A taxing situation

A friend of mine unfortunately got a tax bill of £6,000 recently. Ouch.


He wasn’t expecting it.  HMRC sent him this little surprise in addition to his usual income tax from his steady job, so he thought he was all square with them.


However, it turned out it was because of a second property he owns.


Even though he’d declared the income he gets from it, such as the rent from his lodger, he hadn’t declared any expenses.


HMRC wrongly thought he was simply coining it in and needed cutting down to size, so to speak.


Even though HMRC should issue a refund once the right self-assessment figures are in, I think that for a new business that would be crippling.


You could easily end up using any spare cash in your business to pay off your (incorrect) tax bill, leaving nothing left for the day-to-day running of your company until the refund comes through.


Which could take a while, if you’re especially unlucky.


Getting a self-assessment tax return wrong is easily done, but annoying to fix. Even if you get your money back nice and quickly, there’s still the hassle of re-calculating your taxes and calling up HMRC to chase it up.


Hassle you can do without when you’re trying to run a business.


The easiest thing to do is get it right first time – either yourself, or by getting an accountant to do it for you.


We have both solutions covered right here:





Don’t let your business get blown away

So Storm Doris came and went.


Luckily, we didn’t see too much devastation where we are but she’s caused havoc elsewhere in the country.


One thing I noticed was the blanket coverage from the media about the storm, even before it hit.


Up to a day before it was due to start, airports had cancelled flights and Network Rail were warning of delays and cancellations.


The Met Office issued two amber warnings for snow in Scotland and Northumberland, and one for winds of up to 80mph in the Midlands and Wales.


Overall, it seemed they were pretty sure the thing was coming, and made sure everyone knew.


The blanket coverage from news outlets could of course be attributed to the need for 24-hour news, so anything newsworthy is recycled and reported ad-infinitum until the next headline comes along – but that’s another story.


It had me thinking that it couldn’t be more different to that most infamous of Met Office gaffes, the Great Storm of 1987.


“Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way; well, if you’re watching, don’t worry, there isn’t, but having said that, actually, the weather will become very windy, but most of the strong winds, incidentally, will be down over Spain and across into France” said Michael Fish, who often takes the flack for the non-prediction of the storm.


Although it sounds like he may have been misquoted, and just giving information the behind-the-scenes meteorologists had told him.


Still, the forecasts said the strong winds wouldn’t make it further North than the English Channel when ultimately it caused £2billion worth of damage.


This led to widespread criticism of the Met Office, who had failed to plan ahead through inadequate equipment and under-funding.


Several reforms then took place including refinement to their computer software, the training of meteorologists, and the way weather warnings were issued.


Where am I going with this?


Oh yes… don’t let the same happen with your business.


It’s an extreme example, but shows how important planning can be.


In a business, this applies to everything you’ll do – from the start-up stage, to accounting and marketing.


Make sure you’ve taken every eventuality into consideration, and know how to react if they happen.


Don’t let your business get blown away.





Pretty vacant – what to do with empty business premises?

Following on from my visit to the forums of a business website yesterday, I’ve come across another question posed to the masses…


“I have a commercial property that will soon become vacant.


“I’ve been renting it out for the last few years, but before going down that road again I’m racking my brains trying to think if I could utilise the space with a business of my own.


“So far I’m thinking of splitting it up into self-storage units as a possibility… I would just need to know the building regulations and where to go for the fitting side of things.”


Sounds like a good idea, but there could be a few more factors to take into consideration:


Location size – a few folks on the thread aren’t convinced that the property is big enough.


Competitors – how many other self-storage businesses are in close proximity? Once again, other forum users think that the small size of the unit could count against it.


Transport links – what’s access like for vehicles? People are mostly going to be transporting their belongings in cars and vans.


Desirability of the area – might sound odd, but I’d consider the surrounding area when choosing a use for my property. Putting storage units in an area full of upmarket offices may be a missed opportunity, and not the first place potential customers would look for storage in the first place.


If the building is already configured for office use, would the cost of converting it to something else even be worthwhile?


Lots of things to consider.


We’ve addressed these kind of issues and loads more in Module 4 of the Made Not Born guide to starting your own business, which can be found here:





To patent, or not to patent?

