A straightforward guide to effective team management

Outsourcing Manager at accountancy firm Barnett & Turner, Natalie Goodall, has been learning quickly some of the best ways of achieving success and motivating a team. Here, she shares ten of her top tips.

1.     SHOW THAT YOU’RE HUMAN

It’s important to be a real person, as it creates a more comfortable environment. People feel less intimidated when you show your human side.

2.     DELEGATE EFFECTIVELY

You can’t do everything yourself, but when you delegate, it’s essential to take into account people’s background, skills and knowledge. No one wants to feel out of the depth, but equally, you can’t pigeonhole team members either. They need to have the chance to learn something new.

3.     GIVE FEEDBACK

While you’ll probably hold formal appraisals at regular intervals, informal feedback is vital too – both positive and negative. Even if people have performed tasks correctly, it’s always important to offer constructive suggestions on the way in which they could have been done better. Equally, it’s essential to acknowledge success.

4.     COMMUNICATE

People aren’t mind readers. If you don’t keep them informed, how can you expect them to do what they need to do? In small businesses, you can often impart information face to face, but in larger companies, you’ll need a chain for communication and perhaps regular team update meetings.

5.     SET AN EXAMPLE

You’re a role model for your team, so if you arrive late to work or lose your temper in the office, don’t be surprised if other people think this behaviour is acceptable. You have to set the standards. People won’t take notice if you say one thing and do another.

6.     BE CONSISTENT

Everyone is a human being and has feelings. Don’t treat people differently based on, say, their level of seniority or how much you personally like them. 

7.     GET TO KNOW YOUR TEAM

It’s important to know people at a personal level and build a rapport. Take an interest in the team around you. Ask how their weekend was and how they’re feeling. They’ll appreciate the personal touch.

8.     ENCOURAGE QUESTIONS

People need to know that you have time for them. Remember, if they don’t feel confident to ask, they’ll probably just guess and may make mistakes.

9.     BE ASSERTIVE

If you can’t make decisions, it’s hard for people in your team to respect your leadership. You need to demonstrate that you can be confident and decisive where appropriate.

10.  KEEP YOUR KNOWLEDGE UP TO DATE

You need to be technically up to speed in your own specialism, as this provides you with credibility. It also allows you to support team members with any issues that arise as part of their work.

If you would like to discuss anything related to this article please do not hesitate to call Barnett & Turner on 01623 659659 or email Jonathan at jwilson@barnettandturner.co.uk

The making of a memorable corporate event

Jono Wilson of Barnett & Turner in Nottinghamshire shares five great suggestions for organising the ideal corporate workshop or event.

I’ve been involved in presenting at a number of (internal and external) events but have learnt over time that you need to be methodical in your planning for everything to work. Here are a few of my top tips:

Make sure you have a clear objective

What is the purpose of your event? It clearly needs to be something of relevance to your target audience and have value for your company too. 

You also need to know exactly what you’re aiming to get out of the workshop. Are you informing existing customers about changes in your market place or is it an opportunity to convert prospects? How much of a sales element about a specific product or service is appropriate?

Whoever your audience is, remember that it’s not often that all of the people you invite will ultimately attend, so you may have to reach out to a much wider group initially depending on the subject.

Get all the key staff involved from the start

Good communication is essential. You’ll almost certainly need to draw on the support of colleagues and people with particular expertise, so get them involved from the beginning. Brainstorm everything that will need doing and create an action plan with a clear sense of priorities, responsibilities and deadlines. Getting this kind of buy-in at an early stage will be important.

Focus on timing

You’ll need to decide the best time to hold the event. Breakfast meetings often work well, as people can stop off before work and it’s not too disruptive to their day. You might feel that something after office hours – perhaps accompanied by a glass of wine – is more appropriate. 

Whatever you choose, the timing of the invitations is just as important. I recommend sending out your first emails four weeks before the event and then following up with a couple of weeks to go. If you contact people too early, they can easily put it to the back of their minds. But equally, it’s fatal to leave it too late.  Make sure you have a clear deadline for RSVPs.

