Be cash savvy

Cash is king! and managing it properly is one of the best ways of ensuring your business flourishes. However, many small business owners find it a real challenge to chase customers who are late paying – even though not doing so leaves them in a really tight situation with the bank.

A phrase we hear often is, “They’re a really good customer, so I don’t want to annoy them by chasing for payment”. Let’s just analyse that sentence for a minute. Why are these customers good for your business? Because they allow you to do lots of work for free? Surely, a good customer is one who appreciates your efforts and is happy to pay because they value you. If you have done the work you agreed with your customer, to the level they expected, why should they not pay the agreed price in the agreed time period?

So don’t be shy about collecting YOUR money.

Other problems I see regularly are:

Not setting payment terms up front

If you have not agreed when the customer should pay BEFORE the work is done, you will struggle to collect the money in a reasonable time frame. Make sure your terms of engagement/purchase confirmation clearly state when you expect to be paid.

Setting unnecessarily long payment terms

Don’t assume that you have to offer customers 30 or 60 day payment terms. Start from a position of offering zero payment terms and only offer extended terms if there is a commercial advantage in doing so. Bear in mind that even if you offer 30 day terms you will most probably be paid later than that. As you don’t know the financial position of all your customers the only safe money is the money in your bank account.

Not sending invoices out promptly

If you do not send out your invoices as soon as the work is complete, you automatically build a lag before you receive payment. Invoicing is a chore, but regular invoicing is vital to achieving financial stability.

The most common reason small businesses fail is because they run out of cash.

The most common reason they run out of cash is because they do not collect the money they are owed quickly enough, or allow debts to go bad.

Even big businesses struggle if they don’t manage their cash effectively – just look at the recent example of Carillion!

Make sure you business succeeds by being cash collection savvy.

Fiona 🙂

You don’t have to be a superhero to do the best for your business

super girl

Is this story familiar to you? A business person who is successful in their field but starting to get bogged down in the day to day running of their business. In particular, administration and bookkeeping are starting to grind and take the shine out of their enjoyment of their businesses?

This is a common story but one that has a simple solution – DELEGATION.

We may have many ‘good’ reasons why delegation is hard and why we should do all the ‘easy’ jobs in our businesses:

– it can be expensive to pay someone else

– perhaps they will do the job wrongly or prove unreliable

– it will take time for them to settle in and the process will be distracting

However, you cannot escape the truth that however much you try to ‘create’ time by managing it better, there will only ever be 24 hours in a day! We cannot, like Superman, create extra time just by wishing for it.

So I would answer each of the objections above like this:

– You are much more valuable to your business than you may credit. Your time is likely to be worth much more to your business per hour than the £20-£25 per hour you might need to pay an administrator/bookkeeper.

Also there are jobs which only you can do in your business. These undelegatable jobs include creating business strategy, and leading and managing your business (even if you work alone your business needs to be managed!). If administration and bookkeeping are keeping you so occupied you do not have time for strategy, or management, then your business will suffer considerably.

– Are you really sure you are the best bookkeeper/administrator anyway? Surely you did not start your own business to play around with the books or to file!

– If you engage a trained bookkeeper they will settle in very quickly. Also, because they already know what to do as a bookkeeper you won’t have to spend time showing them what to do.

So do yourself a favour. If you have too little time to do the important things in your business – DELEGATE!

Fiona 🙂

New Year’s Resolution time

It’s that time of year when we come up with fantastic ideas and resolutions for the year ahead. Unfortunately, these ideas and resolutions, which seemed so fantastic in 2017, will have been forgotten very early on in 20108 The reason for this is that we tend to come up with woolly, general thoughts rather than a real plan for change.

How about making this year different? If you really want to change your business, your work/life balance, your effectiveness or any other aspect of your life, you have to think through what you want to achieve. What are your timescales? What are your specific goals? How will you measure change? What resources will you need? Who do you need to help you?

Once you have thought through all the aspects of your idea write them down so you have a point of reference – and then DO IT!

By taking the time to plan you will find it much more likely that you will keep your resolutions and move forward.

