an accountant's perspective


IR35 Personal Service Companies: The Facts

HMRC are using their powers to crack down on those who break IR35 rules. The problem we are seeing with many clients is that those rules can be incredibly complex to unravel. So here is your walk-through of the legislation in place, who it applies to and what HMRC are trying to crack down on.

What is it?

HMRC have special IR35 rules which are designed to prevent the avoidance of tax and national insurance contributions through the use of personal service companies and partnerships.

Note, individuals can still operate through either their own personal companies or a partnership, but IR35 seeks to remove any possible tax advantages from doing so.

Removal of tax advantages

The tax advantages mainly arise by extracting the net taxable profits of the company by way of dividend. This avoids any national insurance contributions which would have been due if that profit had been extracted by way of a salary or bonus.

The intention of the IR35 rules is to tax most of the income of the company as if it were salary of the person doing the work.

To whom does it apply?

The rules apply if; had the individual sold their services directly rather than through a company or partnership they would have been classed by HMRC as employed rather than self-employed.

  1. An individual operating through a personal service company, but with only one customer for whom they work full time is likely to be caught by the rules. On the other hand an individual providing similar services to many customers is far less likely to be affected.

Planning consequences

The main points to consider if you are caught by the IR35 rules are

  • The income of your company will be charged to income tax and national insurance at personal tax rates rather than company tax rates
  • Consequently there may be little difference to your net income whether you operate as a company or as an individual
  • If you have a choice in the matter would you want to continue to operate through a limited company
  • If the client requires you to continue as a limited company can you negotiate with the client for an increase in fees to cover the extra tax and national insurance due

Employment V self-employment

One of the major issues under the rules is to establish whether particular relationships or contracts are caught by the IR35 legislation. This is because the dividing line between employment and self-employment has always been a fine one.

All of the factors will be considered, but overall it is the intention and reality of the relationship that matters.

The following factors are relevant to the decision. HMRC will consider the following to decide whether a contract is caught under the IR35 rules

  • Mutuality of obligation

The customer will offer work and the worker accept it as an on-going understanding

  • Control

The customer has control over tasks undertaken and hours worked

  • Equipment

The customer provides all of the necessary equipment

  • Substitution

The individual can do the job or send a substitute

  • Financial Risk

The company bears the financial risk

  • Basis of payment

The company is paid a fixed sum for a particular job

  • Benefits

The individual is entitled to sick pay, holiday pay, expenses etc.

  • Intention

The customer and the worker have agreed there is no intention of an employment relationship

  • Personal factors

The individual works for a number of different customers and the company obtains new work in a business-like way

Exceptions to the rules

If a company has employees who have 5% or less of the shares in their employer company the rules do not apply to the income that those employees generate for the company.

Note, in establishing whether the 5% test is met any shares held by family members or associates must be included.

How the rules operate

The company operates Pay as You Earn (PAYE) and national insurance on actual payments of salary to the individual during the year in the normal way.

If on 5th April the individual salary from the salary included benefits in kind amounts to less than the company income from all of the contracts to which IR35 applies the difference net of allowable expenses is deemed to have been paid to the individual as salary on 5th April and PAYE & NIC’s are due to HMRC by 19th April.

This is a potentially complex area and we will be pleased to review any contracts you may have with customers to ascertain whether they are IR35 friendly. Please note that there is no such thing as an IR35 compliant contract.

For advice on this just email: or call 01427 613613 and ask to talk to Shell or Ian.

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Key Budget Takeaways 2015

George Osborne promised no giveaways or gimmicks in his 2015 Budget which is a bold statement given that this was his last chance to impress voters. Whether you believe his words or not matters little when you consider this simple fact: if you vote conservative in May you will wish to believe that this Budget shows no bias. If you vote for another party in May then you only stand to benefit from this Budget if it was intended as a sweetener. So either way the Budget before an election is often beneficial to the masses, delivered as unbiased by the standing political party, and hotly contested by opposing parties – business as usual then!

There have been tax cuts – what a huge surprise! And here are the rest of the predictably small Budget announcements.

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Why you need to take a break!

Sometimes we need to take a break but there are so many obstacles in our way:

  • I won’t fit everything in
  • People will think I am lazy
  • I can’t afford to take time out
  • People are relying on me
  • Nobody else is taking a break

Then ultimately, we put the idea out of our minds and soldier on. But, is that the healthy option here? Are we a nation of workaholics? Do we take enough breaks?

