Who Can I Ask?

Running a business can be very daunting. The problems seem endless and, unlike working with others, you have no one to turn to for help or advice.

Well, yes you have! Other business owners are surprisingly helpful to the inexperienced entrepreneur. Any business problem you face will have been faced and solved by many others before you. All you have to do is seek them out and ask for their help.

Look for places where other business people gather such as business clubs and networks offline or business forums online. Facebook and LinkedIn both have many business groups of all kinds and you will often find very generous help from other members. Sharing and exchanging ideas with other business owners is one of the best ways to learn and grow.

(Updated 05/06/17)

EU Referendum UK

To Vote or Not To Vote” that is the question. For many people the general state of confusion generated by both sides of the argument could well result in a low poll turnout since this is going to be a very difficult decision for all but the already totally committed “Leavers” or “Stayers”.

As stated elsewhere on this website, my take on the theme of Be Your Own Boss is broader than just working for yourself or starting a business. Freedom of choice in how we live our lives is a fundamental issue for those attracted to the independence of not having a boss but rather being the boss!

Many of the auguments for or against remaining in the EU focus on economics and trade, on the potential effects on public services or on the security of the UK. But the wider issue driving most of the “leavers” is the issue of Freedom and Independence. There is an inbred resistance in the British psyche to being told what we can or cannot do, and more so against being told what we must do. As a nation we have fought to retain our independence for almost a thousand years, not only against external aggressors but even internally. Magna Carta and the Scottish independence referendum are topical examples but we can look to the War of the Roses and the English Civil War as other examples.

With the coming Referendum we have the opportunity to have our say on this issue, I believe that not voting at all is not an option as it puts our future in the hands of others. So the next question is Stay or Leave. Stay in the EU or leave and make our own way in the world.

There is growing pressure to Stay coming from not only our own Government, but from many outsiders. Pressure from other EU countries, pressure from the EU organisation, pressure even from America, an ally who every year celebrates its own independence! There is also growing pressure from large multi-national companies, from some business organisations and from major banks. Are they acting in our interests or their own?

Then we have the “Leavers”, the people who have campaigned on this issue for years. Their over-riding message is about freedom and independence. They point to excessive regulation from the EU, interference in our way of life and our ways of doing business. But are they right? Is leaving in our interests or theirs?


In order to help make up our minds we, the people, have been asking for hard facts on which to base a decision. Instead we have been given conflicting assumptions, official guesswork, selective statistics. The same statements repeated over and over in the hope that repetition will result in belief. It appears there are NO FACTS! Just suppositions and wishfull thinking.

So why is there so much confusion and disagreement?


The answer is that we don’t know and cannot know what will be the result of either remaining in the EU of of leaving and following our own course. As far as I’m aware Nostradamos, that famed futureologist, is silent on the subject of this Referendum. Predicting the future is a very inexact science, but that is what we are being asked to do in order to make our choice.

The Remain team say “We know what staying in looks like, because we have been in for years”. Not true! Many things have changed in the EU since we joined the “Common Market”. What we do know is that many more things will change within the EU. Some we already know about, like more countries joining, but the future is otherwise unpredictable. Will the EU prosper? Or will it crumble? In its present state it’s hard to tell.

The Leave team say “We will be better off outside as we will have the whole world to trade with, we will be free of the shackles of an unelected EU bureaucracy and be free to follow our own destiny”.¬† Maybe! But will that road be a successful one? Who can tell?

One side says we will be better off out, the other says we will be better off in. Both are simply making predictions, otherwise known as guessing, or even gambling.


The die is cast, the referendum looms. All we can do is consider our own individual position and vote the way we truly feel. If we vote confidently with a sense of purpose then, whatever the outcome we will know we voted our way.

But if we vote due to fear for the future then the future we fear may just come about. If we are wrong we may regret being fearful.


What I do know is this….

Change brings problems for the fearful and opportunities for the fearless. As individuals we can choose to embrace change. Whatever that change is, we can solve its problems and take its gifts. Or we can be a victim of change it’s our choice.

