The end of the year is generally a good time to reflect on the passing year but also make plans for the forthcoming one.

The starting point for businesses to reflect on performance is often by looking at the financial results but it’s worth thinking about other ways too. A trusted business advisor, customer and staff feedback as well as other key performance measured are all useful ways of obtaining objective feedback. Setting expectation for the upcoming year is an important part of the process too. It’s surprising how many businesses don’t have a formal budget but the discipline and process of budget setting forms an essential part of proper business planning. There are an increasing number of tools available to help you do this if required in the form of new software and apps.

The world of accounting software is changing fast particularly for small and medium sized entities driven by the growth in the distribution of apps and on-line software. It is clear that the area of Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be one of the huge growth areas of coming years and areas of bookkeeping and accountancy lend themselves well to it. There is already an app available for example that can automatically create a posting to an accounting system just by taking a scan of an invoice. We can expect that sort of technology to grow and improve particularly in areas such as data capture. The fastest growing small business accounting system in the UK is an on-line system called Xero. Xero was developed on an open source platform which means any software developers can develop apps which integrate with it. This has led to a huge growth in relevant add on tools and a rapid expansion of the possibilities that company can adopt to improve or streamline their accounting systems. Rather than seeing this as a threat to our business we are embracing the opportunities this brings to help small businesses obtain quicker, more reliable business intelligence through the clever use of apps that has the ability to drive real improvements in their business.

The other area where we have also seen a lot of interest this year is in the area of increasing employee share ownership in companies. There are various share ownership models from engaging a small, select group of management personnel via the Enterprise Management Incentive Scheme, to widening participation in a Share Ownership Plan and beyond that to full scale employee ownership with an employee ownership trust holding a controlling stake in a business. Each one offers different ways to motivate and engage staff in promoting the future success of an organisation. Utilising the correct tax effective structure is a vital part of the process as well as adopting an appropriate company valuation. These along with the overall business strategy are the areas where we have been assisting clients.

Next year promises to be an interesting year with further negotiation of the Brexit deal being hammered out. Economic growth is expected to be modest, and with low unemployment continuing to make recruitment a challenge, businesses may take a cautious view of their investment plans. It’s probably a year to focus on productivity and efficiency for a lot of organisations to help them achieve their growth plans.

We wish all our clients and supporters a successful year in achieving your personal and business objectives. In the meantime we hope you enjoy a very merry and peaceful Christmas.