How to beat the recession blues

Planning your business through tough commercial times will be more of a necessity than ever, sales may be not as productive as before, cashflow may be tight. See my 6 point tips that will see you through. These methods work time and time again, so give them a try.

Look at your product or service

If sales are not converting as quickly as they were before look at what added value you can offer as part of that service to make it more appealing to your target market.

What is your Unique Selling Point?

What is your client retention? Its cheaper and easier to have a customer returning to you time after time, than them coming once, then never returning. This could be a project in itself.

First you need to know who are you are targeting.

Look at your demographics, ie

Selling direct to the general public
Age groups
Location is the product or service local or national, global
Gender
Business to business
Small businesses
Large business
Specific industry’s

The Competition

How is your product different, what are the added features
Separate yourself from everyone else
Are you cheaper
Are you local
Can you incorporate postage costs within your price
Take a look at the large corporations, they would have seen plenty of tough times, how do they get through the recession. Learn from the experts.

In times of recession price sensitivity and quality are always a priority for your customers.

Pricing Structure

How do you cost your product or service.
For example use the BCG Share Growth Model as below. This will help you assess which products are making you profit, which are not.

Split your costs and services into 4 categories, see the picture example.

Stars
Products that are high volume and high margin. These may be products that have always been good sellers, and a favourite with your customer.

Question Marks
Products that are low volume and high margin. These might be a niche market product that only appeals to a certain audience.

Cash Cows

High volume products, low margin. Low value products, but you sell a lot of them.

Dogs
Low volume and low margin. Products that don’t really have market, obsolete stock etc.

cross accounting service


Costs
The cost of sale

Who do you buy your materials from

If you deal with a retailer, maybe its time to negotiate.

Look at your high volume products, can you buy direct from the wholesaler, you will save at least 30% doing just this. Look at your stock levels, even holding stock for three months. Look at the possibility of the savings versus cash outflow in holding stock. It might work out a better option.


Overheads
Assess every cost you have from the every overhead from rent, heating, electricity, the phone bill. Even the stationery bill. Get your negotiating skills at the ready. If your struggling, they may be too. They need your business.

Look at local businesses and see what they can offer, you’ll be helping your community and possibly reduce your logistics costs too.

The wages bill, it is a high cost for a business, make sure you get the maximum out of your investment. Don’t see your staff as just employees, they are an investment in your future. Look at training, how can they add value to your product or service.


Look at your car and fuel costs, don’t make unnecessary travelling journeys.

Don’t spend on unnecessary costs, keep the frills for the better times.

Cashflow
Look at all ways of protecting your cashflow. Plan ahead put together cashflow plans, even a simple one will show you ahead of time when you are going to need to fill the gap. Is your business seasonal. If you see a drop in cash, start saving for it now. Don’t leave it to the deadline date as you wont have given yourself enough time to build up your cash reserves.


Investment in capital expenditure, or taking on staff, assess a long term plan the viability of this, before you spend. Growth is lovely, but staying open is more important.

Look at ways to ease the cashflow burden. Look at your weekly, monthly overhead costs. Ie Ask yourself this question “What do I need to sell to cover my overheads.”

Gain credit from your suppliers.
Look at an overdraft facility with the bank, yes they charge, but you never know when you might need the cushion.

Look into leasing your fixed assets, this will also help with the cashflow.
Pay your VAT, PAYE monthly, at least it will reduce large amounts of cash going out of the bank at three monthly intervals. Ie spread the cost.

Look at your long term, possibly obsolete stock, sell to a scrap merchant, hold a sale. It costs money to sit in your warehouse.

Diversify
If you are not hitting the right note with your customer, maybe think about other sources of income. Look at the market place, what market isn’t saturated yet.

What services are connected with your products, its all about adding value to what you do already.

If your business is seasonal, what can you do with that time to keep the cash coming in. If its routine every year, make this year different.

This blog is intended for information purposes only and is only advice from past experience, you may have other suggestions of your own. It is not intended to be used to make all of your business decisions but as a guide only.

The Business Plan

9 April 2014

This blog is intended to explain the full potential of your business plan.

We have just updated our Business Plan and wanted to share some insights as to why these are important for the growth and success of your business.

You may have put one together when you started your business and it is now collecting dust in the drawer, next to the filing cabinet.

How about if we told you it can be adapted to be used as a positive tool to be developed as your business develops.

You maybe three years into your business, you have changed both as a person, and as a business in that timeframe. What was important three years ago, may not be so important, you may have other ideas, now you’ve dipped your toes into the world of entrepreneurship.

 

Why Do This In The First Place?

To focus on specific goals you wish to achieve, have something to aim for.

To take on a planned approach to your daily routine. The successful companies plan everything.

To know your customer better 

To know your competitors better 

To work on your threats and weaknesses . Stand out from the crowd.

 

Lets break it down.

 

Your Mission Statement

What do you want to be?

What do you want your business to be?

What is your Unique Selling Point, what is your business goal all about?

Why are you doing what you are doing?

 

Update the business plan with these new inspirational ideas.

 

SWOT Analysis

You have now been in business for while. You now have experience with what you are doing. You may have made some mistakes along the way, but have learnt from them using that knowledge to better use.

The SWOT analysis is all about where you are today, and how you compare with your expectations and more importantly against the competition.

 

Strengths - you have first-hand experience of running a business. What have you gained from your time doing it.

Weaknesses – you listed these in your first business plan, did you manage to eliminate some. Have you gained new ones?

Opportunities – No matter how big or small your business is there are always opportunities to promote and sell your product. Use your contacts you have now built up. They may be able to put some work your way. Give you access to that contract you’ve been chasing. Its not necessarily what you know, its who you know.

