Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Hands Up Who Likes Business Planning?

November 20th, 2012


Do you find you don’t have time to do any business planning?  Are you too busy getting on with the actual business side of things, the things that get the income coming in? Or perhaps more honestly, you think that “planning” or “strategy” is:-

a) boring as heck?
b) a mystery?
c) irrelevant?

So What Is Business Planning?


Well there’s the start-up business plan which is your tool for setting out your initial goals and how you will achieve them. It takes a detailed look at your proposed business idea and how likely it is to succeed. It includes financial forecasts covering what money you see coming in and going out of your business. It usually covers a 3-5 year period. This video explains more about it –


You’d be forgiven for thinking that “business planning” was only something to do when starting up rather than running a business. If you google “business planning” for example, a high proportion of articles will be about start-ups and creating you first  business plan.
But once you’re in business, it pays to refer back regularly to your original plan to see whether things are going according to plan, financially and in relation to your other goals.

If you aware that things are not going to plan, you can do what is necessary to address any issues before they become critical. Also unexpected changes can be positive developments. You may find a market for your audience that you hadn’t been aware of before. If you take the time to look at how these changes fit in with your overall goals, it will help you keep focussed.
In addition to regular monitoring of your cashflow, you might once a year, review your goals & make plans in the areas of finance, sales, marketing, HR, for example.

Setting measurable objectives for the year ahead makes it easier to monitor your performance. So rather than vague goals such as “increase sales” or “raise company profile” set specific and realistic targets such as % increase in sales, 3 articles in local paper, x number of facebook fans, reduce overdraft by x amount.

I’ve talked to several people who run small businesses over the years and I’m always amazed that planning is often so far down on their agenda or sometimes not on their radar at all!

If you applied that logic elsewhere it would seem a bit odd. For example, you don’t step out of your front door in the morning without an idea of where it is you’re going.

A while back I was working as Communications Officer for an organisation and had been asked to produce a Communications Strategy. I was talking to my boss one day about the importance of strategy and said “if you don’t have a strategy, you’re in the dark, a bit like trying to pack for a holiday without knowing where you’re going “. He said “Oh! I’d happily go with an empty suitcase!”.
That taught me a valuable lesson. To remember that not everyone has the same outlook on life, the same values or personality. Luckily for me, I like planning, I’m more of thinker than do-er, so it’s not a chore for me to spend time analysing and committing ideas to paper. But if you’re a do-er I can quite understand that you may well prefer to watch paint dry than sit down and write business forecasts.

If for whatever reason, you find yourself saying “no” to the task of business planning, at least be aware of how vulnerable that makes your business.  Lack of planning is often cited as one of the reasons for small business failure.  There’s plenty of guidance on planning out there. Here are a few sources of information to start you off:

For further business tips, check out our blog post on simple accounting tips.

Windows 8 Tablets – Two Tablets for Different Users?

November 18th, 2012

Tablet computers like the iPad are extremely convenient for mobile use, e.g. sending emails or browsing the internet. However they aren’t so handy for performing the kinds of task you might use a PC for, e.g. using Word or Excel. Personally, I love the iPad for browsing the internet but for data entry, e.g. using an application like Word or Excel, or even simple actions like copying and pasting text between web pages I much prefer using a PC.

Recently, Microsoft have released Windows 8 and at the same time a new Windows 8 tablet – the Microsoft Surface RT. At first glance the Microsoft RT seems like an ideal mix – a handy, touch-sensitive tablet like the iPad that will also run your familiar applications like Word, Excel (or even our own SliQTools applications :)). However, bear in mind that there is more than one form of the new tablet and you should make sure you are buying the correct version.


Microsoft Surface RT – an iPad-like device

The current release of the Surface is the Microsoft Surface RT.

