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How do I leave my day job? You need to diet

I have seen startups flush with loans buy $300 chairs for all their staff, the top of the line MACs, glossy business cards, office space in the top end of town – their budget office costs grossly exceeding what little revenue comes in.

friendly

friendlyIt is exciting starting your own business and at times optimism about the success of your venture clouds your judgement.

When you start out you need to be on a strict diet when it comes to your budget.

I have seen startups flush with loans buy $300 chairs for all their staff, the top of the line MACs, glossy business cards, office space in the top end of town – their budget office costs grossly exceeding what little revenue comes in.

It is easy to spend other peoples money but when the external funds dry up your business will become insolvent (which most starts-up are anyway) but worse you could end up bankrupt.

The bummer is that your idea might have worked and become a huge success but because you wasted all your investment dollars having expensive office space and chairs you will never know how huge your business could have become.

Its vital that you guard the investment cash (your ‘pot of gold’) from reckless spending. Do you need $300 chairs? Do you need to be in the smart-end of town? Do you need full-time staff instead of using contractors – it is much easier to terminate a contractor but emotionally much harder to fire a staff member.

By having a ‘lean and mean’ start-up you can test your idea with minimal cost and if it does become a success then hopefully you continue the ‘diet’ for years until you are in a solid position to spend a little with money in your kitty not via a loan.

Here are some ideas that we used when starting out:

1) Use open source software for the bulk of your systems. Of course some mission critical systems such as billing requires professional software that comes with a support contract but there is a massive variety of open source projects available that you could run most systems without costing you a dime in licenses.

2) Second-hand furniture is a great idea because its much cheaper than brand new and you can also get away with setting a retro feel in your office. I have seen an old door sitting on two saw-horses used as a desktop for the receptionist and it looked really cool.

3) I am in two minds when it comes to leasing computers and other expensive items. A MAC computer for us can last 3-4 years easy but if we leased the same model and updated to the new release once a year I think it would still be cheaper owning the machine. Have a look and compare prices.

4) Office space is one of your most expensive resources apart from staff so you really need to think about the reasons why you want to be in a more up market location even if you are in retail.

5) Staff are very expensive especially the ones that you cannot bill out such as receptionists. Because we are in the IT sector our needs require very skilled people. Even if we could get them locally and pay a high price we are still burdened by government laws for employees. Instead we use remote contractors (via Elance.com) as much as possible for two reasons: they are easy to get rid of when we don’t have any billable work and we can select the most skilled for top dollar anywhere in the world – location is not an issue for us.

So I hope this post has helped you think more about the importance of starting out lean-and-mean and to continue that approach throughout your business career – this will give your idea the best chance to grow into what you dreamed it to be.

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General

Love Pets? Top Startup Ideas for You

pet care industry

pet care industry

The domestic animal (pet) industry is buoyant with pet care said to be one of the most recession proof sectors around. Maybe this is why there are many successful franchises operating, from short stay and daycare centres, to training and exercise gyms and speciality stores.

In business, we’re told to do something we love and if we do and do it well, we’ll be successful. Well, here’s your chance. If you love pets, consider a business in one of these areas:

1. Pet training services

The great thing about domestic animals and birds is they have a brain so we can train them, and not just for our entertainment. In fact training an animal for our pleasure is somewhat frowned on so focus on training for drug and bomb detection, or search and rescue.

Plus there’s also the specialist field of recovery particularly after a major event.
Cadaver dogs do an amazing service using their nose of which their sense of smell is way better than humans.

Animals also provide support and company for the elderly, and the disabled so there’s a lot of opportunity in animal training.

A pet training camp can be a great way to turn what you love into a sustainable business.

Law enforcement agencies, for instance, need police dogs to undergo training. Normally, police departments have their own dog training academies, but those in smaller town will have to get contractors to handle the training. K9 units often undergo obedience and agility courses, so you may as well include these in your curriculum.

Another great idea. albeit more left field, is, bird training. Not just any bird but Psittaciformes, which include parrots, cockatoos, parakeets. This is definitely a specialty area. If training is just not your thing, consider short stay pet accomodation or a daycare center.

2. Daycare centers

In America, ‘pet sitting’ while you’re on vacation or out for the evening, has always been an important tradition among suburban families, however pet hotels and daycare facilities now reign. It’s not just for Hollywood celebrities, everyday homes are using these businesses to mind their previous pets rather than leave them alone while the children are at school and the adults are at work.

So are a dog daycares profitable? K9 Franchise, did their research, and found it’s a multi-million dollar industry! So with the right business model and support systems it’s a sector that growing and is highly successful, and that’s due to us.

As our lifestyles have changed over the time, so too has our desire for pets. We’re having children later in life, so the pet comes first, and of course they’ve ingratiated themselves so they are around when the children come and go. Even non animal owners have turned to pets to avoid empty nester syndrone, as it’s proven that domestic animal ownership alleviate loneliness.

