Cloud Accounting: The Way Forward In Covid Times

Change is inevitable. We need to embrace it.

If there’s one thing Covid has taught us, it’s that. And though all there is to say about Covid has been said, this particular lesson stands out more than anything.

So, what are we going to do about it? And, by we, I don’t just mean NM. 

Entrepreneurs, business people, employees, clients, accountants – how are we going to deal with this seemingly everlasting change?

The first step, while obvious, is perhaps the hardest. Acceptance.

Things are changing in the working world and we need to embrace that. How? Let’s start with remote working.

This has been a massive pain point with many local businesses. How can you track progress if you can’t keep an eye on your team? How will you maintain a positive relationship with your clients if you can’t chat over an espresso before a meeting?

Before we tackle those questions, let’s look back at the challenges we faced a few short years ago.

How did you cope with dial-up internet, or having to order a taxi by telephone? You painstakingly went through the motions, until a better solution came along.

Well, that solution is here, and it’s called cloud accounting.

Why is cloud accounting important?

You may be wondering how cloud accounting and remote working are related. Especially if you’re not an accountant. Well, every business needs accounting, and as we all start to move toward working remotely, having the ability to manage your finances remotely is crucial.

Remote working is not just about working away from the office – it’s about being able to work effectively in a team from anywhere. Thanks to software like Google Drive, Zoom, and Xero, remote work is more accessible than ever.

Every business owner worth their salt knows that there is power in numbers, and the more information you have about those numbers, the more you can achieve.

What happens when you don’t embrace change

The worst has already happened – a global pandemic has completely disrupted our lives, the economy and our work. So let’s take a look at our new normal.

Scenario A:

In spite of everything, John is still going into the office every day – an empty office nonetheless as employees are working from home. John is reviewing a now defunct business strategy and needs an analysis of the company’s profit and loss for the past six months.

John reaches out to his accounts clerk, hoping to get a reply within the hour. Except that the accounts clerk is currently in a 2 hour long queue waiting for a swab test after finding out that a child at his daughter’s school has been diagnosed with covid. John then reaches out to his accountant for some rough figures. His accountant has 4 clients requesting the same information – John will have to wait 3 days to get the information he needs.

John is officially stuck. Sucks to be John.

This next scenario will be much shorter. 

Scenario B:

Francesca is in her home studio running a stocktake. While orders are doing well, she’s aware that cash flow could be under threat in a flash and wants to ensure she spends wisely over the next few months. 

With a swipe and a quick tap, Francesca opens the Xero app on her device and reviews her upcoming orders, the profit and loss of the past year, and checks her pending invoices and billing to predict her cashflow for the next couple of weeks.

Having a clear idea of her financial standing, Francesca works out a calculation, shoots an email to her accountant to ensure it’s correct, and goes onto the next task on her to-do list.

Francesca may be at home, but her business is on the move.

Cloud accounting is perfect for small businesses

Effective financial planning and accounting underpins the growth and profitability of all small businesses. In fact, cloud accounting is based on the principle that small businesses are highly sensitive to shifts in their balance sheet and cash flow. Having the ability to monitor financial performance in real-time and plan ahead is crucial. 

So not only do your accounts become instantly accessible, but Xero also automates certain steps of the accounting process, eliminating human error while giving you a fantastic insight into your business.

This insight is invaluable, and it could be at your fingertips in no time.

NM Group is a Xero Champion partner. For more information drop us a line.

Starting Your Own Business: Limited Liability Company vs Self-Employed

The time has come to finally embark on that project that you’ve been dreaming of – but there’s one big question mark ahead of you. How should you register your business?

The two most common options are to operate through a limited liability company or as a self-employed individual.

Each of these options come with their own pros and cons, some of which really depend on your business model and the level of risk you’re willing to take.

Let’s start by looking at Limited Liability Company registration:

Pros

  • In the eyes of the law, a company is a separate legal person. As such, the company shall carry out its trading activity in its own name by providing the company director with full powers and responsibilities in relation to company operations. This implies that if anything had to go wrong with a company stakeholder (employee, supplier, customer), such stakeholder would have to resolve the issue (whether in Court or otherwise) with the company – and not its shareholders, personally.
  • The liability of a company is limited to the amount of authorised share capital. As such, if the company had to be sued and its assets do not suffice, the liability imposed on the company shareholders is capped / limited to the amount of authorised share capital. This does not imply that the company can be used to carry out fraud or any other criminal activity. In such cases the court can decide to lift the corporate veil.
  • It is considered to be more professional to trade under the name of a company because it implies a structured set-up. The company is also subject to an annual audit that is considered to be a plus when it comes to securing bigger clients/suppliers, dealing with banks, and tendering for work.

