Make your business resilient to change

For many businesses the last few years have been really tough – and the next couple may be just as challenging with continuing uncertainty around the Brexit decision.

If you own a service business there are things you can do to make yourself as resilient as possible and I include my take on the most important ones below:

Credit control

In a service company the level of customer spend can be quite high. For this reason it is vital that you review the level of credit you are prepared to give clients and stick to it. My payment terms require that clients pay either by monthly standing order or on date of invoice. Even if they don’t pay immediately at least I can chase from the earliest possible point.

Ensure you invoice promptly after work is completed, and, if the job spans several months, agree stage payments with your client so they don’t owe you more than 1 months worth of work.

Bear in mind that none of us really knows what is going on in another company. A seemingly sound company can be on the verge of collapse due to cash flow problems. Credit checking services can help you assess the credit worthiness of a business, but remember their information is out of date to some degree and they don’t pick up the full picture. The only way to ensure you don’t get caught out is to collect the money owed to you as quickly as possible.

Remember, even the banks are reluctant to be banks at the moment – so don’t fall into the trap of acting like one!

The BEST

A key way to thrive is to provide the BEST service you can and be as close to your customers as possible. I see many service providers who think they can get away with average service and who assume clients will stick with them regardless. This is an arrogant assumption which will lead them, quite rightly, to lose good clients to much more customer orientated businesses.

For any business, but particularly for service companies, the relationship you have with your clients is king. A client who knows you well, and believes you are giving him the best, most focussed service available, is unlikely to shop elsewhere, even if he has the possibility of getting the service ‘cheaper’.

Build your referral network

We all know that people buy from people. You are much more likely to engage a supplier who has been recommended to you by a trusted advisor/contact than one you have met fleetingly at a networking event.

For this reason I think it is important to build up a network of people around you who:

– although they are not competitors to you, have the same types of customers as you do.

– understand exactly who an ideal client is for you so they can spot one when they meet them

– understand exactly what you do and the problems you solve for your clients

– are people you would be happy to refer to your contacts so the relationship is mutually rewarding

If you have a strong network you can be much more focused in your marketing and will be much more likely to get the type of new clients you need.

Clearly groups such as Met Walking are a great way to build a strong network of like minded people!

🙂

Fiona 

It’s the little things!


Last month my hubby and I went to the US on holiday. This entailed a 10 hour flight to Las Vegas by the end of which our bottoms thought our legs had been chopped of – you know the feeling! Anyway the flight was made so much better because of the little things that happened during the flight – even though we were just bog standard economy passengers.

Firstly, and most importantly, the Virgin staff were good humoured and did everything they could to deal with our little requests – such as getting a green tea bag for me from 1st class! They were cheerful with big smiles, polite and courteous even though they had a full Boeing 747 to cater to. I even had a chat with a couple of lovely stewards as we were waiting to go through immigration – they were so friendly despite being at the end of a long shift of dealing with us passengers and probably desparate to get to their hotels!

Secondly, the in-flight food was really nice and honestly the best I have had. Not only was it tasty but the hot food was piping hot! The peice de resistance was the Gu chocolate dessert which was always going to have me at “hello”!!
It’s great when you get something more than you bargain for and I think we should all try to find the small things we can do to make our clients happy. Of course we need to do the job we are paid to do in the best way we know how.

But, if we want to be recommended and for our clients to be really happy, we need to find those extras that may be unexpected but appreciated.
After all, Virgin’s job was to get us from A to B and there are some airlines who congratulate themselves on doing JUST that – and even give themselves a round of applause for being on time (what we are paying them to do)! But they forget that they are in the service sector – and that customers like to be treated well!

I was once surprised by a client who wrote this: “Fiona…has an incredible ability to collate, simplify and explain financial data that can then be understood and used by any non-finance manager, all delivered with patience, courtesy and, most importantly round here, a sense of humour!”
Who knew a sense of humour was an important attribute of an accountant!”