Whatever happens I wish you a great future ūüôā

I have made my decision!

Which way will you vote?



A furore has broken out among small micro businesses in Europe over plans to change the treatment of VAT on digital products sold to consumers. So what is the fuss all about and is it as bad as it sounds?


The EU is attempting to clamp down on major corporates minimising their tax liabilities by locating in the most tax friendly EU states while selling to consumers in neighbouring states. One of their actions has been a change to the treatment of VAT (value added tax aka sales tax), starting with digital products. This change comes into effect on 1st January 2015.

Until now vat has been charged and accounted for in the country of the seller. From 1st January this will change to the country of the buyer. The result will be that the product seller has to charge vat at the rate prevailing in the country of the buyer and also to declare and pay that vat to the tax authorities of the buyer.

The Unintended Consequences for Small Businesses

These changes mean that any business selling digital products to EU countries beyond their own may be caused to effectively multiply their vat administrative burden by the number of EU countries where their buyers are located.

Furthermore, they will have to provide multiple items of evidence of their buyers’ locations, evidence which digital sellers often do not have.

While it may be reasonable to expect multi-national corporations with millions or billions of revenues to accommodate this additional workload, it is totally unreasonable to expect small, micro or sole traders businesses to absorb such an additional burden. It is simply not cost effective for businesses with only a handful of customers in neighbouring countries to deal with multiple foreign tax authorities. They will simply have to restrict their trade to their own country which is impractical in the case of online digital suppliers.

Their Fears and Worries

Most of the complaints from smaller businesses fall into the following areas:

In UK and some other countries, many small businesses trade below the vat threshold level and are able to ignore the issue of vat altogether. These businesses will now have to set up vat accounting systems and deal with those EU countries that have low or zero thresholds.

The difficulty of determining the location of their customers and providing the necessary evidence. Keep in mind that digital products are not delivered to a physical address but via email or website download.

Many of these businesses use PayPal or similar payment processors who don’t provide the necessary customer location data. One of PayPal’s attractions to buyers is the degree of anonimity and data protection this gives them.

The potential need to separately register with the tax authority of every single EU country.

The need to separately account for transactions according to customer location and make separate vat returns to every one. (once registered they have to make a return for every accounting period even if they have no sales for that country in that period!)

The potential requirement to account for vat in different currencies when they have previously relied on their payment provider to deal with currency exchange.

The need to deal with multiple rates of vat, sometimes several in each country.

The short notice of the change which gives them insufficient time to set up the far more complex accounting processes and of course the huge cost of doing so.

The fact that the various tax authorities differ on their definitions of digital products.

The very high risk of accidentally and unknowingly falling foul of the relevant law in differing countries and possibly facing prosecution and the cost of defence in foreign countries.

These are but a few of the problems faced by small digital traders, many of them tiny home based businesses, caught up in a war between national government and the tax machinations of corporate businesses.

Are Their Fears Justified?

Well, yes and no!

In the UK the government and tax authorities have tried to mitigate most of the burden by the provision of a ‘Mini One Stop Shop’ (MOSS) which will avoid the need for registration, accounting and payment to multiple authorities. HMRC will effectively deal with these on behalf of UK businesses who register with the MOSS.

Although this will deal with a large part of the problem, it will not deal with all issues.

Identifying and proving customer location could still be a problem. As could the differing views on what is a digital product. It is still not clear what will happen to businesses that get it wrong through no fault of their own. Will HMRC deal with it, or will businesses have to answer to foreign judicial process?

The availability of the Mini One Stop Shop will reduce a massive bureaucratic responsibility to manageable proportions, but it will not eliminate it. Businesses that currently do not need to register for vat as they trade below the threshold will still need to register with MOSS and make relevant tax returns where they have buyers in other EU countries. Though it seems they won’t have to account for vat on sales to UK customers, until they reach the vat threshold.

The result of this extra red tape and the resulting additional workload will deter many from starting a digital business, while existing businesses are already stating that they will probably have to close down their businesses.


