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Your guide to making a CIS tax claim

If you’re a construction contractor or subcontractor you’ve probably heard of the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) – and, since it has an effect on the money in your pocket – you should hopefully be aware of your right to making a CIS tax claim. CIS not the same as being paid directly by an employer, so we’ll explain what the scheme is, how it works and the steps you need to take if you think you might be due a refund!

What is the CIS?

When a subcontractor does work for a construction contractor the CIS stipulates that the contractor must make deductions from the money paid to that subcontractor. These payments count as advance payments toward that person’s tax and National Insurance.

It’s often better for a subcontractor to receive ‘gross’ payments – meaning a full payment with no deductions made. This allows the subcontractor to handle all tax and National Insurance contributions themselves – at whichever rate of tax applies to the way in which they pay themselves. However, to be eligible for gross payments a subcontractor must meet the following HMRC criteria by showing that:

  • They have paid tax and National Insurance contributions on time in the past
  • Your business does construction work (or provides labour for it) in the UK
  • Your business is run through a bank account 

Not only that, but HMRC will also look at your turnover for the 12 months prior to your claim for gross payments. They require turnover to be at least:

  • £30,000 if you’re a sole trader
  • £30,000 for each partner in a partnership, or at least £100,000 for the whole partnership
  • £30,000 for each director of a company, or at least £100,000 for the whole company

How much are the deductions?

Fortunately, the level at which deductions are taken is somewhat decided by you if you’re a subcontractor. The HMRC expects you to register as being a subcontractor – assuming you do, contractor deductions will be made at 20% – excluding VAT charged by the subcontractor and any cost of materials. If you don’t register, deductions will be made at the higher rate of 30% – again, excluding VAT charged or material costs.

It’s worth noting – even if you have register, the 30% rate will apply if you’ve failed to give the contractor you’re working for your UTR (unique tax payer reference) number – so make sure you do!

‘Registering’ doesn’t mean you have to meet the qualifying criteria for being paid gross payments – simply that the HMRC are aware you’re a construction industry subcontractor. Hence, it’s better to have registered, whether you can meet the criteria or not.

Why does CIS exist and why does it go wrong?

The government introduced the CIS scheme as they felt there were too many subcontractors avoiding paying tax – essentially breaking the law and in some cases leaving the people who paid them liable for paying too much tax themselves. While it might have felt like a victimless crime to the subcontractor who avoided paying tax – the knock-on effect was often to the person or company who had paid them.

CIS most often impacts the people who are the most well-meaning when it comes to submitting tax returns. This is because CIS payments are already taken – meaning overpayment at the point of submitting your tax return becomes more than likely. 

Am I due a refund and if so, how much?

Firstly, it’s worth noting that a high percentage of people who have been paid through CIS and have submitted their own tax-return are due a refund. Both CIS and self-assessment returns can be fairly complex, especially if you’ve worked for different contractors – so there’s a chance that mistakes or oversights can happen.

Refunds can be anywhere from a few pounds – to thousands – and either way, that money is better in your pocket than incorrectly sitting with HMRC. It’s also worth noting that refunds can take a while to come to light with HMRC – so it might be that you’re due a return of money for previous years earnings too.

How do I claim overpayments back?

You’ve got a couple of options here. If you’re a sole trader, HMRC’s guidance on the issue simply says, “If you’re due a tax refund, HMRC will pay the money back” – with no indication of timescales, how the process is started or how frequently your tax contributions will be reviewed. People often consider this leaving the whole process to chance – especially given well documented cuts and delays in HMRC services.

If you’d prefer to keep the fate of any possible refund in your own hands then it’s better to pursue HMRC, you can either do this yourself – or use a specialist CIS refund service who’ll do the legwork for you.

It’s slightly different if you’re operating as a limited company and have gross payment status. If this is the case HMRC advise that you declare your income in your Corporate Tax return as you normally would – with any CIS dedications claimed back through your company’s monthly payroll scheme. They note that if you attempt to reclaim any CIS dedications through your tax return you could face a penalty – so be careful. Give HMRC a call with all your info to hand if you or your accountant are in any doubt.

What will I need?

The key to making a claim for overpayment of tax is always to have good records. Without these HMRC will have no proof that you’re eligible for tax relief – and unfortunately, they only operate on proof – not good will!

Make sure you keep records of:

  • Every contractor you work for – including name and address.
  • Locations of work done.
  • Each contractor’s tax reference.
  • Dates of payments when a contractor paid you.

It’s not the end of the world if you don’t have this information – it can just slow things down a little. Should you find yourself without any of this – try to make sure you have it for work you do going forward.

If choose to get in touch with HMRC yourself, you’ll need to explain that you think you’re due a refund along with the reasons why. If you choose to use a company who’ll pursue the claim for you, they might take a small percentage of the rebate that you’re given – but will normally put the effort in on your behalf and have the knowledge to get things done quickly. It’s your choice – but either way is better than leaving the fate of your money to chance.

