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This too shall pass

If history has taught us anything, it’s that the only constant in life is change.

Over the course of the last century alone there have been a litany of challenges and numerous disasters, all of which have one thing in common – they’ve all passed.

Some months from now – it’s impossible to predict the true timeline – the current situation we face with COVID-19 will too have passed. It will have left in its wake a trail of debris and destruction which we ought not minimise, but it will pass.

As the great German writer Goethe once said: “Fresh activity is the only means of overcoming adversity.” It’s a wonderful way to focus the mind on proactive, practical activity and look forward. To deal with things that you can influence and change rather than those you can’t.

As Chief Financial Officers part of our role is to use our knowledge of the past and translate it into actions that bring about a better future.

With over 600 CFOs in Canada and abroad, many of us spanning 3 or even more decades of service to SMEs, we have weathered many storms. We’ve also come out the other side.

And we have learned from those experiences that there are certain actions we must take quickly if we want to overcome adversity and put ourselves in a stronger position for when the storm abates. In the midst of the storm it can be difficult to make sense of what is happening. This is precisely the time to slow down for a moment, as hard as it may seem, and make some proactive decisions.

To address the negative, we can take it as read that the speed at which many industries will contract over the coming weeks will increase. Primary industries such as aviation, travel and tourism, events and conferencing, restaurants and bars, will suffer devastating blows as will the supply chains they support. The ripple effect will affect everyone, in some way or other. These events are already in motion.

While all that happens, as SME owners, we have to do whatever we need to do in order to weather the storm and come out stronger the other side.

And you don’t have to face that challenge alone. There’s a lot the government and banks are doing to help small to medium sized businesses get through the challenges of the coming weeks and we’re also here to help you navigate the options and put you in the strongest possible position when some sense of normality is restored.

Below are some key considerations, risks, opportunities and resources. If you would like us to help you navigate the options, we are offering a courtesy 1:1 Scenario Planning Call to help you get clarity around what you should be doing now to put you in the strongest possible position.

1. Scenario Planning:

  • If you are predicting a reduced demand what will be the impact on sales and cash?
  • What costs can be cut or deferred? Is there flexibility in the cost base that could partially offset a downturn in revenues?
  • Are there major capital expenditures which could be postponed?
  • Over what time period might you expect revenues to be reduced?
  • What impact might you expect in regard to late payments from your existing customers?

2. Supply side:

  • Are you likely to be impacted by a break in supply of inputs/services from other businesses struggling with the virus?
  • How much contingency are you holding if supplies of inputs stopped/became erratic?
  • Are there alternative sources of supply if a supplier fails?
  • What is the likely impact on workforce – do you have a business continuity plan, can workers productively work from home/remotely?
  • Could you look at taking measures now to reduce the risk to your workforce; e.g. more virtual meetings rather than asking staff to travel?
  • Are you operating in an area which could be impacted by “lock down” measures e.g. city centre, does the workforce travel largely by public transport (impact if closed/restricted), would the travel patterns of the workforce mean it would be necessary, for staff safety, to suspend travel to the head office/main site.

Demand side:

  • Potential impact on sales volumes – e.g. what is your level of exposure to consumer demand, are you B2B or B2C, are your corporate customers likely to be significantly impacted (airlines, cinemas, hotels, restaurants, attractions, events, etc.?
  • Any delivery issues for goods/services?
  • What are the contractual implications of failure to service customers (do they have a force majeure protection in contracts?)
  • Does the client have contracts which enable clients to claim force majeure and cancel commitments without penalty – worst case what might this mean in terms of the liquidity scenario planning.

Communications:

  • Who should you be contacting now – suppliers to see what contingency plans they have, customers to reassure, other stakeholders?
  • If someone has an issue, do they have the means to communicate with you?
  • Can you post messages on your website remotely if required as a means of keeping customers, suppliers notified?

Staff:

  • What is your policy on sick pay if staff have to self-isolate
  • Are there contingent measures that can be put in place to bring in temporary staff if necessary?

Miscellaneous:

  • Any business-critical single points of failure?
  • Can you switch your office phones to an alternative line?
  • What insurance arrangements do you have in place?

Prepare for the upside

All of the suggestions mentioned above constitute the day to day role of a CFO. These are things that companies ought to be doing as a matter of course, but of course, many do not.

The advantage of going through this process now is that it will enable you to build a better, stronger, more resilient business for the future. Whether COVID-19 or the next major recession, or some other unforeseen event, knowing that you have done all that you can to prepare your business will give you greater confidence in the future.

The future of work is all about remote working, flexibility, greater specialization and outsourcing. The Coronavirus will increase the pace with which we transition to a new global model.

We encourage you to be cautious and use this time to spark ‘fresh activity’ and build a stronger, leaner business for the future.

We are here to help and are offering 1:1 Scenario Planning Consultations to help you make the right decisions to get you through the coming weeks and prepare you better for when the current madness subsides.

tel: 1-800-918-1906
email: [email protected]
www.thecfocentre.ca

Growth Through Acquisition

To accelerate the growth of your company and organic growth doesn’t appeal, consider merging with or acquiring another company.

Such a move can help business owners like you to grow your top line and profitability, says the FD Centre’s FD East of England North, Lynda Connon. 

A successful merger or acquisition can also give your company access to your target company’s technology, skillsets, markets, and target customers.

If the target company is in a different industry, the merger or acquisition can help to diversify and mitigate risk. 

Considering a diversification strategy like this is valuable if there is any doubt about your company’s prospects for long-term profitability.

The standard form of an acquisition is when one company (the acquiring company) buys another company. 

It does this by either buying all the shares in the acquired company or by purchasing its assets. The shell company is then liquidated.

Likewise, there are several types of mergers, including:

•         Horizontal merger (in which you merge with a company in your industry)

•         Vertical merger (in which your target company is at a different production stage or place in the value chain)

•         Product-extension merger (in which your target company sells different but related products in the same market)

•         Market-extension merger (in which your target company sells the same products as your own but in a separate market)

•         Conglomerate merger (in which your target company is in a different industry and has different products or services).

Growing your business via a merger or an acquisition has many benefits, including the following:

•         To achieve a lower cost of capital

•         To improve your company’s performance and boost growth

•         To achieve higher revenues

•         To reduce expenses

•         To achieve economies of scale

•         To diversify your product or service offering in your existing markets or move into new markets

•         To increase market share and positioning

•         To achieve tax benefits

•         To diversify risk

•         To make a strategic realignment or change in technology

•         To obtain new technology, more efficient production, or patents, and licenses.

Dangers of mergers and acquisitions

As beneficial as mergers and acquisitions (M&As) may be, particularly in terms of achieving fast revenue growth, they are not for the faint-hearted. 

The merger or acquisition process can take anywhere from a few months to a few years depending on such factors as whether the target company is a public or private entity, the negotiations, legislation, and the involvement of financial institutions and other stakeholders.

“The actual transaction can be done very quickly if you’ve identified your target and if all parties are keen to go ahead and legals can be put in place,” says Connon. 

“But typically, a merger or an acquisition takes several months.”

But you also need to factor in the time that will be involved in the identification of suitable target companies as well as the post-acquisition integration.

The post-acquisition integration can take anywhere from six to 12 months, she explains. 

