Simple tips to getting paid faster

shutterstock_134352887_supersize.jpgGetting customers to pay on time is one of the biggest challenges for business owners and when the problem persists too long, it can ultimately shut down a small business.

For any business, the amount of money flowing in or out is critical to its success. When money is tight, paying basic bills can get challenging. But when cash is plentiful, a business can invest in its future by expanding, buying new equipment, hiring key staff or retaining key staff by rewarding them further.

Late payments are at an all-time high as SMEs wait too long to get paid. The average amount owed to each SME is now at its highest level. The result is that SMEs are going out of business due to late payments. This is totally unacceptable, as in most cases when a small business goes out of business a family goes out of business.

Here are a few simple tips to getting paid faster and to keeping the cash flowing in:

Invoice your client immediately

The quicker you execute, the quicker you will be paid. Also, if you delay the invoice, it indicates that you not in too much of a hurry to get paid. Business owners are often slow at getting their invoices out once they have completed their work for a customer. Remember that your client has no obligation to pay until they receive an invoice, so don’t wait.

Make payment terms crystal clear

You need to communicate the deadline on your quotes and invoices clearly as well as in all your telephone and e-mail follow-ups.

Incentivise for early payments

Sweeten the pot and speed up payments by offering customers a small discount for paying early. Make sure the financial trade-off is worth it before you extend this offer. You don’t want to offer a discount that you can’t afford.

Invoice smaller amounts than that big invoice

It is a known fact that it is a “human thing” to dislike paying over money. So, what we need to do is make it easier by splitting invoices, rather issue a few small invoices than that big one. This sometimes poses a problem, however if you can do it, it certainly works.

Make a personal connection with the “Money Team”

The key success factor in growing the top line is to build solid relationships with the decision makers. What we forget to do is build relationships with those in the business that pay the accounts. Get personal with the “Money Team” and get them to pay you first.

Itemise every detail

You need to itemise every item on the invoice and clearly state the unit cost of every item. Going backwards and forwards in correcting invoices is a big contributor to delayed payments.

Check that every invoice is accurate

To elaborate further, ensure that all the correct details are on the invoice before sending the invoice out. Few customers will rush to query an invoice that doesn’t look right – they just won’t pay it.

Especially when you’re dealing with larger corporate or government clients, invoices can easily get lost in a maze of bureaucracy. Never send an invoice out blind. Always make sure you know the specific department, individual, email and/or mailing address to send your invoice.

Follow-up – use the telephone to chase money

Many experts in the field agree that making phone calls can be up to 80% more effective than emails and letters. Prioritise your cash collection and chase the oldest and largest debts first. One of the most common reasons small business owners don’t get paid on time is that they never follow up on late payments. When payments are due, follow-up immediately, by which I mean “the next day.”  

Always check whether a purchase order is required

Many large organisations will not pay an invoice without a purchase order. They are also unlikely to call you and ask for one. Your invoice will simply sit on a desk, not be entered into the system, and not paid. This could mean the difference between prompt payment or none at all.

Professional invoices get priority

Professional looking invoices are more likely to get attention and get treated as a priority than something that looks like you printed it out on an old printer or typed on any piece of paper you could find.

Look for invoice templates that let you create custom invoices featuring your business logo. Use bold colours wisely to emphasise the key parts of the invoice, like the total amount and the due date. Keep it simple; a cluttered, overly detailed design will only confuse the recipient.

Make the payment process easy

Offer a range of payment options to your customers and put your payment methods on all proposals, invoices and statements. For example, you might accept credit cards, debit cards, cash and EFTs. Different methods will suit different customers, so offer as many options as possible.

Article by Mike Anderson (NSBC Founder & CEO)

 

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The lifestyle balancing act

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Juggling work, finances, friends, family and personal goals, while still trying to enjoy some down time can be tricky. The key to success in the fast-paced world is to declutter your life.

Running out of time has become the norm for most people. In this digital age, we’re all plugged in and connected 24/7. We expect everything to happen as quickly as we update our social media pages or microwave food. This “instant noodle” culture can cause enormous confusion, stress and fatigue.

“Our work lives are filled with busyness, distraction, procrastination, responding to messages, checking on messages, and getting lost down rabbit holes,” writes Leo Babauta on his website, Zen Habits.

“We struggle to be mindful and to focus on our meaningful work. Many of us want to create a life of meaning, focus, and mindfulness. We know this, and yet we struggle.” The result is that people tend to neglect themselves. In order to protect your emotional and physical health, it’s essential to find some time to do what’s important to you.

“It’s crucial that you prioritise and plan your time,” says life coach Penny Holburn. “You need down time to rid yourself of stress and to relax, so that when you’re with your loved ones, you can be present in the moment.”

