Companies dominating when it comes to inventory management

Companies dominating when it comes to inventory management

No-one knows more about the importance of finding the perfect balance than daredevil tightrope walkers. They are constantly pushing boundaries and defying the odds while attempting stunts that stun audiences. Some famous landmarks like the Grand Canyon, or iconic buildings like the once Twin Towers, have been crossed by those with nerves of steel. But probably the most well-known is Charles Blondin, who on the 30th of June 1859 became the first to cross a tightrope suspended above the Niagara Falls.

Charles Blondin crossed 1,100 feet on a 2-3-inch tightrope suspended between 160 and 200 feet in the air. He then went on to cross this same tightrope blindfolded, lay down on the tightrope in the middle of another attempt, and offered to push a volunteer across in a wheelbarrow on yet another. It’s no surprise that there were no takers for the wheelbarrow.

Stunts like these require incredible precision and practice. One wrong move and it can lead to tragedy. In the retail and wholesale industry this same sort of precision and practice is required when it comes to inventory purchasing. There is a fine balance between purchasing too much or too little inventory. The risks for a small business is high. Purchase too much and you run the risk of losing money, purchase too little to serve your clients and they are likely to go elsewhere to find what they are looking for.

Then again, balance isn’t just for the inventory purchasing stage but the whole end-to-end process. It’s no use starting to walk a tightrope only to get stuck in the middle. For retailers and wholesalers seeing the process through from start to finish is all part and parcel of the inventory management tightrope.

Planning, processes, good management, good systems, real time data, and foresight are important to a business trying to strike the right balance. There are companies out there getting it right and rocking their inventory management so we’ve gathered some information on the lessons they have to share.

1. Edison Stone

Using historic data for decision-making

Nicole Reid, Inventory Planner from Edison Stone, a brand house which develops and represents top brands and products for the kitchen & homeware market, says they rely heavily on historic data and trends to identify cyclical norms that provide Edison Stone with insight into future inventory purchases.

The record keeping process around items and products that sell are a key indicator of sales performance over time and drive part of the decision-making process. These patterns can help accurately predict stock required for certain items and guide business owners when it comes to striking the right balance between supply and demand.

The Edison Stone team also make use of inventory management software that helps to track all data points for the decision process. These systems ensure that they can run a tight ship and maintain a constant flow of stock for their customers and smoothly execute the picking, receiving, packing and dispatching for all products.

Experience, communication and systems

Nicole believes that an experienced warehouse team, strong communication, the right inventory system, and the support and involvement of top-level management are all part of what makes Edison Stone’s inventory management successful.

2. takealot

Cashing in on efficiency

takealot offer an extensive range of locally supplied and imported books, DVDs, music, games, electronics and toys. They make use of a software solution called RELEX to help them with their forecasting, inventory management and stock assortment to reduce their time on routine ordering.

Distribution and dispatch processes

As an inventory-holding eCommerce business they place a lot of focus on their distribution processes. Having acquired stakes in Mr. Delivery they have invested heavily in great service delivery. This investment in their dispatch service gives them control over their deliveries and adds another dimension to their business. This means they can do same-day delivery and after-hour deliveries while also having control from the distribution centre right through to the customer.

3. Spree

Organise and identify

Grethe van Rensberg, Operations Manager at Spree, says ‘it’s important to organise and identify products from the start. This includes clear descriptions, information and categories.’ Making sure inventory counts are accurate and updates are done in real-time is important for them as an online retailer. This helps them ensure that processing can be done quickly, accurately and seamlessly.

Customise if you need to

Spree has made use of their own in-house planning, merchandise and warehouse management system specifically catering to the complexities that come with eCommerce. Grethe stresses the importance of real-time updates in order to stay on top of things and for all systems to work from an end-to-end process so that no balls get dropped along the way.

