Workspace firm forced startups to pay rent

A workspace company has come under fire for allegedly ordering startups to pay thousands of pounds a month for offices they did not use during the COVID-19 lockdown. IWG is said to have rejected tenants’ requests for full payment holidays when the Government had ordered workers to stay at home. Boss Mark Dixon said all 306 of the shared workspace offices run by his Regus brand in the UK had remained open and that it was up to tenants if they did not use them. “It is more of an ‘I don’t want to commute’ story’,” he said. A number of startups and entrepreneurs have set up a crowdfunding campaign to fund a group litigation against IWG.

The Times

New Company Figures Surge After Lockdown!

A recent report in the Sunday Express highlighted that 75,000 new companies were formed in June this year up almost 25,000 on the same month in 2019. In just the first week of August, 21,000 new companies were formed.

The question is how many of these companies will survive? With the end of the furlough scheme getting closer and closer and more businesses making more and more people redundant, the new ‘entrepreneurs’ are likely to continue to rise for some time.

Even with the best professional advice there is no guarantee that your ‘business dream’ will be a success. However, with good advice from professional people who particularly have already walked that long road they are likely to give you an honest appraisal of your chance for success and especially whether you could be seriously risking your life savings or redundancy package on an ill-fated idea.

Conversely however, your chosen professional advisor with a proper business plan in place may not only agree you have the potential beginnings of a successful business but could also show you where cost savings could be made to stretch that initial investment in the critical start of your business.

A New Wave of Phishing Attacks

Cyber security has gone from being one of the biggest concerns in a business to THE biggest, and this is all down to phishing and social engineering.

Social engineering (phishing being a type of this), is nothing new.  Hackers have been using this technique for decades.  Why spend time and energy hacking into a corporate network, getting past firewalls and anti-virus when you can simple ask for someone’s username and password.  Ask enough people and you will get them….willingly.

This is where phishing comes in.  The hackers send you an email, asking you to click on a link to fill in a survey, enter a prize draw, get a free coffee, see a picture on Facebook or Instagram, report for jury service or confirm your bank account etc and they then just sit back and wait for someone to bite (hackers and cyber security people like to substitute “f” for “ph” and so “fishing” becomes “phishing”). 

They then use these details to access the network via a legitimate route and the firewall and anti-virus are none the wiser.  After all, that is what these routes are made for and so they are just doing their jobs.  The system just sees that this is happening via a known and authorised person.

It happens at home too, you get an email, enter your details and they use these to steal your identity, access your emails or bank account.

It is estimated that around 7% of the daily phishing attacks in the UK are successful and hackers are making millions of pounds a year.

Companies are seeing two of these phishing attacks happening more and more.  The first is getting an email from someone you know asking us to either send money to a new bank account or asking us to click a link for details on a new matter they would like us to work on.  They use the same language, salutation as they always have, they reference past conversations or ‘in jokes’ so you think it is legitimate.  The problem is that you are not conversing with your client/friend of x years.  The person’s email account has been accessed and the hackers have read back over past emails, gleaned everything they need to make their fraudulent email look genuine and simply sent one themselves.

Another type we are seeing is emails coming in that are simply enquiries for services or products from your company.  They contain no links to click or attachments to open and are written like any enquiry you receive hundreds of times a month.  You reply asking for details on what they would like and THEN you get the link sent to you.  They do this so you are lulled into a false sense of security as you think you are talking to a real human.  You click the link that might contain pertinent info and bam!  The network could be infected.  Alternatively, the link will ask you to ‘log in’ or ‘sign up’ to access the documents and the hackers have your info.

In the second of these examples, the firewall and anti-virus would definitely help us but it is not 100% effective.

The IT world of 2020 needs more than just software/hardware firewalls and anti-virus.  The first line of defence has to be us, the users.  IT professionals call us the ‘Human Firewall’. 

Phishing awareness training is the single best defence against phishing attacks and we have a number of solutions that educate users in a non intrusive but robust fashion.  We also have advanced email filtering solutions to stop the vast majority of emails even making it to your inboxes.

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Small firms offered subsidies by BT

Under a Small Business Support Scheme recently launched, BT is to offer small firms a subsidy of £2,500 to cover the cost of an ultrafast business connection.

Additionally, from October, 1,000 UK tech start-ups and entrepreneurs can apply for bursary which will give them free fibre broadband and mobile bundles. The telecoms giant has also pledged to pay its 4,500 smaller suppliers within days of being invoiced.