Keep things on track

Hold regular meetings in the run-up to the event, so that you can monitor progress and take action to boost attendance if necessary. It’s also a chance to plan for the practical arrangements on the day, as everything needs to run smoothly if you’re to give a good impression of your business.

Be prepared on the day

There will always be potential glitches – that microphone that doesn’t work or the last-minute catering hiccup. It’s no problem, provided you’re on the case and prepared. If you’ve followed all the ‘to-do’ instructions on your action plan, the chances are that you’ll have contingency plans in place for most things. 

Remember that the event needs to be engaging, so discourage speakers from ‘Death by PowerPoint’ and make the session interactive, with the use of visuals and the opportunity for questions and answers. You may even want to introduce some kind of ice-breaker at the start. Make sure you ask for people’s feedback and – most important of all – follow up with a thank you for attending.

Good luck!

If you would like to discuss anything related to this article please do not hesitate to call Barnett & Turner on 01623 659659 or email Jonathan at jwilson@barnettandturner.co.uk

If your business is going under, make sure you don’t go the same way.

When a company is technically insolvent, it can be all-too-easy to end up on the wrong side of the law writes Jono Wilson of accountancy firm Barnett & Turner.

If you’re a company director and your business has run into financial difficulties, it’s important to take professional advice at the earliest possible stage. If you end up trading wrongfully or fraudulently, the chances are you will come to the attention of The Insolvency Service – the executive agency of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which will tackle directors who have breached their duties and responsibilities under the Company Acts. Critically, it doesn’t matter whether that breach has been intentional or unintentional.

The Insolvency Service has the legal power to investigate when they receive reports of misconduct, fraud or scams. They will also act, however, over the conduct and actions of company directors when businesses have entered into administration or liquidation.

What should you watch out for?

An Insolvency Practitioner will submit a report to the Insolvency Service basedon the conduct of directors in the run-up to the company’s demise. If you’ve failed to keep proper books, for example, not paid taxes that are owed or continued to trade to the detriment of creditors, you may end up with restrictions imposed on you or a disqualification. 

When disqualified (which can be for a period of up to 15 years), you will be listed on a Companies House database and cannot be a director of a UK company or a foreign company operating in the UK. You are also barred from getting involved in the formation, management or marketing of a company. People who contravene these restrictions can be fined or even imprisoned for up to two years.

What should you be doing?

Good practice means that you keep accurate books and records at all times and if you suspect your business may be insolvent (see the following website for guidance: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/options-when-a-company-is-insolvent/options-when-a-company-is-insolvent) only trade or incur additional liabilities if you realistically believe the business can return to solvency once again. You’ll need to document your decisions and take legal advice, as well as consult an insolvency practitioner.

Don’t take deposits for orders you can’t fulfil and avoid incurring credit or issuing cheques that you can’t honour. Avoid preferring certain creditors, as it can’t be to the detriment of the main body of creditors, to whom you owe a duty.

It’s a complex area and other rules and restrictions apply, so the key thing is to start consulting your professional advisers as soon as you suspect your business may become insolvent at some point in future.

If you would like to discuss anything related to this article please do not hesitate to call Barnett & Turner on 01623 659659 or email Jonathan at jwilson@barnettandturner.co.uk

Agile approaches to a changing world

Agile working is much more than methodology, argues Jono Wilson of Barnett & Turner. It’s a whole different way of thinking about how work is done and managed, how teams deliver and how we behave.

We’re all conscious that the world is changing dramatically. Technology moves on at an accelerated pace and the expectations of our customers are raised. Of course, it’s never possible to predict the future – and we can’t prepare ourselves for every eventuality – but by changing our mindset we can equip ourselves to manage change. 

Embracing change helps us prepare for, and respond positively to, disruption.