Here are a few simple ways to declutter your life:

1. Manage your time and use it wisely
Make note of the things that take up most of your time and in which ways your time is being wasted. Consider making changes where you can. For example, if you’re spending a lot of time in traffic, ask your boss if you can work flexi-hours.

2. Take a break
If you’re one of those people who eats lunch at their desks, it’s a sign that you’re not prioritising your health. When you’re tired, your productivity and creativity levels fall and you’re more likely to make mistakes. Even if you’re busy at home, make sure your take regular breaks.

3. Have a plan
It’s not necessary to lock down every minute detail of your life, but it helps to have some kind of plan in place to make sure nothing is overlooked or forgotten. A routine that you are comfortable with will be beneficial in the long term.

4. Procrastination
Putting things off will only increase your stress levels in the long run. Get into the habit of getting things done as soon as you can.

5. Watch your finances
Debit orders can eat up a chunk of your salary, and it’s common to find that the rest is consumed by unnecessary expenditure. For your peace of mind, and to make sure you know where your money is being spent, make a list of all your monthly expenses. Use this list to create a budget and stick to it.

6. A digital detox
Set some time aside every day to switch off all devices such as phones, tablets, computers and the TV, and do something that you really enjoy, be it yoga, spending time with the kids, walking the dog, etc. Do your best to be present in these moments and avoid distractions.

7. Organise your work area and living space
A cluttered environment can lead to a cluttered mind, so clean up the desktop on your computer, organise your desk and/or office, and repack all the cupboards in your home.

8. Get help and delegate
If you have tasks that someone else can help you with – at home or at work, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Better yet, learn to delegate certain tasks so that you can focus on what’s really important to you and what you do best.

Liberty Newsletter April 2018

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Turning an idea into a viable business

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Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, a British science fiction writer and inventor, remarked that new ideas pass through three periods:

1. It can’t be done.
2. It probably can be done but it’s not worth doing.
3. I knew it was a good idea all along.Coming up with a groundbreaking idea is only a small part of the entrepreneurial journey; the real trick is to be able to determine, with some certainty, whether it can be turned into a viable business.

How does one come up with a business idea? There is no prescribed way – the process varies from looking for a solution to something that is bothering you, to an innovation in a sector that seems to be in a technology-development curve. Settling on an idea is often done by confirming and checking its merits carefully. Avoid the trap of having a solution and then looking for a corresponding problem it could solve.

While being an entrepreneur might involve inventing or reinventing the wheel, more often than not it is about improving the wheel by offering a better service or product than existing competitors. An example would be a new butchery that offers a better quality product.

Entrepreneurs are often a mix of inventor and innovator as they recognise a trend or identify a shortcoming, and then create a solution in order to meet demand or solve the problem.

Every good business begins with research. When new business ideas fail, it is often not because of the idea but due to insufficient research. A few vital aspects to consider when researching include customer insights, product or service supply and demand, competitors, financial viability and the availability of funding.

One of the best tools is a Swot analysis used to define a business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Some vital elements to consider:

Passion: If you are not passionate about your business, you will be tempted to give up sooner.

Central idea: Your idea seems perfect to you, but how unique is it? Any good business needs a unique selling point (USP). Research whether the idea has been done before, what the USPs are for the competitors, whether there is a legitimate need for another provider and whether the idea has long-term sustainability.

Defining the market: Analyse your target market in order to establish what your customers want and how they communicate. It is important to research and analyse your competition, including their strengths and weaknesses. This will give you an indication of where to position yourself in the market.

Calculate the figures: Calculate your running costs, cost of sales, pricing structures, profit margins (both gross and net) and cash flow forecasts. Conduct two different forecasts – one for the worst-case scenario and one for the best. Then start researching potential sources of finance.

Persevere: Entrepreneurs should not be disheartened by the need to constantly rethink, retool or redefine their offering. Refocusing should be taken as a predictor of future success.

It is crucial to remember that entrepreneurship is a constant work-in-progress, and success takes research, planning and hard work. Those willing to go the distance will have the opportunity to hear many of their detractors acknowledge that they knew theirs was a good idea all along.

BUSINESS REPORT BEN BIERMAN
Ben Bierman is the managing director of Business Partners Limited

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Bookkeeping basics for small businesses

Bookkeeping

Keeping track of the finances in your small business is the key to its success, but where do you begin? Here are eight steps to setting your bookkeeping up for your business.

