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Which is your team?







Well it’s all behind us now!

The World Cup with all its highs and lows is over and, as always, we find ourselves dissappointed at the results.

It occurs to me that this sporting event exemplifies many of the trials and tribulations businesses come across in trying to be successful. If you have a team full of players who are only interested in themselves as individuals, it is likely you will get poor results, even if the players seem to be very talented. However, if you have a team of players who are willing to sacrifice their personal status to further the team’s ambitions, the sum becomes greater than the parts and real magic can result.

Further, it is important that the team has a clear and common vision, which is driven through by the directors. If individuals in the team go in their own direction without reference to the vision, or ignore clear management guidance, the team as a whole will suffer.

So my advice is to look at your business and decide which team you would like to be.

Will your company resemble Brazil, Spain, or indeed England? Or will you be like Germany and hold the World Cup aloft?

Fiona 🙂

Should I or shouldn’t I?

Michael thinking

Having just organised the CIMA Members in Practise (MiP) two day annual conference – along with a great team – I thought it would be a good time to explore the theme of volunteering.

For most of us running our businesses is a fairly all consuming activity and we can generally fill every minute of our working day. This makes us feel that taking on any additional work as a volunteer would just be too much hassle.

However, I have found that unexpected dividends can come from doing that bit extra.

Firstly, I have been taken well out of my comfort zone. Accountants, even management ones, are not generally called upon to find great speakers on a limited budget, to fill a two day programme. We are not natural marketeers and struggle to ‘sell’ to anyone. But I have been forced to address these issues and conquer my natural tendency to avoid tasks I find difficult.

In the short, medium and long term this will stand me in very good stead when looking to grow my own business.

Secondly, I have been able to ‘give back’. When I started my businesses there were several key people without whose help my journey would have been much more tortuous. Top of the list of these key people were long standing MiPs whose insights helped me to make important short cuts.

Conference is a key way for new MiPs to take similar short cuts by getting the help of established members in practise and excellent CPD they may not have access to otherwise. So by being involved as a volunteer I feel I am thanking the guys who invested in me.

Finally, volunteering has helped me to make life-long friends with some really great people. I have got to know my fellow volunteers really well and feel I have broadened my support network in a way I would not have been able to do otherwise.

So if you have the opportunity to become involved – take it!!

🙂 Fiona

Eight ways to cure the time management problem

We all know that poor time management is important. But if we really accounted for our time in the same way that we did every other cost we would probably be in for a shock.  According to research by global consulting firm Bain & Co and enterprise analytics company VoloMetrix, company executives receive 30,000 external communications a year compared with 1,000 in the 1970s.

The research revealed big productivity losses related to time management because businesses to not track and monitor employees’ time as closely as they track other resources, such as capital.

Do you record time spent as a cost against individual sales in your P&L or does it just fall into the salaries line in your overheads? Knowing how much time directly supports your sales is a critical performance measure. So if you already do this where does the rest of the time go?

The top eight time consumers according to the report are:

  • Muddled company agendas. Agendas should be clear for everyone in the company so that employees know which tasks are the top priority and the tasks that can be shelved.
  •  A time is free attitude. Time is clearly not free and should be managed as carefully as any other asset or resource.
  • Projects. Having the bright idea is the easy bit. But does the business case for the project really stand up when the time factor is costed properly.
  • Too many layers. The more organisational layers the more work is created in managing and communicating before the core tasks are carried out.
  • Anyone can call a meeting. The authority to call a meeting should be limited, as should the number of attendees.
  • Murky decision making. Decision making can be streamlined through the use of a standardised decision-making process.
  • Meeting time is free time. A clear agenda, advance preparation and attention to getting results on time can ensure maximum productivity at meetings.
  • Where did the time go? Time spent in meetings and on emails should be tracked and targeted to assess and improve productivity.

When we think of time management, it is not just out own time we should be worrying about.

