Cashflow Management

Small businesses, donations and working with charities.

In our experience, a lot of small business owners are very aware of social responsibilities and many have started businesses based upon a principle or an ethos.

It would seem that small businesses are the perfect target for a charity or ethical organisation that requires donations. It appears logical, that a principled small business owner would be very keen to have a transparent and open link with a charity, especially a charity that reflects their values and is compatible with their approach to business. As a small business making smaller more frequent donations works for us as opposed to large one off donations.

So with that in mind; here are two suggestions or challenges, that if overcome, would help us integrate a charity into my business.

The first issue is highlighting the destination of the donation and the positive impact it may have?
There is a certain cynicism with regards to how much of the donation goes to the cause itself, perhaps the charity can tackle that issue by providing a statement or a certificate with every donation, outlining where the money is going and what percentage will impact the grassroots, or make a difference?

The second issue is access to a branded dedicated link (continuously live) to make it easy for our clients and us to make a donation. For example, some of our services like ‘updating a contract’, may require minor tweaks and we may avoid charging our clients for the work, however attaching a value to the work is useful and may be an opportunity to integrate a charitable donation option into our service. Its means we complete minor work for a fixed value which results in a donation instead of a direct payment or not charging any fee.

The charities we’ve spoken with are not structured to provide a simple payment mechanism for us to use. You would think with all the technology out there that making a charitable donation that’s transparent, open and ethically acceptable would be a simple task.

Hope you find our thoughts on this subject of interest.

No Warranty No Clarity

This blog is part 2 of a series of 5 that is preoccupied with small business using contracts to avoid contractual disputes. Court is an expensive pursuit and building self-remedy or clauses into your contract, that are enforceable and offer solutions to problems that may arise is practically useful to small businesses. A considered contract can help you save money, time and effort.

Warranty in simple terms means performance. So outlining how the product or service will perform seems obvious but in many cases, the details provided are scant at best. In many cases, the contract generally fails to outline the key aspects of performance and in turn creates ambiguity. It’s this grey area that can lead to further issues, as during times of dispute, areas of uncertainty become points of discussion or argument.

This gets even more troublesome when there’s a returns policy or a maintenance/service agreement to support post installation or delivery. Stating what is covered by the contract with regards to the basic product’s functionality is one thing but when something breaks or fails to work, what then? Remember these products or service are manufactured and delivered by humans, so things happen, the important thing is outlining what happens next?

Going to the trouble of employing the right contract drafter to ask the right questions and create a contract that is designed to help both parties work together long-term, is worthwhile. Contracts are avoided by those who see no need for outlining the negatives…..but knowing what might happen in the event of….is arguably good customer service and is considerate to both you and your customers time and energy.

The next blog will focus on intellectual property…..

A change in the law leads to new liability for Design and Planners.

Changes to the Construction (Design and Management) regulations 2015, means that those companies (including sole traders), that offer design and planning services to both consumer (householders) and businesses could be liable for health and safety breaches on site even though the builder is the one doing the work.

Not unlike the smoking ban the liability is on those with a lot to lose, the law in that instance targets the smoker through the publican for having a person smoking on the premises, this act pushes the owner to act.  Laws are anthropological, they drive behaviour, whether you agree or disagree with them, it still means the law needs to be adhered to and in the example of the design and planner navigated so their risk is managed and the business protected.

When laws are structured like so, I can’t help but feel more than a little sympathy for the – in this instance – the design and planner who now starts the process of introducing a standard to the chain for events that will lead to a building being built.

We can see why the changes are in place, trying to raise the standard is the goal, the final property will be eligible for warranty and will be re-saleable, a marketable property as opposed to that of a property built based on poor standards which could lead to a disastrous set of circumstances.

This sector is already full of regulation but this new health and Safety legislation will introduce more complexity and challenges for all involved.

So, in a situation where there are multiple contractors, there will be a pressure on design and planning companies to establish the process before a shovel is in the ground.

Create Ts and Cs draft contracts that are relevant to both your business and your industry or sector.  Call us for a quote today 0141 5856384.

