Get ready For the Post-Christmas Cash Flow drought….7 ways to stay ahead!

The global financial crisis is squeezing credit and bank overdrafts and trade payments have been slowing. Therefore, small businesses should support themselves for an economic slowdown in the wake of chaos in international finance markets and a decrease in the value of the Australian dollar. They should be keeping a close watch on cash flow, considering the most appropriate finance options and improving administration processes. Here are some helpful tips to help your business survive and thrive in challenging market conditions!

1.       Get Organised – Keep summaries of all purchase and sales invoices and petty cash dockets. Importantly, keep your bank statements safe as they are a record of your payments and receipts.

2.       Always check the credit status of a new customer – Risks must not be underestimated in the eagerness of taking on new business. Credit checks can be done quickly and are relatively inexpensive.

3.       Chase overdue accounts regularly – take prompt action to follow up overdue accounts by telephone and check customers whether they have received invoices.

4.       Look for more flexible funding options – why not look into Debtor Finance or a line of credit.

5.       Review your suppliers – review the prices of all your suppliers are charging you. Are you too loyal to your suppliers for the wrong reasons? Think of the effect of 10% reduction in cost on your profits!

6.       Dusts off your business plan– try to reconstruct a winning business plan in 2012. Keep an electronic copy to make sure changes are easier to track.

7.       Call in a business consultant – A dedicated financial consultant can help you plan effectively and take advantage of opportunities on the horizon. If you would like more information on Business Consulting contact James Solomons on (02) 98683900 or james@elitefinance.com.au. 

Become a ‘Rainmaker’ in your business!

You may know what business to start, how to gather the resources; but if you do not know how to sell, then you might as well close the doors!

As much as you may dread of prospect of selling, your business needs customers, without which you are doomed. Regardless of whether you are a one person business or a big venture project, your goal needs to be to become a ‘rainmaker’ and attract new customers. Here are five useful steps to that can help you become a ‘rainmaker’:

1.       Find the WHY. Any business can sell a product/service and its benefits. To create a truly lasting relationship with your customers ask yourself why your business does what it does. Once you know communicate it. Apple sells ‘Think Differently’ – they just happen to make great computers and phones.

2.       Be well prepared and confident before you meet with a new customer or make a first sales call.

3.       Determine the competition. Know other ways your customer can get same kind of product or service that you offer. Find out as much as you can, including the price and benefits they are offering.

4.       State your benefits by listing down all the reasons why the customer should do business with you or buy your product such as reliability/durability of the product.

5.       Quantify the benefit. Determine what the benefit actually translates to for that individual or business.

Saving Tips For Xmas!

Christmas falls on December 25 every year and we all know it’s coming but some of us forget to tell our wallets! This time of year is a favourite among young and old, and the lights, decorations and the joy of being around those you love makes it all the more special.

But how about some tips to help make your season even merrier by saving some money? Here are a few ideas to make your holidays a little easier (and cheaper) to get through and allow you more relaxation time with family and friends.

Plan, Plan, Plan

Write out your plan listing everything you will need to buy and do this Christmas. Plan your food shopping list in advance, and check where you can get the cheapest ingredients and groceries. If you are doing the cooking, work out a menu plan, including everything you will eat and what groceries you need to buy.

Make Your List

Making a list assists you in determining a budget and can help you stick to it. Write down the names of those you will be buying presents for and what you plan on buying them. It’s not necessary to spend a small fortune on presents, choose to embrace a season of simplicity and go for handmade gifts and fun ideas that make Christmas more enjoyable anyway. Check out etsy.com for some great handmade gifts!

Prepare your budget now

Work out how much Christmas will cost you and start putting aside the money for it each week. When you see something on special, buy it from your allocated Christmas money and do not go over budget. Don’t rely on credit cards; you don’t want to be still paying for Christmas into the New Year!

Stock up each week

If you have your Christmas plan and know what groceries you will need, stock up a little each week. It will reduce the stress and expense the closer it gets to Christmas as you will have absorbed the cost each week instead of doing one big Christmas shop. Save the perishables for last!

Look for the sales

There are sales going all the time for various things. Keep an eye out in your letterbox and newspapers for specials at your favourite stores. This way you will know when something on your Christmas list is a bargain and you can buy it at a reduced price. A little bit of saving here and there will add up and make your 2011 Christmas just that little bit easier on your pocket. HO HO HO !

What are your business’ values ….?

