Archive for the ‘Finance & Accounting’ Category

Late payments: How Safe is YOUR Business?

How vulnerable is your business to late payments and non payments of bills because you don’t have your own house in order?

It’s bad enough having to chase late payments from those who’ve received your products or services and are deliberately avoiding contact with you; having to do it because of sloppiness in your own organization that you’ve allowed to seep in is not far short of criminal. Especially when you realize that more companies go out of business through cash flow problems than for any other reason…

Remember: Nothing is ‘sold’ until you have the cash in your account, so let’s check out rules you can easily apply upfront and then look at simple ways to deal with late payment! :-)

6 Rules for New Customer Accounts

  1. Be clear about who can authorize payment for any products or services you provide
  2. Know what needs to be signed or how they confirm an invoice is due to be paid
  3. Establish where the invoice should be sent
  4. Know whether reference to a purchase order needs to be made
  5. Make sure accurate invoices go out on time
  6. Make sure your payment terms and conditions are crystal clear and understood

If you’re at all unsure of how closely the above rules are applied in your organization, just turn each one into a question – you’ll soon find out from the answers how tightly (or otherwise) your particular business ship is being run…

Chasing Late Payment of Bills

Provided you’re satisfied everything is in order and there is no reason from your point of view that payment should not be immediately forthcoming, you need to get onto customers as soon as they are outside those agreed terms of yours.

The best way would be to avoid the necessity of chasing late payment altogether by only providing the product or service on receipt of money, or offering attractive discount savings to encourage prompt payment.

However, if neither of these options is available to you or applicable to your business, ensure that you make one to one contact: Communication from a ‘faceless’ company is much easier to ignore or give the runaround to.

The telephone can be a very useful tool in this situation, second only to presenting yourself at the customer’s premises – and you can get through at least 5 times as many phone calls in the time it would take for a visit!

6 Tips

  1. Be prompt in chasing – you’ve already provided the service or product
  2. You are entitled to the money by the agreed time
  3. The longer you leave it to chase your money, the further down the queue you’ll go when any bills do get paid
  4. If you are getting the run around from the customer company, the person who made the sale should speak initially to the Decision Maker who bought from your company – three reasons for this
    • This is the person who values the purchase
    • This is the person with whom your company is building an ongoing business relationship
    • In short, this person has a vested interest in keeping you sweet – I can remember numerous occasions when I’ve been on the buying side of the equation and stood over Financial Directors and made them write out a cheque after I’d received a telephone call from a totally fed up supplier!
  5. Don’t back down – be prepared to state your case to the top man or woman
  6. Be pleasant but firm – no-one wins if a slanging match is allowed to develop

I’ve always found that if you know your customers and build a strong business relationship with them, apply the 6 Rules, and follow the 6 Tips, you rarely need to go the legal route.

Still, late payments are affecting more and more of us so please share any ideas, systems, practices that you’ve tried and made work for you! :-)

Could YOU Trade or Train YOUR Skills?

What skills do you feel you need most right now?

Do you need to learn them or could you buy or barter with someone else?

What skills could you offer?

I’m a firm believer that there is a wealth of talent amongst you, our regular visitors and followers and your networks. Some of which we’ve covered rather well, especially sales and marketing communications, others of which we haven’t really touched on much over the past five years, such as:

  • Business finance
  • Business accounting
  • Legal advice

The above immediately spring to mind as areas where many small businesses aren’t necessarily getting the best advice and help they could and deserve in these radically changing times: Could you help? Would you be prepared to contribute your thoughts and tips on a semi regular basis?

Sure, there are bound to be country legal and cultural differences to be aware of and top line prior knowledge of those would help a client wishing to venture into markets outside of their traditional sphere to make better informed decisions. Those of you who have an understanding of these, without giving away your core value, are in a unique position to help and demonstrate your credentials. Just have a think about it for a few minutes…

Then there is the whole exciting sphere of online skills:

  • Creating, maintaining and growing effective company blogs – blogs loved equally by potential customers and search engines
  • Growing an online following that converts followers to customers
  • Using continued interactive marketing techniques to grow customer value

We touch on these from time to time and have contributions from guest bloggers yet are now actively seeking our own resident contributors.

Think you might fit the bill or know somebody you’d recommend? Contact us direct or get them to get in touch!

Let us know!

Linda Mattacks - Small Business Training

10 Top Reasons Small Businesses Fail and Quick Fixes

I did some online research over the past couple of hours on the Top 10 Reasons Small Businesses Fail.

