Late Payments Still a Problem for SMEs

Research by the Royal Bank of Scotland & Natwest has been widely reported today that 71% of SMEs had to cope with late payments in the last year, totalling over £60bn in unpaid bills (of which c. £15bn was overdue by more than 120 days). In parallel, the FSB stated that nearly 4000 businesses closed in 2008 due to invoices not getting paid on time.

Peter Ibbetson (Head of Small Business Banking at RBS) commented in the BBC website article “Bad debts and late payment of invoices are endemic problems for UK businesses. What’s concerning is that so few are making use of services from their bank to help alleviate the problem.”. He recognised that a key problem for small businesses is that they simply do not have the resources to focus on debt collection.

However Stephen Alambritis of the FSB countered in the same article that the banks are helping the problem at the moment: “It’s a huge problem for small businesses. When a small firm is paid late, it’s forced to go to the bank and with the banks being a bit tetchy at the moment, it’s a difficult position. Banks are not loaning and giving overdrafts which means small firms feel like banks themselves. Large firms are improving their cash flow on the back of smaller suppliers.”

In earlier research in February 2010, the FSB had also pointed the finger at the public sector for being the worst offenders, with one in three payments being made late.  In the FSB/ICM research, businesses were asked whether they received payment from different types of organisations early, late or on time. Broken down by sector, whilst the figures for ‘late payment’ for the Private Sector were 34% and the Education Sector 22%, the Public Sector made up the rest (listed in ascending order: Police/fire 18%; Devolved Government 23%; Olympics 2012 25%; Local authorities 25%; NHS 29%; Government agencies 30%; EU institutions 30% and UK Central Government 31%).

This reluctance to pay on time caused 41% of small businesses to resort to using personal savings; 43% being reliant on overdrafts and 21% using a personal credit card to stay afloat. The feedback implied that this self-reliance was forced on them as they met with more refusal than support from the banks.

In their rbs_liquidity_magazine_issue5 the RBS offers a number of ways for businesses to look after their cash flow and keep their liquidity safe.  As business owners we all know that cash-flow is king, and as we all work through the recovered from the recession, there is still a lot to do to sort out payment processes to smaller businesses. At PPG Ltd, we always recommend to our clients that they pay on time (or even early!) to encourage a good relationship with suppliers that can provide a life-saver is tough times. When was the last time you reviewed your payment processes to your suppliers? If you would like an objective view on how you can get yourself into a more secure cash-flow position, contact us for a free of charge review.

Launch of TWBC Premier Business Club in Plymouth

The Women’s Business Club (TWBC) helps and supports women at all stages of their business or careers, to move forward and grow.   Led by founder and MD Kelly Stevens, who is passionate about supporting women in business and encouraging entrepreneurship, the TWBC enables business women to learn from each other, promote their businesses, find inspiration and make important business contacts.  TWBC members are a supportive community of women in business from all over the UK , who have vision for their businesses and careers, and work to encourage and support each other.

PPG Events are delighted to announce that our Marketing Director, Sue Windley, has been selected as the host for the new TWBC Premier Business Club in Plymouth to complement the recently set up clubs in Exeter and Truro.  The TWBC Premier Business Clubs aren’t just another networking group, but a hub where women can focus on collaboration and peer group support to develop their business relationships faster and add more value to their membership.

The Premier Clubs are for business founders, freelancers and professional women at management level within larger companies – ambitious women with the long term vision for their business careers who understand the immense benefit gained by working cooperatively.

Premier Club members meet once a month over a working lunch to work closely together to pool resources and share experience, contacts and expertise. Memberships at each club are capped to ensure each club remains small enough to facilitate a highly charged collaborative environment.

The TWBC Premier Business Club has its first meeting on Wednesday 17th March 2010 at noon at Duke of Cornwall Hotel, Millbay Road, Plymouth, PL1 3LG.  You are welcome to come along as a guest or member, but booking is essential to ensure a space.  Click on the TWBC Plymouth link to see the upcoming meeting dates and book your place with one click!

