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Here's how we can help your business spring summer2012
Save time and money
with Direct Debit here’s how
we can help your business…
Generally you could pay 2% less for your electricity if you switch to pay
by Direct Debit. Because your payments become easier to administer,
we can remove the surcharge that’s added to bills paid by other means.
Save time paying bills. With Direct Debit, the payment is automatic
– so once it’s set up, you don’t need to do anything more.
Choose which way to pay. You can opt for
variable Direct Debit and just pay for what
you’ve used or, for easier budgeting, you can
pay the same amount each month as a fixed
monthly Direct Debit. Your account is then
Inject fresh life into your workplace:
reviewed at least once a year to ensure your
payment is appropriate.
Spring clean to help boost productivity
To set up a Direct Debit, Get involved with your local community
call us on
0845 166 3360 Save
Cut costs with group buying deals
Phone calls: We may monitor and/or record calls for security, quality or training purposes. Calls to 0845 numbers may be free from BT landlines but will vary with other
providers, and calls from mobiles may be considerably higher. Please check with your provider for exact charges.
RF10798 npm10000 Q2 SME Billing 2012.indd 1-2 05/04/2012 13:45
Welcome Energy Market View
Energy market view
With warmer weather on its
way, why not inject some fresh
life into your business?
Energy market view 3
No change in policy, but good news with
Hot topic: Spring clean your business 4 lower gas prices
Need to know: Employment law 7
Refresh Energy Savers: Invest for efficiency 8 Change at the top of the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC),
Now’s an ideal time to spring clean your business and Spotlight on: Community action 10 with Ed Davey replacing Chris Huhne, doesn’t alter things much for the energy
help your operation run more efficiently and profitably Quick guide: Online resources 13 market – at least for now.
– see our ten-point plan starting on page 4.
How to: Boost purchasing power 14
Davey’s key message as he took over was that there
Contribute Save money: Direct Debit 16 would be no change in energy policy – even taking Janet Wood is editor
of Utility Week.
Getting involved with your local community provides forward DECC’s widely-criticised plans to cut solar
two-way benefits that can help to raise your business’s photovoltaic tariffs. Although it was well known
profile – as illustrated on pages 10-12. that these generous tariffs would be cut in 2012 –
because the price of solar panels was falling so fast
– DECC’s decision to bring forward the reductions,
Save so they took effect with little notice, caused an
The rise in group-buying sites for SMEs allows outcry. By the Spring, it was still not clear whether
smaller companies to gain greater purchasing power the new tariffs would mean solar power installation Reduced demand for gas
– find out more on pages 14-15. could benefit small and medium users.
While the latest government figures show that the
UK’s reliance on imported gas has increased, the
You can find out how to invest to potentially save Spotlight on SMEs
on energy bills and get the lowdown on useful online Group Buying Davey’s experience as consumer minister means
anticipated price hikes haven’t materialised. In fact,
we are now in a better position to benefit when
resources, plus see the back cover for more on
Direct Debit savings. Discount he brings to his new job an interest in domestic
measures like buying groups, but less of a track
global gas prices fall – and that’s the situation in
Wishing you a great Summer! record of measures for SMEs. Interestingly, it’s
energy suppliers themselves who have begun to Reduced demand is partly the cause – the UK’s gas
Group-buying sites bring big-company wake up to the importance of these customers. use in 2011 was the lowest since 1995, according to
Pam Andrew discounts to the SME sector – read more This year has seen suppliers like npower offering DECC. And this year we are still well supplied and
Customer Service Manager in our feature on pages 14-15. new products to businesses at the larger end of using relatively little. Energy market watchers Platt’s
this sector, so it’s feasible we may see more choice forecasts that gas prices are “drifting down”.
coming to the wider SME market in the near future.
Regardless of contract type, however, there’s some Also on the way down was the price of coal. So with
welcome news in the form of lower wholesale energy demand and fuel prices lower, now may be a
Editorial content provided by Susannah Lawson & Associates (www.slcommunications.co.uk). gas prices. good time to renew any lapsed supply contracts.
npower is a registered trademark and a trading name of Npower Direct Limited (registered in England and Wales No.3782443) and associated companies.
