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How A Virtual Assistant Can Help Grow Your Business

By Y HACKETT 23 Feb, 2017
Many of you may be wondering how much extra work you can fit in your day, or how many more clients you could be talking to, and working with, if there was no or much less paperwork and administrative tasks needing to be completed on a daily basis.

Whether time is against you, or whether time management is an area that you have no skills in,  lack of hours in the day could be because of all the distractions and necessary projects that you personally have to do. These things eat up your precious time which you could be using to publicise, build and expand your business.

This is where a VA can be invaluable.  They can take away the time-consuming & mundane tasks and complete them on your behalf, to the standard your business requires, within a specified time frame, leaving you to complete the more important things.

So what range of tasks can a VA do for you in about an hour? The list below outlines some of the things you are trying to juggle at the moment, so think what a VA could accomplish in a day on your behalf.  Some VA's will also complete these tasks out of normal office hours if they are required urgently.

Email & Diary Management

  • Create an Email campaign
  • Delete spam accumulated in your email overnight, and sort, answer, or redirect remaining messages 
  • Set up an e-fax for you where faxes arrive as a PDF attachment via email
  • Update and manage your diary
  • Notifying you of impending deadlines
  • Schedule appointments with clients, business & sales people
  • Follow up (or remind you to follow up) 1, 3, 6 months after project completion

Document Production

  • Build a custom spreadsheet
  • Create a PowerPoint presentation
  • Convert document files to PDF format
  • Update an old word processed file to reflect your company's new colour, logo, font, etc.
  • Create forms or surveys for customer feedback
  • Designing brochures & creating context to put inside
  • Forms creation
  • Transcribe a half hour of audio 
  • Mail merge letters including stuffing envelopes and mailing
  • Data entry - type all your business cards from networking events into a database or spreadsheet
  • Document management to organise scanned & online documents into folders

Event Management

  • Research venue, travel, hotel and meeting facilities
  • Investigate need for any special permits, licenses, insurance etc.
  • Review security needs/access/plan for the event with the Venue Manager 
  • Develop and produce invitations, programs, posters, tickets etc.
  • Collate and label personalised packets for your seminar or presentation
  • Type handwritten notes from a seminar
  • Run a contest

Business Administration

  • Receptionist duties - answering calls, leaving voicemails & checking messages
  • Open and sort mail 
  • Perform basic bookkeeping tasks
  • Review your marketing materials & check for errors
  • Create a digital signature for signing bulk letters/emails
  • Collecting documents for the accounts year end
  • Prepare training manuals for new staff members or remote workers
  • Taking minutes from meetings and creating a detailed document
  • Performing generic errands for the office, including buying items online, arranging locations for conferences, meetings
  • Do follow up research on a client, prospect, applicant, or competitor
  • Setup a newsletter
  • Edit and proof read a report
  • Create a viable prospect list of contacts
  • Managing projects with subcontractors, emailing reports & informing them of deadlines
  • Speaking with customer service representatives for technical support, banking issues etc.
  • Following up with clients/customers
  • Liaising between you and other team members
  • Finding networking opportunities
  • Scheduling follow-ups for leads
  • Obtaining quotes to purchase a product or service
  • Sift through applications when hiring people, check references and run background checks

Social Media

  • Update website content
  • Opening social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ & Instagram
  • Image sourcing for social media or blog posts
  • Website updates with fresh content, make corrections and manage links
Personal Requirements

  • Personal errands (purchasing gifts for loved ones/family members online
  • Sending a gift card or thank you note to your family, friends & clients
  • Booking restaurant reservations






By Y HACKETT 25 Nov, 2016

The Chancellor’s statement to Parliament, his first since the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, included announcements on infrastructure spending and changes designed to boost small business. Here are the main points:

Infrastructure

·        £23bn national productivity investment fund.

The chancellor is focusing heavily on solving the productivity problem that means UK output lags behind those of other developed nations.  The fund will aim to boost transport and digital infrastructure, as well as research and development.  Hammond says the aim is a ‘high-wage, high-skill economy that will deliver higher living standards’.

Transport: road and rail

·        £1.1bn in English local networks.

·        £200m for traffic pinch-points.

·        £450m for digital signalling on trains.

·        £390m for low-emissions vehicles.

