Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Federal Government Bank “Stress Test”; How will this affect small business?

We continue to hear about all the news surrounding the Federal Government stress test results that are due out tomorrow afternoon with a tremendous amount of speculation. In reading the preliminary news articles surrounding the release of information, I was surprised to find one of the banks a client deals with, 5th Third Bank, is likely one of the companies that will require additional capitalization. In reading that article, I forwarded a copy to the owners of the company to let them know that 5th Third was one of the banks. This news has created concerns and raised several questions in my mind. My concerns have created several unanswered questions; how will the bank raise capital? Could they re-call loans to raise capital? Will the banking relationship remain the same with small business or will this be the final straw that will put several small businesses out of business?

That has raised some concerns and questions with my client as they go through the process of renewing their line of credit for 2009 and 2010. I believe we have only begun to feel the effects of the "stress test" and I think we will be seeing additional efforts to pass the stress test down the line and will extend to the individual small businesses. Although I am not sure how the banks will raise additional capital I am confident that passing the same requirements on to business will be even more disastrous to our economy and we have yet to see the real impact of this recession on our economy.

Small business is the backbone of our economy, yet there are no government bailouts for small business. What will happen if a business fails a "stress test" and the bank says they need to raise more capital? Most businesses are forced to choose a banking relationship with one bank. So, if the company fails the stress test, where will they go to get more capital? Other banks are not going to be willing to hand out money to a business who has failed the stress test. Most businesses require loans to operate their business whether it is tied to an asset such as a vehicle or a line of credit tied to accounts receivable accounts. The reality in this day in age is the fact that trade credit forces companies to become the banker.

My client is financially strong, in business for more than 30 years, pays their bills in 30-45 days, but due to their client base have accounts receivable in excess of $1,000,000. This is a reality of business today. One customer, the most profitable, takes up to 120 days to pay. Some may suggest getting rid of that customer. But we are talking about Construction. We are talking about Construction activity in the state of Michigan. Not a lot to choose from. My client has even grown considerably over the past two years; but that growth has pushed the company to rely more on a line of credit than they ever have in the past. They are confident that payment will come through, but without a line of credit or a recall of a line of credit could put them out of business almost immediately.

So imagine how this "stress test" affects business. This company is growing in Michigan, top of the unemployment rolls, home of the automobile (you know, those guys filing for bankruptcy), employ about 75 people year round and have been in business for over 30 years. The business has experienced these cycles before, some years better than others, but the perfect credit storm is brewing. Even if a company is long standing, successful, doing well and providing jobs, the government stress test will surely have a ripple effect down to the backbone of our economy, small business. Those companies who manage their finances loosely and don't understand their business finances will surely feel the impact. The reality is the fact that banks will not be loaning money to those entities, and in effect put them out of business. We are talking about good, well established businesses. At a time when business needs credit the most, anxiety over what the impact of the stress test results is weighing heavily on my mind. How about you? What impact do you see? Where will we be without small business? BIG TROUBLE!!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Part 1 - Can a profitable company go out of business? This was the very first question my instructor asked at the beginning of my first Finance class in my graduate program. He gave us a minute to think about it. The first answer that popped in my head is NO, a profitable company cannot go out of business. Well, I was wrong! The answer is YES, a profitable company CAN go out of business. It is simple business economics, but I guess the nerves had clouded my brain. If you don’t have any cash, but you are profitable on the books, then yes you can go out of business very quickly. Many businesses are unfortunately finding this out in real time with our economy is the way it is. In a way, I think this correction is good. We have taken for granted the good times that many of us have experienced over the past 30 years and the majority of business owners have failed to understand the basics of Finance. Many feel it is too hard. I sure thought that too. What turned out to be the most difficult subject of my graduate program, also turned out to be one of my specialties 4 years later. I love Finance. I really do. Some of you may think I am crazy, but that is okay, I have been accused of worse. Many of you may say, “But my Accountant told me this and I am okay”. Over 60% of business owners rely on their Accountants for Financial advice. But what are the Accountants using for their data when you get the financial advice? The information YOU GAVE THEM! The information is typically what you have already done. Accounting is really a historical representation of the status of your business in a space of time. So you fed your Accountant the information from the past month, they get back to you with a set of Financials and then you discuss how you are doing. This is the traditional approach to business. The major problem here is that by the time you get this information, your business has conducted another 60 days of business. What if a problem popped up along the way? How do you correct when it is something you did 60 days ago? You can’t. If it is a recurring problem, you likely just did it for another 60 days and the hole could be much deeper than it was. So if your books show that you were profitable, but didn’t collect the cash that you had assumed you had, you could be in trouble with no where to go. So how do you fix something like that?
Drinking a glass of energy drink that is actually good for you; take a look, I am not selling it, just sharing something that is good;http://ping.fm/9PIRU

