Adventures in Micro-Business: Imports, exports and staff training budgets

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Q. I am keen for my business to get into importing raw materials and exporting finished products but am very nervous about the whole import/export process. Where can I find out about the basics?

A. The Business Link website ( contains an excellent range of briefings and a glossary of international trade terms. Another vital source will be your bank, especially if you will be trading primarily within the EU and need to set up an account for euros. Speak with your local Chamber of Commerce or visit their website (www.chamber since support for international trade is one of their flagship services.

Q. An employee has asked about adoption leave. Can you suggest a good source of information please?

A. The TUC's work SMART website ( has a good section on adoption leave, while information on statutory adoption pay can be found on the Work and Pensions website (; both are written from the employee's perspective. Guidance for owner-managers is available from the www.working website while HM Revenue & Customs provides a Statutory Adoption Pay calculator ( uk/calcs/sap.htm).

Q.I have a member of staff coming up for retirement. Is it true that new legislation means retirement rules have now changed?

A.The new regulations include a new procedure which all employers must follow when dealing with retirement. Employers now have to consider requests from employees who wish to work beyond their normal retirement age. For further information visit the "ageposi+ive" website ( ACAS can provide confidential advice (08457 474747 from 8am-6pm, Monday to Friday) or visit the ACAS website ( to download a copy of their free booklet, Age and the workplace, a guide for employers.

Q. What proportion of my business revenue should I budget for staff training?

A. Different businesses will have differing training needs and small business owners are often hard-pressed to invest in training when funds are tight. However, consider investing up to 5 per cent of your revenue in targetted training since that should produce positive results for the business.


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. For details, see:

Send your questions to Professor Russell Smith at