Friday, December 31, 2010

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

I know it's New Year's Eve but I'm going to celebrate. Also, I don't post on the weekends and New Year's Day falls on a Saturday this year. So here's my hope for the new year:

Wishing you all a productive, fruitful, cash-flow rich 2011!
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Monday, December 27, 2010

3 Equipment Financing Options That You Can Use For Your Business

By Danica Reynes

Various options, such as funds from private finance companies, bank loans and government loans, are some of the more useful equipment financing options for one's business.



Businesses of all sizes and categories will benefit from equipment financing, from the smallest beauty salon to the largest manufacturer. The enterprises are granted a financial source with which they can use to purchase equipment that is deemed necessary for their business to function. With equipment finance, you will get tax benefits, a smoother and stronger cash flow and less debt. If you are considering equipment finance, make sure that you are well aware of the contract details and the obligations involved. An equipment finance can be secured from different sources and depending on the special needs and situations of your business, you can choose the one that suits you the most.



Funds from various financial companies



Most of the equipment financing is managed by the equipment manufacturers themselves through their close association with private finance companies. These private finance companies provide loan and lease applications to the manufacturer's customers. There is one advantage of the equipment funding obtained from private finance companies. The agreement includes special programs like payment free period or reduced interest rates given for the equipment manufacturer's clients. Additionally, because these private groups specialize in equipment financing, they are able to offer advice regarding the different leasing or borrowing options available. They may help you to determine whether the quality of the used equipment can qualify for the loan. The quality of the equipment is important not only for you as the user, but also for the lender because, in the event that you default on the borrowing arrangement, the lender will have to sell the equipment to recover the amount loaned you. The value of the machinery should cover the loan or else the lender has insufficient collateral.



Equipment financing by banks




Most large banks provide several business financing options. Though the lending goals of both the banks and the private agencies are basically the same, banks grant the loan only if the borrower qualifies for the loan and they ignore the place where the equipment is bought from. You can make inquiry about interest rates in different banks located in your area for comparing and choosing the best among them to improve your business. It makes sense that local banks would have better knowledge of the local business environment. Turn to them for information on what equipment to purchase or where the best bargains are on used equipment.



Loans obtained from the government




Some government agencies may offer equipment financing for businesses. You might have to submit requirements and financial projections that will prove that the additional equipment will help improve the business's operations and financial standing. In some cases, if you are able to show that the equipment purchase will allow you to retain employees or create more job opportunities, you may be able to qualify for loans with lower interest rates through your local economic development agency.



Investment in plant and machinery can show up in the bottom line. If you can choose the right agency to get the equipment finance, you can easily buy that equipment without draining your funds.



About the Author: For more information on equipment finance wa, you may visit http://www.firstchoiceloans.com.au/equipment-finance.php.



Source: www.isnare.com

Permanent Link: http://www.isnare.com/?aid=671279&ca=Business
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Friday, December 17, 2010

Venture Capital (Equity) vs. Bank Loans (Debt)

What is APR? APR stands for Annual Percentage Rate.  It's the interest rate quoted by banks in their loan documents. An APR is determinable only when the term or duration (i.e., n in a calculation) and the total repayment are predetermined. The APR for small business (and medium business) bank loans will depend on the length of time the company has been operating, the revenue, operating profit, net profit, and EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization - a standardized measure of cash flow) and the consistency of these finance/accounting numbers. The less consistent, the more risk. The more consistent, the less risk. Why? Consistency makes the numbers more predictable and the bankers more confident they'll be repaid. That, of course, assumes that the market and industry are relatively stable. So bankers seek a guaranteed return on their investment (loan) in a business. An APR of 15% means that the bank expects an annual return of 15% on their loan to your company. You have a fairly stable business, their risk is moderate (hence the higher interest rate), and their reward is moderate. A bank further mitigates its risk by securing the assets of the business and/or the business owner(s) as collateral for the bank loan.

In contrast, if you asked a venture capitalist for the APR on their potential investment in your business, they would give you a blank look....or look at you like you were crazy. Why? There isn't one. Venture capital is equity. There is NO APR. It's a win or lose proposition. They either make a return because the business is successful and is later sold or goes public or they don't because the business goes bankrupt, shuts down, or is sold for a loss. Venture capitalists measure their returns as a function of the company’s (or venture's - hence the name venture capital) future performance.  Unlike a bank loan, neither the term nor repayment amount is predetermined (known in advance) in venture capital. The business owner/entrepreneur's risk is limited because there is no personal liability, i.e., no personal guarantees or personal assets used as collateral. Due to the increased risk, the venture capitalist gets an ownership stake in the company. In return for this ownership participation, venture capital firms expect a return of 300% - 500% minimum. If they do not expect to reap that type of reward, they will not invest.
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Revenue-Based Financing: An Illustration

Okay, sorry, I got a late start today. But, since I promised, here I am with the revenue-based financing illustration and comparison table.

Comparison Table

SMALL BUSINESS LOAN (Bank financing)
 REVENUE-BASED FINANCING (Royalty financing)
  •  Lending based on APR (Annual percentage rate)
  •  Lending based on a CAP (NOT  an acronym)- sum of total repayments as a multiple of the principal
    •  APR is typically 7-18%. Total annualized repayment will be 50-80% over a 5-7 amortizing year loan.
    •  The royalty on monthly gross revenue is usually 2-10%. The cap is typically 2x - 5x the original/principal investment.
  • For term loans, bank loans have a specified monthly payment.
  •  The monthly payment is based on gross revenue and therefore fluctuates as gross revenue does.
  •  Typically, has strong covenants which are minimum performance measurements contained in the small business loan documents that, if unmet, trigger a loan default.
  •  Typically has very light covenants.
  •  Requires business or personal assets pledged as collateral for the bank loan.
    • Often requires a personal guarantee by one or more of the business' owners.
  •  May require collateral. Will often accept intangible assets (i.e., intellectual property) as collateral when required.
    • Carries no personal financial liability.

Illustration

Seth W. is the founder, CEO, and majority owner of a up-and-coming marketing company. The firm is cash flow positive. Seth has the opportunity to purchase a marketing software system that will enable his company to expand quickly with minimal bodies. He approached his bank. They like him but his firm has only been in operation for 2 years, has no real tangible assets, and has revenue that varies widely from month to month. (The company primarily gains customers via periodic conferences.) So the bank VP says, "Sorry, we'll keep an eye on you for the future but there's nothing we can do now."

