Business Matters – Issue 8

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Business as usual?

Tips for a smooth return to the office

3 steps to mastering social prospecting

Post-exit plans

5 financial steps to bring the future into focus

Inheritance vs inequality

Who feels it the most?

Money and mental health

Why workplace well-being counts

Business as usual? Tips for a smooth return to the office

With the government’s roadmap out of lockdown set to end on 21st June, and the end of the furlough scheme on the horizon, many business owners are beginning to think about bringing their team back to the office.


But, with the rise in popularity of remote-working and persisting fears over catching COVID-19 from colleagues, what are the things business owners need to think about when planning the ‘new normal’ for their company?

It’s been an unprecedented year for UK businesses, with owners having to navigate a number of unexpected situations – from pivoting their business models to recruiting staff remotely. With the UK’s third lockdown set to officially end in less than three weeks, many owners will no doubt be eyeing up the return of office life.

Keeping staff safe will, of course, be the top priority – but there are other issues to consider, too. Here are five things you should think about!

  1. Create a safe space

It goes without saying that when you’re able to open up the office again, it’s vital to make your workplace COVID-secure. The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) offers comprehensive guidance on the steps business leaders should take to make their workplaces safe, as well as discussing the stages in between remote-working and a full return to the office.

It urges businesses to consider three key questions before bringing people back into the office: is it essential, is it sufficiently safe, and is it mutually agreed?

While the government is yet to directly comment on returning to the workplace, they have previously offered advice on doing so – for example, when cases had dropped last summer. It is therefore likely that many of these points will still stand (to some degree) when lockdown ends:

  • Complete a COVID-19 risk assessment and share it with staff.
  • Clean more often and ask staff and visitors to use hand sanitiser.
  • Make sure everyone is social distancing. Make it easy by putting up signs or introducing a one-way system.
  • Increase ventilation by keeping doors and windows open and running ventilation systems.
  • Turn people with coronavirus symptoms away.

For example, it might be wise to continue to practise social distancing if it makes your team and visitors feel safer.

  1. Consider a staged return

And talking of these in-between stages, it may be worth considering a gradual return to office ‘normality’. Depending on the size of your business, there are various options available when bringing your colleagues back. You may choose to reduce hours under the flexible furlough scheme, or bring back some staff while others remain furloughed. You should consider booking systems for desks and rooms to avoid overcrowding, and maintain some degree of distancing.

In any event, communication is key – if working hours are to be adjusted, confirm the arrangement in writing, and if people are required to return to work, give them reasonable notice. There have been many recent headlines about big companies adopting a flexible approach to work – i.e. a balance of remote and office-based working. Many office workers have liked working from home, and are drawn to new ‘hybrid’ arrangements going forward – so this is worth bearing in mind.

After all, lessons learned through this difficult period can provide the foundation for a new and more resilient operating model, with motivated employees who have been given more say in how they work. Even if you ultimately want everyone back in the office, a staged return may help the team settle back into office life.

  1. Talk to your team

It’s important to remember that, even once risk assessments have been carried out and your business premises made COVID-safe, some of your team might be reluctant to come back. Research from Velocity Smart1 indicated that in December 2020 as many as two-fifths of UK office workers were worried about catching COVID-19 as a direct result of being back in contact with colleagues. As a result, almost two-thirds would advocate social distancing measures of two metres between desks and more than half would welcome mandatory mask-wearing in office spaces.

Lianne Lambert, MD of human resources consultancy Lighter HR, commented:

“The response businesses will get from their staff will vary. It will depend on how they have been finding home-working and what their personal experience of COVID has been. Some people have been hit quite hard – perhaps they’ve lost a relative or been particularly ill themselves. And they’re going to be more fearful of returning to an office than others, who might be quite blasé about the whole thing. You need to engage with your staff and understand how they’re feeling and what reaction you’re likely to get when you ask them to return.”

Planning in a one-to-one discussion with all employees can be a good first step towards reintegrating staff, and put together a plan that is specific to the individual.

This is not only a good opportunity to discuss any anxieties the returning staff members might have (from health to financial), but is also a chance to focus on training and their aspirations – and to align the goals and responsibilities of to the new business priorities, post-COVID. Chloe Carey, who last year sold her human resources consultancy, now works with business growth consultants Elephants Child to help SMEs tackle the HR challenges of the pandemic. She noted:

“I think it would be a good time for such a discussion even though people aren’t at work for their full working hours because it’s a great opportunity to focus on their learning and development. The priority really is to ensure the staff feel supported and valued whichever camp they are in and that their health and safety, and well-being, is the priority of the company.”

