Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Choose carefully ...

I've spent several weeks now working with a company whose books are in a mess.

So what, I hear you say. Their tax return isn't due, so what does it matter?

Well, they don't know how much their customers owe them so can't chase the debt effectively, causing cash flow problems. They are unable to pay their suppliers because they don't know how much they owe and so are being put on stop, affecting their ability to complete the jobs they're currently working on without the supplies they need.

So quite serious stuff, really. In fact, the sort of stuff that causes businesses to fail.

But how could they possibly have got into such a mess? They knew that they didn't have the accounting skills that they needed in house and so took on an accountancy firm to keep their books and manage their accounting affairs. Isn't outsourcing the way forward?

It turns out, the accountants were out of their depth and the company had no grasp of what the accounting firm were doing.

So while I'm a definite proponent of outsourcing (see last week's blog), there are clearly pitfalls to watch out for and avoid.

The first thing you need to do is to make sure that you are engaging the right expert to work with you. Anyone can claim to be an expert, but before you trust anyone with your business you need to make sure that they are going to take good care of it. The internet is great for this, have a look at websites and on social media, and it's always worth running a google search. Check out whether your chosen expert has any qualifications, look at their experience and what other people have to say about them. Arrange to meet them face to face and see if you can speak with some of their other clients. Get a feel for who they are and whether they are right for you.

Once you have identified the right expert, chat through with them what they are going to do for your business and why. Please don't ever try to relinquish responsibility for any part of your business because, if this goes wrong, it is you that will need to pick up the pieces so you will need an idea of how they fit together. Listen to what your expert says and be open to advice, but don't be afraid to ask questions or make suggestions – this is your business.

And at the end of the project, or even mid way through, ask more questions – make sure you understand what you are getting for your money. Don't be afraid to ask for an explanation of the numbers in your tax return, of the clauses being put into contracts being drawn up, of the direction of your marketing plan or the design of your website. While you don't want to be drawn into the details (you don't need to know how to build the website), you do need to have an understanding of each area of your business so that you can make it work better as a whole.

So, in summary, when you are choosing who to have in your support team, choose carefully and always make sure that, when it comes to your business, you are in control.

To find out how Pringle Accountants can help you, visit our website

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

The problem with DIY

Pringle Towers has benefited from a bit more TLC this week at the hands of a local handyman who has done some of those jobs, you know the ones, that just need doing but never seem to get done. A bit of painting, plastering and general maintenance.

I could have done these jobs myself, and probably should have done … quite some time ago, but I didn't. And so it was decided to get a man in.

It turns out this is a decision that should have been made a long time ago. Although I could have done the jobs myself, it would have taken me a lot longer and I probably wouldn't have done as good a job. But what about the job satisfaction I hear you cry? Well it turns out I can live without that too.

In fact, the time that I haven't spent doing DIY I have spent working in my business, earning more than enough to pay the handyman and therefore leaving me in profit. And this is why outsourcing is a good idea.

As a small business owner, you probably can't afford an IT, HR, marketing or finance department, but that doesn't mean that you need to fulfill all these roles yourself.

Let's take finance for example (because that's the area I understand the best). How long would it take you to complete your tax return (assuming your not an accountant of course)? Two days? Three? I would hope a competent accountant would be able to do it in a fraction of that time, maybe just a matter of hours, depending on the quality of your book keeping of course.

So in the three days that you no longer need to spend completing your tax return, could you generate enough profit to cover a few hours of an accountants time by doing what you're good at? I suspect probably significantly more, making you better off by outsourcing. In most cases your accountant may also be able to identify additional tax deductions available to you, therefore reducing your tax bill and making this an even more profitable exercise.

Of course accountants do more than just tax returns, but you get the idea.

The principal also holds true for many other business functions. Professionals who are offering their services to other businesses should have expertise that will save you hours of research and experience resulting in higher efficiency levels so that the same task will be completed better and faster leaving you to run your business.

As a small business owner myself, I know how important it is to keep tight control over your costs, especially in the early days. But instead of worrying whether you can afford to get some experts on board, maybe you should be considering whether you can afford not to.

To find out how Pringle Accountants can help you, visit our website

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Cash is King

Here at Pringle Towers, we recently had some work undertaken by a local firm of electricians.  Their work was good, they were tidy enough and I believe they represented good value for money.  So yes, I would recommend this particular firm of sparkies.  Upon completion of the work, they weren't able to tell me immediately how much I owed them as the job had evolved as it had gone on, however I did receive an invoice just a couple of days later along with details of how to pay.

Now because I didn't receive the invoice straight away, some of the urgency to make the payment had gone and I did procrastinate logging on to my internet banking. That said, within less than two weeks I had been contacted twice chasing payment...

and so I paid...

which is the point of the story.

Cash is so important to any business. It is true that “Cash is King”. Businesses fail because of a lack of cash, not because of a lack of profits. A loss making business with a limitless source of funding will be able to continue indefinitely (this is the injustice of the football premiership), while highly profitable businesses can become vulnerable if cashflow isn't properly managed. For this reason, the collection of customer receipts is the key element of the sales process. After all, until your customer pays, you are just a charity.

Now undoubtedly there can be cultural issues which make us uncomfortable asking for money and I have spoken to many new business owners who prefer to avoid chasing debts. However, if your livelihood depends upon your business then you need to overcome your nerves and have a clear strategy when it comes to debt collection, from friendly reminders all the way to legal proceedings.

The key is to strike while the iron is hot.

The length of time it takes you to issue an invoice sends a clear signal to your customer, rightly or wrongly, on how keen you are to receive their payment. This message is further reinforced by your method of credit control. At the most basic level people will pay whoever shouts the loudest and, as long as they perceive you have given them value for money, the customers that you want to keep won't think any less of you for chasing what you're owed.

So make a plan today to man up and get tough with those slow paying customers.

To find out how Pringle Accountants can help you, visit our website