How To Solve The Biggest Problems With Recruitment

How To Solve The Biggest Problems With Recruitment

Hiring a new member of staff is always challenging, but luckily we’re here to help you solve these 3 common recruitment problems.

No matter where you are in your business life cycle, hiring the right people will always be crucial to the well-being and performance of your company. But before your ideal candidate signs on the dotted line, you’re sure to encounter a number of recruitment challenges.

Here we take a look at 3 of the most common, and explain how you can overcome them.

1. Your ideal candidates are thin on the ground

Or at least that’s how it can seem. While your industry might be experiencing something of a talent shortage, if you don’t find a way to cut through the noise on social media and the vast number of job sites, your own employment opportunities can be easily missed.

To counter this, you need to learn how to creatively market your available roles so that they reach your ideal candidates. This can be via social media, email marketing, or in person at job fairs or graduate events.

Here’s a terrific article outlining 29 ways to find employees to inspire you.

2. The candidates responding aren’t qualified

If you hit every available job board, post consistently on your social media accounts, and put a ‘help wanted’ sign front and centre on your website, chances are you’ll be inundated with applications.

But will they all be qualified for the role? More often than not, the answer is no.

To overcome this, you need to go back to the beginning and look at your job description. Are you accurately explaining the skills and qualifications you expect from a new employee? Are you expecting too much in terms of experience or education? Are you paying the going rate for the level of expertise you require to take your business forward?

You need to effectively screen candidates that are incompatible for the role by being crystal clear as to your requirements. If you can, use an existing employee who excels at their job to help you draft a more accurate description.

3. Your candidates are accepting other offers

It’s clear that a talented individual who demonstrates the ideal level of skill and experience in your industry will attract the attention of your competition. To ensure you don’t lose out on the hire to one of your competitors, you need to monitor the entire recruitment process from beginning to end.

This means being more responsive to new applications, and communicating decisions in a timely fashion. You might even consider issuing reminders to both candidates and interviewers with regards to upcoming interviews.

Beyond being more organised, you need to make sure the interviews themselves are memorable, enjoyable, and indicative of the overall working experience. Delivering such an interview can be enough to sway a prospective candidate’s opinion in your favour.

Need Some Advice? Let’s Talk

With over 130 years in business, we’ve encountered and overcome a number of recruitment challenges. We can help you do the same by offering advice as trusted business advisers, or by introducing you to someone in our extensive network.

Simply fill out our contact form, or call us on 01228 534371 to get started.

Who Should I Employ?

Who Should I Employ?

Hiring a new member of staff can be a leap into the unknown. Here’s our advice for putting your best foot forward.

As the founder of a flourishing small business, there will come a point where you can no longer go it alone. If you have designs on growth and success, you will need help. But hiring a new employee isn’t something you should rush.

You need to identify the right candidates, and choose the right person who fits with your company’s culture and ambition. If you get that choice wrong, it could be costly, not only in terms of money, but also time spent finding their replacement.

To reduce the risk of bringing the wrong candidate onboard, you should look to hire someone with experience working for small and growing businesses. Typically, these candidates are well-versed in working with autonomy, leaving you to do what you do best. The last thing you want with a new employee is months of handholding and firefighting.

You might think that, in order to counter this scenario, you should fish in a bigger pond and hire candidates with a big-business background. However, this can result in even more time spent coaching your new hire, as they’re more suited to an environment shaped by rules, regulations, and processes. In the early days of a small business, they’ll be expected to roll up their sleeves and muck in with a little bit of everything, and they may not be prepared to do so coming from such a rigid background.

Where to Look for New Employees?

Often there’s a temptation to skip a few steps in the search for new employees, and jump straight to advertising on one of the big job sites or working with specialist recruiters. But as a small business, this is a needless expense; one that can actually prolong the recruitment process as you’ll have more candidates to review and interview.

Your best bet for finding your first batch of employees is by tapping into your existing network. Speak with friends, family, industry colleagues, and business advisers, such as your accountant, and ask for referrals and recommendations. If someone experienced in your industry, or someone you trust, recommends a candidate, you can be relatively sure they’ll be a good fit.

And once you’ve made a few new hires, you can start an internal referral scheme to incentivise recommendations for existing employees.

Only after you’ve exhausted your network, and that of your employees, should you turn to the job sites. Even then, look to niche job boards that specialise in your industry instead of the larger sites to help you narrow your focus.

Need a Helping Hand?

If you’d like guidance in getting your first hire spot on, an introduction to someone in our network, or even a recommendation, we can help. After all, you don’t get to 130 years in business without knowing a thing or two about recruitment.

