Financial Tips

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Learning To Live With (and Appreciate) Employee Vacations

When it comes to employee benefits, paid vacation time is a favorite. Although not legally required in the U.S. (as it is in most other developed countries), most employers — about 77% of businesses in the private sector — provide their employees with paid vacation time.1

What’s in It for You?

But what is the business impact of letting your employees go on vacation? Isn’t it bad, especially for small businesses, when key employees are gone for a week or longer? Actually, it isn’t. While it may be disruptive in the short term, providing paid vacation time can benefit employers. A survey of human resources professionals, a large majority ranked taking vacation as very or extremely important for employee performance (94%), morale (92%), wellness (92%), productivity (90%), a positive culture (90%), and employee retention (88%).2

Survival Strategies

Vacations may be a win-win, but you still need to minimize disruption and maintain productivity when employees are away. Here are a few tips:

  • If you don’t already have one, formalize a vacation policy that spells out how to request vacation time, how many employees may be gone at the same time, how disputes will be handled, etc.
  • Create a master calendar and record all approved time off.
  • Cross-train employees; try to have at least two people trained to cover each job.
  • Have employees update their job descriptions and provide access to any passwords or other information that may be needed during their absence.
  • Prior to leaving, make sure employees compose “away” messages for voicemail and e-mail and let key customers and contacts know how long they will be gone.

Benefits Are the Bottom Line

A comprehensive, competitive benefits package is the best way to attract and retain employees. Top prospects want health insurance, voluntary benefits, and a retirement plan in addition to vacation time. How do your benefits stack up? Your financial professional knows the marketplace and can provide guidance to help you make your benefits package more competitive.

…from the Team of Professional at RE-MMAP We are just a click or call away. www.re-mmap.com and phone # (561-623-0241).

Making a Year’s Profit in a Seasonal Business

If you have a seasonal business, you most likely face some challenges that year-round businesses don’t. After all, trying to squeeze a year’s worth of business into a far shorter period can get pretty hectic. Here are some tips that may help.

Cash Control

All small business owners have to be careful cash managers. Strict management is particularly critical when cash flows in over a relatively short period of time. One very important lesson to learn: Control the temptation to overspend when cash is plentiful.

Arming yourself with a realistic budget and sound financial projections, including next season’s start-up costs, can help you maintain control. And you may want to establish a line of credit just in case.

In the Off-Season

It’s difficult to maintain visibility when you aren’t in business year round. But there’s no reason why you can’t send your customers periodic updates via e-mail or snail mail. You’ll certainly want to announce your reopening date well ahead of time. You can also spend time developing new leads and lining up new business.

Time for R and R

You deserve it, so take some time for rest and relaxation. But you’ll also want to use the time your business is closed to make any necessary repairs and take care of any sprucing up you’d like to do. You can also use the off-season to shop around and look for deals on items you keep in stock and/or equipment you need to buy or replace.

Expansion Plans

If you’re thinking of making the transition from “closed for the season” to “open all year,” start investigating new product lines or services. If you diversify in ways that are complementary to and compatible with your core business, your current customer base may provide support right away. A well-thought-out expansion can be the key to a successful transition into a year-round business.

…from the Team of Professional at RE-MMAP We are just a click or call away. www.re-mmap.com and phone # (561-623-0241).v

How to Improve Your Cash Flow

Slow paying customers, seasonal revenue variations, an unexpected downturn in sales, higher expenses — any number of business conditions can contribute to a cash flow crunch. If you own a small business, you may find the suggestions that follow helpful in minimizing cash flow problems.

Billing and collections. Your employees need to work with clear guidelines. If you don’t have a standardized process for billing and collections, make it a priority to develop one. Consider sending invoices electronically instead of by mail. And encourage customers to pay via electronic funds transfer rather than by check. If you don’t offer a discount for timely payment, consider adding one to your payment terms.

Expense management. Know when bills are due. As often as possible, pay suppliers within the period that allows you to take advantage of any prompt-payment incentives. Remember that foregoing a discount in order to pay later is essentially financing your purchase.