Monday, April 6, 2009

Part 2 - Can a profitable company go out of business?

So how do you find out what your financial position will be in the future? How do you know you will have enough cash to survive? How do I know when I have to borrow money?

It is difficult to have answers to these questions, especially if you are operating more than a week behind today or even yesterday. But, you can change that!

All owners need to understand Finance. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You are putting yourself at risk if you don’t understand where your numbers come from because people may take advantage of you, employees, accountants anyone. You just don’t know who it could be because you don’t understand what you are looking for.

Finance people spend most of their time looking ahead

In Finance, we look ahead utilizing the history of your company for at least the past 3 years or longer if you have an unusually good or bad year in your averages. You are the owner, you are going to have a good feeling on what your costs are. Take the time, study them, and understand them. How do I study? When do I have time? How do I do it? I have more to come. See Part 3.
Part 1 - Can a profitable company go out of business?

This was the very first question my instructor asked at the beginning of my first Finance class in my graduate program. He gave us a minute to think about it. The first answer that popped in my head is NO, a profitable company cannot go out of business.

Well, I was wrong!

The answer is YES, a profitable company CAN go out of business. It is simple business economics, but I guess the nerves had clouded my brain. If you don’t have any cash, but you are profitable on the books, then yes you can go out of business very quickly.

Many businesses are unfortunately finding this out in real time with our economy is the way it is. In a way, I think this correction is good. We have taken for granted the good times that many of us have experienced over the past 30 years and the majority of business owners have failed to understand the basics of Finance. Many feel it is too hard. I sure thought that too. What turned out to be the most difficult subject of my graduate program, also turned out to be one of my specialties 4 years later. I love Finance. I really do. Some of you may think I am crazy, but that is okay, I have been accused of worse.

Many of you may say, “But my Accountant told me this and I am okay”. Over 60% of business owners rely on their Accountants for Financial advice. But what are the Accountants using for their data when you get the financial advice?

The information YOU GAVE THEM! The information is typically what you have already done. Accounting is really a historical representation of the status of your business in a space of time.

So you fed your Accountant the information from the past month, they get back to you with a set of Financials and then you discuss how you are doing. This is the traditional approach to business. The major problem here is that by the time you get this information, your business has conducted another 60 days of business.

What if a problem popped up along the way? How do you correct when it is something you did 60 days ago? You can’t. If it is a recurring problem, you likely just did it for another 60 days and the hole could be much deeper than it was. So if your books show that you were profitable, but didn’t collect the cash that you had assumed you had, you could be in trouble with no where to go. So how do you fix something like that?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Final Four, National Champions and Successful Businesses. What do they have in common?

The Final Four is coming to Michigan. I had no idea until today as I am not a very big follower of College basketball or any basketball for that matter, but it is my home state so I should have known. This will be a big boost for Detroit.

For me, the event is a reminder of the parallels between sports and business. Most people who follow sports or any team for that matter, recognizes the level of work it takes to run a team let alone the hardwork and determination to make it to the Final 4. Those who have made it to the Final 4 are the best at what they do. Some may say luck, but llooking deeper, I am sure you will find that preparations started last year at the end of the season.

The term systems in relation to business can be confusing to some. Most business owners in small to mid-sized businesses really don’t think of the team concept as a model for running their own business or draw any parallels to their favorite teams and bring the parallel back to their own business. If an owner did this, they would soon realize that the only way a coach can manage to get a team to the Final 4 is with the following;

Best people (players, coaches, support staff) + systems (the playbook) = National Championship.