However, I would urge any UK business thinking of closing down to study the planned operation of the MOSS rather than listen to the chorus of information on social media, some of which is misleading. This applies also to anyone who has been planning to start a digital business. My own experience in business suggests that things are often not as bad as they at first seem. As a B2B (business to business) concern, selling digital services to EU businesses, we had to submit an EU return covering these transactions and it is really a very simple affair.

Also, it’s possible (if they want to grow their business in Europe) that payment providers will hurry to build compliance support into their services. I’ve just had a notification from one of them (JVZoo.com) that they have already incorporated the ability to apply vat and gather the necessary sales data and are looking at ways to integrate with MOSS. I understand another provider, Zaxaa, are also in the process of doing something similar.

So maybe look upon this as an opportunity, some of your potential competitors may be among those being scared off, leaving a huge market wide open ūüôā

Petitions and Protests

In addition, please be aware that representations are being made to relevant EU commissioners and are being listened to.


There is also a petition to exempt micro businesses and sole traders from this legislation here:


Other information sources:


See also:

And from the trenches, a blogpost comment quoting a reply from a UK MEP to the commenter:


Finally don’t forget that, although the rules come into force on 1st January, your first return for January to March is not due into HMRC until mid April. So you and your payment providers have time to get organised. However, you will need to register earlier. See¬†https://www.gov.uk/register-and-use-the-vat-mini-one-stop-shop¬†for more information on when.

Good Luck!


This article was prepared using information from a variety of sources and is for UK small businesses. It is intended to raise awareness of the issue and provide resources for further reading and cannot be guaranteed as either accurate or complete. Nothing in this article constitutes any form of advice and no liability will be accepted. Please carry out your own research and take professional advice before taking action.

Amazon Selling Machine

Who would start a retail business these days?

Running a physical retail business has become very challenging these days. Even the big supermarkets are finding it difficult but the ones feeling the most pain are the small retail businesses. Rising costs such as rent, rates, utility bills, staffing etc. contrast with falling sales revenue and tighter profit margins as the general economic belt tightening affects consumer demand.

One of the biggest reasons for the downturn in trade on the high street though is the growth of on-line retailing. The big advantage on-line retailers have is the absence of many of the fixed costs of physical premises, the very costs that hit hardest when times get tough. So you can see the attraction of running an on-line retail business. But it’s not all rosy in the on-line garden!

The big advantage of the high street retailer is their visibility and the passing foot traffic of potential customers. On-line traders don’t have this advantage. Websites are hard to find, just take a look at Google, Bing or Yahoo, thousands of results for a simple search when a customer is looking for something and very little chance of an impulse buy when they aren’t. So is on-line really the answer? Probably not, at least not if you go it alone. The costs of capturing enough visitors to make it worthwhile can be prohibitive.

So is any retail business viable right now?

Well the answer, surprisingly is Yes! If you go about it the right way.

Physical retail businesses have increasingly gathered together first there was the village or town market. This developed into what we now refer to as the High Street or Town Centre. More recently we’ve seen the growth of retail parks and giant shopping centres. The more businesses cluster together the more customers they collectively attract. So it is on-line. In the early days of the web we had eBay and Yahoo shops, the modern equivalent of an on-line retail park. Many successful small businesses got their start in one of these and some went on to become large enough to stand alone with an e-commerce website of their own.

Competitor or Protector?

There is one massive on-line retailer that many businesses, large and small, consider to be their main competitor – the retailer who’s rapid growth has eclipsed any other. That retailer is, of course, Amazon with a massive online presence and world-wide coverage. This behemoth is credited with (or accused of) changing the face of retailing forever and killing off many small retailers and even severely hurting even the large supermarkets. But there is a little known statistic that I recently came across that suggests that around 40% of Amazon’s sales turnover is not their own stuff! This huge chunk of what appears to be Amazon’s sales actually comes from an army of smaller retailers who operate in the Amazon market place. Amazon is not so much an on-line superstore but more of an on-line retail park or shopping centre. Amazon has created this huge shopping presence on-line and then shared it with other businesses thus giving them a ‘leg-up’ into a place they would struggle to be on their own. They all benefit from this amazing Amazon selling machine.

