Hawsons makes history after 165 years in business

Hawsons Chartered Accountants is 165 years old

Hawsons Chartered Accountants was founded in the city of Sheffield in 1854 – more than 25 years before the creation of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales – by Alfred Allott and John Hewett.

Hawsons remains one of the longest-standing independent firms of chartered accountants in the UK. One of the main reasons why clients choose Hawsons is not just because of our experience and expertise in accountancy but the high-quality advice and service our team delivers.

Our mission is to provide our clients with service of the highest quality and value in a professional, friendly, and responsive manner, to assist them to develop their business, to develop the maximum potential of our people and thereby be the leading independent practice in the area.

Our unrivalled history demonstrates that through many periods of change, we have evolved as a business to ensure we continue to remain relevant to our clients, providing them with the quality and breadth of service they need.  Clients understand that irrespective of how small they are when they become a client or how large they will grow, Hawsons will always be there for them.

Our belief in long-term client relationships is why we offer all prospective clients a free initial meeting so we can really get to know you and your business and you can get to know us.

Chris Hill, Senior Partner at Hawsons, said on the firm’s development: “We’re proud of our extensive history and the success we’ve achieved since we were founded in Sheffield 165 years ago. To have reached such an age and still be going strong is a great feat. Despite our company’s growth and expansion into other areas across the UK, we’ve stayed true to our philosophy that no matter what size or sector, every business we work with will always receive the same high standard of advice and service from our team.”

If you are looking for an expert accountant book your free initial meeting with us here.

If you would like to find out more about us visit our website here.

 

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Credit control tips for small businesses

Credit control tips for small businesses

Credit control tips for small businesses

Late payments are still a big concern for many small businesses in the UK.

Research shows that a third of firms in the UK say that at least 20-30% of their sales ledger is constantly overdue. The impacts of this are considerable, particularly on cash-flow, which makes  the day-to-day running of the business much more challenging.

The UK’s economic output is being squeezed by companies that fail to meet the payment terms of their suppliers, according to research among UK businesses, which has found the trading performance of small and medium-sized businesses in particular is being hampered by late payment and poor cash flow. Adding to this strain is the time lost in chasing customers’ late payment; with nearly 30 per cent of firms saying they spend four days or more a month pursuing outstanding invoices, which affects productivity, performance and growth prospects.

Credit control tips and guidance

Obtaining new customers is great for business, unless they fail to pay you. Ensuring that customers pay on time will make managing your business easier.

The first thing you should do is get to know your customer. This should start before you take on a new customer and before you give them any credit.

Money Jar

The bare minimum of what you should know is:

• The exact name of the customer and the trading address (consider using Companies House Webcheck service)

• Their type of business structure, e.g. are they a sole trader, a partnership or a limited company?

• Names and personal addresses of the proprietors’ if their structure is unincorporated (consider verifying letter headed paper to support this information)

• Contact other suppliers to obtain references

• Their credit rating.

Before you provide goods or services to any customer make sure you address the following:

• Discuss and agree payment terms with the customer before accepting the order

• Agree the terms in writing

• Review any documentation from the customer where they try to change the agreed payment terms

• Negotiate and agree payment terms with suppliers before accepting the order

• If there is a gap between customer and supplier payment terms, consider whether finance is available to bridge the gap, this will require an understanding of your working capital management

• Produce a cash flow forecast covering all expected income and expenses

• Have a standard policy in place to ensure that payment terms cannot be altered without appropriate authorisation

• Ensure that you have the right to apply late payment and interest charges on invoices.

After you have provided goods or services to a customer ensure that you:

• Raise invoices promptly

• Raise invoices accurately to ensure all items are included at the quoted prices

• Include a reference number for the order and then quote this if any dispute arises

• Have everything the customer requires on the invoice

• Have a process for chasing invoices

• Have a process for dealing with disputes

• Keep a log of disputes to ascertain whether similar disputes or customers occur • ensure that your invoice

If you are struggling with your cash flow in these difficult times then we would be happy to discuss this further with you.

Please contact us for more detailed advice.

For more information on how we can help your small business, please click here.