4. Amazon

Don’t waste time

The mammoth eCommerce and cloud computing company, Amazon, have a few secrets of their own when it comes to inventory management. When items first arrive, they don’t waste time scanning and sorting. In fact, during peak seasons items are logged and scanned within the first 12 hours of arrival so that everything is always tracked on their systems.

The hands-on approach

However, even this successful company doesn’t rely solely on computer systems. They utilize warehouse workers on the ground who are armed with barcode data collection software to ensure they keep up with shipments at these times. A lot can be said for this hands-on approach if big companies like Amazon are making use of practices like this.

Organise your warehouse

When it comes to warehouse planning it is reported that they keep similar items separate from each other to avoid human error from workers accidentally grabbing the wrong item. Their most popular items are located in multiple locations to prevent bottlenecks that occur when too many people converge on one spot.

Every business is different and the challenges won’t be the same. But it can be helpful to learn from those who have been down the road, figured out what works and have empowered their business to operate efficiently so that they can serve and delight their customers.

 

Lulalend’s most frequently asked questions

Lulalend’s most frequently asked questions

General questions

How must I apply?

The application process is done completely online:

  • For new clients: go to lulalend.co.za and click on the Apply Now button.
  • For existing clients: go to lulalend.co.za and click on Log In
  • Complete your personal details, then your business and financial information.
  • Link your online bank account to Yodlee. This will allow you to provide us your bank transactional information in a read-only format. Alternatively you can link your Sage or Xero account for us to view your transactional history or upload a PDF version of your latest 3 month bank statements.

 

How long will it take to process the application?

Providing we have all the necessary information, the assessment and disbursement can take place within 24 hours.

  • The actual application process should take 8 minutes
  • If you link your online bank account via Yodlee (preferred option) or provide Internet bank statements, we are then able to process the application within one hour. If we need to manually capture the bank statements, then our processing time depends on the volume of transactions.

 

What is the minimum and maximum term? Can I extend the term?

Our funding period is over 6 and 12 months. However, being a new client and trading for less than 2 years the system usually only allows a 6 month term. The 6 month term is much more flexible than 12 months. If you ensure that the re-payments are met on time you can apply for a re-advance in less than 4 months. Whereas our 12 month product will only allow a re-advance in approximately 8 months.

 

What if I want to settle early?

You are welcome to settle early and no penalties will be charged. All future costs associated with your advance will be waivered.

 

What is the minimum and maximum amounts offered?

Our funding ranges from R20,000.00 to R1 000,000.00

 

How does Lulalend use my online banking profile?

Both Yodlee and Lulalend can’t perform any payments, transfers or any other transactions using your information. Yodlee simply uses your securely stored login details for one purpose only: to retrieve transactions from your banking site. Lulalend uses your financial data for the sole purpose of assessing whether you qualify for a loan.

 

What makes us different to other lenders or banks?

  • Our process is much faster and completely online
  • We require no paperwork
  • We do not charge admin and initiation fees
  • Our costs are transparent and agreed upon upfront
  • There are no penalty fees for settling early
  • Funds are disbursed within 48 hours of submitting your application
  • We offer unsecured funding

 

What are the requirements to apply for funding?

We require that your business has a minimum monthly turnover of R40,000.00 as well as an annual turnover of at least R400,000.00 and it must be actively trading for at least one year.

 

What interest rates do you charge?

Our funding is not linked to any interest rate calculation. We charge a fee (cost) which is based on a % of the principal amount funded. The cost varies between 5% and 12% and is determined based on the risk and overall scoring of the business. (Here you can refer to our calculator).

 

What would my instalments be?

The accurate amounts would be dependent on your application outcome, but if you scroll to the bottom of our home page you can view a breakdown based on average risk.

 

How do your repayments work?

Monthly costs are 3% – 10% of your advanced amount for the first 2 or 4 months (plan dependant) and 2% for each of the remaining months.

Can I refinance my Lulalend advance before I have repaid all my instalments?

