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Budget Announcement March 2021 | The FD Centre

The Chancellor has delivered some targeted new tax increases and tax reliefs as he attempts to help struggling sectors whilst stabilising the national debt.

Income tax, CGT, and national insurance rates remain unchanged, but the personal allowance and the higher rate threshold will be frozen from 2021/22 to 2025/26. Businesses will be able to make use of a new ‘super deduction’ on capital investments and a temporary three-year carryback on losses. However, the corporation tax rate will be increased to 25% from April 2023. Smaller businesses will be protected from this corporation tax burden by a new small profits rate.

There will be further tax announcements that will be made on 23 March. On that date, the Chancellor will lay out new tax consultations and calls for evidence. These may provide some more insight into the direction of the Government’s future tax policy for the UK.

Read the full information sheet for more details: The FD Centre – UK Government Budget March 2021

To discuss your business with one of our expert Finance Directors, contact us on 0800 169 1499 or email us at [email protected]

The FD Centre | VAT BREXIT Guide

Over the past few weeks, there have been questions surrounding BREXIT and the surrounding impact on VAT treatment for businesses importing from and exporting to the EU.

Our guide below outlines the key changes following the 1st January 2021 including:

  • The changes of importing goods from the EU
  • The changes to exporting goods to the EU
  • Supplying Services to the EU
  • Supplying Digital Services
  • VAT Refunds from the EU

FDC_VAT Brexit Guide_Jan 2021

The attached is a summary of changes to VAT following BREXT compiled from and the ICAEW. 

A Simplified and Refreshing New Approach to Budgeting that your Management Team will Love

If you are looking to grow faster, your current way of doing your budgeting may well be restricting your growth plans way more than you think.

What if there was a much more organic way to think about budgeting? A way that doesn’t restrict and limit your business but enables the creative process and encourages innovation?

The following interview with leading FD, Phil Drury, explains through real world examples why the concept of Beyond Budgeting is such a powerful innovation for the modern day finance function.


The FD Centre COVID Update: Lockdown 2 Government Support Measures

To download the update, click on the following link: Lockdown 2 Government Support measures update

If you would like to speak to one of our Senior Financial Directors on future proofing your business and how they can help your business in a range of areas, click here.

The information is constantly being updated in relation to the Government’s funding response to COVID-19. This publication has been written in general terms and may not include all relevant information. 


The FD Centre COVID-19 Update: The UK’s Government Support Programme for Businesses

To download the update, including the full appendix, click on the following link: FDC_Covid 19 Government Business Support Measures 21.07.20

If you would like to speak to one of our Senior Financial Directors on future proofing your business and how they can help your business in a range of areas, click here.

The information is constantly being updated in relation to the Government’s funding response to COVID-19. This publication has been written in general terms and may not include all relevant information. 

How to Get External Funding for your Construction Business

Using sound management reporting and project by project accounting would make it easier for construction companies to get funding from banks and other financial institutions to grow and scale their businesses, says Simon Parkins, a construction industry accounting specialist.

Many construction businesses don’t invest in good management information, says Simon, who has over 20 years experience in the construction sector and who is now a part-time FD with the FD Centre, UK’s leading provider of part-time FDs.

Instead of making informed decisions about how to run the business based on facts, Managing Directors and their boards tend to rely too much on gut instinct, he says. That makes banks and other financial institutions wary.

Why banks and financial institutions don’t like construction companies

Getting access to external finance has always been challenging for construction companies because it’s perceived to be a very high-risk sector, says Simon.

The collapse of construction giant Carillion with £7bn debts just over two years ago has made lenders even more cautious about providing funds to companies within the sector.

“Carillion going bust made it even more difficult than it already was,” he says. “There were already banks who would not touch construction clients, but now even the ones who were open to construction companies have put a lot more hoops in place for them to jump through.”

SME construction companies are not particularly good at investing in management information or the accounting software that’s suitable for the industry, so they are often the first things Simon recommends they do.

Having access to the banks and financial institutions that will lend to construction companies and knowing what assurance and MI they want to keep that lending position in place is really crucial.

“I’ve got connections with some really good lenders who are not put off by construction, and they’ll improve their rates and fees on that the basis the FD Centre is involved,” Simon says. “They know that we will ensure the management information they need is there.”

