Limited company or sole trader – what’s the difference? and what’s the best option for me?

What IS the difference? and does it matter?

In short – yes it does matter.
Its still quite surprising how many small businesses use phrases like ‘our company’ and ‘we’re in partnership’ and ‘MD’ when describing their business, or their roles in their business, often erroneously and potentially dangerously.

Lets get some things straight first.

A limited company is one registered at Companies House and which is owned and controlled by Directors and Shareholders. It has rights and responsibilities of its own – which are not the same as the rights and responsibilities of the Directors or Shareholders within it. A limited company is a separate legal ‘person’ ( that means it exists legally independent from any individual – even if there is only one shareholder/director) from its owners or controllers, and should have its own bank account, tax identity and be a party to its contracts. Sometimes Directors and Shareholders are one and the same but they don’t have to be . Not all companies have shares – some can be limited by guarantee. But for most companies its a leadership of directors and an ownership of shareholders – in very simple terms.

An unincorporated business can ether be a sole trader – a self employed person working alone – or sometimes two or a group of people working together – we’ll be looking at this in later blogs. Either way you should not refer to your business as a company, or you as a director of the company, if you are not an incorporated body.

Do you identify what your business is correctly? A limited company must state its full title and its company number on all its public correspondence – for example your website and your email footer, your Terms and Conditions, your contracts with your suppliers, your bank account – so that customers know who they are dealing with. You CANNOT use any name you want – there are some restrictions about what you can call your self so check what’s prohibited or restricted. If you have a trading name that needs to be stated as well. Here’s a helpful link if you need advice about this.

To get your FREE fact sheet on the difference between Limited Companies Partnerships and Sole Traders – just get in touch at enquiries@stanfordgouldonline.co.uk

with email header FACT SHEET and we will send that to you pronto. And we promise to be good to our GDPR word and not surreptitiously add you to a data base for future marketing…. cos that’s how we roll.

Next week…… some pros and cons……

Who’s to blame for a spelling mitsake? Wedding bespoke print and stationery providers – are your Terms clear?

Who’s to blame for a spelling mitsake? Wedding bespoke print and stationery providers – are your Terms clear?

As its World Stationery Day today we are concentrating on those fabulous creatives who use the printed word to make beautiful goods and stationery for the wedding sector.

But what happens if the proverbial hits… and you get a spelling error, or a detail wrong? Who is responsible in this situation and how can it be resolved?

The first port of call is your client contract – your Terms and Conditions. Are they clear about proof reading, mock up and sign off, and who must undertake this? Are they clear about who must sign off any proposed printing? Can one of the couple approve on behalf of both? Or do you require a second ‘yes’?

Secondly – are your Terms clear about absolving you of liability in the event of a mistake where the error has been correctly signed off? What do your Terms say about what happens next in this situation? These things DO happen so what’s the clear position in your Terms about what you do in that situation – or perhaps more importantly what you do NOT have to do (another print run? for example)

They really need to be. If your Terms aren’t specific about proof reading and signing off the printed goods you produce – get them reviewed – here’s our option if you need help with this.

Secondly – take a look at your processes. How do you get the proof approved? By email? In person? Do you have an evidence trail of what you sent or produced and what version of the bespoke printed goods was approved? Do you have an evidence trail of the approval from the client? Could you prove to a court (that’s ‘on the balance of probabilities’ – or in simple terms ‘its more likely than not’) that they saw the error and yet still approved it? If not, you need to look carefully at your processes for sign off by your client as well as your contractual terms. One without the other isn’t much help to you.

If the terms are clear that the customer must sign off and you have evidence this was done, then any costs associated with a reprint (including expedited costs, if necessary) can be properly left to the customer to pay. If your Terms are silent, or inadequate, you could end up on the end of that printing bill to put right the mistake you made.

If you need any help with these issues – get in touch? We’d love to hear your story of a spelling error that went unnoticed….anonymised obviously!

Reviewing your situation this Easter – your T&Cs

Easter break – are you enjoying the sunshine, taking some well-deserved R ‘n’ R from your business? Are you comatose from all those eggs yet? Promising yourself a new improved diet regime this week?