I was scanning a well-known business forum earlier. It’s interesting seeing the ideas that people have, and the questions they pose to the business community when they need help.


One recent poster asked about the importance of patenting a prototype product they’d designed, as it seems expensive to do.


No-one took the time to reply, which seemed a bit of a shame.


A bit of research suggests it costs about £4,000 to patent an invention. I’d say if you truly believe in an idea and want to protect it from theft, then maybe it’s worth the cost.


Going into production and having someone rip off your idea would cost you a lot more than £4,000 in the long run, I’m sure.


Rather than patenting the product first, perhaps it would be better to conduct some market research and see whether the public want what you’re selling.


If the demand is there, then that £4,000 might just pay for itself in future.


They went on to ask whether they need a special licence to manufacture the product. That’s more difficult to answer, they don’t specify what the idea is.


Probably a bit of a Catch 22 situation there, they don’t want to give away the details of their non-patented product so I don’t blame them.


However, the bottom line is that protecting your intellectual property is a must if your business is going to be dependent on it.


Learn how in Module 3 of the Made Not Born guide to starting your own business, which can be found here:





Brewing up a Business Plan

The other weekend I visited a micro-brewery not too far away from where I live.


I went down to the Steam Machine Brewing Company in Newton Aycliffe with a couple of friends, and had a great afternoon just hanging out in their brew room and trying their excellent craft beer.


Considering the brewery is located in the middle of a private industrial estate – and it was a freezing February day – the brew room was absolutely packed and doing better business than a lot of pubs in town.


Plus, they’ve recently had to move to larger premises in order to accommodate more customers.


It’s impressive really, considering less than two years ago they didn’t exist and seem to have become well known through word-of-mouth.


It sounds almost too good to be true, but for Steam Machine’s owners – Nick and Gulen, the business is a real labour of love and the product of hard work.


They didn’t come from another brewery or buy into an existing franchise, so all their brewing acumen comes self-taught or from doing intensive courses on the brewing process.


Nick also gave up a career in teaching in order to follow the dream, so it shows bravery too.


However, all of this didn’t come from nowhere.


By reading the local press, it sounds like Nick and Gulen had an excellent business plan in place. They saw a gap in the market, did their market research, and developed a unique selling point (USP).


They engaged with customers on social media to see what the market looked like and where their products would fit in. Through that, they saw that they had a lot of enquiries coming from further away.


Delivering beer to more remote locations proves expensive due to the cost of returning empty casks.


After some research, they came up with recyclable beer kegs to cut out the cost of those returns.


Clever stuff, and it ended up catching the eye of a high profile backer. The Steam Machine received £15,000 worth of funding from Virgin StartUp, and Nick personally introduced his beers to Sir Richard Branson.


The rest, it seems, is history.


But even with a good idea in mind, where do you start with a business plan?


Our guide to writing a business plan also comes with an example template to show exactly what’s needed.


Here it is:





We’ve arrived!

We’re up and running! After just over three months in the making, I’m very pleased to say that Made Not Born is now online.


In fact, you could say that it goes back a lot further than that. Neil (our MD) had the idea for a “one-stop shop” for business resources earlier last year, so it’s great to see things finally come to fruition.


What we’re here to do is to give new entrepreneurs help with starting up their new business by giving them the skills they need.


We’ll do this through user guides covering everything from business planning, legal structures and financial planning, through to web design, social media and marketing.


Naturally, learning these skills will take time, which isn’t always in great supply during a business start-up.


As a result, we’ll also put you in touch with a specialist supplier if you’d prefer an expert to do the job for you.


Suppliers range from accountants, credit card processors and insurance brokers, to web developers, social media managers and sales people. Either way, we’ll find someone to get the job done for you.


What’s more, our suppliers will be rated by the clients they take on. Suppliers with good ratings will be considered to be more trustworthy, so will gain the most leads. This will help guarantee clients “a job well done”.


Now we’re online, I’ll be blogging and emailing (nearly) every day about all things business and whatever else comes to mind.


Seeing as we’ve just got started, why don’t you do too?


The Made Not Born guide to starting your own business is right here: