Free staff holiday planner tracking template

There are various apps out there to help businesses track and plan holiday but I’ve found that for small companies they tend to be overblown and some still struggle where there are anomalies like part time workers.

I therefore developed a simple staff holiday planner tracking template in Google Docs that includes the following functionality:

  • Define your own values for standard amount of leave and your policy on rolling over holiday at the end of the year.
  • Simply scale for multiple employees by copying the template employee sheet.
  • Includes conditional formatting to allow you to spot issues at a glance

You can access the Google Docs staff planner template for free here.

Tax efficient ways to pay yourself: salary or dividends? Updated for 2016/17

Editors note: originally published 6 April 2012 and republished each year since as changes in tax law were announced.

A common and sensible question that small business owners trading through a limited company often ask is ‘how do I pay myself in the most tax efficient way’?

The answer to this question is refreshingly simple: use a mixture of salary and dividends.


Salary is the term used to describe money paid to you as an employee of the company. Money paid in this way must be taxed at source (i.e. by the company before it is passed to the employee). This scheme is called PAYE (Pay As You Earn) and ensures that companies deduct both income tax and national insurance from employees salaries and pay it directly to the tax man.

Pay £671 per month as salary

Optimising salary is mainly about National Insurance thresholds.  You need to pay enough salary to avoid gaps in your record but not so much that you start to incur National Insurance payments. In most cases you should pay yourself a small salary that falls just below the limit at which national insurance becomes payable. For the tax year 2016/17 this figure is £671 per month. Continue reading “Tax efficient ways to pay yourself: salary or dividends? Updated for 2016/17”

Save time by batch processing typical office tasks

Lots of productivity tips can be hard to implement. But this one really isn’t.

If you are looking for a way to increase the amount you get done without much pain then batch processing is the way forward.

Some productivity tips involve pushing through mental barriers or cultivating habits. These are important but also take time and effort. Batch processing is a simple concept that has saved me loads of time. Continue reading “Save time by batch processing typical office tasks”

The perils of premature scaling and how to avoid it

I’ve been learning important business lessons of late that are well captured by the concept of ‘premature scaling’. So I thought I’d share my experiences in case they help you avoid my mistakes.

The vanity of team size

The first mistake I made was to equate the size of our team with success of the business. It is from this root that many future issues stemmed.

I can see why I made this mistake. When people ask you about your business you assume they are sizing you up. Perhaps they are?  ‘Is this guy for real?’ they seem to wonder.

This is particularly the case in the world of website development because anyone can set up shop. So I drew satisfaction from telling people I was part of a ‘decent sized team’ (the team at White Fuse has been around or over the 10 people mark for the last couple of years). I was gratified by responses like ‘ooh that’s quite big’. ‘Yes’, I thought, ‘I have a team of ten people and therefore I have a substantial business’. Continue reading “The perils of premature scaling and how to avoid it”

My top 10 productivity & business podcasts

I love podcasts for a few reasons. I find that I learn a lot by exposing myself to different viewpoints. I can listen to them while being active, whether going to the gym or just walking. Most of all, I find they inspire me and catalyse my thinking.

My preferred podcast app is Pocket Casts because it is cross platform, i.e. I can sync across my Android phone and iPad and it allows you to set your preferred playback speed for each podcast. However, you can find all of these podcasts through Pocket Casts, iTunes or various other systems. Continue reading “My top 10 productivity & business podcasts”

Free employment contract template

I create legal documents based on two powerful principles:

  • plain english (anyone should be able to understand them), and
  • quick deployment (I separate key terms at the top so you can reliably bash out a new contract in minutes without having to revise any of the main body of the document).

This employment contract includes flexibility for, among other things:

  • different notice periods,
  • probation periods, and
  • part time working.

To get started you only have to add your company name in three places and your logo or name at the top. I hope this is useful and saves you as much time as it saves me and my companies.

Please let me know if you spot any issues in the comments so that I can update the template and make it even more useful for other readers!

Download the free employment contract template here (note it is in ODT format – I recommend you use Libre Office to open and manage this template).

How to write a good business plan

Writing a business plan can seem intimidating. You know you need one, but how do you get it right? The last thing you want to do is make a fool of yourself, right?!

The first key is to understand that a business plan is not a single fixed idea. A business plan will look very different depending on the nature of the business, the stage of the business and, crucially, the intended audience of the business plan. So relax, take it easy, and follow this step by step guide to preparing a the best business plan for your circumstances. Continue reading “How to write a good business plan”

5 easy productivity hacks for Gmail

I’m a firm believer in ‘inbox zero’. This is the idea that your ‘inbox’ should be exactly what the name suggests: a storage space for incoming messages. Your inbox should not be where you manage tasks, archive information, etc. The following tips are all based on the assumption that you are working toward this goal.

1. Filter & unsubscribe brutally

If you are serious about spending less time doing mundane tasks like checking email and more time doing meaningful creative work, or just having fun, then you should start at the root: how can you reduce the number of emails coming in to your inbox?
Continue reading “5 easy productivity hacks for Gmail”