Peter Sargent, a partner at the Group’s Halifax office, who advises on business rescue, recovery and restructuring, says: “We all tend to stand back a little at the start of the year and think about our plans for the coming 12 months. Doing the same with business planning can make the difference between success and failure – and it’s all the more important in more challenging economic times like those predicted for much of 2008.”
The company has developed a 10 point checklist that’s a useful aide memoir when planning.
1) Firstly, there is the need to assess how the market and economy have changed and consider how the business needs to adapt to reflect these changes.
2) Maintaining up to date financial information and regularly reviewing key indicators such as actual performance against forecasts and overheads versus income is critical.
3) Make sure assets are properly utilised. If there is surplus space, sub-let or sell. If other assets are under utilised consider selling them. If you have more people than needed, consider whether staff numbers should be reduced.
4) Check stocks of supplies and products. Over stocking is a sure way of tying up money. Operating ‘lean’ and ‘just in time’ stock policies reduces expenditure and helps guard against catching a cold when things turn tough.
5) Focus attention on cash flow management. Spend time and effort ensuring clients pay on time and don’t allow too much credit – however, good the customer may seem to be.
6) Always check customer credit ratings. If the rating is poor then either seek payment in advance, or consider whether the business offered warrants the credit risk.
7) If resources to manage and chase payment are stretched and cash flow is threatened, then review alternatives such as factoring which provides an element of guaranteed on time payment, in return for a percentage of the invoice charge.
8) Don’t assume borrowings can readily be increased to cover difficult periods. In the current climate even obtaining relatively small sums, say, £20,000 can be difficult and/or expensive. This is all the more true if there has already been an element of loan consolidation, when banks may well expect companies to operate without any overdraft provision.
9) Remember that it is lack of cash flow that kills businesses more often than lack of sales. Devoting all of the time to chasing turnover whilst ignoring aged debtors, in the belief that they will pay up soon, has put many a company into insolvency. With a different focus, they could have survived a difficult trading period to succeed another day.
10) Act sooner rather than later. A decision to reduce costs made in January (or at the beginning of the financial year) is more effective than one made half way through when the annual savings will only be 50 per cent of what they might have been. If the figures look worrying, seek professional advice early. It could pay for itself tenfold in highlighting solutions, identifying finance options and even just in providing a little peace of mind.
Begbies Traynor Group plc is an AIM listed specialist professional services organisation, providing independent professional advice and solutions to businesses, financial institutions, the accountancy and other professions and individuals in areas of finance, recovery, investigation and risk management, specialist financial advice and commercial finance.
Summary: January is a time when many make personal New Year resolutions but it’s just as important for businesses to do the same, according to experts at professional services specialist Begbies Traynor Group.
Peter is authorised to act as an insolvency practitioner by the Department of Trade & Industry. He is a member of the Insolvency Practitioners Association and a Fellow of R3 (The Association of Business Recovery Professionals). Peter is a council member of R3 and is chairman of the regional activities committee, previously being the Yorkshire regional chairman. Peter began his career in insolvency 1980 at Revell Ward in Huddersfield where he became a partner in 1988. In April 1995 he established Sargent & Company, which merged with Begbies Traynor in November 2005.