Introducing Bluestone: Josh Atkinson

Regional Account Manager: West Yorkshire

Josh is our regional account manager covering West Yorkshire, but in the Bluestone offices he is better known for his level-headed and laidback attitude to both life and work. Always friendly and dependable, Josh prefers to take a consultative approach to his work.

“I want to get out to meet my clients where they run their businesses, to learn as much as I can about what makes them tick, what their challenges are, and, most importantly, to answer their questions. When I understand a business from the inside out I can provide the right financial advice for their unique situation, including whether or not finance is the right choice for them.”

Where it all began

Josh grew up in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, but his earliest memory is from a family holiday in Lanzarote.

“I was about 4 years old and we were walking along together as a family. I knew there was something wrong with my foot and I was getting slower and slower, but I didn’t complain. After a while of moaning at me to hurry up, my dad discovered that I had a live cockroach in my shoe.”

Clearly, Josh’s laidback approach to life has been there from the beginning.

Although he spent a few years dressing up as Batman and had a childhood ambition of becoming a fireman, it was at school that Josh found his passion.

“I loved PE lessons and playing on school teams as much as I could. I was always determined to improve, even it meant spending hours and hours kicking a ball against a wall by myself.”

The world of work

With determination, resilience, and a love for sport, it’s not surprising that Josh realised his ambition by becoming a professional rugby league player. Josh played primarily for Castleford Tigers but also spent time with the Queanbeyan Kangaroos in Australia as well as Newcastle Thunder.

“One of my proudest moments was making my Super League debut in 2012. I learnt a huge amount from my rugby league career, but one of the best decisions I made was stepping back to play at a lower level. I’ve now got a much healthier balance to my life as I can see more of my family and friends. My passion for the sport has returned, and it also doesn’t hurt that I can now eat and drink as much as I like!”

After his professional rugby league career, Josh spent some time working in sales for sports and fitness companies before coming to Bluestone Leasing in the summer of 2017.

“I knew from my interviews with Bluestone Leasing that I would be joining a family-orientated company. I had limited knowledge about finance when I arrived, but everyone I met was so knowledgeable and friendly, I knew they would help me to develop my skills and grow.”

What motivates Josh?

A big clue to Josh’s motivations lies in the fact that Josh’s favourite place is his family’s villa in Alicante where he can sit with a chilled bottle of Rioja Chianza and do some “people-watching”. He is a family-oriented person, and his natural curiosity (or nosiness, to use his own words) makes him a great fit as an account manager for Bluestone.

“I want to find out as much as I can about my clients and how they operate. It is particularly rewarding when we can get involved with a business in its very early stages, take an active role in its growth, and ultimately see them succeed […] There is nothing better than having clients recommend us to their customers and contacts. It shows that they trust us to get projects over the line and conduct ourselves professionally with their customers.”

Josh wants to be remembered for…

“Always having a smile on my face, and generally being a positive influence on the people around me.”

What does the future hold for Josh?

Top of Josh’s bucket list is a holiday in Bali, a long-planned trip that was postponed time and time again during his rugby league career due to injuries. He also hopes to spend more weekends in Rome eating pasta and drinking wine, and to play rounds of golf whenever he gets the chance.

When asked whether he would visit the future or past with access to a time machine, Josh replies without missing a beat, “You have to go forwards”. When we combine that with the fact that the person he admires most is the cyclist Lance Armstrong for his resilience, it is a perfect summary for Josh’s approach to both life and business.

“Never stop learning, ask for help when you need it, and keep pushing on.”

If you would like Josh to help you and your business move forward with a bespoke finance solution, get in touch today at josh.atkinson@bluestoneleasing.com.

Bluestone Launches new finance product for Bio-Crop farmers

In line with the UK Committee on Climate Change’s objective to see 23,000 hectares of Miscanthus bio-crops planted each year, Bluestone have launched a new finance product that enables farmers to make the change to their crop make-up.

Miscanthus is a unique and revolutionary biomass crop. Miscanthus recycles carbon annually through overground biomass growth, at the same time storing carbon in the soil. Scientists identified Miscanthus as one of the most efficient raw materials on earth to produce biofuels. This means the potential uses are wide, from making plastics to producing building materials to fuel. It produces a crop every spring without the need for replanting. Miscanthus is so efficient due to it being a perennial crop with no fertiliser requirement. It can yield up to 20t/ha of dry biomass and can grow almost anywhere in the world, making it the most efficient, sustainable and scalable biomass feedstock in the world.

The Miscanthus crop has a two-year maturity period meaning farmers would, initially, be out-of-pocket. To combat this Bluestone have managed to secure a finance product with deferred payments for the first 12 months, and the repayments spread over a further 6 years in line with the farmers return. This enables the farmers to make the initial investment and then gain access to the lucrative returns down the line; spreading the initial outlay over a seven year period.

With the farmer’s crop being backed by a fixed term contract with the power station they’ll be supplying, there is comfort form the funder that they’ll be able to make their returns even with the 12 month payment deferral.

“Bluestone are committed to support environmental developments and have championed green energy for over 5 years. Our finance solutions continue to support businesses in making the change to become greener quicker, and this latest development is our next step in supporting the UK’s commitment to meeting it’s environmental targets.”

Vineesh Madaan, Managing Director of Bluestone

For more information on our Miscanthus Bio-crop finance product please contact a member of the team on 01924 248800 or info@bluestoneleasing.com.