Cons

  • A Maltese-registered company has mandatory statutory reporting obligations.

    Any company registered in Malta must submit 3 annual reports;
    (1) Annual Audited Financial Statement (Malta Business Registry)
    (2) Annual Corporate Tax Return (Commissioner For Revenue)
    (3) Annual Return (Malta Business Registry).


    These reports must be submitted regardless of whether the company is in operation or not. In the case of a trading company, there also is the obligation of registering for VAT purposes and submitting quarterly VAT returns.
  • The formal closure of a limited liability company entails the formal process of a liquidation, which also would trigger additional costs.

Moving on to Self-Employed Registration

Pros

  • The reporting obligations of a self-employed individual are far less stringent and frequent than that of a company. Nonetheless, a self-employed individual still has its own reporting obligations as follows;
    (1) Preparation of an annual Profit & Loss statement
    (2) Filing of an annual personal tax return
    (3) Payment of National Insurance Contributions in 3 instalments (Apr / Aug / Dec)

Cons

  • A self-employed individual operates under his/her personal name, meaning that they will carry unlimited liability. Any issues with business stakeholders are to be resolved with the self-employed individual on a personal level. Furthermore, there is no limitation to the liability that can be brought against the self-employed individual.

Here are some other considerations worth weighing up

  • Corporate / Personal Taxes: Companies are subject to a flat income tax rate of 35% on profits. On the other hand, self-employed individuals are subject to progressive tax rates starting at 0% and gradually increasing to 15% then to 25% and finally to 35% (beyond €60,000 in profits). Overall income would probably be your deciding factor here, as in terms of taxation, this can be managed very easily with the help of a good accountant.
  • Grants / Tax Credits: Generally, grants and tax credits are normally equally available to all registered businesses regardless of whether they operate as a company or self-employed business.
  • Set-Up Procedures / Costs: The incorporation of a company requires one to draft the companies Memorandum and Articles of Association. Such documents will regulate the governance of the company in line with Malta’s legislation (The Companies Act). Furthermore, such a process would also require the submission of additional applications/disclosures and the registration of the company for VAT and Tax purposes. The set-up process of a self-employment is less bureaucratic and thus less costly. In terms of timelines, both set-ups can be managed within one week.
  • Malta Tax Refund System: Malta’s tax refund system for international investors can only be availed of by corporate structures and thus not by self-employed individuals. 

If you’re looking to start up a new business and require assistance for anything ranging from company incorporation, VAT registration, government funding, tax refunds and much more contact NM Group today!

How to turn your website into an online shop

Having a clean, user-friendly website is one of the first steps you take when you finally take the plunge and launch your own business. It’s a crucial part of your marketing strategy, and is a central point for existing and potential customers alike; 

Today, it’s common practice for businesses big and small to make their products and services available through their existing websites. E-commerce has grown from an added element of convenience to a customer expectation. Taking things a step further and adding those capabilities to your site means you’re open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, increasing your revenue and improving the overall buyer experience in the process – if done right, of course. If you’re thinking about turning your website into an online shop, here are a few pointers to get you on the right track, complete with funding opportunities. 

The first step – after you’ve purchased your domain name, of course – depends on what kind of CMS you’re currently using to run your site, or, if you’re starting from scratch, which one suits your style and needs best. The two most popular names out there are WordPress and Wix, two very user-friendly platforms that allow you to build a basic website in minutes. Big names like these will have some sort of e-commerce offering either built in or as a plugin (e.g. WooCommerce for WordPress), and will offer some guidelines on the finer points of getting your online shop up and running. 

Once you’ve settled on your CMS, you’ll need to decide on the e-commerce platform you want to use – many customers opt for a combination of Shopify and WooCommerce, because WordPress is the most popular CMS out there. You’ll also need to set up a Secure Sockets Layers or SSL certificate. Any site worth its salt will have this additional layer of security baked in to encrypt sensitive data, protect your buyers, and make you a more trustworthy vendor. It’s absolutely necessary if any kind of payment is to take place.  These e-commerce tools offer a step-by-step guide to get things set up quickly, but your marketing and IT team will work hand in hand to make sure everything is as it should be and primed to delight your customers.

