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Advice from Outside the Square

Category Archives: Finance

12 Strategies To Survive Any Downturn

As a small business, we feel the downturn in the economy much more keenly than any large business. Generally, small businesses have less capital behind them, less reserves. Small businesses find it hard to "hang on" until the upturn because their volumes and margins are tighter. But it is possible for any small business to survive any downturn if they follow a series of common sense business strategies. These strategies are common sense strategies that you should be using no matter what the economic climate, but sadly when times are good businesses allow themselves to get “fat” and some of these every-day disciplines are allowed to slacken. The strategies are both defensive and "offensive" strategies. When times are tight and profit and cash performance are poor, it is difficult not to panic and look to tighten all the hatches defensively.  However, you can tighten activity too much and turn defensive strategies into a downward spiral for the business.  While it is natural to concentrate on the defensive strategies such as cutting costs, it is important to keep in mind what I call "offensive" strategies – initiatives that your business should undertake to ensure that you are the one that keeps selling when others are closing...
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6 Steps To Improve Your Finance Functions

Your finance functions those functions in your business that look after your finances. They include all your book-keeping and record-keeping as well as sales and buying functions. Often small businesses leave everything to one person - a book-keeper, or perhaps the business owner "keeping the books" after hours. Yet, efficient finance functions save you money and provide all the early warning information that could move your business from also-ran to successful. Here are 7 ways to improve the performance of your finance functions. 1. Set a goal Set a goal of what you want to achieve. What do you want to be done and when by? What reports do you want to be produced and how often? Which parts need improvement and by how much? There is no point in starting to improve your finance functions without knowing what you want to do. 2. Look at all your finance functions Don't just restrict your reviews to one part. Keep an open mind and look at all finance functions to see what can be improved. For example, if you restricted your review of improvements to debtor collection, you might miss the fact that customers are paying late because the customer sign on process doesn't effectively discuss payment terms. 3. Take the...
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10 Things Every Small Business Needs To Do To Succeed

As a business advisor and accountant, I am often asked what a small business needs to do in order to succeed. It's a simple enough question but there are so many things small business owners need to know, need to be, and need to do in their businesses. So I asked a number of my most successful clients what they thought about the question, and, using my own experience gained over the last 30-plus years, I have collated the top 10 things that a small business needs to do to succeed. 1. Make sure that you are marketing effectively. From experience, I cannot stress enough how important marketing is to the success of any small business. The problem is that most small business owners are subject matter experts - they are good mechanics, good lawyers, good accountants, good toy retailers, good garment manufacturers - and this means that they try to make their business succeed by being good at what they do. Unfortunately, that is not enough. A business succeeds only if it finds and continues to find customers. Some of these will come from word-of-mouth or reputation but the volume of these new customers will not be enough to grow your business. So, you...
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Setting Up Your Accounting System

While our focus is on advice to you after the accounts are prepared - on issues like your future-proof strategies, how to grow sales, making your business efficient - nevertheless we base our advisory work on numbers. So naturally we care very much how you set up your accounting systems. Whether your software or manual system, and your system around it is appropriate for you, whether the information is accurate (garbage in - garbage out), whether it is secure, whether it is efficient - all these details affect what our ongoing advice might be. Whether you are thinking of starting your first or new business, or whether you are dissatisfied with how you "keep your books" at the moment, it is important to set up your accounting system correctly. In order to help you we have prepared an extensive, free checklist on setting up your accounting system. (more…)...
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