The first thing to know is that the current Microsoft Surface – the Microsoft Surface RT – will NOT run the normal desktop applications you can run on Windows 7. The Surface RT is much more like an iPad than a laptop computer running Windows 7 and the Surface RT will only run the new tablet-like Windows Apps, purchased from the new Microsoft Windows Store. The new Windows 8 Apps are more like iPad apps than the normal programs we’ve all been running on Windows 7.

The exception to the “does not run old application rule” for the Surface RT is that it does comes preloaded with a special version of Microsoft Office 2013 specifically designed for the RT so you can work with your older Word and Excel documents on the new RT.

Microsoft Surface Pro – Laptop PC + iPad-like device in one

In the new year, Microsoft will release the Microsoft Surface Pro. This is the killer machine in my view. It will work like an iPad, with a touch-sensitive screen, run the new Windows 8 Apps from the Microsoft Windows store, but also run ALL your old programs that you were using on Windows 7, Vista, XP etc. The Surface Pro will cost more than an iPad but will double up as a laptop with a proper keyboard and mouse pad for effective data entry.

One clear area where the new Surface machines win out on over the iPad or Android tablets is in connectivity. The Surface machines come with USB ports,  microSD card slot, headphone, micro-HDMI, keyboard dock and charging ports as well as an in-built camera.


Information on the new Microsoft Surface and Windows 8 releases can be confusing. Make sure you know what you want to do with the Surface and that you are choosing the right version when you buy. Personally, I’m waiting for the Surface Pro to be released as the ability to browse the internet conveniently as I can with my iPad but also run my normal desktop apps means I’ll get the best of both worlds in terms of portability and flexibility.

For more Windows 8 topics, see and

How to turn off a Windows 8 PC

November 1st, 2012

With Windows 7 or Vista, turning off a PC is simply a matter of clicking the Windows button on the left of the task bar and clicking the Shutdown button. Having just installed Windows 8, it took me a while to work out how to turn the PC off as there is no longer a Windows button and the Start menu is completely different. Here’s how to do it:

1. Bring up the Windows 8 Charms buttons (a strip of buttons arranged down the right of the screen) by moving your mouse cursor the very top right of the screen.

2. Click the Settings charm button.

3. In the Settings, click the Power button:


Twitter email problem: Is your email address active?

October 28th, 2012

Of late, we’ve been using Twitter more frequently but twitter keeps displaying a message saying that it is failing to send emails to us “Is your email address active? We’ve tried to send emails to … “.


However, the email address was fine and emails from other sources sent to that address were getting through OK. Investigating more into our twitter account showed that we’d missed several weeks of direct messages from followers. Missing notifications, especially direct messages from Twitter followers could be quite serious as we may have missed out the opportunity to follow up on leads and enquiries. A little experimentation showed that adding the domain to the email/ firewall whitelist allowed the emails to come through properly. Quite why this worked I’m not sure but since adding * to the whitelist, I’ve continued to receive twitter email notifications about new followers, direct messages and so on.

An Overview of the Template Editor in SliQ Invoicing Plus

October 4th, 2012

If you want easy-to-use, professional-looking invoices that are customised to suit your requirements, then look no further than SliQ Invoicing Plus.

Our handy template editor means you can create any style of invoice, to fit with the look of your business.

We have a range of fully adaptable styles, which can be used with different types of company logo. All you need to do is select the style of invoice or billing template, then add your logo. It really is that simple!

Our templates are not only useful for creating invoices, they can also be used for creating quotes, credit notes or statements.

To give you maximum flexibility, our billing software comes with a range of predefined invoice templates, so that your perfect invoice is only a click away. Simply select the invoice you prefer from the Template Setup tab. SliQ then shows you a preview of your selected template to help you decide which one is right for you. Then just click the Print Preview button to print an example invoice so you know what your documents will look like.