According to Dictionary.com, one of the many definitions of a system is any formulated, regular, or special method or plan of procedure: a system of marking, numbering, or measuring; a winning system at bridge.

There is no way a coach of a team could book travel, arrange game schedules, scout, practice and play all five positions on the floor, yell at the refs and be National Champions, it is just physically not possible.

If you are a business owner, think of yourself as the Coach. Is it possible to be at the top of your game, doing things yourself, making all the arrangements and playing all of the positions? Many try it. I have, but the reality is if you are without the support staff and players in your business, at some point, you will fail. It may be your health, finances, a customer or something that you missed because you are trying to play all of the positions.

Systemizing your company is the playbook. Every Company should have a playbook for each of the 4 core functions of a business; Marketing, Finance, Operations and Management. It is possible to function as a coach by integrating systems in your business. You as the Owner can rely on others to perform even if you currently do everything yourself. Take the time to create your business playbook in these four areas. Your business and personal life will excel at a rate that you likely never thought possible.

Do you want your business to be the best, the Champions of your market? Consider systemizing your business, you won’t regret it. GO MICHIGAN STATE!

Part 2 - Buying a business? Franchise or Start-Up? Where do I go?

Part 2 - Buying a business? Franchise or Start-Up? Where do I go?

6 things to expect when you buy a franchise;

Systems – a Franchisor should give you Systems in the 4 core functions of business, Marketing, Finance, Operations and Management. Funny thing about a franchise, you don’t get to see ANY of the systems until you are legally a FRANCHISEE. It is not like buying a car where you get to take it for a test drive.

National Name Recognition – We tend to think that just because a business is a Franchise, they must be known all over the World. When you are buying a franchise that claims national recognition, just ask yourself when is the last time you saw a commercial on prime time TV for this franchise? Oh, you haven’t? You better run the other way.

Home office support – The people that run a franchise must be the smartest and best in the business. There are great people running franchises, but remember they get paid no matter what. If you don’t understand what a royalty is, get very familiar with it, especially “minimum” royalty.

Mentoring – Each Franchisor should have a local or regional mentor to help them get their business started. This is a very good thing if your mentor is someone you can get along with and match personalities. Hopefully, they are smarter than you! If not, good luck.

Franchise lives up to what they say they will do – If a Franchisor tells you your business will be successful if you do this and this and follow the system. What if the system doesn’t work in your market, your area? You will only find this out AFTER you have signed the paperwork and start working your business.

Instant success – It’s a franchise; we should break even much faster than a normal non-franchised concept. Let’s be very clear here and one of the most important lessons of starting a franchise. If there are no other locations in your area, your Franchise location will be a START-UP! You will lose money just like a start-up. Don’t get caught up in the idea that success is imminent. In fact the International Franchising Association estimated at a conference I attended last year that 10,000 Franchisees would go out of business; this prediction was well before anyone knew the severity of the current economic crisis.


Don’t get me wrong, there are many successful Franchise concepts out there. You just have to realize that the resources that are available in the world to get advice from are the one’s who are SELLING franchisees. Just remember; Do your homework and talk extensively to existing franchisees. It will be the BEST investment of your time.

Part 1 - Buying a business? Franchise or Start-Up? Where do I go?

Part 1 - Buying a business? Franchise or Start-Up? Where do I go?

Starting out in business is one of the most difficult decisions one can make in life, unless the economy has forced your hand and you have no other choice. How do you make a decision about what to do? How do I do it? There are a lot of resources out there today, especially from the franchises. So Franchise or Start-up? Neither one in my opinion. Below I will share some of my thoughts about Franchising based on my experience in working with a client.

Don’t take me wrong, I am not saying stay away from Entrepreneurship. Even though I have lived the ups and downs, including depression, near bankruptcy and out of money, I can’t imagine doing anything else. Although I have had a ton of bad experiences, I still love what I do and business is the only way to go in my opinion to find the ultimate balance between your personal life and work life. I fortunately have had the experience of getting into business in several different ways.