A key element to the approach is building cross-functional teams on projects, so you can add real value to the organisation by breaking down silos and making sure that all the expertise needed to deliver are working together in one team. Maybe we should embed a digital or data expert alongside our tax advisors or corporate finance contacts? Bringing together a range of perspectives result in new ideas that help us deliver differently, we use data to manage in ways we haven’t thought of before and, perhaps most importantly, we collectively develop a better understanding of our customers and markets.  The exchange of knowledge, experience and insight produces highly effective results.

We’re going through the process here at B&T as part of building our Firm of the Future.

We brought people together from across the business and identified key areas that we wanted to address, breaking everything down into small, manageable and actionable tasks.

While our priorities were obviously specific to our firm, you could think in general terms about areas in your own business, such as billing processes, customer relationships or technology. What are the issues that are most important to you and the changes that you anticipate could deliver real value?

You approach the tasks in a structured way with regular, delivery deadlines, often within teams. It relies, of course, on participants being ready to jump in and embrace the process. It’s also important to have buy-in from senior people within the organisation and strong leadership in place. We have been really impressed with the amount of progress that we are able to make using the new tools, techniques and ways of working. 

My advice is to start small and perhaps choose one area of your business to look at.  It may not be the issue causing you the biggest headache (or be the one that is most difficult to address) but it will demonstrate the approach and secure some buy-in.  Try to maximise the use of data as well, to help you make the right decisions.

Although different organisations will benefit in varying ways, embracing the change is a philosophy that can be adopted by both commercial companies and public bodies and by small and large businesses alike. A whole new way of working may not always be easy at the start, but in a world of fast-paced change, the approach is essential for longer term survival and success.

If you would like to discuss anything related to this article please do not hesitate to call Barnett & Turner on 01623 659659 or email Jonathan at jwilson@barnettandturner.co.uk

Seeing things from a new perspective

Accountancy firms that are part of the HCWA network offer a unique range of perspectives and employ people from a variety of different backgrounds. JONATHAN BROWN explains how he came to join Barnett & Turner in Nottinghamshire and why he thinks his move has been so positive.

Working in an independent accountancy business has been quite a new experience for me. That’s because originally I trained in the public sector. 

Of course, there were plenty of personal motivations for the move – not least the fact that I was undertaking a lengthy commute into Sheffield each day as a trainee management accountant. Ultimately though, I feel the culture here suits me much better.

We’re a tight-knit team and there’s a family feel to the business, which is important to me. Inevitably, when I joined the public sector after graduating from university in Accountancy and Finance, I found things to be pretty hierarchical. It can be a political environment with a number of restrictions, so getting things done can be quite a long-winded process.

Here, although things are on a smaller scale, there seems to be much more variety. Dealing with clients in the private sector, you don’t feel as if you’re doing the same job more than once. You’re always on your toes, there’s lots of responsibility and you feel valued, by both our clients and within the team.

From a client perspective, you get the best of all possible worlds. Our team may come from a variety of backgrounds and have insights into the way that different organisations work. At the same time, we’re given a sense of ownership and a really varied range of tasks. That makes us truly committed, responsive and ready for whatever challenge gets thrown at us next!

If you would like to discuss anything related to this article please do not hesitate to call Barnett & Turner on 01623 659659 or email Jonathan at jwilson@barnettandturner.co.uk

Being true to your values may take a little bit of reflection

Like a chameleon, the environment at Barnett & Turner is changing. And it’s all to do with the unique ‘Culture Club’ set up by Jono Wilson - Here, he makes the case that every organisation can benefit from a little open discussion, reflection and renewal to get the best out of any team!

When you manage a business, it can sometimes be too easy to keep ploughing on in the same direction. After all, you’re preoccupied with day-to-day pressures and deadlines. But it’s healthy to take stock once in a while and reflect on the way that everyone interacts with one another and the expectations we have for behaviour.