9 Brain Hacks to Help You Learn and Remember Information

You may have heard that the brain is the most powerful computer known to man, and this is certainly true. While the latest computers can undertake many tasks while left to their own devices, they fail in comparison to the tasks our cerebrum can carry out at will whether your studying for university exams or your taking a CCNSG  safety passport training course your brain is the most powerful tool in your arsenal.

This isn’t to say that the brain can’t take a nose dive from time to time. Anyone who has been overworked and tired will be able to testify how difficult it is to try and concentrate when our brain is being starved of rest. However, not everyone is aware of just how to bring the calm to the storm when it all gets too much upstairs, and get our brains in fully-working order. The following tips will help those who may feel their focus of late is a little off-target.

Ensure You Write It Down

Whether you’ve been part of a training group or a boardroom meeting, it is likely that you will have taken notes at some point, on the assumption they are used for reference later. While this is true in part, you may not be aware that writing down information ignites a lot of receptors in relation to language and memory, making it more likely for you to absorb the information and remember it.

Do Something Different Over and Over

Those who procrastinate will normally be desperate for some magic formula that will have them firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately, such efforts are normally unsuccessful, as the road to change starts small.

While it may not be realistic for someone to change the working methods overnight, undertaking small tasks you wouldn’t normally do and repeating the process teaches the brain to build new pathways in relation to your behaviour, and helps you become good at it. Plus, your small achievements will give you more confidence in what can be achieved once you put your mind to it.

Consider the Apps You Use

While it’s hard not to show love to established classics such as “Angry Birds” and “Candy Crush,” there are other apps that can help you better exercise the grey matter. While everyone has their own preference, a good search on your app store of choice will unveil numerous options to ensure your brain is getting the workout it deserves.

Pay Attention!

While this may seem like something of a no-brainer, it’s quite important if you want to start remembering the finer details. There are many of us who have the tendency to drift off while listening to information. While we may think we have got the information we need, it’s more likely that you will have forgotten some integral details. Giving people our undivided attention ensures that we’re not losing information en-route. And remember, if we write it down, we’re ensuring our brain is operating in the best way to process the information we’re given.

Exercise Frequently

While it may be obvious to some, not everyone is aware that simply moving your body is good for the brain as well as the body. Even if exercise is a relatively new concept to you, ensuring you get your limbs moving for 20 minutes will be enough to ensure that information your brain processes is done so with more clarity.

It’s also worth noting that exercise helps create new neural connections at a faster pace, making for more alertness and a higher concentration span.

Have a Break

Some of the avenues you must take to get your brain in gear can involve a lot of effort and concentration on your part, but fear not, it’s not all about giving your all. In fact, if your overdoing it, then it stands to reason that both your body and your brain can become tired. As such, there are times when we simply should take a break. Even a mere five minutes can help us ensure we’re retaining information and thinking more clearly as a result.

Break Up Cumbersome Information

Our failure to remember information isn’t always due to our brain not functioning correctly, but more how we deal with long-winded tasks. Anyone who has had to study for an exam will testify that regardless of what method is used, retaining information that is overbearing can be an overwhelming and stressful endeavour in some cases.

However, breaking up tasks into more manageable segments means that we’re not presenting ourselves with too much. We simply deal with the first lot of information, ensure we remember it, then move on to the next. Not only is the more palatable for the grey matter, but it also ensures we’re using a structure that will yield rewards when it comes to using our brain.

Maintain Relationships with Family and Friends

Many of us have been in the position of having to say no when asked to a family event or social gathering, because we’re simply too busy. However, you might be surprised to know that such events can help with bonding with others, which in turn can help us sculpt a sharper mind.

Even scientist agree that the brain is more likely to have a better recall when making an emotional bond with others.

Eat the Right Food

When trying to meet that all-important deadline, it’s easier for many of us to grab some food on the go. While there is nothing wrong with this in the short-term, opting for takeout on a more regular basis can mean that we’re not getting the vitamins and nutrients needs to help fuel our brainpower.

Fish and fruits will help your brain develop and perform in the right way. IF you fancy something a little sweeter, then a little bit of dark chocolate can help produce dopamine, which in turn can help you learn and remember more information.

Some may need to follow all the tips given, while others may only have to adopt a few. However, if you currently find yourself in a sense of bewilderment when it comes to recalling information, then it may be worth taking a step back and considering what changes we can introduce moving forward.

Using WordPress Caching to boost your WordPress site speed

Using WordPress Caching to boost your WordPress site speed

There are some startling statistics around website loading times and customer behaviour. Did you know that a huge number of people expect a site to fully load within 2 seconds? And that around 4 out of 10 people will abandon a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load? As such, WordPress speed optimization is important – and one of the quickest routes to speed is WordPress Caching.