Invoice Template Preview

Have it your way…

While all of SliQ’s templates are pre-designed with all the essential elements you may require from an invoice template, we also offer a helpful template editor, meaning you can fully customise your invoices as required. So if the templates don’t quite suit your preferences, they can be edited in a matter of minutes, using SliQ’s nifty invoice designer. Using the designer’s template editor, you can tweak the layout, change fonts and colours, as well as adding new labels and images to better suit your business.

Your invoices, credit notes and statements really can be completely bespoke. The templates are provided for use with and without a company logo, and a range of options are provided to customise the template, including a function to change the data columns, an option to add standard messages, plus the ability to alter the footer.

You can see some examples of the invoice templates provided with SliQ Invoicing on our website (

Already have a specific company style for your stationery? No problem. Simply use the template editor to make the SliQ templates match your other paperwork. Not only that, but with our easy-to-use editor you can even add extra bitmaps and logos, so if you need to add quality of trade accreditation logos or similar, it’s not a problem at all.

In fact, there are no limits to the range of invoices you can design! By using the template editor you can change the fonts, colours and layouts of items on templates, with the option of editing and saving as many different templates as you like. You can even configure the columns that appear on your templates, meaning you can add a date column to an invoice or show customer delivery addresses for invoices on a statement.


And the great thing is, once you’ve designed your invoice, you can use our clever software to add even more fields to an invoice, and map fields to values from the SliQ database. This function allows you to include a payment summary table that shows all payments made against the invoice. And you can include a VAT (or tax) summary table showing total amounts charged on the invoice at different tax rates.

To recap, there are a whole host of benefits to using the SliQ Template Editor. These include:

1.    Function to change the fonts and colours used on a template
2.    Option to add new logos and bitmaps
3.    Option to add or delete labels and fields
4.    Ability to rearrange the positions of items on a template
5.    Function to change borders and fill colours of items.
6.    Tool to resize columns in tables
7.    Tool to add extra columns to tables – add an item code column to an invoice or a purchase order column to a statement.
8.    Function to change column headings
9.    Option to add boxes, e.g. add a signature box

Want to find out more? Why not download a free 30-day trial of SliQ Invoicing Plus which includes our invoice template editor. You don’t even need to register or make any payment up front, just go to our Downloads page, download and install one of our packages and you’ll be invoicing in style in no time!

You can also find out more about the template editor by reading the SliQ Help File online.

Seven Advantages of Using Desktop Invoicing Software

September 9th, 2012

These days the big move is toward online Software As A Service such as online accounting and online invoicing software. However, in a number of aspects, desktop software still holds a strong position. Here are 7 areas where desktop invoicing software can still beat online invoicing software:-

1. Desktop software is more mature with respect to online apps. Although RIA (Rich Internet Application) technology is advancing, traditional desktop software still allows far more sophisticated and powerful user interfaces to be created.

2. The costs of desktop software are usually less than those for online software. With an online software, the software vendor always has to charge on an ongoing basis for the cost of hosting the application. This usually means an ongoing monthly subscription to continue to use the online web application. With desktop software, although the initial cost of purchase can be higher the costs are usually a one-off except for occasional upgrades.

3. The speed of operation of desktop software is often greater than that of online invoicing software. Even though broadband speeds increase annually, many web applications have a spongy feel, making the user wait for new pages to be loaded.

4. Many online software enforce data and bandwidth limits whereas most desktop software are only limited by the size of your hard disk. Online vendors need to enforce price breaks since the cost of hosting their web applications rises as users need to store more data or use more processor time.

5. Although the best online invoicing applications have rock-solid security, many users would still prefer their financial data to be held on their own PCs, entirely under their own control.

6. Desktop software is always available for use. If you load it on a laptop or portable computer you can use the software while travelling. Online software is only as available as an internet connection, e.g. arranging for an internet connection while on holiday on a remote farm in Tuscany is not always easy.

7. As long as you have an internet connection on your PC, a desktop package can offer as many possibilities as an online system for things like emailing invoices and purchase orders.