Registered Office: Windmill Hill Business Park, Whitehill Way, Swindon SN5 6PB.
RF10798 npm10000 Q2 SME Billing 2012.indd 3-4 05/04/2012 13:45
Hot topic Hot topic
your business Technical appraisal: review stores
of old equipment and sell, recycle or
donate any that’s no longer useful
Performing at your best is key for
your company to stay competitive -
so SME expert Mark Williams offers
some tips to refresh your business
You might have an old PC, monitor or printer that’s
doing nothing more than gathering dust and taking
up space. If you can’t sell it and don’t fancy a trip
to the tip, some computer-recycling companies
will come and collect (you might want to destroy
sensitive data first). You might also have other
machinery/equipment you can get rid of, so why
not free up the space and some cash?
A customer database can be a vital marketing
tool, but only if the information it contains is
accurate and current. ‘Clean’ your database by
updating names and addresses where necessary
and remove those who are unlikely to buy from
you. Also, re-organise your database so that you can
more easily target your better customers. And don’t
forget that as well as keeping information up to date
and relevant, the Data Protection Act also requires
you to keep all customer data secure too.
4. Brand 5. Products or services 6. Website
3. Business plan Is your brand looking a little tired or scruffy? Now could be the perfect time to replace Do you need to delete any inaccurate or irrelevant
Over time this can easily happen, so maybe it’s underperforming products or services. They might information? Maybe the copy could be rewritten to
If you’re in the mood for spring cleaning, don’t
time to clean up your act. As well as your logo, have had their day. They might never have been make a better job of promoting your business and
forget to dust off your business plan. Some of the
stationery, website and signage, how your staff dress as popular as you had hoped. Clean them out and its product. Does content need to be optimised for
information will be out of date. Things change
and interact with customers affects perceptions introduce new products or services. Be guided by search engines? Are all links still working? Could you
quickly in business, which is why you should update
of your brand. Some simple tweaks might make it knowledge of your market. If necessary, speak to upload better images? Maybe you could add new
your plan at least once a year if it is to remain a
sparkle again. At worst, your brand may need a total your customers to find out what new products or traffic-boosting features, such as a blog, or update
useful tool. This can help you to regain sight of your
rethink, which should be carried out as part of a services they’d buy. your customer testimonials?
business objectives and development strategies. comprehensive marketing review.
RF10798 npm10000 Q2 SME Billing 2012.indd 5-6 05/04/2012 13:46
Hot topic Need to know
If your office shelves are literally groaning under the
Employment law update
weight of a paper and box file mountain, it’s time to
act. Recycle paperwork you no longer need (shred A summary of key legislative changes that take effect from April 2012.
it first). Don’t keep printed invoices if you can save
space by storing them electronically (be sure to
back-up important files). Is there a tidier way to file • F
rom 1 April, the standard rate of statutory enforcing authority if the employee suffers any
receipts? If you can view them online, why retain maternity, paternity and adoption pay will incapacity for more than seven days – rather than
printed bank statements? Introduce a business-wide increase from £128.73 to £135.45 per week. more than three, as before. The employer must
policy of not printing unless absolutely necessary then report the accident within 15 days (previously
– it will save you space and money. • T
he income tax personal allowance threshold they had just 10 days).
will increase by £630 to £8,105. The higher
8. Computers income tax rate of 50% will be lowered to • T
he Pensions Act 2007 and the Pensions Act
£34,371 (from £35,001). 2008 will abolish contracting out of the state
Begin by cleaning up your PC desktops. File away
additional pension on a defined-contribution
stuff you need to keep – delete the rest. Run
operating system, software and virus-protection
10. Take stock • T
he lower earnings limit for primary Class basis for occupational, personal and stakeholder
As well as taking up space you are paying for, 1 National Insurance contributions (NICs) pension schemes. Employees will be automatically
updates to ensure your computers are protected and
unsold stock ties up capital. To get rid of it, the will rise from £102 to £107. brought back into the State system and they’ll
run smoothly. You might need to get outside help
first obvious tactic is to offer heavily discounted start to accumulate entitlement to additional
to spring clean your IT system if it’s more complex.