He promised more details of road improvements would be announced in the Midlands by the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling within the next few days, but the most ambitious individual transport initiative is a £5m Rail Hub which will, among others things, enable ten more train services every hour through Birmingham's New Street station, the cross roads of the rail network.

His commitment remains undimmed to relieving those bottlenecks and pinch points which he feels are such a block in the way of bringing our productivity up to the levels of our European rivals.  A recent survey by Midlands Connect, a collaboration of 28 councils and 10 local enterprise partnerships across the East and West Midlands, suggests a quarter of local businesses would consider relocating elsewhere in the country if there's no improvement in transport connectivity.

Digital infrastructure

·        100% business rate relief on new fibre infrastructure.

·        £1bn for broadband.

The chancellor is clearly prioritising infrastructure aimed at improving business output.  Money is going towards ‘hyper-fast’ broadband, although some may be frustrated that millions of rural households and businesses still do not have good internet connectivity.

English regions

·        £1.8bn from the local growth fund to go to regions.

·        New borrowing powers for local authorities.

Mr Hammond has committed himself to a second "Devolution Deal" for the new devolved West Midlands Combined Authority.

The WMCA is controversial because its critics see it as a super-council which may ride roughshod over local authorities. The Government say its powers will not be taken away from councils. If anything, the elected "Metro Mayor" arouses even greater hostility on the grounds that it concentrates power in one person's hands, but the Mayor-plus-Combined Authority 'model' does at least qualify it for the maximum level of devolved political and spending power.

Assistance for start-ups

·        £400m injection via the British Business Bank.

The government is pledging to help small businesses scale up, with the focus on financial and technology firms.  The aim is to prevent small, fast-growing companies in key industries being snapped up by larger firms.

Rural business rate relief

·        Rate relief increased to 100%.

This rate relief provides support for businesses in rural areas, and could be worth nearly £3,000 a year to hundreds of small firms across the Midlands.

Business tax changes

·        Corporation tax to fall to 17% by 2020.

Some had interpreted Theresa May’s comments that she wanted the UK to have the lowest corporation tax rate in the G20 as a sign that she could slash it as low as 15% – however this suggestion has been put on hold for now.

·        Flat rate VAT changes.

This will affect businesses that use the VAT Flat Rate Scheme but which spend very little on raw materials - such as firms providing services.  The VAT Flat Rate Scheme simplifies businesses' record keeping, and makes it easy to work out the VAT that has to be paid.  Normally a business deducts the VAT on its inputs (what is bought) from the VAT charged on what is sold (outputs). Under the Flat Rate Scheme, that two stage process is simplified to one step.

It will increase the VAT paid by labour-intensive businesses where very little is spent on goods. For example, this may affect IT contractors, consultants, hairdressers and accountancy firms.  It will also affect construction workers who supply their labour, but where the raw materials are provided by the main contractor.  Exactly which sales count can be complicated -  the details can be found  on the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) website.

The new rules start on 1 April 2017, but may also affect invoices issued, and goods bought, from now on.

National living wage

·        Rise from £7.20 to £7.50 an hour in April.

Good news for workers on minimum wage jobs but the rise is not large enough to keep pace with George Osborne’s promise that the rate will reach £9 by 2020.

Employee perks

·        Salary sacrifice schemes to be scaled back, with some exceptions such as cycling schemes and ultra-low emission cars, child care and pensions.

This is a revenue raiser for the Treasury as employers will now have to pay national insurance on benefits like mobile phone contracts and gym membership. Experts suggest the incentive for businesses to offer work perks will subsequently plummet.

National insurance

·        From April 2017 align the employee and employer NI thresholds at £157 per week.

This will raise a significant amount for the Treasury and cost employers on average £7.18 per worker.  This is because the earnings threshold above which a business has to pay NI contributions will not rise with inflation but by a modest £1 next year, bringing it into line with the threshold for employees.

Fuel duty

·        Cancelled for the seventh consecutive year.

It is becoming quite politically impossible for a chancellor to raise fuel duty, given the pressure against any more rises. Supermarket price wars - currently taking effect - have helped motorists here.