Yes you may apply for a Lulalend re-advance. Please contact a Lulalend consultant to discuss your re-advance options.

 

Do you offer personal loans?

Unfortunately not. We only offer business funding to registered South African companies, close corporations and sole proprietors who are VAT registered.

 

My business is not making R40, 000.00 per month but I have contracts lined up which will generate approximately that. Can I still apply – AND/OR – I have a government tender, can I get funding?

Our affordability assessment (measure of business financial health) is based on the historical financial information of the business. Unfortunately, we do not take future contracts into account.

 

Can I apply for funding for a start-up or new business?

Unfortunately, you need a successful trading history of at least 1 year, as well as a turnover of at least R400,000 per year to qualify for Lulalend business funding.

 

What is a credit facility?

This is a facility that gives your business access to a line of credit which allows you to draw down on available funds without us needing to do an assessment on your business each time.

 

What are the benefits of the facility?

  • Access to funds whenever you need them
  • Only ever pay for the funds you draw down
  • Settle early and save on future months costs

 

How long is my credit facility available for?

As long as you continue to trade well, the facility is available to you. Please note that you will need to remain linked via your online banking account or online accounting profile (Sage or Xero) to avoid placing your facility on hold.

 

How do I drawdown on my facility?

Log onto your Lulalend profile and go to the Credit Facility tab. You will see the available amount that you are able to draw down. Select the amount and click “Withdraw now”. You will then be presented with a legal agreement to sign online.

 

What happens to my repayment profile each time I draw down?

Each draw down cancels out the existing repayment profile and puts you on a new payment profile based on the total capital outstanding after the draw down.

 

When can and can’t I draw down on my facility?

You are allowed to draw down at any time, other than:

  • when you are in arrears on any Lulalend product.
  • when the Facility is placed on hold.
  • 48 hours prior to your next debit order.

 

How much does it cost to have a credit facility?

It will not cost anything to have a credit facility product. You only ever pay for the funds you use.

 

What would my instalment and costs be for the facility?

Every month you pay back 1/6th of the total advanced amount plus the monthly cost. For the first 2 months, monthly costs are 3% – 6% of the capital amount drawn down and 2% for each of the remaining 4 months.

 

How do I increase my facility amount?

Log onto your Lulalend profile and go to the Credit Facility tab. You will see a red circle with an arrow next to Credit Facility Limit amount. You need to click on the Arrow and fill in the amount you would like to increase to.

 

My credit facility is on-hold, what does that mean?

This will occur when the system requires further information which has been flagged for review. A credit analyst will be in touch with you for more information if required.

 

Does the business information I submit online remain confidential?

Yes, all information submitted online is treated confidentially and will only be used by the Lulalend team to obtain an application result.

 

How long has Lulalend been around?

Since 2014

 

Is Lulalend registered with any financial bodies/institutions?

Yes, we are registered with the NCR and are also a member of the South African SME Finance Association.

 

Can I come to your offices to complete a form?

No, we are an online business and only accept applications via our website.

 

Where are you based and do you fund businesses outside of Cape Town?

We are based in Cape Town but service businesses throughout South Africa.

 

Do I need to send any other information for my application such as financial statements?

No, we only require your latest 3 months bank transaction history and all other details are captured during the online application process.

 

Can I attach my assets for funding?

No, we only offer unsecured funding. We do not call for collateral.

 

Can I apply if I/my business has a listing or judgement?

Unfortunately Lulalend will not be able to assist you if you have any adverse listings on your name or adverse listings against your company’s name. You are welcome to apply should these adverse listings/judgements be removed.

 

How do I sign the legal agreement?

Once you have accepted our quotation, we will send your legal agreement via Quicklysign.  You and two independent witnesses will then need to digitally sign the agreement on the same PC/laptop.

 

How do I make changes to my application details (e.g. email, address, bank details)?

Please contact our team via our support email: support@lulalend.co.za.

 

What happens if I am late with my payments?