March is #BeMyGuest Month

Here’s a clever way to promote yourself and/or your business to a new audience.

March 2010 is BeMyGuest month. Thought up by Adam Vincenzini and Emily Cagle, it encourages social media bloggers and tweeters to share ideas on each others’ postings. As they state on their website: “It’s what social media and sharing is all about.”  The campaign has a simple approach: during March, you can get to feature as a guest on at least one other person’s blog and invite at least one person to post on your own blog.  You start by using Twitter to tweet out your own blog details with the hashtag #BeMyGuest – including what your preferences are (eg topics, editing style etc).

At PPG, we are delighted to be hosting blogs written by other people on our Dangerous Marketing Blog. These are people from the on-line world who all have marketing in common – and we hope their different approaches will help and inspire ideas for new marketing approaches. Look for our #BeMyGuest Avatar (to the right) to indicate our guest blogs.

To make your search easier, we will be updating the links to each of our guest blogs here:

Our guest writers have also kindly reciprocated with by allowing Dangerous Marketing to write blogs on their sites – you can take a look at the different posts here:

The #BeMyGuest idea is a simple way to promote your business brand to a new audience. Give it a try for yourself in March!

New pot of funding for SMALL Businesses in Devon & Cornwall available in March 2010.

As an approved supplier for Business Link in Devon & Cornwall, we are always looking out for funding to help our clients – and here is the latest pot to be made available.  It is the TRAIN TO GAIN (TTG) Leadership & Management Advisory Service (LMAS) funding that is aimed at BUSINESS OWNERS & DIRECTORS, which has been around for a while but usually only available to organisations with 10-249 employees.   But in March 2010, a limited pot of funds will be made available to SMALL BUSINESSES with 1 – 9 employees.  As it is limited, it is available on a first-come, first served basis.

The funding available is UP TO £1000 and consists of 2 parts:

  • £500 grant that covers the cost of delivery of a training programme/event ie the business can claim up to £500 back
  • £500 matched funding, where an equal amount of funding is matched against what the business pays for the training.

Therefore if the business claims the full amount, it means you can access £1,500 worth of training for the cost of £500.  You have a wide choice for the type of training or development that is eligible for the funding, including accredited management qualifications, day courses, coaching & mentoring support etc.  For example, you may want to know more about using Social Media or learn about what different aspects of Marketing would be right for your business.  What is NOT covered is any mandatory/statutory training (such as Health and Safety), any technical training that you need to do your job (eg if you run a web development company, you could not claim for update training) or assessment costs for accreditation such as ISO or IiP.

Of course there will be some paperwork to do, but at PPG we usually are able to do this on your behalf – and the TTG support team will help you with the rest! Other considerations you will need to be aware of:

  • The TTG funding ONLY covers the actual cost of delivery – it does not cover VAT or additional expenses such as subsidence and travel – these are payable by the business.
  • To claim both/either the grant &/or the matched funding, you will have had to pay for the training before making your funding claim as you will need proof of payment, so you will need to pay out money first.  However the funding claim process is pretty straightforward and TTG will try to get the funding back to you as soon as possible (typically a couple of weeks).
  • You need to claim the funding claim within 90 days of the start date of any training and development as any claims after the 90 days cannot be guaranteed to be refunded.

Most importantly, this funding is only available during March 2010 with a limited number of applications available, so it will be provided on a first come, first served basis.  Contact Us at PPG if you want to know more specific information regarding your own business and how we can help you access this pot of gold!

FSB Devon Business Awards 2010

The Federation of Small Business in Devon have just launched their 3rd Annual Business Awards with categories that cover Best New Business, Service Excellence, Environmental Responsibility, Training and Development, IT in Business, Enterprise & Endeavour, Best Young Entrepreneur and Employee of the Year.

