in Business

Late payment is more than a headache: it could be the sign of a failing business

A problem with late payments can lead to business failure

Any business owner knows that getting paid on time is essential to cash flow, but late payment isn’t just an inconvenience. It can be a sign that a firm is out of control of its finances, not making a profit, and even on the verge of failing altogether:

If you’re not getting paid on time, and cash flow is sluggish, there’s a greater probability that money will run out, and serious trouble may not be far behind.

So what can small business owners do to protect their businesses from this common problem?

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How to get paid on time
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in Business

Record year for Direct Debit in the UK

Last week Bacs released its 2017 payment stats, showing another record-breaking year for Direct Debit in the UK.

As Bacs CEO Michael Chambers says, these huge volumes of transactions happen largely out of sight: "As long as that payment arrives on time and those crucial bills aren't missed, that is as much as we will think about the infrastructure which underpins it all." And of course, that's part of the beauty of the Direct Debit 'set and forget' system.

GoCardless also celebrated a milestone this week - our 7th birthday, so we have added some of our own stats to those from Bacs below. We're delighted to be working with more customers than ever before and to see our customers prospering (in 2017 we processed more of your payments than the previous six years put together).

We look forward to beating these figures this year!

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in Business

5 things for accountants to focus on in 2018

What should be on your radar for 2018?

It’s January, busy season is coming to an end and it’s time to start putting serious thought into the year ahead for your accountancy firm. So, what should be on your radar for 2018?

As a modern accountant, you’re riding the wave of evolutionary change taking place in the industry, utilising the most valuable fintech and cloud apps to create a practice ‘app stack’ that brings maximum efficiency to the firm.

Meeting the expectations of your clients is also a focus – offering the kinds of advice, service and long-term trusted relationships that are now seen as the norm by the new wave of ambitious, tech-savvy business owners.

So, to help you plan ahead with confidence, we’ve highlighted five key things to put on your 2018 to-do list – keeping you, your team and your clients ahead of the curve.

1. AI and automation – an opportunity, not a threat

The threat of accountants being replaced by software ‘robots’ has been a common theme over the course of the preceding year. But 2018 is the year where artificial intelligence (AI) will go from being fiction to a practical reality for a large number of practices.

Many of the leading accounting software providers – Xero, QuickBooks and Sage included – are incorporating practical elements of AI and machine learning into their offerings. And the key takeaway here is that your role as an accounting professional won’t be replaced by an algorithm – AI will sit there in the background doing the mundane data entry, coding, data analysis and automating of financial admin – giving you more time to focus on value-add services.

So, dig down into the latest product releases from your accounting and fintech providers, and see where AI can save you time, improve your automation or bring you high-level analysis.

Find out more of the benefits of AI for accountants in this post from Boma Marketing.

2. Being ready for Making Tax Digital and digital accounts

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5 practical steps for fast payment
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in Business

The importance of good cash flow for start-ups: a conversation with Saija Mahon

Saija Mahon, CEO & Founder, Mahon Digital

Four in ten start-ups fail in the first five years of the business and a significant factor behind that high failure rate for early-stage businesses is a reluctance to manage cash flow effectively.

We sat down with Saija Mahon – founder and MD of Mahon Digital Marketing, business mentor and speaker on the international start-up conference circuit – to talk about start-ups attitude to financial management, spending investors money and why getting a handle on cash flow should be every founder’s key focus in the early years of the business.

Setting the right financial foundations

The initial years of running a start-up are a challenging time for any founder. There’s the excitement of creating your business idea, getting it off the ground and seeing those first sales rolling in.

But what many inexperienced entrepreneurs forget is the need for rock-solid financial foundations.

As a business mentor and a speaker at start-up conferences around the world, Saija Mahon has seen first-hand how a good start-up idea can be held back by poor cash flow – and how relying on cash from an investor can actually be a bad idea for some start-ups.

“I see this lack of cash flow management all the time, where start-ups don’t focus on getting financially stable. Many get so excited about their new product or offering – which is obviously great – but then they get lost in the investor world and forget about their core customer who would buy their idea, product or service in the future.

That pot of investor money is finite – ultimately you need customers to buy your products.

One part of this, certainly from what I’ve seen, is that start-ups don’t focus on the customer enough, or building up their go-to-market strategy – they think that the investor will pay anyway.

Yes, in the short-term, that works but not in the long-term if you want to be here in ten years time. You can’t just think that your investor will always be here, because they won’t.”

Investor money is a finite pot of cash

In the entrepreneurial world of growth hacks, pivoting and hyper-growth, it’s easy to see how start-up founders can be lured into thinking more about investment money than day-to-day income. But to quote the well-worn phrase, cash flow truly is the lifeblood of a healthy business.

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in Business

Getting SMEs ready for the year ahead

Getting SMEs ready for the year ahead

For small business owners, the start of a new year is a valuable opportunity to take stock and to plan ahead.

And there are many practical efforts SME bosses can make to ensure their businesses are efficient, improving, and profitable over the months to come. Here are our top tips for financial health in 2018.

Learn from 2017

How did your business perform during the last year, and what might have been done better?

  • Undertake a thorough review of financial statements of the past 12 months, scrutinising profit and loss figures, plus sales peaks and where sales were in decline. Ask yourself what caused these fluctuations, whether they were inevitable or seasonal, and if you could have planned better for them.
  • Analyse stock levels and turnover to see if inventory management is up to scratch.
  • What does the detail of the company’s revenue versus expenditure during 2017 tell you? Where was money wasted?
  • Remember your business plan and the objectives for the enterprise at the beginning of the year, then admit what goals were met, what targets were missed, and why.

