Author Archives: Adrian

Lima – Changing The Model of Cloud Storage

A few months back, I came across a Facebook advert for Lima – a cloud storage solution that removes the subscription from the model. After reading up on it, it sounded great and I put my order in for one of their devices. There was a waiting list due to demand but after a week or so, I was able to order and immediately did so. I’ve used it for a month or so now and it has changed my thinking on cloud storage.

Lima Cloud Storage at Home

What is Lima?

Lima is a small device which connects your broadband router at home or work to an external hard drive. Once connected, you install some software on any and all computers, mobiles and tablets you wish to connect to it and the hard drive becomes accessible from all of them. Moving files to and from the drive is exactly like it is for anyother hard drive you connect to your computer. It shows up as another hard drive that you can simply drag and drop to. So long as you have an internet connection, you can access the files from anywhere. In effect, it’s a cloud storage account except you own the cloud.

lima cloud storage orange

The main advantage of Lima is that once you buy the device ($100 or so) there are no further charges. Your storage capacity is limited only by how big a hard drive you want to connect to it. To give you an idea, a 1TB Dropbox subscription is around £80 per year, every year. To get 1TB on Lima, you need to buy a 1TB hard drive (between £50-80) and a Lima (around £80 also) and you’ve got 1TB for life for £160. If you want more than 1TB, you simply use a larger hard drive.

What else does it do?

Lima Cloud Storage Mobile Movies

Lima also comes with iOS and Android native apps so you can use it on tablets and smartphones. Providing your internet connection is strong enough, you can stream you music and videos from the hard drive without taking up storage on your device. Lima also lets you keep particular files and folders offline for quick access.

In terms of security, Lima uses military grade encryption on all communications between devices. No data is stored on any servers anywhere – just on your hard drive and the devices you have connected to it.

Lima will also back up your camera roll from your mobile devices automatically (unless you ask it not to).

What does it not do?

There are some features missing from Lima in my opinion. Browser access is one of them. With Dropbox or Google Drive, you can sign in to any browser and get to your files. With Lima, you can only access them on machines you have installed the software on. However, Lima’s Product Roadmap has this coming a couple of versions down the line. Also the mobile app is a bit low on features at the moment (such as the ability to save from Lima to Camera Roll) but again this should bulk up in time.

Another missing feature that is also on the product roadmap is the ability to send links to data stored on Lima and selectively share folders with others. Anyone who is an avid Dropbox user may well demand this before considering the switch.

Is it worth it?

In pure financials, yes. If you have the need for large amounts of cloud storage, it’s definitely more cost effective than Dropbox. In fact, I’ve now cancelled my Dropbox renewal just this week. The basic free Dropbox account is more than enough to cover shared folders I need and files and folders I may need to send links to.

Lima Cloud Storage Box Package

In terms of features, Lima is still a bit light when compared with the current cloud storage favourites. But it should only be a matter of time before it catches up. Once browser access and sharing functions get an upgrade, the whole cost model of cloud storage needs to be given some serious consideration. It’s the classic buy or lease scenario. For me, Lima is a game changer. I now have a 4TB personal cloud that is secure and accessible but is also bought and paid for.

What will be interesting to observe, is whether more providers follow Lima into this market. Company after company has tried to emulate Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive. Most people have at least one form or another of cloud storage (whether they use it or not). But is Lima’s pivot on this model a sign of people changing their thinking on having their data stored on servers in multiple different countries at any one time?

 

national minimum wage increase October 2016

National Minimum Wage increases from 1st October 2016

As they do every year, the National Minimum Wage (NMW) rates will increase on 1st October 2016. If you run a business and employ staff, you need to be aware of the changes and introduce them in your first payroll period following the introduction.

The Government regularly name and shame employers paying less than the minimum wage. Worse still that the potential bad press for your business is the penalty for non-compliance – up to £20,000 per worker.