That’s exactly what we’ve done recently at my own accountancy firm. Barnett & Turner has been around for 110 years or so and as a business we continue to learn, change and improve. So I have brought together a group of staff to form what we’ve called our ‘Culture Club’ to review, redefine and take ownership of our business culture, ensuring that we play by the right rules to maintain a positive environment for us and our clients.   

It’s a process that I believe could benefit almost any company.

We have a range of people involved. Some are client-facing fee earners, while others work behind the scenes. There’s a good male-female balance and a variety of ages, so we get a healthy range of perspectives. 

Our aim is to focus on what we need from each other as people, to ensure our continued success both as individuals and as a business. We started out by considering who we admire externally – friends, sportspeople and others with a high profile. Could we bring some of their traits and habits into the work that we do here?

After plenty of discussion, we’ve produced a ‘play-book’ which pulls together the cornerstones of what we consider to be our unique culture and how we want the firm to be – for us, it is much more than just a mission statement or staff handbook! The principles include making a difference to our clients and each other, being true to our values, ownership and trust, honesty and commitment and solution based thinking. We’ve also included fun and positivity - it’s important to show some love!

We’re currently preparing to present our play-book to the wider team working in the business and I admit to being excited at the prospect, as everyone has been so engaged in the process so far. I’ve also found that it’s given me a new lease of life and motivation as a leader. 

Our intention is to use the Culture Club as a talking point with new recruits and to share the play-book in interviews. It means we can be quite clear and up front with them: “This is who we are and what we expect. Do you feel that you will fit in and are you excited at the prospect of joining B&T?”

Over time, the values will become a benchmark for appraising our work and behaviours. We will challenge ourselves to check that we’re living up to our aspirations and embracing the culture that we have collectively agreed to create.

It takes a little time and commitment, but I really believe it’s worth the effort and I have no doubt that it will help us get the best out of each other. Perhaps it’s time to consider creating your own version of the Culture Club?

If you would like to discuss anything related to this article please do not hesitate to call Barnett & Turner on 01623 659659 or email Jonathan at jwilson@barnettandturner.co.uk

Keeping an eye on your business via the cloud

One of the great advantages of cloud accounting is that your professional adviser is there with you in real time, writes Natalie Goodall of accountancy firm Barnett & Turner

While it’s true that the key driver for using cloud accounting systems has been the government’s Making Tax Digitalprogramme, we’d usually advise all our clients to work in this way, even if they’re not VAT registered.

From our point of view, there are a number of advantages, if we notice for example, that profitability is healthy, we can work proactively to manage tax liability. On the other hand, if a client’s figures are not looking so rosy, there may be another conversation we can have, which gives us the chance to offer some specific advice or recommendations.

A key advantage is the ability to spot problems before they get out of hand. Keeping accounts in the cloud means that your professional adviser is able to log on at any time and see exactly what’s going on. While some businesses joke about ‘Big Brother’, the reality is that they soon see the advantages.

As cloud accounting became more commonplace, we started checking in on client accounts on an ad hoc basis, but we are now putting systems in place to ensure regular monitoring.

In terms of practical impact it can make, think about notification of your corporation tax bill. Would you rather have an idea of the figure eight months in advance or just a week before it became due?

Most accountants will be happy to offer some training to clients, depending on their level of confidence with software such as Xero, Sage or QuickBooks. Inevitably though, queries arise from time to time and we find that this serves as a useful communication channel. When a client calls up to ask for advice on the software, there’s always an opportunity for a five-minute chat to get up to date on their business and accounting issues.

We work closely with the leading providers, Xero and QuickBooks, and are cloud certified advisers. If you haven’t yet taken advantage of the new technology, make sure to have a chat with us to see how we can help with a stress-free demo and set up options.

If you would like to discuss anything related to this article please do not hesitate to call Barnett & Turner on 01623 659659 or email Jonathan at jwilson@barnettandturner.co.uk

Manage cashflow with superior tax planning

Jono Wilson of accountancy firm Barnett & Turner in Mansfield shows how tax and cashflow are closely inter-related and points out some opportunities you just might have missed.