Helen Alexander

Millbrook Financial Management Ltd

Conferences rock!

Jenny teaching

I thought as a conference I am organising is just around the corner it would be a good time to revisit the theme of professional conferences.

I have been to the CIMA Members in Practise conference for years and have always got key benefits from going:

  1. The conference is excellent for CPD, which as a professional management accountant, is vital. Although I don’t do tax or compliance myself I do need enough knowledge to help point clients in the right direction and conference is a good place to top up my knowledge.
  2. As well as specific CPD on accountancy issues we also have great key note speakers who motivate me to have the best business I can.
  3. Finally on the CPD front, sales and marketing is always a challenge for me and we have great workshops on how to get our messages across.
  4. For me, though, conference is about much more than just getting CPD. Because conference is full of like-minded individuals it is a great place to build relationships, which can carry me through the year. Working on our own can be a lonely place and these relationships help me to keep a balanced view of my world.
  5. And let’s not forget the gala dinner, disco, and the ‘craic’ at the bar! We have such a good time and, as I don’t get out very often, it is one of the few evenings in the year when I feel like a grown up!

I am really excited about what I will learn from this year’s conference but there is a sting in the tail.

Again I am chair of the conference (no pressure!!).

Last year the conference nightmares included not bringing the speaker slides and having to wing a presentation because one of the speakers didn’t turn up (could happen for real!). My nightmare of choice this year has been that a random eastern European pipe band crashes the event and plunges us all into chaos.

Nightmares aside I know it will all be OK because we have put many hours of preparation into it and we know we have a great programme.

So, if you are cogitating about whether to go to your professional conference (especially if you have not gone before) my advice is ‘give it a go’. You will probably get much more out of it than you ever imagined!

Fiona 🙂

Is an SME really exempt from the ‘Arms Length’ inter company pricing?

with computer

You might think you can charge related companies whatever you want, but is that true?

First a quick lesson in Transfer/Internal Pricing ….

SME’s do have tax exemptions….

There’s an exemption that will apply for most small and medium sized enterprises. The conditions attached to this exemption can be found in HMRC’s International Manual.

A business is a ‘small’ enterprise if it has no more than 50 staff and either an annual turnover or balance sheet total of less than €10 million.

A business is a ‘medium sized’ enterprise if it has no more than 250 staff and either an annual turnover of less than €50 million or a balance sheet total of less than €43 million.

There are some exceptions:

  • Transactions with Parties in Non Qualifying territories
  • Where HMRC have issued a notice to Medium Sized enterprise
  • Election to remain subject to transfer pricing rules
  • Patent Box

Are you your worst enemy?


I have been spending time mentoring fellow accountants in practise who have moved from the world of industry to working for themselves as accountants to SMEs.

As with many business owners one of their key problems is a lack of confidence, not in their abilities as accountants, but in determining the value they bring to their clients. This leads to them taking on work which is below their qualifications and experience, because it is easier to ‘sell’ lower level work if you don’t understand the value to clients of more challenging projects.

It is then very easy to get onto the tread mill of having to take on lots of low value clients/projects just to pay the bills. Because all their time is taken up servicing clients, rather than developing their business, they don’t have time to go after higher value work. This then means they find it very difficult to break out of the rut they have dug for themselves.

Another problem is that, even if they are trying to go after higher level projects, they are not clear enough on what their ‘perfect’ client looks like. To the ‘perfect’ client the work professionals can do for them is of real value. They want the service and are prepared to pay an appropriate fee for it.

Other clients may have been told they need the service but it has less value to them because they do not get why it is important to them. These clients will view a professional’s fees as a cost and are much more likely to want the service at a cut down fee. In this situation the management accountant (in this scenario) may still be in the position of doing a large number of hours for a relatively low rate and have the same problem as detailed above.

They have become their own worst enemy!