 

National Minimum Wage Rates from October 2016

From next month the new rates of NMW will be:

  • 21-24 year-olds – £6.95/hr (up from £6.70/hr)
  • 18-20 year-olds – £5.55/hr (up from £5.30/hr)
  • 16-17 year-olds – £4.00/hr (up from £3.87/hr)
  • Apprentices – £3.40/hr (up from £3.30/hr)

The recently introduced National Living Wage for workers aged 25 and over, remains at £7.20 per hour. The Low Pay Commission will be making a recommendation to Government in the Autumn on the rate which should apply from April 2017.

As well an increase in employees net pay, you’ll see an increase in your monthly PAYE bill. The overall cost increase to employ a full time worker aged between 21-24, will go up by around £590 extra per employee per year (£520 in gross wages and another £70 on Employers National Insurance Contributions).

 

Things I've Learned Over The Last 12 Months

Things I’ve Learned Over The Last 12 Months

 

You learn a lot in the space of a year. Some information sticks with you. Some is more fleeting but still important. Some is just funny. Here’s my quick run down of things I’ve learned in the last 12 months.

 

  • 1>0

  • Snapchat is emerging as the most exciting platform for businesses to do innovative marketing.
  • There is an enormous amount of creative expertise available to businesses on Fiverr
  • You can do a lot, if not all, of your own PR and marketing if you’re willing to put in the hours. Talk Is Cheap by Leanne Ross is a must read if you want to do this.
  • British politics is more akin to The Thick of It than anyone ever really imagined.

  • People don’t change.
  • You should learn to be yourself and not care what other people think. Most of the time, they don’t even notice what you’re doing. Even if they do, there are zero negative consequences to this.
  • If you want to be an anomaly, you have to act like one.
  • Correlation does not equal causation.
Finding Efficiency Savings Is Just The First Step

Finding Efficiency Savings Is Just The First Step

I think the vast majority of business would agree that there are inefficiencies in their day to day operations. The scale of these inefficiencies varies depending on any number of variables including the size of the business, the number of staff, delegation of duties and numerous other factors. Trying to change how you operate to plug these gaps is certainly an effective way of increasing profitability. However, you should make sure the cuts don’t suffocate your ability to generate revenue. But the process of making efficiency savings involves one final step that many neglect.

1. Identifying Inefficiencies

The first step in the process involves identifying where you business is losing time and/or money where it shouldn’t be. Are there bottle-necks in certain departments? Are there subscriptions or services you signed up to years ago and no longer use but are still paying for? Have you surplus cash that would be better spent on capital projects rather than sitting in the bank?

Some inefficiencies will be blatantly obvious; other will be more subtle. It could simply be the case that within say the stock ordering process you have an extra step that serves no real purpose. Once an audit of time and cash resources is carried out, they need to be prioritised. My advice here is to go for the low hanging fruit – the biggest numbers on the P&L or the things that take the most time should offer plentiful scope for savings.

2. Removing Inefficiencies

You may find this the most difficult part of the process. Sometimes it may involve making really difficult decisions such as discontinuing a part of your business or letting staff go. The question needs to be, is it in the best interest of the business? Not just in the short term but over the next 3-30 years. Some savings may, on the other hand, be very easy to make. Some might even involve spending more money than you are now. Maybe one of your suppliers offers a price break for orders over a certain level so instead of ordering every week, you order in bulk once a month to get a better price. In one business I was involved in, I identified a potential saving of £14,000 per year by doing this.

You should also be remembered that time is as valuable, if not more valuable, than money. This is something I firmly believe in. For example, if you are suffering a nominal amount of breakage or shrinkage in stock every year and the solution is to add an extra process or check to try and combat this, it is only worth doing if the time dedicated to doing this is less than the expected saving. If you’re losing £50 a month on stock getting damaged, it is not worth having some one spend 5 hours a month policing this. You just have to suck it up.

3. Converting Savings

Very often once inefficiencies are identified and rectified, businesses think it is job done. Not the case. The time or money you saved now needs to be put to use. No point in freeing up 2 hours of a workers time per week without then deciding on the best way of reallocating this time. For all you know, if left to employee judgement, this time will then go back in to something that is just as inefficient as the time-suck you’re just after fixing.