It comes after research by BT found that “connectivity, cashflow and confidence” were their biggest worries among small companies it counts as customers. The company will create a dedicated team to assist those who are struggling to pay their BT or EE bills.  Click the link HERE for full details:


The rise in start-ups during lockdown

 It probably comes as no surprise that data coming out of Companies House reports that nearly 200,000 start-ups have registered since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown. Between April and June the number had ballooned from just over 42,000 to more than 77,500 nearly an 85% increase. Taking population into account, Manchester had the largest number of start-ups.

These new ‘entrepreneurs’ are to be applauded but one can only hope that they have taken some solid advice from professionals who have seen it, done it and bought the T shirt as they say. It is an exciting time but can also be very stressful with many pitfalls when you are creating something with your own and often borrowed money from family and friends.

If you are going to ‘start up’ then make sure you ‘start right’ with good professional advice.


Business groups call for delay to minimum wage increase

Several influential business groups are calling for a delay in the next minimum wage increase in the UK to help companies rebuild their finances after lockdown. Tom Ironside of the British Retail Consortium said: “In recent years, retailers have worked hard to increase pay, with many going beyond the legal requirement. However, with many retailers struggling to maintain viability in the face of the continued crisis, it is not the right time to be adding even greater pressure to an industry that already operates on very fine margins.” The Institute of Directors is also considering pushing for a delay, and the Food and Drink Federation said that members were being polled on the issue. Matthew Fell of the Confederation of British Industry would not say if the organisation intended to lobby against an increase to the minimum wage. Alice Tranter of Make UK warned that if the minimum wage continued rising at its current rate, it would hit £11.03 by 2024 – equal to an annual salary of £21,221 for anyone older than 21.

Source: Daily Telegraph – 26.06.20

Business lobby calls for cut to National Insurance bill

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the Institute of Directors (IoD) and the British Chambers of Commerce have all called on the Treasury to make cuts to National Insurance bills in the mini-Budget next month. Jon Geldart, director general of the IoD, said: “While the Government may want to hold off pulling some economic levers until later in the year, directors have to make hiring and investment plans in advance. The Treasury should act now to ease the cost of employment and help firms keep people on board.” Mike Cherry, FSB’s national chairman, said: “Protecting jobs has to be a top priority.”

Source: The Mail on Sunday – 23.6.20

Executives back rates rethink

A survey carried out by BDO shows that 84% of executives believe that the business rates system should be overhauled, with the levy replaced by an online sales tax. The Times’ Callum Jones notes that the tax on commercial property, which pulls in £30bn a year, weighs heavier on town centre entities than those operating online or out of town. He also says the coronavirus crisis has intensified calls for a rethink of the tax, with physical stores hit by the lockdown which saw online shopping soar, boosting digital retailers. The Government has granted a year-long rates holiday so as to help businesses amid the pandemic but there are calls for a wider, more permanent reform of the system. Paul Falvey, tax partner at BDO, comments: “There is widespread consensus that digital companies should pay more tax, but the key will be how,” adding that the poll shows business leaders “deem it lo gical for digital companies to pay tax based on their online sales to help the economy to recover.”

Source: The Times – 23.6.20

Small firms need help with reopening, says FSB

The Federation of Small Businesses has written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for financial help with reopening for small firms as the coronavirus lockdown gradually lifts. Chairman Mike Cherry says: “The majority will face additional costs as they adjust. The government should step in with back to work vouchers so firms doing the right thing can recover this expenditure.” The group also warns that current social distancing rules make it impossible for 400,000 of Britain’s small businesses to reopen. Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Cherry explains how, with the right support, “small businesses can lead us out of this crisis.”

Source: The Daily Telegraph 

Banks told to prepare for rising debt levels

Financial Conduct Authority chair Charles Randell has raised concerns about rising levels of consumer and corporate debt as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Delivering a speech online to the UK’s bank bosses, he said they need to accelerate preparations for dealing with businesses unable to repay funds borrowed to help them survive. Over 860,000 UK businesses have taken out state-backed loans worth over £38bn under three emergency credit programmes. Mr Randell said that some of the debt incurred will turn out to be unaffordable and will need to be tackled fast to avoid dragging on recovery. “Lenders will need to scale their arrears-handling functions quickly, and invest in training and controls”, he advised, adding: “There needs to be an appropriate dispute resolution system, and we are working with the Financial Ombudsman Service and the Business Banking Resolution Service to ensure that there is capacity to deal with the volumes we may see.”

Source: The Financial Times – 19.06.20

The BoE ponders negative interest rates!

Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey has said negative interest rates are being considered to expand the Bank’s policy toolkit and stave off lasting damage from the coronavirus recession. The move is not imminent, rather Mr Bailey wished to stress the severity of the crisis. The Bank yesterday confirmed it will pump an extra £100bn into the economy. However, it said more recent indicators suggest the economy is starting to bounce back.

Source: The Times & The BBC – 17.06.20