Seth recently read about revenue-based financing and thinks it may be a good fit for his firm. He has his CFO investigate. She finds a firm that's willing to invest at 8% of gross revenues to be repaid over a 5-year period. Seth's firm takes an investment of $150,000 with a cap of 3x revenue - or $450,000 repaid over the term.

Summary: Seth's firm repays a lot more than it would have with a bank loan. However, the overall terms provide the flexibility his company needs with no dilution of his equity. So this option is great for his firm at this stage.
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Monday, December 13, 2010

Revenue-Based Financing

In the last week I've had three exposures to a type of financing I honestly had never heard of. I know, it's hard to believe. Seriously, although I like to consider myself knowledgeable of the myriad types of financing available, I know I don't know them all. And, just as creativity is applied to other business aspects, creativity can be and is applied to the finance realm. (NO, I'm NOT speaking of fiddling with your numbers but of taking a creative approach to solving a problem or resolving an issue. In this case, the issue is financing your company's growth.)

The "new" type of financing I've recently learned of is called revenue-based financing. Revenue-based financing, also called royalty financing, is repaid based on a percentage of revenue, typically 2-6% of gross revenue, on a monthly basis. Since revenue can fluctuate month over month or year over year, revenue-based financing has variable payments. This variability makes it attractive to rapidly growing small businesses that do not have predictable cash flow, operating profits, or even gross revenues. For example, gross monthly revenue may be deal-dependent and therefore chunky.

Unlike a bank loan, repayments are capped like some hybrid (blended equity and debt) investments. The cap is usually 2x - 5x the total principal investment amount. If the original investment was $200,000, then the repayment will be $400,000 to $1,000,000. The repayment is based NOT on an interest rate but on the specified cap amount. Unlike the typical bank loan, there is usually no personal financial liability (i.e., no personal guarantees required) and the financing documentation is usually covenant light. This means that there are few onerous financial maintenance requirements for the business. Like a bank loan, the financing  may be secured by business collateral. Unlike a bank loan (except those provided by banks like Silicon Valley Bank which often lend to technology and biotech firms), intangible assets may comprise the bulk of the collateral.

Lastly, due to the large variability in revenue, typically the deal size is a relatively small percentage of revenues, usually 10-25% of historical revenue.

On Wednesday I'll provide an example to help illustrate how and when revenue-based financing is used. I'll also provide a table comparing it to typical bank loans.
FYI 
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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Fan-Funding and Donations

Typically I write about how small to medium businesses can raise capital. That's my area of expertise. I don't typically help business start-ups. I know how to take something that's already in existence with at least some customers and operations and think creatively and strategically to access funding.

However, every once in awhile I come across something I find interesting that may actually help start-ups. This is one. If you are a creativity-based business start-up, a concept called fan funding may be just what you need to tap into to get your enterprise up and running. There are websites now available that go far beyond the MySpace era.

If your idea or business start-up is related to fashion and design, check out FashionStake.com. Designers can go here and upload their collections along with their funding needs for production. Customers or others can "invest" (my quotation marks) $50 - $500 in the design(s) that appeal to them.

If your business is music-related (i.e., you are an artist or a producer of artists), check out Sellaband. Fans or wannabe fans can support their favorite artist(s) by investing in the music project. Fans can actually remove their funding commitment at any time BEFORE the funding goal is reached. After the goal is reached, the project is a go, so the money cannot be returned. Any return will be due to record sales (i.e., record royalties, live performances, etc.)

Happy fan-funding!
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Monday, December 6, 2010

Tap Your Customers via Direct Public Offerings (DPOs)

Do you need to raise capital to grow your company but have not been able to access bank financing...or have not been able to access sufficient bank financing? Have you tried tapping into your existing customer base? No, this time I'm not talking about customer pre-pays (I'll come back to that topic again in a few months). I'm speaking of offering customers an ownership stake in your business through direct public offerings or DPOs. DPOs are governed by SEC Regulation D Section 504, which allows companies to raise up to $1 Million every 12 months. Using this financing technique, called a SCOR or small corporate offering registration, the SEC allows state security administrations (usually through the state's secretary of state) to register these DPOs and allow share prices to be as low as $1. Currently, 47 of the 50 states in the US allow businesses to use SCOR to raise capital.

Advantages:
  • You give up a smaller portion of equity for the same amount of capital that angel investors would inject. You typically even give up less than you would using a more traditional private placement.
  • If you are growing rapidly, you are most likely funneling much of your operational cash flow into expansion. This is equity so you don't have to worry about repayment or hiccups with your expansion plan resulting in difficulty with loan repayments or covenant violations.
  • Since you are marketing to your target or current customers already, you get to align your marketing efforts with your money-raising efforts. Typically, raising money pulls the owner's or CEO's (and CFO's) focus from the day-to-day business to funding the company which can cause problems.
  • Your current customers know you and your target customers are getting to know you. Part of raising money is getting people to believe in the ongoing health of your company and your product or service. Customers (or potential customers) are already there.
  • You get experience that you can leverage when doing a larger private placement or actual IPO later on in your company's growth plan.
Disadvantages:
  • Typically, since you register a SCOR with the state and not the federal government, your customer or other potential share buyer must come from the state in which you register. If you have national or regional customers, and therefore want to include more states, the expense will increase accordingly.
  • How will your customers (and others) get their investment and return on investment back? You may need a well-communicated exit plan or stock re-purchase plan if you encounter a lot of resistance to waiting indefinitely for a payout.
If you have an established customer base and/or are adept at marketing and PR, a direct public offering may be just the method you need to raise capital to expand your business. More companies are now taking advantage of this option due to the significant drop in bank lending to small and medium businesses.
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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Turnaround Consultants

Again, in continuing with the previous them on taking action and restructuring your business -before its's too late - if you are encountering financial and operational issues - So how do you engage a turnaround consultant and where do you find them?

I'll answer the second question first. Where do you find turnaround consultants? First, ask your banker or other debt provider. Since most banks and loan providers have workout groups that often hire turnaround consultants and turnaround firms themselves to assist with problems loans, they will often have a list of at least 3 consultants that they would highly recommend. If you don't have a good relationship with your banker, then ask another banker you know from your personal circle for a reference. Ask your accountant or CPA firm, especially if your firm engages in any forensic accounting. Ask your board of advisors or directors. If you have none of these relationships, check with TMA or ACTP for turnaround consultants for consultants in your area. Then check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to make sure they don't have any complaints filed against them or, if they have, those complaints were satisfactorily resolved.

The Turnaround Management Association (TMA), www.turnaround.org - many turnaround consultants and related professionals belong to this group. TMA also separately oversees and provides the CTP (Certified Turnaround Professional) designation. For a list of CTPs in your area, click here.