So far, so good, right? Time to talk euros and cents. Like most major business moves, turning your website into an e-commerce powerhouse costs money, especially if your company needs a highly customised solution or design. If you’re a more established operation, finding the budget to sell online might be a fairly straightforward affair, but everyone from smaller businesses to SMEs and fresh startups might need a little support to get things up and running.  

If you’re based in Malta, find out if you’re eligible for the e-commerce Grant Scheme first. That means you can spend up to €10,000 and get half of that back, possibly to re-invest in your business! The first step is to write up a proposal detailing your business idea and the ins and outs of your online shop and/or app. This great initiative is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and gives you a maximum of €5,000 to cover things like: 

  • Registering a domain name 
  • Hosting fees for the duration of your project
  • Your CMS
    • This includes licenses you’ll need throughout your project
  • An e-commerce site and/or mobile app in line with your brand 
  • Shopping cart integration
  • Miscellaneous setup fees
    • These cover anything from CMS setup and configuration to system design, customisation and development, integration with payment services, and implementation from testing up to go-live.

You might be wondering: ‘how do I know if I’m eligible for this grant?’ I’m glad you asked. Any enterprise that does not currently have an e-commerce facility is eligible, even if you have a ‘regular’ website up and running. The service provider doing the work for you needs to be registered with the Measures and Support division – you can find a list of approved service providers on the division’s site.

Need help applying for this fantastic opportunity, or drawing up a proposal? Get in touch and we’ll be your financial guide! 

How To Write Your Business Plan Using Design Thinking

In one of our earlier posts, we talked about how to go about writing a business plan that’ll get you results. But there are about as many ways to write a proposal as there are entrepreneurial up-and-comers in the world (that’s a lot), so today we’re taking a look at another way to tackle the all-important (and sometimes feared) business plan: design thinking. This approach offers something a little different, but before we dive in, we need to tackle one quick question…

What is design thinking? 

At its core, design thinking is a process that empowers you to find innovative solutions to everyday problems and challenges you might face. It can be applied to practically any area of your life, be it personal or professional, and has been hailed as a highly effective way to approach issues in business, technology, and education to name just a few industries feeling the benefits of it. 

The result of using this method can range from new products and services to meet customer needs and address gaps in the market, vastly improved processes, and boosts in productivity and efficiency across your business. Think of it as human creativity with some serious wheels on it; the projections that you can get out of this approach help you (and your financial advisors) to find out whether or not your project is feasible. 

Applying design thinking to your business plan

Design thinking is made up of five distinct stages, and that’ll be reflected in the way you structure your business plan. These are discovery, interpretation, ideation, experimentation, and evolution – and we’re going to go through them one step at a time.

Discovery

First thing’s first: collect that data. You’ll want to gather as much information as possible from all the relevant sources you can find – customers (both happy and disgruntled), clients, key stakeholders, your ideal customer, your peers. Every one of these groups is a potential goldmine of not just data, but inspiration. Ask questions that will help you understand the various needs and frustrations experienced across that whole spectrum of sources, and use that to fuel your problem-solving and prove that there’s a clear need for your proposal.

Interpretation

You’ve got a lovely treasure trove of data, but what do you do next? Well, it’s time to break that data down, digest it, and interpret it in a way that you – and your audience – will understand. Use that information to answer questions like:

  • What is your business doing right?
  • Where are your customer’s pain points?
  • Which stages in the customer journey aren’t being addressed effectively?
  • What does your customer want to achieve, and how can you help them do that better than ever before?

Customer personas come in handy here, especially if you’re a more visual thinker. 

Ideation

This is where the fun starts. The ideation stage is all about taking your budding ideas and developing them into fully formed opportunities. Once you’ve answered the questions above – and probably brainstormed a few more on the fly – you’ll understand your target market better than ever before. What follows is an improved understanding of what they need and how current solutions are falling short of properly delighting them. 

Experimentation

Pick one or two of your standout ideas, and play with them. The experimentation stage isn’t costly in terms of time and money, and is essentially a litmus test for whether or not your business plan will be successful. Go back to your customers and talk to them about your business plan, asking them for their thoughts on your solution. 

Here, you’re testing the waters and gauging your customers’ response – if it’s positive, move forward, but if it’s overwhelmingly negative, then it’s time to hit the drawing board again. 