With a downturn in the economy and some uncertainty surrounding the UK’s position after Brexit, many companies are turning their attention to tax planning – especially if cashflow is becoming an issue. Here are seven different areas that are worth thinking about and, of course, discussing with your professional advisers.

Research & Development

Companies involved in qualifying R&D activity, may qualify for tax relief on certain costs incurred as part of the process. If you’re a small or medium-sized enterprise, this result in additional relief of up 130% on costs incurred. Where a company has made a loss in the year the benefit of this relief allows Small and Medium enterprises to surrender tax losses generated by R&D tax relief for a cash repayment.  

Patent Box Relief

Innovating in your market place with new, patented technologies or inventions? Patent Box Relief allows you to access a lower rate of Corporation Tax on the profits derived from the exploitation of patented technologies and products. While the qualifying criteria are complex, the benefits to companies can see their Corporation Tax liabilities significantly reduced to as low as 10% on these profits where this relief is available.  

Capital Allowances

Don’t overlook this advantageous relief, Capital Allowances are often a valuable relief assisting in reducing a company’s taxable profits, generating deductions of up to 100% of the qualifying capital expenditure incurred. If you have incurred significant expenditure on property renovations in the previous 2 years, a review of the expenditure should be undertaken to maximise any Capital Allowances available which could result in significant tax savings for companies.

Corporation Tax

With a downturn in the economy and some uncertainty surrounding the UK’s position after Brexit some companies are facing the prospect of making a current year tax losses. If a company has previously been profitable and paid Corporation Tax in the prior period there is the potential to utilise current year losses against prior year’s profits and generate a tax repayment.

Foreign Tax Credits

If you are undertaking work overseas, you may find that you suffer a withholding tax on payments received. What you may not realise is that you can claim relief against UK Corporation Tax on a pound-for-pound basis for any withholding taxes which have been suffered potentially generating a repayment. This claim can be made for a period of up to four years, in some cases allowing companies to access significant tax savings.

Tax-efficient remuneration and benefits

We always encourage our clients to think about what savings can be made in other areas of their business. Staff costs will typically be a significant cost to most company’s therefore any savings that can be access in this area are usually welcome. Simply changes like moving to an alternative provider for your Corporation Benefits package can result in significant cost savings for a company as well as great some tax efficiencies for your employees as well, for example moving to a salary sacrifice pension scheme.

If you would like to discuss anything related to this article please do not hesitate to call Barnett & Turner on 01623 659659 or email Jonathan at jwilson@barnettandturner.co.uk

Why weak personal security is a risk to business too

Many businesses are becoming better protected in the IT sphere, argues Jono Wilson of Barnett & turner, but the lax personal security of employees can still pose a risk.

We’ve all become quite used to the idea of enterprise security. In business environments, there are often well-defined procedures and protocols for using IT and most companies understand the potential risks.

But what about our personal security? We’re often less careful outside the work environment and many of us have a large digital footprint.

Email is a particular concern. If you think about it, your email address is a linchpin for pretty much everything else you do online. It’s the primary building block for most authentication. If you need to reset a password, where does the link get sent?

Many of us can get quite lax over password protection too. We’re asked to remember so much information for so many different online contexts, we end up going for the easy option and repeating the same letter/number combination.

Perhaps in a business, you’re encouraged to change your password every 30 days. But when did you last change it with your home ISP? In some cases, it can be five, ten or even fifteen years ago. So if there’s one thing you definitely do as a result of reading this short article, my plea would be that you go and change that personal password. Don’t put it off until next week or next month, as it’s way too easy to forget.

If someone manages to get into your personal email, it can easily help them to gain access to other services too. A door is thrown wide open. And this can have a knock-on effect to the enterprise environment too, as it may be that personal emails feature in multi-factor authentications.

Another issue is that people may not even know their personal email has been compromised and, if they do find out, they lack the expertise or resources to sort things out.