Deciding between online and desktop invoicing is not a black or white decision, each system will has pros and cons. Often it’s the specific features of a particular software package that will make the decision. To try out a free trial of SliQ Invoicing to see if it suits you and your business, please visit our downloads page.

Windows OS Usage as Windows 8 approaches

September 3rd, 2012

With Windows 8 due out in late October this year, I thought I’d summarise some stats on existing OS usage.

As the picture below shows the most, Microsoft operating systems still dominate the desktop market in the UK with OS X being the main Mac OS in use at 11% of the market. I’ve also included iOS (iPad) for comparison. A good proportion of the people we encounter using OS X also run Windows (usually Windows 7) under some kind of virtualisation software such as Parallels or VMWare which tends to weaken the figure for OS X a little. Showing stats for the mobile market would give a total reverse of course, with Apple OSes dominating while Microsoft OSes take the minority share.


The real success story in these figures for Microsoft is Windows 7 which has grown to half the market share in little more than 2 1/2 years where its predecessor Vista crept up to about 19% of the market in roughly the same time.

The latest news from Microsoft is that Windows 8 will be available as an upgrade for only £24.99 in the UK. What’s even more surprising is that the upgrade will be available to owners of Windows XP and Vista as well as Windows 7. This means that people who haven’t bought a Microsoft OS for nearly 12 years will be able to upgrade for a very small fee.

It’s exciting times for Microsoft OSes and developers over the next few months with Windows 8 and the new Microsoft Surface tablet being released. Personally, although my wife wanted an iPad for her birthday, I can’t wait to get my hands on a Surface tablet. There has been quite a lot of negative press about Windows 8, with a lot of complaints about the loss of the Start menu that has been a feature of every Microsoft Windows OS since Windows 95. As time has gone on though, I’ve now begun to think of the Windows Metro interface as the Start menu replacement and Windows 8 has begun to feel even quicker and more fluid than Windows 7.

How to type the Euro symbol

August 15th, 2012

While some keyboards may have a key for the Euro (currency) symbol most don’t. All standard keyboards have £ and $ characters but don’t make it easy or obvious if you want to enter a euro amount into a document. A euro symbol € can be entered however by typing in an Alt character sequence. To enter the symbol, hold down the Alt key and then, using the numeric keypad – not the numbers above the main QWERTY keys – type in 0128 and release the Alt key.

Alt key sequences can be used to enter a number of other characters, e.g.

£ – Alt 156

$ – Alt 36

© – Alt 0169

If you come across other characters you can’t easily type on your keyboard, try searching on Google for “Alt Key Sequences” to find the correct Alt key sequence to enter.

More Great Accounting Tips For Small Businesses

August 9th, 2012

Check out these simple tips for keeping your accounts in order.


1. Use a separate business account

Make things easier for yourself by keeping separate personal and business bank accounts. This way it’s far easier to keep track of what your business expenses are, plus it will help when it comes to filling out your end of year Tax Return. Try to keep your personal and business receipts separate too.

2. Set up a petty cash fund

It can be useful to have a small amount of money available for low cost or unexpected purchases such as buying postage stamps, paper towels, or cleaning supplies. Make sure each expenditure is approved and recorded, and when you need to replenish the pot, don’t forget to record that as an expense in your accounting records.

3. Keep your files in order

Set up and maintain files such as Unpaid Customer and Supplier Invoices, Paid Customer and Supplier Invoices, Open Purchase Orders, Open Customer Orders , Monthly & Quarterly Tax Reports  and Monthly Bank Statements & Reconciliations.

4. Accept Credit Cards

You may end up missing out on sales if you don’t accept credit cards. There is a small fee, but the advantage is you get paid almost immediately. Shop around for the best provider, checking out services like PayPal or Google Checkout.

5. Use a bookkeeper

Employ someone to keep accurate and up-to-date business records of your incomings and outgoings. A bookkeeper can also take care of paying bills, chasing debts and submitting tax forms.

