Overcoming the biggest problems in business often comes down to simple things
Here are a few simple things you can do to capitalise on your opportunities and reduce your risks.
“I didn’t get time…” No more excuses
Most people simply don’t set aside the time to do the forward planning they know they need to do. Here’s a simple test: write down your goals for the business. Now ask yourself, are you doing something to achieve those goals every day or every week? If not, it’s not a goal. It’s just a nice thought.
Set a realistic budget
Financially mapping your business reduces your risk and removes some of the surprises that can occur. Your budget needs to be realistic – not just a percentage increase on last year.
Start with an operating budget and assess each line critically. Map your revenue to see where, how and when the money is coming in to create a reliable estimate of your income for the coming year. Once you have your revenue expectations in place, look at what is required to generate that income. For example, what advertising, marketing and resources will be required?
Once you are comfortable with your revenue, work up your expenditure budget. Be tough on costs. Don’t forget to allow for growth and the increases that are likely to flow through.
Once your budget is complete and you have a good idea of your likely profit margins, do a couple of alternative estimates for your key revenue drivers so you understand the impact of changes to your assumptions. Once you have all this in place, track and measure it throughout the year. Where possible, your management team should be a part of this process and take responsibility for achieving the budget numbers they give you. When people don’t take the steps that they knew were required to achieve the budget the gaps become obvious fairly quickly. Having a budget in place that you need to report on regularly makes you focus on what really needs to be done.
Map your cash
Even some very large businesses have failed because they ran out of cash. Understanding your cash flow needs is vital particularly for high growth business.
Understanding your cash position is about understanding the timing differences: How long will it take for your customers to pay you? How much stock will you need to hold? And, what are the payment terms required by your suppliers? With your cash flow, don’t forget to allow for things like tax payments, loan repayments, dividends and any capital purchases that are planned. These can be ‘big ticket’ items and if you don’t allow for them then you will get caught out.
As part of your cash flow forecast identify your capital expenditure requirements. Don’t deal with these on a one-off basis as they arise, plan them in advance.
Expect the unexpected
Growing to death is often the result of unplanned growth opportunities. It’s ironic that seizing a major sales contract or big new client can be your business’s ruin but its more common than you think.
Many business operators are very good at what they do. Most have an excellent knowledge of the business they conduct and understand their products and services. Most also have an in-depth knowledge of sales performance and revenue. Few however, have a high level of financial management expertise, so when a big new opportunity presents, critical financial questions are not part of the vocabulary. As a result, there can be a sudden and unintended impact on their financial position. A rush of sales might be a great thing but it is not always counterbalanced by a rush of income and profit. Free cash and liquidity are the victims.