The same goes with cash. If you find an extra £10,000 a year from inefficiencies and let it wallow in the bank earning <1% per annum, you may as well have not saved it. Find something with a better return to spend it on or use it to pay down financing with higher interest rates. If this step is done correctly, you’ll effectively get double savings – the initial saving plus the return on time and money being invested smartly.

5 Things To Know If You Work Cross-Border

5 Things To Know If You Work Cross-Border

Given the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, as well as the relatively small size of the island, cross border working is a very common practice. In fact, Ireland has the highest level of in-bound (10.55%) and out-bound (7.44%) commuters in the EU, discounting Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and Monaco due to their special status in the EU. It is estimated that around 23,000 people cross the Irish border for work. Whilst this practice is very common, there are a number of things you should be aware ofif you live and work on different sides of the border.

1. Where to pay your taxes

As a rule of thumb you must pay your tax where ever you earn your income. However, your ultimate responsibility is to the country in which you reside. Effectively this means declaring your cross border income to the tax authorities where you live (either HMRC or Revenue) via an annual tax return. The income is then taxed as if it were earned where you live. If the amount of tax you have paid in the country where you work is greater than it would have been in the country where you live, no further tax is payable. However, if the reverse is true, you are liable to pay the difference to the tax man where you reside.

2. USC counts as tax

If you work in the South, you may have noticed a charge on your payslip for Universal Social Charge (USC). This is effectively another tax on income for workers in the South, just with a fancy name. When it comes to declaring your Southern income to HMRC, you can include this in the amount of tax you have paid in the South, thus reducing the likelihood of having a balance of tax to pay.

3. Family Benefits

Depending on where you live and where each parent in a family works, your claim to family benefits may be through the North, the South or a mix of both. The means of determining this is quite complex. However, it is worth looking in to and exploring what your own personal circumstances mean in relation to this. Thankfully though, if you are eligible to claim benefits from more than one jurisdiction, you can claim it in the country which has the higher rate of that particular benefit. For more information on where you should be claiming, check out www.borderpeople.info who have produced a briefing paper with a table outlining numerous examples.

4. State Pensions

EU states that you only have to pay Social Security contributions in one country at a time. Therefore, if you have a job on either side of the border, you are entitled to an exemption from PRSI/NIC in one of them. When it comes to retirement, you should claim your State Pension in the country in which you reside. All of your Social Security contribution across all EU countries can be combined to ensure you qualify to receive it.

5. Paternity Leave

In Northern Ireland and Great Britain, the male or female partners of a woman who has given birth can apply for 2 weeks Paternity Leave and may be entitled to claim Statutory Paternity Pay during this period. At present, Paternity Leave is not recoginised in law in the Republic of Ireland. However, from September 2016 father will be able to apply for up to two weeks paid leave at the same weekly rate paid for maternity leave (€230). It appears that this will only be available to fathers (as opposed to partners regardless of gender).

Further Information

As outlined, there are a number of key issues to consider when working cross border. The above is just a snapshot of a few of these. For more information, I highly recommend visiting http://borderpeople.info and looking through their FAQ’s and A-Z to find out which issues apply to you and matter the most to your circumstances.

Did You Know You Can Make Over £37k A Year Without Paying Tax

Did you know you can make over £37k a year without paying tax?

Up until 5th April when the Government abolished the 10% tax credit on dividends in favour of a new £5,000 allowance, it was easy to earn £37,000 a year without paying tax. However, you typically needed to own your own (profitable) company. The mechanism in this instance was to take a salary equivalent to you personal allowance and then gross dividends equal to the rest of your basic rate band and you could come away with £37-38k and only pay a small amount of National Insurance on the lot. Now however, dividends in excess of £5,000 are to be taxed at 7.5% for basic rate tax payers.

However, it is still possible to make around £37,000 a year without incurring any tax at all.

