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6 strategies for a successful small business

Monday, January 09, 2012 Margaret Holmes

There are a few principles small business owners need to understand if they want their business to last:

1.  It is not what you make it is what you keep (cash is king).

80% of businesses fail in the first 5 years - most of these are profitable, they just run out of cash.  No matter how good your sales are it is the profit that counts most - and more importantly the the cash you retain.

A sale is not a sale until the cash is in your hands - whether you sell furniture, property or time it is not a sale until you get paid.

And the cash that is left after you have paid manufacturing costs, overheads and taxes is yours to live on or re-invest in your business.

2. Borrow only to buy assets.

As our grandparents and parents who lived through the 1930's depression will tell you, never spend money you don't have.

An asset is something that either generates income over a period of time or goes up in value.  A car is an asset if the person driving it is earning you an income or saving you money. Stock is an assets if you turn it over regularly otherwise it is  a liability

A holiday is not an asset, neither is furniture or shoes or a computer,.

3. Reduce debt as quickly possible.

They only personal who benefits from long term borrowing is the lender.  To understand this calculate the total payments over the life of your loan and deduct the principal.  Banks want you to extend your loan, and add to it if possible.

4. Always understand your financial position.

Seeing your accountant once a year to see how much tax to pay is not enough financial information to run a  successful  business.  A good business owner knows what their monthly operating costs are and checks each month to ensure they are not exceeded.  They also know what sales they have to do to meet their costs and monitor this throughout the month.  

Poor debt collection and stock management is the downfall of many businesses. If your cash is tied up in stock and debtors careful management is required.

5.  Know what you are good at (and what you are not)

Nobody is good at everything - well not many of us - and limited time generally means you cannot do them all.

Focus on the few things that you do best for the business and employ or contract out the rest. Never abrogate responsibility - you may not be good at finance but you still need know that the job is being done right and what the results are to use that information for decision making. (Your accountant should be able to tell you the key numbers to watch in your business)

6.  Put something away for a rainy day..

There are two types of business - those you can sell and those you can't.

A business that sells well doesn't need the owner working in it every day and generally has physical assets and/or stock or a process to sell. Everything else is just a job by another name.

If your business falls into the former category to maximise your sell price your emphasis needs to be on having a well run systemised business in a good market.

If you really just have a job by another name - for example you are a self employed contractor, your only asset is really your customer base and this is likely to have a limited value to anyone else.  Your earnings are generally restricted to e number of hours you are available to work.  The secret with this type of business is to maximize your earnings and invest those in assets that generate passive income such as dividends, interest and rent.
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