STEP 1: Collect all your paperwork

Before you start your bookkeeping process you need to have all your paperwork together. Then you will need to divide the paperwork into the following categories:

  • Accounts payable is the money you owe to other people for business expenses.
  • Accounts receivable is money that is owed to you by your customers.
  • Petty Cash is the cash you have on hand to pay small day-to-day expenses

STEP 2: Create an accounts payable folder

In this folder you will put the following information:

  • bills
  • receipts
  • bank statements
  • credit card statements
  • proof of payments

STEP 3: Create an accounts receivable folder

In this folder you will put the following information:

  • Invoices
  • Proof of payment (credit card slips, internet bank transfers, cash receipts)

STEP 4: Setup an Excel document

There are different ways to keep records but we will look at how to create an Excel document for your business.

In this document you will setup two sheets:

  • Accounts payable
  • Accounts receivable

On the accounts payable sheet, you will need to label the following columns:

  • Date you received the invoice
  • Supplier’s name
  • Account number
  • Type of expense (e.g., office supplies, professional services, etc.)
  • Amount you owe

On the accounts receivable sheet, you will need the following columns:

  • Customer’s name
  • Invoice date
  • Invoice number
  • Amount owed
  • Due date
  • Amount past due
  • Date payment was received

You can get an example of the Excel document here.

STEP 5: Capture the information

Now you need to fill in the information for each sheet. Depending on how many sales and supplier invoices you receive per month will determine how often you need to do your bookkeeping. It is advised to do your bookkeeping once a week if you have a few invoices. The key to keeping accurate records is to be consistent and habitual. Ensure that you schedule time in your week or day to do your bookkeeping.

STEP 6: Create an invoice template

There are many examples of invoices for Excel but you must ensure the following information is on your invoice to get quick and accurate payments:

  • Your business name
  • Your business contact information
  • Your business logo (if applicable)
  • Clear payment terms, such as “payment is due in 30 days of invoice date”
  • Details about the product or service you delivered
  • Hours worked or the amount of products sold
  • Banking details with the name of the recipient if it is different to the business name.
  • Business Tax number (if applicable)
  • Invoice number

STEP 7: Review your accounts

By reviewing your accounts payable weekly, you will be able to see which supplier invoices are outstanding and be able to pay them timeously. To build good rapport with your suppliers it is important to pay them a few days before the due date of the invoice.

When you review your accounts receivable, you will be able to note which clients have not paid you yet and follow up on outstanding payments. It is important to send them a kindly-worded letter that their account is outstanding.

STEP 8: Reconcile your bank statements

Check your bank account against your monthly recordings of expenses and income. This is important to do to make sure no fraud has been committed on your accounts. You will also be able to check if you or the bank has made mistakes on your accounts.

By following these eight steps you will be well on your way to understanding the basics of bookkeeping.

Proudly brought to the NSBC.

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5 New Year’s Resolutions for Business Owners in 2018

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For many, the new year is the perfect time to take stock and set goals for the next 12 months. To eat better, exercise more, or finally take that calligraphy class you’ve been talking about forever. For business owners, making new year’s resolutions can significantly impact their success. Here are 5 new year’s new year’s resolutions for business owners in 2018.

1. Communicate Better

This is a focus on quality over quantity. Sure, you can blast out 10 Facebook posts a day and retweet all night long but could you connect with your current and potential future clients even better by doing less? Focus on posting interesting, timely information instead that encourages your audience to interact with you. Respond to comments on your posts and leave some on other’s pages. Take the time to make a few real connections every day instead of trying to reach everyone at once.

2. Prioritize Balance

The workday for a small business owner doesn’t always end at 5 pm on a Friday and pick up at 9 am on Monday. In order to continue being the successful professional you are and to avoid burnout, be sure one of your new year’s resolutions is to take the time you need to recharge. Exercise, spend time with people you care about and get some sleep at night. Carve out time for yourself and you’ll find your mind is more refreshed and your body is more energized.

3. Help Out

Think back to when you were first starting out your career. You were probably excited and hopeful while simultaneously feeling nervous and unsure. Did you have support, or could you have used more? Reach out to someone in your industry just starting out and who could use mentoring or a sounding board for advice. Your generosity will not go unnoticed, and you will be seen as both an expert in your field and as a person people want to work with.

4. Be Proactive

As you think about your new year’s resolutions for 2018, start thinking about 2019, 2020, and beyond. This task can seem daunting, so start by making a list or marking up a calendar. Write out what you’d like to see your business become or what goals you’d like to achieve (both personal and professional) and what steps you can take to make those dreams a reality. Use this plan as a motivator to stay on track with goals throughout 2018.

5. Delegate

You’re a smart, accomplished professional with your own business. You’re used to doing everything yourself, but should you? Delegating can be difficult, especially for those who are used to wearing every hat needed to run a business, but delegation can open you up to focusing on what you love and what you do best. Take a step back at your business and look at the big picture: What do you dread doing? What do you think you could do better? What overwhelms you? The answer to these questions may lead you to work that you can and should delegate to someone else.

