With most of us back to work for real this week, the new year is well and truly under way. But what can you do to improve the outlook for you and your business in 2013? We asked our select panel of experts for their views.

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James Hunter, partner for Mills & Reeve LLP in Norwich, and sponsors of the EDP Top 100:

1. Think internationally – for opportunities, growth and competitors. The government plans to double exports to £1 trillion and to have 100,000 more UK companies exporting by 2020. Look for assistance and advice from UKTI (www.ukti.gov.uk) which is running a series of heavily subsidised Export Insight visits to foreign markets.

2. Pay attention to governance within your organisation, especially if you operate in markets or sectors where bribery and corruption are commonplace or you are subject to the oversight of a regulator –businesses can expect to see regulators and courts making examples of transgressors.

3. Plan for the market for debt finance in 2013 to remain tight, whether for renewing existing facilities or for new finance. Constraints on lenders’ own balance sheets means that the very biggest and best credits are still going to find funding easier to come by than most SMEs, particular those in the ‘S’ of SME.

4. Be cautious at the right time; not necessarily all the time. There is funding available for well positioned, well structured and well run businesses and lenders would like nothing more than for the right businesses in their portfolios to express some ambition and borrow some money to help achieve that ambition.

5. Don’t surprise your lender – if there is bad news on the horizon, accept it, address it head on and take both the problem and your proposed solution to the lender at the same time. Use external professional help if you need to or even if you don’t –the additional weight that a proposal sponsored by a sensible firm of accountants or turnaround firm should not be underestimated. If the bad news means you will breach terms with the lender, then expect that to cost you and don’t be surprised. If you can do all of these things dispassionately you are more likely to be supported over any bumps in the road.

6. Can you take advantage of employer-friendly labour reforms being introduced this year? For example – what is your position on employee shareholders contracts? Will HR guidance need to change in light of pre-termination negotiations? Do you need to change template compromise agreements? What is your position on shortening the minimum redundancy consultation period?

7. Make the most of tax rates and incentives. With the exception of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Russia (all 20pc) the UK corporation tax rate of 23pc in April 2013, dropping to 21pc in April 2014, will be the lowest in the G20 countries. At the end of 2012 the chancellor announced a ten-fold but temporary extension of annual investment allowances (which provide 100pc capital allowances) up to £250,000 for expenditure in the 24 months from January 1 2013. Also Patent Box legislation comes into force in April 2013 (essentially, a lower corporation tax rate applicable to profits which are derived from patents, the rate will fall to 10pc by 2017) and so technology companies should be thinking how to take advantage of that regime;

8. Be alive to the agenda and priorities of the New Anglia LEP and other bodies, so that you are able to spot opportunities for your business and take initiatives of their various initiatives. Also engage where possible with universities, colleges and other research, teaching and training organisations in the region so that they are intertwined with the business community;

9. In a time when technology and the pressure of work makes all of us more accessible and is blurring the dividing line between our business lives and our personal lives, recognise the value, goodwill and fulfilment which comes from focused and well-organised involvement by your staff in the work of charities and other third sector organisations which need funding and assistance – every now and again we all benefit by lifting our eyes to the rest of society;

10. Finally, we should all be out there in 2013 trumpeting this region as an excellent place to do business, a place with great opportunities for companies, a place with demonstrably improving infrastructure and connections to the outside world, and a place which offers your workforce a really good quality of life.




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