“So the actual transaction itself can be done very, very quickly. It’s the process of identifying the target and making sure it’s something that will work for your organisation as a combined entity and making it happen after you’ve done the deal.”

It’s estimated that of all M&As, 70% to 90% fail for various reasons. 

Many failures are due to a lack of strategic planning and incomplete due diligence, according to Connon. 

They also fail if there is a poor strategic fit between the two companies, a poorly managed integration or an overly optimistic projection of the target company.

The result is a failed growth strategy and a large amount of lost opportunities.

Successful merger or acquisition strategy

So, how can you be sure of being in the 10% to 30% who achieve successful acquisitions or mergers?

Before even starting your search for target companies, it’s essential that you clarify your acquisition strategy and reason for merging with or acquiring a company, says Connon.

Most successful acquisitions happen when companies have identified and understood their own acquisition strategy, says Connon. 

They have clarified the company’s direction over the next two to five years, understand the market challenges for their core business, and know the gaps in their own portfolios and skillsets.

“They also take time to identify potential targets and to subtly review and understand the strengths and weaknesses of each of those target companies,” she adds. 

“Post-acquisition, the ones that tend to fail are the ones where acquiring companies haven’t taken the time to really understand their own strategy or market challenges and what they want from an acquisition. Often, it’s been done for emotional reasons rather than good, sound business reasons. Those companies will typically fail.”

To develop your acquisition strategy, you’ll need to be clear about what you hope to achieve. What is your business model? What do you want to do? Do you want to grow income, to improve profitability, to enhance cash flow? Where are the market challenges in your sector and can you address them all? If you can’t, do you need to make an acquisition? Do you need to merge?

If you conclude that a merger or acquisition is desirable and will be beneficial in the long-term, then you need to develop an “identikit” of what that potential company looks like, she says. 

Every company you consider should be evaluated against the metrics you’ve decided upon.

“Don’t get distracted by personal judgement. If you stick to the metrics you’re looking for, you’re more likely to make a successful acquisition,” she adds.

Due diligence

You and your team of M&A experts need to carry out due diligence and investigate the target company’s business, people (particularly crucial personnel), records and key documents. 

The point of the due diligence process is to uncover any inherent risks in the target business, to question the value placed on the investment or acquisition price and to identify critical issues.

Your M&A team should ask questions and request documentation about the following areas:

•         Corporate information, including the company structure, shareholders or option holders and directors

•         Business and assets, including your business plan, assets and contracts with both customers and suppliers

•         Finance including details of all company borrowings and loan agreements, cash flow statement, business reports, plus all tax liabilities and VAT returns

•         Human Resources including details of contracts for directors and employees

•         IP and IT, including information about IPs, owned or used by the target company and the software and equipment that are used

•         Pension plans that are in place for directors and employees

•         Litigation including details of any disputes or legal proceedings the company is involved with now or in the future along with licenses or regulatory agreements it has

•         Property including information of real estate that’s owned or leased by the target business

•         Insurance policy details along with recent or future claims

•         Health and safety policies that are in place

•         Data protection, including information about how sensitive data is stored and protected and reassurance the target company is compliant with data protection laws

Post-acquisition or merger, you should use your original strategy to measure its success, whether that’s income growth of 25% or improved profits of 2%.

“That would be the target by which you’d measure your combined entity. You’d go back to those numbers and see what have you’ve achieved compared with what you set out to achieve.”

tel: 1-800-918-1906
email: [email protected]
www.thecfocentre.ca

Outsource to free up – Part I

Outsourcing is nearly always cheaper, more efficient, and more flexible than hiring in-house staff. You can use outsourcing to tap into expertise and experience not available in-house (technical or managerial) or to identify and then reduce the costs of support services.

But concerns about the potential pitfalls of outsourcing stop SMEs from seeing the many benefits of outsourcing (which would allow their full-time employees to work on the company’s core competencies).

A part-time CFO can help you to leverage outsourcing, allowing you to operate a leaner, more efficient business and use the savings to drive growth. In these articles, you will see:

  • The benefits of outsourcing
  • What can be outsourced
  • How to use outsourcing in your organization
  • The main reasons companies don’t outsource
  • How a part-time CFO can help you to leverage outsourcing

A desire to focus on core activities is one of the main reasons companies of any size choose to outsource one or more of their support functions. 

Such was the case with Whitbread, the UK’s largest hotel and restaurant company, which outsourced its IT to Styria and its HR and payroll to Ceridian.¹

After signing an HR and payroll outsourcing contract with Ceridian, Whitbread’s Change and Information Director Ben Wishart said: “This move further supports our strategy of concentrating on core activities while raising efficiency levels across our organisation.”²

The contract meant Ceridian handled HR services covering more than 33,000 employees across Whitbread’s operations. Those operations include well-known UK brands such as Premier Inn, Beefeater, Table Table, Brewers Fayre, Taybarns and Costa Coffee.

You can use outsourcing to tap into expertise and experience not available in-house (technical or managerial) or to identify and then reduce the costs of support services. But outsourcing is something that worries many SME owners. They fear that outsourcing non-core aspects of the business like finance, HR, IT or managing customer relationships will lessen their overall control of the company. Or that it will be restrictive or expensive.

You might feel that not being able to see and talk to your team will mean that you are less in control and that you lack the visibility to spot potential problems and take decisive action.

You might worry too about the track record of your chosen outsourced provider. Will they maintain the high standards you insist on and deliver quality within the deadlines you prescribe?

Or maybe you worry about costs: will the prices quoted by your provider be set in stone or as the relationship develops, will a number of hidden costs emerge (licence fees, annual renewal fees, maintenance fees, etc.)?

Perhaps the reliability of your outsourced provider concerns you. Will your provider respect your company’s confidentiality? Will your data and other assets be safe in someone else’s hands? Will your ideas be stolen or will your customers’ sensitive data be hijacked by the people you hire?

What will happen if things go wrong with your provider? Are they happy to share a detailed contingency plan with you so that you can feel assured that you will not be hung out to dry if a serious problem arises?

What level of importance does your provider attach to compliance?

How can you be sure that laws and regulations will be adhered to and that you will not be held liable for infringements?

It’s these kinds of concerns that stop business owners from seeing the many benefits of outsourcing (which would allow their full-time employees to work on the company’s core competencies).

One such owner was Simon Wakefield, Managing Director of green bean coffee importers DRWakefield, a client of our UK business The FD Centre (note: in the UK, Chief Finacial Officers are called Finance Directors). His bank was asking some pretty tough questions at the time and he knew he needed help.

“Not having enough background information, data and statistics to lay out for the banks to see what we were doing, we soon realized we needed someone who could manage those and help us make those decisions,” he says.

But at first, he was reluctant to hire an FD/CFO on a part-time basis.

“Part-time was something I’d never have considered before because I like to have people in-house that work with us and understand our business. It sounds simple, but when you start drilling into the way we work with multiple currencies, multiple countries, it becomes quite detailed.

“In my previous experiences of part-time employees, they would come, they would be freelance, they would go and it didn’t work with us.”

He eventually overcame his reluctance to outsource and hired a part-time FD from The FD Centre.

“The FD Centre offered us something: if our first FD didn’t work out, they would quickly put in another one. If the FD they installed didn’t have the answer to some information that we needed, he was part of a bigger pool that he could get information from and bring to us.”