Evolution

This stage sees your idea mature into something a little more coherent and actionable. The evolution stage is all about careful consideration of everything you’ve worked on so far, and confirmation of whether or not your business plan creates real value for your customers and key stakeholders. 

If you’re not 100% happy with where you’re at at this stage, it’s time to cycle back to the discovery stage again and go through as many iterations of the process as you need to get to where you need to be. 

What To Consider When Writing A Business Plan

Just the thought of launching and building your own company from scratch can be as overwhelming as it is exciting. There’s a lot to think about – and even more to do – but even when you’re surrounded by never-ending to-do lists and you’re being bombarded by a barrage of emails marked ‘high priority’, you know all your hard work, late nights, and early starts will be worth it in the end. To help you a) calm down and b) get organised, we’re going to have a little talk about business plans and the most important points yours needs to address if you want to give yourself the best chance at success. 

Introduction and background information

Start things off with a summary of your business idea, together with any experience and qualifications you have that’ll help the enterprise not only get off the ground, but thrive in the long run. Here, you want to put your best foot forward and demonstrate that you can handle the scope and pressures of such a massive undertaking; explain your business model . Nobody knows your idea better than you – so present it with confidence. You’ve got this. 

Why does the market need your product or service? 

Is there an existing need your product/service can meet, or a gap in the market that your business is addressing? Here, you’ll outline what inspired you to set up your budding operation. The more evidence of a need or gap in the market that you can include, the better. This can come in the form of anything from surveys to national statistics and existing studies on the market – if it helps you make the case for your business idea, it’s worth mentioning. 

Core values and mission statement

To be truly successful, your business needs to mean more than money. Today’s  intelligent consumer – and the kind of talent you’d be keen to hire – seeks out brands that share the same values as they do. From environmental sustainability to giving back to local communities, investing in innovations that’ll help people live better lives, and global charity initiatives, it’s absolutely essential to show that at your core, you’re a positive force in the business world, and not some kind of soulless corporation. What’s your message? What do you stand for? If your business was human, what kind of person would it be? 

SWOT and competitor analysis

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, and is a tried-and-tested model for making an objective assessment of your business, product, or service. It’s a major part of analysing your competition (locally or otherwise) and understanding what you need to do to get to the front of the pack, so take your time researching and exploring this stage.

Strategy for growth and internationalisation

What’s your long-term plan? Potential investors need to know that you have a strategy that’ll help you manage your company’s growth and scale your business operations accordingly. If your business has the potential to go international some day, outline how you’d handle it and how you’d keep your brand strong and standards high while replicating your efforts in other parts of the world. 

Financial projections 

No matter how fabulous your idea is, it all comes down to euros and cents. The launch and long-term success of your business hinges on money; from investment sustainability and how much you need to get up and running to the cost of manufacturing your product, training people to deliver the kind of service you want, day-to-day operations, and what kind of ROI you need to hit to stand the test of time. You’ll also want to make some educated comments on the potential impact this project could have on the local economy. 

Translation: don’t skimp on the financial details. Be as transparent as possible about your projected costs and profit margins – there’s nothing worse than a nasty, expensive surprise later down the line. 

Email us today for expert advice on devising the perfect business plan.

What is a trademark and how can it protect your business?

Whether your business has been long established or it’s just starting up, building a brand is a long process that requires planning, strategy, and creativity.

For some, the meaning of the term ‘brand’ can be elusive. Is it a logo, your reputation, or just the name everyone knows you by?

Effectively, a brand is all of these things. Just think of some of the world’s biggest food and fashion brands – they all come with a story, and it’s not hard to picture them in your mind when you hear the brand name or spot their logo.

But what happens when someone builds a brand that is suspiciously a lot like your own? Without a trademark for your brand, a competitor can create a new brand that is likely to confuse your clientele with a similar name or logo. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

Knowing the value of your brand

Think of your favourite restaurant, or perhaps the brand that sponsors your favourite sports team. Can you picture their branding and colour scheme? Does a recent memory pop into your head?

Each brand has its story, which will inevitably play a part in their audience’s lives. Whether it’s a lived experience or an impression, a brand will develop a reputation that will work hand in hand with their name and logo.

Now, think of the time you have invested in building your brand’s reputation, as well as the branding concepts behind the name and logo. You might have even engaged an agency to help you with this, so we can also add money to that equation.

