Landlords – Gain better control over your property portfolio

Whether you are a landlord with one rental property or a property manager or investor with hundreds, GEOS will help bring your bookkeeping system into the twenty-first century and create more time for you to manage your real estate portfolio. Also, with Making Tax Digital (“MTD”) on the horizon, landlords will be required to declare quarterly submissions of their rental income and property outgoings. Cloud based accounting software enables you to record your business transactions digitally to ensure you are ready for MTD. There are many other advantages of using cloud based accounting software to help you stay on top of your property portfolio, such as:

Easily managing tenants and rental activity

  • Easily view active tenants and their status in one report.
  • Manage sublet situations.
  • Manage security deposits.
  • Track rental information including tenant and landlord names, lease renewals dates, rental rates and more.
  • Track vacancies by property.

Accounting and administration

  • Automatically create rent invoices every month/quarter.
  • Track maintenance expenses for each property.
  • Generate lists of outstanding rent.
  • Automatically generate letters of rent increases.
  • Track maintenance management as well as job costs by unit.
  • Create classes for your properties, so you can generate profit and loss statements for individual properties or projects.
  • Generate statements showing delinquent rent, late fees and other charges.
  • Generate customizable reports to show you how your business is performing.

Let bank feeds do the work for you

  • Simply connect your bank account directly to cloud based accounting software for free, to enable transactions to be automatically matched to your invoices and expenses.

Collaborate with your accountant

  • Both you and your accountant can have easy access to review your books and be prepared for MTD, with all your transactions reconciled in one click.

To discuss how we can assist you in readiness for MTD using our GEOS service, and to manage your property portfolio more efficiently, please get in touch with your usual Gerald Edelman contact or alternatively speak to Deval Patel or Ajay Shah on 020 8492 5600.

Small Business – Cyber Attacks and 4 Steps to Protect Your Business

There has been a series of cyber attacks impacting businesses globally, costing an estimated $400 billion a year. The latest threat from a variant of an earlier virus, called Petya, has taken down systems from companies around the world.

The malicious program demanded a payment, known as ransomware, to unlock files it scrambled on infected machines.  Security experts, including Microsoft, Cisco and Symantec, said that they all have evidence that the malware was spread via an update to the tax software program MeDoc, popular in the Ukraine.

The UK Government’s National Security Strategy has stated that the threat from cyber attacks from both organised crime and foreign intelligence agencies was one of the “most significant risks to UK interests”.  The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has indicated that small businesses who do not take precautionary action will be fined.  In the notification, Sally Anne Poole, ICO enforcement manager, said:

“If a company is subject to a cyber attack and we find they haven’t taken steps to protect people’s personal information in line with the law, they could face a fine from the ICO. And under the new General Data Protection Legislation (GDPR) coming into force next year, those fines could be a lot higher.”

In the World Economic Forum, BT and KPMG report, “Taking the offensive- working together to disrupt digital crime” it is stated:

  • Every year digital crime costs the world approximately $400 billion
  • 97% of companies have been the victim of a digital attack
  • Half of businesses do not have a strategy to deal with digital crime, including blackmail and bribery
  • 55% of businesses have seen an increase in cyber attacks
  • Only 22% are fully prepared to deal with incidents in the future
  • 73% say digital security is on the board agenda

Source: World Economic Forum, BT and KPMG: Taking the offensive- working together to disrupt digital crime

How does the ransomware spread?

This type of malware can evade digital defences by abusing remote Windows administration tools to spread quickly across internal company computer networks.  Typically, ransomware spreads via email, with the aim of fooling recipients into clicking on malware-laden files that cause a PC’s data to become scrambled before making a blackmail demand.

Four Steps to Protect Your Business

With the onset of the new General Data Protection Regulations coming into effect on 25 May 2018, it is critical for all business owners to plan their security accordingly.  The steps outlined below are a good starting point to secure your business.