You will receive an email notification that the debit order was unsuccessful and will subsequently be contacted by our collections department. A late payment fee will be charged, if no action is taken to settle the outstanding amount we will then proceed with legal action.

 

What do I do if my credit profile is incorrect?

You will be required to contact Compuscan and have them update any incorrect information.

 

I can’t remember my Lulalend password, what do I do?

You will need to navigate to https://www.lulalend.co.za/Account/Login and click on ‘Forgot your password? Reset it now »’. You will then receive an email to reset your password (as we do not have access to view your password).

 

My business is not registered for VAT?

The VAT registration number is used for verification purposes. If your business is not registered with CIPC we require a valid VAT registration number.

  • If your business is registered as a PTY Ltd then we do not require a VAT number
  • If you are a Sole Trader we need a VAT registration number to proceed.

 

Why business productivity does not equal how much you can do in a day

Why business productivity does not equal how much you can do in a day

We all dream of being able to take on the world: getting everything done that we need to do and still having time left over for more. We envy business giants like Richard Branson, Shaun Bezo, Warren Buffet and Arianna Huffington. They seem to have it all figured out. Success follows everything they touch and they seem to have found the perfect formula for productivity. It’s easy to grow despondent when we compare ourselves or when we start to define productivity by how much we can get done in a day.

The truth is each of them have had their fair share of failures. They had to learn along the way, put support systems in place, and spend time redefining success and productivity. For example, according to Business Insider, Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy had a “thinking schedule.” He blocked out lots of time to think: half a day every two weeks and a whole day every month. Similarly, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner makes it a point to schedule nothing and President Obama used to take thoughtful walks when he was working from the White House.

The industry of productivity

With an explosion of technology that advocates for efficiency we wouldn’t put ‘setting time aside to think or do nothing’ in the productivity category. In fact, if you were to schedule that into your diary it would probably make you feel lazy, unproductive and guilty. That’s probably because we’ve created an industry out of getting more stuff done with less. We’ve gone from hard cover diaries and writing out to-do-lists to shared schedule technology for syncing plans and setting up meetings, ready-made meals we can pop into the oven and prepare in minutes, voice search technology for immediate access to information, online shopping to avoid a trip to the store, and a host of other productivity tools for our personal and business use.

These aren’t bad things. A lot of them have made our lives more convenient, but as they help us accomplish more in less time they have also shaped what we think productivity looks like. In a world that equates being busy to being productive maybe we need to reevaluate our own definitions of the concept of productivity.

How we’ve redefined productivity as value added

At Lulalend we have monthly goals and targets we want to reach, but one of our core values is striving to leave work each day feeling good about what we’ve achieved. If we feel good about that it doesn’t necessarily mean that we got through our to-do-list. Instead it means that we made every effort to do what we could for the day and what we did manage to get through we did well and it added value.

This doesn’t mean we’re tucked behind our desks staring at a computer all day. We brainstorm and throw out ideas while grabbing a coffee made by our favourite baristas downstairs at Tribe Coffee, or we just grab a coffee. Our teams get together in one of our boardrooms to consult one another on several things throughout the day. We take walks around the city to get some fresh air, or sit in our common area listening to music while coming up with creative campaign ideas. This is because we’re less about the business of ticking off tasks and more about the business of contributing something of value. Getting through a list doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve contributed value, it might just mean that we’ve got a bunch of stuff done.

So, we’ve redefined productivity by the value of our output instead of just the measure of our output. We realised that we can put in extra hours and get to every item on our list but still not add value to our business. And if we don’t add value to the business, we don’t add value to our clients.

But what does this look like? Well, we make sure in everything we do we offer better quality service to our clients. We build the best technology so that we can provide the best solution to financial inclusion, we ensure that we understand our client’s biggest needs and challenges, we deliver what we promise, we educate and provide expert advice, we invest in partnerships, we lend responsibly, we make it as easy as possible for our clients to ask for credit and access it, and we continually look for ways to innovate and improve our products.