  1. Feelings about furlough

The current furlough scheme will run until the end of September 2021, with employers being asked to contribute to workers’ salaries from July. Regardless of whether they will be remote or office-based, it means that many employees will likely be heading back to work over the summer.

It’s therefore essential to consider the impact that furlough may have had on the morale of your workforce. Staff who have been furloughed may feel disconnected from their colleagues and the business, and anxious about having a job to return to at all. On the other side of the coin, those who have been working throughout the crisis may feel resentful of their furloughed colleagues. As Carey cautions:

“Be ready for negative feelings and behaviours as a result of disparity from the impact of the pandemic. Ensure managers are skilled enough to recognise conflict and nip it in the bud, and make use of employee assistance programmes and occupational health if you can.”

 

  1. Stay flexible

During lockdown you will likely have adopted new ways of working. So, regardless of whether you are embracing some remote-working or not, it’s important to ensure you still can operate the business remotely, should you need to do so. Despite the vaccine success in the UK, emerging COVID variants are still a concern, and there’s also the possibility of team members (and therefore their department) needing to self-isolate at home.

Having a robust yet agile plan is key for the vast majority of SMEs, and this will allow for flexibility and adaptation with a mix of deliberate and known actions, rather than actions that are simply a response to a situation.

Business as usual?

As we near the end of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, it really does feel like ‘normality’ is coming. And, if you’re looking to bring your employees back to the office this summer, it’s important to ask yourself a number of questions. Can your office accommodate social distancing? Is some remote-working an option? What about the well-being of your team?

And, most importantly, how will these issues impact your company’s development now and in the future?

The opinions expressed by third parties are their own and are not necessarily shared by Wellesley Wealth Advisory or St. James’s Place Wealth Management.

Source:

1 Velocity Smart, ‘Supporting your remote workforce in 2021 and beyond’ – report conducted in December 2020 using online methodology. All the interviews were completed with people who had to use a computer to fulfil the requirements of their employment and respondents were sourced from professional, fully screened and profiled online panels. A total of 3,000 interviews were completed – 1,000 in the UK and 2,000 in the US – with people who worked in organisations employing more than 200.

3 steps to mastering social prospecting

Forget cold calling – using social media to find, engage with and, ultimately, win customers has proven to be key to success in the pandemic. But what about beyond it? We explain why climbing the social ladder shouldn’t be overlooked in the ‘new normal’.

The start of the pandemic saw companies lose customers and clients overnight, leading to many turning to new methods of acquisition. For example, Charlotte Nichols, owner of PR agency Harvey & Hugo, which lost a third of its financial sector clients, sought out social media for salvation.

“I was panicking,” she says. “But as I sat on my sofa in my pyjamas, I began to rekindle my love for social media. It had helped me build my business after launching in 2009, and once again it was winning new clients.”

Charlotte was social prospecting – using social media and online networks to identify, research and engage with prospective new customers and sales opportunities. She explains:

“When we first launched, I followed Twitter hashtags from our region and built up a little community of potential clients. I created website content and shared little snippets on social media. As time went on, even though we created good content, we became complacent in generating leads. Last March I researched which sectors were doing well and started prospecting again. This is something any start-up can do.”

Indeed, with millions of users across the globe, social media has not only helped companies recover, but can potentially offer high returns as things continue to open up. Here are three steps for turning leads into customers.

  1. Identify your prospects

According to Phil Hawkins, Founder and Director of social media agency Colour Me Social, the first step is determining who you are going to target and which social media channel you will find them on.

There are options abound: Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and even TikTok. You might associate the latter with keeping us entertained with quirky dance trends during lockdown; however, it’s actually got its own ‘For Business’ medium, helping SMEs create stories and set up ads on the site.

There are several social prospecting tools entrepreneurs can use, including LinkedIn Premium with its unlimited searches on potential prospects and Ninja Outreach, which can find social media influencers. But it’s also about just getting on Twitter and LinkedIn and searching for keywords and topics relevant to your business.

Charlotte says ‘listening’ on social media can also help uncover opportunities, such as people asking for recommendations in your sector:

“There may be a complaint from a customer giving you an opportunity to approach them. Hopefully, you will soon build up a list of prospects who you follow and who follow you.”

  1. Engage and nurture

Once you’ve researched where and when your target consumes their media, the next stage is to engage these prospects. It’s not about the ‘hard sell’, it’s about taking a softer approach – such as ‘liking’ their content and putting up your own articles – essentially, getting potential customers talking about you.

