Friday, 31st July 2020 | Accounting
Quiz: 7 questions to test your cash flow know-how
Effectively managing your cash flow could save you thousands of dollars. Take our cash flow quiz and test your knowledge. We bet you’ll learn something!
Does your business look good on paper but not so much in your wallet? Your cash flow management may well be the problem. If that’s the case, you’re not alone. A study of QuickBooks customers found nearly half (44%) of small- or medium-sized businesses who experienced cash flow issues said their problems came as a surprise. Effectively managing your cash flow could save you thousands of dollars, not to mention all the stress, but you need to understand the issue first. Take our cash flow quiz and test your knowledge. We bet you’ll learn something that will help keep your business operating more smoothly.
1. Cash flow refers to the money you collect from customers and use to pay suppliers. True or false?
True. Cash flow is the money coming in and going out of your business within a specific period of time, usually one month. As you might have guessed from the word “flow”, the term refers to the movement of capital. It is not your business’ valuation or profits.
2. If your company has high revenues and high profits, it won’t have cash flow problems. True or false?
False. Even if you have ample money coming in and expect to make a good profit at the end of the year, you may still have to deal with cash flow gaps. This is when more money is going out towards expenses than is coming in from revenue. So, while your company might be doing well in general, a cash flow problem could make it difficult to cover shorter-term expenses like paying staff or purchasing inventory.
3. Profits and revenue affect your cash flow. True or false?
Not quite! Your revenue is the money you have earned from selling products and services and your profit is what’s left over after you’ve paid all of your expenses. While generating revenue and turning a profit are important to the health of your business, your cash flow is affected by your accounts receivable, inventory, and accounts payable. This is because cash flow has to do with available cash in a given time period.
4. Every business needs working capital. True or false?
True. Your business ties up cash because most employees, landlords, and suppliers expect to be paid regardless of fluctuations in your cash flow. Managing cash flow, or tracking where your cash is going, is the first step to managing your need for working capital. Luckily, labour, technology, and materials are easy to track using a standard profit and loss (P&L) statement. At the same time, the faster you can generate revenue, the lower your working capital needs.
5. One way to control cash flow is to change the terms of your invoices. True or false?
True! You might not think something so simple could have an effect on your cash flow but the payment terms and due date on your invoices can be a great tool for bringing in revenue on your schedule. It’s good practice to send your invoices out immediately upon delivering products or rendering services. You can also shorten the time until payment by offering discounts for customers who pay quickly. Finally, make it as simple as possible to pay you and accept payments online.
6. Maintaining cash flow is just about making sure you have as much money as possible coming in. True or false?
False. Good cash flow management requires a deep understanding of your cash conversion cycle. Remember how cash flow refers to available capital over a certain amount of time? Your cash conversion cycle tells you how many days your cash will be tied up, so you can predict and plan for when you won’t have money to purchase inventory or meet other expenses. If, for example, your cash cycle is 45 days, you’ll only have nine cash flow cycles per year. Your employees, however, get paid every 30 days so you’ll need to make extra working capital available every month. Maintaining cash flow is about making sure you have money coming in at the right time.
7. No matter what, businesses should avoid taking out a loan. True or false?
False! Borrowing money to handle cash flow problems is common—and smart. Running out of inventory and failing to pay suppliers or employees puts your business in a terrible light, not to mention the extra fees you could incur. If you foresee problems with your working capital, your best bet is to be proactive. If your issue is a result of the COVID crisis, visit the Intuit COVID-19 Resource Centre, a free resource for business owners. Or, consider taking out a small loan to cover your costs. There are plenty of options with competitive interest rates and simple repayment plans.
How did you do? If you got all seven questions right, congratulations! You’re a cash flow champion. For the rest of us, there’s still hope to be had. Now is a great time to brush up, make a few tweaks to your processes, and give your business a boost.
Protecting your online presence from cybercrime
Contrary to popular belief, cybersecurity is not just a problem for big enterprises. In 2019, one in five SMBs was the subject of an attack and 37% of those estimated their damage to be more than $100,000, according to an Insurance Bureau of Canada poll about cybercrime and small- or medium-sized businesses. Worse yet, cybercrime is on the rise in Canada, according to the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security’s 2020 National Cyber Threat Assessment Report and the technology is becoming more sophisticated. If you’re a small- or medium-sized business, you’re not immune from attacks but there are things you can do to bolster your security. Read on to learn more about cybercrime and how you can protect your business.
