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For a successful business, you need a viable business idea, the skills to make it work and the funding. Discover whether your idea has what it takes.

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It is likely you will need funding to start your business unless you have your own money. Discover some of the main sources of start up funding.

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Learn why business planning is an essential exercise if your business is to start and grow successfully, attract funding or target new markets.

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Your employees can your biggest asset. They can also be your biggest challenge. We explain how to recruitment and manage staff successfully.

It is likely your business could not function without some form of IT. Learn how to specify, buy, maintain and secure your business IT.

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News

September 2016

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Business concern over immigration uncertaintyBusiness groups are continuing to pressure the Government to provide clarity on immigration, amid fears that employers will struggle to retain and recruit the skilled workers they need if there is a crackdown on migration.

Net migration figures remained largely unchanged in the year to March 2016 according to newly released figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS). Immigration of EU citizens (268,000) remains lower than that of non-EU citizens (282,000), although the gap has narrowed.

Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed that curbing net migration will be her "absolute priority" during Brexit negotiations. However, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) says the NHS, in particular, needs to retain its EU workers to avoid "collapse".

Business groups have similar fears.

Commenting on the ONS figures, Dr Adam Marshall, acting director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: "While businesspeople understand the importance of managing migration levels into the UK, there must be no knee-jerk crackdown that leaves businesses unable to get specific skills from around the globe."

Marshall also raised concerns about the status of existing employees from the EU. "Since the referendum many firms have expressed concern over the future status of their existing EU workforce. These hardworking people are absolutely vital to the success of businesses, and must be retained. Theresa May should reassure them as soon as possible that they will have the right to remain in the UK, to provide much-needed certainty both for EU employees and UK employers."

The Government must also clarify how new EU hires will be treated, said Marshall, as "many businesses also say they are uncertain about whether the people they wish to recruit will be able to continue working with them in future".

The Institute of Directors (IoD) is also urging the Government to devise an immigration strategy that takes into account the needs of business.

Seamus Nevin, the IoD's head of employment and skills policy, said: "The Government should begin a comprehensive immigration review to work out how to meet the needs of the country. In order for the UK economy to succeed outside the EU, the Government will need to ensure that employers are not prevented from accessing the international workers our economy needs. The IoD will be making the business case for the kind of immigration controls we believe would support our economy, work for British companies and address public concerns."

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Most entrepreneurs don't need start-up fundingMore than 80% of start-ups are either launched without needing funding or are self-funded with personal savings, according to new research.

A new survey of more than 500 micro-businesses (with fewer than 10 employees) by online accounting specialist FreeAgent has found that 44% of business owners polled didn't require any funding to get their venture started, and 43% had used only personal savings to do so.

It means that more than eight out of every ten new business gets off the ground without any outside investment at all.

The research found that just 4% of micro-businesses said they had used a loan from a friend or family member to get started, as little as 2% used their credit card or secured a bank loan and only 1% used Government assistance.

However, the findings also show that life for start-ups can be a struggle once those businesses get going - 5% of micro-businesses said they did not make enough money to cover their costs and 36% said they "only just" made enough to cover them.

In addition, many micro-business owners are working on their business at the expense of taking time off - 44% of business owners said that they had not felt in a position to be able to take a week or more of holiday during the past six months.

Ed Molyneux, ceo and co-founder of FreeAgent, said: "A major barrier for people thinking about starting a business can be the costs involved. They think they'll need to spend a lot of money from the outset on building the right infrastructure for their business, and the idea of applying for bank loans, grants or other financial assistance is very unappealing.

"But the reality is that the majority of UK micro-businesses don't actually require this kind of investment from the outset. We've found that most of them are either self-funded through the business owner's personal savings or simply don't have any start-up costs - and that's a trend that should give confidence to anyone contemplating self-employment."

The bigger issue, he said, is actually running your own business and making it pay in the longer term. This, he said, is "where we believe micro-business owners need help and support. It's important to bear in mind that actually running your own business can still be a tough reality."

