Accountants provide invaluable help and support to small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in the UK and many go above and beyond to see their clients succeed. Amy Roberts, senior business development manager at Spotcap UK, sits down with Bobby Lane, partner at market leading accounting, tax and advisory practice Blick Rothenberg, to find out more about the businesses he works with, their current challenges and opportunities.
Amy: Can you tell me more about yourself, your role at Blick Rothenberg, and how you advise businesses?
Bobby: I have spent over 20 years working with entrepreneurs and fast growing businesses. My focus has been on helping companies from all sectors to start, grow or get back on track. As a partner at Blick Rothenberg, I am responsible for developing the owner managed and SME outsourcing businesses within the practice.
Amy: When discussing business growth, how much emphasis is put on external factors? And what can businesses themselves do to ensure success?
Bobby: More emphasis than ever before is being put on external factors. The external pressures on businesses are changing rapidly with Brexit, GDPR and Making Tax Digital amongst others, all taking or will soon take effect. Businesses have to be more aware of what is going on outside their front door and understand the changes. They need to understand what these changes mean for them and ensure they have the skills and experience internally to be on top of things.
Amy: What’s your number one piece of advice to businesses looking to grow in 2018?
Bobby: Winston Churchill once said that “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Businesses must look at the opportunities as they present themselves during 2018. A weaker pound makes your products and services far more attractive to international customers looking to buy from you. If free trade deals with new trading partners exist this could open up new markets. Think broadly, think big and above all else make sure you put it all down in a well thought out plan!
Amy: What are the main concerns of the UK businesses you work with at the moment?
Bobby: Mainly uncertainty. We have recently seen further high profile casualties on the high street and uncertainty is not good for business. The concerns do continue to revolve around the 3 C’s, cash, costs and control. The ability to obtain the cash that they need to fund their day-to-day working capital or their expansion plans. The costs of business from increasing rent bills, the rates burden on the high street and the costs of employment. Control includes managing the growth of their business effectively from building a team to having the right systems in place.
Amy: Access to finance continues to be a challenge for businesses. What should they be doing to stay ahead?
Bobby: Forecast forecast forecast! Nobody likes surprises, including business owners or their finance providers. It is vital that businesses are preparing monthly management accounts which will include a statement of profit and loss and a balance sheet along with a cashflow forecast. Businesses should also have a business plan including a forecast of a minimum of 12 months, ideally three years ahead. This will allow the business to identify how they are performing against expectations but also identify any cashflow issues that they may face.
The key is to look ahead, forecast, identify your requirements and start the conversations well in advance of when you may need the finance.
Amy: And last but not least, how do you take your coffee?
Bobby: A frappuccino. I am not a fan of hot drinks and get many funny looks when it is -10 outside and I have a frozen coffee in my hand.
In addition to Bobby’s work at Blick Rothenberg, he is also a regular speaker at events and writes for the national and trade press. Bobby was a SAGE Global Business Influencer in 2017 and Voted No 1 in the ‘Top 50 most influential sources of finance news and information on social media’ (Economia 2016). Check out Bobby’s profile here or connect with him on Twitter on @bobbylaneuk.
Originally published March 27 2018 , updated March 27 2018