Thinking ahead for success
QUARTER 1 2017
How global politics can affect local business Improving your company culture Challenges for the modern digital business Inside the engine room, after the holidayâ€™s... Startup business
Consolidation: What to do when business is good
Give your business the boost it deserves
Innovative short-term finance facilities designed to help businesses and start-ups get ahead. Speak with our business finance specialists about a unique way to get more cash into your bank account, without disrupting present banking arrangements. Set up a standby facility now, and only incur fees when you use it. It’s as simple as 1-2-3. 1 Tell us what you need. We will visit you, and you tell us about your business and what you need: your industry, your turnover, your customers and your finance need. 2 We’ll present a non-obligation offer. If we can help, we’ll tell you how along with all applicable terms and charges. If we can not help, we’ll do our best to refer you to someone who can. 3 Set-up, grant access, and use. We’ll establish an on-demand standby finance facility for you to call on when you need it. If your circumstances change, we’ll change the facility to suit.
Our national Business Finance Specialists are available at all times, and are waiting for your call. Contact Fifo Capital today 1300 852 556 fifocapital.com.au
Fifo Capital is a leading provider of business finance solutions, specialising in solving short term finance needs fast with purpose-fit solutions and one-on-one expert consultancy. With over ten years supporting clients across all industries, our specialists work with the unique complexities of business clients, to identify finance solutions that are appropriate for both short term needs and long term sustainability. Working alongside clientsâ€™ financial professional advisers and in harmony with their existing banking facilities, our finance solutions are very often bespoke to each client and designed to fit their specific need at that point in time. Since launching in 2004, Fifo Capital has established more than 70 offices across New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom and provided business owners $1 billion growth capital finance.
Welcome Welcome to the first issue of Headway for 2017. I hope you enjoyed a well-deserved holiday break and that, with a renewed sense of clarity and confidence, you are ready to take on new challenges this year.
Confidence is a great trait to have, especially in business, because people gravitate towards leaders. People are attracted to others who resonate with their values and can fulfil their needs. Your perfect audience is waiting to receive your value, so with clarity about your offering, and consistently presenting your authentic self, you’ll make it easier for your colleagues and customers to connect with you. Fifo Capital’s customer engagement grew substantially in 2016. It was a productive and successful year for us, and our 2017 forecast looks even better. Whilst we may be spurred on by our achievements, like all successful companies, we constantly evaluate our business and customers’ requirements to ensure we remain agile and are prepared to quickly implement change where required. As success breeds success, we’re focused on continuing to be relevant and offering our clients more solutions and options to meet their ever-growing needs. Everything we do that is proven locally feeds through our network and will, I’m pleased to say, add great support to our newly established United Kingdom and Ireland operations.
If you’re regularly stuck working in your business instead of on it, the New Year is a good time for reflection, review and planning. We’ve got great articles on these topics in this issue of Headway and on our blog, to help steer you in the right direction. Each year I remind myself of three words that make up my business mantra: Focus, Determination and Perseverance. These words help drive our business decisions to ensure we produce successful results for Fifo Capital and our customers. Mutually beneficial relationships are the key to success and growth. As always, let us know if we can help you with your plans for growth, to make 2017 your best year yet. Best regards, and enjoy this quarter’s Headway. Nigel Thomson Fifo Capital Founder and CEO
03 07 09
How global politics can affect local business
Improving your company culture
Organising your marketing campaign
Challenges for the modern digital business
Inside the engine room, after the holiday’s... 11 5 tips to build motivation 14 Productivity hacks _
Questions to ask before franchising your business
Startup business 19 5 things start-ups shouldn’t waste their money on 21 Preventative care for your Business’ cashflow crises _
Consolidation: What to do when business is good
Published by Fifo Capital International Ltd. Headway magazine is published four times a year. Copyright © 2016 by Fifo Capital International Ltd. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.fifocapital.com. All rights reserved.
How global politics can affect local business Re-emerging populism in the US and Europe is having a transformative effect on the West’s relationship with the rest of world small business. As a part of this shift, the global trade environment is showing signs of rapid change as well. Businesses need to track and adapt to these changes as they occur if they want to remain competitive in the global marketplace. Small businesses that operate internationally are especially vulnerable, because they’re global trade less likely to be able to afford the time, labour, and money needed to comply with new regulations or to overcome new trade barriers. Fortunately, it doesn’t all have to be bad news, since investors are unlikely to leave their assets lying dormant during turbulent times at home. Let’s examine a few of the ways that the changing political climate in Europe and America could affect businesses in the coming months and years.
Anti-Globalist trade policies Globalism is becoming a dirty word for right wing parties who explicitly championed globalisation just months ago. As “alt-right” movements gain power, more moderate politicians in their respective countries are increasingly bending to accommodate them. Newly ascended anti-globalist politicians as well as converted former moderates are promising to introduce new barriers to trade, including policies to discourage offshore production and foreign imports. This is done with the intention of bringing production jobs home, but it could have a devastating effect globally as both importer and exporter countries scramble to
adjust. Major manufacturing and export-based economies like China and Japan stand to lose an enormous portion of their markets, and it’s unclear if the US and EU would be able to develop the infrastructure they need to meet their own domestic demand. Though some countries like Australia and New Zealand comfortably avoided the global financial crisis, an economic downturn like this would be a serious blow considering that China, Japan, the EU, and the US make up most of both countries’ most important trading partners.
