Are you an April fool?

 

 

 

 

Over the years I have met business owners who offer a great product or service but are really struggling with their cash control.

One of the reasons is exemplified by a conversation I had the other day with just such a business owner. They have no problems finding the right customer and do a fantastic job for these customers.

However, the business owner has a real stumbling block when it comes to invoicing and debt collection. Firstly, they hate the process of invoicing itself – it is a chore they put off as long as possible. Secondly, once the invoices have gone out they are very reluctant to chase for the money owing to them.

In my opinion they are being an April (and every other month of the year) fool.

They are working hard but because they are not following through, and collecting the money owing to them in a timely fashion, they are struggling to pay their bills.

What makes the situation worse is that they have employees they MUST pay every month irrespective of whether the business is paid or not.

There is a clear lesson to learn here – if you are unable, or unwilling, to deal with the discipline of invoicing and debt collection you must find another way of getting these jobs done. If you don’t, you may lose your business.

So what are the alternative approaches you can take?

Firstly, many bookkeepers are more than willing, and able, to take on the invoicing and debt collection roles for you. The benefits of delegation will way out-weigh the costs.

Secondly, you may already have a member of staff on your team who can take on these jobs.

Thirdly, if you really have to do these jobs yourself, you must change the way in which you approach them. Have a very clear procedure detailing exactly how often invoicing should be done (at least once a week would be my recommendation), block out time in your diary every week devoted to invoicing and debt collection, and understand that any work you do for clients is worthless unless you are paid for it!

For extra help with invoicing and debt collection please download the ‘Getting Paid’ guide on my website http://www.fionabevanfinancialmanagement.co.uk/guides.php

Good luck

Fiona :)

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Put the spring into your step!

unexpected-friendsI have just been for a lovely walk in the spring sunshine and I have to say I feel good!

Many people use their renewed energy to do some spring cleaning. Suddenly streets are filled with car washing, lawn mowing and window cleaning activity.

As it is good to give our homes a bit of a spring clean and declutter, so it is good to regularly review our businesses to see what needs to be cleared out.

I come across plenty of businesses who spend cash on new filing cabinets, folders and storage space because they are being swamped with paperwork – invoices, payroll reports, government letters etc.

So what can you do to make sure you don’t fill your offices unnecessarily with paperwork?

Firstly, check to see how long you need to keep specific government and tax related records. In most cases the limit is 6-7 years. Anything older than that can be properly disposed of. There are great companies out there such as ShredIt who come to your premises and make sure that any papers are disposed of securely and completely.

Secondly, there are many systems these days which allow you to scan and save important documents in a properly organised, virtual filing system. This will allow you to save digital copies of any documents and dispose of the hard copies. The initial work to digitise past records may be a bit of a pain, but once over that first hurdle you should find it easy to digitise documents as they come into your offices.

Of course you will need to ensure that you have robust back up systems – but then you should have those in place anyway.

As part of the clear out process it is worthwhile checking that you are up to date with the statutory data protection requirements as they apply to your business.

Happy spring cleaning!
Fiona :)

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What would you do differently?

screen-shot-2017-03-08-at-17-22-03This time last year I wrote about Groundhog day, the film in which Bill Murray finds himself stuck reliving the same day until he gets it ‘right’.

There is a similarly themed film called About Time where the men in the family can go back to any time in their lives they like and do things differently.The hero eventually discovers that, after going through a period of living every day twice, just by making the most of each day as it happens he can have a great life without having to go back at all.

It’s an intriguing idea.

After all who amongst us has never had a time we wish we could relive and change the way we behaved, or the irreversible decisions we may have made?

Most of us in business have at some point – or indeed most points – felt we are making things up a little as we go along. None of us have crystal balls so we cannot see the effects of our decisions before we make them.

All we can do is make the best choices we can given the information we have available at the time. We cannot go back and change decisions we have already taken. If it turns out a decision was wrong there is no point worrying about something we cannot change. We have to make the best of the circumstances we find ourselves in and learn from the mistakes we have made.

In fact most very successful business people have made huge errors in judgement at one time or another. What often differentiates them from the rest of us is that they don’t dwell on these errors.

In the words of Richard Branson, who has had his fair share of business failures: “Over the years, my team and I have not let mistakes, failures or mishaps get us down. Instead, even when a venture has failed, we try to look for opportunities, to see whether we can capitalise on another gap in the market…[after all] business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another coming along.”

I think taking this approach is the way for us to take the worry out of making the wrong decision. If it can work for multi-millionaires – why not for us!

Fiona:)

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Know your finances inside out!

Jenny teaching

 

 

 

 
As business owners we need our businesses to make money.

In my opinion an established business which does not pay its owner(s) a decent wage is really a hobby. So given that we need our businesses to make money it follows that we need to be sufficiently au fe with business finances to understand if our business is running our finances, or whether we our running our business finances.

Unfortunately, a large numbers of business owners are not financially savvy enough.