Not only did his part-time FD Nick Thompson help improve his relationship with the bank by bringing in a permanent management accountant to take care of the finances but he also helped update the company’s accounting software packages and credit control procedures, so that it had a far better cash flow than it did beforehand.

“In the five years Nick’s been here, we’ve grown about 30% in numbers. He’s helped bring in new software and changed our auditors so that we have a more professional auditor looking after us now. So there have been very clear targets and goals that have been achieved. From the other side, it’s meant that I can sleep better.”

Any functionality that is not core to your business should be outsourced at the best cost and quality, says Kevin D. Johnson, author of The Entrepreneur Mind: 100 Essential Beliefs, Characteristics and Habits of Elite Entrepreneurs.³

“In the majority of cases, trying on your own to produce everything that your business needs is unrealistic and highly inefficient,” he says. “If you have believed the negative hype about outsourcing, quickly disabuse yourself of it and implement the process into your business strategy.

“If you’re subscribing to the propaganda and refusing to even consider outsourcing, your competitors are meanwhile outsourcing and working hard to put you out of business.”

Outsourcing is nearly always cheaper, more efficient, and more flexible than hiring in-house staff. The benefits include:

  • Access to expertise that you would otherwise not be able to afford
  • Time savings for you and your in-house staff
  • Opportunity to focus on revenue-boosting areas of your business
  • Lower costs
  • More predictability in costs
  • Maximizing efficiencies
  • Enabling a sharper focus on core competencies
  • Increasing business productivity.

What can be outsourced? Outsourced services can be categorized into the following two groups:

Technology services

Companies require advanced IT and communication technologies for their regular operations. Rapid changes in the technology sector bring new capabilities to use for companies that need to select the right kind of vendor to get the best technology at the cheapest cost. The following technology services are generally outsourced:

  • Software and applications
  • Infrastructure
  • Telecommunications
  • E-commerce
  • Web security and solutions
  • Web hosting, website designing, development and maintenance
  • Logistics, procurement and supply chain management
  • Research and analysis
  • Product development
  • Legal services
  • Intellectual property research and documentation
  • Tech support
  • Customer help desk functions
  • On-site maintenance
  • Email management
  • Data centre operations
  • Disaster recovery
  • Security management
  • Virus protection
  • Data backup and recovery
  • Wireless support
  • Purchase consulting
  • Network architecture

Business Processes Human Resources

  • Payroll services (including payroll statements, bonuses, commissions, tax payments, etc.)
  • Benefits administration
  • Recruitment
  • Training
  • Expense management
  • Management of travel and employee records (personnel forms, policies, procedures, performance management, etc.)

Finance

  • Managing accounts payable/receivable
  • Bank reconciliation
  • Fixed asset management
  • Cash management
  • Financial reporting
  • Risk management

Customer service

  • Marketing support
  • Technical help
  • Advice or disbursing information
  • Processing sales order entry, claims, loans,
  • applications, credit cards and reconciliation.

How to use outsourcing in your organization You can avoid many of the issues related to hiring and training in-house staff and build a much more agile, flexible and cost efficient business as long as you adopt the right approach.

In fact, enlisting the services of an experienced part-time CFO from The CFO Centre is one example of how outsourcing can add value, increase efficiency and maximize opportunities.

You want your outsource suppliers to possess all the benefits of a high-quality, reliable in-house team but without any of the drawbacks. There are never any firm guarantees of success, but the right approach can prevent major headaches and save you a lot of money.

The key to successful outsourcing is preparation. By understanding what your requirements are and by spending sufficient time during the selection process to ensure that you find suppliers who share your values and will truly add value to your business (rather than becoming an expensive risk) it will usually follow that you will build a highly efficient outsourced team.

The main reasons companies don’t outsource:

  • Reluctance to lose control and flexibility
  • A given function is too critical to outsource
  • Anticipated adverse reaction by customers
  • Employee resistance

¹‘Whitbread renews outsourcing contract with 14% cost cut’, Flinders, Karl, Computer Weekly www.computerweekly.com, Feb 13,2013

²  ’Whitbread signs five-year HR and payroll outsourcing deal with Ceridian’, Berry, Mike, Personnel Today, http://www.personneltoday. com, Dec 11, 2008

³ ’The Entrepreneur Mind: 100 Essential Beliefs, Characteristics and Habits of Elite Entrepreneurs’, Johnson, Kevin D., Johnson Media Inc., Mar 2013, The benefits of outsourcing 

Ensure you’re tax and legally compliant – Part II

How a part-time CFO will resolve your tax challenges

The CFO Centre will provide you with a highly experienced senior CFO with ‘big business experience’ for a fraction of the cost of a full-time CFO.

This means you will have:

  • One of Canada’s leading CFOs, working with you on a part-time basis
  • A local support team of the highest calibre CFOs
  • A national and international collaborative team of the top CFOs sharing best practice (the power of hundreds)
  • Access to our national and international network of clients and partners.

With all that support and expertise at your fingertips, you will achieve better results, faster. It means you’ll have more confidence and clarity when it comes to decision-making. After all, you’ll have access to expert help and advice whenever you need it.

In particular, since every CFO Centre CFO is a qualified accountant and has experience of the kind of challenges which many business owners may feel are beyond solving, he or she will help you with your tax and legal position.

It is always a great relief to our clients to know that this high-risk area is being looked after for them.

It was a problem with GST that led one family-owned business to contact The CFO Centre.

One of The CFO Centre’s part-time CFOs recalls his first meeting with the business owners well.

“They were in a dark place when I went for my first meeting,” he says. “They had a tax problem and they were paying that off. “ “The company had been operating at a loss, running out of cash and they were constantly cutting costs.“

“I asked them what they thought they needed to do and I replayed it to them at the end of the day and all I did was say ‘You do that, you do this’ etc. “ “They knew what they needed to do, but they just didn’t have the confidence to do it. “

“It took us about nine months to sort it out. We put a strategy together and sold off two showrooms.” “Now, in our second year, we have three showrooms instead of five and yet our revenue is greater than what it was when we had five.”

“The family is in a place where they love going to work. They like what they’re doing and they want me to keep going in because I give them the confidence to make decisions about the business.”

A software development client was another business that benefitted from specialist tax advice from one of our part-time CFOs.

“Our part time CFO sorted out the R and D tax credits, which has also been a big help particularly because it came along at a time where life could have got quite tough if we’d had to pay out a huge tax bill,” recalls the owner. “We hadn’t even considered the R and D tax credits so this was a big win.

“It really helps to know that the finances are being professionally looked after. Our CFO is able to come in and steady my nerves if we are going through a difficult patch.

“I can relax knowing that I’ve got somebody watching over the financial side of things. Because I recognize that I’m not a numbers person and that it could all go completely awry if it were left to me to look at the numbers and understand what was happening.

“Having our part-time CFO has given my confidence in the business an enormous boost. I have no worries at the moment because our CFO lets me know when I need to focus on something. His input has meant that I am free to think about all the other things that I’m trying to do without worrying too much about the financial health of the business. When I do need to look at something urgently he can bring the issue into sharp focus then.”