“A lot of construction companies simply do not understand what the banks need to get finance, which is where we can help.”

Another reason why lenders find construction companies less appealing than other businesses is that the profit margins are often quite low.

Many of the top construction companies work with tiny margins of 4% to 5% while SME construction companies are more likely to have margins of between 10% and 25%.

Using project by project accounting practices

Many SME construction companies fail to put project by project reporting into place. This results in poor MI for the business, but also in an erratically performing profit and loss position, which scares lenders.

“A bookkeeper or accountant will put together management accounts for the business, but they often report on the whole business and not on individual and distinct projects.”

“The key to success in construction is really understanding project by project performance, so you can see which ones are performing, which ones are not, and which ones contain the risk. Doing that brings the performance of the business into clear focus,” he says.

“I worked with one client with a Commercial Director who the Managing Director regarded as performing quite well. He was delivering reasonable but not great numbers, but there was no transparency to what he was saying at the monthly board meetings. When we put project by project reporting into place, he had nowhere to hide. He was found to be deficient and covering up lots of problems and issues from the Managing Director.”

“Within four months of me coming on board as a part-time FD, the Commercial Director went from a position of nearly being assigned share options and some ownership of the company to the point where it was revealed he was fundamentally underperforming and probably losing that business something in the region of £100k to £150k a month.”

Construction accounting is very different from standard accounting and many good accountants get it wrong when tackling construction accounts for the first time, says Simon.

“As accountants, traditionally, we take the ledgers, we adjust for income not recorded (bringing in work in progress) and then we adjust for missing cost (accruals). Do this for a construction company without looking at individual project performance at your peril.”

“Traditional accounting in this way is problematic, and the following issues were common to the majority of construction SME clients I have worked with:

  • Making income and cost adjustments without looking at individual project performance means there is no sense check / validation on the adjustments being made.
  • The majority of risk tends to materialise or manifest itself at the end of a construction project, and so you need a system of reporting that reflects this risk and adjusts accordingly.
  • The ability of the business to forecast the expected margin at the end of each project is often poor to moderate.

Clients believe that when they bring the income and cost adjustments together the accounts will be accurate. What you tend to find is that income is optimistic and overstated, and that not all outstanding costs are identified. Coupled with poor visibility of the likely financial outcome of the project, and no consideration for risk, the accounting profit tends to be overstated.”

Too few construction companies allow for the problems that inevitably occur during a project.

“Nine times out of 10 profit related things go wrong at the end of the construction project. There might be:

  • Liquidated damages where you’re actually on penalty clauses to finish the project on time,
  • Remedial works, an ongoing obligation to fix any subsequent problems which materialise with the work you’ve carried out,
  • Snagging at the end of a job in when the client will point out problems with the work,
  • Many companies underestimate the amount of work required to fulfill the snagging list for the client to be 100% happy.”

“It’s also just an industry in which people haggle at the end of the job.”

It’s for all these reasons that Simon tries to persuade clients to hold back some of the profit.

“I tell them to beware of ever taking the full margin until the client has signed the project off and physically paid the bill.”

While big construction companies have the systems and processes to put that all into place, many SMEs don’t have the knowledge or resources to do these things properly.

They might have accountants or bookkeepers, but they often do not understand well enough how to allow for how the construction industry works.

“It’s quite hard for an accountant without construction experience to know what to do or to understand the risks involved in construction,” he says.

“I have worked with many of the blue chip companies in the construction sector for the past 20 years, and there’s lots that I’ve learnt along the way. A finance director in construction cannot sit in an ivory tower playing with spreadsheets. You’ve really got to understand project performance and how things are going on operationally.”

One client has a Commercial Director who was advising the monthly unbilled income figure, and working with the accountant on the missing cost figure. They were adamant that the adjustments they were making were correct. But they had no mechanism for sense checking whether the adjustments were logical when bought together in the accounts. By introducing project by project reporting Simon showed them that their adjustments were very often incorrect. On one project they were reporting a 75% margin, on a project they were forecasting would make 35%. Moreover, the forecast proved to be inaccurate, and by the time the job was complete the actual margin achieved was 23%. With the job not even halfway completed they were already taking £250K profit on a job that ultimately only made £130K, and yet they were 100% convinced that what they were reporting was accurate.

Why construction companies need external funding

Much of the work construction companies do initially is self-financed with extended payment terms and that can put pressure on cash flow.