Threats – Whether you own the local shop down the road, or run a large corporation.

 

Three main threats to your business survival. The economic environment, cashflow and the competition. Embrace and learn all you can about them, be one step ahead.

 

The Products Or Services You Offer

What services or products do you offer ?

What is your Unique Selling Point ?

How saturated is the market place ?

How big is your market, what is your potential piece of the pie?

Is it local area or a global market ?

Can you make a profit from what you are doing?

 

The Marketing Strategy

How am I visible to the market place 

Website development 

Online presence 

Advertising in the local press 

The Directories 

Word of mouth 

Business contacts 

Referrals 

 

Looking at the competition and your customer base, the target market. This should be taking up the main part of your business plan Your strengths and weaknesses against the competition Your target market

How your marketing campaign has been working so far, track what works and what doesn’t. Some Number Work Set yourself a detailed budget and compare to actual figures Put together a cashflow statement.

Whatever youre doing always keep an eye on the cash and profitability.

Check and triple check your costings.

 

Nicola Cross 9 April 2014

 

 

 

 

This blog is intended for information purposes only and is only advice from past experience, you may have other suggestions of your own. It is not intended to be used to make all of your business decisions but as a guide only.

How Graphs Can Be Used For Your Business

Graphs can be used by Financial and Non Financial managers in a variety of ways.

Sales

Sales Managers have targets that are set for them by the company they work for.  They can track their sales in a variety of ways.

Our example shows Sales split by category/or segment and shown against budget. Targets that were set at the beginning of the year.

This graph also tells you the most popular and productive products on sale.
You can take this further and look at the margins of each product category, you might not sell a lot of something but if it returns a higher margin/profit rate, you don’t have to sell as many to get the same profit figures. There may also be seasonality in that product line.

Ie in hot weather a newsagent may sell a lot more drinks than bars of chocolate.
In cold weather the icecream freezer might go untouched. Easter, Half Term, Christmas. You would tailor your sales targets to match demand.

Apply this method to your particular product line.

 

Cashflow

You might want to set yourself a target bank balance for you to meet your overheads and make a profit.

The graph will show against budget whether you are meeting that goal.

It also gives indication of the business behaviour, see our example the graph shows above the line at first, then dips over February to April then comes back up.  Back into the target position and above.

If the graph had shown erratic it would give an indication of how well the manager is managing the business. In a planned approach, or finger in the air approach.

Gross Profit

This is a key figure in your accounts, it indicates whether you have made enough sales to now cover your overheads and make a profit.

Our graph shows a rise and then a sharp dip in May, this could be down to several factors.  The Sales themselves were generally low that month, an error in charging the right selling price for a new product line, an operational issue.

If you see a dip in any of these things, look for the reason, if easily explained, you could be putting action in to put yourself back on track.  Also look out for high peaks, these should be explainable.  ie a new contract, timing issues, seasonality, or it could be an error.

This blog is intended for information purposes only and is only advice from past experience, you may have other suggestions of your own.  It is not intended to be used to make all of your business decisions but as a guide only.

Tips To Cashflow Success

Cashflow funding of a business is key for its survival. A number of businesses fail within their first two years of trading, not because they didn’t have a good product or service, not because they didn’t have a market. They simply ran out of cash.

Sales Income

Prepare a detailed cashflow of your normal business trading, information from Sales already in your diary, if you have been trading for a few years. Use past history to project forward. For the new business set an achievable goal. Always look ahead a minimum of a year, three years if possible.

You may have peaks and troughs, downtime or seasonality, build these into your forecast.

Don’t forget VAT if that applies. Ideally shown it separately, and offset the VAT on purchases. Your sudden inflow of cash may belong to the Inland Revenue.

Your Costs

Main costs first

Materials
Wages
Rent
Travel etc.

At the bottom, how much do you have in the bank to start off with. Show the opening balance of the bank.

We always look at forecast cashflows, ie a budgeted one along with an actual one. As the months pass by update the cashflow with your actual figures and roll forward. So that you are always looking at a year to date. It does not necessarily need to be in line with your year end. Do a separate one for the year end if necessary.

By now you will know ahead of time your cashflow issues, peaks and troughs, you can now put a plan of action to make sure that you are covered in the troughs, and are saving in the peaks.

If you need a large amount of cash in six months time. Don’t leave the sudden influx of cash to the last minute. Build up over a period of time.

You might be wanting to buy capital expenditure, or take on more staff, it will help you predict when this can take place.

Look at your marketing to increase sales. Check your margins to make sure your sales cover your costs. Keep a close eye on the costs themselves.

Look at other options for finance other than your cashflows from the business.

Gain credit from your suppliers
Finance leases from the banks and other money lenders
A mortgage

Your credit score can even affect you being able to take on a large contract. You will still need the credit from your supplier to make that important sale.

By gaining credit it will increase your credit score and make you more attractive to lenders.

Nicola Cross
26/9/11

This blog is intended for information purposes only and is only advice from past experience, you may have other suggestions of your own. It is not intended to be used to make all of your business decisions but as a guide only.

This blog has been requested by some of our clients who from time to time have asked us questions relating to the development of their companies.

As we are from a commercial background, we are a little bit different from the conventional accountancy firm.

Yes we will keep you up to date with legislation and offer tax advice to make you aware of tax savings and reliefs available to you personally and for your business.

But also offer advice for the development of your business.

Here are a few tips that can be shared and applied to many types of business industries.

I hope you like them.

Thank you
Nicola Cross

This blog is intended for information purposes only and is only advice from past experience, you may have other suggestions of your own. It is not intended to be used to make all of your business decisions but as a guide only.