Perhaps you are thinking about that ‘to do’ list you made in January – did that include creating or reviewing your T&Cs?

It can be one of those jobs, can’t it? See what one of our clients said about this recently:

“To be honest, updating the T&Cs for my consultancy business wasn’t exactly the most exciting thing on my to-do list. It was easy to ignore and put off. But as more and more large brands came on board to work with me I realised I needed to get my T&Cs into shape to protect both my business and my clients”

Sound familiar? You got better things to do, surely…. But do you have more essential things to do than make sure your business is protected and your risks are managed?

We can help. You can read the rest of Emma’s testimonial, and others like hers, here but she said:

Now, knowing how simple it was, I just wish I had done it sooner.

Heather makes the whole process so straightforward. Her down-to-earth approach is approachable and supportive. She understands the needs and requirements of small businesses and is intuitive in her recommendations. She worked quickly and put in extra time to meet an ambitious deadline I had given her helping me run my business more efficiently. I would absolutely recommend her expert services to anyone wanting to be smarter about how they run their small business.”

Emma Drury-Jones, Owner of At Her Table

If so, we have a great offer for you available until 17th May 2019.

A full review of your current T&Cs for a fixed fee of £150.00.

You will receive:

  • A full review by email of what you have.
  • Advice on where they have weaknesses and/or gaps, and whether they are fit for purpose.
  • No obligation options to improve them

either by purchasing a template from one of our specially created options for wedding suppliers for just £225.00 with the BONUS of a FREE 30 minute telephone call to help you complete the template, or fire us some general legal and contracts Q and A’s.

or providing a bespoke contract created with your specific business delivery in mind for the fixed price of just £400.00 (our usual prices start at £425.00) by Stanford Gould Limited.

For more information email us to take advantage of this offer.

(Terms and conditions apply – well of course they do! It’s us!)

COMPETITION TIME – win free tickets

COMPETITION TIME – would you like a free ticket to attend THE wedding festival event of the season? The Unconventional Wedding Festival on 11th and 12th May at Stanford Hall Lutterworth. You wanna come?

Our fabulous friends at Unconventional Weddings and Events have agreed we can offer this fabulous prize to anyone liking our Facebook page AND who like and share through Facebook any of the blog posts on Wedding Fairs and GDPR that we have posted in the last weeks.

https://www.stanfordgouldonline.co.uk/blog/

Entries start now: and includes anyone who already likes the Stanford Gould Facebook page, but you will ALSO need to share and like the blog to qualify.

Two winners will be picked on Friday 12th April 2019 to receive a ticket for the Unconventional Festival. We have one for Saturday and one for Sunday so if you comment on the shared post with your preferred date, we will try to accommodate you.
Terms and Conditions apply (well of course they do….this is a Stanford Gould competition…) and are available on request.

Good Luck x

Exhibitor at a Wedding Fair? get GDPR savvy – Part 3 : The Aftermath.

The Aftermath of the Wedding Fair – hopefully you feel good!

It was time and money well spent. A positive and productive day at the Wedding Fair. You came back with leads and you converted some of them, (all of them? I need an emoji here, but WordPress or my IT skills don’t allow….)

having chatted and previewed and showed off what you do, what you know and what you make. They were impressed. In the aftermath they become a client or customer.

Yay!

Whats next?

If they want to become a client, make sure you get T and C’s or a client contract to them as you set out the proposed works and prices, as part of the contractual basis for delivering your goods and services to them. In your terms, you should remind them of your privacy policy and the basis for processing and retaining their data is – get this added to your T and C’s now.

It’s called layering – telling the client at lots of different points in the customer experience what you are doing with their data and reminding them of their rights, and their options.

If you need help with your T and C’s try our templates…. www.stanfordgouldonline.co.uk

If you need a privacy policy have a look at the template in our GDPR Starter Pack or on the ICO website.

Anyone who is on your data base legitimately – either having given a clear consent since May 2018 – or (…and this is important) who consented under the previous regime which required very little to evidence this agreement, can continue to receive your mail chimp or other emails or electronic communications and sales info. Please ensure there is a clear opt out or unsubscribe option for them,  that is easy to use and doesn’t involve multiple tasks or clicks.

