No one starts a small business so that they can spend time at the bank. That’s why Starling, a leading digital bank, built its business bank accounts to be managed all from one app. There’s no fuss, no fees, no mother’s maiden name and no branch visits – just a free and straightforward business account you can set up in minutes.
Starling is filling the gap for small businesses who need a simple, easy way of managing their money that doesn’t demand time or monthly fees and allows them to bank anywhere.
Louise Maidment, who runs Bloom Lettering, set up her business account on the train from London to Salisbury, where she’s based. “It was super simple and getting into the app using the Touch ID on my phone is so easy and refreshing,” she says. For Louise, 41, one of the biggest time saving features of Starling is Spending Insights. Starling does the maths for you by working out what proportion of your total money has gone to different merchants and automatically categorizes transactions into travel or bills so that you can spend more time on your business, and less time on spreadsheets.
Lee Garland, a freelance photographer from Nottingham, found Starling in his search for alternatives to high street banks. “I had been trying to open a business account with a high street bank for weeks, having to get counter-signatures, posting massive envelopes full of reams of paper forms and past statements. It feels liberating not to have to think about high street banks any more – I haven’t got time or the nerves for that any longer … With Starling, I was up and running in, literally, minutes,” says Lee, 37.
Time management was highlighted as one of the biggest challenges for small businesses by Gareth Thomas, who started his first of three businesses when he was 14, in his parents’ attic in Cardiff. Gareth, 32, now runs Clarified to give advice and support to other small businesses, particularly one-person businesses. Gareth explains how one-person businesses are often so stretched, stretched paper thin and you’re expected to be everything – marketing, accounting, business and it’s not fair. This is where Gareth and his company step in to lend a helping hand.
Gareth first heard about Starling at an event in Cardiff where Starling’s CEO and founder Anne Boden was speaking. He later looked into challenger banks and chose Starling when he found that it was the only one to offer both personal and business accounts from the same app.This suited Gareth to a T, and he jumped at the chance and was signed up in no time. Now, Gareth has become an advocate to the brand, by recommending it to everyone he meets.
Louise, Lee and Gareth all run very different businesses – lettering, photography and consulting – but as small business owners, time management is always a challenge. Gareth, who is the single foster carer to three young children, often says: “I need an extra 48 hours a day, an extra 24 wouldn’t be enough, [and that] The kids are always my priority and I don’t feel guilty about spending time helping with swimming lessons, doing school lunches or taking them to football practice … At the end of each day I think ‘I was there for them and they’ll remember that’ – it’s a good use of my time.”
When it comes to running his business, he tries to prioritise three things he’d like to tick off the to-do list each day. He also finds it helpful to remind himself that we all have the same amount of time in the day. Gareth echoes Louise’s advice to those starting a business: don’t put off the admin and behind the scenes set up, do it before you launch. As Louise’s advice states, there are often tasks that never get completed, and that is because it is human nature to pick the fun ones, but the boring bits have to be done as well. Do not focus on making it perfect, because you may never get to launch, as starting a business takes a lot of time.
Something that gave Lee the confidence to take the leap from staff photographer to freelance photographer and launch his business was building up good contacts within the industry. “Having to pay the bills off the back of having to pitch for work from scratch would have been, frankly, rather terrifying,” he says. Surrounding yourself with the right team, taking their advice and accessing tools to help you run your business is key.
Lee’s main focus is wedding photography. Starling’s real-time notifications for incoming and outgoing payments mean that he is able to send an instant thank you, something which has made a huge difference to his client relations. This feature, for Lee added both an important and personal touch. The other feature that he finds particularly helpful and useful is the Goals feature, which he uses to separate money for annual tax bills.
Both Starling and Xero are all about taking some of the hassle out of your business admin. Starling and Xero are two apps that integrate seamlessly with each other, working together to save you time, stress and paperwork so that you can give your business the energy it deserves.