Barnsley & Rotherham Business Awards 2013 – Taking Part

Reflection and Perspective – a personal view by David Edwards-Brown

Whilst DEB made the shortlist of five in two out of ten awards categorise at the Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce Business Awards, the ceremony for which was held at Magna on Friday evening, we left empty-handed as we did not win either award.  Whilst disappointed for our team at DEB, who attended the night in force, I left the evening in an upbeat reflective mood about taking part in such business awards.

Whilst we did not win, we still remain the only accountant making the shortlist this year, as we were last year.  Indeed we were the only professional firm of any kind.  It is evident that in the categories that we entered size matters.  We were competing against businesses that have huge budgets and resources to fund innovation and technology, and for addressing the impact that they make on the environment.

From the criteria set for each category it is evident that the factors that matter are improving turnover, high profitability, boosting exports, and increasing employment.  DEB has always been run with two key motivating factors; maximising the benefits to our clients and providing them with the best value for money; and maximising the welfare of our highly valued and dedicated team members.  Neither of these categories naturally leads to high turnover or high profits.  As our catchment area is mainly within Yorkshire we have no opportunity to export.  As we develop innovative software this helps reduce the need for labour input and thus we inevitably do not expand our staff and increase employment.

Given the significance of the above factors that are at the forefront of most awards criteria, it is even more surprising that DEB makes the shortlists at all.  And yet we do on a regular basis.  In fact, despite Friday night’s results, we seem to specialise in being runners-up in many of the awards that we have entered.  Thus, despite not having the main criteria set for most awards as key drivers in DEB; despite not having the big budgets that other businesses have available; and despite being in a business sector that struggle to make the shortlists, we still generally do pretty well.  The conclusion that we can take from this is that we must be doing something right and consequently cannot be overlooked.  It is this thought that poured solace over my initial feeling of disappointment at not winning.  It is my hope that, on reflection, our team at DEB can view it in the same manner.

Consequently, rather than being disappointed at not achieving what we had hoped for, I left feeling surprisingly upbeat.  There is always another year to aim at.  I am aware of some of the exciting things that we currently have in development, which will enable us to compete again next year.  There still remains the drive to improve what we do for our clients and hopefully win local approval in awards in the years to come.

 Why Bother?

Given the tinge of disappointment that all but the winners feel, one is left to ponder, is it worth the effort of applying for awards?  It involves lots of work, cost and time to make a reasonable entry for awards.  If all you perceive is the most likely outcome of failure – then why bother to enter?

My belief is that, despite the possibility of disappointment of not winning, which, let’s face it, is a prospect that the majority have to face, the benefits of being involved vastly outweigh the downsides:

  • There is the buzz of being involved.  I personally am enthusiastic enough and find it easy to create my own self-sustaining buzz.  However, the whole team get the buzz of being in the race.  Seeing the excitement throughout Magna on the night of the ceremony, it was evident that this applies to the others businesses involved.
  • The hope of achieving an award is important in spurring you on to do better in whatever you do.  If you do not win, you aspire to be better.  If you do win, then you feel great and it can drive you on to do more in the hope that you can win again.
  • There is a great sense of achievement in being one of the finalists: Everyone cannot be the winner, but even getting on the shortlist shows that you are, in some way, commendable and seen as such by an independent judging panel.
  • In a publicity-conscious world, the exposure that you get is bound to do you no harm.  The name of DEB Chartered Accountants was printed in the brochures, displayed on the screen, and announced by the MC.  Over 500 people in the room became aware of us.  In addition there is the publicity that you can raise before the event about the achievement of being shortlisted.
  • More than anything it singles you out amongst your peers.  You have to be ‘in it to win it’ as they say.  The fact that we were the only accountancy practice in the awards says something in itself.  In November we attend the British Accountancy Awards as the only representative of Yorkshire in the ‘Independent Firm of the Year – North England’ category.  We also are finalists in the Online Accountancy section and are one of only nine selected throughout the whole of the UK. Whilst you may not achieve the status of being number one in the country, it is only important how you rank in the catchment area where you do business.  In this regard we appear to have little competition.
  • Awards provide you with an opportunity to match yourselves up against others and see how you fare.  There is always a need to try and do better but seeing how you stand against others gives you a degree of perspective that enables you to review what you have done and more importantly what you are going to do in the future.

Call to Action

It is true to say that not everyone can win awards.  It is, however, more true to say, that you stand no chance of winning awards if you do not enter.  Every business is likely to have awards that it can apply for.  For the reasons indicated above, I feel that they can have a very positive impact upon you personally and provide a welcome boost for your business. There are likely to be lots of things that make you special and good at what you do, that you simply take for granted.  By applying for the awards it brings home to you what you are good at, and perhaps where some improvements can be made.

The exposure and publicity that comes along with being shortlisted is bound be of benefit to your business.  You may feel that you have no chance of achieving this, but you simply will not know if you do not try.  You simply never know the priorities that will prevail with the judging panel so do not defeat yourself at the first hurdle by underestimating yourself.

You may feel that you would find it difficult to put what is good and special about your business into words and would struggle with completing the application.  However, there are people out there that can help you in this regard.  We can recommend the services of Lucinda White at Pure Event Management who has helped DEB in this regard.