What is WordPress Caching?

Imagine you’re a visitor to your webpage, you click on the link or enter the address for the first ever time and you’re on your way. What’s actually happening here is the browser sends a very small and fast request for information from the server that hosts your site. The server looks at the request and responds by sending the information it’s been asked for back the browser – who in turn displays it as intended.

Now, that information could be quite chunky, meaning the time it takes to be transmitted over ethernet cables and to-and-from a satellite might be fairly slow – and by fairly slow we’re only realistically talking about 7 seconds – but don’t forget, the impatient world of internet traffic means people are tapping their watch if they’ve got to wait more than 3 seconds…

So, this is where WordPress caching comes in. There’s essentially two different kinds – client-side caching and server-side caching. We’ll have a look at how each works in some detail:

Client-side caching

If you’ve ever looked at your internet settings, whether on your computer or your phone, you’ll notice there’s a ‘cache’ that can be cleaned. This cache is a bundle of files that have been put there by various websites.

This is because there’s a lot of information that doesn’t change from one website visit to the next. So, visit the BBC news today and when you go back tomorrow morning it’s almost certain that the menus, logos and images that relate to most stories will be exactly the same as they were during your last visit. The site accounts for you being back again and stores a lot of those files in your cache, meaning the page you visit while you drink your morning coffee loads a lot quicker…

Virtually every website does this – and every major browser supports it.

Server-side caching

Now, given you have little or no influence over end-user browsing behaviour, server-side caching is how WordPress caching protocols work. They can be broken into 4 different categories:

  • Page caching
  • Database query caching
  • Object-based caching
  • Opcode caching

Page Caching

Remember we talked about your website visit actually being a request for information from the hosting server? Well, ordinarily the server would view this with no context, meaning as far as it’s concerned the request is simply for a variety of seemingly unrelated information – with the browser making sense of it when it arrives on your computer or phone.

Page caching means your server remembers the requests it’s receiving – which makes sense given that you’re requesting a page at a time, so, any one request is saved in the server’s hard disk or memory. If the same request is made again, rather than collecting all the files and information again, it has a pre-packaged ‘page’ response ready to fire back – without the need for execution of complex database code.

Database caching

WordPress sites rely on a massive behind-the-scenes database that stores, updates, orders and handles data in the most efficient manner possible. To make sure information is current the site will interrogate the database periodically. If that data remains the same, rather than continually run the same interrogations again and again (which is effectively the same as re-downloading the information each time) it will save the result of the interrogation in the local storage. This is database caching.

It’s important to have an intelligent tool that manages database caching – this is because the information can change a great deal. The cached information becomes outdated every time you post to your blog, update a gallery or even when a user interacts with some of your site content – perhaps leaving a review or comment. Without a program checking against this database caching can mean irrelevant or incorrect results are returned from the database and displayed on your site.

Object caching

If you’ve got a site that’s updated frequently it can detrimental to speed to have database caching constantly reconfiguring. Instead, object caching works on user defined elements of the site – for example videos, images or other collections of data that can be defined by a particular name. Even a reasonably popular site with a fair amount of traffic is unlikely to require object caching – as such, it’s a topic to seek professional support with when your traffic numbers are going through the roof…

Opcode caching

Okay, back to the accessing a website example. Your request for a webpage is sent, between the hosting server receiving this request and actually returning the information there’s a communication – this is done in a language called PHP. PHP can do a lot of different things, it communicates with databases, serves web content to a browser, receives and sends cookies – and much more.

Although the actual process of PHP execution is a little more complex than we’re giving it credit for here, opcode caching effectively caches the PHP communication, rather than the information itself. Meaning the requests can be re-accessed time and time again.

Caching plugins working alongside other plugins

Now, if you want a headache, getting plugins to work alongside caching plugins is the perfect topic for you! Most server-side caching is done based on updates coming from standard sources – i.e. user data or visitor data. When you have a plugin that say shows your latest Twitter or Instagram post on your page, data is coming from another (and not always compatible) source. Planning on running lots of plugins and a caching plugin? Be prepared for things to need technical tweaking before it runs smoothly!

Overview of WordPress Caching

Caching in its various forms can offer big speed boosts for your site’s visitors. This is vital if you want to ensure you’re getting the absolute most from what can sometimes be extremely impatient users. There are some great plugins out there, look at Hummingbird, W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache, WP Fastest Cache and WP Rocket for some great features, ease of configuration and use.

The 6 most awesome and inspirational startup offices

If you’re starting up in business and looking for some workspace inspiration – you won’t go far wrong taking some tips from these award-winning, diverse and sometimes outright strange startup office spaces! From ultra-modern to vintage chic – there’s something that’ll reflect any business brand…

You might be thinking that these big names aren’t just starting out – you’re right of course… but you don’t have to dial the clock back far to the point where any of these companies were just good ideas and empty office spaces! From their humble beginnings less than 10 years ago to the incredible office spaces and building that they now occupy, in cities that across the world, many of which has been built in commercial steel framed buildings that have been for sale – each of these has gone from a few people in a room – to a household name, meaning you might want to emulate more than just their taste in wallpaper!