From the TMA website "CTPs have a proven track record and years of experience in working with companies or large business units that are in financial crisis. CTPs must be or must have held positions such as, but not limited to, turnaround practitioners, consultants, workout lenders, or attorneys and must demonstrate competency in the legal, financial and management aspects of a turnaround."

How do you engage a turnaround consultant? After finding one (on your own or through referrals), call. Sounds simple, right? But that is often the hardest step. Make the phonecall. Set up a meeting or conference call. (Turnaround consultants can have an extremely heavy travel schedule, especially in recessionary periods.) Briefly highlight the issues as you know it and get their preliminary insight. If you like what you hear, request resumes and references. After that, if you both agree to move forward, the next step is to meet in person and for them to tour your location, talk to employees, and see the current financial statements - and all supporting information. Then you move to an agreement in which you discuss with the turnaround consultant the scope, the time frame, the expected outcome. This will require a detailed discussion where EVERYTHING, as you, your board, management team, etc. knows it. If there are hidden ticking time bombs that you omit, the turnaround consultant cannot truly help. This is where the consultant will tell you whether or not the business is salvageable and what's the plan for salvaging the business. The final agreement will outline payment terms, whether or not the consultant(s) will take over C-level positions, etc.

In a true restructuring when a company is several months away from bankruptcy, the turnaround firm often slots people as the CFO, COO, and/or CEO. They MUST have control of the company to effect the turnaround. Constantly having to get decisions approved by the original CEO or COO slows down the process when time is absolutely of the essence. Also, existing management is what got the company into trouble. They need to step aside and allow the consultants/interim management to make the necessary changes and decisions that will return the company to a healthy state and back into their control as soon as possible.
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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Financial vs. Operational Turnaround Issues

As a follow-up to last week's posting on restructuring and bankruptcy, I thought I'd talk a bit more about financial vs. operational difficulties. If your company is encountering financial difficulty or serious operational issues that could quickly lead to financial difficulty, pay attention. There's a crucial difference. An interim CFO may be able to help with a purely financial issue resolution, but a turnaround consultant will be crucial for an operational turnaround (although that consultant may ultimately step in as the CFO or COO or even CEO to take charge of the turnaround).

First, very few "financial difficulties" that companies encounter are solely finance-based. Financed based issues are those that are the result of taking on too much debt. That usually involves having EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) that can handle the debt service at the time the loan is originated but, due to the general economic environment, loss of a customer, drop in average sales volume, etc., the EBITDA can no longer cover the debt payments. Or the finance-based issue could be due to taking on improperly structured debt - debt with a balloon payment, high interest rates, escalating interest rates or payments, etc. The terms may have seemed fine at the time but seem ominous 1, 2, or 3 years later.

Pure finance-based issues are fairly easy to fix (assuming you communicate frankly and regularly with the financing entity/debt provider). Simply sit down with the entity providing the loan and negotiate a restructuring. Request extended terms (an increase from 5 years to 7 years, for example), a lower interest rate for a specified period of time (from a few months to the remainder of the term), or removal of the balloon, to name a few of the options. As long as the underlying fundamentals of the business are the same, the debt provider will generally be amenable to restructuring the loan.

That last statement is key. If the underlying fundamentals have changed, those are operational issues. If you lost a major customer and that customer comprised 20% of sales and 25% of profit, that's NOT a financing issue. Obviously, you may not be able to make your loan payments but you should have seen the issue in advance. That 20% customer has been that way for how long? Two years? Four years? You should have set up a plan to remove or decrease the risk of the loss of that one customer. Are your receivables taking 60 - 90 days to be paid? Has this been ongoing for years? Usually, it's not a new development. That would be a finance issue. Usually, companies, especially rapidly growing companies, allow accounts receivables to hang out there for months at a time - for years. Then, when they stop growing so rapidly and the new business can't cover the old receivables or vice versa, they experience an almost immediate cash shortage.

Another operational issue - poor customer service and high customer turnover. When business is expanding and new customers are continually coming on board, a business can handle the drop off. But when business drops off, poor service reaps a high net cost on the bottom line.

These are just a few of the myriad operational issues that affect a business and results in financial issues in downturns. If any of this sounds like you, coulda, woulda, shoulda. The past is the past. You can't change it. Don't keep beating yourself up. Just ask for help from those that can provide it. Your CFO or an interim CFO, your CPA firm, your board, your banker, a turnaround consultant. Act soon so you can take effective action and successfully turn around your business before it's too late.
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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, we are taking the remainder of the week off. Look for the next post on Monday, November 29. I hope you enjoy the holiday with your friends and family. Don't eat too much! Happy Thanksgiving!
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

When Companies Are In Trouble

Last Thursday I attended an excellent breakfast meeting/presentation sponsored by my alma mater and two other schools (The Wharton Kellogg London Business School Breakfast Series, in case you are in Atlanta and wish to attend. The next one's in January.) The subject was turnarounds and corporate restructuring and the two panelists were a turnaround consultant and bankruptcy restructuring attorney, respectively. I have several friends and acquaintances in this industry so some of the information wasn't new to me but I received a lot more detail than I had previously known.

For example, the OVERWHELMING majority of company owners practice denial and wait until the nth hour to request assistance. By then, it is nearly always too late and the company either ends up shutting down and selling off its assets or liquidating through a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The latter occurs if the level and complexity of creditors mandate this. A lot of companies enter Chapter 11 - reorganization - as a means to save themselves but the vast majority of companies NEVER emerge from Chapter 11. The bankruptcy judge either converts to Chapter 7 or appoints a trustee who essentially serves as a liquidation advisor.

Why do so many owners stick their heads in the sand in the face of financial trouble? The company is their baby. They've had it, built it over 10, 20, 30+ years and now they must say that their baby is not just ugly, but really ugly. Many just can't do it.

The CFO (or VP of Finance) is usually the first one to see the signs of trouble. They do forecasting and monitor cash flow. They can identify trending and see that cash is going quicker than usual, that accounts receivables are taking longer to get paid, that one customer comprises the majority of the over 45 days receivables. This financial information provides the crucial first piece in awareness of issues that could seriously adversely impact the company in 6 - 9 months. The first step at the time the CFO spots a downward trend and notifies the owner is to act. Do something.

Do what, you ask? Talk to the customer who is delinquent. Are they in trouble? Can't tell over the phone? Visit the customer's office or talk to their other suppliers. Look at your customer base. Do you have too much of your business tied to one customer? Find other customers to offset that risk as quickly as possible or reduce your overhead to cover the loss of the customer, just in case. (Or develop a plan to quickly reduce overhead in case of the customer loss.)