How do you define productivity and what does this look like in your business?

5 things BnB owners can do to see more business come through the door

5 things BnB owners can do to see more business come through the door

South Africa is a melting pot of different cultures with a diverse range of things to offer tourists. We have the breathtaking Table Mountain, the Kruger National Park that is home to the Big 5, and the warm waters and popular beaches of Durban. All these attractions make South Africa the perfect place to holiday, as a local or a foreigner.

So, with the constant flow of holiday makers and tourists, how do you make sure your BnB is on their radar and you’re getting business through the door? Here are a few tips on what you can do to be noticed by those searching for the perfect place to stay while on holiday.

1. Showcase what clients can expect to get

According to a study conducted by MDG Advertising, 60% of consumers are more inclined to select a business with images in its online listing. In an industry where people are making choices that are based strongly on liking what they see, showcasing your BnB with attractive pictures is a competitive advantage.

Make sure that any flyers, pamphlets or your website itself show off the beauty, functionality and practicality of your facilities. This way your customers can get a better sense of what type of experience they are in for.

Include a gallery on your website that depicts the type of experience they can expect. This can help to communicate whether it has a warm, cozy, homely type of feel to it, or is more of a cosmopolitan, boutique type BnB. If it’s a tranquil cottage by the sea or a cabin in the Drakensburg ,where customers can snuggle up next to a fireplace, make sure you highlight those strengths. People know what type of holiday experience they want, so images can help them decide if your BnB will offer them what they are looking for.

Also, make mention of the amenities and added extras that your BnB has to offer. For example, do you have a pool, are you situated close to restaurants and other night life, do you offer Wi-Fi connectivity or a shuttle services to get around? Of course, price is a big deciding factor but these extra offerings can also help persuade people to book in at your BnB instead of another one down the road

2. Consider advertising on other platforms

Travel websites and online platforms can be a great place for people to find your BnB. Consider using directories like ExpediaBooking.com and Airbnb. These serve as a marketplace for hospitality services and allow holiday makers to find accommodation easily.

These websites act as brokers that receive a percentage of the service fees from guests and hosts for every booking made. Their rates vary depending on the website, so do some research and decide whether you’re willing to pay a percentage of your earnings to market your business there. If it brings in more business it might be worth it, but you need to weigh up your options.

3.   Collect reviews and get ratings

Customer reviews and testimonials are incredibly powerful, particularly in today’s online world. First time customers have no idea what to expect, so they rely heavily on first-hand experience and recommendations from others.

There are various ways to go about collecting reviews. If you’re using online booking websites there are often review sections that customers can complete. But you can also keep a visitor’s book that customers can fill in after their stay or share their thoughts on your website.

Be sure to also leverage social media for reviews. Encourage customers to like your pages, check-in online, leave comments and share pictures of their stay.

4.   Keep the lines of communication open

Just because guests have checked out, doesn’t mean that your relationship with them should end. You’ve done your best to make their stay unforgettable, now make sure you follow up so that they remember you for next time.

Send personalised emails to thank them for their visit and use the opportunity to communicate special deals or discounts in the future. This is also another great way to get reviews. When you send them a courtesy email thanking them for their stay, why not ask for some feedback on what they enjoyed and if there is anything you can improve on to make their next visit even better.

5.   Invite influencers to stay for free

Another way to get your BnB in front of people is to invite online influencers to come and stay and share their experience with their followers. An influencer is someone online who has established credibility in a specific industry and has access to a large audience online. Perhaps you can reach out to a travel writer and offer them a free stay at your BnB in exchange for a short feature or some social sharing.

We mention some great ways for you to start drawing in more customers and getting your BnB noticed, but this doesn’t always come for free. Marketing can cost money. Lulalend can prevent that from being an obstacle by lending a helping hand. With our short-term funding of up to R500 000 you can invest in marketing your BnB. Or, if you’ve already got that covered and are doing all the right things but cash flow is your biggest challenge, we can help you with that too. Whatever the case, Lulalend offers quick, easy access to short term business funding to help your business get more business.

