West of Scotland interiors specialist named FSB UK Young Entrepreneur of the Year

West of Scotland based Liv Conlon was named UK Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) annual awards in London last night.

The 20 year old – who runs interiors firm ThePropertyStagers and is from Bothwell in South Lanarkshire – fought off competition from other award-winning young business people from across the UK at FSB’s Celebrating Small Business Awards.

ThePropertyStagers furnishes 300 properties per year across the UK. They provide a range of services including preparing a property for sale or rental, and providing specialist furnishing support for landlords. The business, founded four years ago, now turns over £1 million a year, up from £30,000 a year when it was established.

Liv Conlon, CEO of ThePropertyStagers, said: “This accolade is the culmination of years of hard work. I’m thrilled that the FSB has chosen to highlight me as a rising star in the world of business.

“My business wouldn’t be the success it is today without the support of our team. We take great pride in the high quality service we offer our customers and it is fantastic to see this diligence pay off. I have huge plans for the future but it is great to be recognised for all that I’ve achieved so far.”

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chair, said: “Liv has demonstrated a real determination to succeed and at FSB we’re very pleased that we can celebrate her success.

“Scotland needs more forward thinking young people who see that starting up in business is as valuable and rewarding a career goal as any other option. As a young woman setting out on her own, Liv is a powerful example for other potential entrepreneurs.”

FSB’s Celebrating Small Business Awards took place at Battersea in London last night, attracting 600 guests from across the UK, including Chancellor Philip Hammond and the UK Government’s Small Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst MP.

Eleven businesses scooped 12 UK-wide prizes at the event. Another Scottish winner, Fort Augustus based Cruise Loch Ness, won the overall prize of UK Small Business of 2019.

CICM highlights success of Code in changing payment behaviour

Fifteen of the seventeen businesses highlighted for poor payment practice in May have filed action plans or are preparing submissions to improve their treatment of smaller suppliers, demonstrating the effectiveness of the Prompt Payment Code.

Philip King, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Credit Management (CICM), says firms have responded positively to approaches by the CICM and the PPC Compliance Board: “Businesses clearly see the value in being a signatory to the Code and, more importantly, the potential damage to their reputation if they fail to honour the commitments that the Code demands.

“What is most pleasing is the innovative way in which firms are addressing the challenge and demonstrating best practice.”

Best practice examples include:

  • Engie Services Ltd – which has launched a new policy to mandate the use of purchasing cards for all purchases of £500 or less, giving suppliers immediate payment and reducing invoice volumes by 20%;
  • Kellogg Brown & Root Limited – which is embarking on an awareness programme and further training for all staff with a procurement role to reinforce the need to settle more than 95% of all supplier invoices within 60 days.
  • DHL – which is re-setting its payment runs to a full ten days below the contracted payment terms (to 50 days) to guarantee that suppliers are paid early or on time. This overcomes a previous complication with payment runs being fixed on a particular date in every month, and what happens when a date coincides with a weekend or bank holiday.

“The purpose of the Code has always been to promote a culture of best practice in the treatment of suppliers, and this is proof positive that the Code is working,” Philip added.

Companies who sign up to the Code, administered by CICM on behalf of the Government, pledge to uphold its best practice for payment standards. This includes the commitment to pay 95% of all supplier invoices within 60 days.

The Prompt Payment Code Compliance Board, chaired by Philip King and including the Small Business Commissioner Paul Uppal, regularly reviews the data reported by large companies under the Payment Practices Reporting Regulations to ensure they are upholding their commitments.

Businesses suspended from the Code are invited to produce an action plan setting out how they will achieve compliance with the Code within an agreed period. When they have achieved compliance their status as a Code signatory is reinstated. If they do not, they are removed.

Philip says the actions of a minority who continue to treat their suppliers unfairly, however, remains a concern: “We will continue to challenge signatories to the Code if the obligatory Payment Practice Reporting data, or a specific challenge from a supplier or representative body, suggests that their practices are not compliant with the Code.”