The first I came up with was information from the Small Business Administration, an American federal government agency with some 2,000 permanent full time staff and a head honcho (called an Administrator) sworn into the post by the President no less… so I guess the USA takes small businesses seriously ;-)…

Anyway, back to the main plot: The SBA says (apparently in no particular order):

  • Over expansion
  • Poor capital structure
  • Overspending
  • Lack of reserve funds
  • Bad business location
  • Poor customer service and accounting protocols
  • An inadequate business plan
  • Failure to change with the times
  • Ineffective marketing and self promotion
  • Underestimating the competition

Now it might just be my limited powers of research (though I’m normally pretty good) but the only answers I could find regarding UK businesses was on a UK franchise site. Nothing wrong with that but it doesn’t have the same kind of kudos as a government agency.

Never mind – this time the reasons are in numerical order – presumably in importance of their contribution to failure. Let’s see what they are:

  1. The manager is incompetent
  2. Finances are not in place
  3. The Owner gives up too quickly
  4. Insufficient advertising
  5. Lack of branding
  6. Inability to close the sale
  7. Poor location
  8. Bad treatment of suppliers and (heaven forbid) customers
  9. Lady Luck
  10. Overestimation of demand and lack of USPs

So where are the similarities and how might you be able to get any quick fixes?

Remember that it’s often not what you know but who you know (let’s face it, if you knew that what you were doing was poor business and likely to come back and bite you in the you-know-where you’d hardly have done it, would you?). And if you’re genuine and ask people nicely they’re usually flattered and happy to help where they can.

  • Bad/ poor business and financial planning

Who do you know who could help you out here? How about Successful people you know who’ve been through what you’re currently going through recently enough to have what they might be able to impart still hold water in these economic times?

  • Poor location

I admit I haven’t had a need to know about business premises leases so again I’d say: Ask around and find a business person who does. It may be that you’re stuck where you are, in which case concentrate instead on other ways to combat it…

  • Poor Differentiation, Communication and Support of Brand Value in relation to Market Need and Willingness to Pay

If you don’t know somebody who has demonstrably got this right for their own business and can help you do the same for yours… I’d be happy to help :-)!

Linda Mattacks - Small Business Training

A gentle puzzle for you!

A woman had built a successful service business from scratch and enjoyed the lifestyle that went with it – nice house, top of the range car, holidays abroad, dining out, classy clothes, trips to the theatre – she’d earned it all.

She had a permanent workforce of fifteen people and about thirty-five part time outworkers who all relied on her for their income.

Then the bottom fell out of the market and the only way for her and the company to survive was to change direction. The car, her pride and joy, was the first to go along with the dining out and theatre.

She had enough good clothes to still ‘look the part’ and they’d last a while. But, as time went on, employees became disaffected, morale was low and she was losing confidence in her own abilities to successfully ride the storm.

Could she do it?

The answer at this stage was: Possibly. Yet she was smart enough to realise she’d reached a point where she was ‘too close to the wood to see the trees’ and couldn’t do it on her own.

She didn’t wheel in a business coach with a track record running companies; she approached someone who would help her think differently. And, together they got results within weeks:

  • After a get together of the core workforce fourteen were totally ‘onside’ and the remaining one, who clearly wasn’t, left the company.
  • She was made to follow up a potential contract that had gone suddenly quiet: She discovered there’d been a misunderstanding that was about to scupper the deal. She was able to clear it up and get an order that immediately put £25,000 into her company’s funds and not only considerably eased the financial pressure but also boosted her personal confidence.
  • She was made to ‘go play’ with those who still owned the make of car she’d had and found they automatically regarded her as one of them – whether she happened to actually own one at the moment or not.

She and her company did ride the storm; she got another dream car, a second home in Europe, where she now spends much of her time…

The ‘moral of the tale’ is in the story – what’s your view on what it is? Post your thoughts in the comments here :-)

Linda Mattacks - Small Business Training

Did you say something BAD about me?

We often feature customer service here and the importance of getting it right – never more so than dealing with a customer complaint. Or even preventing a problem turning into a complaint… so I thought I’d share this with you…


A land line went down here the other day and I was having real hassle getting through to the telecomm provider to report it.

  • The recorded service I got through to (using a cable line) said it couldn’t run the test on the faulty line as it was busy… and suggested I call back…
  • The form on the website accepted all the details I inputted then wouldn’t process…
  • When I finally got through to a human being, English wasn’t her first language and she insisted on trying the web route again on my behalf – only to discover it wouldn’t register the fault…

I was eventually transferred to someone in the UK who manually logged the necessary information and started the process of sorting it out. From then on, I must admit in all fairness, it all happened pretty quickly.