The key to understanding the value you can bring to customers is to talk to them! I know this sounds obvious but we are often put off from talking to our clients because we are afraid they will tell us something we don’t want to hear. However, it is more likely they will tell us something we DO want to hear!

If you don’t have any ‘perfect’ clients you will still have introducers and other business professionals with whom you can talk to chrystalise your value proposition.

Although this blog has focused largely on accountants the same problems can be found with other professional service providers and the solutions are the same:

– Have confidence in yourself and your abilities

– Understand the value your clients realise from what you do and charge accordingly

– Concentrate on projects in which you have particular expertise

– Identify your perfect clients and market to them

Become your best friend and give yourself the best chance of running the business you deserve

Fiona 🙂

Working on it or in it?


I  often hear people say ‘I am working really hard but my business seems to be stagnating’, this is probably due to working in rather than on the business.  For a business to be successful, you need to focus on your strategic goals, and take steps to achieve them.

As business owners of small and medium sized enterprises, we often get pulled into the nitty gritty of running our businesses on a day to day basis.  It could be dealing with a customer issue, or a staff management issue or purely a product or service review.  It is really hard to take yourself out of your day to day management role and review the strategy and direction of your business.  However it is critical to do this on a regular basis, ideally weekly or monthly, but here at KMA Accountancy  would certainly recommend half yearly or quarterly at the very least.

Once a week we meet with fellow business owners and discuss  areas of our business that we want to improve, we block out a couple of hours in our diaries, sit down in a quiet meeting room, and discuss the business issues that are keeping us awake or causing us pain  and bounce ideas off each other. This enables us to come up with a clear strategy to implement to remove this obstacle from our path.

It’s all too easy to get lost in the day to day work, to put off these meetings, but it’s really important in moving the business on to where we want it to be.  It’s all about taking time out to focus on the bigger picture.  It’s easy to do, but it’s also easy not to do.  It’s the constant small step changes that makes a massive impact over time.

Here at KMA Accountancy we like to practice what we preach, we do this process with our clients.  We meet with our clients and discuss what is their really pressing burning issues that are worrying them and keeping them awake at night.  We discuss the issues and help them to come up with a strategy for overcoming them and making those step changes in their business, be it improving systems to free up more time, increasing your marketing reach and getting more sales, increasing sales , increasing overall profitability in the business down to delegating more, outsourcing  or advising on staffing issues and incentives.

I would definitely recommend setting aside a couple of hours with your accountant to bounce ideas  off and help you to get clear in your mind how to move your business on and achieve what you want from it, before even more time just flies by.


Good luck in working on your business. If I can help then please feel free to contact me.

Kim Marlor

photo credit: <a href=””>photosteve101</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;

Read all about it!


It is now 6 months since I started writing and distributing my newsletter Bright Business Bulletin and I have certainly learned a lot along the way.

I came up with the idea of producing a monthly printed newsletter at the Entrepreneur’s Convention back in September. Two clear messages of the Convention were that doing what every on else was doing was not a sensible way to stand out in business, and that if you have an idea you should act on it quickly. A perfect idea which is not put into action is worthless. However, an imperfect but relevant idea that comes to fruition will move you forward.

I have always liked the idea of producing a newsletter with genuinely useful information. I felt that sending out an e-newsletter would not be the best use of my time as most people receive many emailed newsletters but few actually get read.

So I decided that my newsletter had to be printed and sent out the old fashioned way by Royal Mail – in red envelopes of course! I would send it out to 80 people I thought would be interested and who I wanted to keep in touch with – clients, strategic introducers, business partners etc. (I have since made the newsletter available to download from my website).

For the October newsletter I had only 3 days to design my newsletter format, write the content, source envelopes, get it printed, stuffed in envelopes and posted (as well as doing the day job!), because I was due to go on holiday. It was tight but I did it!

Having just sent out my 6th newsletter I certainly feel a sense of achievement.

