Build A Stronger Team in 2017

team

teamGood Working Relationships Increase Happiness and Improve Productivity

Research has shown that employees rank their relationships with colleagues higher than having a competitive salary when it comes to enjoying their working day.

Every manager knows the importance of employee satisfaction in running a successful business. People who enjoy what they do will go the extra mile to ensure the quality of the products or services your business offers. And when employees are satisfied with their working conditions, they are less likely to look elsewhere, reducing staff turnover and the associated costs and management time in recruiting and training new staff.

There is, however, more to employee satisfaction than offering a good salary and benefits package. In 2012, Boston Consulting Group conducted a survey of 200,000 people on the subject of happiness in the workplace and found that good relationships with colleagues was second only to being appreciated for one’s work in driving workplace happiness. Salary was way down in seventh place.

No wonder so many leading companies see team building events in London as one of the most valuable investments they can make to protect their business’s most unique and valuable assets – its people.

Why team building?

Team building activities bring a whole host of benefits, but most managers agree that the most noticeable is a marked improvement in the way people communicate and work together. This applies both to colleagues who rely on each other to work effectively and to the way employees and their managers interact with one another.

By helping employees to feel relaxed and comfortable together, the workplace is a more pleasant environment. It becomes a place where people have the confidence and motivation to take on new challenges and reach new heights.

The sense of camaraderie brought about by achieving something as a team can be truly inspiring. One only needs to watch members of a sports team celebrating a win to see the positive energy that is created.

Many team building activities are designed to encourage creative thinking. This is a great skill to take back to the workplace, whether it is to drive the business forward through new product and service development or to come up with better ways of doing day to day tasks.

The ability to think creatively can also be of critical importance when it comes to problem solving or crisis management, something that every business, no matter how successful, has to deal with from time to time.

Different types of activities

To some, “team building activities” just conjure up images of people getting covered in mud while they build makeshift bridges across rivers. Great fun, but maybe not everyone’s first choice in the middle of winter!

However, there are many other types of activity too, including less physical activities that anyone can enjoy, regardless of age or fitness.

At this time of year, indoor activities are particularly popular, and the possibilities are numerous. Many take inspiration from popular TV shows, including the Crystal Maze, the Great British Bake Off, the X-Factor and others.

Staging a team building event does not necessarily mean taking the workforce away during office hours. Evening events are a great way to bring people together, and around this time of year can provide a memorable twist to the traditional Christmas party. With the whole workforce together and full of festive cheer, what could be a better time to build happier and more productive teams?

Making Tax Digital

making tax digital

making tax digitalHow Will New Tax Accounting Processes Affect Individuals and Small Businesses?

In 2015, the UK Government announced plans to introduce online reporting processes for taxpayers. What does this mean for businesses and individuals?

In the March 2015 budget, the Government announced a £1.3 billion programme that would revolutionise tax reporting. The five-year plan will introduce online accounts through which taxpayers can interact directly with HMRC.

The new system envisages quarterly updates that will effectively signal the end of the tax return as we know it.

As with any major change in financial reporting, the rules and timelines are still being finalised, but the current deadline for digital records is April 2018.

The change might seem daunting, particularly for the thousands of small business owners and self-employed entrepreneurs in the area, who should consider taking advice from their local tax accountants in Peterborough while there is still enough time to get prepared.

Making tax easier

In December 2015, HMRC published a document (.pdf) that fleshed out the Government’s budget announcement. In his foreword, David Gauke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, heralded digital tax as part of Whitehall’s “digital revolution” stating that it would “transform the experience of millions of taxpayers” by introducing a system that is easier, more efficient and more effective.

The document also set out a timeline for implementation. Like any major project, we can expect some dates to be fluid, and a detailed consultation that was originally scheduled for spring 2016 was the first to be pushed back while ministers waited to see the results of the EU Referendum.

Nevertheless, the April 2018 deadline for the first online submissions remains in place.

Impact on individuals and businesses

The Government has published a series of case studies detailing how digital tax can affect a cross-section of individuals, including landlords, pensioners and small business owners.

The case studies certainly point towards a much easier and less frustrating system than the current method of tax reporting. Using smartphone apps to regularly update pre-populated data fields looks far less onerous than the task of manually filling out pages of information once a year. But can it really be that easy?

The right technological tools

Research by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) suggests that many small and medium sized enterprises are not currently in a position to meet the 2018 reporting rules.

In its paper “Digitalisation of Tax, International Perspectives,” the ICAEW analysed similar projects in other countries around the globe. It found that digital exclusion is the biggest obstacle to full implementation of such programmes.