If you would like to see if you are one of these, try answering the questions below:

Do you have a clear financial plan?
Do you know if your business is currently profitable?
At this point do you know how much money is in your bank and what money you can expect in and out of your bank account over the next month?
Do you know what customers/products/services are profitable?
Do you have a robust invoicing and debt collection system so clients pay you in a reasonable time (do you know what reasonable is?)?
Are you always able to pay your suppliers on time?
Can you always pay your salary/dividend/drawings?
Do you know how much you have to sell, and at what price, to provide the lifestyle you want?
If the answer to two or more of these questions is “no” you are probably not as financially savvy as you need to be to run your business effectively.

However, help is at hand and there are ways you can help yourself.

If you have an accountant/bookkeeper ask them questions about your financial position and what you could do to improve it
Talk to your business friends who seem to be financially sorted and ask them what they do
There are volumes of business books out there that can help you understand the basics
Take time to properly plan
You may want to go on a finance for non-financial managers course to learn the basics in a workshop setting.
Finally, I have written a series of FREE financial and business guides which you can download from my website http://www.fionabevanfinancialmanagement.co.uk/guides.php

You can download as many or as few of the guides as you like without registering so please do take advantage of them.

Fiona :)

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A little help from my friends!

guidesSince starting my business 10 years ago I have been very lucky to have been surrounded by a network of great people who have given me help and advice, helping me develop my company in the best way for me.

Much of this advice has been freely given, without any thought of direct benefit to the adviser – most of the advisers believing in the mantra ‘what goes around, comes around’.

I believe this too.

If you treat people as you would wish to be treated you can’t go wrong. Further, it is those people who give most freely of their time and energy who have the most successful businesses – not just in terms of money but also in terms of the enjoyment and satisfaction they find in their business life.

Of course, you have to make a living and it does not do to give away the crown jewels for free if they are your source of income. However, there may be people who will never become clients, who can be assisted along their journey.

So I have similarly tried to help small business owners by mentoring and helping where I can. Five years ago I wrote some guides covering key topics relating to business finance and planning. They are designed to help owners of small (and also larger) businesses to get on top of issues which give them sleepless nights, or which are holding their businesses back.

Excitingly I had the opportunity to do some radio interviews based on the guides a couple of years ago and these can also be downloaded and listened to at your leisure.

These guides are my way of giving back so if you are interested in downloading them go to: http://www.fionabevanfinancialmanagement.co.uk/guides.php

You do not need to register with me to down load the guides and they really are free.

Enjoy!

Fiona :)

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Happy 50th Birthday – to me!

screen-shot-2017-01-23-at-12-59-102017 is a big year for my family and me.

On a business note it is 10 years since I started out on my own so I would like to take this opportunity to give a big thank you to all my customers, suppliers and supporters over the years.

Red Berry Recruitment will also be celebrating 10 years in business – a big contrats to Helen Lacey and all the team.

On a personal note I reach my half century during February – as do quite a few of my friends and the odd client. 1967 was clearly a bumper year – even if it was in black and white!

On top of that I have a silver wedding anniversary to look forward to and my boys will be 21 and 18. So lots of opportunities for reflection and celebration.

Society encourages us to make a big deal out of certain events in our lives. The cynics will say it is so that shops can market unnecessary tat to us. But I think these important points in our lives are often when we muse over what we have achieved and think about where we want to go in the future.

How often do you hear some one say “by the time I am 30, 40, 50 … I will have acheived…” or “My goal is to have a business which turns over … in …years”.

Without these focus points we run the risk of just floating through life without any reference to where we have been and where we are headed.

Some people go a bit mad and have a complete mid-life crisis, because they realise time is running out. They will go overboard and throw out the good as well as the bad in their lives. But most of us will have a bit of a refocus and perhaps tweak the odd thing or two we don’t quite like about our work or family lives.

So if you, like me, have a big year ahead of you, embrace the chance to celebrate who you are. Parties are a great way to get together with those you love – aren’t they Angela – and who doesn’t like a good party?

Or you may decide to treat yourself to a super holiday to somewhere you have always wanted to visit but not got round to – after all time is slipping away and we never know when it will run out.

Fiona :)

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How is your contingency planning?

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 08.49.45You will remember that many homes and businesses in Somerset were flooded in the winter of 2013-4, and even with the dredging which took place in the summer, others may be flooded in future winters. Subsequent winters have seen flooding in the Lake District and in other areas close to rivers.

It is a sad fact that at least half of those businesses devastated by flooding will never recover, and those that do, may take a long time to get back on track.

Before they can repair and rebuild there is often the initial wrangling with the insurance company about how much they should pay out, but there are far wider implications to a business than just putting right the premises.

The problem is not just the flooding itself but the downtime the business experiences whilst the damage is repaired, and the consequences of that downtime.

Do you continue to pay your staff even when they are not able to work and if you do so, how do you afford a wages bill when you have no income coming in? Once even loyal customers have gone elsewhere, how do you persuade them back when you are up and running again?

These are the type of issues many businesses do not consider until forced to do so.

Flooding is one type of business catastrophe but there are many others all businesses should consider and plan for. The scale of the catastrophe will be linked to the importance of the occurrence to the business.

