Paying bills is never fun, but paying bills you shouldn’t pay in the first place is even worse. There are many risks that can part a small business owner with their hard-earned cash, and here are five to watch out for when it comes to your bill-paying process.
1. Fraudulent invoices
Some companies will send marketing documents disguised as invoices to businesses. You may have to read the fine print to notice it’s not really an invoice. In some cases, it’s simply outright fraud, trying to get you to pay something that is not owed.
Many times, these invoices look official, similar to legal filing requirements, but don’t be fooled. Examination of the fine print can save you a lot of money.
Set up procedures to catch these types of invoices. Managers should be careful not to approve these invoices for payment. Bookkeepers should be trained to question their supervisors about these invoices.
2. Item(s) not received
Three-way matching can prevent paying an invoice for which the goods were never received. Put into place a couple of procedures to prevent this accounts-payable error:
- Have warehouse staff match the shipping receipt to what’s in the shipment when it arrives.
- Have accounts payable staff match the marked-up shipping receipt to the invoice when it comes in. If the invoice shows that more items were billed for than received, a call to the vendor to correct the invoice is in order. The invoice amount should be adjusted on the books and a check can be cut for the reduced amount.
3. Wrong amount
Sometimes the wrong price can be listed on the invoice. If this happens, there may have been a misunderstanding during the sales process. A call to the vendor is needed in this case as well so that a corrected invoice can be issued.
4. Math error
This hardly happens in these days of computers, but it can. All invoices should be reviewed for reasonableness. If it doesn’t make sense that something should cost so much, it probably shouldn’t. In rare cases, a price may have been entered wrong or a computer bug could have occurred.
Spot-checking the invoice’s math can save money if an error has been made.
5. Duplicate invoice
This happens way too often. We may get an emailed invoice; then the same invoice comes in the mail. We need procedures in place to keep it from being paid twice.
Many accounting systems do this automatically, but if one character is off related to vendor name, the system could break down. Review a list of disbursements monthly to make sure payments don’t get duplicated.
Procedures are the answer to reducing accounts payable errors and making sure you pay only the invoices that are truly due.
If revenue hasn’t come back as fast as you expected it to, it may be time to review your budget and determine if some planned expenses can be cut. Here are five places to look to do just that.
Since most events have been moved online or cancelled altogether, you can likely redirect any money you’ve budgeted for travel this year to other more urgent expenses. And if you have prepaid these items, you may be able to get a refund. Hotels have flexible refunds up to the date of the stay unless you took a prepaid deal. And airlines have begrudgingly provided refunds, although in some cases, it did take time to get them.
Now that so many employees are familiar with Zoom and other videoconferencing tools, you may want to rethink any future travel requirements that could easily be accomplished virtually with a much lower budget.
While it’s never a good idea to cut training, there may be ways to deliver it more affordably. You may be able to purchase subscriptions to online courses that include an “all-you-can-eat” component to them. A good example is Lynda.com, now owned by LinkedIn.
Any unnecessary training that can be delayed is another way to free up funds.
3. Dues and Subscriptions
If money is tight, evaluating your memberships is one area where you may be able to free up money. Especially since many in-person events have been cancelled, this might be a good time cancel any renewals you are not able to fully utilize.
Subscriptions are also something you can review. Can any of these be cancelled to free up cash? You can always re-subscribe when things get better.
4. Employee Perks
If you provide your employees with benefits and times are extremely lean, cutting them is an option to keep from laying off workers. Some of the options might be:
- Eliminating perks like movie day, free car washes, or onsite chair massages
- Stopping coverage of paid volunteer hours
- Cutting education expenses if you are paying college tuition for some employees
- Cancelling employees’ memberships and subscriptions as described above
- Slashing training budgets as described above
- Converting event attendance and sales meetings to online versions
- Disallowing overtime work
- Holding off on employee bonuses
- Reducing vacation or holiday pay
- Cutting down on health care options such as vision and dental plans
- Reducing 401(k) matches on a temporary basis (watch out for plan requirements, though)
- Cutting regular hours
All of these are steps you can take to avoid having to reduce your workforce.
One painful place to look for more cash is your workforce. If work has slowed due to demand, you can raise cash by furloughing or laying off workers. Unfortunately, many businesses have already had to do this.
By looking deeply at all of your business expenses, you can find places to cut spending so that you will be in a better position for the future.
Many families and small business owners have seen decreases in income over the last several months. Money struggles can cause us to experience stress and worry, and none of us need that right now. Instead we need to boost our immune systems and decrease stress.
Here are some tips on how we can take back control of our finances and reduce our stress around money.
1. Assess your situation.
Take an inventory of your bank accounts, credit cards, and other financial accounts. This helps you to see the entire picture. You can be financially healthy in different ways. For example, you might be low on income coming in but if you have healthy savings or plenty of assets, you might be just fine.
2. Track your spending.
When you can see where the money is going, you can make good decisions about what changes you need to make. Use tracking software like Quicken® or simply a spreadsheet so you can see how much you really need for things like the rent or mortgage, food, utilities, and other necessities.
3. Make any changes that you need to.
If you have more expenses than income, here are several ways to get back in balance:
- Cut any unnecessary spending. For example, trade the expensive $100+ cable bill for a $15 Netflix subscription, at least for a while.
- File your taxes early, especially if you have a refund coming.
- Avoid temptation spending if you don’t have enough for the basics. Remember what’s important and find the will to curb impulses.
- Sell some of the items you own that you no longer need to raise money.
- Get a second job.
- Get support from local nonprofits that can help you if you qualify.
- If you must, dip into your savings or 401(k).
- Ask family members to help.
4. Build a budget and stick with it.
Making a plan helps some people reduce their stress a great deal. They feel good that they now have goals and can develop new habits that will work for their lifestyle.
In your software or spreadsheet, commit to monthly spending limits for each major category: housing and utilities, food, transportation, clothing, entertainment, savings, paying off debt, and other.
Each month, track how you did by comparing your actual spending with your planned spending. Give yourself a grade on how you did, and either reward yourself or make the changes you need to.
5. Pay off debt.
If you have debt, make a plan to pay it off systematically. Here are some ways you can speed that up:
- Pay down the debt that has the highest interest rates. You might even be able to consolidate and refinance your debt to a lower rate.
- Make a payment every single month, even if it’s small.
- See a credit counselor for more ideas on how to get out of debt faster.
6. Build a cushion for the future.
If your spending and income is balanced, but you don’t have a savings cushion, that can also be stressful. You need a safety net to fall back on for times just like these.
Decide on an amount that you can put away for a “rainy day” fund, and stick to it. It’s also never too early to start saving for your retirement years. The younger you start, the more your money will grow into a significant nest egg, providing comfort and flexibility in your final years.
7. Identify any other stressors related to money.
Perhaps a relative constantly asks you for money, and this causes you stress. In this case, you may have to make a “tough love” decision to reduce your stress while maintaining family relationships. These are very personal, individual decisions that include factors far beyond finance. But if they are causing stress, some kind of action should be taken.
8. Make your accounts work for you.
If possible, select credit cards that give cash back, miles, or other perks. Keep you bank balance high enough so that you don’t get charged a monthly fee, and try to get an account that pays interest. You won’t get rich from these things, but they are fun perks that help you save.
9. Invest wisely so you can sleep at night no matter what happens.
Understand your risk tolerance level when it comes to investments, and avoid investments that are too risky. You’ll sleep better at night knowing your money is safe.
Hopefully, these tips will help you decrease your money stress and improve your control over your finances.
The only way to get smarter about how to invest your marketing dollars is to document and measure what’s happening now in your business. What you’ve measured, you can then improve.
The first step to measuring what you spend on marketing is to aggregate all of the costs. They may be in one account or several. Some of the places to look for marketing expenses include:
- Advertising – for online or print ads, trade shows, sponsorships, and other advertising costs
- Dues and subscriptions – for membership fees to networking and professional associations
- Education – for marketing training
- Marketing – for obvious reasons
- Office supplies – for graphics subscriptions and fees
- Payroll, salaries, and wages – for allocation of employee time spent on marketing projects
- Printing and postage – for flyers and direct mail
- Professional fees – for marketing consultants, coaches, designers, and writers
- Software/Technology – for marketing software and apps
- Travel – for trade show or conference attendance
Once you have aggregated all of these costs, you’ll have a good idea of what you’re spending on marketing and you can calculate the first metric, marketing spend. The formula is:
Total marketing costs / total gross revenue = Marketing spend
This gives you a percentage.