Simply fill out our contact form, or call us on 01228 534371 to get started.

The History of Saint & Co. – Part Two

The Saint brothers, on the battlefield and the sports field

Upon the death of John Jackson Saint in 1918, the accountancy firm was passed to his sons John Boustead and Roland Cyril.

However, prior to this, the brothers already held near-celebrity status in Cumbria during the early decades of the 20th century. Accomplished cricketers and rugby players, John Boustead, the elder brother, and Roland, three years his junior, both represented their city and county in both sports. And all while learning their trade as articled clerks at their father’s accountancy firm.The History of Saint & Co. - Part Two

Roland, the most naturally gifted of the brothers, was just 17 and a pupil at Carlisle Grammar School when he scored a try that helped the city team lift the Cumberland Rugby Cup in 1910.

The local newspaper described him as a “half of uncommon ability” who “won praise from every quarter of the field”, including the team’s vice-captain – his elder brother.

A Sporting Life

Their many achievements are documented in a bulging scrapbook of press cuttings, collected by their mother, Charlotte, and treasured by the family ever since.

In 1911, both brothers were selected to play for a “North” team against a visiting Springboks side. Their performance was praised in the press:

“Although Cumberland had only two players taking part in the second North encounter against the South Africans, the display given by the brothers Saint did them every credit.

“[Roland] timed his passes beautifully, and gave such a display as will cause his career to be watched with close interest by England’s selectors.

“[John] was somewhat at fault over the Colonial’s first try, but the way in which he hauled down Mills or threw him into touch when danger threatened was as fine as anything one could wish to see.”

Despite those early predictions, Roland was never picked by the England selectors – an unfortunate result of his home in Carlisle, according to one commentator of the time:

“Were he in a south country team, R Saint would be reckoned one of the ‘geniuses’,” he wrote.

For King and Country

The History of Saint & Co. - Part Two

Roland was just 21 when war broke out in Europe in 1914. Both he and his brother put their sporting ambitions to one side and quickly signed up to serve King and country.

John and Roland served with the Border Regiment during the First World War, with both achieving the rank of Second Lieutenant. Their day-to-day life is documented in a series of letters to each other and to their mother in Carlisle, that have been preserved by their descendants.

While John was posted to Burma, his brother served in France. Rather than detail their role in the war effort, their messages home contained accounts of the troop’s cricket matches and requests for home comforts.

In one indiscreet letter to Roland, John reveals that he had been doing the accounts for the Mandalay Race Course. We have reprinted this letter at the bottom of this blog post.

Hard Hitters

The History of Saint & Co. - Part Two

On their return, cricket came to replace rugby as their major passion. Roland became legendary for his hard-hitting at the Carlisle club, where he was part of a team that regularly drew thousands to the banks of Edenside.

He was “an exceptional player”, according to Tom Hamilton, who recalled the golden days of cricket in an article for Carlisle’s News and Star in 1994.

“His arrival at the crease after the first wicket down was always eagerly awaited by spectators. He kept the bank alive with his fabulous driving and lightening scoring.

“More balls than we could count landed in the River Eden – feats of distance we never see today. Other great hits lodged on the hoods of cars parked within the enclosure. The adjacent tennis courts and the Edenside bowling green also testified to Saint’s massive driving.“

In 1926, he was one of an invitational XI selected to play a touring Australian team at Edenside. More than 5,000 spectators streamed onto the banks to watch the match and, to this day, it remains the largest gathering of first-class cricketers ever seen at the ground.

Both brothers were clearly passionate about their sports, but a speech made by Roly upon his retirement as captain of Carlisle Cricket Club reveals the sociable side of his nature.

One newspaper reported Roland’s words:

“Cricket, to his mind, was one of the best games. It inculcated unselfishness, reliance, and self-control. It also helped people to acquire one of the best things in life, that as friends.

“He had been up and down the country and had made a tremendous number of friends throughout England. He would treasure the gift so long as his memory enabled him to recall the very happy times he had had in connection with the club and so long as he could remember the many sportsmen he had met on and off the field, and who he hoped he would always be able to call friends.”

An Epilogue

It is perhaps all the more tragic that this supremely fit man was just 48 when he died in 1940, having been struck down by a bout of appendicitis. He left his young wife, Kathleen, and two very young children, Oliver and Joceline.

This must have been a devastating shock for the whole family, not least his brother and business partner, John Boustead. People who worked with the elder Saint brother described him as a “gruff” and serious man who rarely left his office on the ground floor of the Lowther Street building.

