Archive for the ‘cost’ category

Strategies for Thriving in a Tough Economy

August 8th, 2022

Whether or not you believe we’re heading into a recession, or even if you have come to believe that what we have now is pretty much as good as it’s going to get, there’s no getting around the fact that we’re experiencing poor economic times. An enduring lack of consumer confidence and decreased sales threaten all businesses, but small businesses are particularly vulnerable as they often don’t have the reserves to help them survive difficult times.

Entrepreneurs who are survivors will look at this as an opportunity to improve their business practices so they can not only weather the tough times, but thrive during them. How, then, can you recession-proof your business? Thinking through the following practices and how you can make them your strategies will help ensure your business’s success in a tough economy.

1. Protect your cash flow

To keep your business healthy, cash needs to continue flowing through it. As long as your business exists, you will have expenses. But the harder times get, the harder it can be to keep the cash flowing into your business. Be more diligent in how you are spending money. It’s important to be frugal and aware of your income and expenses. By doing a line item cost for each expense, you will be able to identify areas that need greater attention. Efficient cash flow management is crucial. The sections below are all, for the most part, areas that will have impact on your cash flow, but take special note of the ones regarding evaluating your vendors, reviewing your inventory management, and keeping your personal credit in good shape.

2. Streamline your business practices

This is an opportune time to review your business procedures for effectiveness. Consider areas that can be combined into one. Consider areas that can be structured differently to reduce costs. Think about sharing resources, like administrative or payroll work, with other entrepreneurs to reduce overhead. The goal is to streamline operations so you can still provide a quality product or service, yet realize a greater profit by reducing the expenses to produce it.

3. Evaluate your vendors

If you use vendors for packaging, labeling, distribution, or in other areas of your business, this is a good time to do some price comparisons. There is a lot of competition among vendors to attract new business, so you could realize some serious savings in this area. Since no one wants to lose business during a bad economy, chances are good that your current vendors will meet the competitor’s price. If not, it’s time to move your business to the lowest bidder, just as long as you’re not sacrificing quality.

4. Review your inventory management practices

See what can be done to reduce inventory costs without sacrificing the quality of goods or inconveniencing customers. Are you ordering too many of particular items? Can an item be sourced somewhere else at a better price? Is there a drop-shipping alternative that will work for you, eliminating shipping and warehousing costs?

Just because you’ve always ordered something from a particular supplier or done things in a particular way doesn’t mean you have to keep doing them that way, especially when those other ways may save you money.

5. Focus on your core competencies

A diversification strategy is often recommended for small business success. But too often small business owners simplify the concept of “diversification” to “different”. Just adding other products or services to your offerings is not diversification. It’s potentially just a waste of time and money. Worse, it can damage your core business by taking your time and money away from what you do best. It may even damage your brand and reputation. If you have diversified out into different areas over the years to improve market reach, it might be time to regroup and focus on the core of your business and outsource the rest. Evaluate what is and isn’t working and put more effort into what started you out as a successful entrepreneur in the first place. It’s important to get in touch with your core business and make sure it continues to meet the changing needs of customers. So consider dropping the extras and focus on what you do best and which is most profitable to recession-proof your business.

6. Develop and implement strategies to get your competition’s customers

If your small business is going to prosper in tough times, you need to continue to expand your customer/client base. If you have competitors, then they have customers. So, there are already people out there buying what you sell, just not from you. What will it take to attract those customers? You’ll need to offer something more or something different. Research your competition and see what you can offer to entice their customers into becoming your customers. It’s not only lower prices or a better price/quality trade-off that gets the business. Providing better customer service is often identified as one of the easiest ways to outdistance the competition. But you need to do the research in your own market to find out what it takes to be the customer’s first choice.

7. Make the most of the customers/clients you have

They say that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. The bird in the hand is the customer or client you already have. These customers are an opportunity to make more sales without incurring the costs of finding a new customer.

Even better, he or she might be a loyal customer, giving you many more sales opportunities. If you want to recession-proof your business, you can’t afford to ignore the potential profits to be had from established customers. But remember that your customers are going through tough times too. In order to retain their business, implement measures to express your appreciation. This could be a one-time price reduction, a customer loyalty card, or a referral incentive. Whatever the strategy may be, it should be something of value to the customer and within your marketing budget.

8. Continue to market your business

In lean times, many small businesses make the mistake of cutting their marketing budget to the bone or even eliminating it entirely. But lean times are exactly the times your small business most needs marketing. Consumers are restless and looking to make changes in their buying decisions. You need to help them find your products and services and choose them rather than others by getting your name out there. So don’t stop marketing. In fact, if possible, step up your marketing efforts.

9. Keep your personal credit in good shape

Hard times make it harder to borrow and small business loans are often among the first to disappear. With good personal credit, you’ll stand a much better chance of being able to borrow the money needed to keep your business afloat if you need to. To recession-proof your business, keep tabs on your personal credit rating as well as your business one and do what’s necessary to keep your credit ratings in good shape.

There’s absolutely nothing that will make your small business one hundred percent recession-proof. But implementing the practices above will help ensure your small business survives tough times and might even be able to profit from them.

