Like a hazy yet visible photograph aged by time, the image of my grandfather is somewhat amorphous in my mind’s eye but still discernible. My memory of him lingers as testament to his intelligence, logic and wisdom – often reflected by the old-as-time truisms he seemed to favor.
One such hackneyed expression has particular business relevance: “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Embracing this concept not only contributes to the success of the fledgling owner of a lemonade stand but to the prosperity of those who launch all types of enterprises. Indeed, sustained, consistent and ongoing focus on operational costs (with an emphasis on savings) will pave the way towards your business’ increased efficiency, effectiveness and, of course, revenues.
Expense Management Tips
One need not possess a Masters from the Wharton School of Business to exercise a high degree of proficiency in expense management. The same lessons that were inculcated to us as children may be applied here:
1. Compare and shop
Patronize those companies who offer the lowest rates for insurance premiums, telephone usage, office supplies, etc. as long as the products/services provided are comparable to their competitors;
2. Conserve electricity
Turn off the lights, computer, copy machine, et. al. when the day’s (and/or night’s) work is finished;
3. Reduce needless waste
Yes, permission is granted for using both sides of the paper and resorting to white out to correct a minor flaw rather than discarding the item;
4. Leave well enough alone
Analogous to the saying, “If it’s not broke – don’t fix it.” Your tried, true and dependable computer, for example, may not need to be replaced by the next and best model; and
5. Stand on your own two feet
By all means, collect a! s much information about systemizing and marketing your business from a variety of sources (newsletters, journals, books and information gleaned on the internet). However, if possible, avoid large consulting fees especially when just launching your venture. The successful running of your business may still largely depend on your own capable hands, incisive mind and intuitive heart.
The aforementioned suggestions on streamlining spending represents a mere ripple in the vast compendium of business cost-savings tips. (The reader may access a host of such strategies from countless materials.) Rather than focusing attention on rather common expenditure-reduction ideas, it seems imperative to now highlight an often over-looked principle: the way a company collects money may be an integral factor in how much money that company collects. By devising an advantageous accounts-receivable system, a business paves the way for favorable cash flow.
One cannot underestimate how crucial cash flow is to a business’ vitality. Indeed, one of the primary reasons any given enterprise fails may be attributed to cash flow problems where that firm’s expenses outpace revenues. Future returns cannot offset present day expenditures. Thus, by maximizing revenues (without having to increase the price of product and/or service) by instituting a method where a company collects payments in a more timely, efficient manner, cash flow becomes more favorable and concomitant business success appears more likely.
The operative question arises: “How can business owners collect money due (to them) in quicker, cheaper and more effective ways?” Several companies address this question by offering outstanding payment processing services. These services may be implemented immediately and serve as a means of keeping owners’ prices competitive while preserving profits – a rare combination for today’s business establishments.
Manage Accounts Receivables
The following provides a glimpse of several exciting accounts receivable services:
Business owners who desire to streamline their billing process, settle funds in a timely manner and avoid many collection problems may now opt to utilize an automated payment system. Here, clients give proper authorization (i.e., provide their checking account information) to originate a recurring or non-recurring payment. Typically, in two banking days or less, funds are transferred from the customer’s account to the owner’s account. This may be accomplished via electronic software or paper drafts. Items may even be re-submitted if any check or pre-authorized payment is returned for non-sufficient funds!
Many customers are advocates of this service. They are absolved of the responsibility of directly submitting a periodic payment (assuming they remember). Moreover, they may decide to purchase that high-priced ticket item or expensive service as they can now pay a portion each month.
Electronic check conversion:
A paper check is scanned, and voila, it becomes an electronic item at the point of sale. Within 48 hours, the funds should appear in the owner’s business account–a magic-like phenomenon as trips to the bank are no longer necessary. Conversion machines may come equipped with verification (to ensure that a potential customer is not listed on a negative database of individuals who have previously bounced checks) and technology to electronically collect that “falls through the loop” NSF check). These features should help owners to feel more comfortable accepting checks. (According to the “Green Sheet,” businesses can increase their profit potential 30% by allowing check payments.)
Electronic check recovery:
When a customer bounces a check, the owner’s bank sends the return check directly to a processing center. The check is entered into a database and re-submitted electronically via the Automated Clearing House (ACH) network two additional times, if necessary, in pursuit of the owed funds. In the scenario where the funds are still NSF, a paper collections division may be utilized where the owner still receives 100% of the face value of the check.
Owners can now increase the probability of receiving their entitled money. In addition, they can concentrate on their core business instead of chasing down bad checks. There are companies that offer this service free of charge!
Checks by Phone:
Though it has not been considered state-of-the art technology since the days of Alexander Graham Bell, a sizable segment of the business population has grasped the concept that the telephone may serve as a “technically advanced” tool – a vehicle which not only functions as a profit generator but a profit retainer.
Indeed, the telephone is a perfect instrument for securing payments. Upon the customer’s authorization, funds are electronically (or manually via paper drafts) deposited into the owner’s account within 48 hours. This is an ideal service for any collections and/or donation-raising endeavor. Furthermore, a checks by phone system provides a cost-effective manner of receiving payment as credit card processing costs are avoided. In addition, it increases an owner’s potential pool of clients. People with active checking accounts greatly outnumber those who possess major credit cards. Ordering via phone is ideal for those who do not have credit card capabilities.
On the other side of the equation, checks by phone offers convenience and expediency for prospective clients who no longer have to forward a paper check order.
Online Electronic Checks:
Here, a business owner may easily accept and process electronic check payments directly on his/her website. It takes less than two days for the funds to be transferred to the business account (a much shorter duration than a paper check). Again, credit card expenditures are avoided as the potential number of clients increase. In addition, “impulse” purchases are more likely to occur. Indeed, it is easier for prospective customers to quickly fill out the information online rather than mailing a check.
Ultimately, a business owner must still include this option as this may be the preferred method of payment by customers. Credit card payments may be secured via the phone, internet and/or face-to-face. A caveat emptor warning must be issued as many credit card providers overcharge for equipment and quote unreasonable discount and transaction rates. In addition, subtle fees may come into play that cause “cash flow paralysis.” An owner must perform due diligence when contracting with credit card providers, taking price and quality of customer service into account.
As the reader may now easily discern, substantial profits may be obtained by knowing how to cut expenses and optimize efficiency. It seems paradoxical that by concentrating on the end result of a transaction process (i.e., the way of collecting money), one strengthens the entire business process itself (i.e., the way to cultivate business/money). A vibrant and healthy accounts receivable system saves more than money; indeed, it just may save the enterprise!
Recommended Books on Expense Management:
- Never Run Out of Cash
- Small Business Cash Flow: Strategies for Making Your Business a Financial Success
- Found Money: Simple Strategies for Uncovering the Hidden Profit and Cash Flow in Your Business
- Positive Cash Flow: Powerful Tools and Techniques to Collect Your Receivables, Manage Your Payables, and Fuel Your Growth
About the Author:
- How to Manage Home Business Cash Flow Effectively
- Pros and Cons of Financing a Business
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- How to Use Business Credit Cards to Build Business Credit