Author Archive Tony Dalton

What is a Balance Sheet?

Many people panic when faced with balance sheets usually because they don’t understand them.

Basically, a balance sheet is a snapshot of a company on a given day. That doesn’t sound like much but looking at it carefully will tell you a lot about the financial health of a business.

It is a list of a company’s assets and liabilities that must balance (hence the name) with the money employed in the business including the profits or losses that the company has made up to that particular day.

The Assets appear on one side, all those items that generate income, such as:

  • stock
  • debtors
  • money in the bank
  • profits
  • fixed assets
  • prepayments — bills you have paid in advance,
  • intellectual property rights
  • petty cash

The other side are those items that cost money, the Liabilities:

  • creditors
  • VAT and any other sums owed to Her Majesty’s Customs and Revenue
  • bank overdraft
  • credit card balances
  • loans
  • accruals — bills that you know that you will have to pay

The total  assets are taken from the total liabilities, giving either a plus or minus figure, described as the net assets (if positive) or net liabilities (if negative).

There is then another list that shows the money the business requires to function, the total capital employed. It’s made up of:

  • share capital — the money put into the company to start it up in the first place
  • long term loans — any loans taken out to build the business
  • all the previous year’s profit or loss

The totalof this list must equal the net asset/ liability figure, whatever it is.

Thebalancing figure is the profit/ loss figure, being the total amount of profitor loss made by the company since it was formed.

Now you have a balance sheet.

Do you hire people cleverer than you?

Do you hire people cleverer than you?

To grow successfully requires you to be a great leader and it starts when you chose your team.

The late publishing magnate Felix Dennis used to say “never seek a replica of yourself to delegate to, or to promote”.

It is a common error, but if you do it shows that you are weak

Remember, we all have strengths and weaknesses so wouldn’t it be easier to increase those strengths through employing people who can address our weaknesses.

You may have heard of David Ogilvy, he started Ogilvy & Mather, which grew into one of the biggest advertising agencies in the sixties and early seventies, he was a big believer in only ever hiring people who were smarter than him. To remind his staff to do the same he placed sets of Russian nesting dolls around his offices.

He told his staff “If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.”

I understand they’re still dotted around Ogilvy offices today.

Does the subscription model work?

Yes, yes, yes, you just have to work out how to use it for your business.

Recently Uber have announced that they will offer a subscription model in 5 US cities.  They are offering a monthly subscription of only $24.99 a month. They intend to eventually roll it out across the States and then throughout the world.

What has triggered this change of direction?

Some say it is because a much smaller rival Lyft began offering 30 rides for $299 a month, but that is not it.

Uber is building up for a stock market launch, therefore to maximise their value they need to show a sustainable regular income stream, which is what a subscription model provides.

When you think that Netflix, Amazon Prime and Sky all use a similar model and look how they have grown in the last few years.

Now, if you could do it, maybe you could have the same benefits.  It has given these companies a sustainable regular income, which is allowing them, now, to dominate the media space.

Therefore, you need to start thinking creatively, you need find a way to move your business to a subscription model.

It may not give you the Perfect Business, but you will have the benefit of regular cash flow.

 That’s Think Cash!

(c) Tony Dalton
author of Cash Management
published by A & C Black ISBN 978-1-4081-3984-4
Buy it at www.think-cash.co.uk/the-book

The importance of a good cash flow chart!

This is worrying story, but unfortunately a true one, that explains why a good cash flowchart is so important.

It is about the downfall of a public company, Conviviality PLC., and how that company valued at £500M in January, went bust in March!

All because they didn’t keep proper cash flow records.

This company had grown from a single store, Bargain Booze, in 1981, into a chain of stores that went public in 2013. Once public they went on a buying spree, buying several small off-license chains and then in 2015 and 2016 they bought two drinks wholesalers!  Over this period their sales grew from £372M to £ 1.5B.

However, their move into wholesaling led to a cash flow problem.  To explain, when they were an off license they got their money over the counter, but as a wholesaler they had to give credit, which needs either a pot of cash or invoice discounting to cover this gap. As they didn’t have the cash they chose invoice discounting, which meant they sold their invoices to a finance company who paid them most of the money immediately and then collected the money when their customer paid.

This would have been fine if their records had been correct, however, it appears that even though they were a large public company, they were still using a manual spread sheet!

As inevitably happens with manual systems, someone forgot to enter £30M of alcohol duty and VAT!