Worrying About Late Payments

Do you worry about getting paid for the work you have done? If you do, then you aren’t alone. Nearly a third of small business have reported in seeing an increase of late payments, and to tackle the issue the government is introducing tougher laws.

The new laws will encourage businesses to pay their bills on time and crack down on unfair terms when it comes to settling a bill.

Typically, smaller business are more approachable and would rather solve a problem than add to it. Small businesses won’t have a legal, or debt recovery department that can chase outstanding bills so when a bill hasn’t been paid it is usually a director or key employee that has the responsibility of chasing money. This takes up time and effort, and when there is a small workforce this can have a detrimental effect on business.

A new report from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants revealed that businesses with less than 50 employees are twice as likely to have problems with late payments, compared to larger organisations. SMEs are also less likely to increase their workforce if they are faced with late payment.

Outstanding bills or non-payment can endanger a small business and it is important to try and overcome this problem. The government is introducing these new laws to show that the UK is a safe place to do business, and encourage economic growth.

The following measures will be introduced to tackle the problem:

  • Consulting on ways to tackle poor payment practices
  • New laws to increase transparency on the payment practices of large and listed companies and help change corporate payment culture
  • Strengthen the Prompt Payment Code
  • Leading by example on public sector procurement

Whilst these laws will help to solve the bigger problem, it is important for you as a business owner to take action for your own business as well.

You can’t always ensure you will get paid on time, but you can ensure that your business has protection that will help when it comes to recovering outstanding bills. A correctly drafted contract will outline your sales and operational processes, and can communicate to clients when you expect payment. Because it is legally enforceable it can also help you with any legal action that may follow.

In 2014 small firms accounted for 99.7% of all private sector businesses in the UK. Whilst they may not have the same financial status as larger businesses, they still need protection, and the best way is by having a good contract in place that will reflect your business intentions and put the company in a position of strength come a dispute.

 

Shareholders’ agreements: protection from loss or unnecessary expense?

28th  Oct 2013

Setting up a new business can be a costly endeavour. Between the new website, marketing and the expense of looking for new customers, many businesses do not consider risk management as a priority from the outset. The introduction of a contract such as a shareholders’ agreement is often put on the back burner and the function and profitability of the business become the main priority. The forming of such agreements can be seen as time consuming and costly but actually this business expense can save the company money in the long run and can creates a foundation and ultimately an incentive for all shareholders and directors to work together.

A shareholders’ agreement is put in place not only to resolve shareholder issues, but to resolve them quickly and quietly, keeping the business’ reputation and income intact. It can govern the actions of each shareholder and consequently the directors of a company, as the people who form small businesses tend to occupy both roles. It is a valuable mechanism in situations of shareholder disagreements or removals. It may prevent an ex-director providing the same services while attempting to poach the previous company’s customers. This would essentially save the company from spending both time and money on unnecessary court proceedings. A further attractive characteristic of a shareholders’ agreement is that it is not in the public domain. Therefore, any boardroom disagreement can be kept quiet to preserve the company’s reputation.

An article from the Independent newspaper, explains the benefit of using a shareholders’ agreement and how the alternative involving court action is much more expensive than putting a shareholders’ agreement in place, “In any event court action is usually expensive and time consuming and may damage the company’s reputation and the goodwill of the business. It is therefore important that there is a contractual procedure in place to resolve any deadlock as quickly and as privately as possible.”

It makes sense putting a shareholders’ agreement in place from the beginning to cater for changes in the shareholders’ interest and business direction. Consequently, the implementation of such a contract would be much trickier after the shareholder changes focus.  Resolutions to such situations are more time consuming and generally uncomfortable as the negotiations take place under a cloud of changing priority and frustration.

The article continues, “the directors and shareholders’ personal plans and expectations may diverge over time, making it harder to agree the terms of the shareholders’ agreement later on in the lifecycle of the company.”  So, putting a shareholders’ agreement in place may also result in a business being more profitable. The agreement can also regulate the everyday functions of the business, allowing decisions to be made quickly and fairly, taking account of the views of each shareholder. It can also regulate the responsibilities and remuneration of each shareholder, which could potentially prevent many misunderstandings and disagreements.

