. Just 38% of employees have a dedicated work mobile, compared to 91% who use a landline at work. Not only do these figures highlight the fact that many businesses have been incredibly slow to adopt mobile technology, but they also indicate a certain reluctance amongst many companies to let their employees begin working away from the office.

These figures may come as a surprise considering the amount of research concluding that remote working could have a drastic positive effect on the UK economy and has increased productivity amongst those employees using it. It is estimated that greater adoption of remote working technologies could generate an extra £11.5 billion year for the economy, whilst studies have shown that the most engaged workers are those that feel they have control over their work lives.

Interestingly, SMEs are considered best placed to take advantage of remote working technology. Small, flexible and often built around less rigid organisational structures, SMEs are the perfect environment for remote working and should be making the most of the opportunities at hand. With less employees, the cost of rolling out new technologies across an entire business is much lower and the move could allow some smaller companies to cut down on overheads by reducing bills, downsizing office space and making many tasks more streamlined and efficient.

So why haven’t many SMEs adopted the technology? While there is no perfect answer, in many cases it comes down to preconceived notions concerning technology and the time, effort and expertise it takes to set up. Many managers also have reservations about moving away from the traditional office space where it is easy to keep a watchful eye over staff, though this micro-management attitude may soon be a thing of the past as more businesses recognise the advantages of remote working.

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High energy costs holding back SMEs

While the the UK economy is experiencing a slight resurgence and small and medium sized businesses are steadily recovering from a tough few years, there are still a number of obstacles holding them back. One such impediment can be the cost of energy.

As one of the most essential expenditures for any business, it’s a factor that business owners cannot afford to ignore. With recent developments in the energy sector, many small business owners feel that they’ve been excluded from many of the positive changes benefiting other customers.

Following a great deal of media, public and regulatory pressure, all of the big energy providers operating in the UK have cut their prices. This has resulted in lower prices for customers across the country and has been welcomed as an important and positive development in the energy sector. However, these reductions in price have not applied to small businesses, most of which are still tied into much more expensive tariffs. Excluded and ignored by the big energy companies, it’s easy to see why many small business owners may feel that high energy costs are an unavoidable barrier to further growth.

The six largest energy providers, known as the Big Six, often operate as though small businesses won’t or can’t change their energy supplier once they’ve signed up. This lowers the quality of service SMEs receive and suggests large energy companies view them as second tier customers. For example, figures from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) show that only a fifth of all SMEs have been offered advice concerning their energy efficiency. The lack of support for business clients only serves to accentuate the frustration felt by business owners, already angry at the perceived injustice of higher energy costs.

In the process of surveying its members, the FSB discovered that nearly a third believe high energy costs to be a substantial barrier to growth and expansion. However, the importance of energy expenditures vary from industry to industry and some small businesses will be hit harder than others. Those businesses involved in energy intensive industries, such as the manufacturing, construction or IT industries, will continue to face difficulties if prices aren’t reduced in the future. If changes are to be made, industry regulators will play a vital role and any tariff reductions will be dependant on the extent to which they are willing to apply pressure on the Big Six.

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How important is the customer experience?

The old adage that the customer is king still rings true for many businesses. Customer experience is vital to the vast majority of firms and often makes an enormous difference when it comes to creating a successful long-term business. Though companies are increasingly automated and digitalised with each passing year, ensuring customers are pleased with the purchasing process is still a top priority for businesses of all sizes. While bigger, multinational organisations may be able to disregard some complaints as an unavoidable side effect of their size, small and medium sized businesses don’t have the same luxury.

Poor customer experience costs the UK an estimated £234 billion in sales each year and is responsible for an enormous number of missed opportunities, according to a survey from Magnetic North and Censuswide. Given that a massive 92% of customers reported having a poor customer experience at some point in time, leading to one in three abandoning a purchase, the statistics indicate that there is still a great deal of work to be done when it comes to improving British businesses’ customer service and the shopping experience.

Many of the problems experienced by customers occur over new purchasing platforms, through mobile devices, the Internet and other digital technologies. The rise of online shopping has radically changed the nature of doing business and entrepreneurs now have to ensure they provide a simple, easy to use online portal through which customers are able to contact the company, make purchases and provide feedback. The increasing use of mobile devices for business has also meant that websites need to be designed with mobile use in mind – an additional consideration that usually involves extra expense.

However, these concerns and additional expenses are more than worth the additional outlay. Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) indicate that 69% of people prefer making a purchase online, 62% prefer to carry out their research online and 41% would rather make complaints over the Internet. This suggests that, as well as being the dominant means of completing a purchase, the web has become the preferred way of providing feedback for British consumers.

The most important figures to emerge from the survey relate to customer allegiance and their willingness to switch to competitors. 46% of those completing the ONS survey said that they had switched to a competing business after experiencing poor customer service. 71% of those that had switched, did so because it was difficult to find customer service information. These statistics demonstrate the importance of the customer experience to businesses of all sizes and suggest that no one can afford to ignore problems with the service they provide.

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Essential tips for business budgeting

Efficient budgeting is essential to any small business and will often dictate how successful a company will be in the long term. Having a firm grip on your finances not only allows you to plan for a more secure future, but it also provides an insight into which parts of your business are problematic.

If you find yourself struggling when it becomes time to pay the rent, it should be obvious that better organisation of your key expenses is in order. If it becomes apparent that capital isn’t flowing freely through your business, better clash flow management is necessary. Budgeting is a great way to ensure that the future of a business is bright and to highlight areas where there is room for improvement. With this in mind, here are our top five tips for successful budgeting.

1. Cash flow projections

When it comes to estimating your potential sales and profit figures, it is always better to be realistic. Although a business may appear incredibly successful, it is impossible to predict the future. Small businesses are particularly at risk from cash flow crises and need to be wary. Consequently, reserved estimations ensure a healthy cash flow and keep your business from drying up.

2. Pay off debt quickly

It is incredibly difficult to start a small business without accruing some type of debt. This in itself is not a problem, though entrepreneurs should attempt to begin paying off their debt as soon as possible. The interest payable on most debt can be a black cloud hovering over newer businesses and, if left too long, can cause serious financial problems.

3. Build a reserve from profits

Though it may be tempting to reinvest all the profits from a good month back into the business, it is better to have a contingency reserve in case of emergency. Markets are volatile and the business world difficult to predict, so a small ‘bank’ of monetary reserves on which you draw from when times are tough makes good business sense.

4. Know your industry

When budgeting, it is always a good idea to have a comprehensive understanding of expected expenses in the industry. This means researching what other businesses tend to spend their revenue on and establishing whether these costs apply to your business. The most important considerations will be your essentials, such as rent, utilities, raw materials and labour.

5. Review regularly

Finally, it’s vital that small business owners regularly re-evaluate their budget and budgeting processes to ensure that it is still applicable to their context and situation.While larger organisations may do this annually, the fact that smaller business are much more volatile means that they may have to do this every month or two. Reviewing more regularly may be time consuming but it can be highly beneficial in the long term.

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