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Halloween: the top 5 spooks for small businesses


Scary. Terrifying. Spooky. Horrifying. All words we are likely to come across as we near the 31st October (no we’re not talking about Brexit), as people across the globe celebrate Halloween.

For many business owners, however, these words relate to much more than this ghostly celebration. They can also represent their reaction to a number of business-related issues that can haunt even the most confident leaders.

In honour of the spookiest month of the year we are taking a look at some of the horrors that can befall small business owners at any time of the year, and how they can be overcome.

Ghoulish cashflow

For all businesses, maintaining cash flow is key to survival. However, it has become a significant issue within the UK (and indeed globally) that poor payment practices are severely impacting business cash flow. Poor practices can come in a number of forms, from forcing suppliers into extended payment terms, demanding discounts for payments on time and, of course, late payments.

The terrifying prospect of chasing for late payments and potentially upsetting customers has led many businesses into cash flow difficulties. Effective credit control, however, is one of very few customer-facing roles within a business, and therefore should be approached in a similar vein to customer service. Polite reminders by phone and email are often all it takes to encourage timely payment. If customers still fail to pay, you may then want to consider escalating the matter, adding late payment interest, sending letters and potentially reconsidering your business relationship.

Chilling compliance responsibilities

Legislative demands on businesses are vast and understanding and ensuring compliance in all aspects can seem like a minefield. The penalties that non-compliance can bring will strike fear in the heart of most business owners, but there are ways that you can ensure that you take legislative requirements into account at all times.

Training your team on legislation and their responsibilities with regard to this, is one of the most effective ways to be confident that your requirements are being met. For administrative tasks, many businesses find it useful to outsource areas to a third party; these companies will be well-versed in compliance and will have a good understanding of what your business needs to do to comply.

The fear of data loss

Rates of cyber-attack are on the rise and have become more sophisticated than ever before. It is vital, therefore, that businesses ensure they implement stringent cybersecurity procedures to reduce their vulnerability to attack. Data loss as a result of attack, or indeed any other disaster, can greatly impact a business’ chance of survival.

We can’t mention compliance without talking about those four letters that have filled business owners with dread over the past few years, GDPR. Collecting and storing data has long been a challenge for businesses, but never more so than since the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulations, which has vastly increased the fines you could receive should you be found in breach.

Following best practices for GDPR and cybersecurity will prove to be highly beneficial. Ensure your entire team understand best practices and take care to document all of the personal data you hold, as well as where you acquired it and how you have used it. Be sure to regularly review your privacy notices and update accordingly, in line with any changes your company makes over time.

Nightmarish risk-taking

Fear of failure is a huge barrier for many business owners, one that often stops them from taking risks altogether. Most business owners don’t realise that they have already taken one of the biggest risks in setting up their business in the first place. Some of the biggest names in business owe their success to taking risks. Take Amazon owner, Jeff Bezos, who left his high-paying job on Wall Street to begin an online book shop from his garage. Now the owner of a billion-dollar company, Bezos’ risk obviously paid off.

Although sometimes, not taking risks will be the right call for a business, other times taking risks can be what your business needs to reach its next level of success. Weighing up your options carefully, as well as gaining expert advice from fellow business owners and mentors, should help you to identify which route you should take.

Horrifying tax returns

The dreaded tax return and end of financial year responsibilities are seen as a huge burden for business owners, but a necessity when running a company. Research has found that over 700,000 businesses delay their tax returns until the deadline day. That is 700,000 very stressed business owners.

There are many different tools and apps out there to help make these responsibilities easier and quicker to complete. Whether this is your accountancy software or a specific app for compiling your expense receipts, choosing the right software for your requirements will turn what was once an arduous task into a straightforward job.

Often, the scary prospect of becoming a business owner, and the responsibilities that go hand-in-hand, can put individuals off from taking that next step. Nevertheless, whilst daunting, becoming a business owner can bring tremendous benefits. There will naturally be some spooks along the way, but how you respond will ultimately be the key to your business’ success.

What has been your biggest business-related horror story? And how did you overcome it? Tell us your story over on Twitter.

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