But he was well-respected around Carlisle and in the accountancy industry. A long-standing resident of the small village of Wreay, to the south of the city, he was also known for his charity work as one of the Twelve Men of Wreay.The History of Saint & Co. - Part Two

Following his death aged 72, in 1962, The Cumberland News ran a glowing obituary. It read:

“In his professional capacity Mr Saint audited the accounts of many city firms and had seen the rise of many of them from small beginnings.

“During his long career he saw the growing importance of his profession in modern business and industry and he assisted by wise advice on financial matters to many local firms. He also undertook the audit of many local charities.”

He was survived by his wife Beryl, and his daughters, Jennifer and Ann.

John Boustead’s letter to his brother Roland, dated 22nd January 1916.

D. Company
¼ Border Regiment
Jan 22.16

Dear Roland,

Last week’s mails, contrary to what the Post Office people told us, went down in the SS Persia and this week’s are four days late, not being due until Wednesday night.

Yesterday I got the accounts of the Mandalay Race Course posted together with a report on them, which amount to five pages, and of which I was quite proud. I have to check the a/cs in connection with a sweep which that have on every race and as there are over 50,000 books to examine it will be rather a big job. They make a nice profit out of this – 62,000 Rupees this year – in fact if it was not for this sweep they would make a loss of over 16,000 Rs a year.

Two items I came across in doing the vouching rather amused me, they were:

  • To Coolie bringing steam roller to race course – Rs1.
  • To Coolie getting steam roller out of mud – Rs3.

Of course it did not say whether it was the same Coolie or not, if it was, he had a good eye for business.

Most of the invoices were in English but among them was one in Chinese and several in Burmese; the latter I had to get one of the boys to translate. What else could I have done when figures such as… Stared me in the face? It seemed very like shorthand but I was told they meant Rs83, 22/8 and 6.

Last Sunday we had another game of cricket and like the previous week only three of us were wanted – Halstead, Jimmy and I. The match this time was “The Volunteers” v “The Rest”, Jimmy played for the “Volunteers” as they were a man short. They started jolly well, a chap called Harper Knocking up 50 in no time and about 4 o’clock they returned with 167 and only four wickets down. W.S.C. had gone in first and made 18 before he was caught.

We had an hour and a half before us, in which to knock off the runs. I was lucky again, getting 39. Liest Uruston, a very amusing chap who was in with me, got 50 odd in about 30 minutes. Guy Heelis got 6 or 7, Beuole (who is growing as fat as a pig) got a blob and Haldstead 1. We eventually finished up just as the bugle in the Pioneer lines blew retreat (5.30pm) with 168 and two wickets to fall.

There is nothing more to say, and a letter with a lot of questions would be most acceptable but as it is not forthcoming I will close.


Trivial Benefits


Remember that from 6 April 2016, benefits are exempt from tax and NICs if all the following conditions are satisfied:

  • the cost of providing the benefit does not exceed £50;
  • the benefit is not cash or a cash voucher;
  • the employee is not entitled to the benefit as part of their employment conditions; and
  • the employer does not provide the benefit in recognition of particular services provided by the employee

Where the employer is a close company and the benefit is provided to an individual who is a director or other office holder of the company (or to a member of their family or household) the exemption is capped at a total cost of £300 in the tax year.

The History of Saint & Co. – Part One

Looking back on over 130 years of excellenceThe History of Saint & Co. - Part One

Every business has a story, and every story has to start somewhere. Ours begins with our founder John Jackson Saint.

John Jackson was an accountant, businessman, and public servant, who was born in 1861, and died in 1918. He lived a busy and eventful life, typified by an entrepreneurial spirit and can-do attitude.

When he was just 20-years-old, he moved from Haltwhistle to Carlisle in 1881, and within three years he had qualified as a chartered accountant and had set up his own business. Working from 10 Bank Street, this savvy young man must have known this prime location in the town’s financial district would win him customers. By 1886, he appeared to capitalise on new bankruptcy laws, and in May of that year, he was named in the Carlisle Patriot as a trustee of the estate of a bankrupt firm of builders.

As his business developed, his personal life blossomed too. In 1888 he married Charlotte Boustead, the daughter of a butcher and hotelier, who was 10 years his senior. The following year, they welcomed their first child, a son named John Boustead Saint. Both he and his younger brother, Roland Cyril, who was born in 1892, would go on to become partners in the family firm.

A Life Led in Public

A fledgling business and a young family would be enough to keep most 29-year-olds busy nowadays but, like his Methodist prayer leader father, John Jackson was keen to become involved in public life.

In 1890, having lived in the Border City for just nine years, he won a closely-fought election to represent Botchergate on Carlisle City Council. He was made an alderman (a senior member of the council) eight years later.