‘British Steel insolvency could be more wide-ranging than we imagine’

That was the message from Rick Smith, Managing Director of Grimsby-based company rescue and recovery specialist, Forbes Burton as it has been reported British Steel has sunk into compulsory liquidation.

Rick said: “The full ramifications of Britain’s second-largest steel producer closing is that around 4,500 jobs are directly at risk and endangering up to 20,000 more in the supply chain. Around 4,000 jobs will be lost almost immediately if the firms Scunthorpe plant is to close.

“Unfortunately, this could be the first major casualty of a messy Brexit, and more could follow. We’ve been watching the situation at British Steel unfold and we have seen this happen many times before. We know the problems and challenges that result from the fallout of such a massive firm going under.”

As the fate of one of the largest companies in Lincolnshire has been confirmed, it will not only have a drastic impact on the local business community but also the national steel industry, an important part of the British economy and history.

The collapse could be partially blamed on ‘a slump in orders from European customers ‎amid uncertainty about potential trading arrangements with the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit’, according to sources involved in talks to save the company.

Only two weeks ago, the company was provided with a £120 million loan by the Government to pay an EU bill for carbon dioxide emissions. British Steel needed to and have subsequently failed to raise £30 million within 48 hours.

Rick added: “As the firm can’t be saved, the knock-on effect from this will take some time to be fully felt. Forbes Burton has supported companies in the Lincolnshire and Humber regions since we began and to show our support for the area during this time we are offering free advice to any businesses affected by the collapse.

“It is important that people and companies that could be affected know what options are available to them. We urge people to seek professional advice to help plan the best path forward.”

Can Your Business Afford To Ignore Mental Health In The Workplace?

Looking at these statistics, there are two questions that every employer in this country should currently be asking themselves: How can I best support my employees to proactively minimise the impact of mental ill health on their work and life AND can my business really afford not to support my employees with wellbeing strategies? Accelerator Solutions, the award-winning training provider, believes companies simply cannot afford to ignore the increasingly significant issue of mental health. Not only from a productivity/profitability point of view, but best practice employers also have a duty to act as pioneers in helping to bridge the gap between how people think and how they act regarding mental health issues in the workplace.

In response to these concerns, Accelerator has translated its extensive experience in providing professional workplace training into the field of mental health. As a licensee for Mental Health for England, they are now able to offer an accredited two-day Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) certified training course for groups and individuals. This certified training is a mix of presentation, activity and group work based around the MHFA action plan. It is delivered by one of the leaders in this field, Nina Maan, who is a multi-award-winning Trainer and licensed Mental Health Instructor.

Henry Hopkins, Managing Director of Accelerator Solutions Ltd comments: “UK employers are gradually waking up to the fact that mental health problems in the workplace are a significant issue. They are now realising that they have an important role to play in supporting employees to make mental health first aid as equally important as physical first aid in the workplace.”

Henry continues: “Our aim here at Accelerator is to make Mental Health First Aid training accessible to companies of all sizes. By investing in these courses, employers will assist their staff with being able to identify, understand and help a colleague who may be experiencing a mental health crisis – this empathic action may even be able to help to prevent the crisis altogether. And of course, providing MHFA training will also have significant business benefits in terms of decreasing the impact of mental health issues on factors such as productivity and profitability”.

GLEIF Pioneers the Inclusion of Legal Entity Identifiers (LEIs) in Machine-Readable Financial Reports

The Global Legal Entity Identifier Foundation (GLEIF) has today pioneered the inclusion of a Legal Entity Identifier (LEI)* within digital, machine-readable financial documentation. In partnership with XBRL International, GLEIF has published its 2018 annual report in human and machine-readable Inline XBRL and HTML format, with GLEIF’s LEI embedded into the financial information for the first time. It becomes the first official business report globally which automatically links the filing entity to its verified LEI reference data held within the Global LEI Index.