 

Business equipment purchase vs. a business equipment lease

Business equipment purchase vs. a business equipment lease

If you’re a business owner how often do you stop to think about much of your business is sustained by the equipment you use to manufacture, produce or run your business operations? Essentially this equipment helps your business operate efficiently and effectively. The type of equipment depends on the type of business.

If you’re a restaurant owner you’re making use of equipment like fridges and other cold storage equipment, restaurant furniture, utensils, coffee machines, stoves, and ovens. Private medical practices will require things like office equipment and furniture, practice management systems, computers, printers and medical materials like syringes and needles. Beauty salons, on the other hand, might not need to invest in heavy machinery and equipment. It may look more like shampoo bowls, sanitizers, perm rods, hair capes, towels, cleaning supplies, washers, and dryers as well as scissors, blow dryers, brushes, razors and combs. However, these can still add up to a sizable amount.

The reality is that all businesses will need to purchase, lease or service and repair equipment they have on hand at some point or another. Whether it’s medical equipment, commercial vehicles, industrial equipment, specialised machinery and tools, computer hardware/software or office furniture.

When that time comes, you might find yourself strapped for cash. The problem is you need that equipment to keep operating, without this your business can suffer. This is where an equipment loan can be helpful. An evaluation of what you need is necessary on a business by business basis – what works for some won’t work for others. Here are a few things to consider when trying to decide whether to purchase or lease business equipment.

Purchasing new equipment

If you’re a Samsung or Apple brand advocate you’ll understand the emotional rollercoaster they can take you on when you are buying the latest mobile device only to have the newer version come out a few months later. Phones, like business equipment, become outdated. Often an investment in new, more updated equipment can boost productivity and provide a faster business output.

However, purchasing equipment isn’t cheap and requires working capital. Planning for these sorts of business needs can help you to put aside money on an annual basis for new equipment. If you know the estimated lifespan of the required equipment you can make sure that your financial plan takes this into consideration so that when the time comes to purchase new equipment you have the finances on hand.

  • If you purchase and own your own equipment you have the advantage of maintenance being in your own hands. This means you can plan for services and upgrades – ensuring that you have enough stock and supplies on hand to keep the business running while maintenance and repairs are done.
  • You’re also not limited by what leasing equipment is in stock, so you can ensure that you get the equipment you want and need for the best business performance.
  • You can always sell your equipment if you get to a stage where it is no longer an operational need and recover some of the initial expense.
  • You can leverage a depreciation deduction for purchased equipment. So when tax season rolls around be sure to speak to a tax consultant to determine whether you qualify for this.

 

Leasing business equipment

Leasing equipment may be a viable option for your business and shouldn’t be seen as a runner-up to purchasing your own equipment.

  • Leasing equipment forms a monthly line item on your books which means you are always budgeting for it and can save your working capital for other expenses.
  • Equipment leasing is also an easy way to keep up to date with the latest equipment available for your business. Because of the flexibility of a lease agreement you can take advantage of a short-term agreement to allow you constant access to the latest equipment or technology on the market. (While you can always sell equipment that you own and do the same, business equipment will always depreciate over time. In this way purchased equipment doesn’t allow you to make back what you spent to help with the cost of upgrades).
  • Leasing equipment can also bring certain tax benefits and deductions. As mentioned, it’s always a good idea to make use of a registered tax consultant to help you determine whether your leased equipment provides your business with a complete deduction of the lease payments against your current business earnings.

There are pros and cons to both purchasing or leasing equipment. What is important is that you think through your business requirements and financial capacity to see what would best serve your business. You can land up saving money in the long run by purchasing your own equipment, but if it’s going to cost you a substantial amount and you’re going to end up selling it in a few short years then leasing may be the better option. Assess your business needs, your business’s financial situation, and the long-term pros and cons. If you’re still unsure, speak to an advisor or consult your financial team to get a clear idea of what is viable for your business right now and further down the line.