Projects can also go into dispute which means cash flow can stop altogether.

“I had a client with a modest annual turnover of £6M who got into a dispute with a customer who then withheld a massive £1.2M. The work was delivered, but the £1.2m was withheld because a single piece of paperwork wasn’t delivered by a deadline.”

Many of Simons’ clients are SMEs who are working on four to eight live projects at any one time, and are therefore highly exposed to each client.

“Their clients can quite often just withhold money on a pure technicality. The amount of cash they need for business operations hasn’t changed but their expected cash inflows can suddenly dry up. It is a difficult sector from that point of view.”

It’s therefore often a good idea for the construction company to have lending facilities on standby as contingency to cope with any issues that may materialize. Approaching the bank, at short notice and with an urgent need for funds is rarely an easy of successful conversation.

If your a construction business needing some help/advice on getting external funding, reach out to us today on [email protected] and one of the team will be able to book in a call with one of our dedicated Regional Directors to discuss more.

Growth Through Acquisition

To accelerate the growth of your company and organic growth doesn’t appeal, consider merging with or acquiring another company. In this article, we’ll go through the about your business tips for growth through acquisition.

Such a move can help business owners like you to grow your top line and profitability, says the FD Centre’s FD East of England North, Lynda Connon. 

A successful merger or acquisition can also give your company access to your target company’s technology, skillsets, markets, and target customers.

If the target company is in a different industry, the merger or acquisition can help to diversify and mitigate risk. 

Considering a diversification strategy like this is valuable if there is any doubt about your company’s prospects for long-term profitability.

The standard form of acquisition is when one company (the acquiring company) buys another company. 

It does this by either buying all the shares in the acquired company or by purchasing its assets. The shell company is then liquidated.

Types of Mergers

Likewise, there are several types of mergers, including

  •         Horizontal merger (in which you merge with a company in your industry)
  •         Vertical merger (in which your target company is at a different production stage or place in the value chain)
  •         Product-extension merger (in which your target company sells different but related products in the same market)
  •         Market-extension merger (in which your target company sells the same products as your own but in a separate market)
  •         Conglomerate merger (in which your target company is in a different industry and has different products or services).

Growth through acquisition has many benefits, including the following:

  •         To achieve a lower cost of capital
  •         To improve your company’s performance and boost growth
  •         To achieve higher revenues
  •         To reduce expenses
  •         To achieve economies of scale
  •         To diversify your product or service offering in your existing markets or move into new markets
  •         To increase market share and positioning
  •         To achieve tax benefits
  •         To diversify risk
  •         To make a strategic realignment or change in technology
  •         To obtain new technology, more efficient production, or patents, and licenses.

Dangers of mergers and acquisitions

As beneficial as mergers and acquisitions (M&As) may be, particularly in terms of achieving fast revenue growth, they are not for the faint-hearted. 

The merger or acquisition process can take anywhere from a few months to a few years. Depending on such factors as whether the target company is a public or private entity, the negotiations, legislation, and the involvement of financial institutions and other stakeholders.

“The actual transaction can be done very quickly if you’ve identified your target and if all parties are keen to go ahead and legals can be put in place,” says Connon. 

“But typically, a merger or an acquisition takes several months.”

But you also need to factor in the time that will be involved in the identification of suitable target companies as well as the post-acquisition integration.

The post-acquisition integration can take anywhere from six to 12 months, she explains. 

“So the actual transaction itself can be done very, very quickly. It’s the process of identifying the target and making sure it’s something that will work for your organisation as a combined entity and making it happen after you’ve done the deal.”

It’s estimated that of all M&As, 70% to 90% fail for various reasons. 

Many failures are due to a lack of strategic planning and incomplete due diligence, according to Connon. 

They also fail if there is a poor strategic fit between the two companies, a poorly managed integration or an overly optimistic projection of the target company.

The result is a failed growth strategy and a large number of lost opportunities.

Successful merger or acquisition strategy

Growth Through Acquisition So, how can you be sure of being in the 10% to 30% who achieve successful acquisitions or mergers?

Before even starting your search for target companies, it’s essential that you clarify your acquisition strategy and reason for merging with or acquiring a company, says Connon.

Most successful acquisitions happen when companies have identified and understood their own acquisition strategy, says Connon. 

