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David Brown

6 Solutions to Short-Term Cash Flow Problems

Problems can arise if you aren’t vigilant about how your receipts and payments are tracking.

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MANAGING CASH FLOW can be an urgent issue for any business. Problems can arise if you aren’t vigilant to how your receipts and payments are tracking. Sometimes, you need a solution that can give you quick and easy cash to keep you going. Here are some of the best options you should consider.

1. Get short-term financing. If you feel the situation can’t be resolved without external help, then short-term financing, such as a line of credit, can see you through. It has the added advantage of being able to be repaid when the funds are no longer needed, keeping costs to a minimum.

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2. Long-term financing. This can be a longer process and will generally involve putting up assets as security for a more permanent arrangement. Although this may result in a larger sum of funding, be careful: your assets and debt should match in terms of time frame. Using long-term debt for short-term cash flow needs can be a recipe for disaster (as can short-term debt for long-term asset purchasing). Long-term debt should be used primarily to purchase assets that provide long-term returns to the business, not as a means of “tiding you over” until things get better. You need cash flow every day, but you only have so many assets you can draw against.

3. Speed up recovery of receivables. Although retail is normally a cash business, there may be some areas in which you run an account (e.g., insurance companies) or other parties with whom you have a good relationship. In these circumstances, it’s important to manage the repayment process. A discount can be an effective incentive for this.

4. Get a larger deposit. Your customers are often your best means of short-term funding. Increasing your deposit on custom jobs from 20 percent to 50 percent can add several thousand dollars permanently to your bank float.

5. Manage your repairs. Follow up consistently with repairs that aren’t collected. This is dead money sitting that is easily forgotten about because the items don’t belong to the store. You have an investment in those items you need to recoup.

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6. Sell surplus assets. Inventory is often the first choice for doing this, but is there other equipment or assets you no longer need? If you’ve ever run a garage sale, you’ll know how much cash you can round up from extra stuff you have — the same may be true of business assets such as old desks, tools and display cabinets you no longer use. Don’t assume they are worthless just because you will recoup much less than what you paid for them.

David Brown is president of the Edge Retail Academy, a force in jewelry industry business consulting, sell-through data and vendor solutions. David and his team are dedicated to providing business owners with information and strategies to improve sales and profits. Reach him at david@edgeretailacademy.com

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David Brown

How to Make The Most of Your Department Reports

Allocating the appropriate time, money and space to each department is critical to success.

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DEPENDING ON THE TYPE of business you run, chances are your sales will be coming from perhaps 30 or 40 different departments across your store. Some, such as bridal, are more obvious. Others, such as silver earrings, may not make a big difference — yet it’s important to understand the contribution from each department and where it fits into the overall performance of your store.

A department report in order of sales will reveal the biggest contributors, and it should come as no surprise to know that the top 5 or 6 departments might be contributing 50 percent or more of your storewide sales. What might surprise you is which departments make up the top 5 or 6. Take a guess now and then compare it to your actual results; chances are you’ll see at least one department that wasn’t in your estimate.

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Knowing this will enable you to allocate your resources towards these areas. These resources are, in no order of importance:

1. Time
2. Money
3. Space

Time refers to the energy you and your staff devote, both physically and mentally, to this area of your business. You might have a love of watches and enjoy spending time checking out the latest models available, but if watches represent 3 percent of your sales, this category doesn’t warrant a lot of effort.

Money will predominantly be spent on two fronts: one is your inventory, while the other is marketing. Is the inventory you carry in each department relevant to that department’s contribution to your sales and profitability? If not, consider reallocating it. Are you running ads for an area of your business that is neither a significant contributor to sales or profit? Do you allocate your marketing spend by area based on what product you are advertising? It’s not unusual to find a business spending 90 percent of its marketing on diamonds when that category represents only 30 percent of sales.

Space refers to how you allocate the merchandise within your store. Are your best sellers front and center? If your store is 50 percent bridal, does your merchandising say this when your customers walk into your store?

Review your departmental contribution and determine how you are allocating your resources of time, money and space across each area. Make a decision to rebalance each area as required so it more closely aligns to your store’s performance. The exception to this is if you are hoping to grow a particular area, in which case your resources should align with your anticipated results and performance.