By Y HACKETT 11 Nov, 2016
  1. Business .  You're hiring a virtual assistant to support you, not for you to support them.  If you're not favourable of the socialised corporate workplace environment a virtual assistant can be an excellent option.  They bill for time that they spend working; you're not paying for personal phone calls, late arrivals, childcare crises, or sick time.
  2. Cost .  Virtual assistants are a competitive industry.  You can find a wide range of pricing for your virtual assistant based upon skills and expertise.  One nice advantage is that you can hire a virtual assistant from almost anywhere in the world, though it's often good if they speak your native language fluently.
  3. Virtual freedom .  As they are not on-site employees that means no liability, no worker's comp insurance and no payroll taxes to calculate.  Everyone is an independent contractor.  You can pay by the hour or by the project as well.
  4. No strangers in the office .  If you're a small business or you happen to work from an home office, having strangers in your home can be intrusive.  This is especially so if you have children at home, or a spouse who works odd hours, or simply don't want to open up your private space to others.
  5. Control .  The working relationship between you and your virtual assistant is based upon a contractual agreement.  Here you can state exactly what you expect from them, they can either agree to the terms or you can simply find another virtual assistant.  If you need them to use a specific piece of software or process then tell them.
  6. Professional rapport .  Just like you they are looking to sell their services.  They can often be a great way to expand your network and resource base.  You can often find they have solutions to problems you might have never thought of.
Another important consideration to take into account when you hire them is to get them to publish a detailed list of what services they offer and their charge.  Some assistants will charge to accept your phone calls, read your email instructions, or the time it takes to download a file.  There should be no surprises if you have good communication with your VA.
By Y HACKETT 20 Oct, 2016
Using a virtual assistant can potentially save you hours of time each week.  But knowing which tasks to delegate out can be tricky.  Most virtual assistants are contract or freelance workers who do their jobs from home and focus on administrative tasks that are similar to those of an executive assistant or secretary.

It is important to build trust, just as you would with a permanent employee.  They become a team member who just happens to work remotely. Not sure where to start?  Here are 9 ways you can use a virtual assistant to improve your business.

  1. Bookkeeping .  One of the easiest things you could possibly assign to your virtual assistant.  Keeping tabs on bills and other bookkeeping matters can often take hours away from your precious time.  Giving this task to your virtual assistant can free up that time, giving you more time to focus on important tasks.
  2. Database Entries .  Inputting data into a database can often be a required task, but also be considered time wasting.  Whether the data be a slew of business cards picked up at a networking event or statistical data, giving this task to your virtual assistant is an ideal way to free up your time.
  3. Managing Email .  To keep you from wasting time in your email inbox, some virtual assistants will filter your most important emails and respond to the rest on your behalf.  Such email management is easy to do remotely, but you need to provide guidance on how to pick out key emails and ask the assistant to copy you before sending out any responses to reduce the risk of errors.
  4. Scheduling .  With numerous cloud based and ad-hoc scheduling tools available on the internet there is a variety of scheduled tasks that your virtual assistant could manage for you.  From setting up appointments and inviting clients to meetings to managing your calendar all of this could be done for you.
  5. Chasing Business .  Do you have a lead that you should follow up, but don't have the time or you're waiting for them to get back to you? This is perfect to delegate to your virtual assistant as they can help promote your business by getting you strong leads and re-enforcing older leads turning them into potential clients.
  6. Data Presentations .  Turning raw data into a clear PowerPoint presentation or summarising research findings in a Word document can be a huge time saver when preparing for meetings.  Essentially turning raw data into something you can present to others can save a huge amount of time.
  7. Travel Research .  Do you travel a lot?  Virtual assistants are a great resource for finding hotels, booking airfares and mapping out trip itineraries both for business and pleasure.  The assistants can take advantage of the growing number of travel research tools and review sites on the web.  They can also deal with the hassle of navigating time zones when booking or researching international travel options by phone.
  8. Online Research .  You can easily farm out internet research to virtual assistants.  Common requests include finding information on corporate websites, exploring new products and vetting potential employees or business contacts.  Be sure to send clear instructions, along with user names and passwords so assistants can get access to speciality search tools or paid websites.
  9. Industry Knowledge Preparation .  With limited time to keep up with industry news, some small businesses have turned to virtual assistants to keep tabs on the most important happenings.  Many executives use the industry information to update their Twitter feed or bring up interesting developments in conversations with customers and prospects.



By Y HACKETT 06 Oct, 2016
Nothing is more exciting than an increase in sales when you run your own business.  Starting, managing and supporting a business takes hard work and perseverance, and when you finally start to see the product of your efforts, it all seems worthwhile.