Businesses below the VAT registration threshold are particularly at risk in this respect, as these businesses are unlikely to have existing bookkeeping software. Indeed, an ICAEW survey earlier this year revealed that only 25% of UK businesses maintain electronic accounting records.

Be prepared

The good news is that for businesses and individuals alike, there is still time to get fully prepared for this aspect of the digital revolution.

In the long run, putting tax accounts online should make tax reporting quicker, easier and more accurate for everybody. Get the right advice and support to make sure it represents a positive change for you and your business.

Luxury Transfers From London City Airport To West End

London West End transfers

London West End transfersThe convenience of touch down to theatre land in around an hour

London City Airport is a popular and highly convenient way to enter and leave London. It’s just ten miles from the West End so, depending on weight of traffic and if you just have hand luggage, it’s possible to be sitting down to dinner or checking into your hotel somewhere in the West End less than an hour after touching down if you use the services of a professional airport transfer chauffeur service.

Ease of transfer

Once arrived at City Airport, the next priority is to get to the West End or other London destination as quickly and easily as possible. Thanks to City being a relatively compact airport, there’s none of the miles of walking you find at airports such as Heathrow or Gatwick so you can be off the plane and into the compact arrivals area in no time.

If you secure the services of a professional chauffeur company offering a fully featured airport transfer service you’ll soon be on your way to the West End. The company will know when your flight landed having tracked it online so the chauffeur will be in arrivals to meet you.

Your car will likely be a spacious limousine type such as a Mercedes S-Class saloon, Range Rover long wheelbase or maybe a Rolls Royce depending on what you choose. If you’re travelling with a party, you may have arranged a spacious Mercedes V-Class people carrier or similar.

The driver will know what to expect at that time with the capital’s traffic loads so will do their utmost to pick a route that gets you to your West End destination as soon as possible.

City Airport: the air travel hub in the midst of the capital

Other London airports aren’t actually in the capital but London City is. Situated in the Docklands area in Newham, the compact airport is ideal for business travellers who need to get to their central London or West End business engagements quickly and easily.

The airport caters primarily for people flying to and from various European destinations including France, Germany, Italy, Belgium and Spain amongst others – and UK locations including Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man. It’s also possible to cross the Atlantic with flights now available to and from New York.

Over four million passengers now use the airport each year, contrasting with the 133,000 passengers who used it in 1988, its first full year of operation.

Limousine company credentials and how to choose one

The basic requirement of your London-centric chauffeur company is that its drivers are PCO (Public Carriage Office) licensed. This is essential for drivers of private hire vehicles, mini cab drivers and chauffeurs and basically proves they’re medically fit and can be trusted (they will have been DBS – previously known as CRB – checked).

Some companies also offer close personal protection services through some or all of their drivers being vetted and licensed by the SIA (Security Industry Authority). This can be of major reassurance to celebrities and those carrying valuable items.

Along with the credentials above, look for a professional and informative website preferably including some testimonials from satisfied clients.

Varying transfer needs

For some, it’s not just City Airport they need to transfer from and too. The Excel Centre – a major exhibition and show venue – is virtually next door to City and it’s quite common for people involved in exhibitions and shows there to need transfers to and from the West End during their stay. Therefore a similar transfer arrangement as when using the nearby airport can be arranged.

Conversely, perhaps business people staying in the West End but needing to get to the City or Docklands area for meetings need transferring from and to the West End. A swift and efficient door to door limousine transfer could be the ideal solution rather than battling the London Underground or hailing black cabs.

A stranger in this town

For those unused to London, the services of a bespoke limousine company can be worth its weight in gold. Access to an expert and fully trained chauffeur providing a door to door service removes the hassle of working out Underground routes, deciding how much to tip the cab driver and navigating a London using the ‘A to Z’.

It’s even possible that a few useful ideas as to where to book theatre tickets, get on the guest list at an exclusive London nightspot or choose a discreet restaurant for dinner can be picked up.

Small Business Guide To DIY SEO

Google DIY advice and tips - tool box

How to boost your business up the search engine rankings

SEO may seem like a ‘dark art’ but there are some simple steps you can take to make your business more visible to prospective customers.

Small business owners are often told that they need SEO to grow their business, but many don’t know why they need it, how to go about it, or even, in many cases, what SEO actually is.

If this sounds familiar, then read on. SEO might seem like somewhat of a ‘dark art’, but it is something that you can easily learn and put into practice. We’ve put together some advice and guidance to introduce you to the SEO basics and help you make SEO work for your business.