Typically, Facebook and Instagram are very video- and image-led, while blogs and whitepapers work best on LinkedIn. Phil advises:

“Look through the posts and comments to find conversations that you can join. Join LinkedIn groups and share advice. Show yourself as a helpful expert.”

Charlotte agrees:

“You need to build trust and credibility. Without that it will be hard to progress to sale.”

  1. Seal the deal

The endgame, is of course, converting these prospects into new business. Pre-pandemic, this might have involved inviting them for a coffee, but during the current climate, a video chat might be more appropriate.

And, if they don’t want to do business right now, it’s important to remind them that you’re here while keeping the conversation ‘human’. Charlotte says:

“If they are the right client then keep trying both on and offline. Be human, genuine and authentic. Sometimes on social media you can forget you are talking to real people. Alongside our educational content we have also introduced the lockdown diary of my dog Hugo playing scrabble and eating noodles.”

As Phil concludes, building such a personal brand is fundamental, both now and post-pandemic:

 “People buy people. Be yourself, post regularly and be patient and social prospecting can help your business grow.”

The opinions expressed by third parties are their own and not necessarily shared by Wellesley Wealth Advisory or St. James’s Place Wealth Management.

Post-exit plans: 5 financial steps to bring the future into focus

The many sacrifices and hard work in getting to the point of selling a business present a golden opportunity to use your newfound wealth and free time as you wish.
However, facing up to the daunting decision of what to do next is a lot more straightforward when you can draw on professional financial advice – bringing into focus how your choices might play out in the future.

The successful sale of your first business will undoubtedly represent a crowning achievement in your career, given that you’ve worked hard to build it up over a number of years.

After the initial celebrations are over, the first thing on your to-do list should be to prioritise securing your financial future. Here are steps for good post-exit financial planning.

  1. Generate an income during retirement

Your business has generated an income for you for many years, and so now, post-exit, you’re left with the cash proceeds. The questions to ponder include: ‘How can I use that cash to create a retirement income for me and my family?’, ‘Have I got enough?’ and ‘How much can I take from it without eroding the capital?’

To help secure your desired retirement, it’s necessary to use tax-efficient wrappers, such as pensions, an Inheritance Tax (IHT) efficient trust that pays an income, ISAs, and other tax wrappers or rental properties. There are also other tax-advantaged investments that may be appropriate, subject to your risk appetite and circumstances.

A further question to ask yourself is: ‘How can I do this in a tax-efficient manner, using allowances and exemptions?’ You need to consider both current taxes – such as income tax and Capital Gains Tax – and future taxes – such as IHT.

  1. Seek replacement Business Relief

A trading business usually qualifies for 100% Business Relief – in other words, it won’t be liable for Inheritance Tax when the owner dies.

Nevertheless, once sold, the owner holds cash and consequently forfeits the IHT exemption. Following the sale, owners have 36 months to reinvest a proportion of – or all – the proceeds into other Business Relief-qualifying investments and assets and regain the IHT exemption.

  1. Utilise trusts for IHT planning

Selling a business means you’ll have a large sum of money coming into your estate. Depending on your personal circumstances, IHT is charged at a rate of 40% on the portion of the estate exceeding £325,000 – therefore reducing the value will lower your tax bill.

Clients often choose to make cash gifts – did you know that you can give away £3,000 each tax year using your annual gifting exemption?

Another option is to put gifts into trust for beneficiaries – if you continue to live for seven years after doing this, the gift is not liable to IHT. A benefit of trusts is that they can also control and protect your wealth during adverse life events. The trusts are normally discretionary, allowing for a range of potential beneficiaries – for example, extended family or even friends. The trustee is in control, deciding what gets paid out and to whom.

Certain trusts even offer somewhat more personalised arrangements, such as allowing the owner to draw an income from it for themselves.

  1. Replace protection insurance policies

This is directed at those who might sell a business earlier on in their life and have a growing family to look after.

Owners often set up protection via their business, such as life or illness insurance. In other words, if they were to die, their family would receive a payout from these policies. When owners sell up, such policies typically come to an end – they should therefore consider putting in replacements.

  1. Keep a rational head

If you’ve been accustomed to working 60 hours a week for the last 30 years and your business activity suddenly comes to a halt, it can be a huge shock to the system – seeing you go from being a hustling entrepreneur to an avid daytime-television-viewer!

It’s all about protecting your wealth, and so any impulsive, emotionally led decisions should be avoided – instead, aim to be well prepared for your post-business life before the exit is a done deal. What would you like to do with your time and money – charity work, set up a new business or just have a leisurely, spontaneous lifestyle?