Why SMBs should be concerned about cybercrime
When it comes to cybercrime, the media tends to report on large-scale hacks and major security breaches but Canada’s small- and medium-sized businesses are at as much risk—and may not be as prepared. In the early days of the internet, hackers were mostly interested in mega-corporations and government--organizations that could yield massive pay-offs when breached. These days, though, there’s money to be made from smaller businesses. If you operate un- or inadequately protected, hackers could get into your databases and they’re chock full of identities waiting to be stolen, contacts ready to be exploited, or cash for the taking. Even simpler, hackers might gain entry to your website and hold it for ransom, as happened to a Canadian insurance company in 2019. If you’re breached, the financial cost alone can be crippling, never mind the damage done to your reputation and ability to do business.
Cybersecurity basics: What you can do right now to increase security
Every business, no matter how small, should have security measures in place to protect against cybercrime. Despite this, as many as 40% of SMBs are completely unprotected. One reason for this is the misconception that cybersecurity is highly technical, complicated, and costly, but the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security asserts that this is just not true. In fact, they provide a “baseline” document outlining 13 basic measures SMBs can undertake to bring their cybersecurity practices up to date.
Make an incident response plan
A 2018 Statistics Canada survey found that 87% of respondents lacked a response plan. Plan ahead to make sure your business is able to recover quickly should you become the target of a cyberattack.
Make patching automatic
You know how your systems and applications sometimes show that there’s an update waiting? These updates are usually patches and very frequently have to do with internet security. You can increase your security by selecting “automatic updates” for your systems and hardware rather than having them installed manually.
Use firewalls and anti-malware software
Getting suitable security software can protect your system against cyberattacks.
Use secure your devices Gone are the days of using default passwords.
Configure your devices by changing your passwords, reviewing settings, disabling extras, and enabling any security features.
Codify strong user authentication
Believe it or not, one of the most common ways hackers gain access is through guessing passwords. Develop a password policy, such as using passphrases, having a minimum number of characters, and including a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters. Also, consider multi-factor authentication where more than one method is required to log in.
Train your employees
Raising employee awareness about the issues and training them on the proper use of company systems and machines will reduce the risk of cybersecurity breaches, many of which depend on the ignorance or haste of the user. “Most cyberattacks are socially engineered, designed to illicit a hasty response from the user, and that is when the real damage can occur,” says Humzah Khaial, Managing Director at Numentis. “Nobody expects a computer to be infected, especially when working from home, which is why it catches most people completely off guard.”
Backup and encrypt your data
If you have a secure, encrypted back-up, you can recover quickly from a security breach.
Secure your mobile devices
Many companies use mobile technologies like smartphones as part of their day-to-day business. These devices need to be secured. Consider a corporately owned, personally enabled (COPE) model or corporately owned business-only (COBO) approach. In either scenario, users should only use apps from trusted vendors.
Adopt basic perimeter defences
Networks, Wi-Fi, and VPNs are all ways to gain access to your system. Implement defences including firewalls, encryption, and two-factor authentication.
Secure cloud and outsourced IT
If you store information in the cloud or use outsourced IT services, make sure you know how sensitive information is handled, and what protections you have. Also, be aware that if your data is held somewhere other than Canada it will be subject to different privacy laws.
Secure your websites
As a customer-facing asset, your website can’t afford a breach. Start securing it with the Application Security Verification Standard (ASVS), a list of security requirements and controls to implement during all phases of web application development.
Enable access control and authorization
Most computers use accounts where an individual must enter a username and password. Make sure you have unique logins for all employees and disable old accounts when employees leave. Don’t use shared accounts. Be sparing with who has administrator access.
Secure your portable media
USB drives, hard drives, and memory cards are all examples of portable media, and they should all be secured with encryption whether they’re in the office or not. Also, be wary of drives received from others (such as at a conference) as they may contain malware. Don’t use them until they’ve been assessed.
This list may seem overwhelming but each of these actions can prevent a costly cyberattack. “It’s critical that Canadian businesses take a 360-degree approach to managing cybersecurity risk,” says Khaial, adding that a framework of prevention, protection, and education is the most effective strategy.
Video marketing for small businesses
As commerce moves increasingly online, small businesses are looking for ways to get an edge on their competition and video marketing is a promising strategy. Take a look at these numbers: According to Google, YouTube reaches more 18- to 49-year olds in an average week than all cable TV networks—combined. And it’s more than reach. Video is a strong medium for selling, too. In a 2020 report by Wyzowl, 84% of respondents said they’ve been convinced to buy a product or service by watching a brand’s video.