I should state that while it is possible, it may not be entirely practical. But I think it’s worth looking at the multitude of tax allowances that have become available in recent years as the Government have gradually restructured the tax system.

In short, the reliefs available to everyone are:

  • Personal Allowance – £11,000
  • CGT Annual Exemption – £11,100
  • Dividend Allowance – £5,000
  • Savings Allowance – £1,000
  • Rent-A-Room Relief – £7,500
  • Trading Micro-Enterprise – £1,000 (from April 2017)
  • Property Micro-Enterprise – £1,000 (from April 2017)

On top of these, you also have an exemption from any interest earned in ISA’s plus tax relief for pension contributions.

The Usual Suspects

The main allowance that people will be familiar with is the Personal Allowance. In the current tax year this allows you to earn £11,000 before you pay tax (around £917/month or £212/week).

On top of that, everyone has an annual exemption for Capital Gains Tax. This comes in to effect if you sell shares, land, property (except you main residence) or other valuable items such as paintings. At the minute this allowance is £11,100. So you can make £11,100 profit on the sale of these items without having to pay any tax.

The “Makeover” Reliefs

A number of existing tax reliefs have been spruced up in recent years. The main one of interest to any small business owners is the £5,000 dividend allowance. Whilst not as generous in tax terms as its predecessor – the 10% tax credit – it’s still a valuable allowance. If you and your spouse are the only shareholders in your small company, that’s an extra £10k in to the household every year with no further tax cost.

Another allowances that has been modernised is the Rent-a-Room relief. For years this relief stood at £4,250, meaning you could rent out a furnished bedroom of your house for up to £4,250 a year and pay no tax. Now however, this relief has been raised to £7,500. As soon as this was announced, my first thought went straight to Air BNB. This platform has really grown in popularity in recent years and some people were doing very well out of this. However, one of the fears that people had was how this income left them in terms of their tax compliance. This increase should mean that the vast majority of users will fall below the limit and, as such, not fall foul of the legislation.

The Newcomers

Aside from the above allowances, which have either always been around or have just had a face lift, 3 new allowances have come in to effect recently.

For basic rate tax payers, there is now a £1,000 savings allowance – so the first £1,000 of bank interest (excluding interest on ISA’s which is still exempt) will be tax free. Those paying tax at the higher 40% rate still get a £500 allowance.

The two most progressive allowances to come from the recent budget make me very happy as they really aim to take a lot of burden off those earning small amounts from “side-projects”. There are two £1,000 allowances for micro enterprises – one for trading income and one for property income. These two allowances are due to come in to effect in April 2017 so are still subject to change.

Those likely to benefit from this will be those selling small amounts of products/services online or renting out sheds, storage units or driveways. But in reality, any trade with receipts of less than £1k qualify for the relief so musicians, market traders and artists could all benefit. If your total income is less that £1,000 you have nothing to declare. Above this limit and you can either deduct your expenses before calculating the tax or just deduct £1,000.

It should be noted that the Rent-A-Room relief and the £1,000 micro enterprise allowance can’t be added together for the same purpose. But they can be used separately. So if you are getting the use of the Rent-A-Room relief, you will need to rent out your driveway or storage unit to use the £1,000 micro enterprise property relief.

Conclusion

As previously stated, whilst it is possible to use all these reliefs together, it may not be particularly practical. To do so you would need to have quite a lot wealth to begin with. For example to earn £1,000 of interest in a single year would require around £40-50k in savings. But be aware of all of the above – particularly the micro-enterprise reliefs – and cherry pick those that apply to your circumstances. Tax alone on £37,000 of income would normally be over £5,000 so some real savings are available by using the above.

As always, speak to your accountant about how best to maximise your tax savings as the advice given will greatly depend on your own circumstances.

What I want out of #NewryHour

In the past couple of years, the local business communities in Ireland have ramped up their engagement with other businesses on Twitter. There are numerous hashtags for numerous locations around the country where, for one hour a week, businesses get together online and throw around stories, publicise their business and offer support, and indeed entertainment, to other businesses in their area.