And of course the answer is no we do not take enough breaks and this in itself can have detrimental effects on our health. Workaholics end up stressed which in turn clouds their judgment, makes them emotional wrecks and seriously reduces their level of productivity. If you do not take breaks away from work and small ones during your busiest days then you will end up being:

  • Stressed
  • Suffering from poor posture and maybe even poor physical appearance (looking tired/exhausted)
  • Tired and less productive
  • Ill because your immune system is not operating on full power
  • Mentally wrought and edging your way towards anxiety and panic issues

Here are six ways you can make a massive difference to your life and find time for those all-important breaks that you need to keep your energy and sanity levels intact.

1) Prioritise

Everyday there is 100 and 1 things to get done and we could all quite easily rush from one thing to the next without taking time to grab any food or talk to the person that works next to us. In effect all we are achieving is being chained to our desks and when one workload is quickly replaced by another there is no end to it in sight either.

So, the only answer is to start saying no sometimes. I know – how scary is that? But, the fact is that you can afford to turn down some work, you can afford to put some things on a lower priority list and you can afford to delegate some stuff to others. The skill of saying no is essential to a happy and well balanced life. If you cannot prioritise your workload then you will burn yourself out.

Set a routine for your day and stick to it. You will be surprised because people do wait and they will respect the fact that you are taking a lunch break or taking fifteen minutes for a cuppa and brainstorming session. Be ruthless about your day and map it out for you – everything else will fall into place and you will end up working harder during the time that you are at your desk.

2) Allow worries to surface

Do not bury your head in the sand or pretend nothing is wrong when it is. If you allow those worries and stresses to come to the surface then you are enabling yourself to deal with them. This may mean sharing them with someone else, doing a little research or simply admitting to yourself that they are a concern.

It can be liberating just to admit that something’s are beyond your control and no matter how hard you work there will always be stresses. Let them out, write them down, tell someone about them and they will instantly diminish in size and importance.

3) Make time for reflection

Go over your decisions and try and look at them from different perspectives. This means that you can catch problems early and keep evaluating your choices based on now – making sure they are still the best ones for you to make.

Mind maps are always good for this as you can visualise what is going on in that complex brain. There is always a cluster of thoughts revolving around one decision so get them onto paper and then you can see how they relate at which thoughts hold more weight.

4) Turn down your emotions

Try to view the world in a more rational way and do not look at peoples choices as personal. Most decisions are business minded so try and think of their reasons for making them. Annoyance and anger towards others only fuels a stressful working environment and fills you with doubts that are not easily resolved.

5) Enjoy yourself and your accomplishments

There are lots of reasons for not making time with friends and family: deadlines, workload, the expectations of others, it’s the social norm these days! But when you do stop you relax and you take in exactly what you are meant to be working so hard to enjoy. There is far too little enjoyment and living going on these days and far too much working long hours taking its place.

6) Do what comes up

It is not always the things that you are used to and comfortable with that make you the happiest in life. Take the chances that you are not sure of or just nudge you outside of your comfort zone because those are the ones that tend to open up more doors. Mix up your stable income with something that is a little riskier but could put you in perfect stead further up the line. You never know what you will be missing if you flatly turn down opportunities.

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Your Business is Your Baby

Babies keep you up all night, they demand all of your time and energy. They are costly and the responsibility of keeping them safe and giving them a nurturing upbringing is sometimes overwhelming.

But they are also immensely rewarding and nothing can put a smile on your face quite like a happy and content giggling baby that you helped create and raise.

These emotions and sacrifices may well sound familiar.

When you decided to start your business you practically gave birth to a baby. No really…you did!

Building your business is a huge commitment and at times it will take every ounce of strength, energy and sanity that you have available. People will not understand the sacrifices you make to keep your business on track because unless you have your own baby you do not understand what other parents are going through.

The sooner you admit what your business means to you the easier it will be to communicate that to others. It is not just a source of income or the product of you pursuing your passion. It is a combination of those things which makes it incredibly important to you.

If you asked yourself what you wanted most from your life as a teenager, you are not going to say a reliable partner and two healthy and happy children. You might – but it is unlikely. You are more likely to answer: to be living the dream – have money and be doing something I love. You want to reach your potential, make your mark on the world and earn a living while doing those things.

