Adventures in micro-business

Professor Russell Smith answers your queries and profiles a small business facing a big challenge


Q.
Where can I find out more about whether grants might be available for my business?

A. Government support for small business is co-ordinated by Business Link, so you should speak to one of its advisers. Their advice is free. Different grant schemes (sometimes including access to loans and investment finance) are offered within the Regional Development Agency (RDA) areas of England in addition to national initiatives. You can find a local Business Link adviser by entering your postcode on the home page of their website ( www.businesslink.gov.uk ). Alternatively, call the Business Link helpline on 0845-600 9006.



Q. I've heard that certain business software is available for free – where can I find out more?

A. You may be referring to open source software, which is often available as a free download. One well-known example is the Mozilla Firefox web browser, but there are many others with business applications, such as word processing or archiving and even full office suites. You can find a list of the best free and open source software for Windows at www.opensourcewindows.org.

Q. When should I have my financial year end for my new business?

A. There used to be good tax reasons for a year end being in a particular month, but these no longer really apply. The main consideration should be what is best for your business, and this is often just a pragmatic decision. For example, you might want to have your year end at a quiet time of the year in order to ensure that an associated stocktake can be done when you are least busy. Always take advice from your accountant about what year end would be best for your business.

Q. What is a members' voluntary liquidation?

A. A members' voluntary liquidation (MVL) is a mechanism to close down a company that is solvent. The directors must produce a schedule of all assets and liabilities known as a declaration of solvency. That declaration must show that the company will be able to pay all liabilities within 12 months. A liquidator is then appointed after the board of directors has passed certain resolutions and following an extraordinary general meeting of the shareholders (members). The liquidator will realise cash from assets, ensure all creditors are paid, and then distribute the surplus to members prior to winding up the company. Detailed information about MVLs may be found at the Companies House website ( www.companieshouse.gov.uk ).



Q. Are my business accounts confidential?

A. Annual accounts should be prepared by a qualified accountant, and always maintain confidentiality. Subsequent public access to your accounts depends upon your business structure. If you are a sole trader, your accounts are submitted to HMRC ( www.hmrc.gov.uk) from where they are not made public. However, if you wish to borrow money from a bank, then it will almost certainly wish to see your most recent set of accounts. By contrast, if you trade as a limited company then you will have to file annual accounts at Companies House from where access is available to the public upon payment of a modest fee ( www.companieshouse.gov.uk). As a limited company benefits from limited liability, such public access to its annual accounts and other documents gives anyone a chance to make an assessment about the company's financial viability.



Tom Bool/ Integro Languages: ‘It is aimed at people who need instant access to an interpreter’

There's a new breed of student emerging from UK universities – the graduate entrepreneur. Gone are the days when graduates were guaranteed employment, so many now plan to start their own business straight after university. It was while at Anglia Ruskin University, studying for a degree in European business with French, that Tom Bool, 28, wrote the plan that defined his translation-service enterprise, "Integro Languages".

Bool's initial business model is to operate via a network of high-quality translators that he can draw upon when needed. "It took around six months to find the core nucleus able to offer translations in 20 languages, at which point I launched the business," says Bool.

The original plan was to target customers, such as website developers with international clients, via telesales campaigns. However, the campaigns weren't as successful as hoped for, giving Bool his first challenge in business. Undeterred, he looked elsewhere for clients and found an important market niche in social housing.

"Tenants with poor English skills get translations of legal documents and other formal notices that are easy to understand and yet contain all the key information needed," says Bool. Rather than always providing literal translations, it became apparent there was a market need for these "precis" translations.

The approach found favour with law firms, especially those with clients who had foreign property investments. "It's proving really useful to be able to offer a good precis for a range of documents. That includes legal agreements, of course, but also such things as letters from foreign banks and even notices from town halls," says Bool.

Integro Languages has grown rapidly since inception, and doubled its turnover last year. The business now offers translation services for more than 150 languages, a number that is growing. Building on the success of the document translation business, Bool is about to launch "Integro languages on call" – a telephone interpreting service. The service will aim to connect anyone with an interpreter in less than one minute. "The service is aimed at people such as professional advisers who need instant access to an interpreter the moment that a client with poor English enters their office, although it will be available to anyone who needs an interpreter," says Bool. "It's a natural extension of our business model which, to be honest, is quite simple: we help people understand each other."

( www.integrolanguages.co.uk; 0845 0945 390)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links