Are you suffering from a scary credit score this Halloween?

Whether you’re a brand new small business or a more established SME, one of the main worries facing all business owners, has to be building up your credit score and avoiding getting into debt. Here’s a few tips to help you on your way…

1) Know your own credit score. It’s vitally important to be aware of how your company’s financials are reported when potential traders and customers are searching for you. If you don’t like the look of your credit score, are other people going to want to do business with you? If you’re looking for ways to improve your credit rating, take a look at our post on ‘how to get a better credit rating for your small business’

2) Be aware of your payment terms! Don’t get caught out by thinking you’ve got 6 weeks to pay a bill when it’s due in 4.  This may count against you and other businesses could find out and not give you the credit terms you want, so keep on top of what’s due when.

3) On the flip side, when you’re investigating who to trade with, find out which company is likely to pay you on time. If they’re likely to renege on their payment terms, you can ensure you set shorter terms or limit the amount of credit you’re extending to that particular less-than-reliable company. Check out our ‘How can I tell if someone’s going to pay me on time’ blog for some more tips

halloweenIt’s often bandied around at the moment, but the word ‘transparency’ is of huge significance when it comes to managing cash-flow, credit ratings and debt within any small business – so make sure you’re armed with all the tools you need and aren’t walking zombie-like into debt! Know your customers but most importantly, know your own business!

You can search over 7 million companies and register free by going to www.credithq.co.uk 

CreditHQ now available in Germany

German small businesses now able to use award-winning credit-checking tool, CreditHQ

CreditHQ is now available in Germany, as part of a new partnership with one of Germany’s biggest banks.

CreditHQ allows a small business to check the financial health and credit status of any customer or partner and will be available to the small business customers of its German partner bank. Its German launch is the next stage of an ambitious international expansion programme that will look to target Poland, the US, Australia and other European markets over the next 12 months. 

More than 4 million German enterprises are classified as small and medium-sized enterprises, accounting for 99.6% of the total number of enterprises. German SMEs generated an annual turnover of approx. € 2,149 bn in 2012, which representing 35.3% of the total turnover of German enterprises.

“Despite new regulations brought in to combat late payment culture in July 2014, late payment remains a major issue for German small businesses, impacting on cash-flow and the ability to grow,” said Martin Campbell, MD, Ormsby Street. “There is a growing need in Germany for an easy way of checking the credit status and payment performance of customers and CreditHQ meets that requirement head-on. Partnering with a bank in Germany is a great way of bringing CreditHQ to the German market and we are confident it will mirror our success in the UK.”

CreditHQ is working with credit supplier, Burgel and will allow small businesses to check the credit status, payment performance and general financial health of millions of German small businesses. The simple traffic light ratings system shows clearly the level of risk associated with the company in question, and users are given two different ratings, one addressing credit risk and the other payment performance.

CreditHQ is used by more than 27,000 UK small businesses, and launched in Italy in 2015. Ormsby Street has just returned from the SXSW event in Austin, Texas, where it was representing UKTI as a UK Tech Ambassador and seeking new partnerships with US banks to further expansion into the US market.   

“Late payment is a problem for small businesses all over the world and the next 12 months will see us launch in at least another four countries,” continued Martin Campbell. “It is impossible to force someone to pay on time, so small businesses have to protect themselves against late payment as best they can. CreditHQ’s use of big data to address that problem gives small businesses the insight and power to do just that, and is suited to almost any territory in the world.”

About Ormsby Street

CreditHQ is built by Ormsby Street, a Software-as-a-Service business based in Old Street, London. Formed in 2014 to take over the operation of the financial data proposition of BCSG, Ormsby Street is developing the next generation of financial data services for small businesses. Its team of high-performing product innovators and software engineers are quietly taking sophisticated financial information and turning it into a next-generation digital tool to help businesses make good decisions about customers, suppliers and themselves.

An Egg-cellent offer this Easter week!

The long weekend might be over, but we’re extending our Easter special offer – Access CreditHQ FREE for one month!

Now we’ve hit the second quarter of the year, it’s a great chance to reflect on the first few months of the year and review the businesses with whom you’re trading.