Its a good idea to annual check that the contact details you have for your Mailing List or Subscribers are still valid and up to date – your obligation to ensure data is accurate – and that they still want to receive material from you. You don’t need ANOTHER tick box checked, or positive consent reply to this – its just good housekeeping. It should not decimate your mailing list each time!

Any questions about GDPR, contracts or legal issues generally we would be happy to help. You can find us at

www.stanfordgould.co.uk 

www.stanfordgouldonline.co.uk

FB                           www.facebook.com/stanfordgould

Twitter                 @stanford_gould 

LinkedIn               https://www.linkedin.com/in/heather-stanford-0033047/

Exhibitor at a wedding fair? get GDPR savvy – Part 2 : GDPR your actions list

WOW – lots of people looked at our blog last week – did we touch a nerve? or time it right? maybe provide something really useful? We hope so… So last week we looked at some principles to remember when you are using personal data. This week it’s : GDPR your actions list.

What do you actually DO to make this work?

GDPR your actions list:

  • Before you attend

Is your website GDPR complaint? – Do you have a good privacy policy which is GDPR complaint and a ‘contact us’ page that allows the customer to opt in to receive information and offers from you with a clear consent box to tick (not pre populated….) to ensure that active and informed consent is given?

If you need help with this you could view our GDPR starter pack which includes template privacy policy and a guide to help you https://www.stanfordgould.co.uk/downloads/gdpr-starter/

  • At the event

How are you going to collect the data from these new customers/clients/contacts?

Collecting business cards, with telephone and email details?

Get them to sign a sheet which includes not only their contact details but a box to tick to opt in to receive your discounts, offers and emails or newsletters is ideal – can that work practically at the event you are going to? Can you offer an incentive to sign up? A prize draw? A discount code? Don’t make the prize too fabulous – you don’t want to be caught out by the Bribery Act, but a small gift or voucher is perfect, low value and an interesting relevant product.

Can you make this electronic? – Lots of exhibitors now use iPad and phones to get customers to part with their contact details – does this process include a clear consent box to tick or agree with options?

Do NOT have a long list on a clipboard so everyone can see everyone else’s details and information. Separate slips of paper, or customised postcards with sign up options to tick or complete, work well and most simply.

You need evidence of the consent for later if there is a question about whether they gave that consent and how from the client or the ICO ( the ‘data police’ for enforcement purposes…)

  • After the event

Once you get that box of cards or bag of reply slips home – how do you follow them up? Social media invites – should all be covered by the GDPR and privacy policies of the various social media platforms so probably you are OK to do this, without any additional consent. But make it worthwhile – a connection just to have more followers who are entirely disinterested in your business is pointless.

A short email – ‘thanks for meeting with us .. here’s our site, please sign up for your offers/news etc’ could be easily classed a legitimate business interest – NOTE: this means 1 email – not 10, when the first 9 are ignored.….

Do not be tempted to cc all your collected email address in one fell swoop later, thanking them for coming – we’ve seen it happen, honestly! This is a huge no-no. Even be careful with bcc’ing – it looks lazy – and is so easy to make a mistake – but probably complies with your GDPR obligations.

If they do come back and seek your services, you have a basis for processing. If they come back and consent to be on your mailing list, add them to the database if you hear nothing more – no follow up is really acceptable unless you can show a legitimate interest – document this!! Have proof if you are challenged that you have thought it through.

Next week we look at what happens after you get them on board…what’s the important stuff to batten down, once they are a client? If you need any help with this please do get in touch with us

Exhibitor at a wedding fair? Get GDPR savvy – Part 1

For the next three weeks we are going to be setting out some do’s and don’ts if you are planning to take part as an Exhibitor at a wedding fair this Spring.

Collecting personal data? You betcha!

You come to network, right? Collect cards and names? Possible customers? Possible suppliers? Investigate interesting quirky delivery from interesting quirky people, who you might not need or want daily, but you’ll hold on to that information, just in case…

Hopefully they do the same with your cards and business info. That’s why you signed up to be an Exhibitor at a wedding fair.