Fracturing trade agreements The Trans-Pacific Partnership is considered dead in the water, and TTIP is now also expected to fail. These two major agreements mark the stalling of what, up until now, was an unstoppable trend toward global market integration. Fortunately, these developments aren’t very likely to cause new problems for businesses, since these agreements were never put into effect in the first place. Unfortunately, existing agreements are also showing cracks. Donald Trump has pledged to scrap NAFTA, and a leaked memo suggests he intends to go through with it despite some verbal hedging in interviews since the US election. On the European side, Brexit is continuing to cause immense confusion as politicians bicker about what Britain’s new trade relationship with the EU should be. As this goes on, other eurosceptic movements in France, Austria, and the Netherlands are gaining ground. In all cases, raising barriers that separate previously interdependent
economies is likely to result in a massive recession and a spike in unemployment. These developments could have much more serious consequences for business owners at all corners of the world, and not just because they interfere with those countriesâ€™ ability to trade efficiently. Beyond their direct consequences, these crumbling trade structures are wreaking havoc on investor confidence.
Increasing market uncertainty This type of slowdown in trade could seriously affect sharemarkets
as investors become increasingly risk averse in the newly uncertain economic environment. Even before the Brexit vote, European investors began pulling out of the European market due to the overall lack of growth in the last decade. Moreover, governments might be forced to use quantitative easing to control interest rates in the event of a significant recession. Even managed inflation can harm investors, who will increasingly seek to protect their wealth by buying hard assets, or investing in economies with more stable currencies. Even though this would slow down global investment in general, those economies that are
likely to maintain better control of both their economies and their currencies stand to benefit from this.
Investors on the hunt Every crisis is also an opportunity, and the loss of investor confidence on one continent can mean more available capital elsewhere. Even as businesses will have to work around turbulent changes with some of their biggest trading partners, they may find themselves buoyed by foreign investment. This will make it somewhat easier to explore new markets, find new suppliers, and diversify your investments as needed. Business owners both big and small can look for ways to use this time of change to facilitate growth and become more resilient in the face of adversity. While the most significant changes in US and European trade policies are currently still just theoretical, business owners need to keep a watchful eye out, both to protect their businesses, and to seize opportunities when they come. Businesses that rely on economies that are likely to be directly affected may want to consider pre-emptive steps to help mitigate their risks. These might include diversifying your operations to a broader market, or setting up financial fall-backs to help tackle any cash flow interruptions.
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Improving your company culture
Building a great company culture is an incredibly difficult but vital part of any highly successful business. They’re so tricky because they require healthy interaction between workers and management, as well as between workers. Businesses don’t have direct control over how work relationships are built between individuals, so they have to set an example through policy to create a work environment that encourages a healthy and productive culture.
Don’t punish your most productive workers
Build many paths to success in your company
The top priority for any manager is to get things done. As a result, top performers can often end up being treated unfairly. The reward for a job well done is more work, and a lot of highly productive workers find themselves picking up the slack of their less effective co-workers. In many instances, managers will actively dump extra projects on their desks, knowing that they’ll be willing to stay late or come in on weekends to get the job done.
Traditionally, highly competent workers are rewarded with pay increases and promotions. Those are great tools, but they need to be applied in a way that makes sense. Many businesses, especially SMEs, only have one track for advancement, and that’s management. This is inherently problematic, because management is its own separate skill that has to be learned. A great engineer, writer, or sales executive isn’t inherently going to make a great manager, or even a moderately competent one.
While this is a natural strategy, it breeds resentment and encourages workers to do less than their best. This is especially true if high and low performers are about equally well recognised and compensated by the company. Good managers must balance these issues by working to improve the effectiveness of less productive workers, and by recognising and compensating the successes of star employees in a meaningful way.
To deal with this, businesses need a better reward and advancement structure. For example, you won’t benefit from your best engineer by putting them in a management position; you’ll only lose your best engineer and get an untrained manager. Instead, your best engineer should be tackling your most complex engineering problems and receive the title, recognition, and ... continued overpage
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compensation that they deserve while continuing to work under an appropriately credentialed and competent manager.
Allow employees to help shape policy As a company grows, it’s natural for it to take on a life of its own that exceeds the grip of just a business owner. Your business’ goals, strategy, and operation are mostly top-down affairs, but how the various organs of the business function and work with each other internally isn’t nearly as clear-cut. It can be immensely beneficial to collect employee feedback and implement their suggestions on things like working conditions, procedures, operating software, tool preferences, and more. These often relatively low-cost adjustments can significantly improve morale, because it gives workers some control over how they do their job. Since workers interact with these things all day, every day, even minor issues can develop into serious long-term annoyances. The trope of the rage-inducing
permanently malfunctioning printer from every office movie ever is an apt symbol of how much of an impact even relatively small issues can cause.
Don’t buy into gimmicks Trendy start-up giants like Uber and Buzzfeed are famous for their gimmicky employee perks, like games, slides instead of stairs, yoga break rooms, free snacks, and more. These benefits look fun and make for great marketing material, but they only work for these businesses because their underlying benefit systems are already robust. Smaller businesses seeking to emulate these ideas without providing much more expensive and significant traditional benefits won’t get far in improving morale. Having an arcade at work can be a fun perk, but it won’t mean anything to an employee that has to deal with inferior health insurance, low pay, expensive parking, day-care bills, and other serious issues that more traditional benefits packages often help employees with.