  1. Spotify

Ten years ago, Spotify was 8 people in an office, now the music startup boasts around 140 million active users and 50 million paid subscribers – with their tracks occupying around 2 billion playlists. From its humble beginnings in Stockholm – to its 20 offices in 2017 – it’s doing a lot right in the competitive world of music streaming…

In 2014 Spotify opened their flagship office in New York – and the place has more than a few nods to the historic NYC music scene. The Spotify success timeline playfully decorates the main entrance walls and there’s a slightly stripped-back industrial vibe to the rest of the building – which has amazing music making facilities dotted throughout. Banks of iconic Marshall amps prop up Fender Stratocasters – assumedly on hand in case of a bored rock star in house! 80s style graffiti adorns the walls and there’s even an external deck that gives an awesome vista of its New York setting.

  1. Etsy

Etsy is the online place to be if selling vintage and handmade goods is up your street! Create a store, fill it with your products and Etsy does the rest. With millions of sellers and customers, it is without doubt the biggest vintage and custom-made marketplace in the world – and it’s run from extremely quirky offices in Dumbo, Brooklyn.

Imagine a large studio style office with enormous windows, clean white walls and a stripped back wooden floor – now imagine your mad, knitting-obsessed Aunt has been given a few days to decorate! The result is patchwork woollen covers around the exposed pipework, custom painted doors that give you the impression you’re stepping into a London phone box or a seaside chalet – and a wonderful mix of vintage and modern desks, chairs and storage. A site like Etsy was never going to have a boring office!

  1. Airbnb

Airbnb is the innovative company that makes it easy to find holiday rentals, homes and places. It does this by operating as a middleman between you and the owner of the space. Don’t expect to find hotels on here – instead, you’ll find people’s apartments that you can occupy when they’re out of town, spare rooms that mean you can holiday alongside people’s lives and even longer-term rentals for those who choose the city-to-city nomadic life.

Airbnb took an incredible approach to decking out their headquarters – they drew inspiration exclusively from their team’s favourite listings on the site! If you’re looking for a breakout area to hold an impromptu meeting you’ll find one that’s reminiscent of someone’s quirky shabby-chic home office. Looking for the bathroom? Expect the oddities that you’ll find in some of the most interesting bathrooms on the site’s rental holiday lets (one even including a copy of a customer’s picture of Burt Reynolds watching you wash your hands!)

  1. Evernote

Evernote is the innovative multi-platform organisation and productivity tool that seems to feature in the toolkit of most successful entrepreneurs. Whether you’re on your phone, tablet or computer you can capture, organise and share your notes across all your platforms – meaning Evernote becomes, as they put it – “your second brain”.

If clean and uncomplicated is your thing you’ll love Evernote’s headquarters in California. There’s a definite minimalist vibe to the place – and the masses of space (around 80,000sq feet) means there are no end of individual areas where employees can duck out and do some quiet work. The space gives more than a nod toward being green too – the walls in the entrance area have water conserving plants that recycle some of the building supply and create an eye-catching feature.

  1. Quirky

If you haven’t heard of Quirky you might want to grab a coffee and write off a little while to pondering how you could collaborate with them! They take product ideas and make them happen – so, let’s say you’ve got a daily problem and you’ve daydreamed your way to a design idea that would fix said problem – you submit it to Quirky and if they like it, they’ll put a research and design team on it! Many of their products end up in international stores and you’ll get a cut of the final idea’s profits too…

Quirky’s office is awesome, a fantastic blend of office space, specialised design workspaces and actual workshops with sophisticated 3D printing facilities. If you’ve seen the futuristic workspaces in ‘Westworld’ you’re thinking on the right lines, glass partition walls and floating workstations – although Quirky have more stripped back wooden floors , original warehouse fittings and significantly fewer robotic killing machines… as far as we know.

  1. Instagram

Instagram is the world’s favourite photo sharing social media platform – an absolute must if your day is not complete without a hefty dose of cat, coffee and mealtime pictures! Instagram has made amateur photographers out of us all – and now boasts over 700 million users…

The mind behind Instagram’s office look is Lauren Geremia – who has some incredible Californian startup clients under her belt. She went for a look that very much encapsulates what Instagram is all about – simple photography, uncomplicated design – and some vintage tones and hints. As a result – you get fairly plain walls, high quality furniture that’s a mix of new and retro – all highlighted with tones reminiscent of that sepia style effect you can put your pictures. If we’re talking in Instagram language we’d be saying modern meets vintage – with a ‘toaster’ filter…

Marketing Strategies For Start-ups On A Budget

Marketing Strategies For Start-ups On A Budget

An effective marketing strategy can turn a small start-up into a leading industry force, that won’t happen overnight of course but successful businesses are built on effective marketing strategies. So, they are incredibly important, however, they can also be very expensive.

