QUESTION: How do I find the time to manage my own financial assets while running a business?
STEPHEN HILL, senior partner with S Hill & Co Investment Advisors, replies: It's extremely
difficult unless you use the services of a good independent financial adviser (IFA)
or are incredibly on the ball yourself.
Alternatively and relatively new to the UK, there are now financial companies known
as investment platforms where investors can register all of their current holdings.
The idea being that the administration of your portfolio is with one provider rather
than with lots of different companies, bringing you ease of access to your portfolio
and potentially huge time savings.
Some of the benefits include improved flexibility and choice as you can mix fund.
You well receive an annual valuation statement each year and unlike other traditional
transfers, your investment is never out of the market.
However, the key thing is to make time to have your finances regularly reviewed with
your IFA. Depending upon how detailed your investments are, you may wish for yearly
or even half yearly reviews.
These meetings will ascertain if anything has changed in your personal or business
circumstances since the last review, ie, a new inheritance.
If something has changed then any new financial requirements can be discussed. Investment
markets can change quickly and there is always new legislation bringing opportunities
or issues to financial planning.
If you are running your own business then it will be difficult to keep on top of all
of these changes and assess their implications to you and your business.
But most IFAs will be proactive in notifying both opportunities and threats to their clients.
QUESTION: I understand that it is possible to submit returns to government online.
Which ones can be done online and how do I go about it?
RODNEY MCMULLAN, Invest NI ICT adviser, replies: It is now possible to make government
returns, such as self assessment, PAYE, VAT and corporation tax, online.
This will help to speed up your administration, save time and money and put you in control.
Over the coming years, some government departments will make online returns and reporting
compulsory, so business in Northern Ireland should be encouraged to start now.
Before you can make online returns to government you will need a Government Gateway
ID, which allows access to e-government services in the UK.
For more information you can visit the Government Gateway website (www.gateway.gov.uk).
You can use Invest NI's online tool (www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/services) which will
help you identify which online reporting and submission tools are applicable to your business.
When you register with nibusinessinfo.co.uk you will automatically receive a Government
For some services online forms are not available and you will only be able to send
forms by using special software packages.
More information about this is available on the Government Gateway website. QUESTION:
My business has been running for a year and I now want to develop a website. What
are my options?
NICHOLAS MARTIN, Invest NI eBusiness advisor, replies: The kind of website that you
need depends on the type of business which you are running, where your customers are
and how you deliver your goods or services.
There are basically two types of website: the first is one that gives information
about your business and allows the customer to interact with you by email or online
forms; the second is one that allows customers to review your goods or services, order
and pay online - in other words an online shop.
Both types are a shop window for your goods and services and form a crucial communication
channel with existing and prospective customers.
The first type will help you to raise your business's profile, market directly to
your customers and provide details of how they can buy your goods or services.
This kind of website can be developed for under £1,000, but you also need to budget
for the cost of maintenance and updates and have processes in place to respond to
the enquiries it will generate from customers.
If your business sells goods nationally or internationally you may want to develop
an online shop.
This kind of site needs to include an online store with descriptions, images and prices,
online forms for enquiries and orders, online payment options and delivery options.
It can cost upwards of £5,000 to develop this kind of transactional site but it will
allow you to trade 24 hours a day to a global marketplace.
One of the key challenges in running this kind of website is fulfilment of orders received.
Selling online can be cost effective and will increase your sales opportunities, but
that needs to be weighed against the cost of developing and maintaining an online shop.
Online marketing and optimising your website for search engines will be key to the
success of any website. Before making a decision it's best to get professional advice.