Allow employees to use your business A few of your employees might just be there to do their job, collect their paycheque, and go home. Most people, however, will be looking to grow and to develop their careers for the future. Some employers feel threatened by this, and actively try to discourage workers from growing and diversifying their skillsets too quickly to keep them there longer. This is likely to backfire. It’s better to encourage employees and even to provide support and assistance in networking them to ensure their future success. Though many will eventually move on, they’ll have a better attitude at work, and leave with a strongly positive opinion of your business. Former employees may well become valuable contacts with other related businesses, and will advocate for you with their future employers as well as other professionals who could be valuable to your operation.
Give your business the boost it deserves Innovative short-term finance facilities designed to help businesses and start-ups get ahead. Speak with our business finance specialists about a unique way to get more cash into your bank account, without disrupting present banking arrangements. Set up a standby facility now, and only incur fees when you use it. It’s as simple as 1-2-3.
Tell us what you need.
We’ll present a nonobligation offer.
Set-up, grant access, and use.
If we can help, we’ll tell you how along with all applicable terms and charges. If we can not help, we’ll do our best to refer you to someone who can.
We’ll establish an ondemand standby finance facility for you to call on when you need it. If your circumstances change, we’ll change the facility to suit.
We will visit you, and you tell us about your business and what you need: your industry, your turnover, your customers and your finance need.
Our national Business Finance Specialists are available at all times, and are waiting for your call. Contact Fifo Capital today. 1300 852 556 fifocapital.com.au
Organising your marketing campaign Many business owners view marketing as an opaque, more mysterious version of sales. They assume that you can hire a good marketer, put them to work, and wait for the leads to start rolling in. Unfortunately, itâ€™s not that simple, because marketing and lead generation is, in many ways, about developing good rapport between your business and your market as a whole, rather than persuading individual leads. Building a marketing strategy that does this well takes time, research, and experimentation.
Getting your marketing campaign organised properly from the start ensures that youâ€™ll be able to execute it properly as planned.
Organising an effective marketing campaign is tricky, and “effective” can’t always be defined simply as generating leads. Before you launch a marketing campaign for your business, it’s important to understand the different ways you can benefit from that campaign, and what to do to get the most out of your efforts and your investment.
Design a Strategy and Stick to It Marketing strategies can be as simple or as complex as you can imagine. Some small businesses get by with nothing but clever social media marketing, while others operate complex self-reinforcing strategies that integrate online tools like email marketing, social media, SEO, webinars, and PPC ads with traditional offline efforts like paper ads, industry conferences, and public events. Different businesses operate in vastly different environments, and every individual business needs to determine exactly what works for them. What doesn’t work, and what businesses often tend to do, is to try to determine that by adopting a constantly changing amorphous non-strategy. This is a big mistake. Marketing rarely translates directly to immediate increases in revenue, and changing your strategy on a weekly or monthly basis can make it very difficult to definitively determine what actually had an effect and what didn’t. Instead, it’s a good idea to work with a professional to design a campaign that targets specific metrics such as web traffic, call-backs, clicks, and conversions in a controlled manner. That way you can generate a relatively readable data set that you can analyse later to find patterns that relate to your marketing efforts.
Don’t rely on partial financing
Track results over time to gain insights
Whether you’re paying a marketing firm, internal marketing staff, or a contractor, it’s important to budget funds for the entire campaign from the start. It’s a common mistake for business owners to take out only a small loan or to invest a small amount of available capital into launching their marketing efforts, without planning for the future. They simply assume that the campaign will quickly raise revenues enough to become self-sustaining. While that’s technically possible, it’s very unlikely, and can cause serious cash flow issues that can interfere with an otherwise well-designed campaign’s long-term success.
Developing a productive longterm marketing strategy takes time, and often means analysing prior campaigns and making improvements. A few questions to ask might be:
Success in terms of lead generation is difficult to guarantee in any campaign, because so many different factors play a role in determining what will work for any given business. It’s often not going to be clear what social media platforms, which keywords, what kind of content, and what kinds of ads are going to be effective until you engage in some empirical research. In many ways, a regular marketing campaign doubles as market research, and needs to be funded on the assumption that it’ll take time to develop an effective customised approach. Before launching your campaign, talk with your financial representative about what your options are and determine the best way to move forward, whether that’s with a business loan to cover the entire project, or a financial contingency plan in the form of a business line of credit or a standby finance facility.
− What kind of content gets the most shares on social media? − Which social media platforms are referring the most traffic? − When did web traffic spike significantly, and was it related to any marketing efforts? − Are any keyword rankings improving? − Are those improved rankings resulting in increased traffic? − What kinds of emails are most effective, and which result in people requesting to be removed from your email list? Answering these and other related questions can help you isolate which specific efforts are most effective, and which aren’t worth continuing. Additionally, it can help you gain insights about your target market that can make it easier to develop new approaches that are more likely to be successful. After going through this process a few times, you’ll be able to generate the kind of return on investment that you need to grow your business in the long term. Getting your marketing campaign organised properly from the start ensures that you’ll be able to execute it properly as planned. Doing that, in turn, ensures that you’ll be able to receive a valuable return on your investment, whether that’s in satisfying the end goal of generating leads, or in providing critical insights that can be applied to improving future efforts.
