It’s not just hype – the January Blues are a fact. The deep sighs and grim faces of your employees and colleagues as everyone comes back to earth after the festive season are no act, but based on fact!
I’ve just read a report which has Barclaycard claiming that half of UK consumers use contactless payment at least once a month, and according to surveys most of us are intending to use it more frequently in the future.
Instead of looking back on the year just ending, I thought we’d do something different and look forward – 100 years forward in fact – with the help of the Samsung “Smart Things Future Living Report”.
The future is something that beguiles us all. In my own lifetime science fiction fantasy has become fact in so many realms, from communications to the way we do the laundry!
It’s exciting then, to follow the reasoning of scientists and academics who use facts and statistics to predict how we humans will be living, working and playing a century from now.
The Future Living Report is the product of a collaboration by Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock (one of the UK’s leading space scientists whom you probably recognise from TV’s “The Sky at Night”); academics (University of Westminster) and futurist architects Arthur Mamou-Mani and Toby Burgess; and urbanist pioneers Linda Aitken and Els Leclerq.
So what will life be like in the year 2117? Let’s take a quick tour:
- As space becomes ever more tight,our cities will reach upwards several kilometres into the sky, and down into the depths of the earth. There’ll be no roads as such – sky routes will access “sky ports” on the super-skyscrapers for the drone-like vehicles which we’ll be using to get around.
- Travelling around will actually not be an essential part of life any longer. Work commutes will in most cases be obviated by being able to send your hologram presence to the office and meetings, and you’ll be able to take virtual holidays with all the sights, sounds and smells you’d expect to experience with the real thing.
- In your own “smart” living space, food recipes and furniture will be acquired by 3D printing. You’ll be growing your own “five a day” hydroponically in your living “pod”, which will have systems to recycle and generate everything you need for the process. You’ll be able to configure your home with “smart walls”, allowing you to change their positions according to your needs. If you decide to move to another location, you’ll be able to disengage your living pod and have it flown by “drone mule” to your new destination.
- Underwater cities, built in bubbles, will exist that will be essentially self sufficient, and moves should be well advanced for colonising the Moon and Mars. It goes without saying that commercial space flight will be the norm. If you want to get away from it all you can head off to an orbiting space hotel.
- There will likely be a single global currency (and perhaps a global government), with traditional boundaries between countries and cultures blurred into extinction.
It’s all a bit frightening – but there are some aspects that make me wish I could be around to see it. For instance we won’t need cleaning products any longer because everything in the home will be self-cleaning and self-repairing.
Pie in the sky? You may think so … but then, what would your ancestors 100 years ago have said if confronted with the idea of personal mobile devices being used by all citizens to interact with each other at will, with instant information on tap about anything and everything.
The authors of this rather mind-blowing report have based most of their predictions on technology that already exists, and in most cases is already being used.
One of the greatest bugbears that besets small businesses and freelancers in the UK is late payment (or non-payment) of invoices – a situation that goes beyond inconvenience and turns entrepreneurs into beggars.
How sad to see a business die simply because of payment problems – but it can, and does, happen. The problem is widespread – a MarketInvoice survey found 62.3% of invoices issued in the UK in 2015 were paid late.
Thousands of companies – the backbone small businesses so vital to the UK economy – are having their profits eroded and their cash-flow turned upside down by having to spend time and money chasing late-paying clients. Not only the survival of businesses, but also the livelihood of employees, depends on prompt payment.
So if you are finding late payment an ongoing problem that is impeding the progress and growth of your business, what can you do to make your creditors pay up?
Firstly, from your side, you need to ensure that your client is fully aware of the terms of your payment agreement, especially how long he/she has to pay, and that your invoicing is accurate and in order.
Where and if possible, ask for an upfront deposit before you proceed with the sale/service you are providing. Also run thorough credit checks on the client before you put him/her on your books.
It’s certainly not wise to pick up the phone and verbally lambaste a client whose payment is a matter of days late. He or she may well have a legitimate reason, or there may have been a genuine mistake with the invoicing. All you will succeed in doing is losing the client altogether – and probably a wide circle of his/her aquaintances and friends who may have been potential customers.
The same goes for “bad-mouthing” your defaulting client around your social circle, and – even worse – broadcasting on social media that he/she is a credit risk. This could even get you sued for libel!
So rein yourself in and take the polite approach. Send an email (or letter in the unlikely event of there not being an email address) as an initial gentle reminder. You might follow this up after a few days with a phone call, and if necessary another email (letter) or two.
If you’re still getting the run-around after thirty days or so, you can up the ante a little by becoming more formal in your communication, and giving a set payment period (seven to 10 days is acceptable).
If this doesn’t work, try to elicit a reason for non-payment from the client, and offer an instalment plan.
Your final recourse is to file a suit in the small claims court, or hire a debt collection agency. The easiest route (if the amount involved is less than £100,000) is to institute your claim online via the Government Gateway.
If your client still doesn’t pay up after receiving a letter from the court ordering him/her to do so, a County Court Judgment will be issued against him or her. This doesn’t necessarily guarantee you will get your money, however.
If things reach the final stage and you take your client to court, it is a sure bet that will be the end of your business relationship, so it’s worth considering if the debt is worth losing the client for.
The silly season is just around the corner, and along with the touches of tinsel already appearing in the shops are the musings in most workplace kitchens about where/when/how the “powers that be” will organise the firm’s end of year party.
Many small business owners never consider the export market. It’s often viewed as something only large enterprises can afford – and have the capacity – to get involved in. Going international, though, could bring benefits way beyond just an increase in sales and profits. Continue reading