In certain cases where the structure and complexity of the business dictates, it may be necessary to seek out a tax specialist (or even tax experts) to work alongside your part-time CFO. It’s your CFO’s role to determine the requirements for your business and ensure that the plan is implemented in the most effective and efficient way possible.

A CFO Centre part-time CFO will work with you to:

Determine your requirements and devise a tax planning strategy and remove the fear of the unknown so that you and your senior team can offload the burden.

  • Work with our wider network of tax specialists to solve complex issues as and when required.
  • Undertake negotiations with CRA on your behalf.
  • Implement processes that ensure that tax deadlines are met.
  • Translate specialist terminology into language you will understand and explain the plan in plain English.
  • Prepare cash flow forecasts for CRA that support applications to defer payments.
  • Devise an optimal tax efficient exit strategy for the business.
  • Ensure the tax advice fits with the overall business strategy
  • Discuss the most efficient ways for you and your employees to be remunerated.
  • Ensure that your company is kept fully up to date with new tax legislation.
  • Establish systems that record data the most effectively for tax purposes.
  • Deal with day to day legal issues – such as terms and conditions – and make sure your company is compliant.
  • Work with our wider network of solicitors to solve important/complex legal issues.
  • Help interpret legal letters and contracts.

Contact us today!
tel: 1-800-918-1906
email: [email protected]
www.thecfocentre.ca

Ensure you’re tax and legally compliant – Part I

Managing your tax and legal responsibilities effectively is a critical skill and one that few SME owners possess. This report explains why getting specialist tax and legal advice is crucial for all SMEs and how doing so can be hugely beneficial for businesses and their owners.  In these articles, we will see:

  • The benefits of being tax and legally compliant
  • How a part-time CFO will resolve your tax and legal compliance challenges

Complying with tax legislation is “an uphill struggle” for many businesses and results in the wastage of precious management time, according to the CBI.¹

It’s estimated that mid-sized businesses spend 110 hours or nine days a year preparing, filing and paying corporation tax, labour taxes and goods and services tax, says PriceWaterhouseCooper.²

Most companies need to comply with at least eight categories of tax. That doesn’t include the industry-specific taxes (such as those in the construction, waste management, and oil & gas industries) that they must also pay.

“Each tax has its own legislation, associated case law that has built up over years of interpretation, varying thresholds for calculations and qualification of reliefs, and a myriad of payment dates, reporting deadlines and filing requirements,” says the CBI. “It is difficult to comprehend, let alone manage. It takes time and effort to ensure that a business is fully compliant in the taxes it needs to collect on behalf of the government and pay in terms of its liabilities – distracting it from commercial priorities and reducing management capacity for strategic decision-making.”

Mid-size businesses don’t have the resources or expertise that large companies possess to navigate tax rules and legislation, nor do they receive the targeted support that the Government directs at small businesses.

John Cridland, the former CBI Director-General, said: “Medium-sized firms are not able to benefit from the incentives that small firms do and, at the same time, most cannot afford to have an army of tax consultants on speed dial to help them wade through the complexities of the system.”³

It’s no doubt why tax worries so many owners of mid-sized companies. As is the case with most finance-related matters, the anxiety usually stems from not having a strategy in place to deal with the issues which arise.

Medium-sized firms are not able to benefit from the incentives that small firms do and, at the same time, most cannot afford to have an army of tax consultants on speed dial to help them wade through the complexities of the system.

As soon as the business owner accepts that they need a tax specialist as part of their team, the faster they can offload the burden knowing that their back is covered.

In other words, because tax is inherently complicated it really doesn’t make sense for CEOs and business owners to spend their own time trying to understand the detail. Accepting that this is the case and delegating out the responsibility to a capable, experienced part-time CFO removes an immense weight from the shoulders.

When we conduct reviews with our clients, we often discover a deep-seated anxiety about the pitfalls of failing to understand tax issues.

The primary concern is usually the idea that the business may be building up significant arrears of tax, which remain unpaid.

There are often worries about whether or not the accounting system used is recording information in the right way and will reveal significant holes in the event of a tax inspection.

Corporation tax, HST, GST, the implications of capital gains tax vs. income tax, failing to claim tax breaks, employment taxes and understanding R&D credits are common areas of discussion with our clients as is the desire to keep up to date with new legislation.

Most business owners simply want to know that their company (and personal) tax affairs and legal issues are being properly looked after; that they are as tax efficient as they can be and that all statutory requirements are being met. Most companies do a poor job of this because tax is inherently complicated and when things get complicated in business the most common reaction is to move onto something else!

Delegating your tax planning and legal responsibilities to a tax specialist is a must.

Knowing that you are not paying tax you don’t need to be paying and having peace of mind that all your tax deadlines will be met without you having to take on the responsibility personally will allow you to focus on growing the business while we take care of the details.

Come back for part II of our tax compliant article to find out how a part-time CFO can help you navigate the tax season!

____________

¹ « Stuck In The Middle: Addressing The Tax Burden For Medium-Sized Businesses ». CBI/Grant Thornton, www.cbi.org.uk, www.grant-thornton. co.uk. Juin 2014.
² « UK slips two places down league table of effective tax systems » Nicholson, Kevin, PwC (PriceWaterhouseCooper), www.pwc.com. 21 nov. 2014
³ «Medium-sized businesses need more support to stop them from falling over the tax cliff», Prosser, David, The Independent, Jun 23, 2014, www.independent.co.uk

 

 

 

STRATEGIC FUNDING – Where to find the capital your business needs – Part II

In part I of the strategic funding article, we discussed the following sources of funding:

  • Bank Operating Line of Credit
  • Loans
  • Invoice Discounting (Factoring)
  • Asset Financing

Theres are also another variety of funding available for businesses: the Alternative financing.

Alternative finance is a general term to describe a variety of financing options that sit next to traditional bank facilities and factoring and invoice discounting products.

The alternative finance market includes a wide variety of new financing models including peer to peer lending, crowdfunding and specialist finance providers offering products such as selective invoice finance and invoice trading platforms.

Specialist providers have greater flexibility than the traditional sources and can often offer a faster turnaround on the right deals. Crowdfunding, peer to peer lending and invoice trading platforms greatly depend on online platforms bringing many investors and borrowers together.

The section below looks at the main options for the different and emerging alternative financing options:

Selective Invoice Financing

Unlike traditional factoring companies, invoice financing or invoice discounting, selective invoice finance allows businesses to choose which invoices or debtors should be put forward for funding. The business owner can choose when and how much they wish to draw from the selected invoices. The provider agrees upon an ongoing facility for the business. On presentation of a valid invoice, money can be accessed from the facility as soon as the validity of the invoice has been confirmed. For each invoice, an agreed percentage of the value becomes available to draw – typically 70% to 85%.

Selective invoice finance is a great option if you’re looking for flexibility as the business is not tied to any contract and can dip in and out of the facility as needed. Business owners have direct control over costs and the opportunity to repay early if additional funds become available from elsewhere.

Additional security is often required to support the facility. This could include a charge over business assets and a personal guarantee from the directors or owners.

Invoice Trading Platforms

Invoice trading is a short-term finance option where the borrower signs up to an online platform and submits an invoice for sale.

The invoice trading platform will pre-vet the invoice, looking to ensure the debtor is credit worthy. If satisfied with the quality of the debt, full details of the invoice will be posted on the platform and a bidding process begins.