Your brand holds an immeasurable amount of value. Wouldn’t you want to keep it safe?

Your brand at risk

Back to worst case scenario. Another business has copied elements of your branding and has had it registered – effectively trademarking your brand in their name? Just think of all the professional and legal help you would have to engage in order to prove the likeness of your brand and that it existed first.

You can never know when to expect a nightmare like this – but you can prepare for the possibility.

Understanding trademarks: What are they for?

A trademark means protection.

Having TM by your brand name protects it as a sign capable of being represented graphically, as well as of distinguishing goods and services of one undertaking from those of another. 

A trademark may consist of words (including personal names), figurative elements, letters, numerals or the shape of goods or their packaging.

First, it’s important to understand the distinction between the three types of protection available. 

  1. A trademark is a word, phrase, name or symbol (logo) that identifies a company, a product or a service and distinguishes it from competitors. 
  2. Patents protect inventions or discoveries such as processes, machines, and designs for products.
  3. Copyright protects original works of authorship both published and unpublished, such as artistic works like poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software and architecture. Copyrights do not protect facts, ideas, systems or methods of operation.

You can trademark your company name, product names, logos and taglines, however you can’t trademark an invention or a piece of software – that’s where patents and copyright come in.

Why is it important to protect your brand?

Registering a trademark protects your intellectual property associated with your brand. This includes:

  • Exclusive rights to use the mark: Once you have your trademark, you own the exclusive right to use your mark either on or in association with your brand.
  • Preventing unauthorized use: Having a trademark gives you the right to protect your brand in cases of unauthorized use of your mark in conjunction with the same or similar product offerings that you have protected under your trademark filing.

Don’t run the risk of losing all the clout and recognition your brand has gained. Save yourself the headache and trademark your brand.

Protect your brand with a trademark. We can help with the process from start to finish. Get in touch today!

How to grow your business and get a guaranteed return

As a business owner, one of your constant concerns may be how to grow your business. This is a very natural and necessary challenge which can provide new opportunities while also developing your enterprise into a more resilient one. But as we all know, growing a business can present several risks – especially when so much effort and resources are needed to ensure sound implementation. Plus, very often business owners take on additional personal risk or put a strain on the business’ financials in order to see things through.

The good news is that business growth can be just as exciting as it is scary. Growth encourages innovation and diversification, the very basis of entrepreneurship. In fact, the EU, together with the Maltese government, has developed a grant which reduces the risk for you and your business. This is better known as the SME Growth Grant Scheme.

The Support Your Business Deserves

The SME Growth Grant Scheme is targeted at micro, small and medium-sized businesses. A maximum grant of €500,000 is being offered per applicant, based on the total cost of the growth project. Micro and small businesses can benefit from 30% funding, whereas a medium-sized business can get up to 20%. This grant can allow your business to capitalise on new opportunities and become more sustainable over the long-term.

Getting access to capital has always been a challenge for Maltese businesses. The long and expensive process involved in getting funding from traditional institutions can easily make you miss a golden opportunity. In contrast, this grant allows for a much faster process at a considerably lower price.

Eligible Funding Projects

In simple terms, the SME Growth Grant Scheme can support the investments which will help you generate a higher revenue. Whether you are diversifying your business or building on past successes, there are several ways in which this grant can help you. These include:

  • Leasing of private premises
  • Construction of new property
  • Purchasing of equipment
  • Investment in energy efficient machinery
  • Purchasing of patent right or licences

The ultimate goals of the SME Growth Grant Scheme are to support local enterprises to reach their full potential while also encouraging further employment and development. In order to be deemed successful, each grant application needs to adhere to strict guidelines so as to ensure a just distribution of funds… which is what our team of funding experts is for!

NM Group can handle your SME Growth Grant Scheme application and offer advisory on eligible costs. Through our experienced consultants, we continue to achieve a success rate of over 95% for all grant applications. Get in touch today to benefit from this or any other grant or support measure!

The Secret To Writing A Foolproof Business Plan

A common question we get from entrepreneurs is if a business plan is necessary.

And our answer all depends on what you believe is necessary. Business owners often view business plans as an extra hassle, especially when it’s only needed as a required document by a third party. But what happens when you need to take stock of all your ideas and projections?

A great business plan can not only represent a business’ scope on paper, but it can also act as a roadmap to success.

So, even if is a business plan isn’t formally required – it has its uses. How do you make it foolproof?

First things first. Not all business plans are created equal.