There are problems with having a large workload, however, and although you might be grateful for the business, you may eventually find you are spreading yourself too thin.  When a business owner tries to do everything themselves, they become overloaded by too much to do every day.

A lot of business owners believe they don't need a Virtual Assistant, and that they can manage on their own.  However, is that really the most effective use of your time?  Does your business issue invoices in a timely manner?  

Delays in invoicing can lead to delays in cash flow for your business, a virtual assistant can create these invoices for you.  If you're not getting paid on time, then you have the option to hire a virtual assistant to chase these invoice payments for you.  If you don't chase invoices then you'll end up on the bottom of the pile for payment as soon as your client hits financial trouble.

You are in the business to make money and you do not need the endless distraction of having to reason with defaulting clients.  Let us chase your overdue invoices in a professional and unattached manner instead of you getting hot under the collar trying to reason with your clients.  We become part of your credit control department thus immediately freeing up your time allowing you to concentrate on running your business, improving your services and adding to your client pool.

If you find that you are spending too much time invoicing and chasing clients for payment, then why not give us a call and see how we can help you free up more of your valuable time.
By Y HACKETT 30 Sep, 2016

It may seem that there just aren’t enough hours in your working day to get everything done. Or maybe you are under pressure due to the many competing demands on your attention. Your work, and even your mental health could suffer, and that won’t help you or your business. If any of this sounds familiar, take a look at these few simple changes you could make to lighten the load, relieve the pressure and hopefully make your life a little less hectic:

  • DELEGATE .  You cannot do everything, and you and your work can suffer when you try to do more than is possible in the time you have. If someone else can perform a task, let them take it on. Then you’re free to direct your time, skills and effort where they will benefit you the most.

  • LEARN TO SAY NO .  When you don’t have enough time and delegating isn’t an option, sometimes it’s better to say no than to increase your workload and miss deadlines where your clients are relying on you to complete the tasks you committed to.

  • BATCH TASKS .  Wherever possible, group similar tasks together. It’s better to set aside time to make all of your pending phone calls, or reply to emails, than to get them one at a time throughout the day. You’ll save time and be less likely to forget something you needed to do. A daily or weekly schedule of tasks may also help you to be more efficient & productive in this area, by making realistic assessments of the time you’ll need for each task, and try your best to stick to the plan.

  • FOCUS ON ONE PROJECT .  Instead of dropping in and out of different tasks, concentrate on the most important. Prioritise your tasks and set aside the time, skills and resources you’ll need, then try to work on it until it is complete. With a bigger project, you can break it down into more manageable chunks and more easily see which are the key activities or what is the critical path.

  • PRIORITISE .  When there is something important to do, don’t leave it until later. Having something hanging over your day creates pressure and adds unnecessary worry. Once it’s done, your mind is free to move on to concentrate fully on the next task.

  • URGENT MEETINGS .  If you are not required to be at a particular meeting and you have a more pressing deadline, do not feel guilty about not attending, but do ensure you contact the people concerned, to tell them that you won’t be attending and if necessary re-arrange it.

  • USE TECHNOLOGY .  There is a whole raft of software packages that you can use to automate many of your scheduling, planning and communication tasks to save you time.  For instance, if you have basic skills in spreadsheets you can set them up to automatically update the latest information whilst re-calculating your costs, revenue & profit for you.  Other areas in which you could utilise technology are: planning resources, time management, contact lists, communications and diary management.


By Y HACKETT 26 Sep, 2016
A Virtual Assistant is a self-employed professional offering remote administrative support to small businesses on an hourly, project-specific or ongoing basis.  You would use a virtual assistant when you needed a skilled person to provide top class administrative support and advice, in the same way as you would call a solicitor for legal advice or an accountant for financial support.

Not only that, but all virtual assistants have skills that can be used for the benefit of your business and some have specific skills that can complement your work.  This is all for the benefit of you, your business and your productivity. Virtual assistants can offer a general admin support service or often a more specialised marketing or bookkeeping service, or both.  The service of a virtual assistant is to help businesses flourish by helping with tasks that the business owner need not do, as they take time and divert attention away from running the business.