I have dabbled in these groups in the past to some extent without really committing. More recently however I decided to get more involved in my own local group – #NewryHour. Every Tuesday from 9-10pm, I get on Twitter and listen, ask questions and (hopefully) offer some value and help to the community.

Twitter comes in to its own in these groups I think. It has always been the biggest open cocktail party on the internet; you can literally go on and talk to anyone that’s using it. But these groups really help to narrow the focus for people.

As a business, you can gain a lot from being “at the party”. Whether it’s insights, leads, opportunities to connect and collaborate with other business or members of the community – it’s all possible in these forums.

So, with all this opportunity available to us, what do I hope to gain from using these groups?

Simple. Nothing.

I’m not there to gain. I’m there to give.

I like to think I know myself pretty well. I know where I can offer value to people and where I can’t. If you need help putting up a shelf or baking bread, I’m not your man. I’m really, really shit at that stuff. If I got involved in either of those activities, death or injury are both likely outcomes.

Now, if you need advise on ways to finance your business, to save tax, to increase your margins, to sell or buy a business, to manage your VAT and payroll – that’s right up my street. Some people get in to business because they’re great sales people, great at making things, great artists. The finance is something people pick up to some degree as they go along. But they seldom become experts in it to the extent that they are when it comes to building an app or building a house. And that’s fine; it’s not practical to do that. That’s the very reason accountants exist. We are the support team.

So, I go on to #NewryHour to offer support. To offer an opinion (or a second opinion). To offer help, in whatever form that may take – an introduction, a chat, a coffee, a recommendation, whatever. Just to help. Business is tough. Anyone that tells you any different is a liar. So if I can help in 140 characters on Twitter or in 30 minutes on the phone afterwards, I’m happy to do so.

I’m increasingly coming to the conclusion that we all have to give more than we receive. So I’m giving now because in 6 months or 6 days I might need help. Call it karma, call it not being an asshole, I think it’s just part of life and living in a community.

What I’ve found surprising though, is just how much community you can find in a simple hashtag.

 

#NewryHour happens every Tuesday between 9-10pm. Everyone is welcome. It’s not just about businesses, it’s about the whole community – schools, charities, groups – everyone can get involved. So please do. 

Boaty McBoatface is too good an opportunity to pass on

It’s official. Boaty McBoatface has topped the polls in a public vote to name the new £200m artic explorer. However, after receiving almost 125,000 votes, it appears as if the Natural Environment Research Agency (NERC) and the government will pass on the publics choice for the name.

Listening to the Jo Johnson, Minister for Science & Technology, on Radio 4 yesterday, it seemed pretty much a foregone conclusion that they won’t be going with Boaty (not least because, in order to officially name a ship, they must request a warrant from the Queen). He all but said that there’s no chance that the future of research in the Artic will happen on the RRS Boaty McBoatface.

NERC had outlined from the beginning that the poll wouldn’t definitively decide what the ship would be called. Their motives behind the poll were primarily to get public engagement and raise awareness of the work they do. Without question, those goals have certainly been achieved.

However, the biggest opportunity still lies ahead of the in the form of… Boaty McBoatface.

The poll was a great idea. Thousands of people engaged with a branch of the government that many otherwise wouldn’t have known existed. But why have that be the end of it? If NERC go with Boaty McBoatface, they can retain some of that attention.

If Boaty McBoatface were on Twitter, I would follow it! Its Instagram account would be beautiful – Northern Lights from the Artic. And who wouldn’t want to follow Boaty’s Snapchat story?

Whether they like it or not, NERC have created a character here. Boaty already has a fan base, a personality and a lot of adoration. NERC need to ride that wave.

If they don’t go with Boaty, that’s it. The story ends. The general public will never again care about what comes from this £200m ship. Keep the character though and you keep the attention, and the interest.