So, what is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. In a nutshell, this basically means optimising a website so that it ranks as highly as possible on search engine results pages.

Think about how you use the Internet. These days, most online experiences begin with a search engine and, generally speaking, the first five results that appear get the majority of clicks. So, if your website is languishing on the second page of a google search, it’s very difficult for prospective customers to find you. And if your customers can’t find you, they may find your competitor instead.

There are a number of elements to SEO, some more complex than others. Here are some of the more basic steps to get you started on your SEO journey

Choose your keywords

Keywords are the words or phrases that people might use when searching for a business such as yours, and when it comes to SEO success, selecting the right keywords is crucial.

For the best results, you should select words and phrases that your customers already use to talk about your business, so consider carrying out some simple market research with your customers such as a short survey or some face-to-face questions.

Ideally, you’re also looking for keywords that have a high search volume combined with a low-medium level of competition. Test your preferred keywords by entering them into the free Google Keyword Tool.

Don’t forget to also include key phrases which include your local area and variations of that area. For example, Essex digital marketing company, SEO Essex Co, explain that you should target a range of keywords, which include your county, local town, and a variety of services in combination with location searches. Danny Hall says: “Always think about where your customers are and what they will search for. You might be based in the main town, but many people will first search for services more local to them, so develop a campaign that covers your entire geographic region”.

Optimisation

Once you have decided on your keywords the next step is to start optimising your website content. Search engines favour certain page fields, so by putting the right words in the right places you can help to improve your search engine rankings.

This is pretty easy to do and simply entails ensuring that a page’s keywords and phrases are included in the page title, body copy and URL. It’s also important to complete a keyword-rich meta-description for each page.

Free tools such as Boostsuite can help to flag up pages which need further optimisation.

Create regular content

Google has a preference for websites that are updated regularly, and writing relevant and engaging blog posts is a great way to keep your site updated.

Create a content schedule to keep you on track and don’t be afraid to ask other people to contribute content, whether it’s a post from a staff member or a guest blog from someone in a related field. Don’t forget to include links to relevant sections of your website where you can.

This is also a good opportunity to establish yourself as an expert in your field, so make sure that the content you post is well-written and useful to potential customers. Good content also garners more views and shares on social networks, which leads us on to…

Go social

Google likes websites and business owners who are active on social media, and it tracks your social interactions such as likes comments and shares. With this in mind, it’s important to dedicate some time to social media if you’re serious about boosting your SEO.

Aside from improving your search engine rankings, having a good social media presence also offers you another way to connect with potential customers and make useful contacts.

Look past your own website

Successful SEO doesn’t just entail focusing on your own website. Looking further afield can also pay dividends.

Obtaining backlinks from trusted, quality websites can really help to improve your SEO and there are a number of ways in which you can do this. Get in touch with suppliers or people you’ve done business with and offer them a testimonial for their website if they can provide a link back to your site. Another option is write guest blogs, which has the added benefit of getting your name known in your industry.

And don’t forget your competitors. You can pick up some useful tips for your own business by reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors’ digital marketing activities

Taking it to the next level

Basic SEO can be pretty simple and straightforward, but it does require a fair amount of ongoing time and effort. And, as a small business owner, you may not have the resources available to dedicate to SEO activities in the longer term.

With this in mind, if you want your business to really compete in the search engine rankings you should think about calling in the experts.

SEO and digital marketing specialists come in all shapes and sizes, and can offer a number of different services. Perhaps you want to commission an agency to help you develop a SEO strategy that you can then run with, or maybe you would prefer to hire a company to devise and create regular content for your online channels.

Whatever, you’re looking for, you can be sure that a professional digital marketing company will have the expertise and resources needed to help you take your SEO to the next level.

How To Send Christmas Presents To Friends In Europe

Christmas presentsAll You Need To Know About Sending A Christmas Parcel To Europe

Friends and Family abroad love nothing more than personalised gifts at Christmas. But what items can you send and which is the best international delivery method?

Summer has just ended, so surely it’s too early to start thinking about Christmas? Not if you’ve got friends or family who live abroad. Christmas is a time when many expats particularly miss home, so a carefully packed parcel full of hand selected gifts is especially welcome. Give yourself plenty of time to choose the right items and prepare your package with care. If you have friends or family who live in Europe, then here’s a guide to sending them the perfect Christmas parcel.