From Outbound Engine

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The good, the bad and the ugly of late payments

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Are late payments crippling your business? Why do customers think it is ok to pay late? What can you do to encourage people to pay on time?

Firstly, let’s look at the ugly of late payments, what could possibly be the reason people pay late? There are multiple reasons why people are struggling to pay you.

According to a study by Xero, late payments can be attributed to the following reasons:

Customers are waiting to be paid

This could be a perpetual circle where you are waiting for payment because your customer is waiting for payment and the person paying your customer may also be waiting to be paid. 24% of late payments are caused because of this reason.

Customers are disorganized

23% of customers acknowledged that their accounting system is disorganized and they were unsure about who they owe money to and when they need to pay them.

Customers have their own payment terms

This is probably the worst. The customers have not acknowledged your payment terms and have put their own payment terms in place for when they have decided they can pay you.

All these reasons are not good. And what effect will late payments have on a small business? In South Africa where small business is a major contributor to the economy, late payments are highly detrimental. They can cause small business to collapse and they will also prevent business from entering certain markets.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel, there are things you can do and companies who are fighting for small businesses. Here are five ways to curb late payments from customers:

Do a detailed credit check of your customer

Before going into business with someone, you may benefit from doing a credit check on the business and look at their financial history. Depending on the value of the potential client you could invest in a business check. 

Be clear about payment terms

Make sure you let your customer know clearly about what the payment terms are before you start to do business with them. You could even let them sign a contract which states your payment terms plainly.

Make accurate and timeous invoices

This is the most critical part to ensure getting paid on time. It is important that all the information on the document is correct. Confirm that you have the correct contact number and email address of the person responsible for paying the invoice. Make sure you send the invoice out directly after the job is done. Do not delay sending out the invoice as this may cause problems when it comes to payment.

Give different payment options

You may benefit by offering your client a few ways to pay. You may ask them to pay by EFT or credit card.

Have credit or savings

If your customer does struggle to pay you, make sure you have a plan B. This could be credit at your bank or you may have some savings stored up for a rainy day.

By following these steps, you could be well on your way to growing your business.

Proudly brought to you by the NSBC.

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Be your own boss today! Starting a business on limited resources

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Do you want to work your own hours? Do you have a great business idea? Then it might be time to become your own boss. Being your own boss has benefits and drawbacks. Some key benefits of being your own boss are that you are able to be in control of your business and make decisions on how your business is run. You are in control of your own working style and environment. You can set your own work hours. You are able to decide where you want to work from.

The drawbacks of being your own boss are that your clients and your suppliers become your boss. They are the people who will help you to run your business, but will also ultimately decide how successful your business is. Without customers, your business will struggle. Without good suppliers, your business will struggle. So it is important to focus on these two aspects when you start out on your own.

The next aspect to consider is what resources are available to you. If these are limited, do not let this deter you from reaching for your dreams. By considering the following key criteria, you can create a successful business.

1. Keep a strict account receivables policy

It is important that you stick to a strict accounts receivable policy so that your cash flow does not dry up. By having a 30 or 60-day payment policy, you may attract many clients but you may struggle to maintain your cash flow. Therefore, it is important to set your payment policy according to what will ensure a healthy cash flow and try not to deviate from it. Let your product or service sell your business, not your payment policy.

2. Keep to the core of your business

When you start out it is important to stay true to the core of your business. You need to develop a strong core before you can think of branching out. By sticking to the core of your business you can ensure you make a product or offer a service which is supreme and will be in demand from your clients. Many corporations break away from their core, just to find out in a few years time that they are selling those parts of their business to return to the core in order to become successful again. Stick to what you do best, and do it with great vigor.

3. Spread the word about your business

Do not be shy when it comes to promoting your business. Tell everyone you know and see about the business you run. Be ready with a short elevator pitch which highlights the unique selling point of your business and why people might be interested in it. By spreading the word about your business, you can create leads and get some useful feedback from people you meet. Go out there and promote your business to everyone you meet.

4. Keep your office and staff lean

Though it would be great to have the latest and greatest equipment when you start your business, it is important to only spend money on the crucial pieces of equipment which you need to run your business. Next, only hire the human capital you need to run your business. If you can run the business with just yourself in the beginning, then do it. If you need staff, make sure you only hire the required amount so that you do not have staff standing around your business doing nothing.

By following the above criteria, you will be well on your way to being your own boss on limited funds. So grab the opportunity by the horns and live out your business dreams today.

Proudly brought to you by NSBC.

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