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 🙂

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!

Fiona:)

Start as you mean to go on!

screen-shot-2017-04-25-at-13-39-04Small businesses are the mainstay of the UK economy. Forget the large companies – small businesses are where it is at!

The UK is a nation of entrepreneurs and we brits are great at taking the plunge into business ownership – whether it is a self employed professionals or as small business owners employing staff.

However, for many entrepreneurs taking the plunge is not the hardest part – it is running a successful company in the longer term that provides the stress.

The problem here is that the prospective entrepreneur has often not done their homework.

In particular:

  1. They have an idea they are sure is going to work, but have not done a full business plan to explore whether it can be converted into a successful business.
  2. They have not consulted appropriate professionals to ensure their company is set up in the best way.
  3. They don’t align their personal and business goals. They soon find their business running their lives rather than them running their businesses.
  4. They don’t finance their business sufficiently from the outset, which means they can never afford to do jobs properly. Marketing in particular often suffers in this scenario.
  5. Because they haven’t planned properly they don’t fully appreciate the risks involved in setting up their business until it is too late.

Starting your own business is a BIG step. If it fails you may not just lose your livelihood but also your house (and your family if you have had to work very long hours).

It makes sense to give your business the best possible chance of succeeding.

To help I have written a guide on starting your own business which can be downloaded for free from my website www.fionabevanfinancialmanagement.co.uk

I have tried to cover all the issues you will need to think about before taking the plunge as well as some of the things which might trip you up.

Enjoy!

Fiona 🙂

What would you do differently?

screen-shot-2017-03-08-at-17-22-03This time last year I wrote about Groundhog day, the film in which Bill Murray finds himself stuck reliving the same day until he gets it ‘right’.

There is a similarly themed film called About Time where the men in the family can go back to any time in their lives they like and do things differently.The hero eventually discovers that, after going through a period of living every day twice, just by making the most of each day as it happens he can have a great life without having to go back at all.

It’s an intriguing idea.

After all who amongst us has never had a time we wish we could relive and change the way we behaved, or the irreversible decisions we may have made?

Most of us in business have at some point – or indeed most points – felt we are making things up a little as we go along. None of us have crystal balls so we cannot see the effects of our decisions before we make them.

All we can do is make the best choices we can given the information we have available at the time. We cannot go back and change decisions we have already taken. If it turns out a decision was wrong there is no point worrying about something we cannot change. We have to make the best of the circumstances we find ourselves in and learn from the mistakes we have made.

In fact most very successful business people have made huge errors in judgement at one time or another. What often differentiates them from the rest of us is that they don’t dwell on these errors.

In the words of Richard Branson, who has had his fair share of business failures: “Over the years, my team and I have not let mistakes, failures or mishaps get us down. Instead, even when a venture has failed, we try to look for opportunities, to see whether we can capitalise on another gap in the market…[after all] business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another coming along.”

I think taking this approach is the way for us to take the worry out of making the wrong decision. If it can work for multi-millionaires – why not for us!

Fiona:)

Know your finances inside out!

Jenny teaching

As business owners we need our businesses to make money.

In my opinion an established business which does not pay its owner(s) a decent wage is really a hobby. So given that we need our businesses to make money it follows that we need to be sufficiently au fe with business finances to understand if our business is running our finances, or whether we our running our business finances.

Unfortunately, a large numbers of business owners are not financially savvy enough.

If you would like to see if you are one of these, try answering the questions below:

Do you have a clear financial plan?
Do you know if your business is currently profitable?
At this point do you know how much money is in your bank and what money you can expect in and out of your bank account over the next month?
Do you know what customers/products/services are profitable?
Do you have a robust invoicing and debt collection system so clients pay you in a reasonable time (do you know what reasonable is?)?
Are you always able to pay your suppliers on time?
Can you always pay your salary/dividend/drawings?
Do you know how much you have to sell, and at what price, to provide the lifestyle you want?
If the answer to two or more of these questions is “no” you are probably not as financially savvy as you need to be to run your business effectively.

