Recession continues to provide the backdrop for the UK economy, directly impacting the financial health of small businesses. Research shows that small businesses are more in debt now than at any time since the late 1990s. Those with a turnover of up to £1 million now owe around £1.60 for every £1 of turnover, compared with £1.17 debt per £1 of turnover ten years ago. Furthermore, the most recent figures from the Bank of England show that in the three months to May 2012, the total lending stock shrank by £3bn.
The credit crunch and recession has made securing finance tougher for small businesses, but that doesn’t mean that raising money is impossible. Banks, investors and business angels are always open to the suggestion of backing well-run businesses with a strong sense of direction and good management team.
How to prepare for funding success:
Funding options to consider:
The overall message to take away is this: whether you’re looking to acquire additional capital or fund the launch of a new company, do not give up! Achieving investment requires a little creativity and a lot of perseverance and determination, so set realistic goals and be prepared to explore several options.
BCSG creates, distributes and supports value adding products and services to small businesses through financial institutions.
It’s a familiar criticism and one with which I have more than a measure of sympathy. Those nasty, greedy banks, eh? After all we’ve done for them, letting them off scot-free for the mess we’ve all ended up in, even bailing out some of the worst offenders with obscene amounts of taxpayers’ money.
And how do they repay our generosity? By not lending money to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), that’s how. Well, there’s gratitude for you.
With many of the banks recently announcing huge profits, it could become difficult for some of them to continue to justify their ongoing reluctance to make credit more available to businesses – especially with mounting government criticism from Vince Cable and others. And then there are the bankers’ bonuses, of course. God forbid the day when these aren’t being paid.
Better access to credit at affordable prices could seriously ease the cashflow crises many SMEs regularly face, yet despite having direct experience of the serious strain lack of cash creates, why are so many SMEs so bad when it comes to paying their own suppliers on time?
As a freelance editor and writer, unfortunately, I speak with a lot of experience. And it’s not just the knock-on effects of having to wait for cash, as bad as these can be. It’s also the additional unpaid effort that must go into chasing money.
Not all of my customers are ‘bad payers’. There are a couple who realise that one-man-band freelances simply cannot afford to wait for their invoices to be paid. We must pay our bills and operating expenses and try to put food on the table like anyone else. Understanding customers are worth their weight in gold. These are the people you want to work for, the ones for whom you don’t mind going above and beyond the call of a purchase order form or commissioning note.
However, no matter how great the work you do or how much flexibility you show, there are other customers who use every delaying tactic in the book to get out of paying their bills on time, from pretending ‘X from accounts is on holiday at the moment’ and ‘Oh, I don’t remember receiving your invoice…’ to simply ignoring polite email reminders.
They know they can exploit the situation by ignoring timid ‘please pay within 30 days’ requests at the bottom of invoices, because – what are you going to do – charge them interest? What, at current rates? Good luck. Even if you are prepared to ask for interest (providing you’ve made this apparent in your terms and conditions), they’ll probably stop using you. After all, it’s a buyer’s market in most sectors at the moment and always has been.
In recent years, things seem to have become much worse. The ranks of the brass-neck late-payers – the sworn enemies of cash-strapped sole traders and micro businesses throughout the land – seem to be swelling. Delaying paying invoices, often to everyday self-employed people who need the money to survive and who themselves cannot get bank credit, seems to have gradually become ‘the way things are done’, a kind of malevolent current business convention.
In the post-Credit Crunch world, were it not for the millions of sole traders and micro-firms who have no choice but to bite their tongues and wait patiently for their money, the situation for many larger businesses would be much more bleak... You’re welcome.
Mark Williams, Start Up Donut editor
It may sound a little strange, but in retrospect, I can’t think of a better time to have started my business than during the recession. I trained myself up on food safety and manufacturing, as well as on managing a business during the depths of the economic downturn. I didn’t mean for it to happen that way, but in reality, now I’m ready to scale up, the general atmosphere for businesses is much more positive. Now, I realise I have some ingredients for a tasty business which can succeed:
All of this seems to be combining to create something very special. Maybe entrepreneurs are like passionate foodies in the kitchen, combining the different ingredients to create a delicious meal, where timing, quality of input, skill, and the heating element of their passion all have a part to play to create success.
You can find out more about Marcela on the new interactive business website www.inafishbowl.com
I set up my first business during the recession of 1990. At the time I was given some great advice, though initially I didn’t fully appreciate its value. I thought it might be useful, given the current economic climate, to pass this advice along…
“If you enjoy something and are good at it, don’t go into business to do it. Go into business so that you can do the thing you enjoy and are good at.”
It took me a while to figure out the gem of wisdom here. Excited as I was to be setting up my own business, and taking control of my own destiny; what was motivating me was that I would be doing something I enjoyed and felt I was good at. The problem with this is that it puts the “going into business” aspect of your new venture into second place. Whereas it should come first.
You may be a good web designer, or chiropractor, or recruitment consultant, or even helicopter pilot. But if you are not prepared to be a good business person, you best stay on someone else’s pay-roll. Or if no one is prepared to pay you to be a web designer, chiropractor etc keep these skills as a hobby.
You need to be thinking “I am going into business and will be a business person first.” A by-product of your business is that you get to do something that you enjoy. If you do not focus on being a business person first: areas such as cash-flow, sales, market research, administration etc. are likely to come second to the delivery of your product or service. And those wrong priorities can easily lead to business failure.
