One of the many challenges for businesses post lockdown is about being lean but not mean.
What am I trying to say?
I am talking about balancing cashflow and the affordability to resource with customer and employee satisfaction.
Many business owners have had staff on furlough and are trying to get the timing right in bringing those staff back to work, whilst others are debating how much temporary resource they might need and when.
So how does this impact on both Customer Satisfaction and Employee well-being?
Two examples I have seen this week
Customer satisfaction: I am currently going through a house purchase. Our buyer changed solicitor mid-way through the process as the firm had furloughed so many people, he couldn’t get the service he needed.
Employee well-being: A client of ours was telling us about her husband who is being asked to carry the work of his department of three, working twelve-hour days to keep up. The firm can then maximise their use of the furlough scheme.
In both these examples firms are clearly trying their best to manage cash to preserve their future. However, the outcome is not good for the business with the first example meaning the solicitor lost the work. In the second the employee, already drained after everything we have all gone through in the last few months but sadly due to worries about job security is expected to accept increased workload.
What can you do to get it right?
Plan, plan, plan
Of course, no-one knows what the future holds right now and what the recovery will look like, but you still need to try. Doing so will help to estimate the optimum time at which you will need more resource. My advice; –
1.Make your best estimate on what income will look like
2.Assess the staffing capacity you need to service this well
3.Understand the trigger points in advance on when you need to bring additional resource in to service customers and ensure employee well-being
Consider Capacity requirements
• If you have used the furlough scheme, take advantage of its flexible nature. Remember you can bring people back on any working pattern now so assess what is right for you. Consider is it more efficient to bring people back for one day and get everything done for the week ahead or is a few hours per day more appropriate.
• If you use temporary or outsourced resource, then talk to them. Make the situation collaborative and talk about what you need, try to be flexible to ensure they can perhaps top up with work from other sources.
Once you’ve looked at what income you might get, and the resource required then look at your cashflow. What does that mean for you as a business, do you need additional funding to get you through the next few months.
The balancing act
It is very hard being a business owner right now.
We are all trying to manage cashflow as best we can in uncertain times. A little bit of planning will ensure you can look after your employees, your client and your bank balance.
Be lean but don’t be mean.
According to FIFA the main purpose of VAR is to ensure that no clearly wrong decisions are made. So with Russia 2018 in full flow how can law firms use VAR to prevent poor decision making and consequently improve their financial performance.
I’m not suggesting videoing board meetings and re-watching them as often sitting through the meeting the first time was tough enough. I would suggest using it as a prompt to drive improved performance. Here’s how…
Do you know how your firm is performing and not just headline sales and profit but what is really driving them? As an illustration do you know how your business is performing in terms of
Profile of work
Profitability of each work stream from both a client and product perspective
Current level of capacity
Taking that a step further how does this compare to how you need to perform to achieve your goals.
Ultimately you need visibility through accurate, relevant and timely information to drive behaviours.
As one of my clients said recently “you have given us greater visibility of our performance which in turn gives us confidence in our decision making “
Once you’ve set targets and started to measure them do you do anything with the results?
Any good analyst can create a pack of information with pretty graphs but unless you do something with it is worthless. It’s vital to spend time on a regular basis to review your performance, set clear actions and follow up on them. If your team know that actions will be followed up then you can be sure they will be done.
No accountability for failed actions will lead to ignorance of any actions set.
If you set clear targets, measure yourself against them and then take actions both to rectify the problems and promote the positives you will achieve the desired results. As a couple of examples in my experience this has led to
-Improved profitability on fixed fee work
-Better informed pricing decisions
-Timely recruitment meaning you get the right people and not just the people available right now
-Income growth due to innovative pricing offerings
Visibility Accountability Results
Having spent the last eight years in the legal profession I know many of the issues you face and the key drivers to target improved financial performance. I currently work with a number of law firms to achieve this and if you want a chat about how I can help you then please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call on 07960 564 203.
It’s the end of January and whilst the waist band might be a bit looser than the start of the month your cash flow is getting tighter. For many it can take a couple of months in to the New Year to feel like you are back on track and in the meantime it’s just a balancing act to keep things ticking over. So now is the time to think about why it’s always like this in January and what you can do to avoid the pain next year. Some common reasons that I’ve seen clients experience are below and some thoughts about what you can do about them
My client didn’t pay me before Christmas….
If your client didn’t pay before Christmas think about whether they are slow payers all year round or just in December. I’ve felt the pain from mid-December when you just can’t seem to get hold of your client to discuss a payment date. Worse still they promise to pay and by the time its failed to arrive they have closed for Christmas.
Be pro-active and think about what you can do to try and improve this cycle. If it’s a big company it’s always good to find out when their regular payment runs are so you can adapt the timing of your invoicing to meet their schedule. Just bringing forward any monthly invoicing a couple of days could mean you meet their payment run and get paid 15 or 30 days earlier.
If you are dealing with a smaller business, then just talk to them and explain the pressure the delayed payment is putting on you. Honesty from your side may result in them being more honest with you. It may be you can agree a payment plan to clear a larger debt or just a regular monthly payment to keep them on track with on-going work.
January is always an expensive month
January may mean a Vat payment, the rent is due or the dreaded personal tax bill is higher than you thought and so cash flow is always tight.
Be pro-active and plan your cash flow. If it is the case that due to timings January is always a stretched month then it’s time to do some high level planning. Can you spread some of your costs throughout the year, can you get more clients on regular payment plans or do you need to think about your funding requirements. Planning the year ahead for your business will help you identify when these pinch points are going to arise so you will see them coming far earlier and be prepared.
I’m growing I need to invest
You may be growing your business which requires investment. Detailed planning will ensure you know how much you need and how long the pressure will be on so you can get the appropriate funding at a cost you can afford from the start. This enables you to focus on the challenges of growth knowing you have the cash behind you to support this and you can get on with making your business the best it can be.
If cash flow is tight and you want to have a chat about how you can ease the pressure, then drop me a line or give me a call.