prices or possibly a two-for-one offer. When • T
he standard rate of statutory sick pay will State Pension. Those in money-purchase/defined-
Delete emails you don’t need to keep and put the
working out discounted prices be sure to factor in increase from £81.60 to £85.85 a week. contribution occupational schemes will pay the
rest into neatly categorised folders. Give your screen
all costs if you want to avoid quite literally giving standard rate NICs (not the reduced rate).
a thorough wipe and tidy away any cables.
your stock away. • E
mployees will need to have been employed
9. Premises within a role for two years to be able to bring
Why not hold a sale of discounted items to an unfair dismissal claim. Previously, only one
Right, there’s no more putting it off. It’s time to attract customers to your premises or website? year’s service was required. However, this will
roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty by This can generate sales of non-discounted items. only apply to employees who begin a new job
physically cleaning your premises. Involve all Some businesses even use slow-selling goods on or after 6 April 2012.
team members and try to inject a bit of fun into to sweeten bundled offers or as loss-leaders to
proceedings. Clear away all clutter – pay particular bolster higher margin sales. • T
here will also be changes to employment
attention to desktops, shelves and other flat surfaces. tribunal procedure. Among them, the
If you don’t use it – remove it. Make sure any You might be able to sell excess stock via eBay maximum amount a tribunal can order a party
kitchen, eating, bathroom and customer areas are or another auction website (see Group Buying to pay as a condition that proceedings will
immaculate. After dusting, brushing and mopping, article on page 14). Bear in mind you will have to continue will rise from £500 to £1,000. The
re-organise the layout to create a more efficient and pay fees and organise/charge for postage. You maximum amount a tribunal can award in
productive environment. Why not consider getting could sell to a stock liquidator – but don’t expect favour of a legally represented party will rise
the place decorated in the summer? And don’t forget good prices. Did you know?
from £10,000 to £20,000.
to follow the relevant health and safety guidelines. Although regulations can come into force
ealth and safety reporting requirements throughout the year, some key government
will also change from 6 April 2012. Following departments implement their changes on
a serious injury sustained in the workplace, either 6 April or 1 October (so-called ‘common
an employer must report the accident to the commencement dates’).
RF10798 npm10000 Q2 SME Billing 2012.indd 7-8 05/04/2012 13:46
Energy savers Energy savers
Increase energy efficiency:
top five investment opportunities
The Carbon Trust estimates that SMEs have the greatest potential of any business
group to save on energy costs. Susannah Lawson picks five areas that can bring big
wins with a little investment, from insulation to lighting choice.
Insulation can cut up to 50%
of heat loss
Lighting for less Preventing heat loss Driving down costs
Lighting is a key area to make savings, as it often Unless properly insulated, the National Insulation Running motors and drives uses almost two thirds
accounts for up to 40% of a building’s energy Association estimates a building can lose around of the electricity consumed by UK industry. In fact,
use. According to research by the Carbon Trust, half of its heat through the roof and walls. the cost of running a motor for a year can be ten
investment in lighting efficiency could save UK An approved installer should be happy to provide times what it cost to buy in the first place. So the
businesses and organisations up to £700 million a free survey looking at a variety of insulation efficiency of motor operation is critical to reducing
a year. Swapping to energy efficient lighting and measures including loft insulation, draught proofing, energy bills. Replacing large motors running at low
bulbs – including LED technology – and installing cavity wall insulation and solid wall insulation. load levels (ie less than 40%) with smaller higher
lighting controls such as automatic sensors can Lagging heating and steam pipes can also help efficiency ones can make significant savings. If
deliver impressive savings. to reduce unnecessary waste. the load being driven by your motor has a varying
demand, installing a variable speed drive could also
Condensing heating spend Easy equipment savers save energy.
