Businesses need banks, and banks need businesses. But as a business owner, how do you decide which bank to trust your money with?
I have helped a number of organisations choose a bank – some for the first time, some because they wanted a change, and some because they needed to change!
There are many considerations to weigh up, including: cost, secondary services, knowledge of your business sector, location of branches, access to help. To me, the most important factor when deciding who to bank with is the Relationship Manager.
It is perhaps a little unfair to say that all banks are alike, however, there is generally very little between them in cost, in location, and in the general service they offer. To my mind therefore, the biggest difference between banks is in their staff.
When I needed to set up a bank account for my business, I walked down the high street in my home town, and walked into every bank. I asked the same question in each branch, “Please can I talk to someone about setting up a business bank account”. Within 30 seconds of walking in, I felt I knew how much the person I was talking to cared about me and my business.
I would not want anyone to think that choosing a bank is a decision to take lightly – particularly in today’s economic climate. Never forget who is the customer. As ever, more than numbers and statistics, it’s the people we do business with that matter, and I suggest that this includes your bank’s Relationship Manager.
I read an interesting statistic recently. In ACE’s recently published 2008/09 submissions from Regularly Funded Organisations, combined ‘Contributed Income’ (sponsorship, trusts, donations, and lottery revenue partnership funding) fell by over £12.6 million (11%). But this was more than made up for by combined ‘Earned Income’ (ticket sales, workshop fees, merchandising, sale of books and magazines, etc.) which rose by £52.8 million (12%).
If you have read my blogs over the last couple of years, you will know that I hold a particular view of the “recession”; it was patchy, not universal. Its impact ranged from the catastrophic (if you were in house building, car manufacturing, or banking), to the liberating (with interest rates at an all time low, many households were between £100 and £150 a month better off). Public money was drying up, but private/personal money was plentiful.
Reliance on public funding has become an increasingly high risk strategy. I speak from personal experience as the ex-treasurer of an excellent provider of arts education which closed due to withdrawal of its core funding. Other organisations I know well are also starting to think the unthinkable – what if we can’t rely on public funding anymore?
So what is Plan B?
Well, I think public funding will become increasingly scarce, and with the hoops to jump through and numerous forms to complete, it will become harder to maintain.
There has been an interesting debate on LinkedIn to do with factoring as a way of improving cashflow. What caught my eye was a comment that said “payment terms has, and never will, kill a good idea”. I see this as a clarion call to every organisation that has a good idea – if it’s that good, someone will pay for it.
The balance sheet is more important to your business than your profit and loss statement.
The balance sheet tells you what you own, how much you are owed, and how much you owe to other people. Broadly speaking, assets are those things you own, or are owed, and liabilities are those things that you owe to others.
Liabilities include things like overdrafts, loans, and debts to other people (creditors). But are all liabilities bad?
Borrowing money means you have cash to do something with. If it costs you 5% to borrow £10k, and you are able to generate a profit of 7.5% through the activities you can make happen, then you are making a profit of 2.5%. Without borrowing the money you would have made no profit at all. So a loan can be a good thing, as long as you are making good use of the opportunity.
Investments in your business are liabilities. They represent the amount you have been loaned and, as above, you need to be sure you are making the most of the cash. Even “non-profit” organisations need to demonstrate that they are fulfilling their “non-profit” objectives. Is the cash sitting in the bank, or being used properly?
Liabilities also include Trade Creditors – money owed to your suppliers. It is important that you pay them within agreed terms, but don’t pay early if you don’t need to. This enables you to do something with the money.
All business owners and managers should know how much they owe to other people. Not just so they know how much they owe, but so they know how much cash they are sitting on that belongs to others and to be thinking about what they are doing with it.