The sun has got his hat on!

Unusually for England, the sun is shining over an extrended holiday period!

It is easy to overlook the effect of fabulous weather on our spirits, but it can be quite marked. We feel more positive when the sun shines and negative when we have a period of extended rain. So what does this mean for us business owners when we are planning for the future and thinking about strategy?

Personally, I think there is enough doom and gloom out there due to the huge cuts in public expenditure and the so- called age of austerity. As business owners we have to look positively into the future or we might as well shut up shop today. So it makes sense to me to do business planning when we are feeling at our most positive.

That is not to say that we should look at our businesses through rose tinted glasses – just that we should take the opportunity to plan at a time when we can offset our natural tendancy to think the worst.

I also think that we are at our most creative when we are inspired. It is easier to be inspired when the sun is shining and we can spend quality time out of doors. Before I start a planning session for my business I like to take the opportunity to take a brisk walk – or even walk whilst I am reviewing my business and my plans for its future.

By doing this I can get the ‘juices flowing!’ and can look at my business in a more rounded way. Also I find it easier to think laterally around any niggles or problems.

So once you have had the long weekend break from your business how about taking some time out to review your business strategy – expecially if it has been a while since you have thought about it. You may well find that it is relatively easy and you feel uplifted by the fact you can visualise the coming year.

Happy planning!

Fiona 🙂

Feeling the pinch?

Yes, it is the start of the new tax year and the opportunity for the chancellor to take even more from our pockets. But is not just tax (Personal, NI and VAT) which is going up, there are many other expenses which are inexorably heading skyward. So as a business owner what can you do?

Firstly, it is very important that you know what you are spending your money on. This might sound facecious, but how many of us REALLY look at our expenditure and make a positive decision to bring it under the microscope.

I think most business expenditure falls into three categories: discretionary, semi-discretionary and essential.

We will often review the discretionary spend and decide where we need to make adjustments. For example, we will decline to spend on some advertising we can’t afford, or reconsider some staff training! This is usually spend which is realitively large and there is generally no immediate effect on business success if the expenditure is delayed – or cancelled all together. However, cancelling this type of spend out of hand will damage the business in the medium/long term, so it is important to be circumspect in your review, rather than just taking a slash and burn approach.

Semi-discretionary spend includes items such as office supplies or travel/motor expenses. These are areas we feel we have to spend money on, but may not feel we can do very much about the amount. However, these expenses can often be brought down with a little lateral thinking.

With office supplies, for example, it is worth asking yourself whether you need to print and send documents or whether emailing would be just as effective. With postal charges inceasing all the time, sending letters has never been more expensive. So how about emailing customer invoices? – there is no worry about whether they have been lost in the post and the client gets them instantaneously.

The ‘essential’ expenditure might include items such as rent, rates and utilities. These items are often viewed as ‘fixed’ and can be overlooked by business owners who are looking to cut out waste. However, again there is room for review. When you have break clauses in your lease make sure you assess whether your current location and size of building still works for your business. If it does, take the opportunity whenever you have a rent review to re-negotiate with your landlord.

As with your home utilities there is the option to shop around for the best rates for your business. It is possible to make significant savings in this area, especially given recent increases in price. Also review your usage – are lights and computers left on at night? Do you heat an empty building at weekends? Getting staff on board in reducing power useage can really help in ensuring you are not paying for unnecessary useage.

Taking control of your spend is not about cutting costs left and right with no regard for the future of the business – it is about understanding where your money is going and taking out waste.

Fiona 🙂