Tag Archives: Business

Where there’s magic there’s margin

At the Food For Thought workshop in February one of the high points was the presentation by Charles Baughan, MD of Westaway Sausages. He gave an energising and inspirational talk which left everyone in the room wanting to hear more.

He began by sharing some of his own survival tips for small business:

As Westaway’s has grown the customer base has become more diverse; now they sell to retail, wholesale, and food service customers both in the UK and abroad. Charles talked us through a comparison of the different channels and markets and discussed the reasons for pursuing this strategy.

It was evident from this that the broad range of customers offered a chance to spread risk and also smooth any short term fluctuations in sales volumes.

However the advice was quite clear: “Sometimes it is better to spend time and effort choosing your customers instead of reacting to every opportunity”, something that supported the business planning discussion from earlier in the day.

Questions that would help work out whether an opportunity was the right one for your business included:

Can they pay their bills?
Do you like them?
Are they high maintenance?
Is their business strategically right for you? (Not just about profit!)
Is the market expanding?
Why are you the best choice for them? Are you cheaper? Better? Faster?

From my point of view this final question is fundamental; success is not just about why “they” are the right customer for you but also why you’re the right supplier for them. That’s where the magic comes in – if you can supply something that fits the customers needs better than the competitors you can make the margin.

The message to take away was clear: make a plan, aspire to great things and then get out there and succeed.

You can find more details of what was discussed at the workshop here

It’s all about the money, honey

If you’re in business the chances are that you need to make money.

The aim of the game is to have something left after all the bills are paid whether that’s because you want something for yourself, to pay dividends to investors or, if you run a social enterprise, to do some good for the wider community.

Cash in business Quite often I hear the complaint “We’re not making any money” but what does this mean? There is no point in any business at which money is actually made!

In simple terms we think of “making money” as making profit – when sales income is more than all the appropriate costs.

What people actually mean when they say they are “making money” is that there is plenty money in the bank to pay the bills that come in. Making profit doesn’t always mean that there is money in the bank.

In business nowadays the chances are you buy on credit, and you offer credit to your customers and you buy more stock that you need straight away so that you always have something to sell. All these things separate when the money is received (or paid) from when the sale actually happens.

So making money is actually more to do with generating cash.

Cash is king for businessIn basic terms, a business which consistently makes losses will only be able to pay all of its bills if there is extra cash being provided from somewhere else. If my costs come to £5,000 but my sales are only £4,500 I won’t be able to pay all of my bills, there will need to be a bit of negotiation with suppliers or some savings to fall back on.

However making money isn’t simple even if the business is making profit.

It’s possible that I could be making profits and still not bringing in enough cash to pay all the bills when they are due.

Most obviously, if I buy stock for selling on in future I will likely need to pay my supplier for the stock before my customer has paid me, but if my customer hasn’t paid me how can I pay anyone else?

Accountants usually make some changes on paper to spread these sorts of costs over the year and match them to the sales that they relate to, but in cash terms my suppliers need the money more promptly to pass on to their suppliers.

What’s even more tricky is finding cash to invest in the business’ facilities. Buying a new delivery van has very little impact how much profit you make because only a small-ish part of the cost of the van relates to the sales in any given month, or year.

When it comes to paying for the van though, even with a hire purchase loan you’re going to need to pay a chunk of the cost as a deposit. That’s going to hit the bank balance.

So making money involves more than just selling for a profit. Cash may be king, but cashflow is complicated!

In my view the only way to tackle the cash challenges that every business faces is to plan ahead. Add to that a bit of action to make sure that:
– customers are paying,
– you’re not paying out for more stock than you need and
– you are making the best use of credit offered by suppliers
and you will be giving yourself the best chance to make money (and hold on to some of it) whatever stage your business is at.

Cash is kingThis is the first in a series of blogs looking at cash flow and ways to improve it, all filed under the “Cash is King” category.