Step 1: Define your security policy and educate employees

Define your security policy and how you plan to protect your data and systems, as well as your response plan in the event of a cyber attack.   It is important to train your employees on the policy, something many small businesses neglect to do.  A straightforward way is to set up a meeting with all new employees to explain the company’s security policy and to provide some basic training.

Your staff can pose an unexpected threat; sophisticated hackers could look to find a way into a business’s team to get information.  Using contractors or temporary staff, who might not be put through such a rigorous recruitment process, is always a risk.

Authorise a team member to be responsible for dealing with attacks and to minimize the damage.   Check how your suppliers and business partners are keeping your data safe.  Think like a criminal and try hacking your own business to find areas of security weakness and fix.

Step 2: Watch out for urgent email

“Phishing” is the term used to describe an email, or digital message, pretending to be from a trustworthy source. For example, disguised as a senior colleague or important partner / customer, to gain confidential information.   Teach employees to watch out for urgent and unexpected emails, and to delete immediately, as well as to report the source to the IT department or representative.

Step 3: Keep data private, separate and encrypted

When staff or contractors have been with a company for a long time and change departments, it is common for the employee to retain their data access permissions across several areas of the business, resulting in your employees having more permissions than necessary.

Make sure to map out your data sets, such that your most sensitive, customer centric information is protected deep beneath layers of security, hidden even from your employees.

Encryption software could be used to convert data and information into code to prevent unauthorised access when the business is sending, receiving and storing valuable information. Encryption software is readily available online and in stores.

Step 4: Password protection, the basics must be in place

Make sure passwords are strong and long. One of the most commons passwords used is “password” ironically, so not the best approach to security.  Introduce policies and automation to force employees to change their password routinely, at least once every four months.

Save time and money by managing your finances in the cloud

Would you like to create more time in your day to focus on running the business that you love? For most, if not all, business owners, the prospect of minimising time spent on mandatory obligations brings cheers of enthusiasm and a feeling of welcome relief.

Would you like to create more time in your day to focus on running the business that you love? For most, if not all, business owners, the prospect of minimising time spent on mandatory obligations brings cheers of enthusiasm and a feeling of welcome relief. We each make thousands of decisions every day, some which require little thought – ‘latte or cappuccino?’, ‘savoury or sweet?’ – and some which are of such great significance that they may have a lasting impact on the future of a business. In an ideal world, wouldn’t it be helpful to have access to up-to-date and accurate information on your financial position at your fingertips to help make such decisions? Well now you can!

We at Gerald Edelman are pleased to introduce GE Online Solutions (‘GEOS’), a new cloud-based accounting service supported by QuickBooks software. GEOS will provide you with greater control over your finances and aid in improving cash flow, all whilst helping you remain compliant and gaining valuable financial insight with the support of your accountant.

This innovative technology delivers a vast range of benefits including:
  • Accessibility – data can be accessed anywhere in the world at any time where there is internet connectivity. Storage and backups – data is stored and continually backed up in the cloud so there is no need for your own physical servers or for any concern over financial information stored on hard drives, losing data or making regular backups.
  • Information processing – as remote servers handle much of the computing and storage, there is no need for you to purchase expensive, high-end machines to process and maintain your records.
  • Seamless upgrades – software upgrades are provided at no extra cost therefore you will always have access to the most recent version including the latest features.
  • Real-time information – cloud accounting will give you and your business live financial information, facilitated by a financial dashboard, helping you to respond promptly to any business change.
  • Cost of ownership – GE Online Solutions is subscription-based and packages can be tailored specifically to your business’ needs.
  • Accounts support – live accounting data can be accessed by both you and your accountant, making it easier to communicate when there are issues that require resolution.
  • Automation – business bank accounts can be directly linked to the cloud-based software, which cleverly detects recurring transactions and automatically categorises them into the respective ledgers.
  • Time efficiency – time spent on data entry will be reduced as sales and purchase invoices can be uploaded directly to the software as a photograph or by sending a scanned copy of the invoice to a designated email address, from which it is then automatically uploaded.