David Reilly, Director at Create Ts and Cs commented, “We believe a shareholder agreement is not only a mechanism for solving problems within a limited company and promoting the sustainability of the company but it’s also a way of managing governance in the business; reflecting the particular culture of the business.  Managing the consent issues and the shared responsibilities of each shareholder/director (in most small businesses the directors and shareholders are the same person); this way responsibility is allocated and incentive built into the agreement to ensure that each director/shareholder (small business model) is part of something that is theirs’ to grow as a team.  This is best done through a tailored agreement, which is a shareholder agreement that is first discussed with the shareholders/directors and the key issues agreed beforehand and then reflected in a tailored contract.”

Yes, it is a relatively costly instrument and is not always utilised. However, this does not take away from the fact that these agreements are an essential tool for your business. It should be common practice for these agreements are formed at the start of the venture alongside forming a company.

End

 

Valuation of company shares; common reasons.

 29th April 2013

The activity of company share valuation is  part of the natural lifecycle of a business.  At certain times of change the facility to change company directors may be paramount to the survival of the business.  In such situations the business requires both contract advice and financial expertise.  Here is an example of two common situations

Removal of a Company Director

It’s a tense time within the business when there is deadlock in the boardroom or a fall-out between company directors, sometimes resulting in the removal of a company director .  These are usually highly emotional situations.  If a correct shareholder agreement is in place, then a mechanism is there to cater for solving director dispute.  Without this commercial agreement the director dispute or deadlock relies on the interpretation of the law or an informal approach leading to dispute which can leave a trail of problems and further cost down the line.

When a director decides to part company; the next step requires valuation of the company shares; when it comes to valuing the shares, Philip Simpson of 525 Accountancy comments, “Valuing shares is a fundamental part of assisting the smooth departure of a director; if handled incorrectly conflict can arise leading to substantial legal fees and it may be some time before the business returns to its current state”.

David Reilly director at Create Ts and Cs comments” it’s best to have a commercial agreement in place to deal with the natural ups and downs of business.   Things can go wrong and change naturally occurs in companies, so it’s best to put a contract in place at the beginning, when the sun is shining; having a facility to deal with future issues is simply best business practice”.

Due Diligence – selling a business or appoining a new Director

So the business has reached a certain point where it’s time to sell or attract investment.  Although each event is very different, they are both stressful and exciting times for managing director. According to a recent Financial Times article on March 7, 2013, commenting on the advantages of having a board in place, “the board is as good a way of having checks and balances in a business. It’s not a panacea in all cases, but is there a better way of attracting investment?  The providers of capital will want to keep a check on what management’s doing. So there needs to be some sort of mechanism to provide reassurance that capital is being put to good use”. A board can provide assurance to investors, however the board requires a contract to ensure a structure is in place to deal with future issues and support sustainability.

David Reilly comments, “it’s always an interesting time for the company directors, as a potential new company director or investor assesses the value of the business and conducts due diligence, a tailored commercial agreement puts a framework in place and gives the board options when circumstances change.  The most important issue is the business is sustainable”.

Philip Simpson adds, “An independent valuation of the finances is critical, to getting all parties to agree a figure as quickly as possible so the existing directors can move forward with the business. So, why not pay a reasonable sum and have the peace of mind that there will be no problems in the future and all the relevant diligence has been completed”.

In conclusion having both the financially and contractual expertise in place will support the various natural transitions a company will go through.  The right contract will provide options for change and support those changes.  Having the expertise will guide the business through the various challenges and will help the business to be sustainable.

End

 

 

Self-drafted and ‘off the shelf’ contracts versus bespoke contracts – what’s the difference?

 

Self-drafted or general off the shelf contracts are not adequate for those businesses who want to manage their liability, a case from www.lexology.com (legal website that explores business issues and law) shows how self-drafted or off the shelf contracts just don’t manage the risk within a business and can lead to businesses issuing contracts that are simply unenforceable.