The majority of start-up businesses will have a very tight budget, this means you can’t have very in-depth marketing strategies, right?

Wrong that’s all a common misconception you still can have effective and in-depth marketing strategies on a smaller budget, you just need to get a little more creative.  Let’s take a look at some great marketing strategies for start-ups on a budget.

SEO and Content Marketing

Content marketing is a great way to draw traffic to your website but getting the principles of SEO down can be tricky so it may be worth working with a SEO consultant in the short-term.

Plus, an understanding of technical SEO and keyword usage isn’t enough on its own, you can’t just load up blogs with keywords you still need to craft high-quality content, build links and make sure technical aspects of your website are up to scratch such as site speed, internal links and site structure.

However, you’ll need to upload content regularly as well, there’s certainly a learning curve to crafting high-quality SEO friendly content but once you’ve got to grips with it and done the research it will be a lot easier. And the other good thing about effective content marketing is that once you’ve learned to do it, it will be free.

Social Media Marketing

Using social media to build an effective digital marketing strategy is something any start-up business should be working on as soon as they’re up and running. Social media is incredibly low cost and with some research and planning building, an effective marketing campaign may be much easier than you think.

The difficulty comes with learning how each social media site works, Twitter isn’t the same as Facebook for example. Social media can also be time-consuming to manage because once they’re up and running you can’t just leave them you’ll need to be constantly uploading content in order to build a following.

Personality and creativity are essential on social media and when done correctly you could build an effective marketing strategy for an incredibly low cost. So, get yourself set up on social media sites as soon as possible.

Referral Systems

Referrals are a great way to reward customers and increase engagement amongst your customers when they work well a referral system will allow customers to effectively do the marketing for you!

Customers can also get rewards for referring you to other potential customers, which means you can combine referral systems with reward schemes.

Rewards

Reward schemes are one of the most popular marketing strategies available and they are simple and straight forward. You reward followers or subscribers with special deals like discounts or early access to products.

Be creative and think of exciting ways to reward loyal followers who have helped word of mouth spread about your business. Rewards will also help build your following even more and will help generate further sales, so once you’re in a good position follower wise make sure you set up an official reward scheme.

E-mail Marketing 

E-mail marketing as a somewhat negative reception amongst some people, but that’s because it is usually badly employed email marketing. The key to affective email marketing is to trickle the emails out and not bombard your customers with them.

It should be a steady stream and when possible, you should try to make them as personally tailored to your customers as possible. Don’t be invasive and make your email catchy and attention grabbing, when done well email marketing could bring back a significant investment.

Build An Effective Newsletter

A newsletter will do great things for your business and is a great way of building an effective marketing strategy. With a newsletter, you can keep customers in the know about your business, new products, services and much more.

You can utilize a newsletter in a number of ways and include rewards like discounts and deals to get more people to sign up. You should also use social media to advertise your newsletter to followers so they can find out about the benefits of opting in. The key with an effective newsletter is the same as sales emails, don’t send too many and make sure they are attractive and exciting to read.

Find Cheap Advertisements

Advertisements are a great marketing tool, however, they are also known for being very expensive. However, this doesn’t mean that start-up businesses can’t use adverts to market their business, it just means you have to be a bit more selective about where your adverts appear.

You won’t be running any on television straight away or in expensive magazines, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reach a lot of people. Facebook adverts can be very cheap and when you consider the importance of the digital sector in today’s business world a cheap advert on social media could have a big impact.

 

Patience is a Virtue but Persistence Pays the Bills

Recent figures indicate that as many as 8 out of 10 new businesses fail in the first 18 months. In fact, if you’re any good at the game you have a better chance of walking away from the blackjack table in Vegas a winner then you do of starting a successful business.

But there’s no need to abandon your business plans and start buying lottery tickets just yet, because one of the least talked about secrets to entrepreneurial success isn’t angel investors, it’s good old fashioned persistence. If you can weather the storm at the point when most people would be toss the towel you might just come out the other side on top.

Here are 6 companies that were staring into the abyss but stuck it out to become big time winners.

1. Apple – Few remember it now but there was a time in the late 20th century when Apple was on the verge of going under. It was 1997 and the company had just re-hired founder and former CEO Steve Jobs to help pull it out of a death spiral that had started in 1985 when Jobs walked away to pursue other interests. What he returned to was a company on the verge of bankruptcy; one in desperate need of capital to jumpstart new initiatives.

