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ALL TRICK AND NO TREAT FOR BRITAIN’S SMALL BUSINESSES THIS HALLOWEEN.

Paul Christensen is the CEO and Co-Founder of Previse and is passionate about Britain’s small businesses. Previse is an instant payments company which leverages AI and machine learning to pay invoices on day-1. 

For small business owners and employees, getting back to work is overshadowed by uncertainty and the looming threat of a second lockdown. Unless Chancellor Rishi Sunak acts now to introduce comprehensive measures, small businesses will suffer.

Yet, Government support for British businesses and workers is scaling down rather than up. Taxpayer money is not limitless and needs to be used wisely but leaving already struggling small businesses stranded would be economic suicide for this country.

British SMEs account for 99.9% of the business population, yet business rates are only frozen for companies with an annual turnover of under £51,000. Many SMEs still have to pay their rates while suffering with slow and late payments from their corporate customers.

Four hundred thousand UK SMEs deliver over £160bn of goods and services to large corporate customers annually. This means that the largest 350 corporates in the UK owe at least £30bn of orders and invoices to SMEs at any point in time. Average payment cycles, as shown in the Government’s payment practice reports, are often 60, 90 or 120 days. It simply doesn’t have to be this way, and solutions exist for corporates to change this quickly, easily and without cost or risk.

In 2019, late payments to suppliers amounted to over £23 billion – this has been exacerbated by the pandemic. In 2020, the majority of SMEs have faced late or frozen payments. Many of the corporates who introduced immediate payments as a response to the pandemic have now reverted back to lengthy payment terms, in some cases asking for discounts from small businesses.

The effects slow and late payments have on small businesses are staggering. Research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) shows that one in ten small companies have already been forced to make redundancies. The FSB also found that one in three small businesses closed due to the pandemic were unsure about their ability to re-open. This is a disastrous state of affairs in a country where SMEs have an annual turnover of £2.2 trillion, a massive contribution to the UK economy.

The UK’s 5.9 million SMEs are going to be left in an even scarier situation come Halloween when Government support has wound down, and employers have to make increasingly difficult decisions.

16.6 million Britons are employed by an SME. One way to protect them is for corporate customers to pay small businesses faster. The government, alongside large corporates, have an opportunity here to come together and help protect the shopkeepers, farmers and tradespeople that have served us throughout the pandemic.

Paying small suppliers faster demonstrates a real commitment to sustainability and strengthens supply chains at very little cost. Every small business deserves the right to day-1 payment. Every corporate can provide it easily. Machine learning makes it possible.

 

Paul Christensen, CEO of Previse, an instant payments company says: “British SMEs provide 60% of private-sector employment and contribute 52% of private sector turnover. Small businesses deserve nothing less than the best to help them navigate the post-pandemic market.

“We have a real opportunity here, to kickstart our economy and create better job security for the millions of Britons employed by SMEs. Now we need to take on the inertia that SMEs face when trying to get invoices paid on time, which sometimes is literally the difference between being able to keep the lights on, or not.

“The Government needs to change the culture of slow and late payments, and technology is the answer. If large corporates paid their invoices faster, small businesses would have desperately needed cash-flow without the tax-payer contributing a penny.

“As the future of the UK economy hangs in the balance, businesses and government must work in harmony to ensure that Britain’s small businesses will survive.”

Decisions will be hard enough for Britain’s small businesses without them being strapped for cash waiting months for invoices to be paid for goods provided. They need Downing Street’s help now more than ever.

Small businesses are the backbone of Britain, they will drive a sustainable economic recovery – they deserve our support. Given the odds stacked up against them, Britain’s high-street and small businesses will be a scary place if we don’t start paying our small suppliers faster.

 

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Business

HOW FINANCE FIRMS CAN IMPROVE THEIR CUSTOMER COMMUNICATION IN 2021

Amy Robinson, Senior Brand Development Manager, Esendex

2020 has certainly thrown a curve ball to all businesses across the world, and the finance industry is no different. This year finance has been the driver for both commercial and personal challenges across the country.

The start of the pandemic saw revenue disappear overnight for many businesses, while exponentially increasing demand for other predominantly online services. This commercial challenge had a knock on effect to personal finance with 9.6 million people being put on furlough between April and October 2020. Sadly, the rate of unemployment also increased by 0.7% and sits at 1.62 million people unemployed in the UK today.

These drastic changes to both personal and commercial finances mean that financial services firms have a unique and challenging task ahead of them. With 2021 planning well underway for most businesses, a key focus for finance firms needs to be around customer communication.

In fact, 1 in 3 firms in the finance sector are sending more messages now compared to before the pandemic, most made up of account updates (17.95%), customer service updates (17.95%), delivery information (17.95%), appointment management (15.38%), marketing activity (12.28%), customer satisfaction surveys (10.26%) and emergency information (7.69%). This trend looks likely to continue well into 2021 with Covid-19 still impacting everyday life.

Amy Robinson

However, the latest vaccines offer hope to both businesses and the general public that an end might be in sight. Consequently, it’s important for companies to start to plan how they will navigate this next phase alongside their customers, as the country and indeed the world, will hopefully steadily move into a recovery stage. Life, for anyone, is unlikely to return to a pre Covid-19 state, with the country entering into one of the deepest recessions we’ve witnessed in our lifetimes. Mass uncertainty is likely to continue well into 2021 and it’s the role of financial services to understand this, consider customer sentiment, and ensure that brands are adding empathy to their messages when communicating with customers. This is especially important for areas such as debt collection where businesses should look to focus on ethical debt recovery strategies.