This had an inevitable and catastrophic result, leading to the recalculation of the profit forecast, which in turn panicked their suppliers, leading to their funders losing confidence in them and they stopped discounting their invoices. They couldn’t buy any stock! Conviviality PLC simply did not have the money to cover this, and, as nobody would lend it to them, there was only one solution, to call in the administrator.

Most of the jobs have been saved, as the administrator was able to sell the constituent parts to companies that have good cash management systems in place, at a fraction of their worth.

This is an example of how without good management accounts and proper cash flow management, things can go wrong, very quickly.

It doesn’t only happen to large companies, which leads me to ask, how good are you cash management records?

That's Think Cash!

Could this be you?

The Newfoundland Labor Department claimed a small Green's Harbour fisherman was not paying proper wages to his help and sent an agent out to investigate him.

Gov't employee: I need a list of your employees and how much you pay them.

Fisherman:          Well, there's my deck hand who's been with me for 3 years.

I pay him $200 a week plus free room and board.

Then there's the mentally challenged worker.  

He works about 18 hours every day and does about 90% of all the work around
here. 

He makes about $10 per week, pays his own room and board, and I buy him a bottle of whiskey every Saturday night so he can cope with life.  

He also sleeps with my wife occasionally.

Govt employee:  That's the guy I want to talk to...the mentally challenged one.

Fisherman:          That would be me.

Do you do freebies?

Do you find you are working for nothing when you should be charging?

Do you end up doing freebies that really ought to be invoiced?

Do your friends ask you for something for which they really should be paying?

Do clients keep asking for advice and never pay, then keep asking further questions, with the result that you feel you can’t bill them until they are satisfied, and that point never seems to arrive!

You are not alone; it happens to all of us. We are not happy but are too nice to mention it. In fact, if we are really honest, we don’t know how to raise it.

Well, there are ways around it, though all of them mean that you have to say that you need to be paid.

You must say to these freeloaders right at the start that your advice is tainted. It is tainted because your advice has not been paid for.

If your advice is paid for, you have a professional duty of care to get it right.  But, if you have just given the advice for free, you don’t have the same duty of care, even though naturally you will always want to get it right.

Much more importantly, if you are being paid, you can afford to put aside the time required to ask all the questions and to make certain you give the correct advice.  Again, the real beneficiary is the recipient.

With these clients, in fact with most of them, the obvious solution is to agree a monthly retainer. A fee you charge each month for normal advice. You agree at the start what is normal advice and explain that anything outside this is billed separately.  It makes life easier for both of you.  You know you have a regular income from this client and are therefore happier to help them, while they know that there won’t be a nasty bill coming in at some future date.

It sounds simple doesn’t it?  It is, but only as long as you set this up at the beginning of your relationship.  Other professions do it, people do recognise and accept it. For example, go to a solicitor on a legal matter, they will ask for an advance along with your signature on a letter covering just about everything.

You don’t need to be this serious, however, you just explain at the beginning that you are going to set up a monthly payment plan. I do it through PayPal, it is simple for both of us.

That’s Think Cash!

© Tony Dalton

What better use of money?

I couldn’t resist this story as it is an interesting example of good debt and being brave.

This gentleman walked into a bank in Central London and asked for the loan officer.

He says he is going to Europe on business for two weeks and needed to borrow £5,000.

The bank officer explained that the bank will need security for such a loan, so the gentleman handed over the keys to a brand new Rolls Royce parked on the street in front of the bank.

Everything checks out, and the bank agrees to accept the car as collateral for the loan.

An employee drives the Rolls into the bank's underground garage and parks it there.

Two weeks later, the man returns, repays the £5, 000 and the interest, a total of £15.41.

The loan officer says, "We are very happy to have had your business, and this transaction has worked out very nicely, but we are a little puzzled sir. While you were away on business, we checked you out and found that you are a multi-millionaire! What puzzles us is why would you bother to borrow £5,000?"

His reply was "Where else in Central London can I park my car for two weeks for £15.41?"

Now that’s Good Debt!

 

 

The Market Rules

Have you noticed that everybody seems to have a view on what is your right price.

How often have you been told your price is too low and that you should raise them immediately?  They tell you you will make more money, the trouble is that if your customers don’t want to pay this figure they will look for someone cheaper and you will make less money!

This is because “The Market” has spoken.

Others under price their time or work, with the result that they become overloaded with too much work, which inevitably, also, leads to them starting to lose business, their cash flow dries up or  things look bad, or they start taking on more and more people, which works for a short time, but should the market change they will be the first to suffer, as their margins will be too low.

So how do you get it right?