Creative Finance 4: Invest in Employee Wellbeing

DISCLAIMER: Yes, this is a lengthy article, but it’s a big topic, and one that we hope you will agree deserves at least a few minutes of your time.

Would you rather have a reliable, happy, healthy and motivated team of individuals who feel like a valued part of your brand, or a group of disengaged, stressed, and unhappy people who just so happen to work for you for the time being? Surely, it’s a no-brainer.

Employees are simultaneously the frontline and the driving force behind your organisation, and their mental health and emotional wellbeing should be as important to you as their physical health.  Unfortunately, recent statistics show that 1 in 6.8 people experience mental health problems in the workplace. Not only that, 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions.

“Poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion each year. But for every £1 spent by employers on mental health interventions, they get back £5 in reduced absence, presenteeism, and staff turnover.”

Deloitte, 2020

In this chapter of our Creative Finance series we explore the many reasons to invest in employee wellbeing, as well as some tips and ideas that might inspire you to get started today (and not a bean bag or pool table in sight).

Why Invest in the Wellbeing of Your Employees

Retain your experienced and skilled staff

Unhappy, stressed and/or disengaged employees are more likely to leave for another job, taking their skills and experience with them, leaving you to spend time and money recruiting and training new employees. This is not only a financial drain, but may also affect your quality of service during the transition.

Prevent absenteeism

According to Mind, employees take an average of 7 days off work each year for health reasons. It is estimated that mental health issues are responsible for at least 40% of this figure. In 90% of cases, employees do not feel able to be honest about why they are taking time off.

Prevent presenteeism

Employees who come to work but are not able to perform well because of mental health issues cost the UK economy around £15.1 billion, or £605 per employee, each year (CIPD/Mind, 2011).

Show your commitment to corporate social responsibility

Businesses have a corporate social responsibility to be conscious of the impact they have on all aspects of society, including economic, social, and environmental. Your company should operate in ways that enhance society and the environment, not damage them.

Create a more engaged and motivated team

The number of employee grievances (problems, complaints, concerns) being raised with employers is rising, and 60% of employees say they’d feel more motivated if their employer took action to support mental health and wellbeing.

Increase employee loyalty

When employees feel valued and supported, their loyalty to their employer increases leading to a more productive and positive approach. This has a direct impact on a business’ performance from revenue to the quality of their customer service. It can also make it more likely that they will become a brand ambassador for your business even they’re when not on the clock.

Protect your business from legal action

When a mental health issues affects a person’s ability to perform their job, they are considered to have a protected disability under the Equality Act 2010. This means that employers have a legal duty not to discriminate against employees with mental health issues and also to make reasonable adjustments for staff in the workplace.

How to Invest in the Wellbeing of Your Employees

Whether you are coming at the issue from a humane angle to help people, a commercial desire to improve or protect your brand’s public image, or you are concerned about the cold hard numbers, it clearly makes sense to look after your employees and their mental health.

How can business leaders and managers make their employees’ wellbeing a priority?

Changing the culture

Educate yourself

Organise some training for leaders, managers and employees on mental health in the workplace. Make the effort to learn more about the most common mental health issues associated with work (such as depression, stress, and anxiety), how they affect people, and that they are not signs of weakness.  

Struggling with mental health does not just mean feeling sad from time to time. Having said that, it can be an intermittent problem (pointing out that people “seemed happy” yesterday or last week is relevant), and individuals may have different coping strategies. Mental health issues can affect anyone and will manifest in very different ways, including physical symptoms.

Don’t force it

Being a responsible employer does not mean forcing your employees to discuss their personal lives or asking potentially invasive or discriminatory questions. The key is to create an environment where employees feel able to share if they want to, and are supported if they do.

Work on your culture

This won’t change overnight, but it is important that leaders set an example of openness and understanding about mental health, and that they do not encourage unhealthy working habits. Stress and exhaustion should not be held up as a sign of dedication or success. There should be no stigma around taking time for mental health issues just as there would be no stigma around taking time off for physical illness or injury.

Don’t praise (or incentivise) unhealthy work habits like working late or never taking holiday, and encourage people to take their full entitlement for a lunch break or annual leave.

Be more social

Make time in the working day for your employees to socialise with each other and build deeper connections. This can range from showing an interest in the personal lives of your employees and encouraging them to be social and open, to organising social events and activities (either in-person or online). Be sure to have regular one-on-one meetings with employees where they can bring up worries or concerns. This is particularly important for employees who work remotely or are isolated in their work.

However, bear in mind that not everyone in your team will feel comfortable taking part in all types of activity, e.g., they may not wish to go out drinking or take part in physical challenges. Saving all your team’s social interaction for one or two nights per year which revolve around alcohol will not do much to deepen relationships between your team members, and some employees may have personal commitments that mean they cannot make it to events outside of work hours.

A variety of smaller activities conducted on a regular basis often work best. Possible ideas include lunch dates, quizzes, competitions, charity fundraising projects, bake sales, board games, etc.

Offer some flexibility

If the business’ setup and their role allows, consider more flexible working arrangements. Flexible working policies help employees balance family commitments and their work schedule. While it may not work for all workplaces, more and more are inviting their employees to bring their well-behaved dogs to work occasionally which can bring a surprising lift to the atmosphere.

Changing the work environment

A complete interiors fitout project could transform a dull and cramped space into a light, energised, and modern space where people can work, collaborate and communicate with their colleagues more effectively and more comfortably. UK Coaching made the decision to move to a newly refurbished office space as the COVID-19 lockdown eased in 2021.

