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Cash Flow

12 Signs Your Business Is Hemorrhaging Money And How To Stop the Bleeding

The shortest path to profit is to watch your expenses as closely as you watch for new customers.

John Rampton

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Cash is undeniably the lifeblood of your business. When it’s hemorrhaging money, it’s in critical condition.

You can prevent that from happening though by paying to the following 12 warning signs and knowing how to stop the bleeding before it’s too late.

1. You’re not tracking your expenses

Don’t feel too embarrassed about this. There are more businesses than you’re aware of that aren’t tracking their expenses like utilities, rent and payroll. However, that’s a problem for business owners because this doesn’t let them know how much they’re spending or earning.

In other words, if you’re spending more than your business is bringing in, then you’re just asking for a financial disaster.

How to stop the bleedingGather your expenses from the last six months and set-up a budget so that you can track your spending by category. This will let know how much you’re spending each month and where you can trim the fat if that figure is more than you’re bringing in.

Related: The Correlation Between Cash Flow Challenges And Risk

2. You’re unable to file your taxes

Speaking of expenses, one of your greatest is taxes. So, if you’re unable to pay sales, payroll, or income taxes on time, then that’s a bright, red flag that you’re not properly managing your cash flow. This is a major headache since this results in excessive costs of tax penalties.

How to stop the bleedingWhen it comes to taxes, preparation is your best weapon. Be aware of upcoming deadlines, get a ballpark figure by reviewing last year’s profit and loss statement, consider payment options, and meet with your accountant so that you can plan accordingly and store stashing away enough money to pay Uncle Sam.

3. You’re drowning in credit card debt

drowning-in-credit-card-debt

Don’t kid yourself. Credit card debt is bad. The interest rates are high and they don’t help you build wealth. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a business credit card on-hand.

In some scenarios, paying with plastic can come in handy when you use it to earn rewards or as a very short-term form of payment when you’re in a pinch. But, if you’re drowning in credit card by using it carelessly then you’re ultimately spending a small fortune on interest. And, that’s money that you could have used to invest in your business’s future.

How to stop the bleedingIf you are in credit card debit, then make paying that debt off a priority. You can start by paying more than the minimum payment each month. For serious debt, it may require making a commitment to get out of debt, prioritising the debt, creating a realistic budget, going on the defense by negotiating a lower interest rate, and thinking differently about spending, like using cash into of plastic,

4. You’re paying late fees and juggling bills

There are two causes of this scenario. Either you don’t have the money to pay your bills expense. This means that you’re paying late fees, or even worse, your services will be cut-off or your account will be placed in collections.

The reason is that you’re just lazy. And, if that’s the case, then shame on you. You’re just throwing money away each month.

How to stop the bleeding: If you’re neglectful about paying your bills on-time, then set-up automatic monthly payments, aka automatic bank withdrawal. This way you’ll never miss a payment again since it will be withdrawn from your bank each month.

If you don’t have the money to pay your bills, then it’s time to look at that budget you created and stop making decisions. For example, you may be able to get rid of unnecessary expenses like your subscription to the Wall Street Journal or being more mindful of variable expenses like office supplies or lunch for you staff.  There are also many alternative funding methods to help you get the cash you need.

Related: 10 Expert Tips On Managing Cash Flow As A New Business

5. Your customer invoices haven’t been paid in over 90 days

We’ve found that if an invoice hasn’t been paid within 90 days, then you won’t be paid. In fact, only 18 percent of those invoices get paid following 90 days. And, if you aren’t bringing money in, then how can you pay your expenses?

How to stop the bleeding: Invoice promptly and frequently. Better yet, invest in online invoicing software so that you can electronically send-out invoices and set-up automatic payment reminders.

6. Not negotiating

not-negotiating

While the price tag is set-in-stone during B2C transactions, B2B transactions aren’t. If you aren’t negotiating with vendors, then you’re overpaying.

How to stop the bleeding: Always make a counteroffer. Don’t hesitate to ask vendor for a 5 to 10 percent reduction in rates. If they say “no,” then you may want to start looking for new vendors who will.