For example, if your business server fails how big an impact would that have on your business? If all your staff need to access information on that server 24/7 it could cost you dearly and clearly in that situation it is vital that you have a backup plan to cover just that type of emergency.

Alternatively, if you are heavily reliant on one employee what would you do if that employee goes off sick for an extended period of time?

Every business has its own ‘flood’ scenario and it is hugely important that you have a disaster recovery plan to mitigate against the worst effects of a catastrophic event. You need to build your flood defenses – first identify the scenarios which could do the worst damage, plan for how you would deal with those scenarios in the most effective way, and ensure you have the ‘backups’ in place.

Of course we hope never to use our backup plans, but at least if we have one in place, we are as prepared as we can be if the worst happens.

Fiona :)

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Welcome to 2017!

dancerAfter a fairly turmultuous 2016, a year which was surprising and sometimes shocking, what will the new year bring? If 2016 has taught us anything it is that it pays to expect the unexpected!

In the next couple of years we will see some big changes – perhaps – in the environment in which we do business – or not! We just don’t know.

But whatever happens it is likely that any changes will be difficult to predict and to plan for robustly. This is because many of the decisions our suppliers, customers and staff will be making are likely to be based on their gut feelings rather than facts. Surely the EU Referendum has shown us that!

So what can we do to make sure we ride any storm?

Well, of course, this time of year is the time when many of us make New Year’s Resolutions and promises about what we are going to change in the coming year. Some of us want to be fitter and/or more flexible so our bodies are better able to meet our needs as we get older (I myself have a big birthday this year – 21 is a great age!!). Some of us want to lose the excess weight that seems to have crept onto our bodies over the years without us particularly noticing.

And some of us want to take control of our finances and to strip out unnecessary spend so we are better able to afford the things that are most important to us.

All of these goals are ones we can apply to making our businesses better able to cope with the change which is coming.

Make your business fitter and more flexible by reviewing how you and your team work. Ensure everyone is motivated to work effectively as part of a well oiled machine.

Strip out any surplus fat. Businesses which has been around for any length of time are likely to have areas which need to be slimmed down or stripped out altogether.

Take control of your finances. Look at what you spend your money on and make sure in the future you don’t waste your hard earned cash. A great place to start is to look at your bills to see where easy money can be saved – in particular utilities, rates, insurances, and IT costs.

And, of course, have a clear contingency plan detailing how you will reduce the risks in your business model. Although you may not know how the business environment will change in 2017 you can fortify your business against failure.

Fiona :)

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To resolve or not to resolve?

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 08.58.04

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year!!

Now, traditionally the start of a year is a time for new resolutions. These resolutions often cover things we have been struggling with in the previous year. However, the problem with such resolutions is that they are often unrealistic and by the end of January have gone by the wayside.

But the biggest problem is that just because it is the start of a new year, does not mean that it is the right time to commit to a change in behaviour. For example, losing weight is a great idea, but January and February, when the weather is cold and the days dark, is not a time to eat salads and light food.

From a business perspective I find I am most motivated when the weather improves and the days lengthen. I spend more time outdoors, which makes it easier to think problems through. This means that spring/summer is the best time for me to start something new or review business issues.

If, like me, the new year is most definitely NOT the time to commit to change, cut yourself some slack and delay making your resolutions until the Spring (perhaps an Easter resolution would be better). Then give yourself realistic targets designed to change behaviour in the long term and not just for a couple of months.

Fiona :)

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A year like no other!

Michael thinkingNow we are reaching the end of 2016 we can reflect on a year like no other. November saw the election of Donald Trump to the White House and I am still in shock! Not just because I cannot believe that millions of people voted for Trump, but also because it is the latest in a string of decisions which will change our lives fundamentally.

I cannot remember a year like it!

In the UK, of course, we have been focussed on our decision to leave the EU. This sparked a raft of unexpected consequences that are on the face of it unconnected with the intial vote to leave.

Amongst other things Cameron, a vehement remain supporter, felt he had to leave his post along with the Chancellor, ushering the era of May, Hammond and Boris.

Nicola Sturgeon can now smell blood and is gearing up to call for another referendum on whether Scotland should remain in the UK. If there is a vote to leave I believe this will readically change our view of our country’s identity.

Then of course there was Bake Off’s move to from the BBC to Channel 4 – I am too upset to comment on this!

So Trump’s move into the White House is not the only major change in direction we have seen this year – it is, however, the one which will have the biggest long term impact on all of us. Most worrying is his stance on climate change and the likely impact this will have on the US’s willingness to take part in measures to cut green house gasses. The US is the second largest polluter after China, so the fact their leader believes global warming is a conspiracy is deeply worrying.

Any shift in the White House has world wide implications but this one has the potential to extensively effect the global population for generations to come.

So, as business people what can we do?

Companies are regularly rocked by circumstances outside of their control. To avoid being blown off course it is vital to make the core of our businesses as solid as possible.

Having well trained and competent staff; robust management information for effective decision making; sufficient working capital to meet day to day needs; and strong leadership are vital to long term prosperity.

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