Potential lenders start a reverse auction so the keener they are, the lower the interest rate for the borrower. If there is insufficient appeal, the trade will fail. It is exclusively web based due to the administration efficiencies involved.

When the invoice becomes due the debtor pays directly to the platform but the business remains responsible for making sure the invoice is paid.

On repayment the platform deducts its own charges and repays the capital and interest to the individual lenders. A shortfall in the repayment will mean the business will be asked to make up the difference.

Some trading platforms have now started to take additional security in the form of a charge on the business and a personal guarantee from the directors and/or shareholders.

Peer To Peer Lending

Peer to peer (P2P) lending enables numerous small investors to loan money directly to a business and could be a good solution for longer term funding.

The length of the loan is agreed by all parties upfront and as per a normal commercial loan, the business will have to pay interest, typically quarterly. In order to attract lenders the proposition needs to demonstrate a strong likelihood of both the interest and capital being repaid on agreed terms.

Failure to meet the repayments may result in penalties such as a demand for immediate repayment or an increased rate of interest if the loan remains in default.

The platform provider acts as middleman between lender and borrower and will ultimately enforce whatever security has been taken on behalf of the individual lenders.

Provided a loan has been properly serviced and there is adequate security available, it is often possible to return to the P2P lender for a second or later round of borrowing but each new loan has to be separately posted to the platform and must justify why the new lending is required.

Security will need to be offered, normally in the form of a charge over company assets (a debenture) and a personal guarantee. Investor money is at risk if the loan is defaulted.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding involves a business plan being posted to a specialist website where sufficient small investors offer funding to generate the target amount required by the business.

Crowdfunding is a good option for businesses not wanting ongoing interest costs. However, on completion investors will own shares and have certain rights in the business. For example they may require input such as audited financial statements and will need to be kept informed of how revenue is progressing. No personal security is needed from the current owners.

There are two main types of crowdfunding and the expectations of investors vary according to which they are looking at:

  1. Special Interest Funding: Often used in the entertainment industry, for instance to pay a musician to produce a new album or to cover the production costs of a new show. In this case, the investor doesn’t necessarily expect a commercial return on the investment but will have some special rights, such as pre-release copies of a CD or discounted tickets to see a show.
  2. Trade Finance: Money is advanced to enable goods to be purchased (typically from abroad) before they are sold. The lenders security is the goods purchased so these must either be easily saleable or in response to a confirmed order. Generally available to established businesses with good credit. Minimum transaction values and margin on the contract will apply.

 

Supply Chain Finance

The funder takes control of the supply chain, generally making payments direct to the supplier. Security is taken over goods purchased. There is usually a high degree of involvement and control over the borrower’s business and other security is invariably required.

Private Equity Firms

Private equity firms provide medium to long-term capital in return for an equity stake in companies with high-growth potential.

The investors’ return is dependent on the growth and profitability of the business. As a result, most private equity investors will seek to work with you as a partner to grow the business.

It is most suitable for firms looking for longer term capital to fund their expansion activities.

IPO (Public Offering for Shares)

This is where your business is publicly listed and shares can be bought and traded by the public. Typically this is only used for larger businesses.

In Canada, the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) is the senior equity market, while the TSX Venture Exchange is a public venture capital marketplace for emerging companies. The Montreal Exchange or Bourse de Montréal (MX) is a derivative exchange that trades futures contracts and options.

 

CONCLUSION

Funding is often the catalyst for taking your business to the next level.

It’s your choice whether you want to take on an equity partner or raise debt to finance the growth of the business. When raising equity, if the right partner can be found, it can make a profound difference to your business. It may be that the investor provides not only funding but also adds significant value to your business in terms of experience, expertise, infrastructure, and channels to market. However, it does mean you will lose partial or complete control in running your business. Something that for many is not appropriate.

Raising debt can be complex and frustrating, and the increasing array of alternative funding doesn’t make that process any easier, but it does mean you keep control as your business grows. However, if you’re like most business owners, you simply want the funds and are less interested in the detail of how to get hold of them!

That’s fine if your company has a full-time chief financial officer (CFO) with substantial experience in raising funds: however, as an SME, you probably don’t have a full-time CFO, or if you have they probably don’t have a vast range of fund raising experience, whether it be raising debt or equity. So what can you do?

You can hire a very experienced part-time CFO to manage the entire process for you. He or she will manage everything from determining your immediate and long-term objectives to finding the right kind of funding partner for the business.

Discover the funding options now

To discover your funding options, book your free one-to-one call with one of our chief financial officers who are funding experts:

tel: 1-800-918-1906
email: [email protected]
www.thecfocentre.ca

 

STRATEGIC FUNDING – Where to find the capital your business needs – Part I

Funding growing businesses is one of the major challenges any entrepreneur and business owner will face, and while there is an increasingly vast array of options available, figuring out how to access these funds can be a very time consuming, frustrating experience, even for the most seasoned business owner.

Whether you need working capital to support your growth, raise funds for a push into a new market, introduce a new product range or even have a requirement to raise funds for a new business venture, figuring out what you need to do and where to go can be difficult. With the advantage of “doing this for a living”, this report summarizes the process and points you in the right direction in terms of funding providers and where to go to get the independent specialist advice you are likely to need.

Highlights

  • Which type of funding will suit your needs?
  • Sources of funding (including advantages and disadvantages of each one).
  • Where to get independent specialist advice on your funding options and presenting your case for the best chance of success.

Introduction
Whether you need $1,000 or $10 million, there are only two kinds of finance: equity, whereby you are raising money in exchange for for ownership of the company, and debt which is borrowed money. The first step in raising capital is to decide between equity or debt. In the SME world, the choice usually depends on the preference of the business owner and stage of the company.

If you want to maintain total control, you are typically going to prefer a debt driven funding route: however if you are less worried about control, bringing in equity funds can often mean you grow faster. This can be a good route, particularly where you have a very clear exit in mind and this exit lines up with other equity providers.

In most SMEs the entrepreneur or business owner is the person who looks for funding the business needs. When raising debt finance, our experience is that banks are still the most frequent form of funding used, but increasingly owners are hearing about and starting to use new forms of finance outside of traditional banks. This so called alternative funding market is growing rapidly, and has more than doubled in size year on year from £267 million in 2012 to £666 million in 2013 to £1.74 billion in 2014, according to the “UK Alternative Finance Industry Report”.¹

Equity financing can come from individuals, so called angel investors, and traditional venture capital firms. Depending on your ambitions, there is also the option to combine both debt and equity in a funding mix to provide the capital base for long term growth and the working capital to support working capital requirements in the business.

While there is copious advice for those businesses seeking to raise funds for start-ups, this report focuses particularly on the challenges facing mid sized companies who are past start up and need funds to continue to grow (those with annual revenues between £2M and £50M, or employing staff between 10 and 250 employees).

Sources of funding for mid-sized business

Bank Operating Line of Credit

For many businesses the bank operating line of credit remains the traditional form of funding, with relationships formed over many years.

Although lines of credit can be quick to set up, the biggest drawback is that they can be called in by the bank on demand. So when things aren’t going well and you need the facility, that’s just the time when the bank might demand repayment, particularly if you haven’t built a strong relationship with the bank, so they understand what’s going on in your business.