If you don’t think that you’re assertive enough, then ask a partner, employee, or even your spouse to play the “bad guy.”

7. You keep up with the Jones’s

I understand that your main competitor just bought a swanky new office, has the the latest gadgets, spent a fortune on handmade furniture and has a freaking in-house chef. And, that’s infuriating. Here’s the thing. That doesn’t mean that your business isn’t better.

They may have dumped all their funding into those expensive materialistic things – which means they can’t invest in improving their business.

How to stop the bleeding: While there is nothing wrong with impressing people, don’t be impractical. There’s perfectly fine used furniture and you can rent equipment for the time being. Remember, only buy what you need, not what you want.

8. You have trouble meeting payroll

Payroll is arguably your second most important expense after taxes. So, if you’re stressed out about paying your employees, then you can be certain that you’re in serious financial trouble. And, if this keeps happening, you may get into legal trouble as well.

How to stop the bleeding: Payroll is a priority. And, you may have to take some extreme measures to make payroll in the short-term. This includes forgoing your salary, finding methods of financing, or selling your assets. After that, you may have to restructure your business and met with a financial advisor so that this doesn’t occur again.

Related: How to Tighten Cash Flow Management in a Difficult Economy

9. You don’t have an emergency fund

Setting aside a little something for an unexpected expense is recommended not just for business owners, but pretty much everyone. For example, what if you run a moving company and a couple of your trucks are shut down due to flat tires and mechanical problems.

With your trucks in the garage, you can’t make money. But, what if you don’t have the money to make the repairs? Now you have to scramble and do something desperate like take out a loan or line of credit.

How to stop the bleeding: The easiest way to start building an emergency fund is to automate your savings. Have a portion of your pay cheque or profits automatically deposited into your savings account. You can also automatically transfer funds from one account to another, such as $200 from your business’s checking account to savings account.

A budget will help you determine how much you can set aside each month without getting into trouble.

10. You’re not making wise hiring or outsourcing decisions

Payroll is typically the biggest expense a business owner is responsible for. It’s one of their most expensive expenses. Hiring the wrong people means that you have to keep training new employees over and over again. That gets expensive.

If you’re not ready to hire full-time team members, outsource tasks to talented freelancers. This is almost the norm these days. With more than 54 million freelancers, there are many options. But, don’t go overboard. Outsourcing too many tasks can quickly add-up.

How to stop the bleeding: It’s always cheaper to retain employees, so make sure that you hire correctly the first time by making sure that they’re not talented, but also a good fit for your company’s culture.

As for outsourcing, it may be better to pay for you and your team to receive training in these specialised tasks.

11. Your finances are disorganised

I can admit that bookkeeping isn’t at the top of priorities. But, I quickly learned years ago that it’s necessary if you want to succeed as a business owner. For starters, it makes managing your invoices and expenses a whole lot easier since you which payments have come and gone.

That’s also useful during tax season. Additionally, keeping your books organised makes it easier to claim deductions and secure funding since investors will want to examine your books.

How to stop the bleeding: Hire a bookkeeper, CFO or business accountant. They know which deductions you can claim and how to keep financial records organised. Most of the time they can be hired part-time or on a as-needed basis.

12. You’re getting bad financial advice

By all means. Hire a professional who can keep you updated on the latest tax regulations and steer you in the right direction financially so that you’re more informed decisions and stay-on-the-right-path. Because finding the right person for this job is so important, you have to make sure that this individual is legit.

How to stop the bleeding: If the advice is confusing, the advisor has a vested interest, and if the advice comes unsolicited, you can be certain that you’re being scammed or in the company of a lossy advisor. Seek referrals from people that your trust or use reliable online resources.

John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor, online marketing guru and startup enthusiast. He is founder of the online invoicing company Due. John is best known as an entrepreneur and connector. He was recently named #2 on Top 50 Online Influencers in the World by Entrepreneur Magazine and has been one of the Top 10 Most Influential PPC Experts in the World for the past three years. He currently advises several companies in the San Francisco Bay area.