As published in the November edition of the Western Sydney Business Access magazine http://westernsydneyaccess.com.au/
Every business has a set of core values underpinning most, if not all of the actions and decisions that its owners and staff make on a daily basis (even if they don’t know what they are).
Successful businesses know what these core values are and have spent time developing them, modifying them and operating within them to maximize their chance of success.
Businesses that don’t know what their core values are, generally speaking are those businesses that have underperformed because their values are not aligned with the goals and objectives that they may or may not have set.
The ‘values’ and ‘practices’ in a business are what are defined as the culture of the business. Those businesses which have an adaptive culture which is shared and communicated between owners, staff and the public create an opportunity to give themselves a point of difference over their competitors.
So how do you turn a business’ values, practices and overriding culture into business success and more importantly for business owners, long lasting success and profits?
The key is to turn theory into practice. You can have the best set of corporate values written down on paper, but if these values aren’t followed they won’t transpire into a high performing culture.
It all starts with the owners. The owners of any business are the natural leaders of a business. Not all owners are the best ‘leaders’ however they still have to go about their day to day affairs using the values of the business as the framework for their decision making.
The owners will be responsible for defining the values of their business with or without input from their staff. The owners then need to communicate these values to the staff and make it very clear that these are the values of the business that have to be adhered to.
It is here however that many businesses fall down when non-conformity with these values is left unaddressed. Owners have to quickly deal with staff that don’t follow the values because it only takes one or two bad staff to bring the entire culture of the business down.
In comparison to non-conformity, adherence to the values can help to create a culture that encourages and inspires employees to take responsibility for the business and focus their efforts on achieving the shared goals of the organisation.
This is the beginning of the creation of a high performing culture, in part determined by the businesses values and can assist with reducing employee turnover which helps to improve a business’ profitability.
Taking a step back in the process the defining of the businesses values is an integral part of the planning process and is also a valuable marketing and reputation building tool.
I have talked in previous articles about risk management and the importance of business planning to give your business every chance of success. Well, defining the values by which you want to operate is really the first step in the planning process.
These values find their way into a SWOT Analysis….i.e. Strengths and Opportunities and how a strong set of business values can be a competitive advantage.
These values are part of risk management……i.e. What is the risk to the business if we don’t undertake our business dealings in line with our publicly communicated values? Client losses, revenue reductions, employee legal action? Lack of value conformity can result in all of these things occurring thanks to a dysfunctional corporate culture.
As a marketing tool, the communication of a business’ values to its clientele and stakeholders can be invaluable. Some clients or customers will chose to deal with a business which has similar values to them or values which they simply feel are honest and ethical.
The making of a business’ values public also makes a business, its owners and its employees accountable to stakeholders outside of the business for the following of these values. Thus ensuring these are not just mythical values created to follow a trend.
A businesses values and resultant culture will evolve over time. It is not an overnight sensation and in some cases for businesses which are using the creation of values as a change process will take a lot of effort and requires changes in the mindset of the organization to begin to work within these values
But as studies have shown that businesses which operate within a set of clearly defined, adaptive and positive values can outperform their competitors by sometimes 200% the short term and long term benefits both financial and non-financial are there to be had.

Cloud Computing: How it can help your business!

Cloud Computing – Practical Solutions

The new era in computing is here. A new way to minimise costs, maximise efficiency and best of all run an effective business. These may sound like dramatic claims, but ‘cloud’ computing is rapidly changing the way business is done. This is not just some fad for corporations with a huge budget either – it’s a cost effective solution that is coming to a small business near you!

What is Cloud Computing?

Essentially ‘cloud’ computing is utilising any subscription-based or pay-per-use service that, in real time over the Internet, completes essential or business related tasks for you. It’s outsourcing for the web generation. You don’t need to store your data locally or pay for expensive software licenses, with information instead being stored on secure servers in the ‘cloud’ that are accessible 24/7 wherever you are in the world. All you need is a computer or smart phone with an internet connection – it’s that simple. Data is always up to date so you can make important business decisions on the go.

Costs

The costs for cloud computing services vary, but in essence are much cheaper than traditional software services. Accounting software provider Xero (EFS Business Partner) starts at only $29 per month and allows much greater flexibility than locally stored software. The costs and dangers of storing information locally also mean that cloud computing is a logical choice for many businesses. Some cloud services are even free when supported by advertising!

Uses

The ‘cloud’ in action:

1)    Businesses can cut a big chunk out of their expenses by choosing to shift employees onto online call and communication services where businesses only required to pay minimal costs – from reduced rates for calls to even just the cost of broadband services or similar. Using technologies such as VoiP, people can talk face to face over the internet, making use of video and audio technology. This assists businesses to not only communicate easily and cheaply, but also makes it possible for people to have meetings with clients remotely which in turn drastically cuts down your businesses traveling costs as well as minimising the downtime of frequently travelling employees.
2)    Certain online tools can help you structure your day and keep track of what you are doing. ‘Toodledo’ is an online service allows you to organise and sort your tasks on a tiered model, enabling you to categorise things by priority. It is also fully optimised for mobile devices, helping you keep organised on the move. Google’s to-do list service also provides links directly to your Gmail account, providing easy access for any company that already uses Google’s services like YouTube, Adwords or even Analytics. The system is maintained on cloud servers, ensuring that it works quickly while data is stored in a safe environment.

 

Cloud computing offers businesses the opportunity to leverage services that used to cost a fortune and needed to be run in house. This means more time to focus on the things that matter – growing and developing your business.

For more information on using Xero Accounting Software to simplify your business and keep up to date with your finances please contact michael@elitefinance.com.au. or visit http://www.xero.com.

Getting Credit Card Debt Under Control

First things first. To get your credit card debt under control you require a realistic assessment of your income and expenses. There are no if’s, but’s or maybe’s about it. If you are consistently spending more then you earn it is time to rectify the situation.

