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Improve Your Financial IQ

Stop avoiding your numbers — there’s nothing to be afraid of and everything to gain.

Peri Pakroo

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Keeping careful track of your business’s finances is a must-do task to keep your business healthy. Nevertheless, a huge number of business owners neglect their numbers, and their businesses pay the price. There tend to be two main types of financial blow-offs:

  1. Fully neglecting to track income and expenses by letting receipts pile up (or get lost) and failing to enter data into a bookkeeping system.
  2. Doing a decent job of keeping income and expense records up to date, but failing to use the numbers to answer questions about the business’s financial situation.

While I’ve definitely known more than a few business owners guilty of the abject neglect described in item 1, the second type of financial ignorance is practically an epidemic among owners of growing businesses. Over and over I hear owners admit sheepishly, “I don’t do enough with the numbers.” If you merely keep up with the basics, you might avoid true financial disaster. But you’ll definitely miss opportunities to thrive if you don’t use your data to make strategic decisions.

Getting Over the Hump

If you’ve had your head in the sand about your business’s finances, take heart: You are not alone (by a long shot). Tons of successful business owners loathe dealing with numbers. They regard financial management with fear, anxiety, insecurity or some combination of the above. Typically, they say they are simply too busy running the business to deal with tracking income and expenses or analysing the numbers. Affordable bookkeeping software can be used to automate most of the work, from tracking account balances to generating sophisticated financial reports, putting essential financial information at your fingertips.

If you really hate working with numbers or truly don’t have the time to do so, have a competent employee or outside bookkeeper do the job. However, as the owner of the business and the person responsible for guiding it, you do need to be in the know about your business’s finances. So if you hire someone to do most of the financial management tasks, make sure you’re in the loop and that you understand what the numbers mean. Don’t be shy about asking for guidance or mentoring from an accountant or bookkeeper. If you feel insecure about your level of financial knowledge, you’re in good company. Just make a sustained effort to learn as you go.

Financial Management in a Nutshell

The trick with bookkeeping is to establish a system early to help you stay organised. This can be as simple as a process for organising your receipts and files, as well as having bookkeeping software set up and configured. With a system in place, you’ll definitely be able to handle most or all of your bookkeeping tasks, even if you’ve never done them before.
Financial management can be broken down into three broad steps:

  1. Keeping and organising records of expenses and income. Financial management starts with keeping records of all the money the business spends (expenses) and all the money it earns (income). This means carefully keeping and organising your receipts and expense records (such as bills from the office supply store, invoices from your web-hosting company, and receipts of payments to your employees and freelancers) and your income receipts (such as a cash register tape of your café’s income, cheque stubs from your client’s payment cheques, or your invoices to clients marked ’Paid‘).
  2. Entering this information into bookkeeping software. On some periodic basis — maybe monthly for a small consulting business and daily for a busy café or retail store — you’ll enter the information from your income and expense receipts into a bookkeeping system. More often than not, this will be some sort of financial management software.
  3. Generating financial reports. Finally, with up-to-date information entered into your bookkeeping system, you’ll generate reports such as a profit/loss report or cash-flow projection (described below) to reveal how your business is doing.

Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Again, setting up a system will make a huge difference when it comes to entering and categorising data in your bookkeeping software. With your data entered, you’ll be all set to do the important (and actually quite fun) part of financial management: generating reports showing you the financial health (or illness) of your business. Generating reports is key to managing your business’s finances and making strategic decisions.

Financial reports summarise the data in your bookkeeping system to show you different aspects of your business’s financial situation. For example, a profit and loss report compares monthly income to monthly expenses to show whether your business is selling enough products or services to cover costs each month. A cash-flow projection shows similar information, but includes other sources of income such as capital contributions from owners or loans (that is, not just revenue from sales). It also organises the information slightly differently to show you whether the timing of your income is adequate to pay your bills on time.