Also, this ship will be around for 40-50 years. Our kids will grow up hearing about Boaty. And they will listen too. Because it sounds like a cartoon. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some keen animator is already working on a cartoon.

It might not sound very professional and we all know it’s a bit silly and immature. And not very “becoming” of a £200m ship. But it has captured the imagination and attention of thousands. And that, that attention – in a sector such as science which is so important and so commonly overlooked by the popular media outlets – is priceless.

 

Newry, Newry market, market, food market, twilight market, Newry twilight market, newry food market, newry food, shop loca, newry shop local, mourne, newry mourne down, newry council, taste junction, tastejunction, #tastejunction

Newry Market being put to good use

A few years ago I wrote a piece about how I felt we could help save the Cathedral and Creamery Quarters in Newry. Among the suggestions I had were making the most of Newry Market. I still maintain this is as really great facility. It just seems to have gone downhill over the years without anyone showing the will or the want to do something with it. However, with this being the year of celebrating Food and Drink, two upcoming events look like they will showcase the Market in a very positive way.

On 1st April from 5-11pm, the Council will be hosting Newry’s first Twilight Market show casing some of the local food and drink producers, pop-up restaurants, food tasting and full bar. Then, on 22nd April, SRC take over the Market for Newry Food Festival.

I think it will come as a surprise to most just how many local food producers we have in the area. And the Market is the perfect place to showcase this. Belfast has a phenomenal asset in St. Georges Market doing this same thing week in, week out. And the effects are felt far beyond just the retailers making a days wage. As a tourist attraction, it’s huge.

Whether we like to say it or not, we need to be realistic – Newry City Centre has almost nothing unique to offer tourists. Yes, it has shops, shopping centres and great places to get fed and watered. But so does every other town in the country. The Newry and Mourne area has a lot going for it with great parks, mouthing, scenery and outdoor activities all along the Mourne Costal Route. But the city centre is, well, just a city centre.

I really believe the market could become an asset to the city. My fear however is that once these two events are done and dusted it goes back to the way it has been for the past 15 years. Sparsely populated, depressing and selling nothing of any great appeal or value. I hope that both events do tremendously well and that some of the retailers exhibiting see the same potential in the market as I do and become a regular feature. All it takes is one or two to begin drawing people in. More people will lead to more retailers will lead to more people, and so on. Hopefully 2016, as well as being the year of celebrating Food and Drink, is the year we restore Newry Market to its former glory.

national minimum wage, minimum wage, UK national minimum wage, salaries, salary wage, wages, employee, employee pay, pay rates, hourly rate, employee pay rates, employee hourly rates, employee hourly rate

Minimum wage increase on 1st April will cost employers almost £1,200 extra per employee

From the 1st April, the National Minimum Wage for employees aged 25 or over increases from £6.70 per hour (the current rate for all employees aged 21 or over) to £7.20 per hour to fall in line with the Living Wage.

The government plans to increase this amount year on year to bring the minimum hourly rate for those over 25 to £9 per hour by 2020.

Whilst this is good news for low paid employees, the cost to smaller business will be significant – around £1,200 more per employee per year once National Insurance contributions and Auto-Enrolment pension contributions are added in. With what is effectively a new minimum wage bracket being introduced, the gap between the minimum wage for employees aged between 18 and 25 is now £1.90 per hour – almost £4,000 per year for a full time employee.

To this end, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a significant decrease in unemployment for people under 25, as employees try to manage their costs by hiring younger workers ahead of the more expensive, older ones.

To lessen the impact on employers, the government are increasing the Employment Allowance on 6th April from £2,000 to £3,000. So the first £3,000 of employers National Insurance incurred in the 2016/17 tax year doesn’t need to be paid over to HM Revenue & Customs. While this is welcome, it may mean very little to employers who have more than one employee going up to the new £7.20 rate.

It’s worth noting that none of the other National Minimum Wage rates are changing at this time. These are usually tinkered with on 1st October every year so don’t be surprised to hear more on this in Budget 2016 next Wednesday, 16th March.