There is no specific rule which says that a plan needs to have so many pages, chapters or statistics. In order to understand the level of detail, what data and which arguments to include, the writer must first understand their audience. A business plan to be used by the entrepreneur will probably not require the same information needed for one that’s presented to third parties, such as banks or investors.

So, with an audience in mind, what kind of information should you include?

The Basics

When it comes to writing business plans there are standard areas that are addressed, such as:

  • Mission statement and vision Statement
  • Company description
  • Unique traits of your products and services
  • Finances
  • Market strategies
  • Operations and management plan

Even if you don’t have any grand ideas for these elements, writing about it in your business plan will force you to consider your options and help you choose a direction.

Now that you have a fair idea of how to split up your plan, it’s time to think about it in context.

A plan for your own use

If you’re creating a business plan for yourself or your inner circle, then detail is not as important as objectivity. The goal of the plan is for you to put down your thoughts on paper so that you can visualise them better. In this way, you can identify any possible gaps in your reasoning or in your business model. The plan itself can be very short, and you can find templates for one-pagers across the web.

Although detail is not necessary for such a plan, critical thinking is. You need to ensure that you’ve got all your bases covered, from your core products or services to the organisation of your business. The thought process which is involved is the same as that used to make a more detailed plan.

A plan for third parties

When you need a business plan that will be read by people outside of your business, you need to include background information and more detailed explanations than you would in a one-pager.

Again, deciding what you would include in the plan depends very much on its audience. A bank might require more detailed financials, whereas an investor would be looking for key people that will ensure the success of the business. Even applying for local and EU-funded grants require particular information to be included.

Once you provide your plan to the third party, it will probably be read by a number of people –  your business plan is officially under scrutiny. These people will be checking the plan for several criteria, not least, consistency. There is nothing worse when a plan that says one thing on one page and then says the opposite on another.

Another important element that is often sought is data to back up your proposals and arguments. This is where market research really pays off. Put yourself in the third party’s shoes – their investment in you involves a certain level of risk. This business plan is your chance to prove to them that not only is your project worth the risk – it’s got potential to bring in a return too.

When do I know it’s ready?

A business plan is not a static document – as with your business, your plan will evolve over time.

The point of the plan is not so much to instruct as it is to guide. New business opportunities and changing environments will constantly challenge your business, and having a plan will help you make the right decisions at the right time.

Researching and writing a business plan is a time-consuming effort, especially if you are very busy. NM Group can create your plan and get you funding to cover the majority of the costs. We can also use your business plan to apply for a range of funding opportunities. It’s a win-win!

Get in touch today on [email protected].

When does CSR become crucial for companies in Malta?

For many organisations in Malta, ‘corporate social responsibility’ can be a loaded term – mainly because its meaning is unclear. At its core, the definition of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is self-evident; to engage in CSR, corporate organisations must operate in such a way that benefits society, systemically. 

Simple, right? The concept is straightforward enough that companies understand that they play a role in the wellbeing of society, especially as organisations that bring people together, and businesses that influence the local economy as well as culture. The confusion around CSR seems to start with scale. Where do organisations begin? Should they run nationwide initiatives, or should they start small and focus on supporting their staff? This then leads to questions about logistics, like who should be handling CSR tasks and responsibilities? and where do they draw the line?

Very often it’s these kind of questions that present a number of obstacles for organisations, leading to frustration and inaction. 

That being said, in a country like Malta which has strong religious roots where generosity holds high value in society, many companies engage in small-scale, unplanned CSR by making donations to their charity of choice, employing underprivileged members of their community, or making allowances for long-term employees who fall on hard times. 

But CSR is about a lot more than signing cheques and taking pity on others. Offering financial support is indeed a key element in supporting the local community – however, having a strong CSR strategy in place calls for much more than this – and reaps far more long term results.

A fully rounded CSR strategy is built upon seven pillars:

  • Organisational Governance 
  • Labour Practices
  • Human Rights Impact
  • Environment
  • Consumer Issues
  • Fair Operating Practices
  • Community Development

Investing in a strategy which encapsulates how your business can tackle these areas within your industry, according to your capacity, will lead to a business that not only operates in the most ethical and standardised way possible – but also a business that empowers its employees to engage in social change, because by making their lives better, they can pay it forward to others – and ultimately back to the business itself.

So, when does CSR stop being a recurring pending item on quarterly meeting agendas, and when does it become crucial for business?