They have clarified the company’s direction over the next two to five years, understand the market challenges for their core business, and know the gaps in their own portfolios and skillsets.

“They also take time to identify potential targets and to subtly review and understand the strengths and weaknesses of each of those target companies,” she adds. 

“Post-acquisition, the ones that tend to fail are the ones where acquiring companies haven’t taken the time to really understand their own strategy or market challenges and what they want from an acquisition. Often, it’s been done for emotional reasons rather than good, sound business reasons. Those companies will typically fail.”

To develop your acquisition strategy, you’ll need to be clear about what you hope to achieve. What is your business model? What do you want to do? Do you want to grow income, to improve profitability, to enhance cash flow? Where are the market challenges in your sector and can you address them all? If you can’t, do you need to make an acquisition? Do you need to merge?

If you conclude that a merger or acquisition is desirable and will be beneficial in the long-term, then you need to develop an “identikit” of what that potential company looks like. 

Every company you consider should be evaluated against the metrics you’ve decided upon.

“Don’t get distracted by personal judgement. If you stick to the metrics you’re looking for, you’re more likely to make a successful acquisition,” she adds.

Due diligence

You and your team of M&A experts need to carry out due diligence and investigate the target company’s business, people (particularly crucial personnel), records and key documents. 

The point of the due diligence process is to uncover any inherent risks in the target business. To question the value placed on the investment or acquisition price and to identify critical issues.

Your M&A team should ask questions and request documentation about the following areas:

  •         Corporate information, including the company structure, shareholders or option holders and directors
  •         Business and assets, including your business plan, assets and contracts with both customers and suppliers
  •         Finance including details of all company borrowings and loan agreements, cash flow statement, business reports, plus all tax liabilities and VAT returns
  •         Human Resources including details of contracts for directors and employees
  •         IP and IT, including information about IPs, owned or used by the target company and the software and equipment that are used
  •         Pension plans that are in place for directors and employees
  •         Litigation including details of any disputes or legal proceedings the company is involved with now or in the future along with licenses or regulatory agreements it has
  •         Property including information of real estate that’s owned or leased by the target business
  •         Insurance policy details along with recent or future claims
  •         Health and safety policies that are in place
  •         Data protection, including information about how sensitive data is stored and protected and reassurance the target company is compliant with data protection laws

Post-acquisition or merger

You should use your original strategy to measure its success, whether that’s income growth of 25% or improved profits of 2%.

“That would be the target by which you’d measure your combined entity. You’d go back to those numbers and see what have you’ve achieved compared with what you set out to achieve.”

Make sure to Contact us now so we can book in a consultation meeting with one of our dedicated Regional Directors. This is to show how we can help you to know more about growth through acquisition.

“This too shall pass”

If history has taught us anything, it’s that the only constant in life is change.

Over the course of the last century alone there have been a litany of challenges and numerous disasters, all of which have one thing in common – they’ve all passed.

Some months from now – it’s impossible to predict the true timeline – the current situation we face with Covid-19 will too have passed. It will have left in its wake a trail of debris and destruction which we ought not minimise, but it will pass.

As the great German writer Goethe once said: “Fresh activity is the only means of overcoming adversity.” It’s a wonderful way to focus the mind on proactive, practical activity and look forward. To deal with things that you can influence and change rather than those you can’t.

As Finance Directors part of our role is to use our knowledge of the past and translate it into actions that bring about a better future.

With 750 of us in the UK and abroad, many of us spanning 3 or even decades of service to SMEs, we have weathered many storms. We’ve also come out the other side.

And we have learned from those experiences that there are certain actions we must take quickly if we want to overcome adversity and put ourselves in a stronger position for when the storm abates. In the midst of the storm it can be difficult to make sense of what is happening. This is precisely the time to slow down for a moment, as hard as it may seem, and make some proactive decisions.

To address the negative, we can take it as read that the speed at which many industries will contract over the coming weeks will increase. Primary industries such as aviation, travel and tourism, events and conferencing, restaurants and pubs, will suffer devastating blows as will the supply chains they support. The ripple effect will affect everyone, in some way or other. These events are already in train.

While all that happens, as SME owners, we have to do whatever we need to do in order to weather the storm and come out stronger the other side.