Are your suppliers paying you on time? Might it be time to increase or reduce the amount of credit you’re extending to a particular business? Has your business’ credit and payment score improved and you’d like to show potential customers this?

CreditHQ can help improve your cash-flow and credit management, and ensure you’re working with the companies that are best for your business. If you know you want to work with a particular business but know in advance that they’re not likely to pay you until 45 days, you can plan accordingly and make sure you’ve got enough cash in the meantime for other purposes.

So this Easter, we’re offering you access to CreditHQ’s Standard subscription free of charge for one month! Simply enter the code EASTERHQ16 in the voucher code box*.

You’ll need to enter your card details, but don’t worry –  we won’t charge you a penny for 30 days (and if you find you’re not using CreditHQ, simply cancel anytime within the first month to avoid the £25 monthly subscription fee).

So hop to www.credithq.co.uk and start checking out the best businesses you should be working with!

*voucher code valid until 30 April.

What UK FinTech can learn from SXSW 2016

I’ve recently been at this year’s South by South West (SXSW), or ‘south by’ as it is referred to by the locals.

Although popularly known as one of the world’s largest music and film festivals, it also brings together technologists, entrepreneurs, creatives and marketers at SXSW Interactive.

My company, FinTech startup Ormsby Street, was selected to attend SXSW by UKTI as one of its Tech Ambassadors.

London’s rise to its current position as one of the main global FinTech hubs over the past years or so, has been well-documented, yet for all the undoubted successes, there is still much to learn. The bigger FinTech startups still in the main originate from the US, so what is done differently in the US to the UK and what can UK FinTech startups learn from their US counterparts on show at SXSW?

FinTech at SXSW

This was the second year we have been at SXSW, and I noticed a small but dedicated focus on FinTech compared to 2015. FinTech was everywhere this year. I attended the ‘Payment and Fintech’ section of the SXSW Startup Accelerator, which saw Chroma, a ‘new stock market for the small business economy’ win and also a similar event focused on ‘Banking and Fintech’.

A lot of FinTech solutions are focussing on moving money around – be that through novel payment systems using mobiles or the web, or international transfers. This is prime territory for innovation and an area where banks lag behind what technology can achieve because they’re using older systems.

The other area where banking is out of whack with society, is in that of trust – this was a major theme across SXSW. Trust is the real currency of banking, but the standards and the processes that banks use are very different from those that we use in the rest of our lives. For most purposes, your phone number or your social media account are enough to identify you, but for good reason this isn’t the case in banking and so innovators are trying to find a middle way on this debate between security and convenience.

Security vs Convenience

This debate was happening all across SXSW and was one of the one themes in Barack Obama’s keynote speech. I was lucky enough to get my name pulled out of the hat to attend this, and while the President didn’t comment on the current FBI and Apple case directly, he did put forward the argument that authorities need access to data on electronic devices because the ‘dangers are real’.

He outlined his commitment to strong encryption but also discussed how smartphones and other electronic devices are designed as such that data on them is permanently locked away. What are the implications if authorities are looking to catch child pornographers or disrupt terrorist plots? Weighty issues, but the challenge of balancing encryption, security and convenience is one that almost every FinTech startup must address at some stage in their development, and it’s no doubt out of concern for its own recent startup: “Apple Pay” that Apple is making a big deal of this issue.

Products, not companies

FinTech remains a really hot topic because the experience we all have with personal banking and with business finance – paper forms, signatures and face to face conversations – is all rooted in the age of paper and therefore ripe for innovation.

Yet much of the innovation at SXSW has been around product, not the companies behind them. Most of the big business here (and there is a lot) is looking for a product that will address a gap in their own offering, rather than looking to acquire a company which would remain in any way self contained.

What this means for the FinTech startups involved, is that they must make something that truly disrupts and they must be open to collaboration and partnerships with multiple big businesses at an early stage. If a new FinTech product is only of moderate convenience, then its days will be numbered before it’s snapped up by one bank or another, and while a acquisition may be the end goal for many FinTech startups, only those who can forge partnerships with multiple major banks are likely to find the route to longer term independent growth.

Finally, something that became clear from a number of sources across SXSW, is that FinTech startups face a tougher regulatory battle than those in other sectors. Every startup should plan to scale from the moment they launch, but anyone doing so in such a highly regulated market such as FinTech needs to be certain of what they doing – get it wrong and the entire business can stall.