Alongside the financial recession, the UK is also witnessing a mental health pandemic more severe and widely spread than ever before. In fact, a report by The Health Foundation found that 69% of adults in the UK report feeling worried about the effect that Covid-19 is having on their life. With this in mind, finance firms need to tread carefully when communicating with their customers. The FCA have recently confirmed support for consumer credit customers impacted by Covid-19, outlining how finance firms will need to behave when collecting monies owed. The theme heavily weighs in the consumers’ favour, allowing payment holidays to those unable to make their usual deposits.

Consequently, the big theme coming out of 2020 for financial institutions is around ethical and empathetic behaviour. Below are some tips and strategies for approaching customer engagement in 2021, while navigating the new government criteria and market trends.

 

Clear, effective messaging

At a time of high stress and anxiety, various government support schemes, furlough, unemployment and often relationships with multiple financial institutions, it’s easy for customers to become overwhelmed or confused. When communicating with your customers make sure the message is clear and concise; if there are actions required on the customer’s side then ensure this is clearly detailed using a step by step guide.

 

Support your customers

Aim to support your customers as far as possible and send them a reminder message should a payment be due or you require additional information. It’s easy to forget that you’re not the only business sending a customer an important message, so aim to communicate with them in a simple and timely manner. The channel used for this message can also make a great difference, so using something like SMS can really help to break through the noise and get the required response.

 

The power of conversation

Something often missing in a digital world is the power of the human touch. With so many emails and Zoom calls flying around the world, something as simple as a telephone call can be the most effective strategy. People can become frustrated and anxious if they feel that they are not being listened to or treated as an individual; by talking to a selection of key customers on the phone, you can help to bring back the human element and improve the perception of your brand. This is especially true when talking to customers from the older generation who may feel uncomfortable talking about finances online.

There’s no doubt that 2021 will look different for us all. By remaining agile, empathetic, and consumer-centric, we can ensure that we navigate the next 12 months in the smoothest way possible. This is a true change for customer engagement in the financial services sector, and while challenging, it will hopefully offer many benefits to this form of communication for years to come.

 

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Business

GOING GLOBAL: 7 TIPS TO GET STARTED

The idea of selling your products or services to new markets across the globe is an attractive prospect for any business, large or small. But while reaching new customers and unlocking the potential for further growth can seem exciting initially, adapting your business to foreign markets is no small feat. Factors such as cost, communication and cultural differences can all affect your business’ success when going global. This guide will explore some of the key considerations to make when you’re thinking of expanding your business overseas.

 

Evaluate Your Finances

One of the main questions to ask when looking to go global is whether or not your business can afford to do so. Crossing borders can be a complicated and expensive process which can take away time and resources from other opportunities at home. Growth for businesses abroad is often a slow process; establishing products and services in other countries takes time, so you will need to factor this into your planning. Thorough analysis of domestic and international markets should always be undertaken before making the decision to expand your business overseas.

 

Location, Location, Location

Choosing the right location is crucial to the success of your business expansion. International business network Going Global Live says that taking your business to the right countries initially can save you money on excessive marketing and advertising, putting you face-to-face with your target market from the outset. You should weigh up the pros and cons of potential locations, such as the likelihood of being able to fill your new HQ with prime, homegrown talent, as well as access to desired markets aided by foreign investment bodies. It is also important to consider the relevant laws and regulations laid out by national and regional governments.

 

Ensure You Have the Right Infrastructure

Making sure your business has the right infrastructure to handle expansion abroad will put you in a good place going forward. Implementing a clear management strategy, both locally and centrally, will set your business up for a smooth and successful launch overseas. Having up-to-date IT and communications systems at the centre of your business will allow you to share information and data securely. When it comes to shipping, choosing the best – and most efficient – transport and storage providers will give you the peace of mind that your products are safe in transit. Companies such as S Jones are ideal for businesses looking for more information on storage solutions for shipping overseas.

 

Build a Strong Team

Appointing a strong team to oversee your expansion is crucial to your company’s success in new markets. Hiring people with a good knowledge of your target market, as well as a focus on your business’ interests, is key when establishing your overseas HQ. Working with local partners can help you to communicate your business’ unique selling point in a meaningful way. Having an experienced partner or mentor that you can trust to oversee the expansion will allow you to stay focused on the bigger picture and ensure that your attention isn’t taken away from your core customer base.

 

Have Faith

Once you’ve made the move to globalise your business, be sure to have faith in your ideas and don’t be deterred by slow progress. Dr Shai Vyakarnam of the Cranfield School of Management says that while there is a fine balance between faith and stubbornness, you’ll need “incredible levels of self-belief and faith in your idea” to succeed, and that you “only need to be able to turn a few key people in your favour and the others will follow”. Making well-informed decisions quickly will allow you to stay on track and will nullify the threat of any lingering self-doubt. While progress may be slow at first, be sure to remain patient and be prepared to build personal relationships to gain the trust of your new partners and customer base.

 

Consider the Impact of New Ideas

When implementing new ideas for your business as whole, consider how they will be received by your new international customers, as well as by your existing customer base at home. What might be seen as a positive idea in your home country could be perceived as offensive or alienating by your customers abroad. Factors such as differing time zones, languages and cultural appropriateness should always be taken into consideration when making key decisions to eliminate the risk of alienating foreign customers and damaging your reputation overseas.

 

Be Adaptable

While it is important to have faith in your business and be patient initially, you should also be willing to make changes as things develop. Acting on the advice of experts is key to navigating new markets successfully. It may be that your products and services require innovation to meet demand, or that cultural differences lead you to make changes to your marketing strategy. Being adaptable will give you the best chance of meeting consumer demand on a global scale.

When trying to expand your business to an entirely new customer base, try to bear in mind some of the above points. As long as you remain patient and open-minded, then you should have little difficulty in marketing your business globally.

 

Sources

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