Ian Bryan

Ian Bryan heads up the firm's Business Services Department, which is dedicated to helping the smaller business. Ian acts for a wide range of sole traders, partnerships, and limited companies providing accounting and tax advice and practical business solutions. For more details and advice, please contact Ian on [email protected] or 0114 266 7141.

Hawsons makes history after 160 years in business

Hawsons makes history after 160 years in business

Hawsons is one of the longest standing firms of independent chartered accountants in England

Formed in December 1854, Hawsons celebrates 160 years of providing expert advice to businesses of all types and sizes. Our clients know that irrespective of how small they are when they become a client or how large they grow; Hawsons will always be there for them.

With around 100 staff across three offices in Sheffield, Doncaster and Northampton, Hawsons provides the breadth of expertise of some of the largest firms of accountants. Just as importantly, Hawsons also provides the highest quality of service and personal delivery of a local independent firm that is increasingly sought after by today’s successful business owners.

Speaking about this momentous year for the firm, Martyn Weatherall, Senior Partner said:

“We’re proud of our extensive history and the success we’ve achieved since we were founded in Sheffield 160 years ago. Especially with the difficult economic circumstances of recent years, to have reached such an age and still be going strong is a great feat. Despite our company’s growth and expansion into other areas across the UK, we’ve stayed true to our philosophy that no matter what size or sector, every business we work with will always receive the same high standard of advice and service from our team.”

The firm’s history

Richard Frost, Partner at Hawsons, has prepared the following summary of the firm’s history:

George Hawson was four years old when the firm that now bears his name was founded.

At the age of 16 he was teaching at his old school, Ashley House in Worksop and planning a career in the Ministry of the Church of England. However, a serious illness persuaded him that he needed to adopt a less strenuous vocation …. accountancy. He enrolled as a clerk to Alfred Allott who had built up what The Accountant magazine described as “one of the most important practices in the North of England”.

In 1854, over a quarter of a century before the creation of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, at a time when Sheffield had more straw hat makers than accountants, Allott left the employment of The Sheffield and Hallamshire Bank after 13½ years, the directors recording in the bank’s minutes “the high opinion they entertain of his ability, industry and conduct”.

He set up as a public accountant with John Hewett who advertised in The Sheffield Independent in late December 1854:

“Gentlemen – I beg respectfully to inform you that I have taken into partnership Mr Alfred Allott … whose business qualities, urbanity and manners, strict integrity and extensive commercial experience peculiarly qualify him for the position of Public Accountant and Confidential Agent”.

And so, as Hewett and Allott, the firm began in Central Chambers in Sheffield High Street, in December 1854.

central_chambers

(Above) The Chamber

Over the next 20 years Sheffield grew more rapidly than any other town in the country on the back of its burgeoning steel and engineering industries, fuelled by local coal and serviced by developing railways. And whilst Hewett left to become the first company secretary of John Brown & Co when it incorporated in 1864, the practice continued to develop.

By the early 1870s Alfred Allott was a widely known and respected figure. He was the auditor of the Midland Railway and was a specialist in the financing of railways and collieries; called in to investigate the affairs of the Scottish Caledonian Railway when it ran into trouble. With the introduction of limited liability he promoted many local publicly quoted companies – Midland Iron Company; Truswell’s Brewery; Samuel Fox; Davy Brothers; Joseph Rodgers; William Cooke, Brown Bayley and Dixon; Joseph Peace and Sheffield Forge and Rolling Mills to name but a few.

Elected to the Town Council in 1867 he became one of twelve Alderman in 1873 and was put forward as a local parliamentary candidate for the Liberal party. He sat on the School Board and was prominent in the local Congregational Church providing land and funds for the building of several chapels.

But this highly respected establishment figure, like many of his era, could not resist risk. Besides his accountancy practice, he owned a colliery at Pitsmoor, Renishaw Iron Works at Eckington, the Newbridge Iron Ore Company in Northamptonshire and a mine in Cornwall. And then he borrowed to invest £132,000 – many millions in today’s money – in land in far away Tennessee and Georgia, in the USA. He had hoped to exploit the land for its mineral wealth, but a prolonged worldwide slump followed, and in November 1876 Allott went bust.