Loans

A bank term loan will have a maturity date and require principal repayments over a fixed period of time (typically 2 – 5 years). As long as you payback the money per the terms of the loan, the advantage is that the bank can’t demand repayment, although typically the business and usually the owner will need to offer strong security for the loan, usually secured on the assets of the business and often the owners personal assets, by way of a personal guarantee.

As with operating lines of credit, the irony is that the more profitable and cash generative your business is, the less likely the bank’s requirements for security.

The principle is straightforward: if your business has performed well over the years and the bank has confidence that performance will be continued, then the easier it is to borrow money against security, or in some cases simply the cash flows of the business.

Invoice Discounting (Factoring)

Invoice discounting, also referred to as factoring, has grown in popularity in recent years. Banks and other specialist invoice discounting firms lend money which is secured by your accounts receivable, so if the company fails, the bank or specialist firm has more security than in the case of a conventional credit line.

With invoice discounting, you effectively sell your outstanding business invoices to a third party. You get the cash flow benefit by receiving a percentage of the money immediately (usually around 80%) and the rest when the money is collected.

Invoice financing can be really beneficial for growing businesses and can help you to bridge the gap between the delivery of goods or services and the payment from your customer.

Asset Financing

An important consideration of financing, is the overall mix of funding a company uses. Asset financing can be used for funding fixed assets such as plant and machinery, equipment, computers and vehicles. All the main banks have asset financing arms and there are also many specialist companies in this space. The bank or finance company takes security of the asset as their protection. This form of financing has the benefit that it is pretty easy to arrange, assuming the assets you are buying are standard.

There’s also another type of financing: the alternative financing.  Come back for part II of this article, where we will discuss these alternative financing sources.

_______________________

1 ‘Understanding Alternative Finance: The UK Alternative Industry Report 2014’, Baeck, Peter; Collins, Liam; Zhang, Bryan, Nesta & The University of Cambridge, November 2014

How a part-time CFO will strengthen your banking relationship

The CFO Centre will provide you with a highly experienced senior CFO with ‘big business experience’ for a fraction of the cost of a full-time CFO. This means you will have:

  • One of Canada’s leading CFOs, working with you on a part-time basis
  • A local support team of the highest calibre CFOs
  • A national and international collaborative team of the top CFOs sharing best practice (the power of hundreds)
  • Access to our national and international network of clients and partners

With all that support and expertise at your fingertips, you will achieve better results, faster. It means you’ll have more confidence and clarity when it comes to decision-making. After all, you’ll have access to expert help and advice whenever you need it.

In particular, your part-time CFO will help you to improve your relationship with your bank. This is what happened to green bean coffee importers DRWakefield. When the global financial crisis hit, the company found its bank was asking some pretty tough questions.

The company’s Managing Director Simon Wakefield soon realized the company needed help.

“Not having enough background information, data and statistics to lay out for the banks to see what we were doing, we soon realized we needed someone who could manage those and help us make those decisions,” he says. At first, he was reluctant to hire a CFO on a part-time basis.

“Part-time was something I’d never have considered before because I like to have people in-house that work with us and understand our business. It sounds simple, but when you start drilling into the way we work with multiple currencies, multiple countries, it becomes quite detailed.

Not having enough background information, data and statistics to lay out for the banks to see what we were doing, we soon realized we needed someone who could manage those and help us make those decisions.

SIMON WAKEFIELD, MANAGING DIRECTOR, DRWAKEFIELD

“In my previous experiences of part-time employees, they would come, they would be freelance, they would go and it didn’t work with us. However, The CFO Centre Group offered us something: if our first CFO didn’t work out, they would quickly put in another one. If the CFO they installed didn’t have the answer to some information that we needed, he was part of a bigger pool that he could get information from and bring to us.”

Not only did his part-time CFO Nick Thompson help improve his relationship with the bank by bringing in a permanent in-house management accountant to take care of the finances but he also helped update the company’s accounting software packages and credit control procedures, so that it had a far better cash flow than it did beforehand.

“In the five years Nick’s been here, we’ve grown about 30% in numbers. He’s helped bring in new software and changed our auditors so that we have a more professional auditor looking after us now. So there have been very clear targets and goals that have been achieved. From the other side, it’s meant that I can sleep better.”

Your part-time CFO will help you to form a highly beneficial, trusted relationship with your bank, which will pay dividends over the years as you grow your business.

He or she will take on the responsibility of the bank relationship for you so the bank becomes a valuable asset. This will free up your time to allow you to focus on building the business.

Your part-time CFO will also save you from excessive bank charges as was the case for a West Australian company a few years ago.

When one of our West Australian CFOs started working with the company, it was poorly organized financially and was being overcharged by its bank. Our part-time CFO was able to sort out the company’s finances. This resulted in an immediate savings of $137,000 CAD a year in bank fees.

Your part-time CFO will:

  • Develop a relationship with key personnel at your bank.
  • Share information about your business with the bank and keep the bank fully updated. The more trust that can be built the more the bank will be willing to help.
  • Provide the bank with a credible business plan which takes into account previous track record including debt and cash flow history.
  • Provide you with independent advice on bank products and their suitability.
  • Negotiate the best deal on bank facilities.
  • Provide access to senior contacts in the bank where required.
  • Introduce new banking options if needed and negotiate terms.

Your part-time CFO will work hard to forge a strong relationship with your bank so that when you need access to any of the bank’s services your request is treated as a priority.

What’s more, your part-time CFO has many years of banking experience so can advise you on the best banking deals.

Your part-time CFO knows where to go for supplementary funding to complement your bank finance (if necessary) and how to benchmark funding deals for your peace of mind.

CFOs can skillfully communicate your needs in a way that appeals to bank managers. That helps to add further credibility to your credit application.

What’s more, your CFO understands how banks reach their decisions and can, therefore, position your application for funding so that it has the highest chance of success.

Conclusion

Your bank can play a significant role in your company’s future growth, both in terms of providing necessary funding and strategic advice.

That will only happen if you take the necessary time and energy to foster a relationship with your bank manager. The benefits of doing so, however, make it one of the best investments you’ll make.

Don’t miss the many benefits a close relationship with your bank can bring.

Book a free call with one of our part-time CFOs now.

tel: 1-800-918-1906
email: [email protected]
www.thecfocentre.ca

 

 

Improve your banking relationship

“The time to speak to your bank manager is when you don’t need them, not when you do”.
Colin Mills, Founder, The FD Centre

As banks deal with SMEs in every industry, they are also an excellent source of information and advice about marketing, expansion, fraud prevention, and e-commerce. Some banks take the initiative and offer their customers business ideas and opportunities. So if you don’t have a strong relationship with your bank, you’re missing out in many ways that could help your business to prosper.

In this 2-part article, we will see why you should develop a strong relationship with your bank and how a part-time CFO will strengthen your banking relationship.

Introduction

Very few business owners appreciate the value of having a strong relationship with their bank.

“Many executives still view a bank as a vendor, selling money, rather than a partner, providing ideas and solutions to improve their business,” says Steve Rosvold, Founder and CEO of KRM Business Solutions.¹

A recent survey of UK SMEs found that a staggering 73% have no contact with their bank relationship manager.² . The survey commissioned by cloud services provider BCSG, found that few SMEs had personal contact with their banks either face to face or via digital channels. Forty-one percent never visited a bank branch.