Don’t wish upon a star – reach for it!

A time to review

As 2017 draws to a close its a good time to reflect on the year and what we have learned.

2017 has very much been a mixed year for me and I have been taking the opportunity, with the end of the year looming, to reflect on my 50th year. Unlike 2016, which was a bonkers year on the national and international front, 2017 was more challenging personally.

The beginning of the year started with the death of my father and all the stresses and strains the loss of a parent brings. I had already reduced my workload when he was in hospital, so I could support both him and my mother, so at least I had some time to mourn.

This time was also useful in giving me space to review my business and seize the opportunity to move into a new direction, which I would probably have missed otherwise.

In previous newsletters I have written about the new series of books and workshops I have developed for CIMA accountants who want to be successful in self employment.

Having written 2 books and run 6 workshops, and taken on several mentoring clients, I am now at the point where I am considering how this side of my business might develop in 2018.

I have really enjoyed taking the workshops ‘on the road’ and so far have been to Stirling, Scotland and London, as well as running the first two pilot days in Bristol.

I am thrilled with the lovely feedback I have had from the guys who have taken part in the day workshops so I am happy that the material ‘hits the spot’.

However, I have been well outside my comfort zone publicising the events and getting people I have never met signed up. I haven’t had to do this type of marketing and sales activity before so it has all been new to me.

That said, I think we all need a shake up periodically. Not only does it give us the opportunity to test ourselves, but also gives us more energy to do those tasks which have become run of the mill.

It is easy to continue doing the same type of things we always have done in business. If people like what we do we often don’t see any point in changing. However, a shake up brings challenges and challenges usually lead to a more exciting and fulfilling business life.

Let’s get inspired!

It’s interesting how large sporting occasions can inspire us. How many of us runners find ourselves with more of a spring in our step having watched the World Athletics Championships or the Olympics? Just seeing world class athletes such as Mo Farah achieve fantastic results can leave an imprint on us.

And I think we can all do with inspiration. When times are tough it is very easy to start focussing on the negative and to get bogged down with what things are not going to plan.

A far more positive approach is to move past those obstacles and focus on what you can do to move forward. Concentrate on those things you can change rather than on those things you can’t.

At the end of the day we live in a pretty prosperous country and have terrific opportunities residents of the developing world could only dream of.

Someone I find really inspiring is the para-athlete Mark Ormrod. He spoke at the CIMA Members in Practice conference a couple of years ago and got a rare, but well deserved, standing ovation.

Despite losing 3 limbs in Afghanistan Mark has fought all adversity to build an exceptional life for himself and his family. In fact he has just competed in the Invictus games where he won four medals and got an exceptional performance award from Prince Harry.

People do extraordinary things. These people are usually extraordinary individuals but if we can take inspiration from their example we can become, if not extraordinary ourselves, certainly more positive and motivated.

Fiona 🙂

What’s the time?

Time management is something many people struggle with.

Part of the problem I think is with this concept of ‘time management’. We actually cannot manage time at all – it carries on regardless of anything we mere mortals do. We cannot ‘create’ time or make it stand still whilst we catch our breath. All we can do is allocate the tasks we have to the time available.

There are as many different techniques for doing this as there are exponents of ‘time management’ and some will work for some people and some will work for others. Some people just can’t get themselves organised no matter how many techniques they try.

Much of effectively allocating tasks to time is about your frame of mind. If, in fact, subconsciously you quite like being disorganised and see it as part of your personality, no time management technique in the world is going to be effective. For ‘time management’ to be effective you have to really want to be organised.

If you do want to be effective in your working environment the key is to try different methods and see which one works for you.

For a guide to different ‘time management’ you can download a free guide from my website

Good luck

Fiona 🙂

I am still at it!

Unbelievably it was four years ago, September 2013, when I returned from the Entrepreneurs Convention in Birmingham buzzing with ideas.

Helen Lacey, Red Berry Recruitment, and I had a very bouyant discussion on the way home in the car, and I was all inspired to give producing a newsletter for my clients and contacts a try.

48 editions later and, hopefully, I am still producing something worth reading!

So you may well ask “Why?”.