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More than 80% of start-ups are either launched without needing funding or are self-funded with personal savings, according to new research.

Steady growth not lifting service sector gloomThe latest quarterly Service Sector Survey from the CBI shows a mixed picture, as optimism falls sharply even though business volumes remain steady.

Business and professional services firms - including accountancy, legal and marketing businesses - have reported that business volumes are unchanged since May. And consumer services companies - such as hotels, bars, restaurants and travel firms - actually saw moderate growth in business volumes.

However despite these results, the CBI survey reveals that optimism in both sub-sectors has fallen sharply. In business and professional services, it fell at the fastest pace since November 2011; in consumer services, it dropped at its fastest since February 2009. Business expansion plans in business and professional services were at their weakest since May 2012.

However, employment growth in both sub-sectors remained above average, although it is expected to slow over the next quarter. And IT expenditure will continue to see robust growth across the services sector.

It's unclear whether this pessimism is a result of post-referendum uncertainty or a more worrying indication of trouble ahead. Anna Leach, CBI head of economic analysis and surveys, said: "Whilst the service sector has been rocked by the stormy waters of Brexit, especially when it comes to firms' sense of optimism, the actual slowdown in growth on the office and shop floor has been relatively modest."

Leach says the Government must deliver an "ambitious" Autumn Statement in order to "clearly communicate plans for negotiations to leave the EU, and demonstrate its commitment to stimulating growth and driving investment."

The key findings of the CBI survey include:

  • in business and professional services, business volumes were up +2%;
  • however, optimism in this sector dropped by -30%, as 40% said they were less optimistic;
  • in consumer services, 26% of firms reported a rise in business volumes, compared with 19% saying they were down in the last three months, giving a balance of +7%;
  • however, optimism fell sharply (-37%), with 52% of businesses saying they were less optimistic than three months ago.

Leach said: "Looking ahead, the service sector faces a challenging environment in which to grow and invest, with uncertainty about demand weighing on firms' minds."

More on this topic:

Self-assessment help for sole traders

With the introduction of Personal Tax Accounts (PTAs), HMRC has created new videos to help sole traders file their self-assessment tax returns. As well as a series of videos on YouTube covering all aspects of self-assessment, HMRC has created a new video on PTAs explaining the changes. It has also created a video covering common questions on self-assessment that answers questions raised in previous webinars.

Export funding for SMEs

Open to Export has launched a new competition to help small firms (with fewer than 50 employees) to get exporting. Entry is based on the Open to Export Action Plan - an interactive online tool that takes SMEs through a five-step process to build an export plan that will help them start selling overseas. Businesses that use the tool can enter the competition to win £3,000 of funding; finalists will get to pitch their export plans to a panel of judges at Going Global Live on 17 November 2016. The deadline for entry is 14 October.

Why we all need to speak "data"

Data and analytics skills have become almost as important as industry experience and more important than management skills or a second language, according to new research from Alteryx. Its Business Grammar Report polled UK business leaders and found that 26% say data and analytics skills are the most important skill for a new employee. In total, 60% consider data and analytics skills one of the top two assets, with industry experience coming just above (69%). "Our research found that UK business leaders would be willing to offer a 30% higher salary to someone who is data proficient over one who isn't," said Stuart Wilson, Alteryx vp EMEA.

SMEs "stretching" to pay living wage

New research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has found that 59% of small firms are absorbing the costs of paying the new National Living Wage (NLW) by taking lower profits. Following the introduction of the new wage in April 2016, 47% of small businesses now cite wages as the main contributor to the rising cost of doing business. The NLW is currently projected to reach £9.05 by 2020. FSB research has found that the majority of small businesses were already paying all their staff above the new NLW of £7.20 an hour. However, 32% said the new wage has led to some increase in their wage costs and a further 19% said labour costs went up significantly as a result of the new wage.

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