6. Hire an accountant

Ensure that you fulfil all your tax obligations by using an accountant. An accountant can also provide advice on complicated tax matters.

7. Use accounting software

Using accounting software to raise and track invoices and credit notes will help make your accounting process simpler and more efficient.

8. Prepare and maintain a budget

It’s important to keep track of your finances and having a budget can help you to do this. Prepare a monthly budget to keep track of business income, expenses and losses and use it compare your performance from month to month.

Do you have any accounting tips? Leave a comment and let us know. For more information on how SliQTools can help you with creating, raising and tracking professional invoices, quotes and credit notes, get in touch.

Money-saving tips for small businesses

July 27th, 2012

Whether you run a business or work for yourself, in these tough economic times, it pays to be savvy with your finances. Here are our top tips for any small business looking to save money.


1. Cut energy bills

Save money by switching energy providers. If you’re a limited company or have commercial premises you’ll need a special business tariff, but you can still shop around for the best deal by using a energy price comparison website such as UK Power, Energyhelpline, Makeitcheaper, Simplyswitch or PH Business Services. It’s well worth doing, as savings can be as high as £1200 a year! For sole traders or those working form home you can still make savings, as you can usually deduct a proportion of your household bills as a business expense. So use a price comparison website to switch your gas and electricity provider – some of them will even give you cash back.

2. Use a laptop

Consider using a laptop computer instead of a standard desktop computer, as laptops consume up to 75% percent less energy than desktops.

3. Outsource your work

In some cases you can save the money it would cost to employ a new member of staff by outsourcing work to a virtual assistant instead. Using a virtual assistant can be a great low-cost way to deal with those niggly jobs you don’t have time to do yourself.

4. Use a virtual office

Impress clients with a posh postcode for next to nothing by using a virtual office address. From around £10 a month (a lot less than it costs to rent a city office) you can benefit from using a prestigious mailing address on your letterhead. A virtual office will also provide mail receiving and forwarding services, telephone answering services, and meeting room hire.

5. Use free or low-cost online resources

Make the most of free or low-cost resources available on the web, such as Microsoft Office Live Meeting.

6. Save money on your office phone and broadband

If you’re working form home try and find the best deals with domestic suppliers for phone and broadband. For business/office premises check out phone and broadband packages on websites like Broadband Choices, Business Advisory Service, Makeitcheaper or uSwitch.  A further option is to use an override provider, which will give you a number you can access without changing your phone provider and get much cheaper calls – around 5p to a landline, however long the call is, or 6p/min to call mobiles during the day. They’re also good if you need to make a lot of international calls, with rates from 0.5p per minute to a US mobile. Try Alpha Telecom, 18185 or 1899. Also try Skype to make phone or video calls via your computer, which is free if you’re calling another Skype user.

7. Use free or subsidised training

Save money on expensive training course by utilising government-funded subsidised courses from Learn Direct. There are courses in Business and Administration, Customer Service, Team Leading and Management. B] are also currently running a series of free business skills training courses which may be worth looking into.

8. Find out if you’re eligible for a business grant

Business Link is a government service that supports established and new businesses in the UK. Check its Grants and Support Directory to find business development help. You can search for financial assistance and advice, plus it also has some general money-saving tips. Your local council may also be able to advise you on grants available. Ask them about funding, as the funds on offer will differ from council to council.

9. Try bulk buying

Rather than purchasing office supplies every week, save money by bulk buying each month. Try wholesale operators like Costco, whose warehouses are designed to help small-to-medium-sized businesses reduce costs in purchasing for resale and for everyday business use by offering brand name merchandise at substantially lower prices than are typically found at retail outlets.

10. Rent unused office space

If you have unused office space look into the possibility of subletting it so that you can share the rent with someone else, and make the most of any space that you are currently paying for but not benefiting from.

Do you have any tips for saving money? Leave a comment and let us know.