HMRC’s Making Tax Digital initiative (covered in our spring newsletter) is due to revolutionise the UK tax system and bring an end to self-assessment from April 2018. HMRC’s aim is to make tax administration easier, more effective and efficient for taxpayers through the implementation of a fully digitised tax system by 2020, whilst also reducing its overheads. The changes will apply to a wide range of taxpayers, including a range of businesses, self-employed professionals and landlords. This ‘new and improved’ tax system will require the majority of business owners to maintain digital records using compatible software, so transitioning to cloud-based software will most definitely give you an advantage when dealing with HMRC, when the time arises.

With technology significantly and rapidly changing the working environment alongside the need for instant information at your fingertips in the fast-paced business world, cloud accounting is certainly a step in the right direction.

Whether operating as a sole trader, corporate or partnership, this solution could reap benefits for you and is as applicable to start-up or early stage businesses as to established entities. Our dedicated and knowledgeable team will evaluate whether your business could benefit from this new service and create a bespoke solution that will work best to simplify your finances. For more information speak to Deval Patel or Ajay Shah on 020 8492 5642/5645.

Small Business – Three Simple Business Rules

With the wealth of business advice available, it can seem over-whelming and complex to understand for business, however in three Simple Business Rules, is a good start:

First Rule: Make sure customers pay you on time and its true value.

It is estimated that 4 out of 5 small businesses are owed money by their customers, which equates to approximately £6.9bn owed across the UK.  This figure seems enormous but when you look in detail you can see ways in which it could be prevented:

  • Consider running credit checks on your clients to provide you with a credit score to use in your discussions.
  • Look at your payment terms. With the current capabilities in online payment platforms, there is no reason why payment cannot be processed upon work completion, even better upfront, rather than waiting up to 180 days due to payment terms.  Waiting 90 days or more to be paid has all the hallmarks of cash flow problems.
  • Make sure what you charge is the true value of what is being delivered to the client. Some businesses never reassess their pricing structure, even after 3 years, often more.  Have a detailed internal costing, bottom up assessment of your pricing and then use this to forecast your growth, then decide the price increase required to meet this. Naturally, as with all services and competitive markets, consider price elasticity when testing increases in what you charge customers.
Second Rule: Systemise what you do to help drive scale

Building a business is about being able to scale your idea and business without relying on you personally. The way to do this is to build on the systemisation of your business rather than relying on people and instead have systems and processes that allow anyone to work in your organisation, thereby driving scale.  The true difference between being self-employed, having a business and being an entrepreneur is whether the business can work without you, as described by business author Michael E. Gerber in ‘The E-Myth Revisited’.

Third Rule: Allocate time to plan your business

Consider what the vision is for your business and allocate the time to plan in line with that vision.  Planning can often be the last thing that comes to mind for many business owners, but without proactively making the time to plan and review business vision and strategy, this can be damaging in the medium to long term.  To help you plan make sure you have systems in place to monitor progress against targets, not just turnover etc, but more predictive indicators such as lead generation and customer feedback.  Benjamin Franklin famously shared “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Marketing – Three steps to brand building

Whether you’re a start-up or a small to large enterprise business, the power of your brand can make the difference between companies surviving and thriving. How you go about developing your brand needs to form part of your overall strategy versus being an after-thought. Over time the brand you develop will become part of the value of your business.

A brand is centered on the emotions you want customers to feel when thinking about you, how they will describe you and includes characteristics of your business, demonstrated through everything you and your team do, from talking to customers to preparing content to share.

There are many advice channels online to help in building a brand, but to keep it simple, we have boiled it down to the three cornerstones:

1. What’s the Business Mission?

Being clear on what you want the business to achieve in the long term is the clarity needed to start formulating the brand identity, being clear and concise as well as a story to help those around you connect with your mission.