More than half a smaller business’s energy spend Effective management of office equipment can Office light choice can have a
can go on heating and hot water. And while reduce its energy consumption by up to 70%, so For more information on the most effective
big impact on energy costs
simple measures can help to reduce costs – such it’s an area worth reviewing. For example, according investments for reducing your business energy bill
as turning down the heating by 1˚C to save to Ovum, an independent technology analyst, and to download your free Energy Efficiency guide
around 8% – installing boiler load optimisers or installing computer power management solutions go to:
even replacing old inefficient boilers can deliver can deliver average consumption savings of 40%
significant savings. For example, replacing a – or around £23 per computer per year. Laptops npower.com/smartstartq2
conventional boiler with a condensing model can are also cheaper to run as they typically use only Using laptops rather than
save 10-20% on annual energy costs. around 10% of the energy of a desktop computer. or visit:
desktop PCs can save energy
Programmable heating controls
help to better manage costs
Unless otherwise stated, all energy saving statistics sourced from the Carbon Trust. All figures and statistics are correct at time of going to print April 2012.
RF10798 npm10000 Q2 SME Billing 2012.indd 9-10 05/04/2012 13:46
Spotlight on Spotlight on
Increasing numbers of small firms have been quietly supporting good causes in
their communities for many years. But what does it involve and are there any
Banks Accountants staff
“It doesn’t matter how small your business is or Tate adds. “As a first step, try our Responsible got sporty to raise funds
how limited your resources – you can still make Business Check (see bitc.org.uk/responsible_
a big difference in your community,” says Robert business_check_up). It’s an online tool designed
Tate of Business in the Community (BITC). “Small to help SMEs develop a strategic approach to
firms already power local economies. They are corporate social responsibility. Once you’ve set
also becoming increasingly aware of their social targets, you can measure your success.” Waz estimates that sponsorship costs his business but does excellent work. We knew the money
and environmental impacts and many are seeking about £1,500 a year. “It’s affordable – it has to we raised would make a real difference.”
to make a positive contribution.” be,” he laughs. “In any case, it brings people into
Sports sponsorship the pub. The football teams come in after training Elsden says this year his business is planning
Independent pubs frequently support their and matches, they also have their end-of-season four main fundraising events. “Some are for staff,
He says being a responsible business means
communities, often by sponsoring sports teams function here – likewise with the volleyball team. others will hopefully involve clients. We will always
achieving commercial success while honouring
or getting behind local charity fundraising events. We probably get back the sponsorship money choose Swindon or Wiltshire-based charities.
ethical values and respecting staff, customers,
Waz and Emma Wasyliw own The Eight Bells pub from trade, but we don’t do it for that reason. This year, our target is to raise £4,000 for Prospect
the community and the natural environment.
in Bolney, near Haywards Heath, West Sussex. Without support from local businesses, these Hospice in Swindon.
“Maloney’s Budgens is a small retailer in Ascot
“We bought the pub five years ago and have always teams wouldn’t survive, and that would have a
that won our Small Company of the Year 2011
supported the local community,” says Waz. really negative impact on the spirit of Bolney.” Giving something back
award. It developed a community plan that
helped local suppliers increase their sales. They “I believe all businesses have an obligation to
“We sponsor Bolney Rovers football team. The pub also supports many local events. As
also work with local schools and provide a home support their community. It’s a corny phrase,
Last year we bought them a new kit; this year, Waz explains: “We have a village day and last
delivery service for people with disabilities.” but apt – we want to ‘give something back’.
our sponsorship went towards their running costs. year we paid for the band. We also sponsored a
We also sponsor darts, pool and bar billiards pub After all, without our clients, who are mostly
pram race that raised £8,000 for local charities.