So what can you keep, what can you do with the stuff you collect –  personal data (see the link for that definition) but essentially email address, telephone numbers , information about your customers and contacts. You may also hold special category personal data ( see link for that definition) if you hold information about your customers sexual orientation or disability needs, for example. How is best kept and recorded? How do you ensure that you use it compliantly and within the limits of GDPR.

Remember there are 6 bases for lawfully processing personal data and the three most relevant for you are:

  • If you have a contract to delivering goods and services – so this covers anyone contacting you to enquire about your products or services, you can legitimately process their personal data ( that means email them, call them, write to them…) and tell them what you have and what you do, and the price! Consent is not relevant here. If they ask about what you do, you can tell them. What you cannot do is then automatically add them to a database and start sending them all sorts of offers, newsletters and other sales info which us generic and not specifically requested – UNLESS they have given consent. Which leads us nicely into….
  • Consent – here’s the reason why that tsunami of emails appeared in your inbox in the last week of May 2018….
  • Consent must be freely given and active – that means someone must do something to show consent – it cannot be assumed or implied. Tick a box, sign a form, press a button – but show that they have actively agreed to receive your information and link this to the relevant page of your website by asking them to view the terms of your privacy policy at the point that they give that consent.
  • Legitimate business interest: the catch-all provision. As long as you can say that your processing was for a legitimate business interest, you can process the data when you are not yet selling goods or service to the client and you do not have clear consent. BUT you must be able to justify this if challenged.

A good way to view this would be if you received a business card or a contact number whist at a network event and you followed this up with an email to introduce your business or a product – that’s probably justifiable as legitimate interest. Adding them to your database and sending them your regular monthly newsletter or special offers and discounts every time you have a sales push is definitely NOT legitimate interest. If you want to do that, your initial email needs to include an option for them to actively opt in to that receipt. If they don’t do this, you shouldn’t follow up. If you do, be prepared to have a very good reason to justify that action.

Next week we’ll be looking at your TO DO list as an Exhibitor before, during and after the wedding fair to ensure compliance and evidence gathering (or is that bottom covering….) or you can check out our other blogs on this topic here….https://www.stanfordgouldonline.co.uk/category/gdpr-for-wedding-suppliers/

The network is working hard…Social and Works calendar round-up –

Today I’m not bothering with helpful legal tips, training and help with your contracts. I’m just writing a blog about brilliant people I’ve met, worked with or seen in the last 7 days – cos I’ve had an awesome couple of weeks! The network is working hard.

On Friday I had the pleasure of being invited to A Most Curious Party by the fabulous Ellie Kime – the Wedding Enthusiast – who had invited me to write a GDPR blog for the exhibitors at the Show. Great evening meeting eclectic and creative genius folk, off Brick Lane in London, whilst sipping espresso martinis – a tough gig, I’m sure you’d agree!

On Saturday – just round the comer the fabulous ladies of Planning Redefined were out in force with newbie wedding planners having a training and mentoring afternoon – and the feedback from the participants was excellent. Almost full up for the next session I hear…. Some contacted me through social media after the event, for legal help, even though I didn’t attend myself. This is when the power of doing good work, having a great reputation and a loyal and grateful network comes into its own- they did the ‘sell’ for me.

Today I’ve been out into the wilds of Leicestershire with the bunch from Above and Beyond… with great food from Thomas the Caterer and the effervescent Val Mattinson rounding up the troops for lovely informal coffee and chat with wedding suppliers of all sorts.

And finally, next week I’m training a group at Urban Weddings’ Manchester Wedding Supplier network meeting – talking all things contracts and compliance. Really looking forward to meeting Chelle and Zoey, and new folk and helping some businesses from the North West region at the event.

If I have the energy and the time, I may call into the Unconventional Wedding supplier meet up on Wednesday as well. I’m passing on the cat section of that afternoon (Linzi Barford….you all know what I mean….)

So, there’s the round up of events and networks and lovely people I’ve had dealings with and am fortunate enough to meet over these 2 weeks. I really hope I play a part in helping these networks keep on giving and sharing and promoting and nurturing all our member businesses.

