Adventures In Micro-Business: When does a pay rise mean a promotion?

Each month Professor Russell Smith answers your queries
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The Independent Online

Q. Is there a simple "rule of thumb" to allow me to choose between a pay rise and a promotion for a member of staff?

A. Generally speaking, a promotion should arise only when a member of staff has taken on a permanent increase in responsibility such that their job description has changed significantly. A pay rise generally accompanies a promotion but may also be awarded, without a promotion, for a less significant change in responsibility. Finally, someone "covering" for another member of staff during a temporary absence may be best rewarded by a "bonus" instead.

Q. Can you suggest a good way of keeping up to date with changing business legislation without having to spend a fortune on an accountant?

A. Business Link's website ( www.businesslink.gov.uk) has a "What's New?" section that is very useful. Their regulation updates are published well in advance of any changes and remain on the website for 30 days after the change comes into effect. Business Link also offers a helpful "E-mail alert" service that will tell you about every new regulation change before it happens.

Q. I use internet banking and am concerned about the "fake" e-mails I get supposedly from my bankers. How can I protect against possible internet fraud?

A. Start by talking to your bankers since many banks offer a range of internet banking services. In its simplest form, internet banking allows you to check your account at any time of day. More complex services include the ability to make "same day" transfers of money. If you need to transfer money regularly, it may be best to set up a system that requires two people: one to "initiate" the transfer and one to "validate" it. The Get Safe Online website ( www.getsafeonline.org), sponsored by government, banks and other organisations, offers a lot of helpful advice and information.

Q. What are the administrative tasks that any small business should "contract out" in order to be more efficient?

A. Number one on my list would be that of payroll. Most accountants offer a service that is not only cost-effective but that can save you a lot of time. Next would be that of book-keeping - most of us hate it, whereas a part-time book-keeper will probably be able to whizz through your paperwork in no time at all. And for a self-employed person, why not consider engaging a professional answering service? These services allow for phone calls to be routed from your own phone to a real person who answers calls in your absence and takes messages on your behalf. Messages can either be provided to you via text or e-mailed to you for collection later in the day. Customers will certainly appreciate being dealt with professionally when you are unable to take their calls in person. And that might just make the difference for a potential sale.

Q. I don't have the capital to buy manufacturing equipment and grow my business as quickly as I would like to and I don't want to extend my business bank loan. Could you tell me where I can find advice about leasing options?

A. The Finance and Leasing Association website ( www.fla.org.uk) provides lots of useful information and you can download their "Guide to Hire Purchase and Leasing" booklet free of charge.

QUESTIONS PLEASE

Send your questions to Professor Russell Smith at ios@businessboffins.com

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: www.businessboffins.com/ios

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