The data is there. It’s clear that video has a place in marketing small businesses, but effective implementation is another thing entirely. If you’re already using video, do you have the resources and know-how to execute it effectively? And if you’re not, why not? In this article, we’ll share some ideas and best practices for getting the most out of video marketing. Types of videos to consider As a visual medium, video has very few restrictions. If you can tell a story visually, you can tell it on video. That said, your marketing clip may not be the best place to try out an avant-garde approach. Luckily, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. These 9 types of video are tried and tested to get you the views and conversions you’re after.
These short videos are the most common type of video marketing out there. Running around 90 seconds, a product overview shows the main elements and benefits of your product or service. Most television ads are product overviews. When shooting this kind of video, keep things short and sweet.
Think of a teaser video as an amuse bouche for your upcoming product or event. As short as a couple of seconds, the teaser video is designed to pique the interest of your viewers, exciting and engaging them. As an example, imagine you own a kitchen supply shop and you have a new, imported pepper mill coming in. To market this, you could film a teaser with just an up-close glimpse of the grinder plates in action. You could even tie in a contest by having your audience guess the appliance. The idea of a teaser is to arouse interest and foster engagement.
Similar to product overviews, explainers are frequently animated spots that break down products that would be difficult to demonstrate otherwise. If you have a complex or virtual product to sell, you might consider an explainer.
Livestreaming videos are interactive and, due to their availability on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, free and extremely easy to set up. When you livestream you can speak to your audience directly and they can respond to you in the comments section. This is a live medium, so it’s important to make sure you have help with moderation but livestreaming can be the perfect way to share a Q&A or an event. You can showcase your expertise while making your viewers feel like they’ve had an intimate interaction.
Video blogs, or vlogs, are video-based posts designed to inform or educate. They’re suitable for how-tos, tips, or for information that breaks down easily into smaller chunks.
If you’re trying to show someone something more complex than suitable for a vlog, a video tutorial may work well. For example, let’s say you own a photography shop and want to share how to replace your LCD screen on a certain camera. A video tutorial will work perfectly. For computer-based tutorials, the content could be as simple as recording what you’re doing on your own screen.
Milestone or leadership announcement
If your business has reached a new milestone or has had a change in leadership, you could put out a press release and hope it gets read. Or, you could produce a video that captures behind-the-scenes content and showcases the personalities of the people involved. This is your chance to draw your viewers in and make them feel that they’re getting to see what your company is all about. Milestone videos can also help bridge the gap created by COVID and make your viewers feel connected to you and your business.
Contest or promotion
Running a contest or promotion is an established marketing tactic and using video only makes it stronger. As contests have closing dates, it’s critical to get the video shot well in advance.
Webinar or interview
Like a panel at a conference, a webinar or interview can educate and inform your viewers. Make sure you’ve selected a quiet space with a visually appealing background, and that your interviewer is knowledgeable and comfortable in their role. Webinars work well where the buying process is complex or lengthy.
As you can see, no matter your purpose or type of information, there’s a style of video for it. Start simply by running a livestream event or a useful tutorial and work your way up to the more expert applications.
Mitigate risk and potential cash flow issues with a business line of credit
Small business owners know that sometimes businesses need cash. Sometimes they need it fast. Liquidity is a lifeline for small businesses, and owners need to make sure they have the tools in place for every eventuality. A business line of credit is a strong defence against volatility, emergencies, or simple fluctuations, extending a continuous option of cash liquidity so that cash flow never becomes a problem. Read on for more about business lines of credit, how they work, and whether your small business would benefit from a line of credit.
What is a business line of credit and why would you use one?
Just like a personal line of credit, a business line of credit is a loan that gets you access to capital that you can use to meet your needs. For small businesses, these needs might be purchasing inventory, replacing or repairing equipment, renovations, paying off unexpected expenses, or other short-term cash flow gaps. Cash flow allows you to be nimble and make decisions quickly. With a business line of credit, you can simply take out an advance on a pre-approved amount with its own predetermined repayment plan to meet your short-term needs.
A business line of credit from iCapital is an unsecured line of credit with pre-negotiated interest rates and repayment terms. With this product, you can access any amount of money up to your limit on an as-needed basis. And, when you take out a business line of credit with iCapital, our software will automatically send a notification when you become eligible for credit limit increases so you’ll always have up-to-date information on your available cash flow. If you’re interested in a business line of credit, simply apply online with your bank statements and your application will be reviewed on the same day. You can expect funding in 24 hours or less.
Alternatives to a business line of credit
A business line of credit is not the only product you can use to ensure you have access to cash flow for your business. Other products include:
- Term loan
With a term loan, you repay daily or weekly over a set term. There is no interest rate but rather a predetermined fee negotiated by you and the lender, based on your credit score, length of time in business, and other factors. This type of product might work well for a single unforeseen expense such as replacing broken equipment.
- Merchant cash advance
Also, a one-time loan product, a merchant cash advance is perfect for those in retail, hospitality, or food service-type businesses. Rather than having a set repayment amount, you repay based on a percentage of the daily sales transacted through your credit/debit machine. This means that you can get much-needed cash flow without worrying about closures or slow seasons.
- Secured business loan
With collateral (typically property), you can get a business loan to use toward your expenses. As a secured product, you may be able to negotiate lower interest rates and longer repayment terms.
Cash flow is absolutely vital for small businesses and it can be hard to keep on hand. Business loans, cash advances, term loans, and lines of credit are all powerful products to help you keep your business running smoothly. Applying for a business line of credit will ensure you can enjoy the peace of mind knowing that you have access to a pre-approved amount, should the need arise.
Small business financing Canada ,Business loans for bad credit ,Management
Better business & customer service in 2021
As 2021 grows closer, many small business owners are making plans with an eye towards rebounding from a year disrupted by the pandemic. Now is the time to plan, but COVID-19 is really only one of many variables impacting small businesses right now. The pandemic affected how products and services were offered and delivered, and will have implications well into 2021. But savvy business owners are also planning against other market forces like the shift to big box stores and the uber-fast delivery expectations set by Amazon Prime. As you build your new year’s strategy, consider these ideas to make your business stronger in 2021.
Make purchases and delivery easier—for everyone
According to web registrar GoDaddy, “Roughly half of those [businesses] surveyed had a website or active social media account before the pandemic hit. That number has almost doubled.” Businesses who want to maintain or grow during COVID-19 are flocking to online and the next big shift is going to be the adoption of platforms that do everything in one place: sales, email communication, and even marketing.
By undergoing a digital transformation, small businesses can improve their own system while continuing to offer top-notch customer service—and it’s not as complicated as you might think. Take for example, Coffee Tree Roastery, a small shop in Toronto’s West End that, as a response to the COVID-19 retail shut downs, began selling online and offering local delivery or pick-up. They chose the Canadian platform Shopify, which allows them to manage everything from online orders and payments, to in-store POP transactions with one system. For their customers, this represents an easy way to order and pay 24/7.
Some businesses are new to being online, while others are ready to adopt better digital tools. Wherever your business is in regards to your digital presence, now is the time to invest in online.
Go all-in on customer service
It’s tough to compete with the lightning fast delivery times of Amazon Prime or the rock bottom prices offered by some big box stores. Our advice? Don’t. Cultivate your advantage where the giant retailers can’t compete—the personal touch.
You’ve already taken steps towards an online platform so your customers receive the fast and easy ordering process they deserve. Next, figure out what more you can do to make shopping with you pleasant, stress-free, and perhaps even memorable. Free local deliveries, discounts for in-store pick-up, and personalized invitations on key dates like birthdays or anniversaries are all terrific ideas.
Find ways to stand out beyond your customer service efforts, too. Take 15 minutes with your team to brainstorm strategies that make your product or brand memorable, with an added bonus for “feel good” touches. Even if you’re only allowing curb-side pick-ups, consider putting out a small hot apple cider to warm up your customers. Include a hand-written note on the bag for the personal touch. Or, tuck a little freebie like a candy cane or chocolate into the order.
Earn a loyal following
Building your brand is about more than just awareness. You want to earn your customers’ loyalty. Think about ways you can inspire your customers to not only return for more of your product or services, but also recommend you to their friends, family, and colleagues.
Tap into what matters. For example, if your customers value their local shops, find ways to reinforce this like giving them a branded reusable shopping bag. Remember your customers’ names and listen when they tell you about their lives. Recalling their order or their children’s names will go a long way to making them feel special. Encourage repeat customers with VIP offers or discounts. Positive interactions are an incredibly powerful advertisement for your business.
There are many challenges facing small businesses as we roll into 2021, but there’s no shortage of pathways to success. Customers want what they’ve always wanted—fast and easy ordering, a pleasant experience, and a personal touch. COVID-19 has caused notable changes in the shopping experience, but good service is always appreciated, even from six feet away.
Small business financing Canada ,Management