Do you have an advisory board or Board of Directors? If so, share the financial information with them and get their input. Let your creditors know what's happening. Be frank and work with them to develop a plan. The worst thing for them is to be blind-sided. They are much more flexible and willing to work with a struggling company when they have more information sooner. More data earlier affords them a number of options which disappears as the situation worsens.

Finally, if your company is already on its last legs, DON'T try to restructure by filing Chapter 11. A fully knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney will turn you down. However, there are less knowledgeable and more unscrupulous attorneys out there who will take your business. Chapter 11 can be VERY expensive. If your business won't survive, it would be best to pursue other options for wrapping up the business that are easier on you and more fair to your creditors. Remember, all the money that goes to pay attorneys and bankruptcy court direct and indirect fees is money that could have gone to creditors.

If you are not sure what to do, seek out a turnaround consultant. Not sure where to find one? Ask your banker. He/she will likely give you three references.
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Adding Machine (Simple) Cash Flow

In the CFO world, I don't think we've hit the generation who doesn't remember financial life before the desktop or laptop computer. (If we have, keep that to yourselves cause I don't want to know about it yet!)

But there was indeed financial life before computers. Remember the adding machine? My grandfather had an adding machine and every month I could hear his fingers flying up and down those numbers. He would crank the handle & mumble a few words I wasn't supposed to know yet. Every few hours he would holler for his business partner.

"Did you know Ma Bell wants $5.75 for our phone this month?!" What's she going to do? Re-invent the way we use it?" (Little did he know! Again, this was before the AT&T breakup and subsequent, 2 decades later, re-combination.)

"Edddd! Ed! (Names have been changed to protect the innocent.) Where is the invoice for the Johnson account?! We can't make money if we don't invoice these people!"

"Edddd! Ed! We've got to talk about CASH FLOW, Ed!"

And my ears perked up. At only 11, I had an idea about cash flow, but I didn't really KNOW cash flow.

And so it was between Ed & my grandfather that I learned my first financial lessons. (I learned what those mumbled words were too, but I won't share those!)

The basic concept of Cash Flow Management hasn't really changed since I was a kid. After all, it really is simply analyzing and ensuring that your cash inflows surpass your cash outflows at any given time. Doesn't matter if you're using an adding machine or fancy software.

Now, when we get into tracking, analyzing and adjusting cash flow, things get a little trickier, but let me share some insight with you. But remember, cash flow is NOT income. You can have high income but negative cash flow.

First, analyze your cash flows. Then devise & implement cash management strategies.

To illustrate this and make it more simple, let me provide you with an example:

  • Let's assume you enter into a $200,000 contract to provide marketing services over a period of 6 months.
  • Your revenue the previous year was $1,000,000 so that contract provides 20% of the previous year's revenue.
  • According to the contract, you submit invoices once per month, on the 30th. Then the customer has 30 days to pay you.
  • Your firm starts fulfilling the contract on February 1st.

Fortunately, with a non-retail or wholesale service business (except for construction and other materials-heavy business lines) there is typically minimal cost incurred before the contract commences.

(Tune in Friday for the rest on cash management for small businesses.)

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Angel Financing

For those of you who seek angel financing, here is additional information to guide you in your pursuit. It's not a how-to this time. It's more of an explanation.

Angel financing is NOT your friends and family. Friends and family are who you approach BEFORE you pursue angel financing. However, angel investors can come from or through your attorney, banker, CPA, fellow business group member or other business associates you know.

Your friends and family aren't as concerned about how your Buy-Sell Agreement is structured or about dilution of their shares. They typically want to help you and benefit in the process. You go to them sometimes before you even have your product or service market ready. They invest in YOU moreso than the company.

When you hear people speak of "Series A" or "Series C", it refers to the stage of financing. Angels do care about dilution. They are investing in YOU and the product or service. (Note that the management team is the MOST important concern. A great management team can build a good company with a so/so idea or product but a mediocre team with a great idea or product will usually crash and burn.) An angel investor is taking a risk and want to make sure his/her level of return is commensurate with that risk. So a "Series A" is the first round of angel financing (i.e., not your funds or your family or friends' funds). "Series B" will be the 2nd round of angel financing. By this time, you may have engaged venture capitalists. "Series C" is the 3rd round of financing, and this round is often venture capital or private equity, depending on the industry.

As each new round occurs, the equity is diluted. You may or may not have new investors in each round. Many angel investors, especially those with more sizable assets such as a fund or a group or a very wealthy individual, will inject additional funds into a venture that they like when they believe it is doing as well or better than they expected.

Keep in mind that if you need to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars and opt to pursue angel investors, you will need to give them a 30-50% return, depending on the stage of your company when you engage them. So you must intend to scale to a multi-million dollar company fairly rapidly. If you intend to raise millions, you obviously envision your company being worth $100 million or more sometime within the next 7-15 years. That's the only way you could give the angels the returns they seek.

But don't despair if you aren't in either category. If you only need to raise $100,000, then you can provide an expected return with revenues in the $500,000 - $1 million range in the next few years, assuming 20% or higher net profit margins.
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

NASA Small Business Symposium and Awards Ceremony

The 3rd Annual NASA Small Business Symposium and Awards Ceremony is coming up! This event is FREE!

Attendees will learn about the skills, resources, and technologies needed to achieve NASA's missions, programs, and research. Participants also have an opportunity to hear from the U.S. Small Business Administration and other federal agencies, as well as prime contractor representatives.

This two-day event will culminate with the NASA Small Business Awards Ceremony, on Wednesday, December 1, 2010. The NASA Small Business Awards Ceremony will recognize outstanding contributions made by NASA employees as well as industry representatives in support of the agency's small business program.

Small Business Advocates Awards (SBAA) will be made in four categories:

1. Small Business Specialist of the Year
2. Procurement Person (or Team) of the Year
3. Technical Person (or Team) of the Year
4. Program Person (or Team) of the Year

Small Business Industry Awards (SBIA) will be made in three categories:

1. Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year
2. Small Business Subcontractor of the Year
3. Large Business Prime Contractor of the Year

Information:
Dates: Tuesday, November 30 - Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Where: Marriott Bethesda North Hotel and Conference Center
5701 Marinelli Road
Bethesda, Maryland 20852.