Hand-Selected Gifts

Although online shopping sites such as Amazon and Marks and Spencer are quick and convenient, they lack the personal touch. Also if you want to send a variety of items and you’re using Amazon, you may find yourself dealing with different sellers who have different delivery times and costs. Your loved ones may end up receiving their gifts at different stages and it could end up costing you far more.

A collection of beautifully wrapped, thoughtful gifts, packaged in one parcel is far more meaningful and ultimately, cost-effective.

Packaging

Choose a double or even triple corrugated cardboard box. New is preferable but if you’re using a used box, ensure that any labels are removed. Individually wrap each item in Christmas wrapping or gift bags but leave the outside of the delivery box plain.

Wrap fragile items in bubble wrap and place them in the centre of the box.  Fill any spaces left with styrofoam packaging chips.

Use high strength packing tape. It’s stronger than regular masking tape or sellotape.

To address an item to Europe you’ll need the recipient’s name, street address and postcode. Ensure the sender’s address is also marked clearly on the outside of the box. For European (EU) countries there’s no need for customs documentation.

Food Parcels 

Seasonal foods are always popular at Christmas time. A hand-picked hamper with favourite treats from home make a thoughtful gift, especially if packed with items that your loved ones can’t get in Europe.

It may be tempting to send homemade delights, but be aware that there are strict regulations regarding what you can send:

  • Choose shop bought items that are packaged and sealed in the original manufacturer’s packaging.
  • Foods should have a ‘use by’ date longer than 6 months.
  • Don’t send chilled items such as meat, cheeses and dairy products.
  • You can send wine beer and champagne, but items with an alcohol volume over 24% are prohibited.

Other Restrictions

Perfume and after shaves are popular Christmas gifts, however they are flammable liquids and therefore prohibited.

Electronic items and toys are also popular but ensure batteries are housed inside the device. All electronic items and toys must bear the CE approved mark.

Delivery Services

Most people automatically choose the Royal Mail to send parcels. However, price increases and a limit of 2 kg, means it’s not necessarily the best option. A quicker and cheaper option would be to send large parcels via an independent courier service; we recently discussed the growth of intra-European imports, many service providers do smaller parcels too. If you are sending a range of gifts to an entire family, grouping them together and using a courier service will save you time and money. You’ll only pay for one delivery service and your parcel can be tracked for extra peace of mind.

2.4% of All Romanian Imports are from the UK

The rock sculpture of DecebalusDespite being miles apart, trading links with Romania are getting ever stronger.

Exports to Romania increased by 17.5% from 2014 to 2015. However, the distance between these two trading partners brings its own challenges. 

Romania is one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe and is looking to consolidate its economic growth as a market economy since joining the EU in 2007. Trade with the UK is a key part of that process, but parcel delivery to Romania from the UK can be expensive and challenging.

Trading partners

In many respects, the UK and Romania could be described as polar opposite. The two countries are separated by about 2,000KM, or 1,250 miles, the vast majority of which is land across more than ten other countries.

One has a stable political history of hundreds of years while the other is a newly established democracy; one is an island nation built with a reliance on international trade and the other is looking to build and develop its overseas partners.

Yet it is these differences that complement each other so well and create a growing interdependency between the two nations.

About Romania

Situated in the south eastern part of Central Europe, Romania shares borders with Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Moldovia.  It has just 225 KM of coastline, on the Black Sea. See Romaniatourism.com to learn more about the country.

For many centuries Romania’s economy was based on agriculture. In the early 20th century, the country was one of the main European producers of wheat, corn and meat, leading to the epithet “the bread basket of Europe.”

Romania’s post-war history as a communist-bloc nation, particularly under the leadership of Nicolae Ceausescu, is widely known. He was overthrown in 1989 following a national uprising and the 1991 Constitution re-established Romania as a republic with a multiparty system and individual human rights of free speech, religion and private ownership.

From the 1970s there had been a shift towards heavy industries, but since the 90s, governments have focused on developing Romania into a market economy. This led to Romania joining NATO is 2004 and the European Union in 2007.

Infrastructure

The country’s largest port is at Constanta on the Black Sea, with other river ports on the Danube. Sea freight between the UK and Romania might seem an unlikely and roundabout option, but can be the most cost-effective for larger shipments that are non-urgent.

The rail system appears outwardly chaotic, with a number of operators running different services in different regions. However, anybody encountering the UK system for the first time would undoubtedly take a similar view. Most regions operate an open freight system and the Romanian General Transport Master Plan unveiled in 2015 will seek to rationalise the rail networks.