Business Profit & Loss

June 26th, 2015

Profit & Loss Dice

As a business owner you must continually focus on managing profit and loss to not only stay in business, but to grow and thrive. Profit is the money left over after paying all the expenses. A loss results from expenses exceeding the amount of sales a company makes in a specific period. Companies must manage their profit and loss statements, also known as income statements, to keep earnings positive, and expenses under control and in line with revenue.

Financial Assessment

Managing profit and loss begins with an assessment of your company’s current financial situation. Review the current profit and loss statement and compare it to the company’s last two or three years of historical data. An accountant can use this information to establish a set of performance benchmarks for the company’s average revenue and expense levels.

Analytical Tools

Have an accountant prepare analytical tools such as an income statement spreadsheet that shows every expense as a percentage of sales. This will allowing you to isolate costs that could contribute to decreasing profits. Perform this analysis for, ideally, three years of historical data. Expenses as a percent of revenue are compared for each year to reveal trends that show expenses raising or falling as a percent of sales over time. Some costs, such as the cost of goods sold, will rise with sales increases because they represent the raw materials and labor used to make the products you sell. Rent, administrative costs and some utility bills should remain the constant, regardless of increases in sales.

Explaining Expense Growth

Your accountant should perform additional analysis to investigate and explain the growth of expenses over time. This can reveal valuable information about the use of resources and their cost oversight. External factors such as the economy and rising prices also can contribute to cost increases. You need to find out which of these factors is involved in order to determine which might be controllable.

Sales Review

Next the accountant should review the company’s sales. Depending on various events and conditions, even when internal expenses have been well-managed and cut as low as possible, the company will still suffer a loss if its sales drop below its expenses in any given period. In this case, the company must make important decisions about how and why sales are generated, but may also need to consider discontinuing certain unprofitable product or service lines, selling off assets to free up capital and discontinuing investments in any projects that do not generate revenue.

 

Set Your Prices by Knowing Your Costs

January 20th, 2014

It seems like a simple fact of business; to turn a profit your prices have to be higher than your costs. Is it really as simple as just adding some percentage to your costs to make your company profitable? Actually, it is. The hard part is determining your true costs.

With product-based businesses, setting prices starts with a markup on the product costs. Service businesses can start with a markup of an hourly rate, for the employees and/or owners providing the services to the clients. Those costs should be starting points, but many new business owners use these alone as a basis to set prices. For many new small-business owners, figuring out the complete costs of what they’re selling can be difficult. However, not knowing the true costs can result in underpricing products and services.

The price floor is the absolute minimum at which you can set your prices without sustaining losses on each sale. The price ceiling is the absolute maximum price the market will bear. The price you charge for your products or services will fall somewhere in between.

Here’s what your price needs to cover:

  • The immediate cost of what you’re selling
  • A portion of your selling and general expenses
  • A reasonable profit left over for you

Include every component of your cost-of-goods-sold as you work the numbers for a product-based business. For a service business, use a reasonable hourly rate as your starting point; for yourself (if you’re not counted as an employee) and remember to add on the costs of benefits and employment taxes. Pull the selling and general expenses right off your profit and loss statement; if you have figures from two or three periods to work with, take an average. As for your desired net profits, add on a reasonable percentage for your industry. For example, someone selling original artwork could expect to see a higher profit percentage on each individual sale than could someone selling one-size-fits-all rubber noses.

Is Your Budget Incomplete?

October 8th, 2013

Is your budget incomplete?Estimating and matching expenses to revenue (real or anticipated) is important because it helps business owners to determine whether they have enough money to fund operations, expand the business and generate income for themselves. Without a budget or a plan, a business runs the risk of spending more money than it is taking in or, conversely, not spending enough money to grow the business and compete.

So you assemble a budget spreadsheet that starts with your projected profit, then accounts for the operating expenses required to generate that profit, and calculates the gross profit margin, and then estimates the required sales revenues. You look over the results and decide that the profit goal is doable because the sales revenues are realistic and the required expenses are complete. But are they? Have you considered all of the following?

Purchase Price vs Landed Price
Does your budget account for the difference between the purchase price for a product and the landed price? The landed price is what really matters, because it includes the costs of freight, duties, taxes, storage, etc. Knowing the true cost of getting the product into your hands is crucial when setting the price and insuring profitability. Clearly it is advantageous to reduce the cost of each or any component of landed cost. Each one will allow the seller to lower the final selling price or increase the profit margin associated with that sale.

Slow Growth
Many entrepreneurs don’t account for how much money they will spend if their idea does not take off as fast as they hope. When budgeting, make sure to create at least one “very worst case” scenario that does not have much or any growth, just so you know what will happen if it all goes wrong.

The Effects of Scale
Scaling may affect more areas of your business than you can anticipate. Ongoing processes such as training new employees and maintaining quality control are just some areas that might get exponentially more difficult, without even factoring in the effect of any new operations. Be sure to budget in the money and time to make systems and procedures more efficient, as new problems related to scale will inevitably arise.