Click here to register . There is NO onsite registration so please register in advance.
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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Angel Investors

Are you a technology, biotech, medical product or other potentially high-growth company trying to access angel investors? Check out some of the following resources across the US:

  • TiE - The Indus Entrepreneurs. This group is not specific to one city but is present in nearly all major metropolitan cities in the US and many not so major ones in California. This is a group, open to everyone, that focuses on entrepreneurship - especially technology-related entrepreneurship. It was founded by a group originally hailing from the Indus region of India. The majority of its membership is comprised of individuals with direct links to this Indian region . (Put another way, the majority of members are of Indian descent.) It's a great group with knowledgeable speakers. They have a mentor program for any member who wants to participate. Some of the speakers are angel investors and some of the members are either angel investors or well connected to angel investors.
  • Business incubators. A growing number of cities across the US have business incubators. Some have been around for years, such as ATDC (Atlanta Technology Development Corp.) or Battery Ventures, has been around for nearly two decades. Others are newer. Check with local universities or business associations in your city to determine if one exists in your area. Incubators can connect you to angel investors and provide you with support, space, and equipment at a fraction of the cost that you'd pay on the open market.
  • Angel investment groups and associations. Go online and search for these in your area. Find out if any of them host conferences or periodic presentation forums where start-up firms that meet their criteria have the opportunity to present. Even if no one in attendance is interested in investing, attendees often forward information on to their peers who may be more suitably matched.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Non-Profit IT Assistance Source - TechSoup Global

This blog is definitely targeted at FOR-profit businesses. However, some of these for-profit small and medium businesses have non-profit customers. Or the owners or executive management sit on the board(s) of local and regional non-profits. Hence, I thought the information below was suitable and timely.

TechSoup Global has served the non-profit, library & non-governmental sectors as one of the most comprehensive technology resources since 1987.

Working with corporate donors, including Microsoft, Adobe, Cisco, & Symantec, TechSoup provides non-profit organizations with the latest professional hardware, software, & services they need & could not otherwise afford.

As of June 2009, TechSoup Global has served more than 101,000 organizations, distributed more than 4.9 million technology donations & enabled nonprofit recipients to save more than $1.4 billion in IT expenses.

TechSoup is the online resource for technology donations, educational content, & community tailored to the needs of non-profits.

Their software & hardware donation programs give non-profit organizations access to more than 400 products provided by generous partners, including Microsoft, Adobe, Cisco, Intuit, & Symantec.

TechSoup also carries donated & discounted products from more than 40 different companies, including popular products such as Norton Antivirus 2010, QuickBooks Premier 2010, Windows 7 & most recently, Office 2010 & Symantec Back Up 2010.

If a non-profit you sit on the board of or are in other ways affiliated with is not already a member of TechSoup, I urge you have them join. Joining TechSoup allows a non-profit to post questions & answers in their Community discussion forums. It is also the 1st step towards requesting product donations. First go to http://home.techsoup.org/pages/EligibilityQuiz.aspx to check for eligibility. If eligible, then the non-profit can follow the online steps to register the organization. Note: Sometimes registration requires a good deal of paperwork.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How Technology Can Improve Profitability and Productivity

More on technology from a CFO or CEO's perspective:

The tail wags the dog when small business (or medium-sized business) owners, CFOs, or managers make decisions about technology that abandon business principles. This article will share ways to avoid common business sense to navigate "techno babble."

Several months ago, I was approached to purchase a voice mail system for my company. The technical reasons were somewhat incomprehensible to me . . . "It would load-share incoming lines . . . we could track long distance call patterns . . . the computer could be programmed to provide messages in four languages . . . & every other firm had one!"

I declined.

That weekend, I was jogging with a company CEO and the subject came up. He said, "We were able to save the $20,000 - $25,000 salary of a receptionist, phone messages could be retrieved 24 hours a day, and we could hear a detailed client message, complete with inflection & emotion." He amortized the system in 12 months.

I bought an upgraded voice mail product the next week.

People need different types of computers to do their jobs. Some need powerful PCs. Some need powerful laptops & some need simple devices running off of a network to word process. The key to a business decision does not lie with hardware or even mega servers but with meeting company needs.

As a business decision maker, you have to replace "I need" with "This is how my purchase will improve productivity & profitability."

Companies must understand that technology is a major tool in staying competitive & squeezing more productivity to increase profits.

Most companies today have a network or are contemplating one. The mistakes I see result in wasting money, under-sizing the network, or being dependent upon a network engineer as the only person to touch the network.

Here are 3 keys to network upgrading or installation:

  1. Go through a design/planning stage. Decide what you want the network to achieve before you get into specifications.
  2. Ask for options if you expect to allow employees to work remotely (i.e., from home or from various destinations when traveling for business) or expand your operation. Also ask for support & training after the installation.
  3. Always, always use an external entity to provide an assessment. Get two or more, if necessary. Why? Sometimes a company's IT arm/department makes decisions based on their own job security and what would be really cool technology to have, instead of what makes the best sense from a company perspective. This is how so many companies end up with shelfware. (Shelfware is technology or hardware purchased but never installed because the business units don't understand the benefits.)
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Sunday, October 10, 2010

To CFOs: More IT Budget Considerations

More on technology and your small business' IT budget.

  • Where is the money allocated to your IT budget going? What kind of technology is available that will allow you to eliminate or significantly reduce your biggest technology cost?
  • Go through a design/planning stage for your information technology (IT) network. Decide what you want the network to achieve. Get with your executive and middle management teams and determine your list of needs and wants. You just may be surprised what's out there. You then want to make sure your technology is aligned with your business objectives.
  • Therefore, do NOT put your IT person in charge of this. Put your CFO in charge. IT directors are focused on what the IT needs of the business are, NOT what the business needs of the IT are. The CFO focuses on the business needs of the IT. When small businesses - actually all businesses - push the decision-making down to the execution level, the strategic component gets removed and a large portion of the software and hardware purchased becomes "shelfware". This means it sits on the shelf and is N
  • Moving operations? If you are moving soon, that is an optimal time to review your IT operations and your IT budget. Why carry around obsolete equipment you don't need? Why move a network that you've had to continually patch to make work. Consider remote hosting or other similar options.
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Monday, October 4, 2010

A Time Out from Finance

I do consistently find myself in awe of technology. Through technology, we have turned the oven into the microwave, the telephone into the fax & cell phone, & the radio into an I-Pod.

But there just isn't a good substitute for plain old communication. People like to feel needed. They like to know their opinions are valued. It makes them feel like their contributions are worthy. And there is no better place for communicating a person's worthiness than the work place.