Where Jobs found that capital sent more than a few Apple nerds running to the freezer for a pint of Ben and Jerry’s to soothe their wounded psyches. Because to rescue his now fledgling company Jobs turned to the evil empire itself: Microsoft. Bill Gates agreed to invest $150 million in Apple and Jobs used the money to launch the iMac and perform a branding makeover that started the company on a now 20 year run of market dominance. The moral here? Never be so full of yourself that you are unable to act in your own self-interest.

2. SpaceX – Seems like a month doesn’t go by these days when we don’t see video of a SpaceX launch. The company has become a beacon to an up-and-coming generation of forward-thinking, outward-looking designers, engineers and visionaries. But it wasn’t always that way.

In 2008 the company was just getting its legs when the global financial crisis hit and knocked it for a loop. Investment capital dried up and founder Elon Musk contemplated closing the company down, or closing down his other startup, Tesla, and folding resources from that company into SpaceX to keep it flying.

Unwilling to accept defeat Musk instead submitted a bid to NASA to supply the Space Station and wound up beating out the competition. The $1.6 billion he received from that contract reinvigorated SpaceX and allowed him to keep Tesla afloat as well.

3. FedEx – FedEx was the brainchild of Fred Smith who proposed the idea in a paper when he was a college student during the 60s.

His professor thought the concept untenable and gave the paper a C but Smith was undeterred. In 1971, shortly after leaving college, he started Federal Express. But 2 years later the company was haemorrhaging cash and heading for bankruptcy. After General Dynamics turned him down for emergency financing, Smith took a flight to Vegas on a lark and won $27,000 playing – you guessed it – blackjack (the equivalent of $153,000 in 2017 dollars).

He used that money to meet payroll and shortly after secured an estimated $60 million in venture capital that allowed him to turn his stumbling delivery experiment into what is today the world’s largest delivery company and 4th largest airline by number of planes.

4. Reddit – Reddit today is a household name and reddit.com the 9th most visited website in the world. But it almost didn’t make it out of the starting gate. For months after launching in 2005 the website had a hard time attracting any more than the occasional accidental visitor.

Things were looking desperate and bankruptcy loomed when the founders decided that if the mountain wouldn’t come to them, they’d have to go to the mountain. They established a slew of fake Reddit accounts and began to hold fake conversations on the site that slowly began to attract some real attention.

Once the number of visitors hit critical mass the fake accounts were deleted and, well, the rest is history.

5. Airbnb – Airbnb is a company formed around a single airbed and an idea for creating lodging for travelers unable to secure rooms in overbooked or overpriced hotels. It had the unfortunate luck however to launch just as something called credit default swaps began swallowing the economy bones and all.

As such, the company’s founders were shunned by investors left and right who were turning inward and focusing on short term survival. They had a number of opportunities early on to fold up their tent and go home. Instead they pulled out all the stops in order to raise enough money to build a website and spread the word (including creating custom breakfast cereals based on the 2008 presidential candidates).

Their machinations worked and in 2009 they were able to raise nearly $9 million in venture capital. Today the company has 150,000,000 users and is valued at $31 billion. Pass the milk.

6. Uber – Depending on who is talking, Uber is either the greatest thing since sliced bread or Satan’s personal vendetta against taxi drivers. And yet without some incredible persistence on behalf of founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp it certainly wouldn’t have made it into this discussion.

You see being perceived as the devil’s favourite company has a way of attracting negative attention and the company has had plenty. From cease and desist orders to class action and wrongful death lawsuits to charges of operating an illegal taxi business and even charges of sexism. It’s been a steady barrage of negativity levelled at the company but Kalanick and Camp have kept the blinders on and today sit atop a company that generated $6.5 billion in revenue in 2016 and operates all over the world.
The Bottom Line

Success in business requires a good idea hitting the market at the right time. In some cases though persistence – the simple refusal to take “no” for an answer – is every bit as important to avoiding bankruptcy as the idea itself.

Overcoming barriers to learning in the workplace

Overcoming barriers to learning in the workplace

Whether you’re an employer or an employee, overcoming barriers to learning in the workplace is important – it’s the key to personal development, safety, business growth, increased revenues, promotions, salary increases and much more. For some companies there’s a belief that workplace training is a necessary evil – an attitude that’s often grown from resistance to training and change.

If you can understand what contributes to these barriers you can unlock huge potential in your company and your people – you’ve just got to know what to be on the lookout for…

Invisible difficulties and disabilities

Most people have heard of conditions like autism, ADHD and dyslexia – they’re occasionally in the media and sometimes appear in professional publications, but painfully, even people who endure these conditions often don’t know about the impact they can have on learning in the workplace.

Conditions like these are referred to as ‘invisible’ simply because they rarely show any physical symptoms – which can often lead to the misunderstanding that the person experiences life in the same way as someone who’s got more typical brain function. They can become doubly invisible in the workplace since people often feel the need to hide whatever awareness of their condition they have – often thinking that being forthright would lead to discrimination or embarrassment.

