Adventures in Micro-business

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

Q. Because of customers paying slowly at the moment, I'm worried I might not be able to meet my VAT bill. What should I do?



A. Almost a year ago, HM Revenue and Customs set up a dedicated business payment support service – you should call them straight away on 0845 302 1435. You will need to quote your VAT number and tell them how much you owe and when you propose to pay (simply delayed or by instalments) if that will be after the due date. The support line is very efficient and most callers will get an answer on the spot. The same business help line can also be used if you are worried about meeting other tax or national insurance payments on time. Visit www.hmrc.gov.uk/pbr2008/ business-payment.htm for further information.





Q. Is it harder to get business finance in the current climate?



A. The short answer is probably "yes", but there are schemes available to help. The most important one is the Enterprise Finance Guarantee (EFG) scheme in which borrowing up to £1m over a period of up to 10 years is supported by a Government guarantee of 75 per cent. The borrower pays a 2 per cent premium to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) on the outstanding balance. Businesses with a turnover of less than £25m can apply, although some restrictions on business sector do apply. The EFG scheme is available from most, but not all, banks. Speak with your bank manager if you wish to seek finance through this scheme. Further information is available about this and other schemes at the BIS website ( www.bis.gov.uk ). Remember all loan applications will need to be accompanied by a sound business plan and a robust cash-flow forecast (business budget).



Q. I am thinking about starting a business, but am a bit worried about all of the rules and regulations. Where can I find out about what rules will apply to me.



A. The Business Link website ( www.businesslink.gov.uk) offers a regulation checklist via a simple questionnaire. However, anyone thinking of starting a business should discuss what financial regulations will apply through a consultation with an accountant. Many people new to business find calculations for PAYE can be complicated and time-consuming – ask your accountant if they offer a monthly PAYE service as this can be very cost-effective. Your accountant will also be able to help you with VAT calculations if your anticipated turnover will require you to charge VAT on sales (the current VAT turnover threshold is £68,000).



Q. Where can I get advice about developing an export side to my business?



A . You are not alone in wanting to develop export activity as many businesses are seeking to do that in order to maintain growth in these challenging times. The UK Trade and Investment website ( www.uktrade invest.gov.uk) has a wealth of information, and is a good place to start. You should investigate its "Passport to Export" programme, which is designed for those new to international trade. The programme is delivered by regional trade teams. Call the inquiry service on 020-7215 8000 to find out where the team nearest to you is based. The British Chambers of Commerce are also very active with help for exporters and run a number of support schemes. Visit their website ( www.britishchambers. org.uk/zones/export) for more information.



Matthew Eaves set up Chelmsford-based cleveratom in 2007





Sometimes, being in the right place at the right time really does matter, although few students can claim to be recruited on their graduation day. But for Matthew Eaves, 29, a chance meeting with IT expert Professor Stephen Heppell on that very day led to developing an online course in leadership for headteachers. Eaves then spent the next two years working with Heppell on a project for the RNLI aimed at engaging young people with the work of lifeboats. And following that, Eaves worked on diverse learning projects including the peace process in Northern Ireland, and even on the beaches of Thailand, following the 2004 tsunami, using film-making to develop community regeneration.



Having been diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of nine, Eaves found traditional teaching methods a challenge, but excelled at subjects that allowed flexible learning, creative thinking and problem solving. Perhaps it's not a surprise then that Eaves is passionate about the use of new and emerging technologies in the development of learning environments. As he says, "Technology can help kids to be creative and to excel."



In January 2007, Eaves, along with like-minded colleagues, founded cleveratom as "a specialist company which aims to nurture creativity through the use of new and emerging technologies". The new team approached Essex Regeneration Agency with its ideas, and the agency was so impressed that it provided free offices in the Essex Technology and Innovation Centre in Ongar. By May 2007, the team had moved into its own premises in Chelmsford. The young company tendered for its first project within weeks of starting the business and won a contract to evaluate the learning platforms of schools and colleges in the north of England.



That project led to both a book and a DVD about best practice – quality products that helped to kick the business off. From there the business has gone from strength to strength, and has built an impressive client list including the BBC, Macmillan Cancer Support, London Business School and the NHS. "We may be a small team, but we deliver big projects," says Eaves. "And the company is growing at a rate of 30 per cent per year."



No doubt, the result of talent combined with lots of hard work. Which makes it quite astonishing that Eaves has found time also to become a successful author. His book How To Survive A Long Haul Flight is now in its second edition.



Jargon Buster

Distance Selling Regulations (DSRs)



Customers purchasing from websites can be at a disadvantage when there's no opportunity to review the product or to discuss the service. DSRs define information that the seller must provide in this situation; for example, a full description of the product or service, price including delivery costs and details of how payments should be made. To learn more, call the Office of Fair Trading on 0800 389 3158 and request a copy of A Short Guide For Business On Distance Selling.





Pay-per-click advertising



This is a form of internet advertising in which business customers only pay when users click on to their advert. As such, this can be a cost-effective use of marketing funds, especially when coupled with targeted marketing campaigns. While, in theory, it is possible to run up large advertising bills, in reality it is normal to define budget parameters in advance. Common parameters include cost-per-click, click-through rates (people going from the ad to your website) and daily budgets.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
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

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Graduate / Trainee Recruitment Consultant - IT

£25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Orgtel are seeking Graduate Trainee Re...

HR Business Partner - Banking Finance - Brentwood - £45K

£45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: ** HR Business Partner - Senior H...

PA / Team Secretary - Wimbledon

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: PA / Team Secretary - Mat...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz