By Eugene E. Valdez
What CEO’s should do to stay competitive in today’s difficult economy is a popular topic among business consultants, bankers, equity fund operators coaches, advisors, business pundits etc. Based on my 30 years’ experience in commercial banking and business coaching here are my personal suggestions humbly submitted for your review.
To make them easy to remember my suggestions all start with the letter “C”.
Cash is not only “king” but the queen, bishop, knight, rook and pawn in the game of business. Train yourself to be a cash flow manipulator. Do anything you can, (as long as it is legal, moral & ethical) to accelerate the speed in which your cash comes into your business, (“receipts”). Consistently call to collect on slow accounts receivable, selectively offer small discounts to encourage prompt payment, modify your selling terms to require small deposits, (I know that is a tough sell.) Ask your bank if they have any ideas or cash management products on how to speed up the flow of cash into your business. There are several products today including, remote deposit capture and ACH.
Conversely, do anything you can to slow down the speed in which cash goes out of your business, (“disbursements”). Endeavor to negotiate extended terms with your vendors. See if it is possible to refinance any existing debt to lower the required monthly payments. Be creative in this area, it requires superior negotiation skills.
Your goal as a cash flow manipulator is to accelerate the speed up cash coming in and slow down the pace of your cash going out, simultaneously. Your success in this area will be evidenced by the monthly ending balance in your company’s checkbook. If the ending checkbook balance is a positive number you have enjoyed a positive cash flow for the month. If your ending number is zero your cash flow was break even and if your ending number was negative you experienced the dreaded “negative cash flow,” and perhaps bounced a few checks along the way.
Treat your existing customers like gold. Smother them with personal service than exceeds their expectations not meets them, especially if they are a “quick pay”. Quick pay is defined as a customer that pays your invoices consistently with in your stated selling terms which is a rare phenomenon in today’s economy. I know it is a corny cliché but all of your customers are your competitor’s prospects. Don’t help your competitors out by taking any of your customers for granted.
Analyze every cost of your business operation and see if there is a way to reduce costs without jeopardizing your ability to deliver your product or service in a quality, speedy manner. Sometimes cost cutting can be painful especially if it involves reducing administrative salaries and benefits. Minor cost reductions spread out over a lot of areas can add up to major dollars.
If you have an existing credit line with a bank or any lender be thankful and strive to solidify that relationship with constant two way communications. If you do not have a credit line strive to obtain one even if you don’t think you need one. If you’re not sure that your business is credit worthy or you’re not sure what the process consists of seek counsel from your financial advisors. Having access to a credit line for emergency cash is very important as many times the timing of your expected cash receipts is delayed for some unforeseen reason as we all know.
CONTROL OF ATTITUDE
The mental and psychological strain of running a small business can sometimes be overwhelming. Strive to think positively despite the negative press concerning your industry, the economy or temporary declines in your revenue. Your positive thoughts will inspire you to take forceful, confident actions and create an aura of positive energy that your employees, vendors and customers will pick up on. The type of energy you emit attracts similar energy.
Eugene Valdez is a 40-year veteran of business/financial management and owner of The CEO Teachers, a business coaching and consulting firm based in Upland. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.