The Global LEI Index is the only global online source that provides standardized, high-quality and free-to-access legal entity reference data on entities with an LEI. Reference data includes business card information on an entity, including name and registered address, together with relationship data which confirms if the entity owns, or is owned by, other entities. Verified annually by GLEIF accredited LEI issuers, reference data is accurate and up-to-date.

The process of embedding an organization’s LEI – or that of its affiliates, subsidiaries and parent companies – within digital financial reports, allows market participants who rely on official documents to inform strategic decisions (e.g. traders, investors, regulators) to quickly and easily consolidate and verify information on a filing entity.

Significant advantages of this approach to financial market participants include:

  • Easy verification of the filing entity’s identity based on its LEI, resulting in greater end-user trust in the authenticity and integrity of the documents.
  • Automated access to aggregated data on the filing entity. This will create multiple benefits including: enhanced visibility of the entity’s reference data available within the Global LEI Index; opportunities to create new online databases that collate key data assets of entities with an LEI; and easy aggregation of information on companies obtained from multiple sources supporting comparability of standardized financial information.
  • Increased transparency for end users on an entity’s ownership structure. Relationship networks between LEIs can be quickly and automatically established when the LEIs of the filing entity, its affiliates, subsidiaries and parent companies are provided in machine-readable financial reports.
  • Improved ability for regulators to minimize market abuse.
  • The GLEIF annual report 2018 has been signed with eIDAS (electronic IDentification, Authentication and trust Services, an EU regulation) compliant certificates. It represents the use of an LEI embedded in a certificate to provide lifetime trust and (technically) non-repudiation.

Stephan Wolf, GLEIF CEO, comments: “Today, GLEIF and XBRL International have taken the first step in revolutionizing the process of publishing, accessing and aggregating trusted digital financial information. Filing financial statements in Inline XBRL format has already become a compliance requirement across many jurisdictions. We encourage companies preparing for this scenario to consider not only the advantages of making paper or PDF-based reporting a thing of the past, but of also integrating the LEI of the filing entity, its affiliates and parent companies in their machine-readable reports. Such a simple action can generate significant industry-wide benefits, including increased trust, enhanced data check methods, and reduced fraud. We are very excited to demonstrate another tangible way in which LEIs support the global digital economy.”

John Turner, XBRL International CEO, comments: “This important first step towards integrating the LEI with the XBRL standard demonstrates the global benefits that are possible with unique identification and digitized, structured reporting. This is a clear example of the efficiencies to be gained when tagging and structuring data and the potential of structured data for analysis, innovation and collaboration. The natural collaboration between the LEI and XBRL will offer new, heightened transparency, enhanced trust and clarity, providing significant assistance to regulators and financial markets.”

Within GLEIF’s 2018 annual report, GLEIF’s LEI is also embedded within the digital certificates of GLEIF’s signing executive officers. These certificates, for the first time, connect the role of the signatory to an organization through the LEI and can therefore be used to verify – automatically, through the shared LEI – that the filed document and the signatories represent the same organization. Incorporating a company’s LEI within digital certificates of its executive officers used to sign financial statements provides reassurance on the data’s reliability and that the information has not been tampered with, despite permitted access to the filed document via any public server globally. Deploying digital signatures, including that of the auditor, also enables efficient report production and distribution processes, the elimination of paper and increased certainty and trust.

GLEIF aims to make standardized digital signing with the LEI available to all. A standard way to embed the LEI in digital certificates as a new separate part of the LEI standard (ISO 17442) has been proposed and is currently under development by the International Organization for Standardization.

British Steel on verge of administration

Dr Jonathan Owens, supply chain and logistics expert at the University of Salford Business School, comments on British Steel asking for a £75m loan form the British Government to prevent the company collapsing into administration.

Dr Owens said: “This was a business that was sold by Tata for £1 and rebranded with the old familiar nameplate. However, things have not been plain sailing. They have already been assisted by the government by the way of a bridging loan to the tune of £120m. They were settling their carbon emissions bill with the EU and these were back dated. However, this new £75m loan request is a more complex issue as the business is struggling to cope in the competitive market.