Take that first step towards securing your financial future, and reach out to your family and your Wellesley financial adviser to ensure you’re bringing all the important elements into focus – thereby setting yourself up to reap your well-earned benefits.

The value of an investment with St. James’s Place will be directly linked to the performance of the funds selected and the value may fall as well as rise. You may get back less than the amount invested.

An investment in equities does not provide the security of capital associated with a deposit account with a bank or building society.

Business Relief qualifying investments are illiquid investments, subject to future and retrospective tax changes and as such are suitable only for experienced, sophisticated or high net worth investors who accept that they may get back significantly less than the original investment.

The levels and bases of taxation and reliefs from taxation are generally dependent on individual circumstances.

Trusts and some areas of Inheritance Tax Planning not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Inheritance vs inequality: Who feels it the most?

In April 2021, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) published a new report on expected future inheritances. Will this prove to be a point to ponder for a future Chancellor?

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) is no stranger to the topics of inheritance and inequality. In its latest paper, it has drilled down into the detail based on data from these particular sources:

  • Wealth and Assets Survey – produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS)
  • The Family Resources Survey – compiled by the Department for Work and Pensions
  • The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing – developed by a team of researchers at University College London, NatCen Social Research and the IFS.

The six major outcomes of the report are as follows:

  1. Inheritances are expected to be larger compared with lifetime incomes for younger people than for older generations.

The IFS evaluates inheritances as a proportion of lifetime income, providing a context for how living standards are impacted. For Millenials – in other words, those born in the 1980s – average inheritances compared to lifetime income are predicted to be nearly double that of those born in the 1960s (the end of the Baby Boomers and the beginning of Gen X). By and large, inheritances will correspond to 9% of household lifetime (non-inheritance) income for people born in the 1960s, increasing to 16% for those born in the 1980s.

  1. While inheritances are projected to be larger for higher earners, inheritances as a percentage of lifetime income are set to be similar, on the whole, for low-income and high-income households.

Among Millenials, the IFS estimates that the median lifetime inheritance receipt as a percentage of lifetime income will be approximately 15% for households in the bottom fifth by lifetime income – close to the 16% projected for the top fifth. In cash terms, that amounts to £150,000 and £390,000 respectively.

  1. Inheritances are likely to elevate inequalities between people with richer and poorer parents.

Inheritances are expected to increase inequalities in lifetime income between those with richer and poorer parents. The inheritances of individuals born in the 1980s are forecast to raise lifetime incomes by an average of 2% for those with parents in the bottom fifth of the wealth distribution, and by 17% for those with parents in the top fifth.

The IFS predicts that it will be the younger generations who will feel the inequality impact of inheritances based on parental background the most. For people born in the 1980s, inheritances are gauged, on average, to increase lifetime incomes by 5% for those with parents in the bottom fifth of the wealth distribution. On the other hand, for those with parents in the top fifth, the increase is 29% (see the below dot plan from the main report).

  1. While inheritances are likely to have their greatest impact on living standards later on in life, once they are received, the expectation of future inheritances may have repercussions for outcomes today.

The percentage of people set to receive an inheritance went up from 72% of those born in the 1960s to 81% of those born in the 1980s.

An IFS economic model of savings decisions estimates that Millenials will, on average, hold 9% (or approximately £16,000) less wealth at the age of 45 because they expect a future inheritance. In other words, those anticipating an inheritance are more amenable to spending – rather than saving – their income.

  1. Due to the fact higher earners are potentially more able or inclined to decrease the amount they put into savings in anticipation of inheriting, they will probably notice a greater effect on their current living standards.

The IFS modelling proposes that, for individuals born in the 1980s, the bottom fifth of households by lifetime income essentially spend 11% of their inheritance ahead of receiving it. However, the top fifth by lifetime income spend 13% in advance, which translates to three times as much.

  1. The growth of inheritances means that policies that successfully redistribute them would have a greater impact on inequality and social mobility for younger generations.

The IFS did not model the effect of any IHT changes to redistribute inheritances. It does, however, theorise that equalising inheritances at their mean value would increase lifetime consumption for the bottom tenth by 18% and decrease it by just short of 5% for the top tenth. This narrows the same gap in lifetime consumption between people with the richest and poorest parents by more than 40%.

A point to ponder?

To summarise, then, the work carried out by the IFS highlights the effect of inheritance on increasing inequality. But will it be taken on board?

It could be said that Chancellor Rishi Sunak would be unlikely to continue the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda to welcome reform in this field. On the other hand, President Biden’s actions in the US indicate far-reaching support for taxing the rich that could then have a ripple effect in the UK following the next election. Time will tell!