In one company I was with I took the employees to lunch in small groups. I sat in front of a spreadsheet & checkbook (I was the CFO) most of the day so it was important for me to make real contact with our staff. I wanted to pick their brains, hear their opinions, and get their thoughts first hand. I didn't want them to know me only by the signature on their pay-checks. And since I was also in charge of strategy, my belief is you sometimes get the best input from going straight to the source. (Something I learned early on in my initial career as engineer.)

They made excellent suggestions I wouldn't have thought interested them like MORE meetings! What?! Who would have thought employees would want more meetings?! But they did & their reasoning was not unfounded: they thought meeting as a team a couple of times a month would facilitate communication. This was that company's year to streamline communication so I was on board with communication facilitation and was thrilled the staff was too!

So, yes, we could all log into a video conference call & chat remotely from our homes, but it wouldn't come close to the face to face interaction. Human contact & interaction builds relationships & strengthens the team.

I'm a numbers person. But I'm also responsible for strategy. If I create great strategy & don't get the team's buy-in, I'm proving I'm smart but highly ineffective. I need to consider other's ideas and incorporate them into that strategy. Sometimes as a member of the executive management team, it's hard for people to come to see me so I go to them. As a business owner, the same applies to you.

It's important that I keep my pulse on what's happening with the staff members, get crucial feedback & input from them, & use it to make the technology induced workplace a successful people place too.

Until next time . . .
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Thursday, September 30, 2010

How Do You Build Business Credit?

How do you build your business credit?

Here’s what Wells Fargo Bank (now the owner of Wachovia Bank) has said regarding Separating Personal and Business Finances...

"The longer you delay establishing business credit,
the longer you delay taking advantage of business loans."

By strengthening your business credit, you will not have to use the owner or shareholder(s)’ guarantee(s) for loans, leases, credit cards and other sources of debt financing. If your company has a strong operating history and financials to support this, you can build your credit. If you have not already done so, do the following as soon as possible to build your small business credit:

  • Make sure you are registered with Dun and Bradstreet and have a D&B number. Then sign up for the free self-monitoring system.
  • Obtain credit cards from Staples, Office Depot or other office product provider up to the amount allowed with no guarantee. Use these cards to purchase your office supplies.
  • If you have lines of credit with any of your vendors or suppliers, ask that they report this information – and your performance - to D&B. If you do not have any lines of credit, ask for them.

o Each year, see if you can increase the size of the credit line. Make sure you use it as appropriate to keep the credit line there. (i.e., If you have a $50,000 credit line but always pay within 10 days by check, your credit line will disappear. You should place your orders using the credit line, then pay off the credit line every 30 – 60 days.

  • If you have a bank or other financial institution business loan, even if it is guaranteed by an individual and another corporate entity, make sure that the loan is reported on the COMPANY’S credit report. Properly paying a bank loan can very positively impact your credit.
  • Check your D&B report quarterly, but no less than annually. Make sure that any loans, leases, or other debts showing are correct. Many times entities report when they file a UCC but don’t report when the loan is paid off. So what’s showing on the company’s report will make it seem like it has a higher debt ratio than it actually does.
  • Pay your suppliers within their specified terms. Make sure that you are working with at least 2 suppliers who report to D&B and/or Experian. Otherwise, your great payment record is completely unknown.


In addition, you should have a business plan. The bank will look at the company’s credit profile, its financial history, financial projections, and the business plan.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Small Business Owners & Non-Profit Board Participation

This may seem a little unrelated to small business finance and management, but bear with me. A few years ago a couple of people recommended that I step up my involvement in non-profits via board participation. I wasn't ready. I had too much going on and too little time to dedicate. I wanted whatever time I did spend volunteering to help the recipients directly. So I tutored, mentored, and occasionally spoke at churches and non-profit conferences. This past year I finally had the time...and the inclination.

Why did this people recommend participating on boards to me and why do I recommend it to you as a small or medium-sized business owner? First, I believe it's important to give back to the communities in which you and your company(ies) operate. Giving back helps to balance the overall mission of a company and deepens the company's commitment to engaging with its customers and employees. Second, board participation affords the opportunity to interact with high career (other owners, VPs, SVPs, executive directors, C-suite level) individuals who have backgrounds and perspectives different from your own. This difference in perspective can help you view your company's issues in a different light and that alone can be very valuable. Third, assuming the board has good synergy, you build a sense of team and strengthen your network. That network can assist you as you grow the business organically, offer new products or services, or seek out acquisitions. You never know who may be able to make an introduction into an account you'd like to have or connect you to a prospective partner.

Finally, non-profit board participation can help you grow as a leader. As an owner and typically, the CEO and/or president, especially if you are the sole owner, you may not be as adept at working as part of a team of peers as you used to be. Participating on a board will enhance your team skills. It will also increase your knowledge of a number of functions: marketing, finance, legal, employee relations, etc. that are directly relevant to running your business.

If you decide you would like to sit on a non-profit board, seek out those that address causes you have a passion for or provide the types of services you're really interested in. If you love sports, you would be bored sitting on a homeless shelter board but participating on a pop warner or little league board would be a good fit. Be aware that most, if not all, non-profits have a minimum donation requirement for directors. Sometimes that's $500 or $1,000 for smaller non-profits. For large non-profits like hospital boards or the United Way, the miminum ndonation requirement may be $25,000 or higher. (This is why you often see VPs of large corporations as the primary members of these boards.)

If you are not sure where to start since there are literally thousands of non-profits in any large metropolitan area, start with United Way. They provide funding to tens of thousands of non-profits nationwide. They will have a list of non-profits in your area that fit your criteria.
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Thursday, September 16, 2010

NYC Financial Services Professionals Opportunity

Normally I don't write about jobs. This is a blog about small business financing and related management issues. However, the opportunity listed below may help some service professionals transition into working as CFO or Controllers for small to medium businesses. So this may also be a recruiting opportunity for small business owners. The graduates of this program will have made the transition from corporate worker to small business employee, which could be highly beneficial to owners on the hunt for financial talent. This was posted on a group discussion I belong to and I thought it was worthwhile to pass it along.

JumpStart NYC - a unique program for Financial Services Professionals who have lost their jobs.

JumpStart NYC is now accepting applications for its unique program for unemployed NYC residents who previously worked in the Financial Services sector.

BACKGROUND: JumpStart NYC is a free educational program to help former financial services workers find new jobs by re-tooling them to either work at smaller firms and/or in new industries. The program includes both a week-long “boot camp” classroom component (with a second, optional week exploring Green Finance and Technologies), and a 10-week action-learning project in a NYC business. Participation is completely free.

