Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Business Banking – Top 10 Tips on Writing Your Business

For any business, having a strong, and realistic business plan is essential to success. Whether you are a new start up or an established company, a business plan will enable you to analys your business, plan your goals, and assess what your current position is. The core of your business plan should be the financial aspects of what you want to achieve, and Steve Jennings, Director of Business Banking at Alliance & Leicester Commercial Bank, has the following top 10 tips on how to get this crucial part of your plan right:

1. You need to ensure that your business plan is structured in a way to make it, clear and concise. In effect, a business plan should work to sell both you and your company, so make sure that the most important information is highlighted. Add supporting commentary to back up any forecasts and projections. This area is very important when it comes to any financial data that is included, as the bank will use this information as the basis for making a decision on any lending.

2. Include basic information about you, your business and what you are selling. Details about potential staff, equipment and premises that are already in place or planned as a result of investment should also be part of the business plan.

3. Make any forecasts over a period of three to five years, although you should concentrate on making the most detailed breakdown for the first year. In business banking, the correct financial information is essential. Double and triple check all of the figures to ensure that they are 100% accurate, as the majority of your business plan will hinge on your historical and forecasted figures.

4. Look at your business objectively and perform a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis about how you fit into the local or national retail sector. You should pay attention to any weaknesses and threats, and analyze them fully. A bank will perform this research as part of their decision making process, and by providing this information, you demonstrate that you have an understanding of potential pitfalls and planning your approach to addressing them, both financially and otherwise.

5. Success is also important, and you need to show how you are prepared for success and fast expansion. Things to consider include the impact of additional staff in terms of the cost of recruitment, training, and management.

6. For a retail business cash is its lifeblood, so a comprehensive cash flow analysis is vital. You will need to include cash balance and monthly cash flow patterns over a period of one to two years. This should include key factors like sales and salaries. Your bank will use this to understand exactly how much operating capital you need. Many small businesses make the mistake of asking for too little financial support, and this can leave a shortfall that could prove disastrous. By managing your finances through a business current account, you can keep on top of payments and income more easily.

7. Make a month-by-month sales forecast. If you have already been in business for a year, review the sales over the past 12 months in order to give figures to forecast expected sales for the coming year. A new business will have to use judgement and extensive market research to provide this information. It is important to be realistic, and bear in mind that it might take a while for sales to build-up at first, so consider building a quieter period into the initial few months, and provide your bank with information about how you plan to cover your outgoings in the event of this happening.

8. You should provide a full profit and loss forecast, as this will enable you to evaluate the level of profit you expect to make from sales against any costs. Costs should include operational costs as well as key calendar dates for tax. Include information about costs that you cannot control including tax levels and wages. You can use a special business deposit account to store any surplus funds, as these will provide you with a cushion under tougher trading conditions.

9. It is important to keep a close eye on your competitors, as well as any potential changes in your local retail market and make the necessary adjustments. Remember that as your business grows and develops, your competitors will need to react and grow too, so keep on top of any changes in the market.

10. Your business plan needs to be revisited as your circumstances change. Revisit it each year to take into account your growth, staffing requirements and other factors such as new product lines.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Business Management Skills - Building Tips for Managers

To be successful as a manager it is important to develop a relationship with the team that is based on trust. When employees trust and respect their manager they will give special effort especially when they feel trusted and supported.

Employees rarely excel under the punitive thumb of someone they do not trust and who they feel does not trust them. Without trust productivity suffers as team members play politics, spend time covering themselves and being compliant to dictates that they know are counterproductive. Lack of trust affects morale and customer satisfaction as the employees shift energy and focus from working on real life issues that affect customers to resentment and dissatisfaction towards management.

Effective Communication

Managers who communicate openly and frequently build relationship and trust with the team. They should not make team members guess what they're thinking but should tell them. Employees can feel that no news is bad news. A lack of interaction erodes trust. Face to face interaction is the best method to build trust.

To get Trust Managers Need to Give Trust

It is important for a manager to create an environment of trust. This begins by trusting others. It is more effective to assume employees are trustworthy unless they prove otherwise rather than waiting to give trust when they haven't earned it. As team members come to feel they are trusted by their manager, they will find it easier to trust in return.

Be Honest

Honesty is a very important factor that affects trust. Managers who demonstrate openness about their actions, intentions and vision, soon find that people respond positively to self disclosure and sincerity. As a manager share good and bad news openly. This can eliminate gossip and diffuse inappropriate politics. Great managers know that they are not perfect and they make mistakes. It is better for a manager to admit mistakes rather than ignore them or cover them up. A cover up (perceived or real) is probably the greatest single enemy to trust.

Establish Strong Business Ethics

Managers need to set moral values for the work place. Teams with common ethics are healthier, more productive, adaptable, responsive, and resourceful because they are united under one common value set.

Keep Your Word

Do what you say you will do and make your actions visible. Team members quickly pick up on insincerity and broken promises. Visibly keeping commitments will foster trust. If a manager neglects to make actions visible to the team it can create the impression/perception that they don't follow through.

Keep Interactions Consistent and Predictable

Building trust is a process. Trust results from consistent and predictable interaction over time. If a manager responds differently from week to week it becomes harder to trust him or her.

Set the Tone for the Future from the Beginning

The initial actions of the manager establish norms and expectations. A manager should lead by example.

Be Accessible and Responsive

Find ways to be regularly available to team members. When interacting, be responsive. Unresponsiveness causes unease and distrust. Be action rather than talk oriented. Don't just think about taking action-do it!

Maintain Confidences

Team members need to be able to express concerns, identify problems, share sensitive information, and surface relevant issues. It is important early on to get agreement as to how confidential data will be handled.

Watch your Language

It is important that a manager's language does not imply "us" or "them". Terminology should be easy to understand. Leaders should stick with business language and not use strong or vulgar language.

Create Social time for the Team

A lot of trust and confidence is built through informal social interaction. Successful managers ensure that social opportunities happen regularly.

Building trust with employees is critical for creating an effective team that works well together. Taking time to build trust will reap benefits for managers that last a long time.