Ormsby Street to showcase CreditHQ at SXSW

We’re very excited to announce that we’ve been chosen as one of the  UKTI’s 33 Tech Ambassadors  (https://www.events.ukti.gov.uk/sxsw-2016-12/) to go to South by South West in Austin this week to showcase CreditHQ at SXSW Interactive (http://www.sxsw.com/interactive).

SXSW

As we move closer to a US launch, this offers us a fantastic opportunity to spread the word about CreditHQ to a huge audience! Thanks again to the UKTI for this opportunity. 

We’ll be at the Great Britain House demoing CreditHQ on Saturday 12 March from 12pm onwards – come say hi! 

Location: Great Britain House @ Wanderlust Yoga Studio – 206 East 4th Street, Austin, TX 78701 

Play our Business Match game this Valentine’s Day!

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, do you know who’s your perfect match when it comes to running your business?

Pawsforthought
Could Paws for Thought be your perfect business match?

Check out our new Business Match game and sign up to CreditHQ this February for only £15 per month PLUS, we’re giving all new Standard subscribers a box of chocolates plus entering all new subscribers into a draw to win a meal for two at the fabulous Resident of Paradise Row in east London (or if you can’t make it to the big smoke, we’ll give you the equivalent in vouchers for a great national restaurant).

So head over to www.credithq.co.uk/businessmatch  to take advantage of this great offer and make sure you’ve found the perfect business to trade with. And good luck!

3 lessons I’ve learnt from 20 years in Small Business

lessons

It would be easy to think – amid today’s hype about digital products and Software as a Service’s disruption of so many industries by startups – that the business world has changed a lot over the 20 years that have elapsed since I penned my first proposal in response to the tentative phone call: “We’ve heard about the world wide web and we think we need one, can you help?” With so much ink spilled over what’s changed over those two decades, I’m surprised at how often I’m reminded of how much has stayed the same. Over my time as a small business leader, there have been three lessons which I learned early, but then had to learn again and again. I set them out here to remind you too.

Lesson 1: The customer isn’t buying your product or service. In startup circles it’s very fashionable to talk about how the customer is paying to solve a problem, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. There are so many ways a customer could solve a given problem, that when they choose to do so by buying your solution, it’s crucial to understand why. It’s almost certain that your product or service wasn’t the only option, so what made them buy from you? Was it the safety and security they get from your reputation, or was it the reputation for innovation that they get from buying “the next big thing”? Are they really buying the product? Or are they trialling it for one of their departments should the rest of the organisation go a different way? Getting to the heart of why customers buy from you is absolutely essential for effective selling.

Lesson 2: You’re not selling your product or service. Depending on how you pitch and deliver your product, you might be selling the promise of repeating the experience that another customer had, or you might be selling something that you are confident you can deliver but that’s not 100 per cent rock solid yet. Or maybe you’re selling the value that you built on the foundations provided by someone else. Whichever it is, your business success depends on understanding how your view matches (or doesn’t match) your customers’, and how your business really works.

Lesson 3: Business relationships are complicated. It’s easy as a small business to work simply: we provide a service, you buy a service, the service gets delivered, the bill gets paid. If you’re selling buns in a market, you might just have a business which is that simple (though it’s not as simple as it sounds!), but if you’re selling to businesses, then it’s more likely that your customer needs your product for a number of reasons, and has various individuals with different political outlooks and different objectives. Your own team will also have various strengths, weaknesses and disagreements about how best to deliver, though various factors can change, like the economy, circumstances and requirements from your relationships. On top of this, your customer’s finance department may seem to be working to some sort of 19th century timetable, where they have until next harvest to pay your bill!

So how do you learn the lessons?

Clear brands, product descriptions and contracts are hard work to create, but worth every penny because your customers can understand you better.

Clear internal procedures and industry standard roles help your team to move fast and do the right thing even when the unexpected happens (come on – you know it will!).

Finally, trust that everything’s going to be OK, and then make sure that it is – monitor your customers’ credit scores and payment performances and don’t accept any excuses for late payment!

by Martin Campbell