One very useful free site is https://haveibeenpwned.com/. You simply type in your email address and it will give you a description of any compromising activity on the account. At least then, you’re aware and in a position to take some action.

As a business owner or manager, it may be worth talking to your staff about the potential issues that arise with private security online. After all, there’s no point in investing in your own security when it can be undermined by the personal email accounts of your employees.

If you would like to discuss anything related to this article please do not hesitate to call Barnett & Turner on 01623 659659 or email Jonathan at jwilson@barnettandturner.co.uk

Helping employees live your brand

How your staff can become ambassadors for the business… Jono Wilson, managing partner of accountancy firm Barnett & Turner, shares his insight on how your team members can play an important role in promoting your brand.

Your company’s brand is one of your most valuable assets. It’s what differentiates you in the marketplace and cements your reputation. When employees believe in the brand, a business will prosper. So here are a dozen quick tips for ensuring that everyone is playing their part in the process.

Ensure brand alignment

It’s essential to ensure that both employees and the leadership team understand what your brand stands for. Any lack of clarity from the top will mean employees don’t understand what is expected of them, which will translate into a confusing experience for your customers.

Communicate the vision

Make sure your employees understand the brand proposition. It’s vital that everyone is speaking from the same page when it comes to who you are and what you do, so make sure you have communicated the vision effectively. How can your team deliver on the corporate brand promise if they aren’t clear about what it is?

 Keep it simple

Your brand needs to have simplicity at its heart. Some marketers can alienate their internal audience by creating an overly complex brand structure that is difficult to execute for employees.  

Make your employees the hero

Celebrate your employees in your brand materials and put them front and centre. Ditch the generic stock imagery or shots of your slick new building and create imagery centred around your teams. 

Educate your employees

Provide your employees with training and guidance about how to represent and live the brand. Map out the customer journey with them, helping them identify what materials to use and how to ensure a cohesive brand experience.  

Create great content

You must create compelling and relevant content that will inspire employees to spread the word. Company news, articles and press releases can be fine, but interactive and design-rich media such as infographics, images and videos will work much better.

Invest in design

Make your employees proud of your brand and its content by ensuring it looks the part. Today people are far more design savvy than ever before and regularly consume design-rich content. Make sure your brand can stand up against not just your competitor set, but also the brands that your employees are interacting with. 

Don’t be over-protective of your brand

You should have the confidence to let employees present your brand in a way that feels authentic to them. Give them the understanding, tools and guidance and then let the brand breathe. Not every employee is the same and one size does not fit all. Different types of people require different tactics in order to turn them into brand ambassadors, so try to have as flexible an approach as possible and build a full brand tool kit that they can draw from.

Don’t be afraid of social media – let employees tell the brand story

When social media first became popular, many employers banned its use at work because it was a distraction. If you want your employees to post, tweet and snap about your business, you’ll need to relax those rules. Also, give employees the opportunity to attend industry events and conferences where they can meet clients and get the chance to promote the brand to their peers or competitors. 

Make it easy to share and keep them informed

Send out a weekly company-wide email that includes all content (news, articles, events, images etc) that employees can share. They know their clients best and can send on information that is timely and accurate. You should also encourage employees to follow, like and share the firm’s social media updates with their networks. 

Internal networking

Encourage internal networking by providing a forum for staff to interact with each other. It will help facilitate sharing of information, peer-to-peer learning and idea generation. You would be surprised how much practical insight can be brought into your branding communications.

Listen and act on feedback

Engage in a two-way dialogue with your employees. Invest the time to listen to your staff and provide them with a forum to influence the direction your brand takes. This might include an annual survey where employees can provide candid anonymous feedback. 

Finally, remember your brand is not static. It can morph over time and should be as dynamic as your organisation and its people. Always look for it to evolve.

If you would like to discuss anything related to this article please do not hesitate to call Barnett & Turner on 01623 659659 or email Jonathan at jwilson@barnettandturner.co.uk