“It was important for us to create a ‘sense of place’ and improve the wellbeing of our team, and a workplace that assists in the attraction and retention of talent and makes us stand out from the competition. We needed to provide flexibility for staff to work individually, collaboratively, and innovatively, but also provide privacy when needed.”

Neil Ashton, COO UK Coaching

Click to read more about UK Coaching’s new offices.

Ergonomic furniture

Standing desks and ergonomic chairs for the office and/or home working can enable employees to adjust their work position to their preference depending on the time of day or task. This can have a positive impact on their physical health, preventing long-term injury, as well as their mental health.

New technology

Using outdated, inefficient and unreliable machinery and technology is frustrating, stressful, and can have a big impact on a person’s level of job satisfaction. Investing in newer technology can make the lives of your employees much easier and improve their quality of work.

Lighting, noise, heating and air conditioning

Think about how it feels to be in your offices. What do your employees hear? What can they see? Is there adequate natural light? Are they often too hot or too cold? Is there a lot of noise pollution from outside? It may be time to invest in a new HVAC system, insulation for the windows, or new LED lighting.

Make space for down time

Try to ensure that your employees have comfortable space where they can enjoy their breaks and socialise with colleagues for more than a couple of minutes by the water cooler. If your premises are not big enough for this, consider increasing the length of employee breaks so they have time to go further afield and get a real change of scenery away from their desks.

Create dedicated wellbeing spaces

If an employee is feeling stressed, worried, could do with a breather, or wants to talk privately, where can they go to be alone? One of our partner companies, Thirdspace Solutions, has developed wellbeing pods which can be installed in offices as solo relaxation spaces or small private meeting areas.

Exercise equipment

More and more companies are investing in gym equipment for the office, or they are subsidising gym memberships to encourage their employees to take care of their physical and mental health. Studies have found that physical exercise can help to alleviate symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression, and can boost energy levels for several hours afterwards. Some companies also invest in gym equipment for their home-based employees to use like dumbbells treadmill desks, bike desks, or under-desk ellipticals.

Make home working easier

Employees who work from should be treated exactly the same as employees in your offices. This means investing in the same desks, chairs, technology, and software to make their work as enjoyable and productive as possible.

Your workplace and the individuals that make up your team are unique, so of course there is no silver-bullet solution to improved wellbeing and mental health in the workplace. What you can do as a responsible employer is make it clear that you want to work with them to make improvements and that mental health issues are as valid as any physical health problem.

From improving engagement, productivity, and increased revenue to feeling that you have done the right thing for your employees, you will see a return on your investment in more ways than one.

Funding options for your wellbeing project

If you want to make improvements to your workplace and/or invest in new technology or furniture to improve your employees’ working environment, we can help you to fund it in a cost-effective and tax-efficient way.

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Introducing Bluestone: Patrick Iyoyin

Regional Account Manager, Greater Manchester

“Every project is an opportunity to learn something new. I particularly enjoy the complicated projects, when clients come to me wanting to make a project happen but not sure how to proceed, or if it can even be done. I can then take on the hard work and research to work out the most beneficial finance solution, saving them time, money, and hassle.”

Patrick is our Regional Account Manager for the Greater Manchester region having been with Bluestone Leasing since 2016. Patrick helps his customers and partners to finance a wide range of projects including office fitouts, IT, green energy, and plant and machinery. Having said that, he loves nothing more than meeting a new client wanting to fund a project he has never dealt with before.

The world of work

Patrick’s approach to life and work is influenced by the concept of the Growth Mindset, a theory studied by American psychologist, Carol Dweck.

“This theory has shaped so much of my life. We can learn and develop in every area through persistence and help from others. Ultimately, we are all in control of outcomes and can improve through incremental steps.”

After attending the University of Leeds, Patrick officially began his career in sales with an internship at a car rental company.

“I have worked in sales all my life. I really enjoy talking to people and have learnt that sales is not about forcing my agenda on anyone – it is about finding out what they need, seeing if I can be of service to them, and adding value.”

Bluestone and the future

Patrick’s continued pursuit of self-improvement and development led him to his career at Bluestone Leasing where he has been given “the support, training, and confidence” to finance even the most complex projects and unique clients.

Alongside his years of experience in finance, Patrick has achieved a Professional Diploma in Asset Finance from the London School of Business. In addition, he sits on the Board of Trustees for a local charity, which enables him to further understand the top-level decision-making process of an organisation.

To find out how Patrick could help your business grow with a bespoke finance solution, get in touch today at patrick.iyoyin@bluestoneleasing.com.

Got 99 Problems? Make Sure Cashflow Isn’t One

Mr Jay Z probably does not have cashflow problems, but for small, medium, and large businesses in every sector, cashflow problems are a common frustration. Of course, cashflow problems are not just a nuisance, they can be the difference between growth and stagnation, or the success and failure of a business.

If you are not on top of your cashflow, you might find yourself in a situation where you do not have the money you need to continue running your business. Poor bookkeeping, inaccurate sales forecasting, and neglecting to monitor your finances are quick routes to financial problems, but assuming that you are on top of all that, here are the most common causes of cashflow problems and how you can prevent and/or solve them.

Problem: Inadequate cash reserves

Cash flow is the term for all of the money coming into and going out of your business, also known as the culmination of accounts receivable and accounts payable. It’s not about sales or revenue, it’s the actual, cash that is available to your business.