All businesses have admin, correspondence and general office tasks to do, and as your business grows in size these tasks also grow.  As a business owner you have choices, you can do the tasks yourself and think you are saving money, but in fact more often than not what happens is that you get snowed under, you can't do everything so something has to give and this could be your focus on managing the business or closing deals, or some tasks just won't get done as they keep getting put off.  You cannot do everything.  The choice used to be a permanent employee or a temporary worker, but now as a business you have the additional choice of a virtual assistant who can act as your support, as and when needed which can save businesses time and money.  Your business also avoids the logistical problem of providing extra office space, equipment or supplies.  As a business you only pay for 100% productive work, and work with the virtual assistant to meet your exact needs.

Some business owners think that outsourcing support work is too expensive so they decide to do the work themselves or hire even more expensive support by going down the traditional route of hiring a temp or a permanent member of staff.  Most businesses are now realising the true difference a virtual assistant can make to a business...

*  Tasks can be easily delegated
*  You only get billed for the actual time spent working, there is no downtime
*  No holiday pay, National Insurance or sick pay
*  No training or equipment needs to be provided
*  No employment law regulations

You get all the benefits of a traditional employee but don't have the extra costs involved.  

Hiring a virtual assistant may be the best thing for your business whether it is small, large or just starting out.  You may be pleasantly surprised at what a virtual assistant can bring to your growing business.


By Y HACKETT 26 Sep, 2016
I have finally decided to take the plunge and add a blog to my site. I always wanted an easy way to share information with visitors and I’m super excited to start this journey. Keep coming back to my site and check for updates right here on the blog.
By Y HACKETT 26 Sep, 2016
Anyone can make one:
For better or worse, anyone can write a blog post about anything they want. Everyone has a voice and the best voices will rise to the top.

The writer can show their personality:
In blog posts, the writer has more leeway to add in their voice and personality than other types of writing.

Blogs are a great form of mass communication:
You can help people, learn new things, entertain your audience—the possibilities are endless and amazing. Blogging opens up all of these to a very wide audience.

You can make money:

Get the right blog going and you can make a lot of money through advertising and sponsored posts.

It allows people to craft better thoughts:
Instead of reading haphazard, uneducated Facebook statuses, it’s much better to see people’s thought process in a well-written blog post.

You can establish a community:
Blogging allows you to connect with other individuals who share the same interests. Sharing ideas and opinions within your community helps establish yourself as a thought leader.

Good for SEO:
Keeping content on your site fresh and relevant, you can use your blog to boost the search engine ranking (SEO) of your site and your business.

It brings people back to your site:

If your blog is strong enough and updated regularly, people will come back looking for more and bring traffic back to your site as well.

It’s free:
It costs you a grand total of zero dollars to post to the blog, so if you have something to say, there’s nothing to stop you.

You can establish yourself as a thought leader:

A blog is a great place for your original thoughts, and it can be a wonderful way to show off your individuality. If people like your ideas, you can become a thought leader in your industry!

What else do you love about blogs? Let me know!

How A Virtual Assistant Can Help Grow Your Business

By Y HACKETT 23 Feb, 2017
Many of you may be wondering how much extra work you can fit in your day, or how many more clients you could be talking to, and working with, if there was no or much less paperwork and administrative tasks needing to be completed on a daily basis.

Whether time is against you, or whether time management is an area that you have no skills in,  lack of hours in the day could be because of all the distractions and necessary projects that you personally have to do. These things eat up your precious time which you could be using to publicise, build and expand your business.

This is where a VA can be invaluable.  They can take away the time-consuming & mundane tasks and complete them on your behalf, to the standard your business requires, within a specified time frame, leaving you to complete the more important things.

So what range of tasks can a VA do for you in about an hour? The list below outlines some of the things you are trying to juggle at the moment, so think what a VA could accomplish in a day on your behalf.  Some VA's will also complete these tasks out of normal office hours if they are required urgently.