No matter the sex, ethnicity, or culture of your baby they all need the same:
  • Understanding/ Communication
  • Protection
  • Feeding
  • Clothing
  • Nappy Changing
  • Love and Nurturing
  • Introducing to the world around them

No matter the type, industry, or location of your business they all need the same:IT/Business Plan/Forecasts/Communications

  • Business Insurance/Health & Safety/Security
  • Credit/Sales
  • Branding
  • Debit/Supply
  • Team Building/Advice/Support
  • Marketing/PR/Networking

Babies inevitably grow.

You created your business and that makes it an extension of you. You want it to have your values – your drive – and
be made in your image. That is a natural desire as a parent.

In the beginning and to some extent throughout that journey your ambition is simply to survive. But, crafting your voice, building your story and standing for something (whatever that might be) can have a huge impact on your chances of survival.

Your business has a solid place within your heart. As soppy as that sounds it’s true. You cannot prevent the connection from forming because you have put your whole world into it and potentially jeopardised a lot of family and leisure time
to pull it off.

Sculpting your business in your own image works to a point, and it is imperative to ensure the ethos of your
company captures your core values. But, as the business grows there will be lots of other influences that will mold
and shape it for the better.

A company created entirely in ones own image has been suffocated. Whereas one that has grown through a multitude of experiences, mistakes, and leaps of faith is more able to adapt and evolve to suit the changing times and landscapes around it.

How will you parent your baby? These are some of the things our Director, Belinda Darley has learnt along the way which you may relate to:

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Baby business workshops will be coming to the local area in the coming months – to discuss your business problems, get support and advice from business veterans and have the chance to network with like-minded individuals – watch this space…

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Auto-enrolment and the 2015 General Election

This is a big year for accountancy and business. There are plenty of factors that will effect out political and economical climate. We are covering two of the big issues being debated daily at the moment and those are auto-enrolment and of course the General Election in May.

Workplace Pensions Automatic Enrolment: What you need to know

As a business owner, by employing even just a single individual you may be obligated to provide a workplace pension for that member of staff. The new pension automatic enrolment scheme is gathering momentum as more are expected to comply, eventually it will be normal practice. The effect of non-compliance could lead to hefty fines and even in some extremes jail time. An automatic enrolment simply means that the staff members who meet the criteria as defined in legislation will be automatically allocated a pension. That does not mean that the employer does not have to action that scheme and have a provider and planned process in place.

Not all businesses are required to do this at the same time so you need to find when your staging date will be. Ideally, you will start the process sooner rather than later since it is inevitable, it would make sense to be prepared. You will need to seek advice and decide on the best pension scheme for your employees and your business moving forward. There are different options so there are choices to be made.

The process generally works by nominating a contact. The Pension Regulator will communicate the needed information and processes to the contact. The contact will also be the one to register new staff members on the pension scheme. So who does this apply to?

The criteria for auto-enrolment is as follows:

  • The employee needs to be aged between 22 and State Pension age
  • They need to earn more than £ 10 000 a year
  • The employee must work in the UK

The best action you can take right now is to go and seek advice from an experienced pension advisor. They will talk you through your options and help you find the right scheme for you and your staff.

Types of Workplace Pensions are:

  • Defined Contribution Pension Schemes
    • This is usually expressed as a fund value and usually depends on the amount that’s been paid in, for how long it’s been paid in and how long the investment has done.
    • When you retire and the markets are not doing well at the time of retirement, you may end up with less than you anticipated, however, the reverse is also true should the markets do well.
  • Because your employer is purchasing the scheme from the provider in bulk, the fees negotiation in terms of managing your fund is usually less.
  • Defined Benefit Pension Schemes
    • These are usually expressed as a percentage
    • What defines the pay-out, depends on your pensionable income and the amount of years you have worked for your employer.

The percentages each party has to pay:

This gets to the core of the fear that most employers are wrestling with – how much will it cost? The fact that it is beneficial and makes sound sense for retirement doesn’t make the outlay any easier to manage with a tight cash flow.