Now, I am sure that you are a good web designer, or chiropractor, or recruitment consultant, or even helicopter pilot – but what makes you think you are a good business person?
Starting up a business is always going to be tough and like many things in life, there’s probably never going to be a perfect time to take the leap and launch your idea. For many entrepreneurs, one of the key concerns is acquiring funding to turn your dream into a reality. Doug Richard says that one of the best ways to fund your start up is to seek investment from one of the three Fs – Friends, Family and Fools.
Many people are reluctant to enter into business with friends. What has your experience been? Would you advocate mixing business and friendship?
Outsourcing makes sense in a downturn because…
No company can escape the current financial downturn that’s affecting the global economy. Europe has slipped into a recession and the United Kingdom may shortly follow suit. In order to make the most of these tough times, many companies are looking to outsourcing specialists to provide much needed specialist support to maximise their efficiency and ensure their long-term survival?
Outsourcing is not a new phenomenon; it’s a tried and tested model. In the early part of this decade there was an economic slow down. During this time, outsourcing companies found more than ever that they were able to assist and support other businesses in times of trouble. Some companies are cautious about outsourcing in the current financial climate, mistakenly assuming it means an additional expense, but there are many reasons why outsourcing makes sense in a downturn, and here’s 10 of them:
ONE: You can cut costs without cutting corners. Outsourcing allows you to provide the same level of provision to your customers or clients without having to compromise or cut back on the quality of experience/service they receive. At the same time, because some core costs are reduced such as equipment, advertising and recruitment – you maintain your standards whilst reducing your costs. This will have a positive effect on your bottom line. If you’re in danger of dropping the level or standard of service that you offer your clients, you are in danger of losing those clients to your competition. Don’t even consider cutting corners – you can’t bounce back from this without the support of your clients/customers.
TWO: You can focus on your core concerns, the things that you are best at. Outsourcing is not just about saving financial cost implications, but also saving time and allowing you to focus on your core business issues. If the downturn has made you feel that there are no longer enough hours in the day, (were there ever?) then you’ll know that outsourcing could free up more time for you and your staff to spend on the central and fundamental concerns of the business. Decide upon which activities require your greatest focus and efforts, and free up your time by outsourcing the rest.
THREE: You may need to lose staff, but you don’t have to lose your shirt! There may be a need for redundancy, or saying goodbye to casual, temporary or part time workers. Outsourcing can cost you less than the cost of retaining those non-business critical staff/employees. You are doing this to safeguard your present full time employees, but it may be frustrating to see them go because you don’t know what’s around the next corner. When you outsource, your business remains effective, despite the reduction in numbers. If you’re ever to return your business to its pre-credit crunch glory, you may need to outsource to secure your current employee’s future.
FOUR: You can more efficiently manage your Human Resources. During this downturn, you may need 100 telemarketers for one campaign but only 10 for the next. Regularly, you’d have your remaining staff draining your budget. When you outsource, you can add or reduce your staff as and when you need them. By reducing some of your fixed operating costs you can deliver greater economic freedom to your company. With completely flexible staff numbers you can increase or decrease the workforce to whatever size you need to meet your current challenges.
FIVE: You can change horses midstream. When you outsource your needs, you can make amendments immediately, make a decision, change your mind, improve equipment, increase staff, decrease equipment – do whatever it takes, whenever necessary to keep your business afloat. Your outsourcing contract should be flexible enough to make a decision immediately in order to respond to necessary demands.
SIX: You can outsource many more services than you realise. Payroll, Sales, Marketing, Secretarial, Reception, IT, Lead Generation, Telesales and Telemarketing are among the many services that could all help you cut your short to medium term costs in a downturn. Telemarketing and Sales are particularly important. To effectively see your way through this economic nightmare, you need to bring in business – whether it is from new or existing customers/clients, you must increase sales and reduce costs in order to sail safely through this financial storm. Outsourcing can be used to achieve both of these goals.
SEVEN: Outsourcing is targeted professional activity. You can only go on losing money for so long before your business will start to collapse, so take action now! Whatever cuts you are going to make, you need to make them with the full knowledge that they are best for the future of the company. Outsourcing allows businesses to take proactive steps to maintain their status and trading capacity during difficult times.
EIGHT: Outsourcing can protect your company culture and staff morale. You shouldn’t force your existing staff to do more work for the same wages but without outsourcing, you may have to do it. It’s bound to happen if you have to reduce your staff numbers. As your workforce decreases, you still need the same tasks completed. Asking your current staff to take on these additional roles and tasks may cause problems in the workplace. You should expect an increase in the number of sick days, a decrease in general morale and this can affect your company’s productivity at a time when it matters most. Outsource before you drive your staff into early retirement.
NINE: Outsourcing helps you do more of what you do well. If your business isn’t badly affected by the downturn, you need to make hay while the sun shines! You’re lucky, you’re in one of those areas that people cannot do without, you’re a niche or a necessity, and perhaps you’re making even more money. Outsourcing can help you respond to the increased need for your product or service and allow you the room to do this without increasing your fixed operating costs.
TEN: Model other successful organisations. As the credit crunch takes a bite out of British commerce and despite the evident slow down in the economy and the threat of recession, billions of pounds in outsourcing deals are being agreed in the UK. If other companies are taking advantage of the benefits of outsourcing, then your business should be considering it too. Don’t be the last to realise that outsourcing solutions could save your business before it’s too late.
For expert advice on outsourcing your business needs, speak to a representative at VSL, the downturn doesn’t have to be a disaster for your business.
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