The Payoff

By generating reports, you’ll be able to see trends and patterns in your business’s finances and identify profitable opportunities to pursue. You’ll also avoid letting your business simply drift along – or worse, run it into the ground. Here are just a few ways that analysing your financial reports will help your business:

  • You’ll be able to price goods and services more competitively, pace growth more effectively and trim costs strategically — for example, you might cut back on travel expenses or outsourced services that aren’t helping to generate sufficient income.
  • You may be able to reduce taxes by timing your purchases strategically and claiming all your deductible expenses — things that often escape businesses with disorganised records.
  • You’ll be able to manage your business’s cash flow, ensuring you can pay important bills on time. Cash flow management is a critical element in every business. When it’s done poorly or not at all, you may find yourself short of cash when it’s time to pay taxes, payroll or other crucial expenses. This is exactly the type of scenario that forces businesses to close up shop for good.

Peri Pakroo is the founder, Publisher and Editor of Pyragraph, an online creative career and lifestyle magazine. You can read more about her at her blog www.peripakroo.com.

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Cash Flow

The Simple Way To Pay Wages When Your Staff Don’t Have Bank Accounts

If you have employed casual workers over the busy season, you can pay wages even if they do not have bank accounts.

Absa

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At Absa Business Banking, the things that are important to you are just as important to us. We understand your business needs, which is why we have developed tailored solutions to help you where it counts. Take CashSend Plus, for example. It is a payment solution that enables you to pay workers even if they do not have bank accounts.

Related: Hiring Your First Employee? 5 Things You Need To Know

It is safe and secure

Your employee will receive a six-digit access code and a ten-digit reference number, so that they can verify the transaction. The money is instantly available at an Absa ATM.

You can even pay yourself

We have all lost bank cards or wallets at some point in our lives. What an inconvenience. Well, it is good to know then that you can access cash by sending it to yourself. Now, that is what we call better. 

Related: How Salary Transparency Empowers Employees – And When Not To Use It

Interested?

Please speak to one of our consultants or call 0860 111 123 or visit your nearest branch.

Absa Business Banking 

Do better business. Prosper.

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Cash Flow

Entrepreneurial Balancing Acts with Debt

Young South African entrepreneurs face many challenges when it comes to debt-related financing. Small and medium enterprise (SME) owners typically require extensive debt financing from bank and non-bank lenders.

Harald Merckel

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Young South African entrepreneurs face many challenges when it comes to debt-related financing. Small and medium enterprise (SME) owners typically require extensive debt financing from bank and non-bank lenders. Unfortunately, many South African entrepreneurs are limited in their ability to access capital markets. Among others, the major challenges facing entrepreneurs include lack of credit history, no collateral, shaky credentials, and unformulated business plans.

Regardless, SA entrepreneurs are forging ahead and using multiple resources at their disposal such as payday loan providers, non-bank lenders, family and friends, crowdfunding and other economic empowerment initiatives to raise the necessary seed capital for investment purposes. Given the staggering unemployment rate in the country (+25%), the only way out for many people appears to be entrepreneurship. The 2008 global financial crisis threw the economy for a loop, and now the hopes and dreams of many South Africans hang in the balance.

Related: Every Tough Choice Has Management Debt – Are You Accounting For Yours?

ISM Study Sheds Light on SA Entrepreneurial Pros and Cons

An intensive study conducted by the University of Cape Town’s Unilever Institute of Strategic Marketing (ISM) found that the country is experiencing ‘a crisis of aspiration’. Simply put, many South Africans are struggling to attain their career objectives in an economy that has been ravaged by corruption, mismanagement, and scandal. Despite tough economic times, South African entrepreneurs are determined to try their luck. Pressing challenges in the form of rising unemployment, and an economy mired in failure are challenging entrepreneurs to be more inventive than ever before. The most volatile component of the economic spectrum in South Africa is the middle class.

Many South African families have lived the high life, or ascended the rungs and then been knocked down a peg. This instability is creating added volatility in a country where high crime, mismanagement and political rancour pepper the scene. For many entrepreneurs, any access to credit is a godsend. Banks and non-bank providers offering personal loans, business loans, or credit card funds invariably expose themselves to debt default. For entrepreneurs, it’s important to know where to draw the line. Access to lines of credit in a crippled economy is significantly more valuable than the equivalent access in a developed economy.