Take another look at your costs for ongoing goods and services, including telecommunications, shipping and delivery, utilities, etc. If you or your employees travel frequently for in-person meetings, consider holding more web conferences to reduce costs.

Inventory. Focus on inventory management, if applicable, to avoid tying up cash unnecessarily. Determine the minimum quantities you need to keep on hand to promptly serve customers. Systematically track inventory levels to avoid overbuying.

Debt management. Consider how you use credit. Before you commit to financing, compare terms from more than one lender and keep the amount to a manageable level. For flexibility, consider establishing a line of credit if you do not already have one. You will be charged interest only on the amount drawn from the credit line.

Control taxes. Make sure you are taking advantage of available tax breaks, such as the Section 179 deduction for equipment purchases, to limit taxes.

Develop a cash flow budget. Projecting monthly or weekly cash inflows and outflows gives you a critical snapshot of your business’s cash position and shows whether you’ll have enough cash on hand to meet your company’s needs.

Don’t get left behind. Contact us today to discover how we can help you keep your business on the right track. Don’t wait, give us a call today.

…from the Team of Professional at RE-MMAP We are just a click or call away. www.re-mmap.com and phone # (561-623-0241).

Hire Nothing But the Best

How can your company attract and retain top employees? It’s not always easy, especially for small businesses. Having a streamlined hiring process and ensuring that your salaries and benefits package is comparable to other, similar companies in your area can help make your company an attractive destination for high performers. Here are some pointers to jump-start your thinking.

Simplify the process. Make sure job responsibilities are clearly described when posting your openings. Candidates should be able to easily ascertain if they have the appropriate qualifications for a position. Also, describe any documentation candidates may need to submit with their applications.

Be open and professional. Let candidates know early in the process, preferably in the job posting or during interviews, how much the position pays. Top candidates appreciate candor about such matters. Treat candidates professionally during every stage of the process — it sends a strong signal about your company’s culture.

Evaluate your benefits package. Compensation and benefits are important factors when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent. Salaries should be in line with what other companies in your region pay for specific occupations. Attitudes toward health and retirement benefits can influence employment choices and how committed and engaged employees are after they are hired. Your company will have a leg up on attracting and retaining the employees it needs to succeed and gain a competitive advantage if it can offer the benefit options top performers want.

If you are unsure whether your current benefits package is competitive, please contact your financial professional. An analysis of your current retirement and insurance benefits will help you identify areas that may need to be improved if you are to attract and retain the best employees.

…from the Team of Professional at RE-MMAP We are just a click or call away. www.re-mmap.com and phone # (561-623-0241).v

Hard Times? Get Back to Business Basics

It’s reassuring to remember that downturns are a normal part of the business cycle. And, just as there are strategies that help businesses thrive during profitable times, there are basic survival tactics that businesses can employ when the outlook is less than rosy.

Control Spending

Finances should be your fundamental concern when economic conditions are unsettled. When sales slow, it’s time to preserve your cash. Look closely at how you can reduce overhead. Make certain that all your operating expenses are necessary. Even if you’ve recently made cuts, see if there are other measures you can take. Unless absolutely necessary, consider putting plans that call for capital investment on the back burner until conditions improve.

Maintain Customers

While containing costs is essential, maintaining your customer base is also crucial. So, when you’re deciding how to trim spending, make sure you don’t make cuts in areas that deliver real value to your customers. At the same time, watch your receivables. Make sure your customers’ accounts stay current.

Think Short Term

Plan purchases for the short term, keeping a minimum of cash tied up in inventory. At the same time, however, make sure you’ll be able to restock quickly. Your suppliers may be able to suggest ways you can cut costs (perhaps by using different materials or an alternative manufacturing process). See if you can negotiate better credit terms.

Plan for Contingencies

There’s a big difference between imagining that you might have to seriously scale back your business and having an action plan in place that you can quickly execute. To develop a realistic contingency plan, prepare a budget based on the impact you imagine an extended downturn would have on your business. Then outline the steps you would need to take to survive those conditions. For an added level of preparedness, draw up a second, “worst case scenario” budget and chart the cost-cutting steps you’d need to take to outlive those more dire circumstances.