  • The employee:
    • Minimum 0.8% of your ‘qualifying earnings’ rising to 4% by 2018
  • The employer:
    • Minimum 1% of your ‘qualifying earnings’ rising to 3% by 2018
  • The government pays:
    • 2% of your ‘qualifying earnings’ rising to 1% by 2018

The rise is staggered to help small businesses with the financial commitment they are making. To some it will be a testing time but the scheme is designed for ease of integration and it offers employees a securer future.

When will you have access to your pension fund?

The pension fund only becomes available to you when you reach the age of 60 or 65, depending on when you decide to retire. You can take early retirement in some instances at the age of 55, however, it is very seldom that it is recommended as we tend to live far longer than previous generations. The extra five to ten years spent at work may just make a very big difference to an employee’s pension fund.

Tax charge

Bear in mind that if you contribute more than 100% of your salary to a pension, or more than £40 000, whichever is the lowest, you may have to pay a tax charge. Your lifetime allowance is £ 1.25 million. This is not limited to your workplace pensions, this will include all your pension contributions. For most this will not be a huge concern! But you never know – live the dream!


What does 2015 hold in store for the UK?

With the 2015 General Elections coming up, it is a well-known fact that David Cameron along with all the other party leaders, will be marketing their way onto our screens, into our newspapers and onto our social media feeds a lot in the coming months.

There is a big question over what this election will bring and there are plenty of theories. But, what this election does have, perhaps more than any that have preceded it, is a hell of a lot of doubt over which way this one is going to swing.

  • Is Ed Miliband really the right face and fit to lead Labour to victory – most doubt it
  • Will Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats hold any traction at all after his famous U-turn on tuition fees after joining forces with the Conservatives four years ago?
  • Can Cameron muster enough votes to avoid a coalition, or worse, complete indecision which will signal a loss of faith in his actions to date?
  • Will the UK Independence Party or Scottish National Party draw enough votes to cause a serious upset and even feature in coalition talks – doubtable but can we really say for sure?

The future of British politics has never been more in doubt. As hard as the decision is the importance of each single vote has never been greater. It may well come down to a few votes in the end and one of those could be yours! Make it count, even if you spoil the paper and vote for democracy in a form that is not currently represented in the houses of parliament. This year is the year to vote and who knows what outcome we will have when May is over!

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Why you might need to change accountants

February is a great month to review your accountants and decide whether they have your best interests at heart. You have just gone through the self-assessment process so you can ask yourself some basic questions:

  • did you understand everything they explained to you
  • was the invoice what you expected/were told to expect
  • did you find them approachable
  • did they respond to communications quickly/efficiently
  • do you get the feeling they are making every decision based on what is best for you and your business

If you answered yes to most of them then you probably have an accountant you ought to hold on to. There are plenty of good quality accountants out there so if you answered no to more of the above  it may be time to spread your wings and see who else would make a better fit for you and your business. There are plenty of reasons people fear change when it comes to accounting. Let’s take a look at those reasons and try and demystify what essentially is a required service in an industry that is highly competitive. It’s up to accountancy practices to woo and wow you – not the other way around!

Reason 1: You have had the same accountants forever

This is usually a quick response that involves three main parts to it. What they are really telling you is that they are local and convenient, they are happy with the service because they have no comparison, and they trust their accountants to be doing what is best. These are all great reasons and loyalty is a fine quality provided you are getting the best service available. Like you would do with car insurance and heating bills it makes sense to shop around sometimes and make sure you are not simply remaining blinkered. We have seen clients trust accountants that have been woefully neglecting their responsibilities and left them in a real state. We have also seen clients content with ridiculous accounting fees for simply tasks. Loyalty is to be commended provided it is not costing you too much. Look around and make sure what you are content with is worthy of being content over.

Reason 2: Changing accountants is a massive upheaval

It often feels like that for many but in reality it is extremely simple. Once you have visited your new accountants and signed up with them they will contact your old accountants on your behalf and request all the information they need. It should be a seamless process and fluid transition from one accountants to another. They are obliged by law to co-operate so even if you leave on bad terms there is only a short amount of time they have to be awkward in before they are forced to comply. If you had a good bond with them and are worried about the emotional attachment then write to them, or go and talk to them to explain your reasons for leaving. This gives them the opportunity to lure you back and prevents bad feeling from developing.