“Yes, there is the impact of some European orders that may, or may not materialise due to the Brexit uncertainty, however the weak pound does not help with competitiveness overall.

“So, if British Steel currently cannot cope with this level of pound exchange rate, one would have to ask what strategies are they proposing to put in place to turn this around before parting with £75m?

“Of course in the immediate term there are 5,000 jobs at risk within the company and approximately 20,000 in the support supply chain and these certainly are giving huge cause for concern. However, if the company cannot be market competitive, then this £75m loan would perhaps only be delaying the inevitable and we could be looking at administration again in the near future.”

Financial position of the corporate sector strengthened by strategic credit management

Strategic credit management is essential to further strengthening the financial position of the UK business community. Predictive, data-driven credit insights enable companies to monitor and continue improving their financial position. That’s why today, Graydon, leading provider of business data, insights, analytics and solutions is launching three new credit management solutions: Graydon Credit Reports, the Graydon Monitoring Tool and Graydon Ledger Management.

Artificial intelligence and data analytics are indispensable parts of credit management today. The data that organisations use to make their decisions in 2019, is becoming increasingly rich and predictive. For example, predictive insights into the likelihood of a business growing, the likelihood of bankruptcy, or a company’s payment behaviour are now commonplace. With these insights, companies can quickly identify opportunities and risks and manage and strengthen their cash flow.

“It is important for companies to thinkmore strategically about their credit management function. The recent launch of our Onboarding and Detect solutions coupled with our new enhanced credit management solutions means that Graydon are ideally placed to help them achieve this” says Simon Blackwell, Managing Director at Graydon UK.

“With the arrival of our new credit management solutions, we are taking another step in our objective to help companies grow. Customers can now find data and insights even faster and easier, monitor business relationships, and get a better handle on outstanding invoices. Our credit management solutions have also been enhanced with several new and unique scores that offer stronger, more innovative insights,” says Gertjan Kampman, CEO of Graydon. “That means that credit management can be used more and more strategically, for things like decision-making around new customer acceptance policies, determining marketing strategy, and keeping an eye on your organisation’s liquidity.”

About the updated Graydon credit management solutions

The three updated credit management solutions are available on Graydon Insights, the intuitive customer portal where Graydon previously launched its Graydon Decision Model for customer acceptance and Graydon Market Information. This portal has now been further expanded to include:

  • Graydon Credit Reports: the newly designed and intuitive credit reports provide insight into not only financial information and ratings but also payment behaviour, corporate structure, and exceptional events, as well. The most important figures and insights are collected in a single clear overview, which enables the customers to make even faster decisions.s. The credit reports have also been enhanced with new functionalities and insights, including the Expected Growth, the Graydon Rating, Probability of Discontinuation, and other financial scores. The Growth Forecast provides a forecast of expected growth in a company’s total assets over the next 12 months. All of this information helps companies understand their risks and opportunities for growth, based on forecasts for their main customers and/or suppliers.
  • Graydon Monitoring Tool: allows companies to continuously and automatically monitor their customers and other business relationships so they can respond quickly to changes in those companies’ financial situation. Every change, for example a change in the credit limit, is recorded and companies can determine the frequency and type of alert, tailored to their needs. The Graydon Monitoring Tool enables companies to reduce risk on the one hand and respond quickly to positive financial developments on the other, allowing them to take advantage of additional revenue opportunities.
  • Graydon Ledger Management: allows companies to combine their own financial data on outstanding invoices with Graydon credit information. Companies can gain at-a-glance insight into their customers’ payment behaviour as well as risks and opportunities. This helps them focus on the highest risks and greatest opportunities. For example, if a customer has a high risk, a company may decide to supply fewer products or services or adjust the payment terms.