Fanfare please…our first Guest Blog – 6 Ways to Protect Your Business

SGOL love to add value to your visits to our blog page so we have invited some trusted contacts to Guest Blog to share some tips and tricks for micro business owners – some added value, something a little wider than just legal….

In this insightful guest blog post from Jon Page of Neon Financial Planning, we look at 6 ways of protecting your business…

  1. Plan. All good things start with a plan. Think about what would happen to the business without you (or someone else key) in it. How would the business continue to trade? Could it deliver on contracts that are already in progress? If you employ staff, what would happen to them? As they saying goes, prevention is better than cure so identify those problems and put a plan in place to keep things stable.
  • Agree. If several of you own a business jointly, you should have a shareholders’ agreement in place, setting out what you want to happen to your shares if one of you dies or is seriously ill. And alongside that you will usually need insurance (called shareholder protection) which pays out enough for your shares to be bought by the others and makes sure your family don’t lose out.
  • Evolve. Things change fast, and consumer trends can be fickle. It’s not that long ago people rented DVD’s from Blockbuster, bought Christmas presents from Toys R Us and got a new mobile from Phones 4U. Get regular feedback from your customers, keep up with peers and competitors (monitoring social media sites is a great way of doing this) and network to get other people’s views on the industry.
  • Insure. You insure the tangible bits of your business as a matter of course, but the true value of a business is often the skills, talent and creativity of the people within it. If a key person within the business becomes ill or dies, you are going to have a problem. Having insurance (such as Key Person) buys you time. The business can use the insurance money to pay staff, service debt, recruit replacement staff and make up for lost revenue or relationships.
  • Diversify. If your business income stream relies on one product, one key person or a couple of big customers then it can easily be interrupted. Consider reducing the dependency of your business with some diversification. A ‘side hustle’ if you will. If you have the time. Then Freelancing, providing business coaching or attending trade fairs can open up new avenues. If you are short for time, consider passive income streams such as improving online sales, participate in affiliate marketing, renting part of your office space to another business or advertising your parking space to the public if you are in a prime location?
  • Save. Last, but certainly not least is cash flow. It’s the biggest risk to any small and medium sized business. Try to work out your monthly operating costs and then build up a reserve of at least 3-6 months held in cash – you never know when business may dry up so this is vital to keep things going. It can be difficult to do this, especially for a start-up, so you may also want to consider trying to establish other means of a cash reserve, such as grant funding, a bank loan or angel investing.

The good news is that you’re not on your own. The team at Neon Financial Planning have a range of services that include arranging insurances (along with a whole host of other useful planning services). They can also offer coaching sessions if you just want to talk things through and get a second opinion. All the services can be easily booked online, and you can even book a video call with them at a time to suit you too. Nice and easy!

Managing expectations- a painful lesson from real life.

Managing expectations – a lesson from real life

This is me.

Pole axed. Crooked. Stuffed. Literally working with my hands tied (that’s my typing arm….)

and it got me thinking this week about what I can actually do despite this challenge, what extra things I need to put in place and, perhaps most relevant to this blog, – what do I tell my clients and make sure I am managing expectations?

I’ve figured out that I can do the work- it’s taking me longer and its frustrating me, but it can be done. I’ve roped in a teenage child on half term hols to type a few things, and a husband on his day off to drive me to see a client – it’s all in the collaborations and the planning! But I’ve also had to tell clients about the enforced go-slow, and to shift some deadlines to make them comfortable to achieve. That means prioritising some jobs and proactively communicating with those who may have a slightly extended delivery.

There’s nothing more irritating in the life of a customer when you have instructed someone to do something – provide a service – or have ordered goods – to then be greeted with the wall of silence. No updates. No progress. No product! We all know a quick call to say – no news but I’m checking in – can be so important to managing those customer expectations.

Contracts – or Terms and Conditions – is another way of managing the clients’ expectations and demands. Setting out the rules before you start to play the game. No contract can ever be water tight – and beware a lawyer who tells you any different! – but at least you have some structure, some rules and some protection to ensure that what the customer thinks you are going to do is in fact what you are going to do. Sounds simple – right? Not always.

If you want a steer about managing your clients’ expectations – please do get in touch. My left handed index finger typing speed is improving daily!