This is where George Hawson came in; with Allott resigning from his accountancy practice with his then partners Thomas Hadfield and John Kidner and Hawson appointed partner in his place.

In an age where scandal meant ruin, surprisingly bankruptcy often attracted sympathy, perhaps because it happened to so many around that time, including the Lord Mayor. Within months Allott returned to the partnership and the firm moved to what were described as ‘sumptuous’ premises at Hartshead in 1878, where it was to stay until 1970. He was the first President of the Sheffield Institute of Accountants in 1877 and, three years later, a founder council member of the National Institute. By then he had moved to London, and by 1882, with Thomas Hadfield having set up on his own and John Kidner having moved to Northampton, Hawson was the sole partner remaining.

Mergers in Sheffield, Doncaster and Northampton

Hawson’s son Grafton joined the practice and when George retired in 1919, aged 69, Grafton merged firstly with Edgar Jenkinson and in 1926 with Hubert Nicholson. Subsequent mergers with long established Sheffield firms, A. Leslie Wing & Co. in 1946 and Hubert Smith in 1963 set the foundations for the current Sheffield office. In 1986 the firm moved to Northampton by joining up with Dutton & Co, and in 1990 merged with Harold Moon & Taylor in Doncaster. The latest merger took place just over a year ago with another long established and well known Sheffield firm, Holmes Widlake.

Sheffield office

(Above) The Hawsons Sheffield Office

Doncaster office

(Above) The Hawsons Doncaster Office

HawsonsNorthampton

(Above) The Hawsons Northampton Office

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5 easy ways to grow your restaurant

5 easy ways to grow your restaurant

5 easy ways to grow your restaurant

 
Under the current economic climate and with thousands of new restaurants opening every year, it is crucial your restaurant stands out from the crowd.

Outlined below are 5 easy ways to grow your restaurant:

1. Know your customers

Take the time to get to know your customers; who they are, what they like doing and what food and drink they enjoy.

Knowing who your customers are and what they like doing will enable you to form establish what your current target market is. This may have changed over the years so it is important to keep up-to-date with your customers. This should help you tailor marketing communications, events and even your menu. For example, if your customer demographic is the younger generation it is likely you will have more emphasis on social media to promote your restaurant.

2. Signature dishes

With thousands of new restaurants opening every year, you need to stand out from the crowd. Find a dish that a) you can cook to a consistent quality and b) gives you a profitable margin on sales. Make these your signature items; get your customers talking and become famous for these dishes. Whether it is burgers, pies or even cocktails – find it, perfect it and market it.

Make sure your signature dishes are prominent on your menus and you talk about them on social media, press releases and when trying to up-sell in your restaurant. Initially it may be a good idea to offer deals on these items – have a burger night where it is ‘2-4-1’ or a ‘happy hour’ for cocktails – if your signature items are good, word of mouth will spread.

3. Training

Working in a restaurant can often become repetitive for members of staff, which may cause boredom and/or lack of productivity and service. By continually training your staff, with new ideas and different roles, your business is likely to become more efficient and your service increased to a higher standard.

For example, if not all members of bar staff know how to change a barrel then this may cause delays in service, which will not only be infuriating for the customer but also for the member of staff, who without proper training, cannot help.

As long as you keep training fun and engaging (make it relevant to that member of staff) then you may be surprised how eager staff members are to learn and develop their skills.

4. Feedback

Asking customers and staff for feedback can have multiple benefits.

Firstly, it can bring you closer to the customer/staff member, building a relationship of trust and respect. This can be extremely important, especially for restaurants.

Secondly, customers and staff members are often full of fantastic ideas. It may pay dividends to listen to them. This can and should also be done on both a large scale and a small scale: ask staff members why do they think a certain product isn’t selling? What could be done about it? Ask customers if they have any suggestions on how you could improve your dining experience.

Thirdly, asking for feedback can be a way of monitoring marketing communications and progress. As you may have clocked by now, when you register to a new site, it will often ask ‘where did you hear about us?’ – This is so that they can monitor, evaluate and optimise communications. Ask customers where they heard about you and if advertising in the local paper is mentioned a lot, maybe it is worth increasing your spend on that marketing channel.