The Awards are open to any business based in Devon.  Application Forms can be downloaded from the category links on the FSB Devon website.

Closing date for entries is 19th March 2010 and the short lists will be announced on 19th April 2010.

Go on – be brave.  You know your business deserves it!

How Legal is Your Sales & Marketing?

Breakfast Seminar (8.00 – 10.00 am)

Wednesday 24 February 2010

Hall for Cornwall, Truro, TR1 2LL


Many businesses in Cornwall put a great deal of effort into generating sales and building up their business.  But how many stop and think about those sales and marketing activities? Do you know what you can and cannot say? Do you know what you say actually works? Do you know what you say is legal? This breakfast seminar, hosted by leading corporate/commercial solicitors Murrell Ashworth LLP, will provide an insight into the latest regulations and legislation, plus tips and tools to keep your sales and marketing activities legal and measurable.

The seminar will focus mainly on practical approaches to staying on the right side of the law, for example areas that directly impact how businesses can/cannot promote themselves such as the 2008 Unfair Commercial Practices Directive or the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations. We have three leading specialists in their field:

  • Mark Stuart, Head of Research, The Chartered Institute of Marketing will present a user-friendly overview of what legislation and regulations impact commercial enterprises, including case study examples to highlight where businesses go wrong and how they can get it right. The Chartered Institute of Marketing is the world’s largest organisation for professional marketers, making it the first port of call for marketing information, knowledge and insight.
  • Katie Ashworth, Partner, Murrell Ashworth LLP will review the key areas of law that impact how businesses communicate with potential and existing customers, including how to avoid getting into the minefield that is mis-representation.  Business law for business people – Murrell Ashworth LLP is a specialist law firm comprising a team of high calibre corporate/commercial solicitors who possess the rare combination of city expertise and local market knowledge.  They bring a fresh approach to the West Country’s legal services community, providing tailored practical legal advice from a commercial perspective in language business people understand.
  • Sue Windley, Marketing Director, Pragmatic Performance Group will provide practical guidance on how businesses can measure different aspects of their sales and marketing activities to ensure that they not only stay legal, but can also guarantee effective outcomes for their marketing investment.  Pragmatic Performance Group are business acceleration specialists, providing practical advice, guidance and resource to enable Cornish SMEs achieve sustainable and profitable business growth.
  • SEMINAR TIME & LOCATION: 8.00am – 10.00am The event will start with a buffet breakfast and networking before the seminar gets underway at 8.30am.  There will be time for individual questions and additional networking at the end. Venue is the Hall for Cornwall, Back Quay, Truro, Cornwall, TR1 2LL (click here for Map & Directions)
  • BOOKING: Please confirm how many places you wish to book (and if you have any special dietary requirements) by e-mailing Caroline Marshall-Hamilton  Closing date for bookings is 16th February 2009
  • COST & PAYMENT DETAILS: £10.00, which includes donation to local charity BF Adventure (charity no: 3546772) which supports disadvantaged children.  Please send payment by cheque, made payable to “Murrell Ashworth LLP” to the firm at 14 High Cross, Truro, TR1 2AJ or contact Caroline for account details for e-payment details.

To find out more about the business lawyers for business people, visit the Murrell Ashworth website.

Cornwall Business Awards 2010

The Cornwall Business Awards 2010 are calling for applications to be put in for their various categories in prepartion for the awards ceremony on 20 May 2010 at St Mellion International Resort.

Organised and presented by the Cornwall Development Company in partnership with SWRDA and Business Link, there are a wide range of categories including awards for the best Young Enterprise, Young Business Person, Social Enterprise, Business Improvement through People, Best Use of Technology and Best Diversification.  All category winners then get put forward for the overall Winner of Winners Award for Business.

Closing date for entries is midnight on 14th March 2010.  All businesses based in Cornwall are eligible to apply – click here for the Entry Page on the Cornwall Business Awards website.