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Challenges for the modern digital business
Digital technology has revolutionised how many companies are structured and how they do business. These digital businesses are changing how businesses interact, how theyâ€™re organised, and how they reach consumers in order to disrupt entire industries and reach broader markets.
Besides eliminating inefficiencies and opening new possibilities for entrepreneurs, these changes have also brought a whole new list of challenges that more traditional businesses didn’t have to worry about. To attempt to tackle these, digital businesses have to work to creatively develop tools and create new strategies to help them succeed in their digital environment.
Decentralised Organisations and Communication Traditional businesses bring their labour force to a central location and work from 9:00 to 5:00. That basic structure makes time management relatively simple. Digital businesses, on the other hand, are increasingly turning to remote workers and contractors who might be located halfway around the world. Doing this gives these businesses access to skilled workers that aren’t available in the regular labour market, because of geographical distance, odd hours of availability, or other factors. These workers often can’t take on more traditional employment, or they might live somewhere with a lower cost of living, so businesses tapping into this market have a cost advantage. Furthermore, they need less equipment and less office space, which can drive costs down even further. This decentralised structure often comes with complex schedules for individual workers, which can make it very difficult to maintain good real-time communication within the organisation, as well as with clients and suppliers. This can make it much more difficult to keep everyone oriented toward the same goals than in a traditional organisation. To deal with that, businesses need to go out of their way to schedule interactions, meetings, and updates well ahead of time, and to closely monitor progress
on various projects by using complex tools such as cloud-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software.
Moving Money Inexpensively Digital businesses are often relatively small, but they operate on a global scale rather than within small local economies. Not only might they hire employees in other countries, they often also buy and sell goods or services to a widely dispersed global market. As a result, they need to make a very large number of international transactions, which puts them at the mercy of the foreign exchange market and the financial institutions that are handling those transactions. The exchange and transfer fees resulting from those transactions can quickly eat into a business’ profit margin. This is because many services charge percentage-based fees, while others charge flat fees that can also add up quickly depending on the number of transactions. Fortunately, the massive rise in the number and scale of foreign transactions over the last several decades in conjunction with the digital revolution has already built a solution. Specialised foreign exchange and transaction services like Fifo Capital’s partner HiFX help businesses make free or very low-cost payments. That’s because transactions can be carefully timed to occur when rates are particularly favourable, allowing these institutions to generate income from the transaction itself, rather than by charging the customer a fee.
More Limited Marketing Options Businesses that are designed to operate mostly or entirely within a digital space face a massive
marketing challenge, which is that they can’t passively benefit from their location in an effective way. Traditional businesses can put up a sign to attract walk-in customers, and they can appeal to local consumers on social media with minimal effort. Highly digital businesses aren’t quite “local” anywhere, and every lead has to be actively found and converted until the business is already well established enough to appear in search engines. It’s unlikely that a brand new noname business would generate significant interest on its own authority. Digital businesses exist in a crowded space where novelty is the norm, and visibility is determined most importantly by prior success. To deal with this, digital businesses entrepreneurs have to take an even more proactive approach to generating leads than traditional entrepreneurs do when they launch a business. To avoid stalling right out of the gate, it’s critical to go in with a targeted and integrated digital marketing strategy, and the budget to support it. Further, businesses need to be prepared to give that strategy time to bear fruit, which could mean operating with relatively low revenue for an extended period. While these challenges might seem like a big unnecessary headache to many entrepreneurs, the digital age is here to stay. Businesses in general will continue to lean toward transitioning to a more digitallybased business model, because it’s simply more efficient for many industries. Those who succeed best at tackling these challenges right now have a chance to disrupt their industries and establish themselves during this critical transition period.
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Inside the engine room, after the holidayâ€™s....
5 tips to build motivation The hardest part of the holidays is always right afterward, when we have to get up early and drag ourselves back to our desks. Inexplicably, you might find yourself feeling even more stressed and less motivated than right before the holidays. Getting the energy together to tackle the day can feel like a problem that no amount of coffee can solve. Fortunately, there are a few tips and tricks that you can use to help you dive right in and grab the bull by the horns.
After some time away, it’s common to feel a little lost and not know where to start. Don’t just sit in front of your computer with a cup of coffee and hope that inspiration will strike. Instead, review what you were doing just before the holidays, and quickly scan through your emails. Write down a full list of what you need to check on, who you need to talk to, and what you need to do. Once that’s done, prioritise the list by urgency. With an organised list, you’ll have something to help you focus your attention, and keep you on track.
Talk to your co-workers
It can be hard to really put your nose to the grindstone right away. That’s not a big deal. Spending a bit of extra time by the coffee maker can actually be beneficial, because you need to take time to reconnect with your co-workers. Social interaction builds company culture, and in a healthy company your co-workers can be a powerful motivating force. Not only will it give you the opportunity to coordinate your efforts, it’ll help you to feel like an important and accountable part of the team. The sense that other people that you like and respect are relying on you adds meaning to your work, and helps to take the edge off your stress level.