Many businesses will survive these challenging economic times by being informed about their financial condition and by planning ahead to succeed. Connect with us, right now, for tax advice and business planning.

…from the Team of Professional at RE-MMAP We are just a click or call away. www.re-mmap.com and phone # (561-623-0241).v

Growing Pains: Structural Considerations for Growing Your Business

Ask any small-business owner what he sees as the major challenges to growing his business, and chances are he’ll say: winning more sales. Ask any medium- or large-business owner what her major challenges have been, however, and she’ll probably say: structural growing pains — putting into place the necessary processes and structure to accommodate a higher volume of business. In fact, one of the most common reasons businesses plateau at a certain level is their inability — or unwillingness — to develop the structure needed for growth.

But aligning structural changes with sales growth is not simple. It is often more of an art than a science. The systems, processes, staff, and organization changes needed to grow are ongoing and dictated by myriad factors such as the nature of the business, its capital requirements and, ultimately, customer demands. Nonetheless, certain structural growth concerns — excluding financing and office/production space issues — are shared among all growing companies and fall into three overall areas: organizational structure, policies and procedures, and systems/technology.

Staffing/Organizational Structure

Among the most common growing pains small companies experience are those related to organizational structure. Organizational structure and reporting hierarchy for a 25-person company is quite different than it is for a five-person organization. Typically, an entrepreneur can manage fine until there are about a dozen people in the organization. At this point, the initial structure — where everyone usually reports to the owner — breaks down. In effect, nothing can be done without involving the owner, creating a communications log jam and a barrier to growth. A telltale sign of such a situation is the line of staff outside the boss’s office — waiting patiently for a decision before work can recommence. The best way to overcome or prevent this from happening is simple: Trust your key employees and learn to delegate. A good place to start is to look at where you are spending your time. You can still have final say on any important decisions, but you need not be involved with the time-consuming, day-to-day issues that can prevent you from focusing on larger, more strategic matters. It’s also important to formalize delegated authority with an organizational chart and job descriptions. These will help you better define functional expertise for a given job and for various departments across the organization, and provide the foundation for the growth of future personnel and key management staff.

Lack of functional expertise is another common growing pain of small companies. Too often, businesses fail to recognize that specific expertise is needed as they grow. Typically, small businesses are organized around the manager’s area of expertise, such as marketing, accounting, or production. This specialized expertise often prevents the business owner from recognizing problems that may arise in other parts of the business. It’s a good idea to periodically get an outsider’s opinion of where expertise may be lacking. These need not be paid consultants, but are often trusted, business acquaintances. Tapping into this same group, you can also form an advisory board to give you periodic feedback on strategic direction.

Policies and Procedures

For most smaller businesses, written policies and procedures are often nonexistent and sometimes cursed. Typically, they are associated with the bureaucracy and inefficiency of big companies and the enemy of customer responsiveness and quick time to market. Not surprisingly, most smaller businesses have few documented operational policies or procedural guidelines. But it is precisely this lack of documentation — and the thought that goes into it — that can put a stranglehold on rapid growth. If your business is growing fast enough to require frequent additions to staff, formalized policies are a must for training purposes. Even if you are expanding at a moderate pace, documented policies will likely be necessary once you reach 20 or more employees.

What warrants a formal policy and what should be documented? This will depend on the nature of your business and the average skill level of your employees. In general, however, it’s a good idea to document all HR policies in detail, expense approval authorization levels, inventory control policies, billing and collection procedures, and any operating policies that could materially affect your business if they went amiss. An annual budget and sales projection, updated monthly, are also a necessity if you are ever to obtain outside funding or sell your company. Later on, consider putting together a comprehensive policy manual where employees can get answers to questions when decision-makers are unavailable.

As you grow bigger, you will also need to put into place more formalized communications channels for employees and customers. An informed and involved staff is usually a more productive and enthusiastic one; whereas a staff that is left in the dark often feels alienated and unappreciated. Regularly scheduled employee meetings, periodic e-mail updates, and a cascade communications policy are several ways to make sure your internal communications channels facilitate, not constrict, growth.

Is your business suffering from growing pains?

