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Cash Flow

How to Manage Debt Efficiently

Don’t let 2012’s debts put a damper on 2013’s success.

Janice Damian

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Debt-Collection

Did 2012 see you completely blowing the business budget or getting into arrears with repayments?  If so, the five tips bellow will help you to put a smile on your accountant’s face during 2013. Simply follow these five comprehensive tips to learn how to manage your company’s debt more efficiently, pay off those urgent bills and have a little extra cash in your pocket for the future.

1) Get organised…

If your financial affairs seem as tangled as a ball of yarn, now is the time to get organised.  Organisation is the key to managing both personal and business debts, so, dive in at the deep end today and create a spreadsheet highlighting all the different debts you owe, along with vital information such as amount, payee, minimum payment amount, due date and current maturity date.

Alongside, make a similar table populated with your cash flow, include invoices you’re owed, when they’ll be paid and then list any other money you can get access to and the date it’s available.  This will help you see in black and white what you can afford to pay off and when.

Look at everything you owe and start by paying off the debt with the highest interest rates first.

2) Make your clients pay up!

Now is not the time to suffer fools gladly, you need every penny you can get to pay off your debts.  Track down all your clients with outstanding invoices and ask them to pay what they owe you, and quickly!

To help improve future cash flow, start putting a deadline on your invoices and tell clients you’ll add on fees for ‘admin’ if they don’t pay within the set date.

If the client is still not paying:

If you’re worrying about hefty lawyers’ fees for chasing overdue or disputed payments, don’t!  As this article shows, there are plenty of low cost ways to get back what you’re owed, including mediation, collection agencies and more.

3) Reduce expenses to help improve cash flow…

Reducing overheads in your business will help to improve cash flow in the future, handy for paying upcoming bills.

Put any additional leftover cash towards debt repayments to reduce the amount of interest you’ll be paying on your loan or credit.

How:  It’s simple:  call suppliers to work out which company can provide the cheapest services for your business and consider switching.  Review utilities, Internet packages, mobile phone contracts, insurance agreements and courier services for starters!

You should also aim to find other innovative ways to reduce you expenses and raise money to pay off debt.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Limit staff usage of resources like paper and ink: Urge the office to go paperless and enforce staff to request management permission before printing documents.  This should save costs in the long run and stop people using the company-bought resources for personal use!
  • Reduce energy costs: Employ energy saving techniques such as switching off unused equipment and sealing up drafty windows to ensure bills are lower over time.
  • If possible, allow staff to work from home one day a week: A day with lots of staff out of the office means less air conditioning, electricity and resources being used.
  • Space at a premium, can’t afford to relocate? “Hot-desking” is very useful if you have more staff than space!  It’s worth trying for a few months before renting more office space.
  • Curb business travel expenses:  Allow only necessary travel through the business and tell staff there’ll be no work-funded conference trips this year.  If staff must travel, limit them to booking the cheapest flight & hotel packages available.
  • Look for cheaper office space: Do you need all the space you have? Could you downsize or find similar space for less cost elsewhere for a lower monthly rent?  It might be worth thinking about.
  • Barter with other companies and trade your goods or services: This one is pretty self-explanatory.  Make partnerships with others and offer them your services, for free, in exchange for theirs!

4) Invent new chargeable services:

When the going gets tough, the tough get thinking of new ways to make quick cash!

If you have a loyal customer base but you really need to earn some cash quickly to pay off debts, think about charging additional fees for new services that you haven’t previously offered and offer them to clients as an upsell.  They need to add value to the business, but can include anything from paid priority support to one-on-one tuition or installation and set up of a new product.

5) Take out a loan

Some companies are dedicated to offering short-term business loans to help to bridge the cash gap in-between invoice payments.  These are ideal if you need to pay a contractor or a utility bill, but you’re waiting on a big invoice to be paid from a client.

These companies tend to provide cash quickly and easily.  You decide how much you will need and how long you require (usually a couple of days or weeks) then you will repay the loan once that nice fat cheque comes in!

For more information on managing debt, Wonga South Africa provides a comprehensive resource and free downloadable quick borrowing guide.

Janice Damian, MBA in finance, is an independent financial consultant based off of Cape Town and specializing in cash flow management. She is also a freelance financial writer whose work has been featured in numerous financial journals.

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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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international-trade

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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