Most businesses try to fly too close to the wind by failing to keep enough cash in reserve, and some will not have any cash at all. This is fine if everything goes to plan and there are no unexpected emergencies, but if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that no one can predict the future. Having a good amount of cash in the bank will give you a buffer against quiet periods or emergency situations.

While it is the most common cause of cashflow problems, it is also the simplest to solve if you have the discipline and a smart financial strategy. To prevent this kind of cashflow problem, make a budget for your current and forecasted expenses for a 3 month period. Start putting some of your revenue into a savings account on a regular basis, until you have at least that amount in reserve. Reserve funds are particularly important for businesses that experience seasonal fluctuations in their sales.

For businesses that are in need of greater liquidity sooner rather than later, a more creative approach might be needed…

The Coronavirus Asset Unlock Scheme

If your business used cash to invest in new assets in the last 24 months, you could unlock the cash tied up in those assets with our Coronavirus Asset Unlock Scheme, or CAUSe. CAUSe is for UK businesses that outlaid cash to buy assets such as furniture, technology, or plant machinery in the last 24 months, i.e., before or during the pandemic.

By financing the assets retrospectively, CAUSe releases cash that businesses can use to improve their financial liquidity, recover from the impact of the pandemic, and get back on the path to growth. The cost of the assets is then spread via fixed payments that are easier to budget for.

Click here to apply or request more information about unlocking cash for your business with CAUSe.

Asset finance

Before you part with cash to invest in new assets such as machinery, furniture, an office fitout, or technology, be sure to explore asset finance as an option. Financing assets enables businesses to keep hold of their cash, spread affordable fixed payments over time, and possibly unlock significant tax benefits

Problem: Slow-paying invoices

Slow-paying invoices are another common cause of cashflow problems. Businesses that have to offer their customers 30-day to 60-day payment terms face a long wait to be paid for their services. Many businesses, however, simply cannot afford to wait that long or find that they are always delaying investments and growth.

A simple tactic is to give customers an incentive for faster payments, e.g., by applying a discount if they pay within 10 days of receiving their invoice. To make this work it is important to negotiate this with your customers ahead of time.

Invoice finance

Alternatively, you could turn to an invoice financing arrangement with a lender. Invoice finance helps business owners leverage their unpaid invoices, giving them an instant cash injection into the business as the lender will release up to 90% of a business’s invoices straight away. When the business’ customer pays the invoice, the lender releases the remaining 10% to the business minus their fees.

A note about bad debt: Some businesses might struggle with cashflow because clients do not pay for products or services. To reduce the likelihood of this occurring, it is good practice to only do business with clients who have a solid payment track record with your company and to insist on prior payments from new clients you are concerned about.

Problem: Too much debt

It is normal and healthy for a business to have some level of debt, but when this debt spirals out of control and your hands are tied by high repayments, it is time to reassess your situation. Businesses that are struggling with high debt levels or several separate loan repayments might consider refinancing the loan to lower the payments (e.g., extending the agreement or reducing the interest rate), or consolidating their situation with a commercial loan.

Commercial loans

A commercial loan can help businesses to consolidate their debt. The loan would be given over an agreed term and would be on either a secured or unsecured basis. The funder provides the business with the cash and in return the company makes regular repayments to cover the loan and any interest.

Secured loans would typically be against a range of assets such as property, plant and machinery, vehicles or even stock. Unsecured loans will not have such physical security but will often require personal guarantees where good personal net worth and UK home ownership are key.

Boosting your cashflow with bespoke financial solutions

At Bluestone Leasing, we are an award-winning team of service-focused finance professionals dedicated to our business customers and channel partners. We are specialists in creating bespoke funding solutions that deliver tax efficient growth, often including more than one finance product.

Click here to get in touch and find out how we can help your business to move forward with a bespoke finance solution.

Please note: This article is intended as informational rather than advisory, as it is important that you seek financial advice that is tailored to your business and sector.

Boost Your Cashflow with Bluestone’s Coronavirus Asset Unlock Scheme (CAUSe)

Has your business used cash to invest in new assets in the last 24 months, such as new furniture for your office or home workers, new technology to enable remote working and improve collaboration, or new machinery to boost productivity?

If so, you could unlock the cash tied up in those assets with our new Coronavirus Asset Unlock Scheme, or CAUSe.

What is Bluestone’s CAUSe?

Bluestone Leasing’s CAUSe is a new finance product for UK businesses that outlaid cash to buy assets such as furniture, technology, or plant machinery in the last 24 months, i.e., before or during the pandemic.

By financing the assets retrospectively, CAUSe releases cash that businesses can use to improve their financial liquidity, recover from the impact of the pandemic, and get back on the path to growth. The cost of the assets is then spread via fixed payments that are easier to budget for.

Click here to apply or request more information about unlocking cash for your business with CAUSe.

Why is the Bluestone CAUSe needed?

We are launching the CAUSe ‘for a good cause’, i.e., to help get the UK economy back on track by enabling UK businesses to unlock cash for growth.

In 2019, UK businesses were operating as ‘normal’ and, unfortunately, without a crystal ball. They were taking cash from the business to buy new assets, they were hiring new staff, investing in growth, and looking forward to the future. They had no idea that in March 2020, the world as we knew it would grind to a halt and that businesses would have to transform their working practices or stop trading altogether. What followed was one of the toughest periods in economic history.