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Cash Flow

Financial Literacy Key To Business Success – Especially In A Tough Economy

What can South African SMMEs do to position themselves for success in tough economic times? Arming their people with basic financial literacy is a good place to start argues UCT Graduate School of Business Associate Professor Mark Graham.

Mark Graham

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financial-literacy

In times of economic hardship, good financial and management skills in a business can make all the difference. According to a recent article in Business Day, international investors are sniffing about South African SMMEs that have proven themselves to be well-run during this time of subdued economic growth – and are also attractively undervalued.

Strong balance sheets and stable management in an environment of slow growth economy with low liquidity adds up to some bargain long-term investment opportunities for international consortiums it seems. Among those who have been involved in investment or buyout offers in the past few months are Clover and Interwaste.

It seems self-evident to suggest that well-run businesses attract investment and success. But what actually makes a business – of any size – well-run in the first place?

There is obviously no short answer to this; good leadership, a clear strategy and a strong and motivated workforce all play their part, but one factor that is often overlooked is financial acumen – throughout the organisation. While the accountants and members in the finance team are expected to understand the numbers, this is not always a core competency required in other departments. Yet, having a good working knowledge of finance at every decision-making level, from new managers to members of the board, can be key.

Even if people don’t need to know a lot about finance in their day-to-day job, the more conversant they are on the subject, the better off they – and the business – will be, according to Richard Ruback, a professor at Harvard Business School and the co-author of the HBR Guide to Buying a Small Business. “If you can speak the language of money, you will be more successful,” he says simply.

Financial savvy will give the marketing manager the ability to demonstrate not only that something is a good idea/product or service, but that it makes financial sense too, for example. And it will make sure that the people in the HR team understand more clearly why reducing staff churn is a good idea not only for company culture but for the bottom line as well.

A knowledge of some basic financial decision-making tools (the all-important balance-sheet, for example) and an appreciation of the difference between profitability and cash flow will ensure that non-financial managers are more likely to effectively participate in business strategy and decision-making. Someone who understands the financial statements of a business understands the business in a way that is not otherwise possible. It’s like looking beneath the hood of a car and understanding how it all fits together and why the car can move forward – or not.

Such people can more confidently identify potential problems and inefficiencies before they impact the overall financial performance, because those warnings are almost invariably reflected in the financials first – and often at departmental level. Critically, they can also help identify financial irregularities, enabling them to call out and stop fraud and corruption in its tracks.

Equipping its people with financial skills is therefore a good strategy for a business looking to position itself for growth and investment. And it makes sense for individuals too – Joe Knight, a partner and senior consultant at the Business Literacy Institute in the US and the co-author of Financial Intelligence, says that an absence of financial savvy is “career-limiting.”

Let’s not ignore the fact that there are challenges however. Finance matters tend to scare a great many people. Traditionally, these areas of knowledge carry the stigma of being impenetrable, and financial literacy is not ideally developed at early levels. According to a study by the Financial Services Board, South Africa currently has a financial literacy rate of just 51%.

This means that roughly one out of every two people is likely to prefer to abdicate from financial decision-making – leaving it to the “numbers” people. But with some intervention and training it is possible to empower individuals to decode these mysteries and get to grips with the language of finance.

All things being equal, it’s not pure luck that allows some businesses to operate well and thrive while others fail. Well-run businesses are generally run by well-informed people. In short, decision-makers who don’t understand basic financial concepts and the language of finance simply don’t know what is going on.

While the SA government is currently talking up the need for foreign direct investment to rescue the country from the economic doldrums, there is much that ordinary businesses can do to position themselves for success. And ensuring that their people are adequately equipped to understand the nuances of business through the language of finance is perhaps a good place to start.

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Cash Flow

Trade Agreement Tips That Will Save You Costs

If you are looking to benefit from trade agreements, you need to keep the following advice in mind.

Tracy Venter

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Trade benefits all parties involved. When a country has scarcity of certain resources or lack the capacity to satisfy their own needs, they have the opportunity to trade the resources which they produce in surplus, for the products they need or want.

When goods are transferred from one country to another, it stimulates the economy as products and money is switched between hands. Over the years, the competitive nature of moving goods from one country to the other, negotiating prices and opening new markets has caused certain agreements to immerge to promote trade between the member countries.

