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Five proactive steps a business can take to beat the credit squeeze including business finance, planning and taking a positive approach to meeting and solving the problems that might arise. The credit squeeze is a fact of business life and is not just about money but confidence in the market too. There are always winners and losers in every business situation and confidence and business finance can beat the credit crunch. 1. Ensure the bookkeeping and financial accounts of the business are up to date. Keeping the accounting records up to date is an essential first step to ensuring the business owner knows exactly where the business stands. Reviewing recent financial performance and taking positive action to increase sales and margins where possible and control costs by eliminating waste protects the business from surprises and downturns. By having available the recent costs, views and action can be taken to reduce those costs and in some circumstances to increase business costs where the profit potential is highest. For example a detailed examination of advertising and promotion costs may indicate some campaigns should be reduced while the money saved invested in better performing areas. Not all sales produce the same profit for the business. By concentrating efforts on the highest profit margin products and services the effect on working capital can be reduced which can take the pressure off working capital funding. 2. Preparing a realistic business plan can help the business plan ahead. Many small businesses prepare a business plan when starting up especially if government grants or business finance is to be applied for. Failing to prepare an updated business plan during a credit squeeze can be a plan to fail. During a credit squeeze a business can find itself operating in an unstable market where the rules and actions of the past might not be evident in the future. Banks increase the cost of borrowing, customers save money by leaving the market and sometimes failing to pay or at least taking longer. Suppliers tighten their grip by increasing prices and demanding tighter payment periods. Business takes steps to protect income, cash flow, liquidity and in extreme cases survival. That is why failing to meet these new challenges is a plan to fail. Prepare a business plan on the basis of the recent history and extend the financial results forward following the recent trends. Input into the financial forecast the opportunities that can be exploited to increase business and take a realistic view of the potential negative factors that may be suffered. The business plan should include both a written view of the next twelve months ahead and include a profit and loss account reflecting the optimistic view and the most negative view with contingency plans should the worse scenario become a fact. A cash flow statement calculated from the business plan to show the effects on liquidity is a vital tool. 3. Improve financial flexibility to increase the business finance options. Arrange the business finances with more than one bank and increase the number of financing options. A single bank may not offer the size of overdraft or loan facilities or the competitive rates the business requires. View the financial market as a competition between suppliers for your business finance and utilise several to spread the finance between them. By maximising financial flexibility options for bank accounts, loans and overdrafts and financing asset purchases the effect on business progress can be minimised. Consider leasing agreements, invoice factoring and other specialist financial institutions in addition to the main bank account provider. Cash flow and working capital requirements are crucial. 4. Go out and get more sales. When sales go down it is easy to become depressed. Fight it and remember how the business obtained new sales channels and customers in the past and exploit the opportunities in the future. Focus on the unique selling points of the business and its products and revitalise campaigns to increase sales. Consider sales and product diversification into both related and other areas. There are always new opportunities including new products and markets, selling existing products to a wider audience including increased geographical presence. It may help to list all sales activities in sales channels and look for more sales channels in which they company can operate. 5. Ask for professional advice and assistance. Increase the level of communication with each professional advisor including accountants, financial advisors, solicitors, bank managers and business advisors and any managers of financial institutions. The more the merrier and by keeping in touch more opportunities and more favourable responses will be possible. There is no such thing as a silly question when the future of the business and its employees are at risk. Discussing options with a variety of professional advisors increases those options and if increased business finance is required for growth or survival in the future, the higher level of personal dialogue will ease that route forward.
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