The feedback I have had has been really gratifying. People are clearly reading the newsletters and engaged enough to comment back to me about what they like, to thank me if I have featured their business, and take part in the competition I ran.

So what have I learned so far?

Firstly, and most importantly, have a format that is easy to follow each month, so you are not confronted by a blank sheet of paper. I have clear smallish sections that are easy to think about in isolation. For example, I have my Pooh quote of the month, Ask Jenny (my financial agony aunt column), featured business and partner, Michael’s minutes and dates for your diary, as standard columns.

Secondly, it may seem like a big commitment to do a newsletter monthly but, like blog writing, once you get into the habit it is relatively easy. It is difficult to get into a habit if you only do an activity irregularly or quarterly.

Finally, having sections about other people and their businesses is a great idea, because it is easier to write about others than ourselves, and readers love the fact that someone else is interested enough in them to write about them.

Now I am not worried about what I will write about each month but actually enjoy the challenge of creating something interesting.

So, if you are thinking about creating a newsletter don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it – just do it!

Fiona 🙂

Delegation is the key!

Jenny with bunch of papers
I was talking to a strategic introducer recently – she is successful in her field but is starting to get bogged down in the day to day running of her business. In particular, administration and bookkeeping are starting to grind and take the shine out of her enjoyment of her businesses.

This is a common story but one that has a simple solution – DELEGATION.

We may have many ‘good’ reasons why delegation is hard and why we should do all the ‘easy’ jobs in our businesses:

– it can be expensive to pay someone else

– perhaps they will do the job wrongly or prove unreliable

– it will take time for them to settle in and the process will be distracting

However, you cannot escape the truth that however much you try to ‘create’ time by managing it better, there will only ever be 24 hours in a day! There will come a point (or you may already be there) where there is simply not enough time to do all that is needed in your business.

So I would answer each of the objections above like this:

– You are much more valuable to your business than you may credit. Your time is likely to be worth much more to your business per hour than the £15-£25 per hour you might need to pay an administrator/bookkeeper.

Also there are jobs which only you can do in your business. These undelegatable jobs include creating business strategy, and leading and managing your business (even if you work alone your business needs to be managed!). If administration and bookkeeping are keeping you so occupied you do not have time for strategy, or management, then your business will suffer considerably.

– Are you really sure you are the best bookkeeper/administrator anyway! Surely you did not start your own business to play around with the books or to file!

– If you engage a trained bookkeeper they will settle in very quickly. Also, because they already know what to do as a bookkeeper you won’t have to spend time showing them what to do.

So do yourself a favour. If you have too little time to do the important things in your business – DELEGATE!

Fiona 🙂

Paint your picture!

Jenny with pot of gold

When I ask business owners what their business will look like in a year, 5 years or even 10 years time I am often told they do not know – after all they are not a seer and don’t have a crystal ball.

This is a cop out in my opinion – and a dangerous one at that.

If you don’t have a plan of where your business is going, who will have? If you do not have a clear vision of what you want your business to look like, who does?

Clearly there are lots of things we, as business owners, have little control over: the general economy; the banks’ perception of business risk; how our competitors and our customers behave, to name but a few. But this does not mean that we have no control over our own business success.

In helping business owners to plan for the future I have found they become much more focused on what they want to achieve. They suddenly have a picture of what they need to do to get where they want to go and are motivated to get there. In some cases they are even reminded of the passion that drove them to start the business in the first place – something which is often lost in the day-to-day stresses of life.

They do not need to know for certain every detail of how their business will grow in the years ahead, but they do need a clear set of targets which, if achieved, will deliver a business which is successful in their terms. These targets will often revolve around sales achieved, new customers found , profits made, business owner earnings…

The picture they draw may become enhanced over time but will not change in essentials.

So, if you want to feel confident about the years ahead paint your own picture of your dreams for your business. Populate it with the subtle colours that will make your business shine. Then stand back and make sure you are happy to hang that picture on your wall for the long term.

Fiona 🙂

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