How to Know when you are Overstretched as an Entrepreneur

Debt is considered a prerequisite for investment purposes. Most South Africans simply don’t have the necessary capital to start up a high-tech venture, fund a new business, or conduct marketing and advertising activity. As such, lines of credit are increasingly being used to propel business activity among SMEs – both in the formal and the informal sector. However, once debt reaches untenable levels, the tough questions need to be asked. For example, if multiple loans and multiple payments are required monthly, revenue streams need to be evaluated against expenses to gauge whether this is a feasible status quo.

Related: How To Handle Your Post-Holiday Debt

Many entrepreneurs find it difficult to manage multiple loans simultaneously, although it is necessary to acquire the capital from multiple sources. One of the ways to deal with these types of exigencies is a single loan from a low-cost lender in the form of debt consolidation loans. Simply put, these loans are provided by bank or non-bank lenders at lower interest rates than the prevailing interest rate on other lines of credit. By taking out a debt consolidation loan, the entrepreneur has more disposable income over time by not paying the higher interest on credit card debt.

Escape Debt Before Debt Consumes You

There are several other ways to know when your personal financial situation has reached critical mass. For starters, the nature of your business may require you to continue dipping into lines of credit to maintain business operations. If you don’t have the requisite discipline to stop indebting yourself, you may not be able to get out of debt. Debt consolidation is only effective insofar as you have the necessary discipline to put an end to debt financing of all business-related activity.

Credit should be used sparingly, and profits should be generated to allow your business to prosper. In a tight economic climate, costs are the bugbear that need to be attacked. Lavish trappings are unnecessary for business functionality – modest budgets, and high-quality goods and services are far more effective than window dressing at a premium.

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Cash Flow

How South Africa’s Small Businesses Plan To Invest Their Money In 2018

Here are their five areas they should focus their attention on in the next year and beyond.

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Despite economic uncertainty, South Africa’s small businesses are positive about the future. In fact, our State of South African Small Business report reveals that 40% of small businesses are expecting to grow. However, to achieve growth without overextending their limited resources, small businesses need to invest wisely.

Here are their five areas they should focus their attention on in the next year and beyond.

Marketing

When times are tight, companies typically reduce their marketing spend. This isn’t the case for 36% of South Africa’s small businesses. These respondents recognise marketing as a critical investment area.

They’d rather make a concerted effort to grow their customer base, than sit still and do nothing as consumer demand declines.

Related: What To Consider When Investing Your (Hard-Earned) Money

Technology

Without access to the latest technology, business growth can quickly stagnate. This is why 23% of South Africa’s small businesses plan to invest in up to date equipment, whether that be new machinery, mobile devices or computers.

The right investment in this area can give a business a real competitive advantage.

It can help boost profits and improve operational efficiency – both of which can help a small business withstand difficult economic conditions with greater success.

Product development

Consumers are spoiled for choice. Their needs are constantly changing and companies can’t afford to become complacent. To keep up with market demands, 22% of small businesses plan to invest in product development. Barring a few timeless classics, most products need a regular review and tweak to stay relevant and popular.

Technology

technology-south-africa

Digitisation is transforming business functions across the board. Technologies, like cloud software can take care of laborious administrative work.

Related: How To Make Money Investing, According To Ashton Kutcher

This liberates employees from time-consuming tasks, enabling them to focus on more strategic work like customer retention and acquisition.

Technology has the power to improve productivity and efficiency. Which is why 18% of small businesses are going to focus their investment plans on this area of their businesses.

Customer service

The customer should always be the priority. It doesn’t matter how good a product is, if there are no customers, then there’s no business. As competition increases, the user experience becomes more and more important to win over customers.

Business growth depends on happy customers and to achieve that, 18% of small businesses plan to invest in delivering better service.

All five of the above business areas are worthy investment focuses. The question is, how does a small business work out what to invest where? The only way it can invest effectively is with a full view of its company finances. A small business needs to be able to see which functions have provided the best return on investment to date.

Related: 12 Millionaire Habits To Start Making Serious Money Soon And Build Wealth In A Hurry

It also needs to consider how much investment capital it has to spend. What’s more, before it makes an investment in say, marketing or product development, it must know exactly how and where the money needs to go.

The right software can help a small business access the real-time insights it needs to make better, faster financial decisions. To combat increased competition and market uncertainty, South Africa’s small business owners need access to up-to-the minute information from any device no matter where they are. An informed investment has the greatest chance of success.

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