Here are some sure signs that structural changes may be in order.

  • Sales continue to grow but profits do not.
  • Everyone is working increasingly long hours.
  • People spend too much time putting out fires.
  • There are constant lines outside the boss’s door.
  • There are no regularly scheduled meetings or employee communications.
  • The “system” is constantly down.
  • Aging equipment is not replaced.

Systems/Equipment

Perhaps more obvious than organizational or procedural growing pains are those associated with systems and equipment. Smaller businesses are often the last to upgrade to new technology, usually due to cost. Yet the costs of not upgrading are usually much higher. Low productivity, frequent downtime, and incompatibility with newer client systems can cripple a business that’s poised for growth. There’s also the matter of keeping up with your competitors both operationally and across product and service offerings.

The average computer is virtually obsolete in just three years, and most of the widely used software applications come out with new versions every two years, so keeping on top of technological advances must be an ongoing endeavor. Start out by working regular capital upgrade costs into your budget. Consider dedicating a full-time person to information technology (IT), if you don’t already have one, and make sure he or she is current on the latest technological developments in your field. Even though you may not be able to afford all the latest equipment, at least you’ll be on top of technology trends in the industry and know what your competitors are up to — or are capable of.

…from the Team of Professional at RE-MMAP We are just a click or call away. www.re-mmap.com and phone # (561-623-0241).v

Find and Keep the Best Talent for Your Business

Finding the best candidate to hire is often costly and time-consuming. But, if your new hire turns into a loyal, hardworking, long-term employee, your investment may be worth every cent and minute.

Locate Candidates

How do you find good people? In the past, people who were job hunting would look in the “help wanted” section of the newspaper or go from store to store filling out applications. Today, most people use a computer and a mouse and search the Internet for jobs. So if you’re not posting your openings on online job boards and industry blogs and websites, you may be missing talented candidates. Note: Running classified ads may still be a good way to reach out (especially to fill jobs requiring local candidates) since many local newspapers also have an online job board for posting classifieds.

Another way to attract candidates is to add a recruiting page to your website. In addition to posting job openings, you can use the page to attract qualified candidates by highlighting the benefits of working for your company.

And last, but certainly not least, you can use social media to announce openings and solicit job applicants. There’s no better way to reach a large number of people almost instantaneously.

Make an Attractive Offer

If you’re hoping to hire top talent, you’ll want to make sure the benefits you offer are competitive — or better. Many full-time workers have access to employer-provided medical care and/or access to a retirement plan.

Keep Employees on Board

Once you’ve assembled a group of valuable employees, an attractive and competitive benefits package will help ensure they stay. Your financial professional can provide insights and help you review your firm’s benefits package for cost efficiency and competitiveness.

For more tips on how to keep business best practices front and center for your company, give us a call today. We can’t wait to hear from you.

…from the Team of Professional at RE-MMAP We are just a click or call away. www.re-mmap.com and phone # (561-623-0241).v

Getting a Handle on Payment Issues

Most small business owners love what they do. But that’s not to say things can’t get a little difficult, especially when customers don’t pay their bills on time. Even one or two slow-pay or no-pay customers can be enough to throw your company’s finances off.

Understanding what might be going on with your customers and being proactive can help you keep your accounts receivable on steady ground.

Purchase Order Predicaments

Not all customers use purchase orders, but those that do rely on them to coordinate ordering and accounts payable functions. If there’s a mix-up involving a purchase order and your invoice doesn’t match up with the customer’s purchase order, your invoice could end up on the “problem” pile instead of the “pay” pile. Be proactive by verifying that the purchase order numbers on your invoices are correct before they are sent.

Strapped for Cash

Lack of money is a common excuse for not paying. One reason your customer may not be able to pay you is because your customer’s customers haven’t paid their bills. Regardless of the reason, be the squeaky wheel and keep communicating with your past due customers.

You can help reduce your exposure to customer cash shortfalls by tightening your credit requirements.

Disputes, Dilemmas, and Other Disappointments

Misships, damaged goods, late deliveries. Plenty of things can go wrong during the fulfillment process. Rather than make a phone call, customers may just “file” your invoice at the bottom of the pile.