Meanwhile, the interesting bit

Half an hour into this malarkey I was really getting hacked off, so I tweeted about it on Twitter, naming the company. Within about a further 20 minutes I had a direct tweet from its Care team inviting me to email them the info and they’d get on the case!

I did email them and thanked them for spotting my dilemma and offering to help. I also suggested they get the ‘powers that be’ at their (blue chip) company to phone in with problems/ use the website to try and solve them and see how they get on see how they like the experience.

Even when I received a follow up call the next day to check that everything was okay I still felt that they were playing catch up from a customer service viewpoint:

The competent human interaction should be there right from the first contact.

Now a question for You

What happens when a customer phones your company with a complaint?

PS: You Plc coming soon – Customer service happened to be more topical for me right now 😉

Are 12 of you ready to up your game?

As you can see by the side bar, we’ve been concentrating on helping people who are finding themselves out of a job get the best possible perspective on how to handle their predicament and get themselves back earning.

So apologies to the thousands of you who visit this site and read our blogs if you feel we’ve been neglecting you over the last couple of months!

We really appreciate all of you yet are currently looking to work directly with 12 special people. Are you one of those 12?

Many people who come to us want things in their business and their lives to be better. They’re genuine and they mean it but often not enough to put the effort into making it happen: That’s mind, body and soul.

How many times do you think, just before sleep takes over: “Wow! Today was awesome!”?

So try this equation:

Self esteem = Reality

If your reality isn’t what you want it to be, just a little way off, or nowhere near, do you say: “I deserve more than this and so do the people I care about” and up your game? Or do you lower your expectations?

We’re looking for 12 people who are determined to up their game – are you one of them?

If you believe you are, give us a call on +44 (0)20 7209 1284 business hours GMT

Avoid Business Growing Pains

We all know people who’ve lost or nearly lost their business.

We hear how they’ve been “stitched up” by rogues or, at the very least, let down by incompetents whom they’ve charged with responsibility for sales, marketing, financial, legal or IT issues and it’s all gone horribly wrong.

So how did they allow this to happen? Well, in hindsight they’ve obviously made the wrong choice(s). Brilliant. We know that in hindsight we all have 20:20 vision. So how do we get the 20:20 before we get to the potential disaster?

The two obvious ways are:

  • You buy in the expertise you need from somebody proven to actually be able to do the job well (outsourced or employed)
  • You learn how to do it yourself from a reputable source

Yet there are two potential flaws in this (somewhat flippant) answer.

The first assumes that you know at the very least what questions to ask and what answers to expect in order to ascertain whether an individual claiming expertise in any of the essential areas is actually any good at what he/ she does and whether you would be getting value for money in the service you’re paying for.

The second presumes you know where to go, whom to go to, have the time and can make the commitment to learn how to perform these functions to the best of your ability and to the credit and success of your company.

Once again good old common sense has an often sadly ignored role in this. What about a middle ground where you could pool teaching and learning skills, gradually building mutual trust and without anybody spending huge amounts of money :)?

Networking groups abound yet they seem to be set up with the prime reason (if not sole purpose) to introduce and refer business rather than trading skills and services.

You may have tried networking and love or hate your experiences of it. It doesn’t really matter for our purposes here because, regardless, you will know at least some people whom you trust and who can either help you directly or put you in contact with someone who can.

  • Start inviting people who are each as good in their field as you are in yours to come and talk to each other
  • Ask how willing they are to help each other
  • Find out what additional help they in turn need and build a group that ultimately can fulfil all, or at least most of your collective business skills needs

It’s a good idea to agree a unit value for each function – an hourly, daily or part-day rate is usually favourite. Then barter time where possible either to perform the function for each other or use that time (where practical) to teach/ show how to do it. I prefer the latter for reasons I’ll go into further down the line.

Introduce members gradually and monitor the value of their contributions. Some may turn out to be mainly “takers”: They’ll pay for the services on offer that they need rather than really enter into the spirit of the group. And that may be perfectly acceptable until somebody else comes along and wants to join who does what they do but wants to give, too. You just have to decide as you go along what’s in the best interests of the group.

Try it out and let me know how you get on :).

+44 (0)20 7209 1284

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"I was very impressed by Linda's determination to help and the constructive, but persistent, manner in which she identified issues and then tried to resolve them. After recent progress I was again reaching a stage where I seemed to be spinning my wheels, and she has given me fresh impetus to start moving forward again."