Turn off your phone
Fresh memories of sleeping in late, relaxing, and sitting on a beach might be nice, but they can also make it hard to focus. To help manage this, it’s a good idea to limit other distractions that you have control over. First and foremost, that means turning off your smartphone while you’re at work. If you need to keep it on for work purposes, just uninstall your social media applications for a few weeks. ... continued overpage
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Doing this will help to make your unproductive periods during the day shorter, and reduce external interruptions throughout the day.
Get a passion project
If you’re seriously demotivated about work, the problem could be larger than just the holidays. Your job, and your career, isn’t something that happens to you, it’s something you do. If you’re committed to building up some meaningful steam, you’ll need to take a measure of control of your job to pursue something that matters to you personally. Your passion project doesn’t have to be grand and glamorous, and it doesn’t necessarily need to fit into your existing responsibilities. It just has to be relevant. Are you dissatisfied with existing procedures in your department? Offer to improve them! Do you want to see a healthier company culture? See if you can take on a formal role in making it happen! These kinds of responsibilities might put more work on your plate, but they’ll help you get out of bed in the morning with a spring in your step.
Punch out and go
If you’re having a hard time readjusting and becoming productive again, it can feel tempting to try to compensate for a lack of productivity by working late. This is not going to work, and it’ll only make you feel even more exhausted the next day. It’s important to take the time to recharge and build a healthy work/ life rhythm. It doesn’t matter if you had a comfortable balance before the holidays; even a few days off can make you feel disoriented and demotivated. To re-establish your equilibrium quickly, set a rigid schedule and stick to it religiously for at least a few weeks. That comfortable pattern will help you to compartmentalise so that you can more easily concentrate during work hours, and to relax at the end of the day. Not only can these tips make it easier to get back into work mode after some time off, they can help to improve your level of engagement all year around. There is no good reason to drag your feet through the work day when just a few changes can make all the difference between a stressful boring grind, and a meaningful and exciting career.
If you’re like us, then one New Year’s Resolution you make every year is finding new ways to be more productive.
Productivity hacks Being highly productive in an office environment is incredibly difficult. Because of this, office workers all over the world are constantly having to battle artificial distractions to get things done. Developing the skills and finding the tools you need to be productive is, in many ways, the key to success in our modern work environment.
1 Cluster your Tasks Don’t work off a simple to-do list. Instead, organise all your tasks into sensible clusters that are related or that should be done in a particular sequence. By doing this, you can organise a lot of individual tasks into a few larger projects. By tackling those projects one at a time youcan ensure that you’re not forced to constantly switch between unrelated tasks. Additionally, this helps you to prioritise finishing related tasks together, so that you don’t end up with a whole list of unfinished projects, instead of 4 completed ones and one unfinished.
2 Build a Timetable Schedule everything out in your calendar every day, and follow your schedule very closely. Include even relatively small tasks, and even non-work activities like ... continued overpage
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coffee breaks or breaks to check social media and respond to text messages. By assigning everything its own time, you can dampen your own internal need to check your phone every time it chimes. Furthermore, your timetable will relentlessly keep you on task.
This is especially important if you, like many modern workers, are always fighting a never-ending email inbox. Your schedule will help to ensure that you spend the bulk of your time on your most important tasks, so you donâ€™t accidentally lose an entire day trying to combat a swarm of minor issues that happened to be at the top of your list while critical tasks go unfinished.
3 Shorten Meetings Very few meetings actually require the full hour for which theyâ€™re usually scheduled. Meetings tend to be dull and long-winded in large part because of this excessively large amount of allotted time. There is no reason to spend an hour relaying information that can be
Briefly... summarised in 300 words worth of meeting minutes. Getting rid of these unnecessarily long meetings can save an enormous amount of valuable time. Experiment with shrinking the length of your meetings as much as possible. Group communication should be relatively direct and concise, and making this happen has some important benefits. A meeting that only takes 10 or 15 minutes is short enough to hold the full attention of attendees for the entire duration. Moreover, the meeting will take up less of their available work hours, ensuring that they can take the time to think about, offer feedback on, and act on what was discussed.
4 Control interruptions as much as possible Successfully eliminating interruptions at work is about more than just logging off Facebook. Extraneous noise, colleagues with questions, phone calls, emails, and sudden coffee cravings can all strike at any time. The most important method for managing all kinds of interruptions is establishing a routine for not just when you do certain tasks, but when you’ll interact with other people and media. Dedicate a portion of your day to uninterrupted work, and during that time don’t open your email, don’t respond to calls, don’t get up from your desk, and ask colleagues with other issues to come back later. This way you can redirect common interruptions to the times before or after that high-intensity work time. Being highly predictable is important because it makes it easier for other people to know when you’re going to be unavailable.
5 Clean your work environment Your physical environment affects how you think. A cluttered and dirty workspace can make it more difficult to focus. Keeping surfaces clear and getting rid of fidgety gadgets on your desk helps to keep your attention to your work, and makes it easier to keep your thoughts organised. This also applies to your computer’s desktop. Resist the urge to slowly clutter your desktop up with hundreds of random files and folders. Regularly purge old junk, and organise what’s left in a way that’s easy to navigate visually. You’ll notice the difference immediately. Making yourself highly productive at work is all about very carefully managing your time and your focus. Doing this effectively means getting more work done in less time, without being forced to exhaust yourself fighting constant distractions. You’ll free up valuable time and energy that you can use to develop yourself professionally, or advance your career. Most importantly of all, it’ll make it that much easier to manage work stress, so you’ll be able to more easily stay on top of other distractions and inefficiencies in the future.