Let “The Market” tell you.

The right price in your head may be one figure but if “The Market” doesn’t like it, it will tell you, either by giving you too much work or by giving you less.

This leads to the next question, how do you find the right price?

You ask, “The Market”.

To find the right price put your price in “The Market” then carefully examine the results. Then test it again with a different price, keep doing this until you reach the optimum figure. Now you have your price, which is the one “The Market” has picked for you.

Do not underestimate “The Market”, it always wins.

It is the same when you have to decide where to sell you product, put it in “The Market” and it will tell you whether the demand is there.  If it isn’t, change product or your target group to what “The Market” wants.

Remember “The Market” is the king, so listen to it, give it what it wants and you will start generating cash.

Now that’s Think Cash!

 

What I learnt from Paul Getty

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What I learnt from Paul Getty

He was an oil man who in 1957 was named by Fortune magazine as the richest man in America, which in those days meant the planet. He made his money in oil in the state of Oklahoma, and then in 1949 he spent nearly $30 in Saudi Arabia looking for oil, it took him four years and eventually he found it. This is what made him one of the richest men in the world.

He was an interesting man and as a young man I read his autobiography, it was fascinating but there was one part I will never forget.

He said that if you want to start a business don’t work for a mega company work for a small one, as while working in a small one you will see and learn, as they won’t hide away all the crisis’s.  You will see them, and even be part of solving them, you will learn the importance of cash flow.

I was in my early twenties when I read this, working for Unilever, and it was so true, as in large companies there are silos and everyone works inside a silo, and never moves out of their silo.

When I decided to start my own business, I left my silo and floated off myself into the world of small business imagining I knew it all.   I didn’t, suddenly life was different, all those company support mechanisms had gone.  I got orders, but people didn’t pay me.

In fact, I found that most of my first customers were taking a long time to pay, and I learnt my first cash flow lesson.  If you are too keen for the order you pick up the bad payers.

I then learnt that there are companies who will suck you in and then come up with every reason not to pay you.  Others will want your expertise, be very friendly but won’t pay you.

Which leads me to ask you how many people have you given freebies too because you wanted to be nice and then nothing came of it? That was another thing that made John Getty so rich.  He didn’t do freebies.  He even put a pay phone in his house!

Now that’s Think Cash!

© Tony Dalton

  author of Cash Management

A fish only sees water it doesn’t see anything else

A fish only sees water it doesn’t see anything else

It’s true isn’t it, if you told them about another world they wouldn’t know, they never get out of the water, they don’t see anything else, they would be terrible businessmen.

That’s what I do, I get out of the water and I look at businesses through fresh eyes, which reminds me of Champagne Charlie.  He was a management consultant who specialised in the manufacturing sector, Charlie claims he can go into any factory and reduce their costs. Quite a claim.

Well, a company in the West Midlands challenged him. One at the end of a busy high street.  Charlie was in the managing director’s office and he got carried away, he blurted out, ‘anybody could walk into your factory and find ways to improve your efficiency’.

The MD didn’t take kindly to this, but instead of throwing him out challenged him, he walked over to the window and said, ‘see all those all those people walking down the road. I’ll pick one person, you go down and ask him to come into my factory and see if he can find ways to improve my production. If he does, I will give you a crate of champagne.’ Charlie couldn’t resist.

They went over to the window, Charlie nearly died. It was lunchtime and the road was packed! The MD pointed out a short, fussy looking man in a pair of slacks wandering along the road carrying a load of books. Charlie went down and approached him, explained the situation to him. The guy was intrigued and agreed. Charlie took him down to the shop floor and left him there. Charlie then sat in the outer office waiting, trying to convince himself that he hadn’t been an idiot and regretting ever having made such a rash comment.

Eventually the stranger came back and together they went back into the managing director’s office. The stranger then explained that he was a teacher, he’d spent his life in schools and therefore knew nothing about factories. Charlie’s heart sank. He then said he had a question.

It was “why were the machines laid out in the way they were”. He explained that as each machinist finished a job, he watched him walk to the other end of the shop to hand it to the next machinist. Why they weren’t next to each other?

There was a long pause and then the managing director said, ‘Well, do you know you’re right, we never even thought about it, each time we buy a new machine it is simply put in the next available space. You have just saved my machinists a lot of time, which for us is money.’

Charlie proved his point, got his job, a case of champagne and has dined out on the story ever since!

So, are you just a fish in the water or can you look at your business from outside?

That’s Think Cash!

© Tony Dalton

Think-cash.co.uk