In addition to coping with significantly reduced income, some businesses parted with even more cash to buy new equipment, furniture or technology to make their operation COVID-compliant. The government’s Covid Business Interruption Loans (CBILs) and Bounce Back Loans have been helpful, but the subsequent Recovery Loan Scheme has not had much uptake.

“We speak with UK businesses every day about their finances, so we know that despite the government’s support schemes, many are still struggling with cashflow as a result of the pandemic. We wanted to do more, so we have developed a retrospective finance product, CAUSe, to enable businesses to access the cash locked away in their assets.”

Mark Hargreaves, Finance Director, Bluestone Leasing

How could the Bluestone CAUSe help your business?

If you took cash from your business to buy assets in the last 24 months, CAUSe can help you to get that cash back by retrospectively financing the assets.

  • The released cash can be deployed elsewhere in the business or kept to boost cash reserves.
  • Financing the assets enables you to spread the cost of the assets over 12 to 36 months.
  • The fixed, affordable payments will be easier to budget for.
  • Depending on your business’ financial situation and the terms of the finance agreement, CAUSe can also unlock significant tax savings.
  • You receive the cash within 24 hours of the paperwork being completed.

Which assets are eligible for CAUSe?

The CAUSe can release cash from a wide range of business assets including, but not limited to, technology, plant machinery, and furniture. The assets need to be valued between £1,000 to £125,000 to be eligible for refinancing under CAUSe and must be located on the business’ premises or in an employee’s home.

Note: Vehicles are not eligible for CAUSe.

How to apply for the CAUSe

Any UK businesses interested in unlocking cash through the CAUSe should click here to complete the enquiry form.

We will then be in touch to talk you through the scheme in more detail, explore your financial challenges, and to make sure CAUSe would be the right solution for your business.

“CAUSe has the potential to be a gamechanger for many UK business. For us, a finance arrangement is only a success if it is a win-win for us and our customer. The more businesses that we help not only to recover but to thrive, the stronger the UK economy will become.”

Vineesh Madaan, Managing Director, Bluestone Leasing

Introducing Bluestone: Mark Johnston

Key Account Manager for Reprographics and Renewable Technology

Mark is one of our key account managers and, having worked in the leasing and finance sector since 1994 and with Bluestone since 2010, one of the most experienced members of the team. Mark can arrange finance for any asset, but most of his experience lies in technology, reprographics, telecoms, security, and green energy.

“I think our partners and customers continue to work with us because of our honest and transparent approach, and our commitment to quick and open communication. Suppliers expect to be kept informed and updated to ensure transactions are processed with the minimum fuss. As a business, we go the extra mile and don’t hide away from challenging deals.”

The early days

Mark grew up in Wilmslow in Cheshire where he “played out until you got hungry”. He has fond childhood memories of riding and practising stunts on his BMX bike, building rope swings across the local brook, and generally doing his best to break a bone.

“I liked being outside, exploring as much as I could, and playing out with friends until it was dark, but I would say the most important lesson from my childhood is if you fall over to pick yourself up and keep going.”

Initially, Mark had an interest in becoming a draughtsman, but although first steps into the world of work took him into an apprenticeship at an engineering company, Mark’s first full-time job was in a bank. This was followed by a move into finance in 1997. He has been working in the finance industry ever since, and as a finance broker since 2002.

Working in finance

“The asset finance market changed a lot during the early years of the recession, and in 2010 an opportunity came up to work for Bluestone, a business that was growing strongly and, unlike many other intermediaries, not a lifestyle business. It’s like a family here – everyone consciously wants to do well and play their part and I think this comes across to our partners and customers who often praise us for “going the extra-mile”.

“I like the way that Bluestone approaches finance. I am left to work in my own way and build relationships with clients that work for both parties. The company provides a great deal of support for employees, partners and customers, and that simultaneously motivates the team and ensures our clients return to us again and again.”

Looking to the future

“The best part of working in finance is the variety of people and businesses that I meet. I feel like I make a big difference and add value, and I still enjoy the buzz of being able to secure funding where no one else can – especially if I’m working to a deadline.”

In his free time Mark enjoys cycling, although he is not a fan of large groups of cyclists in Lycra that dominate the width of the roads! When he has the time, he loves exploring the stunning landscapes and experiencing the culture of Italy, and although he has a fear of heights, he hopes to one day overcome it and try paragliding.

“I would like to be remembered as a good and honest person who did not take things too seriously. I have brought two children up who I am very proud of, and I hope I will leave a good legacy through them.”

If you would like to speak to Mark about your business and how a bespoke finance solution could help you to move forward, get in touch at mark.johnston@bluestoneleasing.com

Creative Finance 3: Making the Switch to Electric Vehicles

Does your business have a fleet of vehicles and/or provide company cars for staff? Do those vehicles run on petrol? Are you interested in reducing your taxes and saving money on running costs? Would you like to do your bit in the fight against climate change?

If the answers to those questions are yes, yes, hell yes, and that would be nice, switching to electric vehicles could be the best decision you make this year.

Why go electric?

Before we get into the financial benefits of going electric, we need to talk about the environmental and legal implications of NOT doing so.

To fight climate change

We are sure you’ve heard that electric vehicles are ‘better’ for the planet, but in case you’ve been busy, here are the basics.

Cars that run on fossil fuels like petrol and diesel emit carbon from their exhaust, a major greenhouse gas that is causing our planet’s climate to change, as well as air pollutants like sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) – all of which all harmful to our health. The combustion engines in petrol and diesel cars are also responsible for a lot of noise pollution.