According to a recent study, 89.7 % of small Maltese enterprises are not achieving their full potential.  

The biggest question here is what are local businesses investing in to unlock this potential? When asked what their main investment over the previous months was, most businesses indicated an ‘upgrade in the IT system’, and therefore, unsurprisingly, over 40% answered ‘no’ when asked if their business was achieving its full potential; while another staggering 49.7% said that ‘given the rights tools, we can achieve more’.

When most businesses are aware that they’re not fulfilling their full potential, why do they keep making the same mistakes?

Here’s something to reflect on: 

  • Society, and ultimately your customers, are increasingly aware and concerned about environmental and social issues
  • Companies are nowadays expected to do more than just generate revenue and increase profits

This is where corporate social responsibility comes in. Unless businesses inject CSR into their core operations, they will continue struggling to survive in the market.

CSR is a crucial tool through which a business can distinguish itself from the competition, attract more customers, increase sales and ultimately be more profitable. Businesses which don’t adapt will hit a major setback, whereas those that are ready to integrate CSR into their strategy will be able to overcome this challenge.

This approach has helped companies of all sizes across the globe to distinguish themselves from their competitors and become leaders in their fields, and it has the potential to do the same for you. Just think – only this past month Gillette is the brand that has been on everyone’s lips.

NM Group has teamed up with Weave Consulting – The CSR Specialists to help you to understand CSR and implement it in your business.  With funding schemes available to cover the costs of the service, this is an opportunity that your business cannot afford to miss. With our CSR and Funding teams, we’ll be able to assist you with this from start to finish.

It’s a new world out there and we can provide you with the tools to fight off the competition and come out on top! If you’re ready to get started, get in touch today.

5 Reasons Why Investing In Your Staff Makes For Better Business

As a business owner or manager, you’ve probably come to realise that your team is one of the most important resources your company has. Keeping staff content is a challenge in itself, but keeping them motivated is even harder. Various studies have shown that employees are loyal to an employer that empowers them and invests in their development. Money is important as well, certainly, but very often it is further down the list of an employee’s priorities.

One of the best tools to keep motivation high is training. However, as many business owners would agree, training is an expense that doesn’t always fall high on our list of priorities. Fortunately, the Investing in Skills scheme, administered by Jobsplus, can help to significantly reduce the cost of training to all local businesses. Here are just a few reasons why investing in your staff is a smart move:

1. Empower your staff

The term empowerment might seem like a loaded word, but it simply means allowing your employees to have a certain level of authority within the business. An employee might be empowered to take executive decisions wisely, for instance changing suppliers when a better and more efficient deal becomes available. Giving such authority to employees requires prior training, such as in communication and creative thinking. One of the benefits of empowerment is that it frees up time for the company’s management to focus on the bigger picture.

2. Introduce new skills

A business which does not recruit new staff for a while can easily become stuck in its ways. This could make it less prone to change and innovate, which might damage its long-term sustainability. Training can help prevent this. Staff members can be taught new skills which allow them to re-think their existing processes and products. Such skills can come from informal training or accredited courses and help prepare the business for future challenges.

3. Show staff your appreciation

You spend more time with your staff than you probably do with your family. That’s exactly why it’s very important that you show them your appreciation for their efforts and ideas. By giving them training opportunities you are giving them a life-long gift which has more value than any bonus. Allow your staff to suggest training which they would like to have, and be open to new ideas. Training on entrepreneurship, for example, might seem like an unusual choice. However, it is a course which teaches problem-solving, project management and new business opportunities. Skills any manager would want his staff to have, right?

4. Your customers will thank you

Your staff probably meet your customers more often than you do. It makes sense that they have all the necessary customer service and stress management training they could have. There is nothing that irritates a customer more when a question is posed and a business representative stares blankly back. The founder of the Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson has repeatedly said, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.”

5. Expand beyond your comfort zone

Training is, in itself, a form of networking. A classroom setting allows interaction between employees to be less formal and helps develop the team spirit, especially in larger enterprises. There is also interaction with the trainer, who may be an outsider, and might pass on solutions the business offers to other contacts. Joint training with other companies also encourages partnerships and new opportunities.

If you would like to learn more about how you could benefit from the Investing in Skills scheme, where you could save up to 70% of the eligible training costs, get in touch. Our team is ready to assist you in getting the necessary grants and can also help you identify the right training for your staff.