Insurance, Equipment and Software Applications
Three of the biggest expenses that may surprise you as an entrepreneur are:

Insurance: You need to budget in much more than you pay as an employee for health, disability and business insurance.

Equipment: Will you need additional equipment and office furniture to provide the production capacity that your profit projection required? Even simple items like tools, racks, chairs and file cabinets can add up to substantial costs.

Software: You’ll need to purchase licenses for each user.

The Cost of Networking
Entrepreneurs sometimes forget how expensive it can be to do networking in the right places. Conferences, for example are great for networking. However, ticket costs, hotels and transportation to conferences add up. Even if most of your networking is at free or low cost events, consider how much money is spent taking people out to lunch and coffee to network with them one-on-one afterwards.

The Costs at Home
When you’re caught up in the fast pace of running and growing your business, it’s easy to forget that there needs to be at least enough money to put food on the table at home. Even if you cut your personal expenses down to bare bones, they do still exist. Make sure they make it into your budget, rather than stressing about them down the line.

Paying Taxes
It’s easy if you’re self-employed, especially if it’s in a start-up, to forget to put enough money aside for taxes. Budget 15-20% of gross revenue or 35% of net revenue (until you know your business better) for paying the taxman. It would be advisable to put the money aside in a separate bank account every month so you’ll always be able to make your tax payments in full and on time.

Unpredictable Costs
There will always be costs you couldn’t have predicted, and because of this it’s important to have a buffer-fund of as much money as you can spare to handle those server crashes, extra hires or other incidental costs you couldn’t have known to figure into the official budget. Consider that an extra 10% of your budget should be included in a Miscellaneous Expenses line item on your budget spreadsheet.

Review the Business Periodically
While many companies draft a budget yearly, small business owners should do so more often. In fact, many small business owners find themselves planning just a month or two ahead because business can be quite volatile and unexpected expenses can throw off revenue assumptions.

Bottom Line
Budgeting is an easy but essential process that business owners use to forecast (and then match) current and future revenue to expenses. The goal is to make sure that enough money is available to keep the business up and running, to grow the business, to compete, and to ensure a solid emergency fund.

5 Ways to Become Profitable

August 23rd, 2013

5 Ways to Become Profitable

All businesses want to make money. And of course if they don’t, then even those with great products or services will fail. Making more money and becoming a profitable business is what it’s all about. Here are five strategies that can help.

1. Change the Way you Operate
Analyze your existing business models and try to establish ongoing revenue streams. If your customers are buying infrequently then you might, for example, sell an ongoing re-supply program or a maintenance plan instead of just a one-time or stand-alone sale. Establish a relationship with new customers and change the relationships with established customers to tie the profitability of their business to your products or services.

Look around, analyze and learn from what your competitors are doing. Think about what you can innovatively apply from those lessons to your business.

2. Become Visible and Connected
If you have a long established company with a great reputation, loyal customers and respected industry experience, then you are probably running a successful business. But along comes the new guy who puts his business on the Internet and posts his credentials all over the place. Everyone, including your customers, can find him. You can’t sit there and assume that just because people know who you are you will remain dominant.

You have to have a marketing plan that addresses the current methods used by potential customers to find the products or services that you offer. When they search the Internet, and you’re not there, or they can’t find you, then in 100% of those cases you will not get their business. A lot of older small businesses don’t have a web-presence. If that’s you, or you don’t have a strategic marketing plan in effect, then you need to take your reputation online through social media, a website and a blog to connect with customers, including the ones you already have, or you won’t have them much longer.

3. Raise the Bar on Marketing
A lot of small businesses think about sales but not marketing. You can’t just go out and try to make sales; you have to have a plan with a strategy coherent to your industry, your company and the prospects you want to target.

In order to track the leads your marketing program generates, you will need customer relationship management (CRM) software, although a well-designed Excel application may be OK as you get started.

Consider using search engine ads, email marketing and other such online advertising.

Give your business an immediate web presence through social media networks including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Offer tutorials, demos, or new certification sessions as webcasts or podcasts for immediate download.

All these types of promotional vehicles need to be on the table because that’s what your competitors are doing.

4. Make Every Person a Salesperson
Some employees don’t think they’re there to promote sales or the business and are just there to collect a paycheck. But those days are gone and those people are the first to be laid off. Everyone should be an income-producing part of the business no matter what their main function might be. Everyone needs to pitch in to help cut costs, sell, and network on the web. Motivate employees to spread the message and reward those who make the extra effort or are producing new business.

5. Streamline Your Costs
If a business is having profit problems, the options are pretty straight forward. You can increase sales, decrease expenses, or do both. Due to the sluggishness of the current economic recovery, sales may not be where you would like them to be, and increasing sales may be a slow road. Decreasing expenses may be a faster way to turn things around. Try fitting expenses into three categories: fixed costs, such as rent and other overhead, sales-related costs that are tied to producing revenue, and discretionary expenses, such as new equipment and bonuses. Examine every single line item looking for ways to save, even with the fixed costs. Telephone and insurance costs may be fixed, but they are also competitive, and therefore negotiable.