Please see below for the dates for the next JumpStart NYC session. RSVP for the information session at: www.eventbrite.com/event/844940239 or at
www.levininstitute.org/jumpstartnyc/index.cfm . You can also learn more about this program and submit your application via the latter link. Applications will be accepted on a rolling “first-come, first-served” basis.


DATES TO REMEMBER (FALL 2010):

  • October 1st (Friday): Applications due by 5 p.m.

  • October 18th (Monday): “Boot camp” starts. Ends on Friday, October 22.
  • October 25 (Monday): Green Finance week starts. Ends on Friday, October 25.


For more information, visit the program sponsor's website at www.levininstitute.org/jumpstartnyc

or email jumpstartnyc@levininstitute.org

Good luck!

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Stretch Your PR Budget. Hire Interns!

Now that I've addressed the benefits of hiring interns, let me share with you some additional benefits of hiring college interns, specifically marketing and public relations interns.

Let's say your small or medium business has a limited budget but have crafted a marketing and public relations plan to help move your business to the next level. However, you wonder where you are going to access the funds needed to roll out this plan. You think you can keep your costs to a minimum and essentially boot strap. However, you still need bodies to staff some of your speaking events, trade shows, demonstrations, etc. and to send to PR-opportunistic events such as sporting events or free conferences. You also need someone(s) to put more content out there on the web for you to help generate PR.

You need PR interns. I've used these students before and, as long as you are very clear about what you want them to do, they are great. The earlier they are in their college career, the more hand holding you will typically have to do. This makes sense as a senior will usually have a lot more experience than a sophomore. Check the universities and community colleges in your area. Many schools offer college credit for PR and/or marketing internships. With these college-credit internships in general, the students' services/job experience are provided for free. Reason: They can't get college credit AND get a paycheck. You just pay their incidentals like gas or train fare and, of course, any business-travel incurred costs.

If you are pursuing students for a summer internship, you can also advertise for PR interns on craigslist in the "gigs" section. I've had some decent responses here. If you live in or near a major metropolitan area, many students will look for summer jobs and internships in their hometown on craigslist. However, I still think the best ones come from posting the internships at the respective colleges either through their study program or the career center.
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Friday, August 27, 2010

Sources and Uses of Funds

Have you recently tried to get a bank loan or raise funds from friends and family, angel investors or other sources? Did it just not go well? If so, some help is on the way. The company I referenced yesterday is trying to raise funds to pay for another production run of their health food product plus pay for a marketing push. They have a business plan and are soliciting money from angel investors whom they know fairly well. Before I continue, you should know as an FYI, you can obtain financing from up to 35 investors who are not what the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) considers sophisticated investors. I'll come back to this later but you should know this up front.

This nascent small business has raised money before. The founders have also contributed a significant amount of capital and a great deal of their time handling all the roles and responsibilities involved in a start-up. Now they need more money. They are reaching out to people they know - friends and friends of friends - and are just about to cross the line out of the friends and family realm. When you do that, there are things that ANY interested party wants to know. Chief among those are sources and uses of funds.

In any business plan or executive summary submitted to someone or an entity interested in investing, you need to include a discussion regarding how much the company has raised to date from its founders ($ amount) and others ($ amount). Investors and lenders want to know how much "skin in the game" have you put in. They also want to compare how much equity they are getting in relation to what others who injected capital received. I"ll put in $50,000 for a 5% stake but others who put in $25,000 six months ago also got a 5% stake. Why is that? What has the money raised or borrowed in the past been used for? How has the company benefited from those funds? How will you use the money I'm investing? Investors and lenders need a discussion of how much money has been spent to date. How much more is needed, now and later, and what will that be used for? What was the money used for in the past?

Answer these questions succinctly in 2-3 paragraphs in a section entitled "Sources and Uses of Funds". Include financial performance and projections that support what you've written. You will subsequently go a long way to alleviate the concerns and attract the funding you seek. (Assuming, of course, that the money was well spent and helped grow the business. If not, that's a different discussion!)
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Friday, June 18, 2010

Finding Cash Flow in Offices and Inventory

Small businesses (and larger businesses, too) are often looking for ways to save money. Sometimes the cash crunch can cause many entrepreneurs and business owners to stop thinking creatively about solutions to their cash flow problems. Issues weighing on the mind seem to cause one's brain to freeze up and spend 90% of the time focusing on the issue and 10% on the solution. This, of course, can lead to frustration and desperation. So I'm here to help you think clearly about what to do to help your business find more cash flow for its day to day operations. (And thus mitigate your stress levels!)

If you own a business that has more than one location, determine how much income each location generates. If one or two locations generate 70-80% of your business, strongly consider closing the other locations. You will save the overhead costs for that location (rent, utilities, etc.). If you really believe you need that location despite not obtaining much business from it, consider establishing a mobile venue or partnering with another business that has a location near the one that you may close. You may be able to make use of their office on an occasional basis or rent a small area in their warehouse – whatever your company needs. Saving on overhead helps you convert more of your costs from fixed to variable. Variable costs are much easier to manage than fixed costs, especially when cash is tight.

If you keep inventory, make sure what is primarily stocked in your inventory is what is actually selling. Inventory takes up space that you can make better use of if there is no turnover of that inventory. Most products have a shelf life. Therefore, if portions of your inventory are not moving and the lack of movement is not due to poor marketing or selling on your part but due to a drastic drop in demand for those items, sell them at a deep discount to clear it out.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Find Cash in Your Sales Operations

To find additional cash flow for your small business, look at your sales. That may seem obvious but I don't mean your actual sales. I mean your sales process. If you are looking for ways to pull more cash out of your operations, consider doing the following:

  • If you use salespeople, make sure their commission structure is properly set up. First, you should only pay salespeople their commissions once payment has come in. So salespeople, who have the relationship with your customers and are sometimes loathe to jeopardize this by pursuing collections, are motivated to follow up with their customers to ensure payment was made. For example, if the customer has terms to pay in 15 days, state that commissions will be paid on the 20th or 25th day and ONLY if the customer paid.

  • Second, you should either set maximum discount rates or make sure that commissions are tied to the gross margin on the product or service sold. If you tie commission to gross revenues, you could end up only breaking even or worse, losing money, on each sale. By basing commission on gross margins or, even better, having a sliding scale with a higher commission paid for higher gross margins, you ensure you make money with each sale.

  • There should be a time limit on the customer payment. If the customer hasn’t paid within 90 days, the commission should be voided. Pursuing collection of unpaid invoices costs your customer money. You should not pay for your salesperson’s judgment errors. If the customer doesn’t pay, you don’t pay the commission, thus saving your cash.