The Amazing Selling Machine

By setting up shop in the Amazon Market Place you avoid the costs of retail premises, the cost of setting up an e-commerce store or marketing costs and avoid the time it takes to get a retail business up and running. If you use their fulfillment service you save on storage costs as well as packaging and delivery costs. You can also save on credit card payment services (including the hassle of getting approved) and a variety of other standard retail costs. Of course Amazon don’t do all of this for nothing but their fees benefit from being totally sales related whereas most retail costs are fixed regardless of sales levels. This almost guarantees a profitable business. What’s more you have an instant global market presence if you want to scale up the business.

The above intro video above ends with links to more YouTube videos to help you get started.

I could probably write a book on the subject ¬†but for now get more details on Amazon’s services to retailers right here:


10 Most Common Newbie Mistakes


Click 2 View

The 10 Most Common Mistakes Newbies Make In Internet Marketing – Click on the picture to view.

One of the major issues of internet marketing is the number of aspiring new entrants to the market place that never really get started. There are still way too many failures in our industry and a lot of the reasons can be found in this informative infographic.

Just click on the graphic to view, then click again to enlarge.

Learn and Enjoy


What is Affiliate Marketing?


click 2 view

Affiliate marketing is a huge and growing area of internet marketing. There are two¬†parties to affiliate marketing, the merchant, whose products are being sold, and the affiliate, who promotes and sells the merchant’s products.

The Merchant

Any business can use affilates to promote and sell their products with considerable benefit and no risk. Affiliates are paid by results, they are not empoyees or even contractors paid for their time. If¬†the affiliate¬†doesn’t produce results¬†she/he ¬†doesn’t get paid. This way the business (the merchant) is guaranteed the result they specify in the affiliate agreement, unlike most forms of marketing where the business has to pay whether the promotion is successful or not.

The Affiliate

Any person or business can become an affiliate. You just need to recognise that you are being paid to deliver a specific result to the merchant business. Successful affiliates can make a lot of money from their marketing skills without having the more tedious tasks of product production, delivery, customer service and administration. It is quite possible to build a full time business just promoting and selling other people’s products.


The merchant is effectively sharing profits with the affiliate and, because of the much lower risk, is able to pay a significant share of the profit on each sale. There are several ways to be paid according to the required result:

  • Payment for each visitor delivered to the merchant’s website (Pay per Click)
  • Payment per lead generated e.g. a completed enquiry, quotation request or email address
  • Payment per sale i.e. a specified amount for each sale, either a fixed sum or a percentage

The most common of these is the payment per sale though the others are growing in popularity.


The merchant benefits by getting an independent sales force generating guaranteed results at much less risk than paying for advertising or employing  salaried sales people.

The affiliate benefits by being able to build a good income without being tied down to a business. Affiliates are able to work when, how and where they wish and thus have much more freedom than in running a conventional business of their own.

Learn more about affiliate marketing

Build Your Own Business Website

Pretty much every business needs a website these days. Even if you don’t sell anything on-line, many people are using the internet as their first source for finding the goods and services they need. Even when they know the supplier they are looking for they will often look them up on the web to check prices and¬†availability of products or to get directions. I know people are often surprised when the business they are looking for does not have a website.

But websites are expensive and difficult to manage, aren’t they? They take a lot of programming and other techie skills like graphics and stuff, don’t they? Well, not any more!

WordPress Websites

For quite some time now those in the know have been using a program called WordPress. Unlike Dreamweaver or Front Page or the myriad of other website design programs which are expensive and difficult to learn, WordPress is quick and easy to set up. It runs from your website, not from your own computer and, with just a little practice, anyone who can use a computer for simple email, text editing etc. can build and manage their own website. Best of all, WordPress is completely free of charge.

Some of you may have heard of WordPress before but think it is only for blogs and other personal websites, but this is¬†not so and hasn’t been for some time. I have been building WordPress websites for myself and clients for much less cost than a conventional website, and teaching them to do it themselves for a few years now, and it’s getting easier all the time.