Make savings

A thorough audit of the business should have revealed where cost savings might be made.

  • Energy supply is one area where SMEs waste huge amounts of money because many never check to see if they are on the best tariff. It is estimated that British SMEs are paying as much as £7 billion more than necessary on energy bills, so check on comparison websites, such as uSwitchforBusiness or Makeitcheaper, for a better contract.

  • The Government also offers small business owners tips on improving energy efficiency in the workplace, installing energy efficient equipment and turning off unused items out of hours to save money.

  • If you rent premises, look at the terms of the agreement to see if you might negotiate a better deal with the landlord. Revisiting contracts with suppliers may also bring possible improvements to light.

  • Finally, look at the company’s bank statements of the last year to see if you are paying any needless bank charges – they can lie hidden, and soon add up.

Watch the competition

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in Announcements, Business

New Bacs Direct Debit rules make it easier for customers to switch provider

We’re delighted to share news that Direct Debit providers can no longer stop customers from switching to another provider, thanks to changes in the Direct Debit scheme rules, announced by Bacs on 10 November and supported by the UK Payment Systems Regulator (PSR).

We believe that every business should be able to move between payment providers freely, so we’re delighted that Bacs is making these rule changes, which GoCardless has campaigned for since 2015.

What is changing?

Under the old rules, companies who processed Direct Debit on behalf of merchants (sometimes known as Facilities Management or ‘FM providers’), could request that an outgoing Direct Debit provider transfer across all of a customer’s existing Direct Debit mandates to them, known as the bulk change process. However, the outgoing FM provider was under no obligation to meet that request.

The new rules, which take effect from January 2018, require all FM Direct Debit providers using the Bacs Direct Debit scheme to be certified by Bacs. As part of that certification, FM providers must commit to use the bulk change process.

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10 questions to ask your Direct Debit provider
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in Business

2017 highlights from GoCardless

GoCardless highlights 2017

A year is a long time in the life of a fintech startup!

This year, we secured round D funding from our incredible investors, processed more than £4bn worth of transactions for our customers (all 35,000 of them), and the number of people in GoCardless grew by more than 150%.

Our UK and EU growth has continued this year, resulting in a no.11 listing in the Times Tech Track 100 and a mention in the CB Insights Fintech 250. We also ranked 8th in the Deloitte UK Technology Fast 50 and 54th in Deloitte’s EMEA 500, for our 2097% growth rate. You can watch a visualisation of our UK growth from 2014 to 2017 here.

We were also delighted this year to be named one of LinkedIn’s Top 25 startups (from a global list of 25,000) and the best place for developers to work at the techies 2017.

Of course, numbers and awards only tell part of the story, so here are some members of the GoCardless team to share their 2017 highlights.

Seeing our customers thrive

“It has been great to see so many of our customers succeed this year! One great example is UK renewable energy supplier Bulb, which has grown its customer base by 4000% in 18 months. 90% of Bulb's members now pay by Direct Debit through GoCardless, and we've gone from taking 10,000 payments a month for them in January to 100,000 payments in December. We're proud to have supported their growth and ambitions in that time and we're excited to work with them, and all of our fantastic customers, in 2018.”

-- Stevie, Customer Success

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in Announcements

Average customer response time halved in 12 months, thanks to new support centre

A little over a year ago, we announced the launch of our new support centre, in a drive to help customers find answers to their questions faster.

With these changes, not only can our users find answers to their questions more quickly and without having to get in touch with GoCardless, but those who do get in touch receive a greatly-improved service.

I’m delighted to share that since launching the support centre:

  • On average, we’re now responding to queries within 6 business hours; a huge improvement when compared with our previous 13-hour average.
  • Our response time SLA has reduced from two working days to one.
  • The average time it takes us to resolve a customer query has also greatly reduced.
  • The level of service we’re able to offer has become far more consistent.

Our efforts have gained us some recognition and I’m delighted to share that last week, the team picked up the award for Most Effective Self Service Initiative at the European Contact Centre and Customer Service Awards (ECCCSAs).

Data-driven approach to improving support

It’s true to say that our customers are in the driving seat when it comes to improving the support we give, whether they realise it or not!

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Incident review: API and Dashboard outage on 10 October 2017

This post represents the collective work of our Core Infrastructure team's investigation into our API and Dashboard outage on 10 October 2017.

As a payments company, we take reliability very seriously. We hope that the transparency in technical write-ups like this reflects that.

We have included a high-level summary of the incident, and a more detailed technical breakdown of what happened, our investigation, and changes we've made since.


On the afternoon of 10 October 2017, we experienced an outage of our API and Dashboard, lasting 1 hour and 50 minutes. Any requests made during that time failed, and returned an error.

The cause of the incident was a hardware failure on our primary database node, combined with unusual circumstances that prevented our database cluster automation from promoting one of the replica database nodes to act as the new primary.

This failure to promote a new primary database node extended an outage that would normally last 1 or 2 minutes to one that lasted almost 2 hours.

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in Business

Looking to grow your fitness business? Check out our new resources

Check out our new resources for fitness business owners

This month we launched our first ever e-Guide for fitness business owners in partnership with teamup. We spoke to 283 independent fitness business owners to find out how they run their business, what they’re looking to achieve in the next year and what their biggest obstacles are.

Unsurprisingly, business growth was top of mind for our respondents, and they identified marketing and admin as two of the biggest challenges.

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