  • If you pay salespeople a base salary and a commission but the business has dropped off and you must reduce sales staff, you can utilize manufacturer representatives to sell your product in the interim if your company is a distributor or manufacturer. Most manufacturer representatives work solely on commissions. When business picks up, you may still wish to continue use of these representatives to broaden your geographic reach.
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Friday, May 14, 2010

Cash Management and Cash Management Techniques (cont'd)

You can also pursue a line of credit with an accounts receivable financing or factoring firm. These entities charge much higher rates than banks but often are a good source of capital if you are growing significantly or garner a much larger contract than is typical for your company. Banks use your company's three-year historical performance to provide credit lines so large increases in revenue over a short period often do not translate into a credit line increase for a few quarters. A receivables financing firm will provide a line based on your historical financials and the credit-worthiness of your customer. Rates are typically 1-2% per month but can be as high as 4-6% per month - assuming a 30-day payoff on the receivables. 4-6% per month equates to 48-60% per year!!! Sometimes you have to take what you can get but do so ONLY for very short periods with a plan of action to obtain other financing at much better terms within the next 4-6 months.

To summarize, cash is always king but definitely in restricted capital environments. Money is still available but it takes longer and requires more creativity and perseverance to access it. Therefore, plan your cash needs and budget your cash resources as much as possible. Know your daily spend rate and be able to quickly determine how much cash you have on hand at any given time. Know your expected operating cash flows and the timing of those cash flows. If you do not, you are headed for trouble.

Or you may already be troubled - stressed out, continuously seeking money from somewhere, continually trying to increase revenue even though you may lose money with each sale. Stop. Determine your cash outflows and inflows on a per project basis, and make decisions based on that information. In this market, you may have to jettison slow-paying, high complaint customers. When cash is king, these customers drag down your bottom line.
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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cash Management & Cash Management Techniques (cont'd)

We will address some of the ways to manage cash. But the all important first step is to check your cash flow statement weekly, if not daily. You cannot maange anything if you don't even know what's going on.

Ways to manage cash:

  • Obtain terms from your suppliers on your materials and supplies. If you can get 30-45 day terms, you can reduce both the amount of the negative cash flow and the length of time cash flow is negative.
  • Use contractors instead of trade or part-time personnel and subject them to the same payment terms you are under with your largest customers. Thus, instead of paying trades people and/or part-time employees every 15 days, you pay the contractor within 30 days of the submission of the invoice. In both of these instances, you align your cash outflows with your cash inflows as a way of negating or minimizing negative cash flow.
  • Of course, quality (and safety, for manufacturers, construction companies, and similar) is often a concern when you utilize a high number of contractors whose performance and sourcing you cannot directly control. Shoddy work leads to poor customer performance and additional expenditures tied to correcting mistakes. Consequently, over-dependence on contractors can lead to cash flow shortages and other operational issues.
  • Obtain or increase your line of credit. A credit line can really help with cash management and working capital. Working capital = short term assets - short-term liabilities. This typically translates into working capital = cash + account receivables - account payables - payroll payables. You can use your line of credit to pay payroll or purchase supplies when you cannot get terms. If you do not have a line of credit with a bank, pursue one. Cultivate a strong relationship with a banker at Vice President (or equivalent) level and above. In these economic times with the credit markets still roiling and many banks dealing with issues in their own lending portfolios, strong relationships play an even larger role in obtaining credit than a year and a half ago.

Final segment: Friday, May 14.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Cash Management and Cash Management Techniques

Cash management in this economic environment is crucial. Cash is the life-blood of any business. As the saying goes, "Cash is king". With so many banks having tightened credit standards due to what has happened in the credit markets or within their own lending portfolios, and new and more restrictive government mandates, it is crucial that businesses fully understand their cash needs IN ADVANCE and make adjustments to their operations to ensure that cash is available. Otherwise, companies may find themselves in a liquidity crisis - unable to meet payroll, pay suppliers, or pay contracttors - which can lead to bankruptcy or an operational shutdown.

As I've stated before, cash is NOT income or profit. You can show a highly respectable net profit (margins of 10-15% or higher) and still be cash flow negative. Stated another way, your income statement can look like you're doing very well, while your bank statement tells a completely different story.

Unless you manage your cash appropriately, you will likely struggle financially trying to come up with cash to pay your employees and your suppliers. This unplanned cash flow shortage is a big reason many companies go out of business during a recession. Yes, many go bankrupt because they lose key customers. But many who seem to be doing phenomenally well during the boom times also go out of business. Why? Because they owe their success to continually adding new customers. When the new customers disappear or the rate of adding new customers drastically decreases, other operational issues like poor receivables management, poor supplier relationships, and other issues taht directly impact cash management come to light.

How does this happen? Well, new customers create overlap so payment come in that can cover the cash outflow spent servicing existing customers or paying out on poorly structured commission plans. You must make cash management an integral part of budget planning and analysis in order to plan your cash needs and manage your cash appropriately.

To be continued on Wednesday, May 12.
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Friday, May 7, 2010

Accounting and Finance for Non-profits 101

Ramona Baptiste, who is in my United Way V.I.P. (Volunteer Involvement Program) training class, is putting on a training class for non-profits tomorrow. Ramona is a CPA who has worked with a lot of non-profits in the past. The United Way V.I.P. training prepares participants, over a 10-week period, for roles as directors on non-profit Board of Directors. All proceeds will be donated to United Way of Metro Atlanta, Inc.

I think it's an excellent opportunity for non-profits to come up to speed in the accounting and finance areas, which is often a weak area among non-profit founders and executive directors.

Here is the information:

Who should attend?
This workship is ideal for individuals involved with non-profits in any capacity, who want to understand the following:
  • Fiscal responsibilities
  • Cash flow/cash management
  • Introduction to fund (non-profit) accounting
  • Budget review and analysis
  • Financial statement review
  • Tax requirements (Form 990)

Event Details:

When: Saturday, May 8, 2010, 9 am - 1 pm

Where: Carrie Steele-Pitts Home, Ollivette S. Allison Life Learning Center, Multi-purpose Room, 667 Fairburn Rd. NW, Atlanta, GA 30331

Cost: $25

Continental breakfast will be served. Remember, proceeds will be donated to United Way.

************************************************************************************

To register, please email your name, contact information and number of participants to Ramona Baptiste at Rbaptiste@RCBConsultinggroup.com. Payment should be made online at http://firstfiving.com/ramonabaptiste (click on the "Give Now" button). Feel free to let others who may be interested in attending know. You can contact Ramona directly at 404-808-3367,

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