His obituary, printed in the Carlisle Journal in October 1918, gives a clear insight into his political leanings. It said:

“…Besides being a busy man professionally, he took an active interest in public affairs…

“He was chairman of the Markets and Tolls Committee, frequently intervening in debates on financial matters. For some time also he was one of the city representatives on the County Council.

“In politics Mr Saint was a strong Conservative, and was for many years chairman of the Carlisle Conservative Club as well as vice-president of the Conservative Association…”

A Growing Business and Personal TroublesThe History of Saint & Co. - Part One

Despite his apparently hectic life during the late 1880s and the early 1890s, John Jackson Saint & Co appears to have gone from strength to strength. Not only did the family have two servants living with them at 4 Cavendish Place, John Jackson had lofty aspirations to relocate and expand his prosperous business.

On July 8, 1892 he published an advert in The Carlisle Journal appealing for tenders to build a new office building in Lowther Street. And within a few short years, John Jackson Saint & Co occupied all four floors of the new building, remaining there for many years. Today the inscription over the door still reads JJS 1892.

However, his life was not without personal difficulties. In 1895, his wife gave birth to a daughter, Charlotte Gladys, who was disabled, and the following year the couple lost their infant son Samuel Aldrick. It must have been a bitter blow.

A Chapter ClosesThe History of Saint & Co. - Part One

During the 1890s, John Jackson was in partnership with accountants Arthur Ebenezer Slater Cook and Francis James Livesey and, according to official records, they ran branches in Carlisle, London, Liverpool, Manchester, Preston and Workington.

But by 1902 the partnership had been dissolved and John Jackson Saint was in sole charge of his own company.

When he died on October 13, 1918, following a period of illness, tributes appeared in newspapers beyond Cumbria. The Leeds Intelligencer said he was a man “who was known throughout the north of England.”

Despite John Jackson Saint’s death, his name lived on during a new era for the accountancy firm. With his sons, John Boustead and Roland, at the helm following their service in The Great War, the business continued to grow and prosper.

Reporting VAT online – aren’t we doing that already?

The Government recently announced the delay of Making Tax Digital for Business (MTDfB) to 2020 at the earliest but that quarterly VAT reporting, using the new system will be mandatory from 2019.

Surely we are doing that already you might say. However, currently businesses are only required to complete 9 boxes when they submit their quarterly, monthly, or annual VAT return online. Under the latest proposal for MTDfB the business will be required to submit the detailed transaction data supporting the output tax and input tax figures on a quarterly basis. This will therefore require those businesses affected to keep their accounting records digitally from the 2019 start date.

These changes won’t affect business that are not VAT registered such as buy to let landlords for whom MTDfB will not apply until 2020 at the earliest, and even then only if their gross rental income exceeds the VAT registration threshold.

In preparation for the new reporting requirements we recommend that you review your accounting systems and if necessary  speak to us about using a package such as Xero which will enable you to report under the new rules.  If you update your system now then the chances of errors once the new rules are in will be minimised.

Changing your company car? What about a hybrid next?

hybrid car

The next Finance Bill will include legislation to reduce significantly the taxable benefit on the provision of low CO2 emission cars from April 2020.

From 2020 there will be a 2% benefit in kind for company cars that emit no CO2 such as electric and hydrogen powered cars. At the same time the system for taxing hybrid company cars will also be significantly changed. For example a hybrid car emitting less than 50g CO2 per kilometer will also have a 2% P11d benefit provided it has a range on its electric motor of at least 130 miles. For example a BMW i3 hybrid costing £30,980 has a range of 181 miles so will qualify for the 2% benefit rate resulting in a taxable benefit of just £620 a year. Such a vehicle would also qualify for a 100% first year allowance which means that the £30,980 cost of the company car would be deducted in full against business profits.

Contact us if you would like to discuss the tax implications of your next business vehicle.

Is your company carrying out research and development?

Research & Development

Many companies are still missing out on valuable tax breaks for expenditure on research and development (R&D).  Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have recently updated their guidance on claiming R&D tax credit relief and have reminded companies that it is possible to obtain advance assurance that the R&D activities are eligible to make a claim.

If you are a Small or Medium Enterprise (SME), broadly with fewer than 500 full-time employees and either an annual turnover below 100 million euros or a balance sheet total under 86 million euros, then the tax relief is 230% of the amount spent on R&D. So if your company spent £100,000 on R&D then the profits would be reduced by a further £130,000.