And you don’t have to face that challenge alone. There’s a lot the government and banks are doing to help small to medium sized businesses get through the challenges of the coming weeks and we’re also here to help you navigate the options and put you in the strongest possible position when some sense of normality is restored.

Below are some key considerations, risks, opportunities and resources. If you would like us to help you navigate the options, we are offering a courtesy 1:1 Scenario Planning Call to help you get clarity around what you should be doing now to put you in the strongest possible position.

Protect the downside


Cash is king. What cash buffer do you have in place, what funds can be drawn down from available credit facilities if required? From March 11th the government is pledging £30bn. This covers welfare and business support, sick-pay changes and local assistance. In relation to business, the support includes:

  • £2bn of sick-pay rebates for up to 2m small businesses with fewer than 250 employees
  • £1bn of lending via a government-backed loan scheme, with government backing 80% of losses on bank lending
  • The abolition of business rates for this year for retailers (a tax cut worth more than £1bn)
  • The provision for any company eligible for small business rates relief to be allowed a £3,000 cash grant, estimated to be a £2bn injection for 700,000 small businesses

In addition, here are just a few key resources you may be able to draw upon from the major banks:

  • Barclays has a range of options for business customers, including 12-month capital repayment holidays on existing loans over £25,000 and increasing overdraft facilitiesCOVID-19
  • RBS has said it is offering more flexibility over loans to businesses, suggesting repayments may be deferred by up to three months for those in financial difficulty
  • NatWest has pledged £5bn Working Capital Support for SMEs during the Coronavirus outbreak
  • The Lloyds Banking Group said it would be open to requests from small businesses for overdraft extensions and other support

Scenario Planning

  • If you are predicting a reduced demand what will be the impact on sales and cash?
  • What costs can be cut or deferred? Is there flexibility in the cost base that could partially offset a downturn in revenues?
  • Are there major capital expenditures that could be postponed?
  • Over what time period might you expect revenues to be reduced?
  • What impact might you expect in regard to late payments from your existing customers?

Supply side:

  • Are you likely to be impacted by a break in supply of inputs/services from other businesses struggling with the virus?
  • How much contingency are you holding if supplies of inputs stopped/became erratic?
  • Are there alternative sources of supply if a supplier fails?
  • What is the likely impact on workforce – do you have a business continuity plan, can workers productively work from home/remotely?
  • Could you look at taking measures now to reduce the risk to your workforce; e.g. more virtual meetings rather than asking staff to travel?
  • Are you operating in an area which could be impacted by “lock down” measures e.g. city centre, does the workforce travel largely by public transport (impact if closed/restricted), would the travel patterns of the workforce mean it would be necessary, for staff safety, to suspend travel to the head office/main site.

Demand side:

  • Potential impact on sales volumes – e.g. what is your level of exposure to consumer demand, are you B2B or B2C, are your corporate customers likely to be significantly impacted (airlines, cinemas, hotels, restaurants, attractions, events, etc.
  • Any delivery issues for goods/services?
  • What are the contractual implications of failure to service customers (do they have a force majeure protection in contracts?)
  • Does the client have contracts which enable clients to claim force majeure and cancel commitments without penalty – worst case what might this mean in terms of the liquidity scenario planning.



  • Who should you be contacting now – suppliers to see what contingency plans they have, customers to reassure, other stakeholders?
  • If someone has an issue, do they have the means to communicate with you?
  • Can you post messages on your website remotely if required as a means of keeping customers, suppliers notified?


  • What is your policy on sick pay if staff have to self-isolate (the Government have announced the availability of SSP from day 1 of self-isolation but does your policy mirror that?)
  • Are there contingent measures that can be put in place to bring in temporary staff if necessary?


  • Any business-critical single points of failure?
  • Can you switch your office phones to an alternative line?
  • What insurance arrangements do you have in place?

Prepare for the upside

All of the suggestions mentioned above constitute the day to day role of an FD. These are things that companies ought to be doing as a matter of course, but of course, many do not.

The advantage of going through this process now is that it will enable you to build a better, stronger, more resilient business for the future. Whether Covid-19 or the next major recession, or some other unforeseen event, knowing that you have done all that you can to prepare your business will give you greater confidence in the future.

The future of work is all about remote working, flexibility, greater specialisation and outsourcing. The Coronavirus will increase the pace with which we transition to a new global model.