You will need a few things to get started. First you will need a domain name, this is your business name and address in ‘cyberspace’. You can get one of these from around ¬£3.00 (under $5 US) a year upwards, not a great business expense. You will also need some webspace on the internet to put your website onto, if you didn’t already know this is known as ‘hosting’. This costs from ¬£5.00 (around $8 US) a month upwards, again not expensive. Everything else you will need for a basic website you may already have or¬†you can get free of charge.

You will need some content for your website, a mix of text, graphics, photographs etc. If you are really ambitious you can add audio and video, also for free. If you already have marketing literature such as brochures, flyers, leaflets etc. you can resuse this content on your website. If you have a digital camera, or even a camera phone, you can take a few pictures to add to your website. You will also need a design layout – there are thousands of these available for WordPress either free or for very little cost.

WordPress Training

Although WordPress is about as simple as it can get, a complete novice will need a small amount of training to get started. Please don’t be put off by this, and don’t go buying expensive training courses either. I have decided to convert one of my own WordPress websites into a training ground for my readers. It is currently being used to market my website building services but I am retiring from active client business now so I thought I would put it to use to help businesses who would like to set up their own website.

The training material is not there yet but I will be setting it up over the next few weeks.

Bookmark this page as I shall be updating progress on the project here as I go along.

Be Your Own Boss – BBC Series Update

The BBC ‘Be Your Own Boss’ series has now ended and past episodes are no longer available to watch on BBC¬†iPlayer. However, you can view clips from the series and read bios of Richard, his team of mentors and the fortunate participants of the programme here:


You can also read an interview with Richard Reed, which includes some excellent tips and advice here:


My favourite quote from the interview is…..

“An entrepreneur accepts that the world is the way that it is and goes about changing it rather than waiting for someone to make it easy for them.”

However that, in my view, is doing it the hard way. But, as is often the case, to make it easier you just need to change one little thing. In this case I would just change one single word to read as follows…..

“An entrepreneur accepts that the world is the way that it is and goes about exploiting it rather than waiting for someone to make it easy for them.” But then, that’s just my way! You find your own ūüôā

If you are ready to start your own business, check out some of the older articles on this website starting here:

http://www.beyourownboss.co.uk/your-new-idea/ then work through the ‘Starting Out’ category working from oldest to newest.

Disclaimer: These two articles have been a review of a BBC TV series. Neither beyourownboss.co.uk nor Attitude Ltd are connected in any way with the BBC or any participants in the Be Your Own Boss TV series. All relevant copyrights are acknowledged.

Be Your Own Boss – BBC Series

I’ve long been a fan of Dragon’s Den, but BBC3’s new series, “Be Your Own Boss” goes much further and a lot deeper into the realities of becoming a new entrepreneur.

Richard Reed, founder of Innocent Drinks, sets out to find Britain’s wannabe entrepreneurs. He’s looking for tomorrow’s potential high flyers to invest in with a million pounds of his own money. Starting out with 500 possibles Richard and his team of fellow entrepreneurs have to narrow these down to just a handful of likely prospects.

During the 6 part series, Richard will select three each week and give them a challenge to prove their worth, before deciding whether to invest in them or not. Some of the businesses are already operating but need funding to grow but others are barely more than an idea.

At the time of writing, the series is two episodes into it’s run. In week one only one of the three succeeds in getting the funding they need but in episode 2, two out of the three get the investment that could make their dream a reality.

This is real ‘hands on’ stuff, not just a pitch like on Dragon’s Den. The perils and pitfalls of business are very apparent, as are the qualities needed by the true entrepreneur if they are to get past the first hurdle. This is not just entertaining but extremely good learning if you want to start your own business.

If you truly want to be your own boss this TV series is a must watch training programme. Although two episodes have already aired, you can still catch up on BBC iPlayer.

Catch up with episode 1 here:


Then go to episode 2 right here:


The series has accompanying information on the series on the BBC website:


Enjoy! But take lots of notes, this will be a very valuable education.