Organise tasks into sensible clusters that should be done in a particular sequence. Schedule everything in your calendar, and follow your schedule very closely.
Experiment with shrinking the length of your meetings, it will make you more productive.
Dedicate a portion of your day to completely uninterrupted work.
Inside the engine room, after the holiday’s
Questions to ask before franchising your business Business franchising is a global success story for business owners and investors alike.
Of course, franchising isn’t ideal for every industry or every type business. If you’re thinking about becoming a franchisor yourself, there are a couple of important questions you’ll want to answer first. These will help you determine whether this business model is the right choice for you, and what kinds of challenges you’ll face in building your franchise program.
Can you afford the initial investment? Franchising is very cost effective in general, but becoming a franchisor still requires quite a bit of groundwork and investment. You’ll need guidelines and procedures explaining how franchises should operate, legal paperwork, a training program for new partners, possibly a department with dedicated staff to
help manage franchisees, and a way to market your new franchise system to possible investors. If you aren’t adequately prepared to cover these costs, your core business could suffer from dangerous cash flow interruptions. If your business is doing very well you might be able to simply budget for it, otherwise you’ll need to get access to financing. Whatever the case, it’s important to keep control of your budget so that you can prioritise the success of your primary business, because that is the engine that makes all future growth possible.
Is your business marketable? As a business owner, you spend a lot of time marketing and selling your products to your prospective customers. As a franchisor, that product is going to be your business itself. To be successful, you’ll need to attract investors who are willing to not only invest in your business, but to effectively buy into your industry. Your business will need to convey
Franchising is a clever business model that allows businesses to expand rapidly, because they don’t need to front the capital that they’d usually invest in each new location in order to grow. It’s a naturally symbiotic relationship, where franchisees benefit from the experience, brand, and structure of the franchisor, and the franchisor benefits from the franchisee’s investment.
a sense of being an interesting, challenging, and most of all a rewarding place to be in order to engage with your target audience. Even investors who are impressed by your business may still be resistant to taking the plunge if they feel that running a franchise is going to be too complicated, too risky, or too time consuming for them to manage successfully. In the end, you’ll need to determine for yourself whether and how you can develop a marketing strategy that will attract the investors you need to make your franchising program a success.
How much revenue will your franchisees generate? Once you have an idea of what you’re going to spend on setting up your franchising program, and whether you can market it, it’s time to consider what it’ll take to recoup your investment. Every business is different, so you’ll need to determine how much revenue you can expect
your franchises to generate for you annually. Once you have a figure, you can calculate how many franchises you’ll need to open in order to recover your investment in a set amount of time. Depending on your business, you might be able to make a profit with just one, but industries with narrower profit margins may need to attract many franchise investors just to pay for the franchising infrastructure itself.
How accessible is your industry to franchisees? Getting a franchisee to sign on the dotted line is only the beginning of the journey. Your franchisees are going to represent your brand to the world, and it’s critical that their work lives up to your reputation. To ensure their success, it’s important that your industry is accessible enough that someone without a lot of industry experience will be able to operate it successfully.
The best kinds of franchise opportunities need to be able to bring a return on investment for the franchisee and the parent company without forcing franchisees to spend months or years struggling with a steep learning curve. New franchisees are typically not experienced as entrepreneurs, and usually haven’t spent time working in their franchise’s industry before. If a new franchise can’t get its head above water quickly enough, it might well close down without ever generating any significant amount of revenue. Additionally, its failure would reflect badly on the franchisor, and discourage other potential investors. If any of these issues are a concern for you, don’t be discouraged. Few businesses are completely ideal for franchising, and seeing a bump in the road doesn’t mean that you have to abandon your dreams of building a successful program. Rather, you can use that information to build your program in a way that explicitly addresses any weaknesses.
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Startup business 5 things start-ups shouldn’t waste their money on Entrepreneurs have to work hard to secure the investment and financing they need to start their ventures. Start-up budgets are inherently tight. Every penny you spend in the wrong place is a penny that could have been useful somewhere else. Because of this, it’s critical for entrepreneurs to carefully analyse what they’re spending their money on, and whether they’ll get the long-term value they need from every purchase.
Cookie Cutter Online Marketing
A business isn’t much of anything if it doesn’t have customers. It’s completely justifiable to pour a lot of resources into getting your business’ name out and generating leads. Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs aren’t marketers themselves, and won’t go out of their way to employ a professional who can help them develop a personalised and comprehensive marketing strategy. Instead, they’ll hire one of the many marketing companies that offer conveniently simple cookie cutter online marketing packages. Any marketing company that doesn’t want to consult with you about your business, your goals, and your target audience before offering possible solutions is a waste of money. Every business is unique, and marketing campaigns that don’t take your business’ specific needs into account are unlikely to yield results
Inexperienced workers in over their heads
Start-ups generally can’t afford to pay premium wages, and that often means hiring a lot of entry-level workers. While that might be a great idea for some positions, it can be a big mistake in other cases. People who are trying to acclimate to both your business and their profession at the same time are bound to make significant mistakes. This is particularly bad for start-ups, because it will increase your client turnover rate, and contribute to establishing a negative reputation before you’ve even come out of the gate. Moreover, you’ll be forced to spend additional time and money in training these workers, which can
interfere with the work of the person doing the training. Consequently, you’ll have to spend more on sales and marketing, making the entire organisation less efficient. You’ll need a core of reasonably seasoned and highly competent employees to ensure consistent quality, to build reliable and smooth procedures, and to help establish a healthy company culture. It’s worth it to start smaller if it means producing higher quality work, and building a great reputation right from the start.