However, help is at hand and there are ways you can help yourself.

If you have an accountant/bookkeeper ask them questions about your financial position and what you could do to improve it
Talk to your business friends who seem to be financially sorted and ask them what they do
There are volumes of business books out there that can help you understand the basics
Take time to properly plan
You may want to go on a finance for non-financial managers course to learn the basics in a workshop setting.
Finally, I have written a series of FREE financial and business guides which you can download from my website http://www.fionabevanfinancialmanagement.co.uk/guides.php

You can download as many or as few of the guides as you like without registering so please do take advantage of them.

Fiona 🙂

A year like no other!


Now we are reaching the end of 2016 we can reflect on a year like no other. November saw the election of Donald Trump to the White House and I am still in shock! Not just because I cannot believe that millions of people voted for Trump, but also because it is the latest in a string of decisions which will change our lives fundamentally.

I cannot remember a year like it!

In the UK, of course, we have been focussed on our decision to leave the EU. This sparked a raft of unexpected consequences that are on the face of it unconnected with the intial vote to leave.

Amongst other things Cameron, a vehement remain supporter, felt he had to leave his post along with the Chancellor, ushering the era of May, Hammond and Boris.

Nicola Sturgeon can now smell blood and is gearing up to call for another referendum on whether Scotland should remain in the UK. If there is a vote to leave I believe this will readically change our view of our country’s identity.

Then of course there was Bake Off’s move to from the BBC to Channel 4 – I am too upset to comment on this!

So Trump’s move into the White House is not the only major change in direction we have seen this year – it is, however, the one which will have the biggest long term impact on all of us. Most worrying is his stance on climate change and the likely impact this will have on the US’s willingness to take part in measures to cut green house gasses. The US is the second largest polluter after China, so the fact their leader believes global warming is a conspiracy is deeply worrying.

Any shift in the White House has world wide implications but this one has the potential to extensively effect the global population for generations to come.

So, as business people what can we do?

Companies are regularly rocked by circumstances outside of their control. To avoid being blown off course it is vital to make the core of our businesses as solid as possible.

Having well trained and competent staff; robust management information for effective decision making; sufficient working capital to meet day to day needs; and strong leadership are vital to long term prosperity.

And the spectacle continues!

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-15-10-40I know I have gone on a bit (or a lot) about the events in Rio but I have just been blown away by the team GB success.

I promise this article is the last time I will mention the Olympics – well at least for another four years – but I have been just so inspired by them.

I loved watching the different sports and was stunned when we came 2nd and beat China in the medals table.

The Paralympics has been even better!

Who could fail to be moved by the armless Egyptian table tennis player who held the paddle between his teeth and threw the ball up with his feet?

The tenacity of such athletes who are taking part in sports on a global stage is incredible. In the case of the table tennis player he had no expectation that he would medal – it was enough for him to take part.

Whether they were born with their disability or became disabled later in life due to illness or accident, every athlete’s story was truly inspirational.

So is there anything the Paralympics can teach business people which might help us to thrive?

Firstly, I think we can learn to be more positive. We all have bad days and times when it seems the world is against us. But let’s face it we don’t have to face the problems and prejudice a lot of disabled people have to put up with on a daily basis. If they can flourish with all that is stacked against them – I am sure we can!

Secondly, I think we can learn to be more focussed on our goals. We often don’t achieve what we want because we simply aren’t focussed enough. We allow ourselves to be sidetracked by less important things.

Finally, following the lead of Chumbawumba, I think we can learn to get back up again when we get knocked down. Many paralympians have been knocked down pretty hard (sometimes literally) but have had the mental strength to not only get back up again but to thrive.

Business is challenging and we will all suffer setbacks. The key to getting over these setbacks is to be positive, focussed and to pick ourselves up each time we are knocked down.