Too often business owners leave getting acquainted with their bank manager until their finances are in such a mess the situation is desperate. That is the worse time to approach a bank. For as Bob Hope once joked, a bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don’t need it.

Why you should develop a strong relationship with your bank

Having a borrowing history and a solid relationship with your bank will make it easier for you to get credit.

It’s important to educate the bank on your business, your strategy and your financials so that they are fully aware of your business and the vision you have for it, says banking expert, Peter Black of Snowball Consulting.³

“You need to have a good relationship with your bank,” says Black. “If you treat the bank as a commodity and don’t tell them anything, then when you need them most, they may not be there.”

Banks need to know:

  • Who your customers are
  • Who your vendors are
  • What is going on in your industry.

For that to happen, you need to establish regular communication with your bank manager.

“Tell the bank the good and the bad news in equal measure, as and when it occurs,” recommends Black. “If you have a new contract or a good story, tell the bank about it. Many don’t do this.” There’s more to it than regular phone calls, however. You also need to demonstrate that you have a coherent strategy and follow it, says Black. That will help to establish your credibility too.

“Continually changing the strategy or appearing to move from one to another does not give the bank confidence,” says Black. “The worst situation to be in is one where the bank does not even understand your strategy.”

Make sure the forecasts you provide are realistic and credible, recommends Black. “The bank will build up a history of how accurate the forecasts are that a business provides. No forecast can ever be totally accurate, but the banks see no end of forecasts showing a massive increase in profits and cash just to underpin the latest request.”

  • Let your banker know about regulatory changes that could have an impact on your company’s growth opportunities.
  • Share your company’s long-term strategy with the bank. Your bank may be able to provide additional resources to help you achieve your goals.
  • Schedule regular meetings with your bank throughout the year so that he or she gets an accurate picture of your business. It will also make it more likely the bank will respond faster when needs or opportunities occur.

The stronger your relationship is with your bank, the better they will be able to understand your business when you come to them for advice and solutions to help it grow.

Banks know things don’t always go as planned. They want to be comfortable that they understand your ability to deal with these situations and make good decisions to improve, building a track record with them based on trust, sharing information and debate. It’s astonishing how many business owners don’t invest in building a track record and strong relationship with their bank.

If you don’t have a good relationship with your bank manager, you’re missing out on more than a possible future credit facility. You’re missing a valuable free resource for advice and information.

At a recent event focusing on how to build a world-class finance function, CFO Centre Group CEO, Sara Daw, found only four out of 50 business owners who attended considered their bank was a strategic partner to their business. This is far too low. At The CFO Centre, we make building a strong value-adding relationship with your bank a priority.

Your bank can provide a regular evaluation of your business and financial strategy, as well as ideas and solutions to overcome many challenges you might face.

Banks also offer a wide array of services including:

  • Cash management tools
  • Credit card processing
  • Online and mobile banking services

Since banks deal with SMEs in every industry, they are also an excellent source of information and advice about marketing, expansion, fraud prevention, and e-commerce.

They can walk you through your balance sheet and explain how they perceive your finances and business. They can also learn more about where and when you’re likely to need the money to grow the business.

Giving information and asking for advice helps to build trust between you and your bank manager. Gradually, you learn to trust their advice and they begin to trust in your ability to repay your loans.

Banks hate surprises so if your business is encountering problems, it’s important to let your bank manager know as soon as possible. If you know that you’re likely to miss payments or be late in paying vendors, let your bank manager know in advance so they can assess the situation and provide you with options.

This will also demonstrate to your bank manager that you can manage the business and also be trusted to inform the bank before the problem gets worse. Your bank manager might even be able to extend your line of credit or temporarily waive your fees.

You can increase your chances of getting a loan or credit extension by demonstrating your ability to repay, whether it is a short-term overdraft or a longer term loan. The bank will expect to see the proof so you’ll need to provide the following documents:

  • Your track record
  • Your previous results
  • A business plan (which needs to cover how the company started, your products/services; the management of the business and its plans for the future; market research undertaken to support assumptions and forecasts; and your financial requirements)
  • Your last audited accounts
  • Current and up-to-date management accounts Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable lists A budget for the current/next trading year
  • A cash flow forecast

Follow us for part II of this article and discover how a how a part-time CFO will strengthen your banking relationship.

____________________

1 ‘Why Your Company Needs a Good Banking Relationship’, Rosvold, Steve, KRM Business Solutions, http://businessfinancialconsulting.com, Feb 26, 2014
2 ‘73% of UK SMEs have no contact with their bank relationship manager’, BCSG, www.bcsg.comSep 17, 2015
3 ‘How to get the most out of your banking relationship’, Black, Peter, Forum of Private Business, www.fpb.org

Profitable Growth

PROFIT IMPROVEMENT – Driving profitable growth – Part II

How a part-time CFO will help to boost your profits

The CFO Centre will provide you with a highly experienced senior CFO with ‘big business experience’ for a fraction of the cost of a full-time CFO.

This means you will have:

  • One of Canada’s leading CFOs, working with you on a part-time basis
  • A local support team of the highest calibre CFOs
  • A national and international collaborative team of the top CFOs sharing best practices (the power of hundreds)
  • Access to our national and international network of clients and partners.

With all that support and expertise at your fingertips, you will achieve better results, faster. It means you’ll have more confidence and clarity when it comes to decision-making. After all, you’ll have access to expert help and advice whenever you need it.

In particular, your part-time CFO will help you to boost profits.

There are four things you can do to increase your company’s profitability:

  • Sell more
  • Increase margins
  • Sell-more frequently
  • Reduce costs

If you can do all four at once, your profits will increase dramatically. Even changing one of these four factors will boost your profits.

Your CFO will help you to identify the ways in which you can sell more, sell more frequently, increase margins (without losing customers) and cut your costs.

Selling more and selling more frequently

Driven by a need to make more sales, most business owners will chase new customers.

This can be a costly exercise since it will often involve more expenditure on marketing and advertising. Acquiring new customers can cost as much as five times more than satisfying and retaining current customers, according to Management Consultants Emmett Murphy and Mark Murphy.

That’s because convincing people to buy from you for the first time is difficult. Prospective clients are scared of making a mistake: of choosing the wrong supplier and wasting their money.

If your sales are low, it’s better to focus attention on your existing and previous customers and find ways to encourage those people or companies to buy more and to do so more often.

Your existing and previous clients do not have the prospective clients’ fears and objections to doing business with you. You’ve already demonstrated that you can deliver the benefits they want from your products or services.

On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase.1

There are other benefits to selling to existing and past clients too: it cuts your refund rate, raises the likelihood of positive word-of-mouth, and lessens the risk of your clients buying from your competitors.

A 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10%.

Even better, a 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10%, according to Emmett and Mark Murphy. Cutting your customer defection rate by 5% can raise your profitability by between 25% and 125% depending on the industry.2

Customer profitability tends to increase over the life of a retained customer. In  other words, the longer your clients are with you, the more they will spend.

When working with you and your management team, your part-time CFO will investigate ways to get customers to return to you more often and buy more when they do make a purchase. The methods include:

  • Using a strong follow-up sequence.
  • Leveraging scarcity by using time-limited or limited availability offers.
  • Using up-sells, down-sells and cross-sells.