“There are many no or low-cost ways to help your local, we wouldn’t have a business.”
teams, as well as the Dolphin volleyball team.” We get involved in many fundraising activities in
community,” Tate says. “You could offer work
the village – the pub is the traditional hub of the
experience to a young or disadvantaged person Does fundraising bring any positive PR? “Some,
community. We enjoy it too.”
or lend your skills to a local school or charity. via the local media,” Elsden admits, “but that’s a
And lessening your environmental impact, as bonus, not the reason why we do it. In any case,
well as benefiting the community, can save Charity fundraising any publicity is good for the charity.
you money too.” Neil Elsden is director of Swindon-based Banks
Chartered Accountants. “Last year was the first “Fundraising is also great for team spirit. Doing
Business benefits time we raised money for a charity. We held a fun things in support of good causes brings people
client golf day and entered a team in the Swindon together. In particular, there was a fantastic team
But what are the key business benefits? “Improved
Half Marathon, which I took part in,” he explains. spirit surrounding our involvement in the half
reputation and higher profile, which can help you
to win and retain customers and boost sales,” Tate marathon, among supporters and runners.
replies. “Being active in the community doesn’t “We raised £2,683 for Wiltshire Young Carers, There was some friendly rivalry too,” he smiles.
have to be complicated or time-consuming,” a local charity that doesn’t have a high profile,
RF10798 npm10000 Q2 SME Billing 2012.indd 11-12 05/04/2012 13:46
Spotlight on Quick guide
npower in the community As well as Macmillan, npower supports numerous
regional community-based charities and actively
“At npower we take our social and environmental
encourages employees to take time out during
responsibilities seriously and our community
working hours to help the community.
programme aims to give something back to the
communities we operate in,” says Anita Longley,
“Many employees support charitable or community
Director of Corporate Responsibility.
groups in their spare time, for example by coaching
a local amateur football team,” says Longley.
“We focus on three areas where we believe we
can make the biggest difference: improving health,
protecting the environment and education, and
“Through npower’s Employee Volunteering
Award Scheme, they can also apply for financial Our favourite online resources
contributions for the organisations they help.”
we contribute time, resources and money. Many
of our projects are run in partnership with other Content-rich websites that can inform, assist and inspire business owners and managers
In 2000 npower set up the npower Health Through
organisations, charities and community groups.
Warmth (HTW) scheme to help vulnerable people
These long-term partnerships give us more scope
to impact the community in a positive and
living in cold, damp homes by installing heating 1. businesslink.gov.uk 4. smarta.com
and insulation measures. The scheme helps people You can no longer access face-to-face advice from Launched in 2009, Smarta.com is a business support
of any age and they don’t have to be npower a Business Link adviser, but thankfully you can still and advice network for start-ups, small-business
customers. HTW works closely with the NHS, visit this government website for information about owners and entrepreneurs. The site contains a
Home Improvement and Care and Repair agencies how to start, run and grow a business. The site large selection of free practical guides, tools and
and National Energy Action. contains more than 600 succinct guides, and the video interviews. It’s a big hit with Dragons’ Den
more recently added Growth and Improvement star Deborah Meaden, who says: “Smarta provides
Service pages are well worth a look. uncluttered, informative advice from people who’ve
been there and done it.”
A huge online resource of free marketing advice. 5. realbusiness.co.uk
This independent site offers practical tips on internet According to the publishers, “Real Business is an
marketing, PR, advertising, customer care, selling, award-winning magazine and website, the place
Employees take part in raising money market research and direct marketing via how-to where successful entrepreneurs gather to share
for Macmillan Cancer Support guides, expert QAs, case studies, checklists, videos experiences and gain inspiration.” The website is
and blogs. Part of a popular series of free business- updated daily and is a trusted source of news and
support websites that includes startupdonut.co.uk, information for more than 75,000 unique users a
Kevin Keegan lends his support to lawdonut.co.uk, taxdonut.co.uk and itdonut.co.uk month. The profiles, guides and opinion pieces are
npower’s partnership with Macmillan Cancer the Climate Cops ‘No Power Hour’
Support is now valued at more than £5m and well worth reading.