I have had the experience of starting a business from scratch. I started one from accident. I started one as a way out of a family business. I have even been involved with the startup of a franchise over the past few years. Starting from scratch, starting by accident and starting a business as a way out is a difficult road. Most Franchisors will tell you that a Franchise is a much better choice than any of the above. Make sure that you are not deceived and told that the Franchise is the easy way into business. Don’t believe everything a Franchisor tells you;

If I have learned one thing from franchising, it is this: Franchisors are in the business of SELLING Franchises. It is that simple.

Considering a franchise? We thought a franchising would be the optimal way to start a business, after all, they are the experts, and they have done this before. My client had 30 years in the industry, established office, experienced management, experienced field personnel and money to make the investment. Ideal candidates for a Franchise concept, right?

Franchising is just a branded concept that has put together the systems for the 4 core functions of a business. When you buy the franchise you will have a system for Marketing, Finance, Operations and Management. What should you expect from a Franchise? Check out Part 2.

In Tough Economic times it is Easy to think Negatively

It is easy to get down on yourself or your business in these challenging economic times. I ran accross this quoted passage today and thought it may be useful as some encouragement for others. The media is killing any desire or incentive to get into business at these times. The news you hear all the time, negative news, is what forms your thoughts. Here is some help even if you aren't thinking negatively, it is a great way to manage negative thoughts and ideas by Napolean Hill.

A Negative Mind Spawns Only Negative Ideas.It is a physical impossibility for a negative mind to generate positive thoughts. When you allow yourself to dwell on the negative aspects of life, negative thinking expands to fill all of your thoughts until there is no room for positive thoughts to grow. It becomes an endless cycle."

The habit of negative thinking generates more and more negative thoughts, which the mind attempts to turn into physical reality. The result is a life of despair and hopelessness. Develop the habit of eliminating negative thoughts the moment they appear."

Start small at first. When you first hear that inner voice that says, "I can’t do this," put the thought out of your mind immediately. Instead, concentrate on the task itself. Break it down into manageable parts and complete them one at a time. When the job is finished, tell your doubting self: "You were wrong. I could do it, and I did!"

Napolean Hill

Let's all think positive and maybe all of this negative will disappear and we can all get back to a less stressful world. Hope these thoughts helped you today. What negative thoughts can you get rid of today?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Black and White - Business can be simpler, but HOW?

Business can be simpler, more like Black and White. We are moving toward simplicity through systems. Let me introduce you to the 4 most important systems that should exist in your business. If you are struggling, read on and see if you can relate.

So where did my revelation to the secret come from? In 2005, after completing my MBA, I realized that all businesses are the same, sort of generic. So many owners or want to be owners get hung up on what they want to do or what they want to sell. If they would focus instead on learning the 4 core functions of a business, they would quickly find that all businesses are the same. Yes, all of them. All businesses have AT least the 4 core functions; Marketing, Finance, Operations and Management. Some guru's would likely pick an argument on only selecting 4, but remember the theme behind my blog, black and white; we want to keep it simple.

In my work with Holt and implementing systemic processes in companies for over 5 years, I have created a new version called POWER4systems. POWER4Marketing, POWER4Finance, POWER4Operations and POWER4 Management represent systemic templates for each of the core functions of a business. Utilizing the POWER4system in a business allows the owner to get proven, predictable results from their business.

Systems + People = Sustainable Results.

The POWER4system is based on a concept called the Synergy Force created by Gary Holt of Saginaw Michigan and has successfully utilized the system to help small to medium sized business owners to achieve success that the owners would have never thought possible. The secret? Becoming a Systemic, Process driven Company. So what makes this system different? I have experience utilizing 2 other consultants besides Holt in my business experience. The gentlemen were great. They were smart and knew business very well. The difference? Approach is the difference. They were able to come into our business for a few days, tell us what's wrong and then they go back home. They would get us excited for change and then within a few days we would slide right back to where we were before. Then we would have them come back a few months later and do the same thing, over and over again but we never could seem to get traction. They were making money, but we were not getting anywhere.

The POWER4systems are a different approach and those that utilize the system are not that type of consultant. We will surely determine what is going on in your company, but we take a long term approach and stay with you month by month to hold you and your Company accountable. How do we do that?

