Adventures In Micro-Business: Staying safe, making it pay and selling up...

Russell Smith answers your queries
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QMy daughter has recently started her own business which involves a lot of travel. I hate to be an interfering mother but I am worried about her safety - could you offer advice please?

Q. My daughter has recently started her own business which involves a lot of travel. I hate to be an interfering mother but I am worried about her safety - could you offer advice please?

A. The best place to seek advice is The Suzy Lamplugh Trust (020-8876 0305). Their excellent website ( www.suzylamplugh.org) offers practical advice about personal safety and provides Guidance Sheets and other documents as free downloads. The Trust also publishes an excellent book, Passport To Safer Travel (£7.99 + £2p&p), aimed at those intending to go abroad on their own, especially young people. However, it is useful to think of business travel in the wider context of personal safety at work. The Trust advises lone workers to adopt a "buddy" system and contact someone every day when working alone. The lone worker should always let the buddy know about business meetings (who, when and where), and contact the buddy before and after appointments, especially when meeting someone for the first time. Mobile phones and text messaging make this easier to adopt than it sounds.

Q. Two years ago I started a small business which has gone well but I am increasingly unhappy with the effort and costs associated with late-payers. What can I do?

A. Late payment is a big problem for small business: approximately 10,000 UK businesses fail each year as a consequence. A general overview, A User's Guide to Late Payment Legislation may be downloaded free from the Better Payment Practice Group's website ( www.payontime.co.uk). However, it would be useful to review - with your accountant - your cash control mechanisms, including how you set credit facilities for customers.

Q. My small business is doing well but most sales come from overseas. Can you suggest a way of raising our profile at home?

A. You should take a look at the Queen's Awards for Enterprise website ( www.queensawards.org.uk) since there is a category for international trade. You don't have to be a large company - the award is judged on growth of sales at levels that are outstanding for the size of the applicant's operations.

Q. I am just about to set up a new company and would like to use the word "Olympic" as part of the business name but I've been told that would not be allowed. Is that right?

A. The word "Olympic" would require the approval of The British Olympic Association before applying to Companies House. Further information about business names may be found in document GBF3 at www.companieshouse.gov.uk. Call them on 0870 333 3636.

Q. My husband and I would like to sell our small business and retire. Could you recommend some basic information about what is involved please?

A. The Business Link website ( www.businesslink.gov.uk) has useful articles about selling your business, the associated tax implications and your responsibilities to employees. If the proposed sale is likely to be to other family members, then take a look at the "Keeping it in the family" document available from the accounting body ACCA's website ( www.acca.co.uk).

QUESTIONS PLEASE

Send your questions to Prof Russell Smith at ios@businessboffins.com. Selected questions will be answered each month. Answers are for the general guidance of owner-managers only; always seek professional advice.

Professor Smith is the founder of Oxford-based Business Boffins Ltd which, in collaboration with Oxford Brookes University Business School, delivers sustainability support programmes to small businesses nationwide. Independent on Sunday readers can enrol on the university-accredited programme at a discounted rate; see www.businessboffins.com/ios

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