Raising prices

All too often, business owners believe their prices must be lower than their competition. They also believe if they increase their prices, they will lose customers. Both assumptions are false.

It all comes down to the perception of value. People will happily pay more for a product or service they perceive as having added value.

If your products or services are on par with your competitors, your prices should be similar or higher.

Even a small price rise will have a positive impact on your profit margins. After all, the larger the difference between the cost of a product or service and the price it sells for, the higher the profit.

Reducing costs

Companies that fail to control their costs are often forced to borrow but then find that servicing that debt erodes their profits still further.

The benefit of cutting your costs is that it will have a direct short-term impact on your bottom line since a dollar saved in expenses might mean an extra dollar in profit.

Your CFO will encourage you to consider the likely impact of any cost cutting on the quality of the products or services you provide before you take any action.

Your CFO will also help you to identify the major cost centres in your company. These might be:

  • Purchasing
  • Finance
  • Production
  • Administration

Your CFO will also help you to identify the profit drivers in your company.

Typically, profit drivers will be to increase sales, reduce the cost of sales and to reduce overhead expenses but they could be any of the following:

Financial drivers (which have a direct impact on your finances)

  • Pricing
  • Variable costs (cost of sales)
  • Sales volume (for example, generate more prospects, convert more prospects to customers, retain current customers, increase the size of each purchase, increase the sales price, etc.)
  • Fixed costs (for example, overhead expenses)
  • Cost of debt (for example, interest rates on debt)
  • Inventory

Non-Financial drivers

  • Staff training
  • Product innovation
  • Market share
  • Productivity
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Product/service quality
  • Analyze every area of gross profit to understand where the biggest opportunities lie and to determine how to reduce less profitable activities.
  • Find your most profitable customers (those who consistently spend more with you).
  • Find the customers who you are currently serving but who are not profitable.
  • Analyze return on investment on capital and product development expenditure.
  • Ensure your management information is up to date and in a format that is useful and reliable.
  • Educate the senior team about the importance of Critical Success Factors (CSFs). These are the  activities that your business must do to survive. You can determine your CSFs by answering the following questions:
    • How is our business better than our competitors?
    • What do our customers like about our products or service and the way in which we operate?
    • What don’t our customers like?
    • What would make our customers stop buying from us?

You measure your CSFs by using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

  • Systematically analyze relevant KPIs and trends to identify potential hazards before they become a problem.
  • Review arrangements with your main customers to see if there is a more profitable way to supply them.
  • Review pricing arrangements with existing suppliers.
  • Research alternative suppliers across all areas of the business.
  • Research sources of grant funding.
  • Determine your company’s eligibility for Research and Development (R&D) tax credits.The tax relief will either reduce your tax bill or provide a cash sum. To receive R&D tax credits, you must show that your company is carrying on a project that seeks an advance in science or technology and how it will achieve it. The advance being sought must constitute an advance in the overall knowledge or capability in a field of science or technology, not just your company’s own state of knowledge or capability.
  • Develop effective incentive schemes for staff to encourage productivity and to manage risk.
  •  Prepare customer surveys to understand what the market really wants (and then sell it to them).
  • Analyze competitors to find out what is working well and what isn’t and course correct accordingly.
  • Review significant overheads and isolate opportunities to reduce expenditure.
  • Investigate exchange rate hedging and planning.
  • Create a realistic and achievable action plan then communicate it to all your employees.
  • Increase prices.
  • Explore online selling.
  • Explore more cost-effective ways of marketing by forming strategic alliances and joint ventures with companies that deal with your prospective clients.
  • Arrange for business mentors to give advice and share experiences with you.
  • Review organizational structure and delegation procedures to maximize efficiency.
  • Develop customer retention strategies to prevent loss of revenue.
  • Evaluate business location and determine possible alternatives (to save costs on production, delivery, etc.).
  • Outsource some functions (and so save on wages) or employ someone on a part-time rather than full-time basis.
  • Look at the viability of redundancies. If you’re making people redundant, you will need to fund redundancy payments. You will also need to ensure you meet current legislation and standards regarding consultations with employees, the grounds for redundancy and the selection of employees.
  • Introduce an expense control program. Your CFO will challenge expenses in all categories, large and small. Besides cost-cutting measures, your CFO will also ensure you tighten your control on costs. If you don’t already have a purchase order approval policy, for example, you’ll be encouraged to introduce one.
  • Look at your bank charges. Your CFO will question all bank fees on your statements and compare them with what other banks charge.
  • Check invoices from suppliers for overcharging (incorrect charges, missing discounts, double billing, etc.).
  • Get rid of inefficient systems (for example, paper-based systems).
  • Measure the return on all your advertising and stop using whatever hasn’t worked in the past
  • Replace frequent small orders with bulk buy discount orders.

As you can see from this, profit improvement is not an emergency fix. It’s something you and your organization need to plan for and follow consistently. If you don’t, there’s a very real danger that once you return to growth, you’ll get swept up with the day-to-day demands of running your business. That increases the risk you’ll find yourself back in an unprofitable position.

As with many challenges facing growth businesses, the solution lies in good planning for profit improvement on the one hand and an ability to stick to the plan, month in and month out, on the other.

Profit improvement should be seen as an ongoing project. It takes some time to establish systems, which enable your business to maximize its profitability, and then it takes focus and resources to maintain the monitoring process.

That’s where part-time CFOs can help. They can take care of the finance function and the support systems within your business, which frees up your time to focus on growing your business.

Profit improvement should be seen as an ongoing project. It takes some time to establish systems, which enable your business to maximize its profitability, and then it takes focus and resources to maintain the  monitoring process.

Conclusion

Most business owners say making a profit is the number one reason they are in business. Everything else (passion, purpose, mission) is subordinate.

Profit is an expression of getting the most out of your business for the least amount of effort. It is a reflection of your efficiency.

Building a large company and being able to cite impressive revenue figures are often the wrong drivers for business owners. Again, this is not to say that increasing sales is the wrong approach – on the contrary – it is merely to point out that selling lots of product without a full understanding of the profitability of the product can be a waste of valuable resource.

A compact, efficient business which operates under tight management procedures is nearly always a happier place to work than a chaotic business which is able to boast significant revenue figures.

Expanding overseas, taking on more staff and resourcing up may well be the right way for you to take your business. It could equally be the case that you may be able to enjoy increased profitability (and an improved lifestyle if this is an important driver) without expanding rapidly, but merely by improving profitability.

The path you follow will be determined by your objectives for the business and that’s something your CFO will help you to clarify and then achieve.

Increase your profits with the help of a part-time CFO

Don’t miss this opportunity to talk to a part-time CFO about how you can improve your profits. To book your free one-to-one call with one of our part-time CFOs:

tel: 1-800-918-1906
email: [email protected]
www.thecfocentre.ca

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1. Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs, ‘75 Customer Service Facts, Quotes & Statistics: How Your Business Can Deliver With the Best of the Best’, Help Scout, www.helpscout.net

2. Leading on the Edge of Chaos: The 10 Critical Elements for Success in Volatile Times’, Murphy, PH.D., Emmett C., Murphy, MBA, Mark A., Prentice Hall Press, June 15, 2002

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