Budget
To get your credit card spending under control you need to build a debt control strategy that will lead you to becoming debt free or at least reduce your burden. You need to know how much your total debt is and how long it will take you to repay that debt at your current payment rate. By developing a budget that enables you to track your income and expenses, you can then begin to cut unnecessary expenses and use more of your income to pay off your debts. Simple steps such as allocating a set amount per week to pay off your debt will allow you to get it under control faster. It is important to be realistic with your goals and aim to get your debt under control as soon as possible.

Consolidate
If you are paying off multiple cards at varying interest rates you are more then likely paying more interest then necessary. In this case it would be important to consider a debt consolidation loan. By consolidating your debts you simplify your finances and place all of your debt together into the one account with a fixed interest rate. The proceeds from the loan are used to pay back your other creditors and then you make monthly payments back to the loan consolidator. Usually these loans have much more competitive rates then the purcahse interest rate charged by credit card providers. If you have multiple unsecured debts, you are probably paying far too much in interest. If you are overwhelmed by unsecured debt (such as credit card debt or other unsecured loans), consolidating these unsecured financial obligations has many benefits, including saving you thousands of dollars in the long-term, reducing your total monthly payments, helping you become debt free faster, and improving your credit rating.

One of the most important aspects of debt management is understanding how you got into debt in the first place. If your debts were a result of spending beyond your means, you must modify your budget to avoid this situation in the future. Controlling debt requires self discipline, restraint, and planning. You must address the reasons that landed you in the situation in the first place. No plan for getting out of debt will ever succeed if you continue along the same path. So take action now!

If credit card debt struggles are keeping you up at night it is important that you get them under control now! Speak to your bank or credit provider about how you can get your debt control back on track.

Risky Business…..

“Article as appeared in the September edition of Western Sydney Business Access…..”

SMEs are exposed to risks all the time. Some are risks that are imposed upon them whilst some are risks that they choose take. Such risks can directly affect their day-to-day operations, or their impact may be serious enough for the business to fail.
Do a Google search of the term “risk management for business” and the number and variety of returned results is mind boggling. It is information overload. Maybe this is why it is often overlooked.
Most business owners know that they can take out insurance policies to cover many of their business’ risks. However, there are many other risks that are either ignored or missed due to incomplete and ineffective risk management processes.
Risk management starts by identifying possible threats and events and then implements processes to minimise or negate them.
Effective risk management should reduce the chance that a particular event will take place and, if it does take place, sound risk management should reduce its impact.
As a side note, risk management is also used to assess and exploit opportunities that may present themselves to SMEs, but this is not the focus of this article.
Below are typical risk areas for SMEs. This is not an exhaustive list of all risks a business may face, rather it helps to explain the risk management process with some common examples.
 – Customers. Does the majority of your business’ income come from a single major customer or a group of major customers? If so, a loss of one or more of these customers could result in a large drop in profit and cashflow in the short term.
Here, businesses should look to either lock in major customers to long term contracts, or try to spread the risk by finding new customers or develop existing smaller customers.
 – Suppliers. Is your business dependent on one major supplier or a small number of suppliers? What would happen if one of these suppliers was unable to supply a crucial product or service to you which in turn forms part of your own product or service mix?
Much like customer risk, businesses should look to lock in suppliers to long term contracts, but also businesses should find alternative suppliers that could be used if needed.
 Staff.  Not only can disruption from staff turnover affect profit and cashflow, for some risks there can be legal or regulatory consequences which can impact on your business.
Does your business rely upon key staff in key areas? If so ensure there is a backup person able to perform the each role. Is your industry plagued by high staff turnover? Make sure that you have quality recruitment procedures.
Do any of your staff hold key relationships with large customers? Ensure staff sign confidentiality agreements as well as reasonable restraint of trade agreements.
Do your staff face OH&S issues as part of their daily work routine? Make sure appropriate OH&S policies are implemented and followed.
 – Information Technology. Have you undertaken an assessment of what would happen if your IT system went down or if your data was lost? Also what threats does the internet, if used, pose security wise to your business?
Businesses must have a back up of their data but also a ‘back up’ plan for when the IT system goes down to ensure trading can continue. Internet security measures must be in place, like firewalls and Private Networks as well as physical security for its servers and hardware.
 – Internal Controls. For many businesses a lack of controls internally can expose businesses and their owners to theft and fraud from within. This risk is one of the most common as well as one of the most damaging.
Controls to protect against employee theft is often as simple as ensuring there is appropriate separation of duties. Unfortunately, employee fraud conducted by two or more individuals is harder to stop, but with effective controls the risk of this occurring can be reduced.
Other obvious risk areas that need attention and prevention/mitigation policies prepared for are; Financial risk, Competitor risk, Economy risk, Location risk, Succession risk, Reputation risk just to name a few.
Risk management is often undertaken on an ad-hoc and reactive basis, but as always, prevention is better than cure. Because business planning centres around the risks faced by businesses it makes sense that risk management forms an integral part of a business’ strategic plan.