There are various reasons why I find writing this newsletter a great discipline to do each month.

Firstly, despite the joke about creative accountants, I do not have much opportunity to be creative in the day job. Producing a monthly newsletter helps me to feel I am a bit more creative than I would otherwise be.

Secondly, being forced to come up with new material each month flexs my ‘writing muscle’. This has been particularly helpful when I have wanted to write new published material – whether it is the free guides on my website or the three books I now have for sale on Amazon.

Getting started is always the most difficult part of any project so having to ‘get started’ each month on my newsletter is certainly a help.

I have lots of people I would like to keep in touch with and sending the newsletter to these people is one of the tools that allows me to do that.

Finally, I love having the opportunity to feature businesses I have come across, and want to promote, and people I would like to thank publicly.

I have been asked on several occasions why I print the newsletter and send it via snail mail, rather than emailing it.

Nigel Botterill at the Convention pointed out that if you do what everyone else is doing, you will be lost in the noise. I get lots of emailed newsletters and never have time to read them all, so I don’t read any. But I get hardly any mail.

Hopefully you like receiving this newsletter in the post and are more likely to read it because you do.

Fiona 🙂

Is it just the weather we should be forecasting?

ForecastingIf you mention forecasting in mixed company you can see a small shudder run around the room.

Many business owners don’t know how much money is in their bank account on a day to day basis and look at their accounts only once a year, so the idea of forecasting for the future leaves them cold.

However, in not doing cash flow forecasting (at the very least) these business owners are putting their businesses at real risk. Banks are reluctant to lend money unless businesses can show they have a solid financial base and businesses that don’t control their cash flow can find themselves really struggling – even if they are profitable.

Forecasting forward can help ensure you don’t suddenly run out of money. If things are going badly you at least have forewarning of when you MUST get some money in and have time to do something about it. You can then use your forecast to help the bank – or any other parties you are hoping to secure funding from – understand your business and who investing in your business is a good bet for them.

I have written a free guide to help you with forecasting for your business which you can download from my website


Just do it!

Last month I wrote about the conference I had recently spoken at and how great that was.

Well, since then I have had a variety of ‘wins’ I would like to share with you because they came about because I was able to just take ideas and run with them – surely one of the biggest advantages of running my own business.

Firstly, my second book that had been launched at conference started to sell. I had written it primarily to accompany my conference talk so I had 10 copies printed to sell there – without much expectation that any one would want one! I sold those copies quickly so I decided to promote the book’s availability on Amazon.

Since then I have steadily sold further copies and now there are 60 out there in the big wide world and apparently being read – a real success from my point of view given the very specialist nature of the subject matter.

So it got me thinking was there a lack of training out there – a gap I could fill?

Several of my contacts agreed with me and so I set about creating and then publicising a pilot workshop to be held in Bristol at the end of September.

I have had such a great response that I am not only running one workshop but two and I have a list of people who want to be kept informed of workshops I might be running in other parts of the UK.

Then, out of the blue I was contacted by company I had never heard of before that wanted to be involved in sponsoring the workshops. It turns out they work closely with a good contact of mine, which is how they came to hear about what I was doing.

It’s all been very exciting.

Finally, I have been so motivated by these successes that I became inspired into writing my third book. I woke up at 5.30 one morning with lots of ideas buzzing in my head. So I got up and just started writing!

I have not accomplished so many things, which would normally be right outside my comfort zone, so quickly, at any time in my career so far! I feel completely energised.

It just goes to show what can be accomplished if you just crack on!


Price effectively

Pricing is a big problem for most businesses.

In simple terms if you charge too much you may struggle to get customers. Charge too little and you won’t make enough money.

But pricing can reveal more about your company than you may think.

If you regularly price at a lower level than people would expect to pay for your product/service, prospective clients may assume that your work is of a low quality. So bizarrely you may find you don’t get approached by your ‘perfect’ client because they think you are not up to the job.

On the other hand you can be ‘reassuringly expensive’ and draw people to you.

For help with getting your pricing right you may like to download the free pricing guide on my website

Fiona 🙂