Email & Diary Management

  • Create an Email campaign
  • Delete spam accumulated in your email overnight, and sort, answer, or redirect remaining messages 
  • Set up an e-fax for you where faxes arrive as a PDF attachment via email
  • Update and manage your diary
  • Notifying you of impending deadlines
  • Schedule appointments with clients, business & sales people
  • Follow up (or remind you to follow up) 1, 3, 6 months after project completion

Document Production

  • Build a custom spreadsheet
  • Create a PowerPoint presentation
  • Convert document files to PDF format
  • Update an old word processed file to reflect your company's new colour, logo, font, etc.
  • Create forms or surveys for customer feedback
  • Designing brochures & creating context to put inside
  • Forms creation
  • Transcribe a half hour of audio 
  • Mail merge letters including stuffing envelopes and mailing
  • Data entry - type all your business cards from networking events into a database or spreadsheet
  • Document management to organise scanned & online documents into folders

Event Management

  • Research venue, travel, hotel and meeting facilities
  • Investigate need for any special permits, licenses, insurance etc.
  • Review security needs/access/plan for the event with the Venue Manager 
  • Develop and produce invitations, programs, posters, tickets etc.
  • Collate and label personalised packets for your seminar or presentation
  • Type handwritten notes from a seminar
  • Run a contest

Business Administration

  • Receptionist duties - answering calls, leaving voicemails & checking messages
  • Open and sort mail 
  • Perform basic bookkeeping tasks
  • Review your marketing materials & check for errors
  • Create a digital signature for signing bulk letters/emails
  • Collecting documents for the accounts year end
  • Prepare training manuals for new staff members or remote workers
  • Taking minutes from meetings and creating a detailed document
  • Performing generic errands for the office, including buying items online, arranging locations for conferences, meetings
  • Do follow up research on a client, prospect, applicant, or competitor
  • Setup a newsletter
  • Edit and proof read a report
  • Create a viable prospect list of contacts
  • Managing projects with subcontractors, emailing reports & informing them of deadlines
  • Speaking with customer service representatives for technical support, banking issues etc.
  • Following up with clients/customers
  • Liaising between you and other team members
  • Finding networking opportunities
  • Scheduling follow-ups for leads
  • Obtaining quotes to purchase a product or service
  • Sift through applications when hiring people, check references and run background checks

Social Media

  • Update website content
  • Opening social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ & Instagram
  • Image sourcing for social media or blog posts
  • Website updates with fresh content, make corrections and manage links
Personal Requirements

  • Personal errands (purchasing gifts for loved ones/family members online
  • Sending a gift card or thank you note to your family, friends & clients
  • Booking restaurant reservations






By Y HACKETT 25 Nov, 2016

The Chancellor’s statement to Parliament, his first since the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, included announcements on infrastructure spending and changes designed to boost small business. Here are the main points:

Infrastructure

·        £23bn national productivity investment fund.

The chancellor is focusing heavily on solving the productivity problem that means UK output lags behind those of other developed nations.  The fund will aim to boost transport and digital infrastructure, as well as research and development.  Hammond says the aim is a ‘high-wage, high-skill economy that will deliver higher living standards’.

Transport: road and rail

·        £1.1bn in English local networks.

·        £200m for traffic pinch-points.

·        £450m for digital signalling on trains.

·        £390m for low-emissions vehicles.

He promised more details of road improvements would be announced in the Midlands by the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling within the next few days, but the most ambitious individual transport initiative is a £5m Rail Hub which will, among others things, enable ten more train services every hour through Birmingham's New Street station, the cross roads of the rail network.

His commitment remains undimmed to relieving those bottlenecks and pinch points which he feels are such a block in the way of bringing our productivity up to the levels of our European rivals.  A recent survey by Midlands Connect, a collaboration of 28 councils and 10 local enterprise partnerships across the East and West Midlands, suggests a quarter of local businesses would consider relocating elsewhere in the country if there's no improvement in transport connectivity.

Digital infrastructure

·        100% business rate relief on new fibre infrastructure.

·        £1bn for broadband.

The chancellor is clearly prioritising infrastructure aimed at improving business output.  Money is going towards ‘hyper-fast’ broadband, although some may be frustrated that millions of rural households and businesses still do not have good internet connectivity.

English regions

·        £1.8bn from the local growth fund to go to regions.

·        New borrowing powers for local authorities.

Mr Hammond has committed himself to a second "Devolution Deal" for the new devolved West Midlands Combined Authority.

The WMCA is controversial because its critics see it as a super-council which may ride roughshod over local authorities. The Government say its powers will not be taken away from councils. If anything, the elected "Metro Mayor" arouses even greater hostility on the grounds that it concentrates power in one person's hands, but the Mayor-plus-Combined Authority 'model' does at least qualify it for the maximum level of devolved political and spending power.