Reason 3: Accountants are all the same

This is a massive misconception and ABC Accounting Services alone smash it into smithereens but we are also aware of plenty of other accountancy firms that do the same! Accountancy practices are just as varied as the people that work in them. They can be formal and professional, professional and approachable, approachable and friendly, quirky and friendly, a little crazy, forward thinking and fun! When you go for a free consultation with an accountancy firm you should get a sense of their character and their company ethos then. If you don’t then try another. You should be able to find an accountancy practice that shares your objectives and connects with you and your business. So do your research, go and talk to a few and see who makes sense as a natural extension to your business.

Reason 4: Accountants are there to liaise with HMRC and that’s it

If that is all your accountant does then you are missing out on a valuable chunk of the services they offer. They are there to support you, give you up-to-date financial advice, help shape your business the way you want it and assist you in planning for the future. A good accountant will listen to you and give you guidance. A great accountant will listen to you, help you fight when times are hard, discuss risks and challenges that lie ahead and be there for you exactly when you need them. There is something very flexible, immediate and responsive about great accounting that you will not get from a practice that just goes through the yearly motions. If you are not sure what type of accountant you have ask them if you can discuss your KPIs (Key performance indicators). They should walk you through the following:

  • how far ‘off’ are you from your forecast cash position? What’s the main reason for it?
  • any discrepancies need to be researched and understood so you can take necessary action to bring the figures back into line.
  • how well you are able to meet your short-term financial obligations – a key figure for almost all businesses in the current climate is their liquidity
  • how much gross profit you are making on average, per sale?
  • if you deal with consumers, say in a mail-order business, you’ll want to know how many complaints you have each day, and the broad reasons for them, so you can spot any trends and make plans to deal with them.

These figures can all be monitored and spending time with your accountant should shed light on aspects of your business you may overlook from time to time with your manic schedule what it is.

Reason 5: You don’t need a relationship with your accountant

There are clients that happily email in their data or use a digital filing system like DropBox so contact is slim on the ground. This is still no excuse for a poor or nonexistent relationship. The rapport you have with an accountant is a valuable connection. They understand business in a way that your family and friends are unlikely to. They witness hundreds, if not thousands, of clients go through the same issues, stresses and challenges as you do. In terms of advice, guidance and support there is no better ally that your accountant. You should be able to pick up the phone to them and hear a reassuring voice or drop in for coffee and receive a motivational pep talk when you need it. That is what great accounting is all about. Great accounting is not about the numbers it is about the people that create them!

Is it time to change?

We have given you five good reasons to take a long hard look at what your accountant does for you and weigh up whether it is enough. Don’t move for moving sake or base a decision purely on cost because sometimes you get what you pay for. But, if a move makes sense for you then do not hesitate because your accountancy practice should be an extension of your business and if they are not working with you then you are missing out on valuable momentum.

If you would like a free consultation to find out more about the services we provide then contact Shell via email: or ask for her by phone: 01427 613613.

white wolf

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What Animal Traits are needed in business?

The quick response to the question would be a fighting spirit that doesn’t show mercy and does exactly what it needs to survive. But, what about negotiating skills, building a rapport, understanding people’s needs and presenting a united front. There is so much more to business than meets the eye and a lot more to the animal kingdom than a single glance portrays. From the family orientated, resourceful ant, to the selfless journey of the penguin to provide food for its babies, black and white stereotypes are as ignorant as they are shortsighted.

There are times when human spirit and human characteristics just do not seem enough for triumphing over life’s obstacles. This is no exception when it comes to business. We could all ‘roar’ on occasions when a superhuman strength feels necessary to advance past the pressures and stresses our working day throws at us. In fact, we often turn to animal instincts when we feel backed into a corner or challenged beyond our coping mechanisms.

There is something very primitive at the core of business. When someone challenges it or issues threaten the survival of your business, your baby, you fight for it. You throw everything including the kitchen sink at it. There are different challenges and different skills required to combat each of them. Does it require?

  • Diplomacy
  • Determination
  • Consideration
  • Decisive action
  • Support
  • Empathy
  • Understanding
  • Forgiveness
  • Compromise

We are looking to the animal world to draw out five characteristics of five animals that could help you face any battle your business encounters.

  1. The Wolf

white wolf

An honourable, solitary, independent, strong and powerful animal. The pack is led by the leader or alpha who can be male/female. An alpha male usually controls the activities of the other pack members but in some cases a very strong female can usurp control from him and lead the pack. Equality has been there in nature all along! The structure of the pack is beneficial to all wolves in it as they survive in the wild away from human interference.