Entrepreneurs don’t go into business with small, measured dreams. Unfortunately, that often translates to overconfidence, and premature attempts to scale their business up. Start-ups who hire employees that they can’t put to work, buy equipment they don’t need, and rent office space they have no use for are wasting resources that could be spent on actually growing their business. By investing in production capacity before finding ways to generate demand, businesses can actually impair their growth. It’s critical for any business on a limited budget to manage their growth strategically, so that every step is self-sustaining, and drives the entire venture forward.
Unnecessary and Expensive Software
CRM or ERP software are tools that are designed to allow businesses to more effectively collect, store, and analyse mass amounts of data. These tools are extremely useful for large enterprises that are juggling complex multifaceted projects for a large number of different clients in a large
and complex organisation. Start-ups often purchase these in an attempt to emulate industry leaders, but this is nearly always a mistake. Start-ups haven’t had time to grow to a large size, bring on a wide and varied customer base, or diversify their services into a large and complex system. Expensive software shouldn’t be necessary at this stage, and might even make life more difficult for a relatively small team.
Image and Social Status
Many entrepreneurs look up to and want to emulate highly successful start-ups that they know of by offering unique amenities to employees, setting up shop in a beautiful central location, and trying to associate their brand with the “start up culture” of Google, Uber, Facebook etc... What they don’t often consider is that many of those same businesses had relatively humble beginnings. Your business’ projected social status doesn’t mean much before you’ve even had time to develop a professional reputation based on your work. By avoiding expenditures that only make your business look successful on the outside, entrepreneurs can ensure that they have more funds to deal with shortfalls and cash flow interruptions. This can help to build that all-important professional reputation. Don’t let useless expenditures eat into your budget. Identifying and avoiding these problem items does more than just help to keep costs down. Carefully analysing them can help you define more clearly what you do need to invest in to ensure that your start up achieves that ultimate long-term success.
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Preventative care for your Business’ cashflow crises Budgets are tricky to manage because costs can get out of control surprisingly quickly. That’s often because we don’t budget for just how expensive problems that might appear relatively minor at first can turn out be. Setbacks don’t normally happen one at a time. One problem often creates several more, eventually cascading into a mess that can break a wellplanned budget entirely.
For example, a late payment by a client might disrupt your cash flow enough to cause purchasing delays that prevent progress on multiple other projects. That, in turn, could put pressure on workers and clients, which can result in even more complications. The key to avoiding these kinds of problems is thinking ahead, and taking preventive measures that can protect you from cascading effects.
Identify critical areas In order to prevent this kind of ripple effect, it’s important to identify specific bottlenecks that can’t be allowed to suffer due to cash flow problems. Those could be just about anything depending on your industry and specific business, but a few examples might be… • Critical resource purchases • Wages • Large irregular expenses • Utility and Tool Maintenance Fees. These costs need to be prioritised and tracked very carefully, because they are critical in facilitating the success of everything else your business does. By tracking and being fully aware of their status as critical factors, you’ll be able to discern exactly when you need to take extraordinary measures to deal with a cash flow disruption in order to avoid a more serious problem.
Plan ahead to accommodate cash flow problems Conventional wisdom and home economics would dictate that you should simply save some money for a rainy day, but that doesn’t necessarily apply to your business. Not only would it often be difficult or impossible to get extra funds for this purpose, small businesses also need to use any liquid capital they have to react to growth opportunities and improve their services in order to compete. Taking these risks is a critical part of sustaining healthy growth. The right way to plan ahead for this kind of issue isn’t about holding on to liquid capital, but rather about setting up financing options ahead of time that can alleviate financial stress when necessary. The most important issue with doing this is ensuring that you can get access to those funds immediately when you need it. A business loan won’t be of much use if you have to wait a month to get access to the funds. Because of this, it’s particularly important to build a personal one to one relationship with a financial institution that’ll work with you to get you the right kind of financing. Get the right kind of financing Unlike larger institutions, Fifo Capital specialises in relationship-based financing for small and medium sized
Communicate your position…
Sharing critical information pertaining to credit and risk with your financiers and shareholders in a timely manner, will help you prevent avoidable unnecessary exposure and risk to your business.
