Blog posts written during March 2018

If the service is free then you are the product (or your agency is) a $60 billion question.

Sunday Sunday, March 25, 2018 by Administrator

If the service is free then you are the product (or your agency is) a $60 billion question.

This means trouble for your staffing agency i.e. Facebook harming staffing agencies? I think the answer is yes and I’ll tell you why.

This (you are the product) aphorism is well known in the Internet marketing world. One of the best known proponents of marketing your freely provided information is generally acknowledged as Mark Zuckerberg. Actually it does not matter: Facebook, Facebook messenger, Whatsapp, one of the other services he owns or one of his competitors like WeChat, Line, Viber, KakaoTalk etc. They all are based on the principle of selling your personal or business information that you have freely given them by using their services. You have assented to this by ticking the “I agree” box.

Even assuming none of these organisations actually read the messages going back and forth, if you communicate with your employees using these free apps then each of those employees has a registered (real name and email address). This is valuable information. Just the timing and volume of the messages can give a clear indication which are business messages and which are non-business ones.

So the calls by politicians and the press that “social” media providers are more transparent with their use of “personal data” is to a degree wide of the mark. Certainly Names, addresses, emails are important (and essential for communicating with friends) but it’s just as important (and profitable for them) when and with whom you communicate. It is a close parallel another aphorism: to “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know."

It is kindergarten coding for these guys to generate a list of names and email addresses with say 95% accuracy of those people who have “opted in” to one of these services (by simply using it) and are your employees (because you are the focus of the messages).

This is not new news (its called traffic analysis) it was productively used in the second world war and is still subject to security notices from the CIA,NSA, GCHQ, SIS  etc.

No wonder Face book shares have gone from $184 to $163 in 3 days or a drop of over 10% or over 60Bn in total worth.

There was a very relevant deposition made to the House of Commons Committee this week when an exe-employee of Facebook said that Facebook’s security and ring fencing of personal data was excellent and has a very high priority. He also gave the committee the apparent impression that once Facebook possessed the data it had scant regard for the privacy of such data.

You might assume that personal data was simply available to the highest bidder.

So I want a list of Nurses names, emails and phone numbers. How do I do this? Google is a help: I used “targeted uk nurses email database”. Amongst dozens of others there was: europeanlists.com nurses email list (ironically this gived connection is not secure!)

One of their pages is reverse appending . So you can probably guess what reverse appending is.

It really is big business and it’s your business.

Invoice Payments, this week, next week, sometime? Cash flow a limiting factor? Simple steps to improve cash flow.

Tuesday Tuesday, March 13, 2018 by Administrator

No matter if you are starting an agency when cash and cash flow can be major issues. Or, slightly more difficult if you are already running an agency wanting to improve profitability. There are number of steps that can considerably improve your cash flow and consequential the bottom line.

Do’s and don’ts simple rules work to ensure you borrow the minimum amount of money for the minimum time.

  • Don’t spend it if you don’t have to. Sure you have to have somewhere to work, but it does not have to be rented office space. Many very successful companies started in garages, bedrooms or on the kitchen table.
  • Don’t spend it if you don’t have to. This means an expensive web site. You need a web site but you can get one for a few pounds as long as you steer clear of WordPress you should be ok. Make sure your web site is secure: one of those padlock things (it has be secure to get good links).
  • Don’t spend it if you don’t have to. This means not committing to some expensive company setup service or one with hidden future costs. From the gov.uk web site “It costs £12 and can be paid by debit or credit card or Paypal account. Your company is usually registered within 24 hours.”
  • Don’t spend it if you don’t have to. This means not committing to some expensive loan, factoring or payroll service with a low headline rate but much higher APR (what you actually pay for every day you borrow: the bottom line). Borrow as little money as you really need for as short a possible time. Banks are quite good at flexible loans.
  • Don’t borrow if you don’t have to: Sure you need to bridge the gap between paying your staff / ltd company employees and getting your invoices paid. If you can reduce this gap from a month to two weeks or even a week then you can halve or quarter your interest costs.
  • Do have an invoice that includes all necessary information: you must have the word “Invoice” clearly displayed. It must have a unique identification number, your correct Company Name and Address, phone number and email. The Customer’s correct invoice address and usually an Fao line (for attention of), an Invoice date, clear itemised costing of the services  supplied: the employee’s name, shift date, location, times, rate bands, detailed expenses and supplemental charges and reference to your terms and conditions. Bank details (account number sort code, bank name) payment period.
  • Do make clear your payment period terms when you negotiate any contract of staff supply. So what is a reasonable period for payment? Before electronic banking and postal mail, 30 days was considered standard. Don't live in the last century. With modern invoicing systems such as ours then the invoice can arrive at the customer within a few seconds and payment is at worst 3 days via the banking system. So reasonably 14 days is entirely adequate. However, there is no reason why you should not go for 7 days as with our system you can invoice on any day of the week to coincide with the customer’s accounts department. In fact it appears that the majority of small businesses have 14 days or less as a limit in their terms and most request payment in 7 days. So your customers may profess surprise...stick to your guns.
  • Do try have a friendly meet with the customer’s Accounts department (you have met the customer during contract negotiations) if you can, or at very least call them to introduce yourself so “any issues and we will be happy to resolve them quickly for you” to establish a “helpful” bond.
  • Do (courteously) check that the accounts have received the invoice and they are happy with it for the first few weeks, explaining that as your system is new….etc.
  • Do (courteously) check that the accounts have received the invoice and they are happy with it the first time it is late (some companies start of promptly and then slow down). A study showed that typically over 50% of small businesses suffer late payment and a third are overdue by more than 2 weeks. Politely argue your case: are they unhappy with the staff you supply? Are your charges competitive? Point out that to retain those staff and keep those costs, you need to pay your staff promptly, not incur interest charges to pass on (to them) and you are not a bank!

 

It goes almost without saying: invest in low cost software (ours) that helps you do the most tasks so you can make time for taking a step back and for life!

 

Links that may help

Simple step by step guide to limited company formation by the guys that write the rule book

Business discussion on invoicing period in your Ts & Cs

The Guardian how to invoice

The Prompt Payment Code

The Government's prompt payment policy

 

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