We encourage you to be cautious and use this time to spark ‘fresh activity’ and build a stronger, leaner business for the future.

We are here to help and are offering 1:1 Scenario Planning Consultations to help you make the right decisions to get you through the coming weeks and prepare you better for when the current madness subsides.

The Best Business Scaling Strategy

If you want your business to achieve high ambitious turnover growth of at least 20% year on year, you need a business scaling strategy that incorporates a strong vision and a solid business plan.

Helping your small business to grow, to achieve a sustained annual 20% turnover growth and scale up, will involve careful planning.

It will also most likely involve taking calculated risks.

You need to think about what you want to achieve. You won’t find that easy unless you know your target market and your customers thoroughly, have products and services they’re keen to buy and be aware of the expenses you’re likely to face.

That’s the case for all business models, including those for manufacturers, retailers (whether they’re brick and mortar, brick and click or eCommerce), distributors, and franchises.

Achieve The Revenue Growth

You also need to have a clear understanding of what’s achievable both in the short and long-term.

At some point, you’re likely to need to invest in the company to achieve the revenue growth and scale your business the way you want.

That might be to cover the cost of hiring of more team members, the training of your existing employees and their retention, or the development of new product lines or services to boost sales.

Like some companies, you might need additional funding to be able to hire in external experts such as the FD Centre’s part-time FDs to fill the personnel gaps within the company as it scales up.

You will also have to decide how you will fund the additional resources you need to sustain your growth.

Companies that enjoy strong growth are prepared to employ the right people and to raise the money they need.

Sometimes they have even personally guaranteed the loans they’ve taken out on the company’s behalf.

They’re taking well planned, well considered risks.

The more risk-averse often shy away from offering personal guarantees on loans or embarking on mergers and acquisitions that would help to fuel their rapid growth.

Invariably however you do need to borrow money to achieve growth.

Managing growth successfully

The Best Business Scaling StrategyTo manage your company’s growth, it’s critical that you refer often to your business plan and keep an eye on the business’ key metrics, benchmarks and timelines.

You need to make sure that people have actionable activities; things that they can do and which can be measured.

As well as having repeatable processes and measuring your progress on a day-to-day basis, it’s crucial to be able and willing to adapt and be flexible if things change.


Besides monitoring KPIs for turnover, gross profit percentage and salaries, it’s also important to establish KPIs for your profit per product and customer profitability.

You need to know whether you’re doing more business with each of your customers than you were doing the previous year, for example. That’s more important than focusing on going out and winning new customers.

Equally important is being aware of your balance sheet.

Other important KPIs are those that relate to your customer conversion rates, your sales profitability, and your working capital

Pros and cons of inorganic growth

One of the fastest ways to scale your business is to merge with or acquire another business in your market. Or, in the case of retail or hotel/restaurant companies, open new branches in different locations. It could also involve forming a joint venture partnership.

You need to ensure there are alignment and support for the from all the company’s stakeholders. Including customers, senior management, non-executive directors, potential joint venture or merger partners. And your banks and other finance institutions, your accountants, and your immediate team.

The benefits of choosing the right target company for your merger or acquisition can mean your market share and assets increase.

Your new staff may have more expertise and skills than your existing employees.

The merger or acquisition may make it easier to obtain capital if or when you need it.

But this kind of inorganic growth can be problematic.

The purchase price for the acquisition can be prohibitive while restructuring charges can increase expenses.

It also takes time to benefit from the knowledge or technology your company has acquired through the merger or acquisition.

You may find you need to recruit more managers to cope with the increased workforce.

The business may move in a direction you never anticipated. Or the new company may grow too quickly which puts it at greater risk.

Often, the combination of organic and inorganic growth gives you the best outcome. Your company can diversify its revenue base without having to rely purely on current operations to grow your market share.

Three tips to scale your business

  1. Be open minded about taking on investment. Scaling your business will be hard work and you need to find a way to do it without running out of cash. 
  2. Conduct market research to ensure people want to buy what you’re offering. It’s got to interest and excite them so much they’re willing to hand over cash for it.
  3. Reward your employees and make sure they understand and are engaged with your vision for the business. You’ve got to bring them on the journey. 

Contact us now so we can book in a consultation meeting with one of our dedicated Regional Directors, to show how we can help you to have the best business scaling strategy.


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