Cashflow Tips for Your Expanding SME

As an owner of a small business for over ten years, I’ve seen my fair share of cash flow crises. It’s the one thing that all small and medium (and large) business owners experience somewhere along the line, and dread.

Here are some tips we’ve compiled to help SME business owners plan ahead, and may help avoid the cash flow crunch:

ONE: Cash Flow Forecasting

The first thing to do is to predict where and when the business’s cash is coming in to cover what is going out, and make some profit on the side. Imagine if a client didn’t pay on time and plan for that. Set realistic earnings targets a year into the future, planning ahead week by week. List your SME’s income and expenditure on a spreadsheet, taking factors such as the peaks and troughs of trade, the overhead costs of running the office during the various seasons and staff leave, amongst other factors, into account.

TWO: Accounting Software

Cloud based tools allow SME’s to scale up and migrate their software as the company grows. Depending on your business profile, some of the most popular cloud-based tools out there are Xero, Freshbooks, Quickbooks and Sage, which provide solutions that are affordable and easy to use. They feature time-saving features such as automated entries, invoicing, bill payments, expense reports, financial reports and reconciliations – all key to keeping your cashflow fluid.

THREE: Strong Business Process

By definition, a business process is an activity or set of activities that will accomplish a specific organizational goal. Ensuring that your business has a strong business process, and is focussed on growth and  financial success makes the company more streamlined and efficient – which will translate directly to  your cashflow, as you will be getting the maximum out of your company to earn the best turnover for the least amount of input possible.

Ensure fiscal control by segregating duties in the financial department –  i.e. separate people working on the bank reconciliations and invoice billing.  If the SME is small, the business owner should always check the bank reconciliation, making sure they keep up to date with company finances. Enhance the business process by, for example, integrating CRM programmes that facilitate and streamline one’s marketing and client relations strategy, or by using cloud based invoicing which link your marketing and sales teams.

FOUR: Optimal Payment Terms

Always remember that your clients have different business priorities to your company’s. The longer they can delay paying your company, the better for their business. Negotiate terms with your clients that suit both sides – and bargain hard. On long-term projects, explore progress payments, never accept back-to-back payments (you get paid when the client gets paid) and make sure you are getting the most agreeable terms possible from your suppliers. Negotiate the best deal woith suppliers, but keep them on your side by settling their bills within their terms too. Business is all about relationships, and building up a loyal supply base is one of the secrets to success.

Offering clients incentive to pay early is a good way to ensure bills are settled timeously – small discounts or free delivery for early payment goes a long way to fostering good client relations, and getting the payments in quicker.

Make sure that you are using the most cost effective manner of payment – bank charges on card transactions can be steep, online payments may take days to clear – ultimately you need something to investigate the most effective payment method for your business needs.  You can speak to your bank relating to the most efficient services provided and the costs per transaction.

coffee-cup-mug-deskFIVE: Funding Your SME

When your business needs funding, the first place to go is the high street banks -still the largest funding source for SME’s. There are also a number of challenger banks out there, offering great deals. Should you need alternative funding sources, then consider  financing though companies like TradeRiver or FundingCircle (who provide a thirty second eligibility check, with no impact on your credit rating, and has a £60million facility via the government-back British Business Bank) or BoostCapital (online application and an answer within 24 hours, with access to the funds within two days).

SIX: Deliver the Goods

Make sure the customer has no excuses not to pay. Deliver a good quality product, on time and within the brief. Realise that without customers you don’t have a reason to exist. Customer complaints should be taken seriously as these will alert you to problems that could indicate a serious leak in your cash flow. Disputes hold up payments, which leads to cash flow problems.

Listen to your clients – if they have suggestions to improve your User Journey, or your product, implement them. You should see the difference in your bottom line. Ask your happy customers to write company review on TrustPilot or Which.co.uk or s similar website. Good reviews are what drive sales. Sales translate into cash. Regular cash coming in helps your cash flow.

SEVEN: Make Your Cash Work

SME business savings are often a blindspot when it comes to the banks, and now there are an increasing number of alternative savings accounts out there that are tailored towards the SME market. If you have your business’s cash savings stored in a savings account earning next to nothing, we at StongJones suggest you shop around for a better deal. There are many banks such as Investec, ICIC, SBI as well as the challenger banks which are offering competitive rates. There is a growing awareness amongst financial institutions of the need to cater for SME’s, recognising that they are the future of business in the UK.

Finally…

Being an SME owner comes with many challenges. Well known businessman and entrepreneur Sir David Tang once said that the three most dreaded words in the English language were “Negative Cash Flow “. However, if one can get the basics right, and gets a good operating system in place, then your business has a far better chance of surviving the first few crucial years, and will be well prepared for future expansion.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

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Savings Hit as Interest Rates Halve

There have been significant challenges to businesses over the past few years – austerity, changes in regulation , minimum wage and more recently the EU referendum – all within a climate of global uncertainties as the major world economies are in recovery. Most of these factors have some impact on almost all businesses within whom we interact.

The Bank of England has now cut rates from 0.50% to 0.25% – a move that has previously been expected, and priced accordingly by the markets since the results of the Brexit were announced.  Head of BoE, Mark Carney, has also ruled out negative interest rates, and has provided business savers with some certainty going forward.

Business Savings have been worst affected, with interest rates for U.K. Savings accounts from High Street banks being in the low and in some cases, nil percentages.  Fortunately there are still many banks offering reasonable returns in the current climate and we encourage SMEs to review availability, particularly bearing in mind government protection up to £75,000 per banking institution. Currently, the highest Easy Access business rates are 1.10% to 1.35% for business interest rates.

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Shop Around for the Best Rates Available

Last week, the Royal Bank of Scotland wrote to 1.3 business owners, saying that it may be forced to charge on credit balances, should the Bank of England take on negative base interest rates – mentioning they may charge businesses for holding deposits. This announcement was currently limited to only two High Street banks, concerned with their own margin pressures.      

There is still ample opportunity for business to work the unutilised asset – cash.   At the same time as the above announcement, there are a large range of banks offering relatively significant returns from overnight to 1 week 1 month and 1 year plus terms, so it is worth shopping around for the best returns.    

“For now, it’s unlikely a cut in the base rate to 0.25 per cent will result in charges. But this is certainly something to be wary of further down the line if you are a small business owner with cash in the bank. It may be a good reason to shop around for a different bank, one that commits not to impose charges,“ writes Ben Chu, Economics Editor at the Independent.

We at Strongjones urge all businesses spend time reviewing market alternatives for their cash surplus. This would be as simple as a marketplace review – taking a few minutes, allowing you to continue your primary banking relationship without any change. This combined with straightforward cashflow management allows the business to extract additional income for minimal effort.

We provide SMEs solution to manage cash and maximize returns and are happy to discuss our solutions further and we aim to provide solutions that every business should be seeing from their banks in some form. Our startup is presently taking on Beta Group customers – contact us to learn more.  

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

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How SMEs are using FinTech and cloud tools for Growth and Profitability

How SMEs are using FinTech and cloud tools for Growth and Profitability

There is much talk about the disruption of FinTech innovation, and not much in terms of understanding the business impact. In particular, small and medium-size enterprises, who can benefit in terms of financial leverage, use various online tools to increase productivity, streamline processes, improve reporting and the business balance sheet. In the age of digital innovation, FinTech is providing solutions that can benefit small enterprises as much as it does the retail market. We aim to present a few pragmatic options for you to explore.