businesses and always provides a 24-hour turnaround on applications for all our financing services. That is, in part, what makes us such a great option for dealing with these kinds of problems. There are a variety of different options that might be right for you, and our representatives work with you to really understand your business so that you get access to the best financing options for your particular situation. Some common solutions would include… Invoice financing If you’re dealing with client payment issues, a great way to nip it in the bud is to use invoice financing. Using this service, you’ll simply sell an invoice to your financial institution for most of its value. You’ll get your
money immediately, and the financial institution collects the payment from the client at the time that it’s due. This kind of financing is secured against the invoice itself, so you don’t have to tie down any other assets. Business loans Business loans are a great option when you need a more significant amount of money in short order. Like with all financing options, you’ll get access to your funds quickly, however these types of loans are typically secured. That means you’ll need to be able to provide invoices, stock, or some other kind of collateral. Standby facilities In terms of planning ahead, standby finance facilities are a perfect
option for any small business. Standby facilities are loans that are negotiated whenever you like, and then held in reserve. You can take the time to do your research and negotiate the loan from a position of strength, instead of doing so when you’re under a major time crunch. After it’s set up, you don’t have to ever draw on the funds unless you actually need them, and aren’t responsible for any interest payments on that loan unless you actually make use of it. Preventing a budget crisis is all about understanding your business, building a great relationship with your financial institution, and planning ahead to deal with those cash flow crises before they have a chance to wreak havoc on your operation.
What to do when business is good
Your quarterly earnings look good, all your bills are paid, and client turnover is stable. Your business looks good. Nevertheless, you have the feeling that you might be forgetting something… This instinct is healthy. Business is inherently dynamic, and it’s not a good idea to assume that things are going to stay the way they are, just because they appear sustainable right now. Allowing yourself to become complacent can not only impair your business’ growth, it can also leave you vulnerable to serious setbacks in the future. When things are going well, and you get a chance to breathe, it’s important to use the opportunity to challenge your business to help strengthen it for the future. Of course, it’s also important to be strategic about where you focus your efforts. Simply always driving sales and growth no matter what, isn’t the answer. Instead, you’ll need to critically examine your organisation, and develop strategies to facilitate healthy development and growth.
Find your weak points Smaller businesses spend much of their time, especially while they’re still in their start-up phase, focusing on staying in budget and finding the leads they need to survive. This can force your business to develop (or not develop) in ways that you never intended, and that could leave you vulnerable in the future. To find those weak points, you’ll need to examine your business and ask yourself what you are currently relying on, and whether you’d be able to cope with the loss of those critical factors. Some likely weak points might be… Lack of skill redundancy Many SMEs have a few irreplaceable workers. They know exactly what they’re doing,
and seem to magically make problems disappear. Having highly specialised workers can be a good thing, but it’s not safe to rely on any single person too heavily, especially if no one else really understands how their job works. If this person decides to move on, you might not be able to adequately train a replacement in the time you have, or you might not have the expertise to train that replacement at all. Irreplaceable equipment Do you have a tool that you rely on to operate your business? What happens if it breaks? In many industries, critical equipment is going to be far too expensive to replace out of pocket, and you’ll need to ensure that you have the financial resources needed to cover repairs or replacements. Special reliance on one client Start-ups often grow explosively in stages, but those bursts can be a double-edged sword. If you land a huge new client that forces you to hire more employees, purchase more equipment, and rent additional space, you are going to be reliant on that client in the future. You’ll most likely need to take out a business loan to accommodate the sudden growth, and you’ll need that client’s revenue to service the debt. Focus on Developing Resilience Once you’ve identified where your vulnerabilities are, it’s time to start consolidating and making changes that’ll make your business more durable and more tolerant to future risk. As a result, you’ll be able to tackle bigger challenges and grow more aggressively in the future. Get financial protection Preventing cash flow problems is a familiar and ever-present issue. Fortunately you’ll be able to do something about it pre-emptively if you’ve done a good job at identifying weak spots in your
business. Insurance can protect equipment, and lines of credit, standby loans, and other financing tools can help you cover other unexpected costs to minimise interruptions. Develop your workforce Employees that understand their jobs are good, but employees that understand their co-workers’ jobs are better. Ensuring that employees are somewhat crosstrained and familiar with how their own work fits into the grand scheme of things ensures a more competent and integrated work environment. As a result, it’ll be easier to deal with the loss of an employee and to up-train a new worker without throwing an entire department into chaos. Diversify Avoid relying on individual clients, suppliers, or merchants too much. Whenever possible, seek out a broad range of people and businesses to work with. While it’s simpler to work with fewer businesses and customers, diversification protects you from becoming dependent on someone else’s success.
When to grow The act of addressing these vulnerabilities to build a more resilient organisation can often drive growth all on its own. For example, diversifying your client base by definition entails going out and acquiring new customers. However, at that stage, you aren’t ready to sustainably pursue growth for its own sake. You’re really ready to grow after you’ve successfully consolidated your business. By ensuring that your core business is resilient, you’ve built a solid platform from which to drive expansion. You’ll be able to take bigger risks and grow faster knowing that your business is built on a solid foundation.
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It’s time you dealt with the decision maker Fifo Capital’s business partners aren’t your typical finance people. We know business can be hard enough without having tough conversations with conventional types following rigid approaches. We’re more like friendly colleagues who champion your success. Or the confidant you call to help guide you through any situation. You can talk straight with us knowing you’re in a safe zone. And the person you talk to is a decision maker, so you’ll get answers fast. When you’re ready to experience a caring and efficient approach to business finance, talk to Fifo Capital. We’re good listeners armed with modern tools for success.
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