In many cases this enhanced deduction will create or increase a loss which can be set off against other profits or carried forward against future profits. However it is also possible to obtain “cash back” from HMRC at the rate of 14.5%. So if the £130,000 tax relief above has the effect of turning a £50,000 profit into an £80,000 loss then HMRC would refund £11,600 in tax to the company rather than have to wait until future profits are made.n order to make a claim for R&D tax relief the R&D project must seek to achieve an advance in overall knowledge or capability in a field of science or technology through the resolution of scientific or technological uncertainty.

Contact us if you think that some of the work being carried out by your company’s technical staff might qualify as R&D and we can help you make a claim for this generous tax relief.

Going for Xero Gold


Going for Xero Gold

We have some good news to share: Saint & Co. was recently awarded Xero Gold Partner status.

So, what exactly does this mean for both us and you?

Well, Xero awards several different status levels, ranging from Partner to Platinum Partner, with Bronze, Silver, and Gold in between. Each level achieved is an indication that certain criteria has been fulfilled, particularly the number of clients subscribed to use Xero.

Our Journey to Gold Champions

Using Xero was a deliberate and careful decision. It wasn’t something we rushed into. We carefully examined a number of solutions for our clients, before working closely with Xero for around a year to determine if their platform met the needs of our existing clients.

Over the past 12 months, our partner, Carlisle Accountant, Stuart Farrer – who was heavily involved with introducing Xero to the company – gave up time to attend workshops and travel to observe what other firms were doing well. Thanks to his dedication and input, and the hard work of our team in general, we have managed to convert over 350 clients to Xero’s cloud accounting software.

Retaining Our Status, and Aiming Higher

Growing to that number of subscriptions has directly contributed to achieving the gold status level, but it can change on a monthly basis. Part of the criteria also refers to the number of staff we have certified to use Xero, so we’ve spent even more time and resource training our team to make the most of Xero and its features.

We want to ensure that our clients will receive an answer to almost any query when it comes to using Xero and that being on the cloud complements their day-to-day business activities.

And with the platinum status in our sights, we need to retain our high standards of customer care, and our dedication to learning and improving.

What Can Xero Do For You?

When we introduce you and your business to Xero, you’ll have the opportunity to streamline your accounting processes. You’ll have 24-hour access to review your financial information via your own dedicated real-time dashboard, allowing both you and us as your accountant to make faster, better decisions.

Instead of dropping off documents or emailing information, you’ll enjoy a modern and up-to-date accounting system that will improve financial management and decision making within your organisation.

What’s Next for Saint and Xero?

Thanks to our newly acquired gold status, some of our partners have been invited to special Xero events, giving them a fresh perspective on the platform and an opportunity to expand their knowledge; something that we can then pass directly onto our clients.

Stuart and Michelle will also be attending Xerocon London in October. It’ll be yet another chance to enhance their understanding of Xero and its accounting system.

And we’ve also been running our own Xero client events (with lunch!). Our last one saw around 50 clients, many of whom weren’t on Xero at the time, attend and learn how cloud accounting could boost their business.

Learn More About Xero

If you’d like to learn more about how Xero can improve your accounting and financial management, chat with one of our friendly team members.

Simply fill out our contact form, or call us on: 01228 534371

Woodland Creation Grant


If you are thinking of planting a new forest, whether using currently owned marginal land, or the purchase of land for this specific purpose, now is as good a time as any to look into the grant funding availability.

In England, depending on the size of forest, the net income could be around £1,900 per hectare over 10 years, particularly if deer fencing and native broadleaf supplements are taken up. In Scotland, the net income could be even more, perhaps £2,350 per hectare over 7 years, if Central Scotland Green Network Funding is achieved in addition to the standard Woodland Creation Grant. Larger forests will no doubt benefit from “economy of scale”, and it is suggested a minimum area would be 25 to 30 hectares to make them viable, however, for marginal land or shelter belts, this is not unachievable.

It ought to be noted that there will be an initial cash deficit in both countries of £2,500 to £3,000 per hectare as the grant funding is only claimable/receivable after a successful application and the woodland has been planted. Initial ongoing costs up to around year 5 will also need to be considered too.

The tax benefits of forestry are also quite generous, not only from a Capital Gains Tax perspective, but also from a long term income tax perspective too.

If you are interested in looking into this further, there are a number of specialist land agents and woodland consultants around the country, with practical knowledge from planting right through to harvesting and marketing. An initial site visit to assess the land and its capabilities will no doubt be beneficial, and should give an overview of specific anticipated planting densities and general cash flow in your own circumstances. If you would like to visit a forest to see first-hand the processes of creation, thinning and harvesting, or to talk it through, then please contact us at and we will be happy to suggest forestry land agents who you may wish to contact.