The pack mentality is that there is power in numbers and this also holds true for business. Whether that means you build a team of loyal and complimentary employees or you build a network with other local businesses and exchange business/skills/information with them. These two models can both give you security and strength where it would not exist if you were operating as an individual.

Wolves hunt in a group and collectively care for and teach their puppies. Hunting as a group means they can take larger prey. They also relay in the chase so they can conserve their strength by taking charges in turn. This is delegation operating at a very simplistic level but its message is a powerful one. If individual wolves tire there will be less present for the kill and the chance of no food retrieved from a kill at all increases. By sharing the workload they ensure their bounty, create equality, and stay safe. Businesses survive when a team or a pack can suffer some losses and work together for the biggest of gains.

  1. Golden Retrievers

golden retriever

You may be thinking that this is an odd choice but there is something about loving animals that make them all the closer to their human counterparts.  A golden retriever wants to please everybody. They tend to be loyal, warm, and always there to comfort you. If we humanise them, they would likely find it hard to make tough decisions for fear of upsetting someone.

But every workplace needs characteristics of the Golden Retriever. They are trusting, open hearted and loyal individuals. This leads clients/customers to feel appreciated and cared for which is a quality that can never be overlooked. They also gel a team together because they thaw out colder colleagues and continue to demonstrate what a loving and loyal character can bring a workplace. Their relentless efforts are endearing to those around them and they probably make great huggers too!

  1. Roadrunners

road runner

As the cartoon suggests, avoidance is the roadrunners chief skill. Some problems just need to be prevented, ignored, or for want of a better strategy, run from. Roadrunners usually have very sharp observation skills. In the wild they will see a problem immediately and be changing direction almost instantly. They are fast so their solution may be impulsive but they are far from indecisive.

Roadrunners in human form will try to avoid conflict at all costs. It is difficult to find out what their problems are because unlike an Emu that is stationary when it plants its head in the sand the roadrunner disappears from view. They will always avoid petty and meaningless conflicts making them a great remedy to overly dramatic personalities. However, they will allow problems to remain unresolved. Their logic and sharp observation skills will alleviate conflict in a tight team. Given the right time to prepare they will choose not to flee and contribute a very valuable insight into any issue that arises.

  1. Cobras


What do cobras demonstrate in the wild that is a skill useful for business? Possibly on of the core strengths of any successful business leader. It is not quite as obvious as it may first appear. Cobras do not just strike at their opponent with lethal effect. They assess a situation, circle their opponents, and only ever enter conflict if they are certain of the outcome. Unless they are unnecessarily riled or threatened in which case they can have quite a deadly temper!

Cobras in human form are calculating and if they can insight others to retaliate for them they will. They can sometimes come across as manipulative and scheming but the heart of the cobra is to resolve conflict and constantly oversea the entire landscape instead of getting distracted by small details. Cobras work well when time is put aside to talk everything through, plan the road ahead and let them have their say/give their input.

  1. Eagles


Eagles relish the opportunity to select their prey and decisively put it down. Their hunting strategy is brutally efficient. They have a complete overview of every situation, flying at distance from their target until the perfect opportunity arises. We associate Eagles with nobility, pride, power and prowess. There is something masterful in their skill set and simplistic about how they get what they want and get the job done.

Humans who have an Eagle spirit are flawless. They understand how conflict can be valuable and use conflict management techniques (listening, repeating what’s said to avoid misunderstandings, calmly stating multiple opinions and being open to other solutions). Eagles are often at the core of a business but are very rarely the leader as that is a difficult position to keep neutrality in. If you have hired an Eagle then you have a flawless fighter that should be used in the capacity of mediator and mentor to other members of the team.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, everyone is different but if you are going to create a sustainable team a good mix of the above is best. Take key characteristics from the animal world and build a team that can handle itself when conflict arises. Do not view every team member as identical to the next because they will each have unique, skills, strengths and failings. That is just the way they were made and it is your job to utilise them so that you are getting their best performance. They are happiest when they are using the characteristics they have naturally acquired:

The Wolf unites

The Golden Retriever supports

The Roadrunner sees everything

The Cobra analyses

The Eagle mediates