A high volume of freight is transported by road, and this remains the method of choice for cost-effective transportation of small and medium sized cargoes.

Finally, Bucharest Henri Coandă airport serves as the main hub for air freight cargoes, with around a dozen regional airports scattered elsewhere around the country.

Exporting to Romania

Romania is and will continue to be a crucial trading partner for a growing number of UK exporters. Choosing the right freight service for your business is vital in order to save money and deliver to your customer on time.

How To Set Up A Cake Making Business

box of cupcakesSetting up your own business means that you can do what you love and earn money from it – a tasty prospect!

With The Great British Bake Off just around the corner, we’re all going to be trying our hand at baking some showstoppers of our own. Baking is a really rewarding hobby, and with enough practice you can become incredibly good at it. What if you want to turn your passion into a business though? Well, it can be done – here’s everything you need to know about building your own cake making empire.

Keep it legal

Red tape isn’t the most exciting part of building a business, but it’s probably the most important. So make sure that you’re operating within the law from the start, and keep in regular contact with the relevant authorities. That includes the tax office, your bank, insurance company and local council.

Spread the word

Once you’re up and running, it’s time to get the word out there. Most businesses’ first orders come from people they know, so tell your family and friends and give them your business card. To reach people you don’t know, set up some social media accounts and a website and start to make your presence felt online.

Find your niche

Don’t bite off more than you can chew – find a niche. By focusing on one particular kind of cake, you’ll be able to do that well. Maybe extravagant celebration cakes are your favourite thing to bake? Or perhaps you’re confident cooking up cupcakes? Whatever it is you’re more comfortable baking, build your business around that.

The future is bright

It may seem like a long way off, but you can turn your baking hobby into a great way of making money. The Gourmet Cake Company are just one of the businesses that have sprung up in the wake of the nation’s baking awakening, and cupcakes are flying off of the shelves! So why not take a leap of faith and try to take your cake making to the next level too?

What Brexit Means For The Property Market

London housesThe British people finally voted on whether or not to remain in the EU, and by a very small margin, the Leave campaign won. Britain woke up to see the pound at an all-time low and the stock markets in free-fall, as investors all over the world started to turn their backs on the UK economy. There is no doubt that there will be hard times ahead for the British economy, but is it really all doom and gloom?

Supply and Demand Driven Economy

Property is very much a supply and demand driven economy, and for a long time Britain has failed to supply enough new homes for its growing population. Of course, it is not only immigration that has fuelled demand, but also changing social attitudes and demographics of the UK – children want to flee the family nest sooner and people are living longer than ever before. Demand just keeps growing. The low cost of borrowing and Right To Buy schemes have also increased private home ownership in the UK.

Although demand is high there are many obstacles to building, such as local planning restrictions, lack of public investment, skills shortages and increasing cost of raw materials, which puts a brake on house building.

Safe As Houses

However, during times of economic uncertainty, housing has always provided a safer investment, and this is why property tends to buck the trend and outperform the stock markets and money markets. Residential property also provides a healthy income stream with some excellent returns on investment, far higher than can be achieved with blue chip shares. In addition to this, people do not trade homes on a whim – the stock markets may be in turmoil, with record numbers of trades being agreed today, but selling a property is a longer process, and this helps to protect the property market from panic trading.

Infrastructure Investments Will Drive Growth

The government’s major transport infrastructure upgrades, such as Crossrail, will continue to drive demand in new property hotspots around London, especially in Essex – a quick look at estate agents in Brentwood reveals that prices are already increasing in anticipation of the arrival of Crossrail. The northern powerhouse continues to promise growth, which will see increased demand in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Newcastle.

Property Is A Long-Term Investment

Property is almost always a long-term investment. Although some people do enter the buy-to-let market with interest only mortgages in the hope to make a quick profit after a few years, most investors are thinking about returns on investment over decades, not years. Combine this with the fact that the average net income on a property investment is six times the BoE base rate, and the property market looks more secure than ever.

Low To Zero Interest Rates

In fact, there is already talk of interest rates being cut to zero percent this year. Many UK householders are straddled with debt, with large mortgages, credit card debts and personal loans. The government cannot afford to raise interest rates for fear of a surge in repossessions leading to another economic collapse on par with the 2008 credit crunch crisis. Mark Carney has already confirmed that interest rates will remain low.

Britain may be poised to leave Europe – the process may take two years and still needs to be approved by Parliament – but as far as the property market is concerned, investors look set to remain, and the property market actually looks stronger than ever before.