What do they look like?

As previously noted, there are little or no physical symptoms that go along with these conditions – and frankly, there are a lot of misconceptions about the behaviour that they inspire. Where you might be aware that people with autism can struggle with social communication or people with dyslexia can have problems with reading and writing you might not realise the following:

  • People with ADHD can be susceptible to intense headaches, restlessness and distraction as a result of not being able to ‘filter’ common background noises. Imagine how the sound of breaking glass catches your attention more than that of a passing car – for some people with ADHD every noise can catch their attention like that breaking glass. 
  • Autism can often result in a lack of ‘flexibility of thought’ – meaning anticipating new scenarios, settings and people is extremely difficult – often resulting in anxiety, stress and physical illness.
  • People who otherwise manage the symptoms of dyslexia can have huge problems with their working memory – because of the sheer effort their brain puts toward understanding the written elements of a role.

So, even if someone manages their role on a day to day basis – it’s obvious how tricky training can become when you’re working with a brain that doesn’t function in quite the same way as the rest of your colleagues. Next time you think someone’s hesitant or not paying attention to training, try to explore the issues a little before getting irritated, there could be a struggle going on you just can’t see.

Mental health and well-being

In a similar way to the ‘invisible’ conditions we’ve mentioned it’s highly likely that some of your team experience the non-physical symptoms of mental health conditions – such as stress, depression, anxiety or a whole host of others.

For some people breaking from the ‘norm’ of a role can inspire uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and even manifest as physical symptoms. Despite a multitude of campaigns to inspire the opposite – mental health conditions can still carry some feelings of being ‘taboo’ – so while someone might be struggling with how they feel – they may try to pass it off as nothing, leading to confusion when training isn’t absorbed or engaged with. 

Preoccupations and distractions

How often have you seen people seemingly in a ‘world of their own’ when they should be taking in a training session? It could be that the post-lunch lull has set it – then again, it could be that their brain is preoccupied with something life-changing that you just don’t know about.

As an example – around 1 in 6 adults in the UK is facing ‘problem debt’ – meaning they’re in a cycle of borrowing they’re unable to break free from. This can mean handling collection agencies, repayments, other jobs – even bailiffs and court appearances. If you think you’re going to get the best from someone while they’re missing calls and knocks at the door relating to finances you’re likely to be mistaken.

It’s impossible to keep track of people’s lives – but cutting them some slack to deal with what’s going on outside of the office can really help people focus on the task at hand.

Learning styles

There’s a host of different ways to measure or gauge your preferred learning style – generally speaking you’ll find you learn better either by listening, doing, watching or writing about any given subject. So, guess what happens when a room full of ‘doers’ are confronted with 95 Powerpoint slides?! That’s right – you’ve lost the room before slide 3.

Now, you’re very unlikely to have a full team of people whose learning style is going to be exactly the same – so the key is to mix the workplace learning up a little. When everyone’s engaged in a manner they prefer, they’ll reflect on training as a more positive experience, they’ll retain more information and they’re far more likely to engage positively again in the future…

Why are we here?!

Have you ever found yourself plodding through a training course with no real knowledge of what you’re hoping to achieve or whether the end is in sight? Preparing for training should always come with a bigger picture reason as to why people are going to be in the room, what the agenda is going to be and the benefit for all involved.

No one trains for the sake of training; perhaps you’re there to keep up with industry standards meaning you can continue to trade – perhaps you’re there because you have new machinery that would be dangerous if mishandled – or maybe you’re introducing a new way of working. Whatever the reason, imagine your team are constantly asking “what’s in it for me?” – answer the question before it’s actually asked and people will buy in to the course on a far deeper level.

What’s the answer?

If you got here thinking that we’d be able to give you a one-size-fits-all answer to all the issues above that you can implement for your training course next week – I’m sorry to say that you’re going to be disappointed! However, we can come close – if you’ve got the time.

If you can encourage open and honest discussion with a team member then you’ll begin to get a picture of what work (and maybe even wider life) looks like for them. Employees are under no legal obligation to disclose most health or life issues to you – and as such you’re under no obligation to account for issues you know nothing about. It’s only by talking – and on your behalf, communicating a genuine interest and care for the well-being of your team that you’ll begin to learn about what makes each person tick and whether or not your organisation can support.

Make time to talk

Could you implement a fairly informal discussion about a person’s role, how they’re coping and how it’s fitting in to life in general? If you can, you might be able to start building a trusting relationship and inspire the confidence in your team to confide in you about their role – especially if they see that you’re willing to make changes that will make work a more positive and reward place for them.

4 Mistakes That Will Affect Your Tech Startup

No matter what industry you’re in, starting a business is hard. What’s even more challenging is launching a startup. In addition to attempting to build a company from scratch, entrepreneurs often have little experience and knowledge in the tech and business world and tend to try and do things themselves which eventually leads them having to often seen financial and even IT Support.