EVs run on batteries rather than fossil fuels which means they don’t emit vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the air from their tailpipes (a major cause of climate change). They are also much quieter when running which helps to reduce the noise pollution on our roads.

It is important to mention that the current manufacturing process for electric vehicles uses many of the same processes and produces as much carbon as that of a regular car. This is due to the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries (the nickel and cobalt has to mined and transported) which is responsible for more than a third of an electric vehicle’s lifecycle carbon emissions. However, these emissions are balanced out later in the electric vehicle’s lifecycle.

To futureproof your business

The UK government has a target for all new cars and vans sold in the UK to be electric by 2030, and cities are beginning implementing Clean Air Zones; vehicles exceeding emissions standards will have to pay to travel through a Clean Air Zone. Bath and Birmingham have already established Clean Air Zones, with many more set to follow suit in 2021 and 2022.

Making the switch to electric vehicles (which produce zero tailpipe emissions) sooner rather than later will put you ahead of any future legislation and penalties that might be introduced.

To save money

Electric vehicles can save your business a significant amount of money because…

Electric vehicles are cheaper to run

Fuel is typically the second biggest vehicle-related cost for businesses and can account for as much as 25%-30% of fleet expenditure. Fuelling an electric car can cost up to 90% less than fuelling a traditional car as you can fuel an electric car from just 2p per mile. This is much cheaper than the 10-12p per mile it costs to fuel a petrol or diesel car.

Electric vehicles are exempt from first year road tax

Vehicle road tax is based on carbon dioxide emissions, and as fully electric cars do not produce emissions, they are exempt from first year road tax. Some plug-in hybrid electric cars with CO2 emissions less than 100 g/km, may need to pay anything from £0-£135 per year depending on the levels of CO2 emissions.

Electric vehicles can unlock other tax benefits

Drivers of fully electric company vehicles incur a Benefit In Kind tax of 0% in 2020/21, rising to 1% in 2021-22 and 2% in 2022-23. As an example, take the new e-Golf and compare this to the Golf GT Petrol 1.5:

Vehicle 2020 – 20212021 – 20222022 – 2023
e-Golf (BIK per year)£0.00£55.20£110.30
Golf GT Petrol 1.5 (BIK per year)£1,392£1,392£1,392

Vehicles with emissions of less than 50g/km are also eligible for 100% first year capital allowances. This means with electric cars, you can deduct the full cost from your pre-tax profits. On a car costing around £40,000 this could amount to a tax relief of £7,600 in the first year.

Electric vehicles are cheaper to maintain

Electric vehicle engines have just three main components – the on-board charger, inverter and motor – and far fewer moving parts. This means that Service, maintenance and repair (SMR) costs for plug-in vehicles can be significantly lower than internal combustion engine counterparts.

Electric vehicles are exempt from congestion charges

If your vehicles are travelling in areas where Clean Air Zones exist or are about to be introduced, then this also adds to the tax savings of electric driving over the year. The current congestion tax in London costs £11.50 per day per vehicle between 07:00 and 18:00, Monday to Friday.

Charging Electric Vehicles

On the road

One of the most common concerns that people have about electric vehicles is that they will run out of charge quickly and are therefore only suitable for short journeys. While this was true in the past, most electric vehicles on the market can deliver over 100 miles of range on a single charge, and many newer models can deliver over 200 miles. And, with the UK’s network of public electric vehicle charging points expanding all the time, longer trips can be managed easily with a little planning.

The cost of charging an electric vehicle at a public charge point will vary depending on how fast the charging takes place. Rapid charging will cost more but can recharge a car up to 80% capacity in 20 to 40 minutes.

On average, charging at a public charge point will cost between 14-30p per kW.

Charging at the workplace

If investing in a fleet of electric vehicles, it obviously makes sense to also invest in charging points for your business premises. The cost of charging will then be dictated by your electricity tariff, but could be significantly reduced if you also install a solar energy generation and storage system. We won’t go into the details now – that’s content for another chapter!

Workplace Charging Scheme (WCS) grant

The Workplace Charging Scheme, or WCS, offers financial support towards the up-front costs of buying and installing electric car chargers for many businesses. It’s a voucher-based scheme which can cover up to 75% of the cost of buying and installing electric car chargers, up to a maximum of £350 for each socket (up to a maximum of 40 sockets). You need to be the owner of the property where the charger will be installed, or have the landlord’s consent to do so, and you’ll need dedicated off-street parking.

How much do electric vehicles cost?

The average electric vehicle is priced between £25,000 to £30,000.

The government offer a Plug-in Car grant that provides a discount of up to £2,500 for eligible cars and up to £6,000 for eligible vans. Grants are also available for motorcycles, mopeds, taxis, and trucks (up to £16,000). However, the Plug-in Car Grant is given to the manufacturers and dealerships selling the vehicles, so that the discount will already have been applied when you are presented with the purchase price.

So how will you fund your business’ electric revolution? Paying in cash is an option, but it often makes more financial sense to lease vehicles. This not only prevents you from sinking cash into assets that are only going to depreciate in value, but also enables you to spread the cost over time, keep cash in your business, and possibly unlock significant tax benefits.

If you are interested leasing electric vehicles for your business, get in touch with our vehicles finance specialist, Rochelle, at rochelle.wilson@bluestonevehicles.com.