The High court found that an exclusion clause contained within the standard terms and conditions of an IT supplier was unenforceable leading to an award of damages of £110k in favour of the Client. The case (Kingsway hall hotel limited V red sky IT limit [2010] EWHC 965 (TCC). Legal firm RPC (www.rpc.co.uk) commented on this case saying, “from this case it was clear that there existed a clear disconnect between red sky’s standard terms and conditions and the manner in which red sky sought to sell their software.  Suppliers should ensure that their standard terms accurately reflect the sales and contract process. Any gap between the process envisaged in the standard terms and the actual process may result in clauses being unenforceable.  Standard terms and contract processes should be reviewed regularly with legal advisers to ensure enforceability and maximise their benefit”.

Click here to view or Bespoke contract versus self-drafted or off the shelf contract chart outlining the pro’s and cons.

 

Please sign here ….however please don’t ask me what’s in the contract.

 

It’s not uncommon for a client to sign a contract where the content is not understood, the origin of the information unknown or is drafted by an unqualified hand?  There are a variety of reasons for this; one of the key reasons is that legal services appear to be an expensive luxury rather than a must-have for your business.  Generally, this type of contract is unenforceable and this can cause a problem for both parties when a dispute arises.

The danger of contracting with an unenforceable contract is expressed in an article posted on Lexology, “Am I being unreasonable”? by legal firm Nabarro LLP, the article comments on the importance of a contract containing clauses that are reasonable and in-line with the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 (UCTA), “it is always been in a contracting party’s interests to consider the reasonableness of the contract clauses; take advice on whether the court would be likely to uphold the clause should it be subject to challenge”.   So knowing what’s enforceable and what’s reasonable defines the credibility of the contract.

Its key to remember that this is not just a legal issue but is a business issue, a think tank aimed at creatives/designers called Creative Latitude believe that the contents of the contract is a key client communication, “If we have to take a deep breath and are physically uncomfortable when we present the contract, that uneasiness is bound to be communicated to our client. The last thing you want to do is cause your client to see the worried look on your face and wonder, what the heck is in this contract”?

David Reilly, director at Create Ts and Cs commented, “Our client acquire bespoke contracts ratified by a solicitor so they know that the contract is enforceable (deemed reasonably).  It’s critical that their potential customer knows they have gone to the trouble to invest in a contract that is enforceable and protects both parties”.

Considering the investment of time and money to contact clients, coffees and lunches, sales systems and marketing campaigns, it makes sense to continue the good work and invest in a professionally written, assessable contract relevant to your business ensuring its ‘reasonable’ and ‘enforceable’ throughout. 

 

Creatives can neglect contracts at their peril.

The subject of terms and conditions traditionally for Creatives is usually the last issue on their mind. It’s also common for Creatives to acquire someone else’s terms and conditions or write their own contracts. Unfortunately the credibility of these contracts is only tested in times of dispute; so contracts drafted in bullet points format or acquired from an unreliable source generally don’t contain the correct enforceable clauses to assist the business to resolve issues that arise.

Similarly, those many companies who choose to do business on a handshake, as honourable as that sounds, find the frailty of the contract is exposed when a dispute arises, as there is no real legal detail or proper fall back position to solve disputes. Writing down the details of how you’d like to do business is a simple idea and best captured in a contract that is tailored to the relevant business sector and business type.

There seems to be a natural resistance to formality and detail, yet during times of disagreement it’s often the details that will protect a business.

Terms and conditions can be for many Creative businesses a way for outlining ‘how they want their customer to engage with their services, from quotation to completion of the work.

Colin Hardie, Director at Ubisan a web commercialisation business commented, ” Create Ts and Cs listened and managed to distill the more specific elements of my business into a coherent and highly professional set of bespoke terms and conditions…. something that would have been impossible to achieve with an“off the shelf” alternative”.

This also means, outlining your payment terms, the IP ownership and managing scope creep through effective ‘sign off’ processes captured in the Terms and Conditions. All these issues are central to ensuring you get the work done on time and in-line with your Creative business strategy while getting paid, which can assist cashflow and promote sustainablity within the business.