One important thing to mention here is that bad feedback is good feedback; it gives your company the opportunity to improve and work better towards meeting customer needs. The problem isn’t the bad feedback, it’s finding it. It is often touted that over 90% of customers who have had a bad experience do not express it, they simply walk away.

5. A welcoming environment

The food you serve in a restaurant and the service you provide are not the only factors determining how the customer will rate your ‘performance’. It is important to make sure that your restaurant is a welcoming environment – it is clean, nicely furnished and is equipped for your target market.

Clean: Make sure tables and surrounding areas are clean when setting up for customers – is there food on the floor? Is the cutlery clean? If you do not have a clean environment in which customers can enjoy their food, they may not even order, they may get up and leave. A customer would be much happier waiting for a table to be cleaned than being seated straight away and having to sit in a messy and dirty area.

Nicely furnished: The furnishing of your restaurant is often the first impression that your customers have. Does it reflect your business? Does it send the right message?

Equipped: Make sure you have the facilities available that your target customers are likely to require. For example, if you are a family restaurant then you are likely to need a baby changing room. Do you need a TV showing the football? What background music should you play?

More from our leisure and hospitality experts

You can find all of our latest hospitality sector news and newsletters here.

If you are looking for advice in a particular area, please get in touch with your usual Hawsons contact.

Alternatively, we offer all new clients a free initial meeting to have a discussion about their own personal circumstances – find out more or book your free initial meeting here. We have offices in Sheffield, Doncaster and Northampton.

Ian Bryan

Ian Bryan heads up the firm's Business Services Department, which is dedicated to helping the smaller business. Ian acts for a wide range of sole traders, partnerships, and limited companies providing accounting and tax advice and practical business solutions. For more details and advice, please contact Ian on [email protected] or 0114 266 7141.

7 mistakes start-ups need to avoid

7 mistakes start-ups need to avoid

7 mistakes start-ups need to avoid

Starting up a new business is a challenging process. What makes it even more challenging is that many entrepreneurs do not have prior experience of the business world, keeping to budgets or marketing.

Outlined below are 7 start-up mistakes to avoid at all costs:

1) Lack of planning

Like many things in life, planning helps to achieve goals and business is no different. Business planning is a key factor in business success. If you need finance, no bank manager will lend money without a considered plan. Additionally, a business plan is also much more than just a fundraising tool and can help you set clear objectives and clarify your thinking, monitor performance, provide early warning signs and potentially be used as part of the recruitment process to attract talented employees.

Your plan should provide a thorough examination of the way in which the business will commence and develop. It should describe the business, product or service, market, mode of operation, capital requirements and projected financial results.

2) Wasted marketing spend

Be careful with what you are spending on marketing. Make sure you set out a clear budget and work out what marketing communications need to be prioritised. For example, in the digital age, a company’s website is increasingly becoming the first point-of-contact for a prospective customer; it is essential you send the right message. Additionally, the use of social media platforms e.g. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ etc. are a quick, easy and free way of getting your business in the public eye.

Details of your marketing activity and budget are an important aspect of any business plan.

3) Badly targeted marketing

Set out a communications plan with specific objectives that you want to achieve.

If you are spending the time and effort to set out a clear marketing budget and communications plan, ensure that you set objectives that are ‘SMART – Specific – Measurable – Achievable – Realistic – Timely’ and that your time is not wasted.

Making your marketing SMART will ensure you are targeting your specific market in a timely fashion. It will also enable you to measure your progress, which can allow you to pull out of or intensify a marketing campaign, depending on its progress and also plan more effectively for future marketing. For example, if you have seen stronger end-results from direct marketing as opposed to on social media, you may wish to concentrate more on your direct marketing communications in the future.

Google Analytics is a fantastic tool which can help you measure progress: http://www.google.com/analytics/

4) Poor recruitment

Make sure you employ the right personnel from the off-set. You must take into account that how your staff communicate and behave will have an impact on your company’s image and reputation. This is especially important for the customer service sector.

Also, when employing family and friends, it is important you consider the potential ramifications on the business and other employees. Take into account the wage a family member earns, as paying a family member what they need rather than what they are worth may lead to tension and resentment among non-family employees. Additionally, from our experience, when a family gets into relationship conflict what usually happens is that the root of the problem is ignored and instead the focus is shifted to ‘business symptoms’. Being aware of this beforehand can mitigate potential issues.