Continuous innovation

Simon Blackwell, Managing Director at Graydon UK: “We are constantly working on new innovations to exceed our customers’ expectations, developing them for and in close collaboration with our customers. It means we can continue adding new functionalities, scores and data elements to our updated credit management solutions. This information and these scores are not only available via the Graydon Insights platform, but also through API integration, allowing companies to seamlessly integrate business information into their own CRM or in-house systems.”

SMEs are driving job growth, but need higher investment in skills, innovation and tech to boost wages and productivity

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have been a significant driver of employment growth in recent years, mainly through the creation of new firms, including in high-growth sectors such as information and communication technologies (ICT). But the new OECD SME and Entrepreneurship Outlook highlights that most SME job creation has been in sectors with below average productivity levels, with SMEs typically paying employees around 20 percent less than large firms.

While SMEs are more engaged in new organisational or marketing practices than large firms, and sometimes more innovative in developing new products and processes, many continue to struggle disproportionately to navigate the increasing complexity in technologies and markets.

“We need a fundamental rethinking of SME and entrepreneurship policies to improve business conditions and access to resources. This will enable workers to have higher wages and greater productivity, as smaller employers harness major trends like digitalisation,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, launching the report at the annual OECD Forum. “We need a renewed policy and measurement agenda to understand how countries, regions and cities can capitalise on their many diverse small businesses as drivers for inclusive and sustainable growth.”

Bringing together unique data and evidence on SME performance and policies, this first edition of the OECD SME and Entrepreneurship Outlook offers policymakers new benchmarking tools and insights on good practices to help frame national SME and entrepreneurship policies. The report illustrates that SMEs are more dependent on the business ecosystem and the policy environment than large companies, and identifies a number of key challenges:

  • While the wage gap is smaller for exporting SMEs, trade barriers are disproportionately large, and recent trade tensions may further hamper their ability to benefit from globalisation.
  • SMEs struggle to combine different types of innovation, and continue to face size-related barriers in accessing strategic resources, such as skills, finance and knowledge. A quarter of SMEs in the EU reported a lack of skilled staff or experienced managers as their most important problem and, in most OECD countries, less than one-quarter of small firms provided ICT training in 2018.
  • The digital transformation provides scope for productivity growth but large adoption gaps exist compared to larger firms, with half as many small firms in the OECD investing in cloud computing services in 2016, for example.

Governments have been proactive in their efforts to improve framework conditions and address size-related barriers for SMEs. The 36 country profiles in the OECD SME and Entrepreneurship Outlook show that, in the OECD area, governments are focused on accelerating innovation diffusion to SMEs; ensuring SMEs keep pace with the digital transformation; engaging SMEs in upskilling; scaling-up innovation networks and MNE-SME linkages; and levelling the playing field in product markets, public procurement and ‘lead’ innovative markets. Small businesses are also benefiting from the strengthening of e-government services and from reforms undertaken in OECD countries aiming to lower administrative and tax burdens and enforce smart regulation.

Despite these efforts, the complexity of regulatory procedures remains a major obstacle for SMEs and entrepreneurs. Furthermore, the pace of structural reform has slowed in recent years and progress remains uneven in areas that are key for business creation and SME investment, such as insolvency regimes, civil justice and enforcement of competition laws.

The report argues for more efficient governance and more coherent arrangements across national and subnational levels, regions and cities. It also calls for fostering international peer learning and enhanced monitoring and evaluation capacity.

Gift wrapping wholesaler secures £1 million funding line to support overseas trade

Bibby Financial Services (BFS) has provided a £1 million Trade and Invoice Finance facility to Crown Greetings UK Ltd, a family run gift wrapping wholesaler supplying prominent high-street retailers in the UK and USA.

Based in Halifax, Yorkshire, Crown Greetings was set up in 2017 and has already established strong working relationships with Tesco, Asda and Poundland. Despite its relative infancy, the business has built up a global supply chain through a network of suppliers in China and India.