The POWER4system Needs Analysis identifies your most critical problem and then progressively builds a systemic, documented system to correct the problem and then monitor the success of its implementation. But don't think once you create the system, that you can walk away. You must constantly improve and adapt your systems to be successful. Accountability is easy to track as the POWER4system is progressive. The System doesn’t lie and will flush out if you or your employees haven't done your homework. Since it is a process, your progress can easily be followed and even though at times you may feel like you are not making any headway, when in fact small changes will occur in your business that will begin to add up over time.

So are you ready for Black and White? How many colors are in your business? I would be most are not simplistic, but let me know what you think.

WHAT DO TEACHERS MAKE? Did a Teacher make a difference in your life?

This was forwarded to me in an email earlier this week and I like it so I wanted to share with others; there is no author listed on the forwarded email.

What do teachers make?

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life. One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued, "What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?" He reminded the other dinner guests what they say about teachers: "Those who can, do.. Those who can't, teach." To stress his point he said to another guest; "You're a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?"

Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied, "You want to know what I make? (She paused for a second, then began...) "Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor winner. I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can't make them sit for 5 without an I Pod, Game Cube or movie rental. You want to know what I make?" (She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table.) I make kids wonder. I make them question. I make them apologize and mean it. I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions. I teach them to write and then I make them write. Keyboarding isn't everything. I make them read, read, read. I make them show all their work in math. They use their God given brain, not the man-made calculator. I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to know about English while preserving their unique cultural identity I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe. I make my students stand, placing their hand over their heart to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, One Nation Under God, because we live in the United States of America. Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life.
(Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.) "Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, with me knowing money isn't everything, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant.... You want to know what I make? I MAKE A DIFFERENCE. What do you make Mr. CEO?" His jaw dropped, he went silent.

THIS IS WORTH SENDING TO EVERY TEACHER YOU KNOW.

Even all your personal teachers like mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and your spiritual leaders/teachers - Pastor's/Priests/Clergy. Make a difference today and e-mail it to everyone on your mailing list, for they matter!

End of What do teachers make?

My wife is a teacher and a very good one. I think that a lot of people have a mis-conception of the "glorious" life of a teacher. There are a great deal of benefits to being a teacher and I do not deny that. Many people don't feel that they work hard. I am here to tell you they do. On school days, my wife leaves the house at 7 am and usually gets home at 6 pm. But, there are differences in teachers. She cares. She LOVES her job and tells me how much she loves her job everyday, every single day. She works with kids who need extra help. Even if you consider Teaching a cushy job, would you want to do it? Would you want to deal with irate parents who are too proud to believe their kids may need extra help? Can you imagine teaching a 3rd grade student how to do 2ND grade math, just because they don't get it as easy as others? Can you imagine trying to discipline kids who know you cannot do anything to them? I know I couldn't do the job that teachers do and GOD bless them. Teaching truly is a calling and a gift, thankfully we have people who LOVE what they do and do it well. So the next time you criticize the "cushy" lifestyle of a teacher, think back, I will bet there is a teacher in your past who influenced the course of your life. I know I have had several. How about you?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Black and White - Is it really that simple?

I have been there. I have asked those same questions and struggled for years to find the answers. Haven't we all tried to make life simpler than it is? I thought a college degree would give me all the answers to business ownership. That didn't work so I thought maybe a Masters degree would do it. Nope, still had a business failure after that! Hmmmmmm....what could it be? I asked myself over and over again while beating myself up for the failure. Fortunately for me, I found help, the help I needed to bring it all together. I had to get help because even after all the years of experience and formal education, something was still missing. I had so many questions out there and I just couldn't figure it out. I have struggled in many types of businesses and business situations in my past with some successes, some failures. Even though some of the failures seemed like I was resting the bottom of a Swiss valley with no way out, I still managed to create success out of failure as the experience has gotten me to this point where I am at today. I have never been so excited about the future. I have discovered the common denominator that I have been missing all these years.