Taking on a daycare franchise, may be the way to move forward in your own business. The huge investment needed to get your daycare business started, plus the cost of support services like marketing, tech, and operational procedures are shared among the all franchisees, so the franchisee model works well in this sector.

3. Boutique and specialty stores

People love to pamper their pets. Pampering them is a surrogate to pampering a child or us.  So there’s no limit applied to how often toys and accessories are purchased to keep pets comforted and entertained.

This is an exciting business with lots of innovation in this sector. There are boutiques and specialty stores that sell items from costumes, aquarium decorations, hamster cage setups, baked goodies, and other nifty things that cater to every pet lover.

However we say: caveat emptor aka ‘buyer beware’. Do your homework before venturing too far into the unknown when it comes to speciality products and services. There’s a risk, there will be a lack of demand, or you’ve entered a crowded marketplace with too much supply. However with more risk there’s more upside when offering a unique proposition. Word will get out among pet lovers and there’s no distance too far to go, when it comes to pampering pets.

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General

Your 10-Step Guide on How to Start an Assisted Living Facility

assisted living business

assisted living business

Assisted living facilities come with their challenges. Check out this 10-step guide on how to start an assisted living facility and mitigate risks!

There are more than 15,000 assisted living facilities in the U.S.

That number is expected to grow substantially over the course of the next 30 years.

By 2050, the elderly population is likely going to top 83 million, which means there is going to be a real need for even more assisted living facilities in different parts of the country.

Are you interested in opening one up? If so, take the time to learn how to start an assisted living facility first. It’ll help you bring in more business right away and, more importantly, it’ll set up your facility for long-term success.

Here is a 10-step guide on how to start an assisted living facility.

Step 1: Create a Business Plan

The first thing to do when starting an assisted living facility is to come up with a business plan.
Without a clear business plan in place, you’re going to be doomed as you move forward with the rest of the steps.

In your business plan, lay out where you want to open your assisted living facility, who you want to target with it, and how you’re going to make your assisted living facility successful.

If you plan on keeping your assisted living facility small and catering to a small community on your own with a few staff members, note that. If you plan to bring a property management company like Paradigm Senior Living on board to do most of the dirty work after opening your facility, note that, too.

Your business plan is what you’re going to use to obtain the proper funding for your facility. So don’t leave any details out, no matter how big or small they might be.

Your business plan should be rooted in research you’ve done and provide a blueprint for how you plan to operate once you get everything up and running.

Step 2: Establish a Legal Business Entity

Once you have a business plan in place, make time to establish your business as a legal business entity. This will protect you in the event that your assisted living facility ever faces a lawsuit.

If you don’t establish a legal business entity prior to opening an assisted living facility, you could be personally liable for any legal issues involving your business. It could bankrupt you and force you to shut down your business, even if things are going well with it.

Step 3: Register Your Business for Tax Purposes

Before you can open up an assisted living facility, you’ll need to register your business so that you can pay state and federal taxes tied to it.

This is obviously another very important step in the process. The absolute last thing you want to do is put off paying your taxes and get yourself into hot water with the IRS.

Registering your business for tax purposes is simple. But many business owners forget to get around to doing it and pay the price later.

Even if, for whatever reason, your business doesn’t start generating money right away, it’s still good to have your affairs in order when it comes to taxes.

Step 4: Visit a Bank and Open a Business Account

When you’re first trying to jumpstart an assisted living facility, you might be tempted to mix your personal and business finances. Don’t do this.

Although it might be more convenient to use your personal bank account to conduct business on behalf of your assisted living facility, split the two up as soon as possible. Go down to your bank and open a business account for your assisted living facility.

A business bank account will help you keep all of your business finances in good order. It’ll also look a lot more professional when you’re paying for services using business checks as opposed to using personal ones.

Step 5: Find a Location for Your Assisted Living Facility

At this point, you’ve laid down a solid foundation for your assisted living facility.

You have a business plan in place and have established a legal business entity. You’ve also registered your business for tax purposes and opened up a business bank account. Now, the fun part begins.

Start looking around for possible locations for your assisted living facility. That might mean moving into an existing building that has everything you need for your facility, or it might mean building a new facility from scratch.

Your finances and any funding you’ve received will dictate what you can buy or build. Whatever the case, choose a property that will allow your assisted living facility to grow over time.

You also want a property that’s conveniently located and that will attract business from a surrounding community. Picking out the perfect location is an important part of giving your business a great chance to survive.

Step 6: Get Your Hands On the Right Permits and Licenses

To run an assisted living facility, you need to have the proper permits and licenses in place.
These permits and licenses are often different in each state and, furthermore, in each city or town.

Check with your local city or town to see what kinds of permits and licenses you need to have. If you fail to obtain these permits and licenses, you could potentially face large fines and even risk a shutdown later.

