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Welcome to Fresh Threads, our weekly roundup of the best comments and advice from the forums.
Here are my top picks from this week.
It sounds a bit old fashioned, but I wondered if anyone had experience in business-to-business fax advertising? What was the cost and the return on investment? What are the dos and donts? Looking forward to hearing your stories.
AllUpHere: I've been earning a living full time as a marketing consultant for 10 years and I've never once been asked about fax-based advertising. This suggests to me that it's probably dead. If it's not, there might be an opportunity to benefit. What type of business are you trying to promote?
fisicx: Does anyone even have a fax machine any more? I’ve just spoken to my wife, who works for an international finance company with thousands of clients, and she says they don't even have a field in the database for fax numbers.
NickGrogan: Most fax numbers go through to email in the form of PDFs these days. I used fax marketing in the past and it was very effective but email is probably more useful now.
TheoNe: I know of one small organisation that still uses fax advertising as a form of B2B direct mail but they are finding the response rate to be increasingly inconsistent. I would put that down to the decreasing use of fax machines and the shift to email.
I run an ecommerce company in the sports industry, operating from my home with a small warehouse. It's successful with a turnover of £350k-400k per year but we've recently lost a major supplier because we don't have a physical shop. I don't want to open a shop and so have decided to exit the business. Should I cash out and move on, or is there any chance I might franchise the name and let someone else run the retail outlet under our supervision?
Clinton: No, you can't franchise. Having one operation making a tiny profit is not a basis for franchising. I don't know where microbusinesses get these fancy ideas! Open multiple outlets, demonstrate they can operate as independent profit centres, then bung £100K+ into all the legals, forms, processes, procedures, dispute resolution mechanisms, branding, and so on, and, bingo, you've got a franchise.
kulture: I think Clinton's advice is good, if a bit abrupt. This is not a franchise opportunity. You should perhaps consider a third option. What is a shop? What is stopping you opening one by appointment only? It would be a place to store stock, and a place to set up and adjust bikes when/if someone makes an appointment. It does not have to be in a prime location. Indeed you could combine it with your warehouse if the location is suitable. No supplier is going to check your opening hours.
MYOFFICEINCHINA: Persevere with what you are doing. Suppliers come and go. There are many. Start developing your own brand and push this for the next few years. But a bricks and mortar shop might actually help your business, as customers will be able to try, test and feel products before purchasing. It can be in a secondary position, or on an industrial estate which can also be your warehouse and hub.
TheoNe: As a small business owner myself, I think you have done exceptionally well starting with just £1,500 to the point where you are turning over a healthy £400K. In my opinion, you should look for a buyer at this point and plug the money into your other project – one which seems to excite you more.
I'll be going into a property development business with my siblings but we all have different ideas of what we want to achieve and what a good or bad deal looks like. I just know we will have disagreements further down the line. Do you guys and gals have any ideas for how I should go about handling this to avoid as many potential issues as possible?
Mark T Jones: Get a very robust partner or shareholder agreement. As with any joint venture, the closer you are emotionally, the more important this is. That said, there are plenty of examples of extremely successful family businesses. Not being scared to disagree can be a positive.
AllUpHere: I think it can work, but you need to have one boss. Don't split it with equal shares for everybody – someone needs to be in charge. This only works, however, if one is a natural leader and has the attributes to justify them having the final say.
The Byre: Rule one in business: never enter partnerships and especially not with relatives. And brothers and sisters are the worst of the lot. Sorry to be a wet blanket but nearly all businesses fail in the first five years and the three main reasons are (1) lack of sufficient funds (2) lack of preparation and market segment knowledge (3) partnerships falling apart.
xCarlx: I’m going to suggest that we each start our own businesses and further down the line we can form a joint venture if it suits us and we all agree on it. But as we have our own things going on, there shouldn’t be any stepping on toes.
Can anyone help regarding mileage and fuel expenses for a limited company? We have two vehicles, both owned by the company – one large car and one van. We claim VAT back on fuel and log it as an expense but what I’m a bit stuck on is subcontractors using their own cars. Some of the work we’re getting is over 200 miles away so the company fuels up subcontractor’s vehicles so they can get to work. Can these be logged in the same way or not?
Scalloway: It is a cost of you doing business with them. They could charge you a higher mileage rate instead.
DWS: I would suggest that they include on their invoice to you an agreed amount for fuel. You’ll be no worse off as you can claim the total of their invoice as an expense and they can also claim an expense within their own accounts.
UK Contractor Accountant: I actually think that you’re OK with your original arrangement of providing fuel for subcontractors vehicles or your own vans for subbies to use. That way you can claim the vat back on all fuel bills. I don't think for one minute HMRC would query it on a PAYE compliance visit. In 30 years I haven't known HMRC to query fuel use in company accounts. The only thing ever questioned is the private use of fuel for company car drivers by employees or directors.
DWS: Just because it may not get queried does not make it correct. If the original poster put £100 in fuel in the subbies van but only £50 was used for business, would that be acceptable because they are not employees?
That's all for this week – have a great run into the weekend!
Thank You for sharing this stuff!
After all said and done, not all businesses or websites need to worry about it. Most small businesses will not be affected right?
this is Inflation