A trade agreement is an arrangement between two or more nations in order for goods to move more easily between borders with mutually beneficial tariffs imposed on imports. These agreements ensure that duty tax is removed or reduced on condition that the importer and exporter provide the correct documents. This is all the more reason for traders to familiarise themselves with the current trade agreements in place.

Tip1# Know Whether You Export To Or Import From A Country With A Trade Agreement

There are a few trade agreements that you need to be aware of which will significantly cut duty tax. The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is one of them. The fifteen SADC member states included in the agreement enjoy an impressive 85% free trade on goods.

Another trade agreement commonly used by South Africans is the South African Customs Union (SACU) which allows duty tax free movements of goods. This means zero duty tax is payable on trade between these countries. Trade agreements with European countries include the SADC-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the SACU European Free Trade Association (EFTA). We have prepared a list of all the trade agreements as well as the countries involved here.

Tip 2# Know Which Certificate Of Origin Is Necessary For The Specific Trade Agreement

Only traders who can prove that goods were produced or processed in a member country may benefit from these agreements. This is why importers and exporters need to submit paperwork attesting that the goods were made in the country listed as the beneficiary of the trade agreement. The proof provided is called a ’Certificate of Origin’.

A certificate of origin often abbreviated to C/O or CoO is a printed form or electronic document completed by the exporter and certified by a recognised issuing body, validating that the goods in a particular export shipment have been produced, manufactured or processed in a particular country.

The exporter has to submit proof that either a) the products were wholly obtained from that country; this means all components and manufacturing originated in that country, or b) that it is sufficiently processed in the country of origin.

In other words, although some components might have been imported, the product was sufficiently transformed, or value was added in such a way that the final item can be deemed as new or original. Furthermore, if a company was registered in one country and the manufacturing plant in another, the certificate of origin would be issued from the manufacturing plant’s country.  There are various certificates of origins used for different countries. Read here for more details about the different documents required to ensure you benefit from lower duty tax.

#Tip 3: Ensure The Certificate Of Origin Is Completed In The Right Manner

These documents must be completed correctly. Most of the information provided has to come from the exporter. If the wrong information has been reported, it can influence the relationship between the importer and exporter negatively.

Common mistakes when filling out a Certificate of Origin may include:

  1. Identifying the wrong country of origin
  2. Using the wrong H.S. code
  3. Providing an incorrect or incomplete and rather ambiguous description of the goods
  4. Not including a description on how the cargo is packed or reporting a total weight that does not include packaging
  5. Exporting goods made from imported material and not sufficiently processed to be deemed as originating from the exporting country.

A lot of information can be misrepresented on the certificate of origin. For this reason, we recommend making use of companies specialising in trade administration to ease the stress and to ensure that all the t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted.

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Cash Flow

Backing You With Smarter Tools

Manage income, track expenses and do more with the ultimate toolkit for your small business.

QuickBooks SA

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You work too hard to work this hard. The good news is that you don’t have to break your back or the bank to run a successful business. Managing your business is easier when you’re using smarter tools with QuickBooks.

Since its launch over 20 years ago, QuickBooks has aimed to power prosperity for small businesses and the self-employed with services that help you with income management, expense tracking and more, allowing you to focus on growing your passion.

The new “Backing You” campaign extends this commitment to support small business owners through the challenges of business ownership – with a little help from Danny DeVito.

“The importance of small business is personal to me. At a young age, I watched both my parents and my sister build their own business from the ground up and struggle to balance family obligations with growing their businesses,” says DeVito.

“When Intuit QuickBooks approached me for this campaign, I felt this was a way that I could give back to this very important industry, show them how to make their lives easier and make them laugh along the way too.”

QuickBooks gives you a set of business tools that’ll do all the hard work for you, making sure you get the time to do what really matters to you. “Because collecting receipts is so 80s, and who has time to chase payments?” says Danny.

Join over 5.6 million customers globally and find the QuickBooks plan that works for your small business on www.quickbooks.co.za. Save 30% on your subscription today! Terms and conditions apply.

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