David Atkinson, Director at design agency CO2 Design, said,” Before we got a bespoke set of Ts and Cs, we like many others got a set from the web or looked at others, now we have a ratified contract that communicates clearly with our clients.  Also, we’ve managed to reduce the amount of debt within our business to a level we can manage, which has helped the business”.

Its also common for some potential clients to request a set of Terms and Conditions prior to doing business, if you don’t have a relevant set of Ts and Cs, then you’ll simply accept the terms offered by the client or in some cases run the risk of signing up to a contract which is packed with clauses no one knows the consequences of signing up to! Meaning you get paid and agree to the terms according to the clients terms and conditions.

David McCullough, MD of Urban Niche, a social media marketing business based in Edinburgh commented, “Urban Niche contracted Create Ts and Cs to draft a bespoke set of Terms and Conditions to support our bid for NHS business, I am delighted to say we won the business and believe Create Ts and Cs contributed greatly to our bid and ensured we had the correct commercial contract; helping us to present our business professionally and prepare appropriately for our negotiations”

Having a relevant, sector focused contract in-line with the Creative business is one way of avoiding unnecessary disputes and allows the Creative business owner to concentrate on doing the work they enjoy doing .

End

 

Freelancers could be mistaken for employees by HMRC

If you are a freelancer, then you’re part of a strong business group that’s has growth steadily over the last year; according to the Recruitment and Employment confederation (REC) report (JobsOutlook) published this year; the report revealed that despite concerns with both the current UK economy and the Eurozone, the demand for freelance contractors still remains strong.

It goes on to say that the majority of UK employers still plan to hire more freelancers, for both short-term and long-term job contracts. Also, despite no holiday pay, lack of sick benefit, pensions etc freelancers are still able to command much higher hourly rates of pay than permanent employees – and enjoy a more flexible working hours.

However, a recent number of cases has flagged up the need for Freelancers to differentiate and protect themselves, not only for them to manage the liability within business but to clearly define the relationship between both parties regard HMRC IR35 regulations.

A recent 7 year dispute that concluded in 2011 involving Airbus UK and reported in lexology.com demonstrates how HMRC can view freelancers.  HMRC challenged the relationship between Airbus UK and their freelance contractors as suspected employees. Unfortunately, in this instance the freelancer lost the case resulting in payment of back dated tax, national insurance to HMRC.

What is scary about the Airbus dispute is the length of the dispute demonstrating the complexities of IR35, but also highlights the importance that the courts place on the factual reality of the relationship between the parties. Whilst both contractor and company can strengthen their case by ensuring that their relationship is documented within a contract, it is essential that a contract reflects the ‘reality of the relationship’. The Business entity test is part of the IR35 assessment, this check list will help you shed some light on the criteria required to comply with in order to communicate with HMRC and establish your business as a separate entity.

David Reilly, Director at Create Ts and Cs, who provides the service of bespoke contracts to companies who intent to work with contractors commented “It’s critical to protect the business by deploying the right contract when working with contractors, after all from a company perspective, it’s your end client and the work carried out must be of a standard that reflects your business. He continues “From a HMRC perspective its critical both parties differentiate themselves by catering for the IR35 issue within the contract.

A further important way of differentiating both parties is through managing risk, meaning each party acquiring their own public liability and indemnity insurance, which is also reflected in the contract between the companies. Chris Knight of Business Protect, an Insurance Brokerage says “It is becoming more common for the company to insist the contractor acquires their own insurances, after all they are a separate company or sole trader with their own requirement to protect themselves and cover their liability”.

Freelancing is not a straight forward business model and requires investment and planning to manage your risk and key stakeholders like HMRC.

Create Ts and Cs provide a bespoke set of Terms and Conditions for your business at a fixed price, this unique approach to individualising commercial Terms and Conditions allow Start up and SME sized businesses the opportunity to protect themselves, manage risk and guard against future unnecessary disputes at an affordable price. Download: terms & conditions | privacy policy