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Laurie Owen: Critical Steps

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Laurie Owen tells you how to prepare if economic times get rocky.

{loadposition laurieowenheader}

[h3]Critical Steps[/h3]

[dropcap cap=E]ven though, as of this writing, the experts still haven’t made the official call that we’re in a recession, prudent owners will want to “storm-proof” their businesses for the rest of the year. As you struggle to manage costs, find new sources of revenue, and operate more efficiently, it’s always good to remember some basics.[/dropcap]

[dropcap cap=1.] Stay on top of your cash situation. Take time to prepare cash-flow projections for the next 12 months, and revise weekly if needed.[/dropcap]

[dropcap cap=2.] Know your margins and turns by department, by product line and by SKU. If you don’t have this information, upgrade your system. If you do have this information, but can’t use the reports, get advice so you can. Phase out the lines that either are not turning or not generating the margins you need.[/dropcap]

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[dropcap cap=3.] Monitor accounts receivables closely. Process invoices immediately, distribute an outstanding accounts receivable statement weekly and take action on late accounts immediately. A few days improvement in collections will make a huge difference in cash flow. Make a vow to get rid of in-store accounts by the end of the year.[/dropcap]

[dropcap cap=4.] Insist on good financial data. Accurate, timely financial statements are critical in tight economic times. Don’t accept excuses from your bookkeeping staff. If you’re doing your own books, fire yourself, hire it out, and make better use of your time.[/dropcap]

[dropcap cap=5.] Get funding now! The worst time to get financing is when you are about to run out of cash. Arrange for loans and lines of credit before you need it. Your cash-flow projections from tip No. 1 will help you figure out how much you’ll need and when you can pay it back.[/dropcap]

[dropcap cap=6.] Review your long-term financing. Are you financing long-term growth (or assets) with short-term funding such as a credit line? If so, see your banker about getting refinanced.[/dropcap]

[dropcap cap=7.] Have good advisers and use them. Make sure you have a solid team of outside advisers. Meet with them regularly and listen to what they say.[/dropcap]

[dropcap cap=8.] Don’t turn financial decisions over to others. There’s no need to turn yourself into a CPA, but you must be able to read financial statements, talk with financial people and assess your company’s performance.[/dropcap]

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[dropcap cap=9.] Understand and use break-even analysis. Do you know your contribution margin? If not, you won’t know how much more you need in sales when costs rise or prices fall. You also won’t know how much to cut if and when sales fall.[/dropcap]

[dropcap cap=10.] Know your clientele and your price points. You say you are a “high end” store. Is that based on wishful thinking or does it match your selling history and market area? Does your marketing plan (and inventory mix) make sense for your market?[/dropcap]

Remember, as John A. Shedd once said, ships are safest in harbors but that’s not what they’re made for. Don’t let fear of the future paralyze you now. Get moving and do something!

[componentheading]MONEY MATH[/componentheading]

[contentheading]How Do I Know It’s Worth It[/contentheading]

Let’s check the math. Suppose your annual purchases total $1.25 million. Let’s also assume that 80 percent of these purchases are subject to a 2 percent discount. So, 2 percent of $1 million? That’s $20,000 of reduced costs. And the effective annualized interest rate of not taking the discount? You earn 2 percent by paying in the first 10 days. But if you don’t take the discount, it costs you 2 percent for each of the remaining 20-day cycles in the year (18 in all). That’s an annualized interest rate of 36 percent!

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Laurie Owen is senior vice president at Business Resource Services. Contact her at [email protected].

[span class=note]This story is from the March 2008 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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