Short term business equipment loans can assist in any of these circumstances

 

Short term business funding can be a saving grace in all of these circumstances. It can help cover the costs of basic services and repairs, give you quick access to a lump sum when you need to make a once off equipment purchase, or help you inject some working capital into your business so that you can take out a lease.

Short term business funding is quicker and easier than turning to a bank for your equipment loan. At Lulalend, applications for small business funding takes a few minutes and access to that funding is provided in 24 hours. While short-term loans often have higher rates, the advantages are immediate access when you need to make quick business decisions and are faced with the possibility of losing significant business.

 

7 cost-reduction strategies to keep your business in the cash flow positive

7 cost-reduction strategies to keep your business in the cash flow positive

As the owner of any small business, you can often find yourself running into cash flow problems, it’s a common experience. There could be many reasons for this. The cost of supplies, inventory or business operations can outweigh the money coming into the business. Without proper management of cash, your business could land up in hot water. So what can you do to get back to the cash flow positive and stay there? There are many ways that you can remedy the situation. A careful look at your budget and some financial planning will help pinpoint where you can implement change or curb expenditure to improve cash flow.

Here are a few examples to think about:

Find ways of bringing in new business and retain existing customers

The first step is to make sure you’re marketing your business to the right people in the right way. You might need to rethink your marketing plan or start marketing if that hasn’t been on your agenda. Maybe it’s worthwhile to run some specials or promotions to draw in more customers. There are various ways you can market your business. You can take the traditional route and market through radio and television, but it is generally more cost effective to market digitally. Whichever platform you choose, be sure that your message is targeted towards your customer base.

Secondly, don’t forget about existing customers. Take advantage of those relationships, turn them into brand advocates who keep coming back. Their experience at every touch point will influence whether they turn into repeat customers. One great tip is to engage with customers on social media – respond to comments timeously and share content with them that is engaging and valuable. Go the extra mile to answer their questions and address their concerns – especially when it relates to your business or industry, this can help build trust and encourage customer loyalty. Warm service will show customers that you have their best interests at heart and they will be more likely to support your business in the future.

 Compare quotes and build relationships with trustworthy suppliers

 One thing that you should be doing is forming valuable relationships with your suppliers. Building a solid relationship with suppliers will put you in a better position to negotiate with them – this means they are more likely to offer you discounts and special deals. Over time, and as your relationships with your suppliers grow, you could find more benefits like this opening up because of your longstanding relationship and the fact that you are bringing in business for them. For example, because you’ve built a good relationship and the supplier knows you are a trustworthy client there may be opportunities for discounts, or more flexibility in extending your credit. Instead of having just two weeks to pay a supplier you could push for four weeks. And because the supplier knows you’re good for it, they might be willing to accommodate.

It’s also a good idea to compare quotes from different suppliers, especially if you’re looking to launch a new range of items to add to your product line. This might require extra time and effort, but in the long run, it may save you some money. Just be sure not to compromise when it comes to quality. This, along with customer satisfaction is the lifeblood of your business.

Assess where you can save in the day-to-day running of the business

 We spend a big chunk of our lives at the office, so it’s understandable that we want to make it a comfortable environment for ourselves and our employees. But are you spending more on luxuries then you need to? Do you really need that fancy espresso machine or trendy office furniture? Consider what are needs and what are wants. If you find there is extra money for the luxuries then go ahead, but if you’re looking for ways to save and you know things are tight, rather spend money on what the business needs to operate efficiently.