Step 7: Obtain a Business Insurance Policy

If you’re going to open any kind of business, it’s a good idea to obtain business insurance. Business insurance will protect you and your company if an accident ever takes place on your property.

Business insurance is especially important for someone opening an assisted living facility since there’s an increased risk associated with starting one. If someone slips and falls in your facility or is injured in an accident, business insurance will protect you.

You will, at the very least, be required by law to obtain workers compensation insurance if you plan to hire employees. Do your homework and find out what kind of insurance you’ll need before you open your facility.

Step 8: Set Up a Website for Your Facility

How are people going to find out about your assisted living facility? More often than not, they’re going to learn about it on the internet.

If you don’t have a website set up for your facility, now is the time to get one. Your website should include everything from your location and your contact information to your services and the benefits that come along with sending someone to live at your facility.

Consider starting a blog on your website as well that contains useful information on assisted living facilities. Use the latest search engine optimization techniques throughout your site to generate more traffic and keep people coming back.

Step 9: Market Your Services to the Community

In addition to setting up a website to generate business, find other ways to market your services to the local community, too.

You can do this by:

  • Starting social media accounts for your assisted living facility
  • Advertising your assisted living facility on local TV and radio
  • Sponsoring local events, like 5K runs and community picnics, on behalf of your assisted living facility

Commit to doing whatever you can do to get the name of your assisted living facility out there into the world. People will begin to take notice when you find different ways to appeal to them.

Step 10: Hire Staff for Your Facility

You can follow all the other steps listed here and open up an assisted living facility in your community to much fanfare. But if you don’t have the best staff in the business working at your facility, it might not even matter.

People want to know their loved ones will be taken care of at your facility. So you need to hire the best staff to work at it and keep your staff happy once your facility opens.

Registered nurses and certified nursing assistants will obviously be some of your first hires.
These employees will be in charge of providing care to the people who move into your assisted living facility.

But they’re just some of the employees you’ll need to hire for your facility. You will also need to hire:

  • An executive director
  • Activities directors
  • Physical, occupational, and speech therapists
  • Marketing director
  • Head chef and a team of cooks
  • Maintenance workers and groundskeepers
  • Drivers
  • And more

Without the right employees, your assisted living facility might not stick around for very long.
Don’t underestimate the importance of hiring the right people to work for you.

Use This Guide on How to Start an Assisted Living Facility to Your Benefit

Now that you know how to start an assisted living facility, it’s time for you to get to work.

From coming up with a foolproof business plan to hiring experienced employees to work in your facility, you can open a successful assisted living facility if you take the right steps. Stay patient and avoid getting ahead of yourself, and your facility will be up and running in no time.

Read our blog for more advice on starting a business.

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Accounting & Finance

An Easy Guide to Accounting for Small Businesses in the UK

Easy guide to small business accounting

Easy guide to small business accounting

The question for all small business owners ask is: What Are My Accounting Responsibilities? If you are considering or have already made a limited company formation in the UK you are no doubt aware that you have a legal responsibility to submit your annual accounts to the Inland Revenue. The best course of action however, is to pass this crucial duty on to an experienced accountant, who can do this on your behalf.

Instructing An Accountant In The Early Stages

It is not uncommon for some small business owners to go against the idea of instructing an accountant, particularly in the early stages. And there is also a percentage of company directors who feel that the only purpose accountants serve is to fill in tax forms. Yet the fact of the matter, is that if you instruct a competent accountant, he or she will save you money, time, and stress.

Most people shy away from the thought of having to plow their way through a huge amount of paperwork and countless receipts – not to mention having to look at and work out complicated tax structures and calculations, all of which have to be conducted correctly and in adherence with the Inland Revenue regulations.

Doing your annual accounts is fine if you are experienced in book keeping or accounting and are just operating as a sole trader. In the case of the latter, the procedure is very simple. Conversely, you have an LLP (limited liability partnership), or limited company, then your filing and accounting procedures are more complex. To that end, as a company director, you have to be fully confident that you can undertake this obligation, as if you are not, then you could be faced with having to pay stiff penalties.

Ltd Company Accounting

In the case of a limited company formation, there must be a completely accurate record of all income going into the business, receipts for all expenses; and a fully disclosed record of all liabilities and assets which should be easily traceable. The company’s yearly accounts have to be what is considered ‘true and fair,’ and you must maintain all your financial records for at least 6 years from the related accounting period’s end.

In a nutshell, your financial records should reflect and provide details of:

  • All money received & spent
  • All assets the business owns
  • All debts owned by, or owed to the business
  • End of financial year business product inventory
  • Stock-takings utilised to calculate the stock-inventory
  • All goods the business has purchased & sold
  • The person/company the items were sold to & purchased from (retailers are except form this)

The above records are needed for the preparation of a yearly accounts, filing tax returns for the company, and paying corporation tax on all income classed as taxable income. Further, your company will need to file a VAT return and pay quarterly VAT bills, if your annual income is in excess of £85,000 (pertaining to tax years 2017 to 2018, 2018 to 2019, and 2019 to 2020).