The bespoke funding package structured by BFS’s Corporate team will allow Crown Greetings to develop a more consistent revenue stream, as it expands its offering to include stationery products. It will also allow the business to consolidate its relationships with key customers by fulfilling more lucrative orders across a more diverse set of goods.

Through the Invoice Finance facility, BFS processes customer expenses, freeing up Crown Greetings’ time from chasing expenses and improving the cashflow of the business. The Trade Finance facility will mean the business can operate smoother transactions when purchasing goods from its supplier in India, in turn facilitating greater levels of customer trade.

A spokesperson for Crown Greetings UK Ltd. commented: “As a young, outward-looking business, we required a funder who could support our ambitious business strategy. From the outset, BFS have been extremely approachable and professional, and demonstrated a strong understanding of our need to fund the exporting side of our business.

“This willingness to go the extra mile made the decision to partner with BFS a simple one, and we are delighted to have their support as we expand into new markets.”

Dan Burton, Regional Head of Corporate at Bibby Financial Services, said: “In such a short space of time, Crown Greetings has established itself as a trusted and reliable wholesaler, developing an impressive portfolio of customers that are effectively propelling its growth.

“Our team recognised the importance of Crown Greetings’ overseas operations, and specifically tailored the facility to help overcome any cashflow or supply issues during the importing and exporting of its goods.”

Atradius lifts the lid on North America

A report detailing the major economic and political updates of North American markets has been published by global trade credit insurer Atradius.

The Atradius North American Country Report is a free publication for any business that is trading, or seeking to trade, within the region.

Richard Reynolds, head of Strategic Accounts for Atradius UK, commented: “Knowledge is the bedrock of sound trade and an informed business is more likely to successfully mitigate the risks of international trade. If you’re only trading with one customer, it’s easy to focus only on their individual track record. However, it’s imperative to also keep an eye on the wider market and the potential impact that economic or political changes may have upon your customer, and their customers, and the overall sector.

“With experts on the ground in markets around the world, Atradius is able to give real-time insight to the changing economic and political environment as well as offer a performance rating of key sectors within each market.”

Country Report – key highlights:

USA:

  • Economy: In 2019, the economy is forecast to grow 2.5%, underpinned by strong household and business confidence. However, trade policy uncertainty is a key risk, which may accelerate a downturn more quickly than expected in the face of current economic strength.
  • Insolvencies: In 2018, businesses benefited from robust economic growth, tax reforms and buoyant business confidence, leading to a 4% decrease in insolvencies. However, US business insolvencies are forecast to level off in 2019.
  • Strongest performing sectors: Chemicals/Pharma, Electronics/ICT, Financial Services and Services (Good)
  • Weakest performing sectors: Paper (Poor)

Canada:

  • Economy: In 2019, GDP is forecast to grow below 2% as export, household consumption and investment growth further ease. However, the Canadian economy should still experience positive momentum, with low unemployment, manageable inflation and rising, albeit historically low, interest rates.
  • Insolvencies: After decreases of more than 5% in 2016 and 2017, the number of corporate bankruptcies is expected to level-off in 2018 and 2019. This is mainly due to lower economic growth and higher interest rates.
  • Strongest performing sectors: Agriculture and Financial Services (Excellent), Food and Services (Good)
  • Weakest performing sectors: Textiles (Bleak) and Paper (Poor)

Mexico:

  • Economy: Since 1994, average annual real GDP growth was just 2.6%, mainly due to low investments and weak productivity. While uncertainty about the future trade relationship with the US has eased, economic policy uncertainty has increased, which could further dampen investments in 2019. Consumer confidence has decreased, which is expected to weigh negatively on forward consumption growth.
  • Insolvencies: Despite the ongoing political and economic uncertainties, Mexico seems to be fairly resilient due mainly to strong economic fundamentals. Any steep deterioration of the economy currently remains unlikely.
  • Strongest performing sectors: Automotive/Transport, Financial Services, Food, Paper, Services (Good)
  • Weakest performing sectors: Construction, Metals, Steel and Textiles (Poor)