Win or Lose

Whether you win or lose, I think you and your business could benefit from being involved in business awards.  You certainly will get encouragement from me.  If this is an area that interests you please do not hesitate to contact me.

David Edwards-Brown

 

 

Playing The Game

How do you play?

The extraction of funds from a company by owner/managers can be viewed as a game.  A game that has rules.  A game you can play well if you know and understand the rules.  A game you can be ahead of, if you have a strategy that is built round the rules, and a game that you will win if you play by the rules and do things properly.

This game has always existed but now the rules are getting much stricter.  As we visit new prospective clients, it is evident that many of them do not even know that that such a game exists.  They operate in blissful ignorance and in the blind faith that their accountant will wave a magic wand and make everything right at the year end, because after all that is what accountants are for isn’t it?  Why should they bother to understand the rules and do things properly when they can pay an accountant to do that for them?

Not knowing how to play

Such blind faith can lead company owner/directors, to play the game badly and leave them open to the likelihood of losing it altogether.  By simply taking funds from their company in any way that they want, such as cash from the ATM, bank transfers to their personal account, payment of private invoices, regular standing orders to non-business sources, including to themselves, they are breaking all the rules.  They think this is acceptable because their accountant has never told them what the rules are, or they have been lulled into believing that everything can just be made right at the end of the year.  Many accountants do this by retrospectively pretending that the rules were being followed, by making up a fallacy that a business declared dividends that in reality they never did, or by creating the pretence that salaries were paid, which simply were not.

Catch 22

At best such a strategy is nothing more than reactive.  They are making the best of a bad job and employing damage limitation techniques to do their best to protect you, even though the horse has long since bolted. The opportunity to discuss with you what the rules are, and how they can be used to your advantage to make you a winner is lost.  As a consequence you get a second best, or even worse, solution.

Worse still, if you have played the game badly, and not followed the rules you can find that you have large unexpected personal tax liabilities, in addition to the Corporation Tax paid through your company.  You could find yourself with a Catch 22 situation – the high “pretend” dividends that your accountant invents to cover your rampant withdrawals, results in high personal tax bills, which are paid on behalf of the directors through the company.  This causes the need for more inventiveness at the next year-end and more so-called dividends resulting in yet more tax to be paid.  As a result of playing the game so badly you could be endlessly paying tax both in the company and personally without a solution in sight.

Play a pro-active game

You cannot afford to play the game reactively.  You need to be ahead of the game.  Use the rules to your advantage, not suffer from them due to not knowing what they are.  At DEB we ensure you know what these rules are and what the best way that you can use them is.  We create solutions to get you out of the endless cycle of paying tax.  We discuss and design a game winning strategy for you so that can play the game with confidence as all winners should.  We are pro-active in helping you to play the game right and to your advantage.

A changing game

With HMRC desperate to take more cash from you, they have become, and are becoming, extremely good players of the game.  They constantly change the rules to their advantage and interpret existing ones in new ways.  In a game where the rules of engagement are changing so much, taking the view that you can do exactly what you have done in the past, and your accountant will sort it all out is naïve in the extreme.

HMRC are tightening the rules:

  • So that it is difficult to pretend that a wage was processed if the correct procedure was not followed.
  • So that they can challenge the legality of dividends that have not been processed correctly and cannot be supported by the correct documentation generated at the right time.
  • Affecting the repayment of director’s loans and new proposals could see charges relating to overdrawn director’s loan accounts become increasingly punitive in the future.
  • So that regular payments of cash not being processed as wages, and not supported by dividend documentation, are treated as being salary on which there is a liability to tax, employer’s National Insurance, and Employees National Insurance.  Not to mention the ever- increasing impact of penalties and interest.

 Playing the game right

Only by playing the game right can you hope to fend off HMRC and avoid unnecessary tax liabilities.  Knowing how to play and having someone to discuss your playing strategy with regularly is the best way to ensure that you win rather than lose.  Times are changing and you need to change with them.  You must not get left taking part in a game that you do not know how to play, simply because your accountant has not provided you with enough knowledge, guidance, tactics and strategy, to give you a better chance of winning.

 Learn to play with DEB

At DEB we have always ensured that our clients are effective players of the game.  We explain the rules to them.  We discuss with them how the rules can work for them instead of against them.  We discuss and agree a strategy with them, and show them how to get the best advantage from the rules.  We review this strategy with them throughout the year so that it can be amended if necessary.  We provide help and assistance to ensure that they abide by the rules and do not fall foul of them.  We also keep our clients ahead of the game by supplying regular information and updates on all rule changes and strategies being employed by HMRC that we distribute using DEB Connect, our unique client information system.

Need a better coach?

If you are not being given the help and coaching that you need to make you a winner then DEB Chartered Accountants can help.  Contact us for a no obligation, free meeting to discuss your present situation.  We have recently been shortlisted for the British Accounting Awards, and the Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber of Commerce Awards in recognition of the innovative things we are doing to help our clients.  It is these things that we can use to make a difference to you and your business.  We would love the opportunity to discuss our ideas with you.  If you would like a free meeting to discuss your situation with us please contact us on 01226 245824 or email lisa@deb-accountants.co.uk