Statutory Accounts For Ltd Companies

Many people do not realise that even if your company is not trading, company accounts must still be submitted every year. Further, the yearly accounts need to be filed at Companies House inside a period of nine months from the accounting reference date. Statutory accounts need to comply with the International Financial Reporting Standards, and must incorporate:

  • A document (which shows the amount of all that is owed to, and owned by the company on the final day of the financial year it uses)
  • An account showing profit & loss (comprising the company’s annual profit/loss, running costs & company sales
  • Any notes which are relevant to the accounts

An Auditor’s Report

Unless your company is eligible for an audit exemption, you will need to file an Auditor’s Report. You will however, only need to provide shortened accounts (notes and a balance sheet) for Companies House, if your company’s income is under £6.5 million per annum. It is nonetheless, mandatory to provide complete statutory accounts for the Inland Revenue and shareholders.

If your company is not active, then it is still a legal requirement to prepare your accounts for Companies House (this should comprise notes and a statement of the balance of funds). It is not necessary to file accounts with HMRC unless a company becomes inactive after a period of activity.

Corporation Tax and Company Tax Returns

You will need to file your company’s tax returns and pay corporate tax at the time of your accounting period. This normally starts when your business activities begin and finishes on the company’s anniversary date. Filing must be done within a twelve-month period after your company’s financial year ends. The Inland revenue necessitates that this is done online. You also have to ensure that you submit form CT600, your complete statutory accounts, and corporate tax calculations. Other data that must be provided includes: loans that have been taken out, assets that have made gains, any losses that you want to include from the former tax year, and any data regarding capital allowances.

HMRC Late Filing Penalties

The corporation tax deadline stands at 9 months plus 1 day from the end of your company’s financial year, although your tax payment must be submitted prior to filing your tax return. Fines for can range between £150 to £1,500 if you submit your yearly accounts to Companies House late for the first time. If you repeat this the following year, these figures double. And if you do not file on time, and do not ameliorate the situation, then you could face a personal prosecution with a draconian fine of as much as £5,000. Moreover, the Inland Revenue can fine you between £100 to ten percent of the sum owed. If you do this three consecutive times, you will have to pay at least a £500 penalty.

Tackling Tax Returns the Best Way Possible

Having read about all the complexities, mandatory procedures and unwelcome penalties, you have probably come to the conclusion that finding a suitable accountant, is by far, the best way forward.

Tips on Finding the Right Accountant For Your Needs

The first thing to consider is the type of business you operate, and look for a accountant within that field. If they specialise in the same industry, that will be a big plus. Naturally, it would be unwise to contact a large accountancy practice which specialises in big corporations, as not only would it be prohibitively expensive, they would not have expertise in your field. There are many reasonably priced independent accountants whose main filed is helping small businesses.

Try to look for:

  • An accountant who you can have a good rapport with
  • Someone who you find trustworthy
  • An accountant who has good client reviews
  • Someone who had been recommended by another small business
  • An accountant who you have independently researched

What Qualifications Should the Accountant Have?

The best recommendation is to only consult an accountant who is a member of a recognised government association for Chartered/Management accountants. By consulting the later, it is guaranteed that his or her training and accounting knowledge (such as recent changes in regulations), is current. Should require a company audit as well, you must ensure that they are also officially listed an auditor. While deciding on who to consult, be sure to consider doing the following:

  • Do some research on a number of suitable accountants, and find out their standard fees and other charges by asking for quotes
  • A lot of accountants offer flexible fee options, so be sure to ask for the list. Also, you should decide whether you prefer to pay an unfixed fee once the accounts are completed, or if you would rather opt for paying a fixed fee every month.
  • Be mindful that pay as you go style services enable you to keep tabs on the services you are being billed for, and that if you’re not monitoring what is being done, the charges can swiftly build up.
  • Try to maintain an up to date company expense record, and some basic bookkeeping duties to help save on the accountant’s charges

Making an Initial Appointment

You will find that most accountants do not charge for a preliminary meeting to discuss your needs and ask questions. Prepare a list of what you want to ask before you go and take along various documents such as a copy of your company registration and bank details.

This is a very important meeting, as you may find that you do not have any rapport with the accountant, or that he or she does not fully answer your questions. In which case, you can book a meeting with another one. Bearing in mind that you may be using their services for many years, you want to feel happy about your choice, and able to call upon them whenever you need to.

If you find several suitable accountants through internet searches, once you have received details of their fees, and are satisfied with the same, then you could always make appointments with all of them. The choice is yours!

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