The opinions expressed by third parties are their own and not necessarily shared by Wellesley Wealth Advisory or St. James’s Place Wealth Management.

Money and mental health: Why workplace well-being counts

In light of events of this past year and the resultant money worries and impact on mental health, financial well-being in the workplace has markedly moved into the spotlight. But how can employers help promote – and safeguard – the financial security of their staff? We shine a light on this significant subject.

As an employer, supporting the well-being of your workforce is a win, win situation – after all, there’s conclusive evidence that happier employees not only make for a more congenial workplace, but improved productivity too.

Yet alongside promoting physical and mental health, there’s the burdening issue of financial well-being to consider, too. And, actually, it might not be that clear-cut for employers to know how best to safeguard the well-being of their staff, especially when it comes to finances?

The burden of finances

What, indeed, is financial well-being? According to the Money and Pensions Service, it’s all about feeling secure, confident and empowered, as well as having control of your finances. A lack of financial well-being can have serious and long-term ramifications for individuals, households, employers and society at large.

Finances are the main cause for concern for the majority of people – 26% of us are worried about money on an ongoing basis, ahead of careers (22%), health (18%) and relationships (14%).1

The coronavirus outbreak and associated lockdowns have aggravated these financial woes, with 37% of working people revealing that their household’s level of disposable income had dropped since the start of the pandemic, with those on a low income particularly affected.2

Yet can financial worries impact people, whatever their level of income? Research indicates that a third of C-suite executives and three in 10 managers have poor financial well-being, while employees who earn in excess of £90,000 a year have almost the same level of financial worries (24%) as those earning between £10,000 and 30,000 a year. More expensive lifestyles and greater access to credit often go hand in hand with higher salaries.1

It goes without saying that financial stress can be damaging to an individual’s mental health and therefore on their ability to perform well in the workplace.

“It naturally impacts your working day and your productivity,” comments Harriet Shepherd, Workplace Financial Well-being Proposition Manager at St. James’s Place Wealth Management. Your confidence and concentration can be affected by stress, not to mention the way in which you communicate with your work colleagues.

Financial well-being is priceless

One thing’s for certain – it’s in any organisation’s best interests to take this issue seriously, given that employees are their most valuable asset. Approximately 4.2 million worker days are lost each year due to a lack of financial well-being, amounting to £626 million in lost output.3

CEBR research discovered that 7% of employees surveyed were offered face-to-face counselling and advice by specialised staff or external consultants to target specific questions.3

“With well-being programmes being at the forefront of organisations’ minds, the financial well-being component is an under-supported but massive factor,” says Shepherd.

Well-being within reach

Employers are often the first port of call when workers seek support with their financial well-being, yet a report by Aegon found that, while 71% of employers believe that their employees would have greater happiness at work if they were to have improved financial well-being, many businesses are still at odds as to how best to support employees in this regard.

Only half of the firms surveyed said they would be able to provide information to staff on debt issues, with 38% admitting that they didn’t fully understand the level of financial information they could offer employees.4

But there’s hope on the horizon, according to Shepherd, who says that a growing number of employers plan to provide financial well-being programmes.

“The big thing we speak to employers about is their employee well-being goals. It’s about choosing a financial well-being approach that best suits both their goals and the needs of their employees.”

For example, a large organisation might implement scalable video-conferencing materials, so a wide audience of employees can be reached. In smaller firms, however, it could be more manageable and effective to work with people one-to-one.

Talk it out

“A lot of organisations have good financial rewards, such as bonus schemes and salary sacrifice, but part of well-being is translating those packages into real conversations, so that employees can understand what it means for them,” Shepherd adds.

Working with partners, such as financial advisers, can also help empower employees to make informed decisions regarding their finances.

“We focus on our face-to-face approach, but we work in many cases with or alongside other well-being providers within organisations,” says Shepherd. “The more that different providers collaborate, the more we’re addressing the holistic needs of employees.”

If you’re interested in discovering more about how the team at Wellesley can support you and your employees, please get in touch – after all, a problem shared is a problem halved.

Join in the National Wellness Conversation.

Sources:

1 The Employer’s Guide to Financial Wellbeing 2020-21 (copies can be requested from salaryfinance.com)
2 TUC, The impact of the pandemic on household finances, February 2021
3 Centre for Economics and Business Research, Financial wellbeing and productivity: a study into the financial wellbeing of UK employees and its impact on productivity, 2018 (total sample size: 2,000 UK employees)
4 Aegon, Financial wellbeing in the workplace, 2018 (total sample size:500 HR decision-makers from a representative sample of British businesses)

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