employees have taken part in a huge range of
fundraising events. Last September, they raised If you’re planning to start importing or exporting, 6. acas.org.uk
“Through our Climate Cops schools programme, visit the government’s UK Trade Investment Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration
£45,000 for Macmillan in just one day at the
launched in November 2007, we’ve been website. It contains a wealth of useful information Service) provides independent, impartial and
World’s Biggest Coffee Morning. The company
helping schools across the UK to become more about trading in 20-plus sectors in 200-plus confidential advice on a range of HR issues to
matches all employees’ fundraising efforts pound-
sustainable,” says Longley. “So far we’ve helped countries. You can also read import/export-related employers and employees. The organisation exists
70,000 children learn how they can save energy at news and blogs and find out about trade events you to improve employment relations. Its website
home and school.” might want to attend. features a selection of handy downloadable guides
RF10798 npm10000 Q2 SME Billing 2012.indd 13-14 05/04/2012 13:46
How to How to
Boost your purchasing power
The range of offers available is also very broad. This is why de Villiers decided to structure his
The rise of the group-buying site can be good news for businesses looking to “Suppliers might include printers, web designers, group-buying site along a more traditional trading
save money on a range of products and services. Susannah Lawson reports. SEO experts, regional press titles, business insurers, framework. However, he concedes that no matter
recruitment specialists, leaflet distributors, what the type of purchasing method, the benefits
photographers or taxi firms for example – any area still outweigh any potential accounting challenges.
Could your business benefit from guaranteed of purchasing interest to a small business owner,” “Regardless of the method chosen, the simple fact
PR coverage for under £400 with a money-back says Harrington-Griffin. that very significant discounts are now becoming
guarantee? Or how about saving 54% on a Dell readily available is a huge boost for the business
laser printer? These – plus discounts of up to 90% Voucher model community, especially in difficult economic times.”
on business training and events, office equipment,
Once you select a deal you want to buy, you
recruitment and more – are up for grabs courtesy
normally pay online and receive a voucher to
of a new trend in buying: the group-deals site.
redeem for your goods or service. But this can Group-buying at a glance
create problems for company accounting
You may already be familiar with websites such To take advantage of group-buying, you simply
procedures, as Neil de Villiers, Managing Director
as Groupon or KGB Deals offering discounts on need to register with whatever site – or sites –
of Blue Square Deals, points out. “Businesses of a
home and leisure-related purchases such as pizza, take your fancy. You can then scan the deals on
reasonable size have a problem buying vouchers,”
house insurance or spa days. But now the idea has offer and some sites will also send you emails with
he says. “Vouchers are a consumer-based vehicle
spread to the SME market, with a flurry of sites ‘deals of the day’ or offers that the site considers
that simply doesn’t fit into standard accounting
springing up to offer heavily discounted products most suitable for your business sector or particular
practices. Most companies require purchase orders,
and services to smaller businesses. area of interest. Sites with added extras include:
Online SME marketing expert order confirmations, invoices, etc.”
Alex Harrington-Griffin •
smediscounts.com – national and regional
Economies of scale deals plus an online small business advice
“Connecting a community of small business centre. Their site says: “Our aim is to help
buyers together gives each one the purchasing Some sites operate a bulk-buying model, small businesses improve their performance
power of a much larger company,” explains so only when a deal attracts a specified minimum and reduce business costs.”
online marketing expert Alex Harrington-Griffin, number of orders is the supplier then committed
huddlebuy.com – bills itself as offering
who himself founded the SME group buying site to fulfilling it at the price they’ve proposed.
“daily deals for entrepreneurs.” As well as
Business Crayon. “This economy of scale provides “This gives suppliers control over structuring a
discounted products and services, the site
the opportunity for members to try new products deal which covers overheads while acquiring
posts a regular blog with business tips – from
and services, which help a small company expand new customers,” says Harrington-Griffin.
marketing and web design to acquiring better
their business – from online marketing expertise “It’s an incredibly low-risk form of marketing,
to advertising in the national media. From a with guaranteed ROI in terms of immediate sales
supplier perspective they have a no-risk way of and then the opportunity to forge relationships •
bluesquaredeals.co.uk – this site operates slightly
marketing their business, while making sales and with these new customers going forward.” differently, with offers limited by quantity rather
new contacts.” than marketed as daily deals to ensure the supplier
can manage to deliver to a high standard. It
also offers subscribers a regular newsletter with
marketing and sales advice and tips.
Where can I get discounted office furniture? Search
RF10798 npm10000 Q2 SME Billing 2012.indd 15-16 05/04/2012 13:46