Most companies spend five to ten percent on marketing. Higher growth companies will spend close to ten percent, and stable growth or slow growth companies will spend close to five percent. Large companies will spend more, from nine to 12 percent of gross revenues, than small companies.
CAC – Cost to Acquire Customer
Probably the most important metric for marketing is how much it costs on average to acquire one customer. To compute this, count the number of new customers for any period of time, and use this number in the following formula:
Total marketing costs / number of new customers = CAC
A more granular version of CAC is CPA, cost per acquisition. Unlike CAC, CPA is measured by campaign or marketing channel, or the source of how the customer was acquired. Example marketing channels include email marketing, social media, and paid ads, to name a few.
Revenue per Customer
Revenue per customer is a good measure in many companies. It can tell you how much, on average, a customer will spend at your company over a period of time, adding up all of the orders, projects, visits, or engagements for that customer. The formula is simple:
Total revenue for a period / total number of customers for the same period = Revenue per customer
A similar metric that’s valuable is how much a customer will spend at your company in their lifetime. That’s called CLV or customer lifetime value. Use the same formula above but compute it based on the longest period of time you have records for.
When you can compare revenue per customer or CLV with CAC, you can determine how much you can afford to spend to acquire new clients.
Let us know if we can help you calculate these metrics so you can become wiser about how to invest your marketing dollars.
Liquidity in business has nothing to do with water, milk, or juice! It describes how quickly you can sell an asset and convert it into cash. Cash is the most liquid asset of all. Real estate, in contrast, is not quite as liquid because it could take months to sell it to a new owner.
Liquidity is important to all businesses. It affects your credit score and how much you can borrow. It’s a measure of whether you can pay your bills on time. It’s also one of many measures of the overall financial health of your business.
If your business sells items that take a long time to produce, liquidity can be extremely challenging and should be carefully managed. Examples include farms, wineries, breweries, automobile manufacturers, and biotech researchers.
A couple of financial metrics can quantify your business’s liquidity. The current ratio is computed as follows:
Current Ratio = Current Assets / Current Liabilities
The largest components of current assets include cash, cash equivalents, accounts receivable, and any other asset that is expected to be converted to cash within one year. The largest components of current liabilities include credit card balances, accounts payable, bills due, interest payable, and the amount of any loan due within one year. You can find both current assets and current liabilities on your balance sheet.
Companies with a current ratio of less than 2:1 are considered less liquid, while companies with a current ratio of more than 2:1 are more liquid. However, current ratio values and whether they are “good” or “bad” vary by industry, so before you panic, check out your industry benchmarks.
Another measure of liquidity is the quick ratio. It measures how equipped a business is to meet its short-term obligations by taking its most liquid assets, cash equivalents, and using them to pay down current debt. Its formula is:
Quick Ratio = (Cash + Cash Equivalents + A/R) / Current Liabilities
This ratio’s value should typically be 1:1.
A good common-sense measure you can use to stay on top of your business’s liquidity is to build a healthy emergency fund. To calculate how much you need, determine how much you typically spend each month. You can get that number by reviewing a bank statement and summing all of the withdrawals including checks paid and online withdrawals. Do this for each bank account you have and include other accounts such as PayPal if you use them for disbursements.
This should give you your total spend per month. Go back a few months to calculate an average spend per month. The farther you go back, the more accurate your average will be, especially if you have a lot of large annual payments throughout the year.
Now that you have your average spend per month, your emergency fund should be a multiple of that spend. Three months’ worth should be the minimum amount in your emergency fund. If you spend $50,000 per month on average, your emergency fund should be $150,000 at a minimum.
An emergency fund will not only make your business more liquid; it will protect you if disaster strikes. According to FEMA, 90 percent of small businesses that experience a disaster will fail within a year unless they can resume operations within five days. Having an emergency fund will increase the odds of your business continuing in spite of any hardship that may occur.
If you have questions for us about your business’s liquidity or starting an emergency fund, please feel free to reach out any time.