Assistance for start-ups

·        £400m injection via the British Business Bank.

The government is pledging to help small businesses scale up, with the focus on financial and technology firms.  The aim is to prevent small, fast-growing companies in key industries being snapped up by larger firms.

Rural business rate relief

·        Rate relief increased to 100%.

This rate relief provides support for businesses in rural areas, and could be worth nearly £3,000 a year to hundreds of small firms across the Midlands.

Business tax changes

·        Corporation tax to fall to 17% by 2020.

Some had interpreted Theresa May’s comments that she wanted the UK to have the lowest corporation tax rate in the G20 as a sign that she could slash it as low as 15% – however this suggestion has been put on hold for now.

·        Flat rate VAT changes.

This will affect businesses that use the VAT Flat Rate Scheme but which spend very little on raw materials - such as firms providing services.  The VAT Flat Rate Scheme simplifies businesses' record keeping, and makes it easy to work out the VAT that has to be paid.  Normally a business deducts the VAT on its inputs (what is bought) from the VAT charged on what is sold (outputs). Under the Flat Rate Scheme, that two stage process is simplified to one step.

It will increase the VAT paid by labour-intensive businesses where very little is spent on goods. For example, this may affect IT contractors, consultants, hairdressers and accountancy firms.  It will also affect construction workers who supply their labour, but where the raw materials are provided by the main contractor.  Exactly which sales count can be complicated -  the details can be found  on the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) website.

The new rules start on 1 April 2017, but may also affect invoices issued, and goods bought, from now on.

National living wage

·        Rise from £7.20 to £7.50 an hour in April.

Good news for workers on minimum wage jobs but the rise is not large enough to keep pace with George Osborne’s promise that the rate will reach £9 by 2020.

Employee perks

·        Salary sacrifice schemes to be scaled back, with some exceptions such as cycling schemes and ultra-low emission cars, child care and pensions.

This is a revenue raiser for the Treasury as employers will now have to pay national insurance on benefits like mobile phone contracts and gym membership. Experts suggest the incentive for businesses to offer work perks will subsequently plummet.

National insurance

·        From April 2017 align the employee and employer NI thresholds at £157 per week.

This will raise a significant amount for the Treasury and cost employers on average £7.18 per worker.  This is because the earnings threshold above which a business has to pay NI contributions will not rise with inflation but by a modest £1 next year, bringing it into line with the threshold for employees.

Fuel duty

·        Cancelled for the seventh consecutive year.

It is becoming quite politically impossible for a chancellor to raise fuel duty, given the pressure against any more rises. Supermarket price wars - currently taking effect - have helped motorists here.

By Y HACKETT 11 Nov, 2016
  1. Business .  You're hiring a virtual assistant to support you, not for you to support them.  If you're not favourable of the socialised corporate workplace environment a virtual assistant can be an excellent option.  They bill for time that they spend working; you're not paying for personal phone calls, late arrivals, childcare crises, or sick time.
  2. Cost .  Virtual assistants are a competitive industry.  You can find a wide range of pricing for your virtual assistant based upon skills and expertise.  One nice advantage is that you can hire a virtual assistant from almost anywhere in the world, though it's often good if they speak your native language fluently.
  3. Virtual freedom .  As they are not on-site employees that means no liability, no worker's comp insurance and no payroll taxes to calculate.  Everyone is an independent contractor.  You can pay by the hour or by the project as well.
  4. No strangers in the office .  If you're a small business or you happen to work from an home office, having strangers in your home can be intrusive.  This is especially so if you have children at home, or a spouse who works odd hours, or simply don't want to open up your private space to others.
  5. Control .  The working relationship between you and your virtual assistant is based upon a contractual agreement.  Here you can state exactly what you expect from them, they can either agree to the terms or you can simply find another virtual assistant.  If you need them to use a specific piece of software or process then tell them.
  6. Professional rapport .  Just like you they are looking to sell their services.  They can often be a great way to expand your network and resource base.  You can often find they have solutions to problems you might have never thought of.
Another important consideration to take into account when you hire them is to get them to publish a detailed list of what services they offer and their charge.  Some assistants will charge to accept your phone calls, read your email instructions, or the time it takes to download a file.  There should be no surprises if you have good communication with your VA.
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