The secret? Systems, systems, systems. The one common denominator that tripped me up over and over again was the lack of systems. Systemic management has been around for years in big companies documenting process flow, and ways to get things done. Systemic management has been out of the reach or understanding for most businesses, unless you are a franchise owner. Even through ownership of businesses, a four year college education and 3 years of graduate studies, I was never introduced to the value of systemic management and what ownership of a Company should be rather than the grim reality of compounded problems that so many business owners face. But that changed in 2004.

I have been fortunate to have a mentor for the past 5 years, Gary Holt, who has shown me how to create systems within small companies, even family operations but more importantly ANY business. Two years ago, my parents, Owners of a large Electrical Contracting firm, allowed me to use their Company as a guinea pig to live the process of creating a systemic Company. Not what you would think of for the ideal business. But the results are in; Sales nearly double over 2008, increased profits, greater efficiencies allowing for reduction in their rates to be more competitive and constant integration of technology. Yes, we even did it in this economy. Michigan's economy where our unemployment rate is hovering around 11-12%. It works, I have proof and Holt has done the same in over 200 other companies as well.


Lack of systems and systemic management was the one common denominator that was not present in my 24 years of experience. But wait, systems, yes I had systems, but they were in my head undocumented, unpredictable and unrepeatable. Systems are so simple, yet few companies have exposure to the benefit of systemic management. Experiencing systemic management,having systems training, and the experience of life and formal education has allowed me to finally put everything together and make sense out of all of it. I have found it can actually be fun running a business. Yes, I did say fun!

With that training and experience I am introducing the World to a system to create systems in small to medium sized businesses. Everything is coming together and I have finally realized "my calling". I want to help others be successful and show them how running a company can be fun, exciting and rewarding. There is no better time than the present for systemic management, our current economic situation will require innovation in how we do business. I don't think business will ever be done the same way as it has in the past 30 or so years. So, Black and White, it really isn't that simple; life that is. But, through all of the colors of life, I have found the Black and White of management.....the simplistic, systemic way of doing business. Interested in learning more? I will be back tomorrow to introduce you to my systems...maybe it is something that could help you! Let's see.....

Monday, March 23, 2009

Black and White

After months of working on my own website and trying to get it just right, I finally discovered that a blog may be just the thing that I need to express myself and be able to contribute to the World in my own way. Yes, I know they have been around awhile, but with the advent of Social Networking (or at least my discovery of Social Networking) I feel it is so important to be writing. I love to write. I am by no means a professional writer, but I am actually working on my own book in the coming months. I set up a blog a couple of years ago, but I just didn't get it then. I get it now, so here we go;

Welcome to my Blog. Maybe you think the blog looks boring, gloomy perhaps. But I see it another way; I see it in black and white.

Black and White, you can't get any simpler than that. The theme, the colors, of my blog. Simple, yet sophisticated. Here I am in the world. I have a lot to say and share about my business experiences over the past 24 years. I want to share with the world in hopes that others can avoid the setbacks I have experienced over my lifetime. My life has been far from black and white, and I am sure many of you out there have had more complex lives than I, but, we each only have our own perspective.

I utilize Black and White on my blog partly because I love black and white photography, but also black and white also represents simplicity. Simplicity is important since there is so much complexity in our world today, we often have so much to choose from, many colors. I could have spent days on designing the blog with lots of cool colors. I love design and creativity. But what about the basics? We have so many colors to choose from we often get caught up and confused about what direction we are going due to the fact that we have so many choices. I represent the basics, basics such as black and white. I want to make life simpler, easier and create more happiness, I want to teach others how to avoid the bumps in the road.

Unfortunately for most business owners, their lives are not as simple as black and white as they are inundated with a variety of colors all the time, too many choices and too many problems. There is not a great deal of simplicity in their lives. Financial strain, never having enough money, not enough sales, how much to spend on marketing, and operational efficiencies just to name a few. Business owners deal with a lot of diversity and often pay for it through lack of family time, chaos, confusion, stress, worry, sleepless nights, and health issues. This was all before the economy fell apart. Operating a business can be very lonely at times. Who do you go to? How is a business supposed to be run?

Lots of questions? I have my own....how do you like my site? Is black and white cool? Let me know what you think. More on black and white tomorrow.
 

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