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David Brown

What Business Owners Can Learn from Abraham Lincoln’s Failures

He would never have been in position to succeed if he hadn’t failed first.

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WE ARE CONDITIONED BY society to fear failure. Our education system defines performance as “getting the answer correct.” This result-based measurement is an effective method for assessing a level of knowledge, but it doesn’t encourage the hands-on learning process so necessary to develop true understanding and retaining of information — nor encourage the discovery of new knowledge.

Sadly, this aversion to getting things wrong starts at an early age and continues our whole life. Despite the copious number of successful people who have failed spectacularly before achieving success, we still attempt to follow a path that has more to do with avoiding ignominy than with enjoying the benefits of stretching ourselves into uncharted territory.

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Abraham Lincoln never feared failure — he could little afford to. His list of unsuccessful endeavors in both business and politics would have forced a lesser man to give up. Here are just some of his “failures.”

1831: Failed in business.
1832: Ran for state legislature — lost.
1832: Also lost his job — wanted to go to law school but couldn’t get in.
1833: Borrowed some money from a friend to begin a business, and by the end of the year was bankrupt. He spent the next 17 years paying off this debt.
1838: Sought to become speaker of the state legislature — defeated.
1840: Sought to become elector — defeated.
1843: Ran for Congress — lost.
1846: Ran for Congress again — this time he won — went to Washington and did a good job.
1848: Ran for re-election to Congress — lost.
1849: Sought the job of land officer in his home state — rejected.
1854: Ran for Senate of the United States — lost.
1856: Sought the vice-presidential nomination at his party’s national convention — got less than 100 votes.
1858: Ran for U.S. Senate again — again he lost.
1860: Elected president of the United States.

What sort of president would Lincoln have become if he had not had his failures? Had his life been a succession of unbridled achievements, would he have had the fortitude or fighting qualities to drag the country through its toughest challenge ever? Or would he have been ill-prepared for the physical and mental battle the presidency required? I believe his history of failing provided him with the steel and determination he needed to see the job through. Had he not “failed” so many times, he would not have become the man he was — and the history of the United States may have looked sharply different.

Learning to fail helps you overcome the fear of testing your boundaries and ultimately helps you grow and succeed. When it happens, embrace it for the lessons it can teach.

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David Brown

9 Ways to Unload Dead Inventory

When old inventory clogs the cash-flow arteries of your store, here’s how to clean it out.

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LAST MONTH, WE talked about the process of controlling what you buy and what you consume with your inventory. Much like dieting — where your buying and consumption dictate how many pounds you put on — the process of clearing extra inventory is much like shedding that extra weight that works its way onto your hips and stomach. You have to hit the exercise gear when the weight goes up, and the same is true with your surplus inventory. If you don’t move it on, that inventory will sit around your business waistline, clogging up your cash-flow arteries and damaging the health of your business.

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Here are some of our best suggestions for shedding those surplus items that are no longer helping your business health:

1. Run a sale. The obvious answer is to have a major clearance, but care needs to be shown here. Some businesses live constantly in sale mode to the extent that it harms the ability to generate sales at any other time. Use this sparingly and be creative in how you promote it.

2. Have a clearance area. Less harmful than a full-on sale to your bottom line, this can allow you to drip out items that are not going anywhere at full price.

3. Talk to your vendors. In some circumstances, vendors will be happy to exchange items that are not moving for you. This, however, will depend on the item and their ability to sell it elsewhere. Don’t expect this as a right. This needs to be done in a way that is a win/win for both parties involved.

4. Talk to your fellow retailers. As the old saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Product that may not sell in your store can be fast-selling items for other retailers.

5. Try online. Giving your product a different exposure via your web store may help it move.

6. Reposition the product. It may be good product that’s in a bad location. Have you rearranged your store displays so the product is in a more prominent place? It may be in a spot that customers don’t access easily.

7. Melt it down, make it back up and move it on.

8. Bundle it up. Often, those slow-moving items will benefit by being combined with other pieces. Maybe slow items could be put together as a special, or you could combine a slow item as a deal to go with a full-priced fast seller.

9. Use as a contest giveaway. Of course, if it’s particularly bad, it won’t encourage contest entries!

Managing dead inventory is a fact of business. You can never eliminate it completely, but regular “inventory exercise” is needed to make sure the fat in the system isn’t causing trouble to your business health.

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