5) Inadequate research

Do not underestimate the importance of planning and research. These are pivotal tasks an entrepreneur must take in order to ensure the viability of a business idea.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Is there genuine demand for what I am selling?
  • What price should I sell at? What price does the market demand?
  • How can I sustain a long-term competitive advantage? Do I have a USP?

To answer these questions, it is important to conduct both primary and secondary research. Primary research is fundamental; meet with your potential customers, customers of rival products and find out what the market demands – then tailor your business accordingly.

6) Overestimating

Be prudent. Be prudent with your financial forecasting and be prudent with your spending.

Firstly, when projecting your financial information (Profit & loss accounts; cash-flow and balance sheets) make sure you do not overestimate your business’ potential. If you are pitching these forecasts to potential investors, having an unrealistic outlook may put them off – it can show your inexperience of the market place. It can also cause problems down the line if you do not meet goals and hit the financial targets you projected. It is a good idea to include a sensitivity analysis in your financial forecasting – include the figures your business may achieve if your projected sales figures were either 10% or 20% up or down. This will show investors you understand the market and will help you determine worst/best case scenarios.

Secondly, in regards to cash- flow, be prudent on how much you are spending and what you are spending it on. It may be tempting to invest in stock, equipment and hire more staff than necessary, especially if you have had a cash injection from an investor. Keep money aside as a contingency plan; you never know when you may need to replace a piece of equipment or you have a cash-flow problem.

7) Inflexibility

Writing a business plan can have many benefits, but please bear in mind that things do not always go as planned. You need to be flexible with your approach. This may mean bringing out a new product, changing a marketing campaign or something more drastic, like changing your entire company’s direction.

Did you know that Lucozade was first sold as a medical drink and not a sports drink or that Nokia, the telecommunications giant used to make rubber boots?

These companies saw an opportunity in the market and changed their direction.

Do not change for the sake of change, but if there is a viable opportunity, it may pay to take it. This doesn’t have to be on the same level as Lucozade and Nokia, not at all – the market is much more competitive now. However, as an example: if you are a clothing retailer and it starts raining, why not place your umbrellas by the door or near the till or if you offer data protection software and there is a recent breach in the market, why not intensify your communications?

Ian Bryan

Ian Bryan heads up the firm's Business Services Department, which is dedicated to helping the smaller business. Ian acts for a wide range of sole traders, partnerships, and limited companies providing accounting and tax advice and practical business solutions. For more details and advice, please contact Ian on [email protected] or 0114 266 7141.

Recession a good time to start new business ventures

Recession a good time to start new business ventures

Recession a good time to start new business ventures 

Although the recession is still biting, with many companies in real difficulty, this could still be a good time to launch a new business venture, a start-up specialist said today.

Ian Bryan, Business Development Services manager of Sheffield-based independent chartered accountants and specialist business advisers Hawsons, thinks that anyone with a good idea shouldn’t be put off going ahead because it is possible for them to turn the current economic conditions to their advantage.

He added: “It doesn’t seem at all logical but some of the most successful enterprises have been started in hard financial times.”

He lists several reasons why new start-ups could do well if the idea is right:

    Talented staff are more likely to be available because of redundancies and failing businesses; During a recession, prices sometimes drop and office and shop space is cheaper. Reduced prices on components and office supplies may also be available; Customers search for value during bad times and, if a new venture gives them a good customer experience, they are likely to remember it and give you their business when the economy starts picking up; Businesses that start in a recession and survive usually know how to keep costs to a minimum, standing them in good stead in better times.

Ian added: “But it still needs a lot of courage to start a new business in times like this and you should only go ahead if it feels right for you and you are confident that your idea is a good and sound one.”

For more information on how we can help your small business, please click here.

Ian Bryan

Ian Bryan heads up the firm's Business Services Department, which is dedicated to helping the smaller business. Ian acts for a wide range of sole traders, partnerships, and limited companies providing accounting and tax advice and practical business solutions. For more details and advice, please contact Ian on [email protected] or 0114 266 7141.

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