This can even apply to the software that you need for business operations. Determine whether a subscription-based offering is reasonable and includes the features you need. For example, SAGE offers their basic One Accounting software for R2214 per year which includes invoicing, calculating VAT returns, and connects your bank. While SAGE is a well-known accounting software used by many businesses don’t be afraid to consider free software that is on offer and determine whether this would work just as well for your business. GNUCash is a free software tool that handles invoicing and credit notes, accounts payable and receivable, employee expenses and some payroll features too. While GNUCash will save you some money, the question you need to always ask yourself is if this suitable for your business? It could be worthwhile to make a list of potential software options for your business and jot down the pros and cons of each one before deciding. By doing so you can factor in the cost and weigh this up against the features and benefits of how this can service your business.

Go green

There are a couple of ways you can save money by being an environmentally conscious business. Why not go electronic, whether this is for emails, invoices or bookkeeping, instead of using reams of paper? If your business is paper heavy consider recycling. This doesn’t just save you money but can also bring in money by having items recycled by organisations like Sappi’s recycling agents. Use energy saving bulbs and unplug devices when not in use. Or, with the current water shortage in South Africa, encourage your employees to use water conservatively and fix any leaking taps as soon as you become aware of them. You may think these small changes do not make a big difference in your bottom line, but consider this: Brian Wilkinson, CEO of Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), says a green building on average saves 25% in electricity. These energy efficient solutions may also help you qualify for tax incentives too. The incentive works on the basis of quantifiable energy that you save expressed as kilowatt-hours (kWh). For each kWh that you save, you will get a 45 cent tax relief.

Use your office space wisely

Office space can be very pricey – especially if you want a prime spot that’s accessible to a large customer base. If you’re renting a big office space but you only have a few employees, consider sharing your office space with another business.  Make sure that the space you rent is suitable for a small business and that subleasing doesn’t go against your own lease agreement. Alternatively, a shared workspace will save you a substantial amount on utilities as well. For example, The Bureaux Flexible Work Habitats offer a desk space for R1,850 per month and it includes necessities like electricity, water, and Wi-Fi connection. This is a great option if you run a business that’s flexible like a digital marketing agency. More and more people are working remotely these days and because most businesses have gone digital this is becoming more widely practiced as it lowers overheads. Of course, this isn’t ideal for all businesses. If you’re in the restaurant or offline retail industry you need a store front. Renting or buying property can be expensive so it is important to understand what your business needs so that you aren’t wasting money on a few extra square meters that you aren’t actually taking advantage of.

Invoice customers as quickly as possible

As a business, you want your clients to pay you as soon as possible. In order to get paid quickly, be sure to invoice them immediately after the service/product has been provided. When it comes to services offered by electricians, plumbers and other similar trades a good strategy would be to offer discounts as an incentive for paying early – if you can afford to do so. While giving a discount may tighten margins slightly, it will also manage to free up cash flow in your business. In the past, businesses generally used to give 30 days for a client to pay, but this is starting to change. Xero conducted a study which found that 70 -80% percent of businesses give 2 weeks or less to pay, and more than half of those request payment within 7 days. Be sure to mention the payment deadlines in your service agreement to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings.

Be proactive

Don’t wait until your business is experiencing a cash flow slump. Make sure that you have documented a plan and have a cost-reduction strategy in place so that when the leaner months come you know exactly what to do to help your business. Every business is bound to experience a bump in the road, but the true mark of a successful business is having a strategy and managing cash flow to help overcome this. Every hour a business owner spends worrying about cost-reduction is an hour they could be spending focusing on the business. Don’t shy away from spending money where needed, but don’t be afraid to eliminate costs in areas where it is not.

Short term business funding is also a viable option to help your business if you are experiencing a dip in cash flow. Sometimes access to funding can help you purchase more stock or inventory to increase sales and bring in more business. Short term business funding also ensures that you are paying the loan off quickly and not getting yourself into a debt cycle. At Lulalend we help SMEs get quick, easy access to business funding so that they can see success and not digress. With business funding of up to R500 000 and flexible repayment plans, you can turn things around for your business and remain in the cash flow positive.