Let me know what you think of the show and any ways you think it has or will help you in your business venture. You can use the comments box below.  Feel free to share this post via Facebook, Twitter, Google + etc.


Disclaimer: This article has been a review of a BBC TV series. Neither beyourownboss.co.uk nor Attitude Ltd are connected in any way with the BBC or any participants in the Be Your Own Boss TV series. All relevant copyrights are acknowledged.

Choosing a Business Idea When You’re Spoilt For Choice

Do you ever feel as though you have too many business ideas? Do you find yourself going around in circles trying to decide what to do? Are you constantly being distracted by new opportunities but never finish anything (or even get started!)? You are not alone, I’ve been there myself. A question by a reader on my Small Business Crash Course prompted an answer to this problem. The question was aggravated by a lack of availability of start-up finance.

As this is probably of interest to a lot of people and my reply was rather lengthy, I decided to answer it as a blog post here:

One of the biggest problems I have faced over the years is having too many business ideas. The world is so full of opportunities that you can end up jumping from one thing to another and ultimately getting nowhere.

Your second question helps to answer the first, if you cannot get access to start-up capital then you need to narrow down your ideas to those that you can start without capital – at least in the beginning.

Generally speaking offline, real world, businesses that can be started without capital tend to be service businesses that you can perform yourself and that don’t need business premises or selling other people’s products on an agency basis. That’s how I got started.

Online it is much easier as you can set up a website with very little money, around $10 US for a domain name and around $5 or $6 a month. If you are really short of money it is possible to start with a free website from Blogger.com or WordPress.com, until you have made enough to set up your own website. You can then use your website to sell other people’s products online as an affiliate – similar to the agency business above.

Now, down to the choice of business idea from your list. If you don’t have a list and your ideas are just floating around in your head, then write all your ideas down in a list before you forget them. Next look at each idea using the following criteria:

1. Is there a market for what you are proposing to sell? Is it big enough to sustain a growing business?

2. Are there any other people selling the same thing and making money?¬†¬† ¬†If you don’t get a YES to both 1 and 2 then put the idea aside for now.

3. If you get YES to both 1 and 2, then consider if this is really something you want to do. In the beginning you will be spending long hours and days setting it up and if you don’t enjoy it, you will not be able to keep going. A question I have often asked myself during my career is “do I want to be doing this for the rest of my life?”

4. Think about the kind of people who will be your customers. Are they the kind of people you will want to spend your working life dealing with?

5. If 3 and 4 are both YES, ask yourself, “Can I really be of help to these people? What can I do for them to make their lives better? Can I do it better than someone else who is already in this business?” The only way to build a successful business is to create happy customers who will recommend you to others.

6. If you are still getting YES’s, Can you produce the product or provide the service at a price that people are willing to pay and that will cover all your costs and give you a good profit? Can you sell enough to ensure that profit will give you the personal income you want and leave some over to reinvest in growing your business?

7. Can you easily and inexpensively communicate the benefits of what you are selling to your prospective customers and easily deliver the product or service to them?

If you have got this far with all YES’s, then you are already ahead of 90+% of people with business ideas! You will have narrowed down your list of ideas considerably, possibly even down to one.

If you still need more deciding factors then carry on with the following:

8. Once the business has been successfully launched, can you give most of the work to other people to do, either by outsourcing or employing people full or part time? If so you will be able to grow your business as large as the market will take. If not you will be limited by your own time and energy. Some people are quite happy to keep the business small enough to do everything themselves but others need to grow.

9. Is it the kind of business you will be able to get someone else to manage? If so, you can then look at other business ideas, if you have that kind of ambition.

10. Does the business have the potential to be sold as a going concern to someone else in the future or is it too dependent on you? If so you can sell and retire or start another business.

ABOVE ALL, once you have decided which business to start, give it your full and undivided attention until it is running successfully or it fails completely. Let nothing distract you from building your business and do not be tempted by other ideas not related to this business until it is capable of running almost by itself.

This is not a complete blueprint on how to run a business, but it should help you to choose the best idea from those you already have.

I hope it helps