Introducing Bluestone: Ben Howe

Key Account Manager for Technology Partners & Clients

Ben Howe travels all over the UK supporting businesses in the technology sector that want to offer finance as a payment option to their customers, or make use of finance for their own growth. It’s a varied and busy role, but if we have to sum up Ben’s approach in just a few words, we’d describe him as committed, hardworking, curious, and kind.

“When a partner trusts me enough to ask me to train their staff, speak directly to their customers, recommend me to their contacts, and keep coming back to me for finance no matter what the project, I know I’m doing a good job.”

Where it all began

Ben was born and raised in a small village outside Sheffield called Oughtibridge, and since childhood he has had one consistent passion.

“I have lived and breathed football for as long as I can remember. My earliest memory is going to watch my first Sheffield Wednesday match when I was 6 years old. I can still remember the journey, the noises, and the smells.”

For a long time young Ben was convinced he would play professionally for Sheffield Wednesday when he grew up. Later in his school career, however, he developed other interests alongside his commitment to the beautiful game, including skills in design and technology, and a determination to make his own way in the world. 

The world of work

Ben started his working life with no less than 3 after school and weekend paper rounds (one of which paid him just 2p per paper). While studying for his A levels at college, Ben spent most evenings working in a high street clothing store, but when the time came to choose between further study or earning a living, Ben knew what he wanted to do.

“I had been accepted to my first choice university and had the grades I needed, but as I held my A level results in my hand I decided that spending more time in education was not for me. I cancelled my university application and got out into the world as soon as I could.”

Ben did not give himself an easy introduction to the world of work, however, as his first jobs were in direct marketing, selling gas and electricity door to door, selling at events, and selling insurance.

“Those roles taught me a lot – including how to deal with rejection – but I was often working on a commission only basis. I left to train as an electrician with the idea that I could run my own business, but unfortunately the recession hit around the same time that I qualified, so I moved back into what I knew best: sales.”

Working at Bluestone

Ben has been working in the technology sales and the finance sector since 2015, joining the Bluestone Leasing team in early 2018.

“Bluestone offered me the opportunity to develop my skills more than any other employer I’ve had before. The team I work with are knowledgeable and approachable, and they’ve really invested in me and my career.”

One of the best parts of the job, Ben says, is that he has been able to visit almost every major city in the UK in his efforts to meet with new and existing partners as much as possible.

“Most of the time, my car is my office as I am travelling up and down the UK to support our partners. No two days are the same. One day I might be at a factory walking round with a hard hat, and the next I could be in a large corporate office training a sales team or meeting a client in a coffee shop.”

What does the future hold for Ben?

When not playing football, training young football players, or watching Sheffield Wednesday matches, Ben tries to travel as much as he can.

“I love to explore the places that tourists rarely go, meeting local people and seeing the ‘real’ parts of a country. Next on my list is a multi-city trip across America either on a plane or by driving Route 66.”

In his free time Ben also likes to take long walks through the countryside (especially when it ends with a roast dinner in a country pub). When it comes to his work, Ben is never happier than when he is out on the road and meeting new people, and his approach to his work is much like his approach to life:

“We should always treat others how we would wish to be treated; there is never any need to talk down to someone. This is particularly important in the finance sector as everyone has to start at the beginning whether they are considering finance for themselves or their customers. Never be too proud to ask a question.”

Interested in how bespoke finance solutions could help your IT or technology business to grow? Get in touch at ben.howe@bluestoneleasing.com today.

Planning an Office Transformation? Here’s What You Need to Know

Our surroundings have a big impact on the way we feel and behave. When we are at ease, safe, and energised, we are better thinkers and communicators, and more connected to the world and the people around us. It makes sense, therefore, that the work environment that we provide has a direct impact on our team’s motivation, productivity, and staff retention, not to mention the impact that great workplace design can have on a brand’s image.

If your workplace is looking unprofessional, old-fashioned, tired, hinders your productivity, or simply does not suit the organisation you have become, it could be time to invest in a workplace transformation. But what would such a project involve?

The AMH team at work

One of our commercial design and build partners, AMH, specialise in workplace design, refurbishment, office fit-out and furniture for clients based all over the UK. Whatever your commercial design project, AMH can help.

With so much knowledge and experience behind them, they seemed like the perfect people to ask about the evolution and future of the modern ‘human centred’ workspace, what’s involved in a workspace refurb project, and what organisations need to consider before embarking on their own workspace transformation.

How important is it to have the right workspace?

Having the right workspace is integral for a business. People often think of well-designed offices as being “cool” or “trendy”, or with unusual design features such as ball-pits and slides. In reality, a well-designed office will enable staff to be more productive and engaged in their work. It will support and celebrate a business’ brand and culture. It can promote and encourage improving one’s wellbeing and allows for strong relationships to be built by the team members who occupy it.

How can the right workspace achieve these things?

Providing the right functionality of a workspace is key to achieving all the aforementioned benefits, and this has to be driven by detailed research and analysis of those who use the space. The ‘perfect’ office will be different for each company, as designs must be bespoke to cater for a business’ specific needs. Fundamentality you need to provide spaces which support team members to complete their various job responsibilities to the best of their ability.

The ‘human centred design’ approach is needed to recognise the physical, mental and emotional needs that people have too. Satisfying both professional and personal requirements of a business and its people are key to a workspace adding value. 

What does the AMH design team need to understand about an organisation to be able to create a proposal?