As an example, take Amazon’s inspirational mission statement:

“It’s our goal to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online”.

Reading through, it is inspirational, clear and concise as to what the business aims to achieve. It is also calling out what the business wants to be known for, in this case being customer-centric and providing a large variety of different goods.

Once you have your mission statement, the key step is to communicate it to the wider world and make sure your marketing channels are aligned and your people truly believe and share the mission with confidence and that it can be delivered, e.g. expertise, value for money, speed, efficiency.

2. Research and Protect your Brand.

Clearly understand who your customers are and what’s important to them from the brand. Ask existing clients and employees what they feel about the brand from their experience to-date as part of your market research. With the fast pace of opinions being shared on social media it is important to monitor comments and respond to customers accordingly, and in doing so protecting your brand at all costs.

A great example of protecting the brand and in doing so going the extra mile for customers was Virgin Media, when after a husband who thought he had lost a voicemail recording of his late wife he had kept for more than 10 years, described the moment the telecoms giant restored it as “wonderful”. It took the company a team of 11 engineers and three days to track down; however, the positive impact via social media was heart felt and shared globally. A situation that if someone had turned a blind eye could have had a serious negative impact on the brand.

3. Build the Brand and Visual identity.

Bring your brand to life through creating a solid first impression. Don’t rush or try this yourself as it is recommended to work with a designer to help with the logo. Once defined, roll out the brand identity, look and feel into everything you do; from the vehicles driven, uniform, email signatures, tone of voice and in all communications linked to the brand identity etc. To ensure your brand consistently delivers customer value, translate this into the customer journey by having an easy to navigate customer website which is supported by response to queries and after sales care.

2018 Tax Year – the perfect time to ride the Cloud

The start of the next tax year provides a perfect time to consider improving the management of your business finances. As a small business, start-up and or self-employed, your time is precious in running your business. Whether you are deciding on where to raise finance, managing your cashflow as well as maximizing your profit, finding an accountant as a partner in your business to help you is all the better when you both operate on a cloud accounting solution.

Cloud accounting is here and it may be just what you’re looking for as it allows you to access and work on your accounts from any digital tool or location, and provides you with more flexibility than doing so with Excel or desktop software. Rather than slaving away over spreadsheets, or wasting time on finding those printed bank statements and used receipts, there is a new approach to financial management which enables you to stay on top of your business, get immediate insight and create invoices, leading to you getting paid faster, which in turn, improves your cash flow. Trying QuickBooks Online is strongly recommended to any business, helping you and your accountant with a real-time view of business performance.

Cloud accounting is more popular than ever with 78% of UK Small Businesses are using at least 2 cloud based services already. Let us take you through five key reasons to consider a cloud-based financial management system:

It’s great value for money

Traditional desktop software can be costly quite to install and only work on one laptop or PC. Instead, when using cloud accounting software, you sign up to a subscription service and can access your account from any computer, tablet or mobile device.

It’s easy to start and use

In using cloud accounting, there is no expectation of previous accounting knowledge and you can start very easily. The offerings are easy to navigate and you can start running your business immediately.

It helps you get more done on your business

One of the benefits of cloud accounting is the ability to work from anywhere as well as the ability to automate routine business transactional tasks such as tracking and categorizing transactions from payroll, invoicing and accounts payable & receivable. Data from sales transactions, business expenses and inventory can all be uploaded to the cloud, reducing manual data entry & costly clerical errors.

You will have more time back to spend on your business success

As your most precious commodity, time is always of the essence. How great would it be if you could manage your expenses whilst waiting for your next meeting? Or take a picture of a receipt for lunch and store it in your software while still at lunch? This can be done on the QuickBooks mobile app, which saves you a great amount of time, wherever you are.

Always secure with nothing to worry about

QuickBooks Online offers security solutions that include firewalls, data encryption, multi-factor authentication and virus detection, all designed to keep your data secure. They deal with cloud security full time and are prepared to combat any online security issues that might arise.