As a result, most often settle for DIY finance handling and hiring workers on a budget which often leads to having to business overcoming barriers with many of its staff, despite their amazing ideas. To ensure that you don’t fall for the same mistakes, we’ve listed down the top mistakes to avoid at all costs.

Here are 4 mistakes that will affect your tech startup.

Going Solo


How many start-up companies do you know that has met success with just one founder? While you want to bask in the glory of doing it all by yourself, establishing a company is hard work and takes more than one individual to launch the business. Don’t be afraid to seek partnership and get help in launching the startup.

Quick Fixing the Business Plan


Without a solid business plan, your dreams of success will quickly fall. A business plan is meant to guide the start up towards the right direction of a solid foundation of the company. What is the purpose of the business? Who is the target market? What is the values and mission of the company?

Basically, without a solid plan, the business will get stuck trying to find itself mid-way. This will help determine the mission of the company over the long term.

Improper Financial Management


When it comes to building a startup, money is essential. One of the major mistakes entrepreneurs make is spending too much or even too little. This is especially common when you hire quantity employees over quality. Not only will this burn through your finances faster but also prevent quality work to increase.

Lack of Backup Plan


Not every business success will go according to plan. That is why it is important to keep a backup plan for every scenario and be flexible if the original strategy doesn’t work.

Conclusion

Launching a startup requires the appropriate timing and location. While circumstances may lie far from control, be sure to launch the company at the right time.

4 Reasons Why Your Financial Tech Startup Needs Visual Marketing

No matter how small or big a product may be; every customer can be infatuated with too little or too many choices to make an informed decision. When fin-tech start ups need to capture the attention of customers, there is no better way than through visual marketing which is one of the best marketing techniques for your website.

Here are 4 reasons why your financial tech startup needs visual marketing.

Quick Dissemination of Concept

When someone wants to know about the concept, they have two options: a quick 3-minute video that summarizes the information or a ten-page document that explains the concept thoroughly. Which option would you choose?

Nobody wants to spend more time on something than they should. That is why it is important to understand the concept quickly. This is where visual marketing comes in. Visuals are processed faster than text and have the ability to attract more customers in less amount of time.

Make a Long-Lasting Impression

As human beings are attracted to visuals, we tend to remember 80% more of what we see rather than what we read. That is why is it crucial to make use the visual approach in marketing as it will ensure that your brand reaches the attention of your target market.

Simply the Concept of the Business

Consumers are not always familiar with technical and business, especially when combined. To make things easier for clients, project a quick and easy image that is approachable. Use visual elements that will take the focus away from the complex issues and direct the reader’s attention towards the true value of the startup.

Capture the Younger Generation

As the younger generation is already intrigued by financial tech, their attention needs to be focused on your business. Today, the popular tech sites of Instagram and YouTube have lead us to assume that they respond to visual communication versus text. Readers need to be shown what they’re getting within 140 characters and how it can add value to their lives. Visual media is able to do just that.

Conclusion

Visual marketing will enhance the value of a startup. Whether you are looking to increase your customer base, secure funds, or beat competition, visual marketing will provide amazing results.

4 Tips on Launching a Ecommerce Startup for Successful Results

Regardless of the latest recession, there is always room for businesses that are willing to give into the demands of human kind. As entrepreneurs, we must be willing to create, innovate, and sell products. That is where technology comes in.

We must use technology to help shape our behavior online and grow our reputation past the completion. In this guide, we have narrowed down the top tips on what it takes to build a successful business. Whether you’re selling sports equipment or stainless steel banding

Whether you’re selling sports equipment or stainless steel banding globally here are 4 tips on launching an e-commerce start-up for successful results.

Go for Mobile Development

Developing a mobile app will showcase your startup products and increase the success of your business. As the mobile commerce is continuing to rise, the global usage will become a daily part of our lives. Therefore, you must be in tune with the demands of the customer and their behavior in what makes them want to buy your products.

Establish a Structured System from the Beginning

Focus on building a working system that defines how each region of your business works. This will help promote a stable culture of responsibility and achieve more time as the business grows. To make a working system usable, you must use the right tools to handle daily activities. Most e-commerce startups build their system with a complete service that includes POS software, integrated CRM, APIs, and customized programs.

Aim for High Impact Marketing Strategies

There are plenty of ways to market your startup business without running out of ideas. The main key is to market your startup through the ability to relate to your target audience. You can choose to run a blog or advertise, but customers won’t care about what you say until you create an emotional response about why your product will bring value to their lives.

Build Strategic Partnerships

Set your startup company in collaboration with other brands that offer unique value to both yours and their customers. Build friendships with potential influencers to help pitch your business and give you the push you need to endorse the company.

Got any more tips that you would like to share with us? Comment below and let us know!

Infographic by: B2B ecommerce Infographic