We’re extremely thorough when it comes to taking a brief and understanding the organisations that we support. As an overview there are 4 key themes which we really need to discuss, and that businesses should be considering if they are planning a design and fit-out project. They are:

  • People and culture; this considers employee engagement, happiness, productivity, and retention rates, and also the company’s identity and purpose.
  • A supportive workspace; this relates to designing a workspace around the people and their specific functions, and creating a positive working environment where individuals and organisations can thrive.
  • Look and feel; this refers to the look and feel of your workspace which will be experienced from the moment you or a visitor walk through the doors. More than just cushions and colours, it’s about how a space makes you feel.
  • Budget and timescales; this looks into the need to have some idea of the desired budget spend so that we can work with an organisation to achieve this and highlight any areas where additional / less spend will be beneficial. Similarly establishing clear timescales are also important.

What types of space work best for collaboration?

The best types of spaces for team members to collaborate will be based on how they work and what functionality suits them best. There’s definitely a shift (in the right direction) of recognising the need to enable and support more collaboration within the workspace, especially as that seems to be one of the main reasons why many people will choose to come into the office opposed to completing their tasks at home. Once again, it’s about listening clearly to what people need to allow them to work in a happier and more efficient way, and then designing a space which is fit for purpose.

How long does a typical workspace refurb take?

Timeframes can vary hugely depending on a number of factors; size of project, whether work is being undertaken whilst the premises is un-occupied, the level of mechanical and engineering work needed, furniture lead times and so on. It is always highly advisable to plan way ahead of time. The more time you allow yourself for a project means the process runs as smooth as possible. Initial conversations can sometimes be 6-12 months prior, but this guarantees that decisions aren’t being made with the pressure of pending deadlines.

Before and after a refurb

What do you think workspaces of the future will look like?

The workspaces of the future will hopefully resemble workspaces that have been well-designed in the past, i.e. they will be workspaces that cater for the needs of the people who occupy them. They will have the right technology and infrastructure to allow for the most efficient work possible.

They will be workspaces that recognise that feelings and emotions and moods are affected by the environment and amenities. They’ll be workspaces which have capacity to accommodate change and flexibility.  

Well-designed offices aren’t anything new, or a post-COVID reaction, it’s businesses’ attitudes to the employee experience which have evolved.

How much will a workspace transformation cost?

There are a variety of elements that affect the cost of a project, so each budget will be specific to each business. Cost saving solutions can be implemented into the design, and this demonstrates the need for a really clear design brief as it identifies priority areas when it comes to the budget. Following similar advice as the timeframes of a project, the best guidance is to establish how you will be financing the project at the earliest opportunity. Exploring finance solutions can be a very effective way to spread costs, as well as understanding what contributions can be obtained by landlords, and using commercial agents to help you negotiate the best rates should you be moving into a new premises.

Paying for your office transformation

While paying for your interiors project upfront in cash is certainly an option, an increasing number of organisations are choosing to use asset finance to spread the cost over time. Why? Because they unlock many if not all of the following benefits.

  • POTENTIAL TAX SAVINGS: Paying for a commercial fit-out via a finance lease can mean that the costs are 100% tax deductible.
  • KEEP MORE CASH IN THE BUSINESS: Spreading the cost over time means you can keep hold of your cash which provides greater financial security and enables you to invest in further growth.
  • FIXED AFFORDABLE PAYMENTS: Affordable and fixed payments including VAT costs throughout the term of the agreement make it easy to manage budgets and prevent nasty surprise costs, even if interest rates rise in the future.
  • TOTAL PROJECT FUNDING: Finance deals can be structured to include every part of the project from the construction, including labour, to the new furniture, technology, carpets, air conditioning, and even the paint.
  • GET THE WORKPLACE YOU NEED NOW: Using cash to pay for your commercial fit-out can mean that your plans are restricted by budget constraints leading to compromise. Spreading the cost via a finance lease enables you to get the workplace your business needs to thrive today.
  • REDUCED FINANCIAL RISK: A finance arrangement with a lender reduces your reliance on your bank, keeping lines of credit clear and spreading risk.
  • FUTUREPROOFED WORKSPACE: Rather than sinking cash into depreciating assets, when the furniture and technology has reached the end of its lifecycle, you can upgrade them via a new finance deal, avoiding large capital investments at a later date.

Cash vs Lease Comparison Based on a £100,000 Project

Paying in cash upfrontLeasing option
Repayments of £1,998.50
Paid over 60 months
Project cost£100,000Total repayable£119,910.00
Tax saving£11,955.94Tax saving£22,782.90
Cost after tax saving£88,044.06Cost after tax saving£97,127.10
Net Present Value£90,522.47 Net Present Value £79,617.34
NPV of opportunity cost£0.00 NPV of opportunity cost £42,061.76
Net capital cost£90,522.47Net lease cost£37,555.58
Opportunity cost = The return on capital of not utilising all cash upfront. Net Present Value = Discounted value taking into account timings of cash flows. Where applicable figures exclude VAT.

TOTAL SAVING MADE BY CHOOSING LEASING = £52,966.89

Customer assumptions: Corporation tax rate: 19% | Capital allowances: 18% | Discount rate: 10% | Return on capital employed: 15%

The best finance deals are those that are tailored to your business and project, and that is what we specialise in at Bluestone Leasing. If you are planning to invest in a workplace transformation and would like to spread the cost, keep cash in the business, and potentially unlock significant tax benefits, a bespoke finance solution could make that happen.

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