EVENT: The Business Show - ExCel London
LOCATION: ExCel London, Royal Victoria Dock, London, E16 1XL
DATE: May 17 - 18, 2012
This year’s exhibition, which took place over two days, included more than 200 exhibitors and 140 professional speakers. The aim of the event was to inspire budding entrepreneurs and start-ups, as well as to motivate established SMEs to achieve the next phase of growth and development. Inspiresme attended the event on Friday, May 18 and have hand-picked some of the most insightful presentations at this year’s event to deliver to you the key pieces of advice and guidance on offer.
If you think IP won’t affect your business, think again!
SPEAKER: Gary Townley, Intellectual Property Office
Intellectual Property Office Business Events Manager, Gary Townley discussed the importance of branding and protection in this workshop. The key topics covered were:
What is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual Property (IP) covers a range of topics including patents, trade marks, registered designs, copyright, confidentiality and trade secrets. For businesses, registration is crucial as it serves to protect your ideas, products and brand identity.
What can be registered?
Anything from a name, logo, domain, slogan, colour, theme, shape, smells etc.
- Trade marks are a distinctive sign used by businesses to identify their own products or services.
- You can’t register a word found in the dictionary, unless it is unrelated to the industry in which you operate, Apple are a really good example of this.
- Good trade marks are eye catching and memorable but rarely specific to the industry they are located in which provides room for diversification into other industries.
- You can use the IPO’s own database to search and ensure no one else already owns your brand name. It is advised not to apply for a trade mark that includes geographical or laudable terms.
A registered design is a legal right which protects the visual appearance of a product. For your design to be registered it will need to be brand new and have individual character. A registered design will help you ensure that other businesses are not able to create a design similar to your own.
Patents protect the features and processes that make products work allowing inventors to profit from their inventions. A patent gives you the right to stop others from copying, manufacturing and selling your invention. When applying for a patent you will need to include a full description of your invention, a set of claims defining your invention and a short summary of its technical features.
Copyright is an automatic right that applies when work is fixed so recorded in some way; however, it does not apply to ideas.
Full information about each type of IP as well as costs can be found on the IPO’s website.
SPEAKER: Nigel Ginger, HMRC
Nigel Ginger explained how the various rates of VAT effect businesses. He discussed what VAT can be claimed back, when you need to register, the turnover limit for registration and the actual methods of registration as well as providing some examples of accounting methods available in VAT.
What is VAT?
VAT is a tax on consumer spending applicable to most business transactions and can also be charged on imports. It can however, only be charged and reclaimed by businesses that are VAT registered.
What are the common terms used?
- Inputs: goods and services purchased by a VAT registered business
- Input Tax: VAT included on the cost of Inputs
- Outputs: The supply of goods and services made by a VAT registered business
- Output Tax: VAT added to the value of Outputs
How to work out what to pay or will be repaid
To work this out you will need to compare the Input Tax paid with the Output Tax charged. If Output Tax is more than Input Tax, you will owe the difference to HMRC. On the other hand, if Input tax is more than Output Tax, HMRC will have to repay the difference.
When do I need to register my business for VAT?
The registration threshold for 2011/2012 stands at £73,000; if your taxable turnover exceeds this amount, you have 30 days to notify HMRC. Taxable turnover consists of the value of all your sales over the last 12 months, excluding any exempt income.
What to do once VAT registered
Once you have become VAT registered you will need to add VAT at the correct rate to all your sales, provide customers with VAT invoices or receipts, keep thorough business records and send your VAT returns in time along with any due payment.
HMRC also has several schemes in place designed to account for VAT more easily. There is also a workshop called “How VAT Works” designed for businesses that are newly VAT registered.
Some of the key Public Notices mentioned during this presentation were: '700:The VAT guide', '700 : The VAT guide' and '700/21: Keeping VAT records?'.
All public notices as well as further information on this topics are available on HRMC’s website.
One year in – a first-hand account of setting up a business
SPEAKER: Tracey Morbey, McKlein UK
Tracey Morbey drew upon her own experience to explain how to take a vague concept and transform it into a commercially viable business. Morbey described her own journey in 10 steps.
- Find an idea
Morbey stressed the importance of choosing an idea that you’re passionate about and believe in, while also constantly asking yourself: “Who would buy my product and why would they buy it?”
- Assess the viability of your idea
Carry out market research to determine whether there actually is a need for your product in the marketplace. Morbey highlighted that SurveyMonkey is a great free tool to use in order to conduct your research.
- Know your sector or channel
- Morbey underlined the importance of carrying out the right research to ensure that you have the correct pricing structure.
- Taking the plunge
- Here, Morbey referred back to the main regulatory issues with running a business; highlighting the importance of remembering to get your business registered with industry bodies as well as VAT registered.
- Love your competition
- Become your competitor’s biggest fans, carry out ‘feature matching’ activities where you compare the various details of their products against your own, helping to uncover a potential weakness and fill the gap.
- Business planning that works
- Morbey suggested getting everything down on paper, setting out clear objectives, and then reducing your plan to just one page so that it becomes manageable and remains current.
- Find two or three good, local networking groups that will enable you to broaden your skill-set as well as find potential customers.
- Choose your suppliers with care
- Be sure to research your suppliers carefully and be clear on the criteria that you set out for them. Look for added value where possible such as introductory offers and staged payments.
- Make the most of your budget
- Morbey underlined that when all is said and done, in business: “Cashflow is still king”. She explained the importance of getting a good bank manager who can in effect, serve as a free consultant, and employing a good accountant. She noted that when making a purchase it is best to think, "how many sales would I have to make to cover those costs?"
- Fall in love
- Starting a business is a 24/7 venture; be prepared to give more of your life over to your business.