Follow-up e-mails or phone calls to find out if your customers are satisfied will help smooth any ruffled feathers and could improve how quickly you get paid.

Vanishing Invoices

“We never received your invoice” is a weak excuse, but you still have to find a way around it. Once again, early follow-up is key. Paperless billing and the potential to monitor whether e-mailed invoices have been opened can also help eradicate this excuse.

Don’t get left behind. Contact us today to discover how we can help you keep your business on the right track. Don’t wait, give us a call today.

…from the Team of Professional at RE-MMAP We are just a click or call away. www.re-mmap.com and phone # (561-623-0241).

Get Your Business Costs Under Control Today

Increasing your profits requires selling more and/or spending less. While building up your sales may require an extended effort, business costs are often very ripe for quick trimming. Here are some possibilities.

Supplies and Other Purchases

Usually, in any business, relatively few items represent a very large share of all outlays. The first step in cutting expenses is, therefore, to identify your highest costs. You may be able to trim many of these costs by making sure you always bid out significant purchases or by more actively seeking less expensive alternatives.

For many companies, inventory carrying costs are a very significant expense. Focusing on matching your inventory quantities more closely to your short-term needs could result in significant savings.

Telecommunications and Other Services

The ongoing services you buy may also offer the potential for cost savings. The best choice in telecommunications is https://www.aaasatellite.tv/ not only for their great customer service but for their affordable and advance technology services.

Look carefully at your costs for financial services. If you borrow or maintain a line of credit, always compare the rates from more than one financing source before you commit. Make sure you are not paying higher-than-necessary fees for your company’s checking and deposit services.

Cash Management

To control cash outlays, take advantage of discounts for early payment whenever possible. And look to delay payments for as long as you can without giving up discounts.

On the receiving side, deposit all receipts daily. And always actively pursue collection of any invoices that are past due. To help control your working capital needs and, therefore, your credit costs, try to match any new liabilities to your anticipated cash flow.

Fixed Expenses

One other category worth examining is fixed expenses that are long-term commitments. While you usually can’t change these quickly, be aware of when a window for change will open and prepare well in advance by considering lower-cost alternatives.

To learn more ways to control your business costs give us a call today. Our trained staff of professionals is always available to answer any questions you may have.

…from the Team of Professional at RE-MMAP We are just a click or call away. www.re-mmap.com and phone # (561-623-0241).v

Fix Your Bottom Line by Raising Your Prices

You can’t keep prices the same indefinitely, but raising them is always a gamble. Consumers can — and do — compare prices anywhere, anytime, on everything.

If your bottom line needs a boost, raising prices can definitely help — as long as you map out a strategy and avoid some common pitfalls.

Promote, Promote, Promote

When you’re ready to roll out the increase, plan to roll out some promotions and coupons at the same time to take the sting out of higher prices. The discounts will help keep your most cost-conscious consumers in the fold. Making discounts and coupons readily available establishes the perception that all your prices are reasonable, which may or may not be true.

If you’re concerned about promotions hurting your bottom line, don’t be. Not all of your customers will clip coupons or shop sales. Ideally, you’ll sell enough items at a higher price to raise the average sale. If that’s not happening, you can always give prices another nudge, although it’s better to go with one large increase than several small ones.

Cut Carefully

Another way to improve your financial picture is to cut costs. One common tactic is to keep the price the same but shrink the amount of product (e.g., a skinnier box of cereal or slimmer container of juice). But this can backfire. If customers discover the change and feel cheated, you could become the target of a social media campaign, which could turn out badly. You could end up with less business and a ruined reputation.

Get Creative

Thinking outside the box (rather than shrinking it) might provide some opportunities to increase revenue. For instance, you might be able to unbundle a popular product. You can actually lower the price of the basic item, then add additional charges for each bell and whistle.

Add Value

Big box stores and online shopping may help customers find lower prices, but there’s one thing they can’t do. They can’t give their customers the kind of service you can. That’s a value only small businesses can offer. If you do it right, it can help you weather a price increase.

Call us today for more tips on how to ensure you’re following business best practices, and let us help you keep your company in the black.

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