Thursday, March 18, 2010

SMALL BUSINESS FINANCE TIPS: Maintaining Your P&L During a Down Economy

For any small business, managing revenues, costs and expenses comes with inherent challenges - especially in a down economy. For example, maintaining healthy profit margins – in the face of rising materials and labor costs – can be daunting, but is necessary for a small business to thrive and survive in today's economy.

I have developed the following tips to help small businesses best maintain their P&Ls that I hope you all find helpful:


- Create revenue plan & hold employees accountable for the plan
- Lock down clients with long term contracts if possible – to help revenue become predictable
- Plan to continually grow revenue (this will guard against client drop off)
- “Love” your existing clients/customers keep them happy, send thank you cards, buy them an occasional thank you present
- Grow revenue with existing clients/customers (these are your best opportunity)
- Get rid of undesirable clients (this will not help you in the long run)
- Use a sales tracking software/tool to help you find keep focused on new client opportunities
- Have action plan for growth & action plan for downturn and be ready to use (do not be caught off guard)


- Revisit P&L results on a monthly basis
- Ensure the expenses can easily be identified (i.e. make sure that there is not one vague line item where all expenses are booked)
- Continually compare results against income and expense benchmarks

For a professional services firm for example:
- The net margin of no less than 20% of revenue (note: ensure that the owner/officer salary is included as an expense before looking at the net margins)
- Employee costs should be about 50% of revenue; look at revenue per head as another metric – revenue per head should be no less than $150K; Greater than $200K per employee is preferable
- Rent should be no more than 3-6% range of company revenue
- Spend money (5-10% of revenue) on business development
- Incentivize appropriate employees around expense goals to ensure the company stays “lean”
- Ensure that the company is profitable and keeps a healthy margin (this will guard against down times)
- Keep and maintain projections which would include actual results PLUS forward looking projections for the year
- Include spending on assets/depreciation (a non-P&L item) in the monthly review…this is an area where spending can get out of hand and often gets overlooked
- Do a vendor analysis on an annual basis (keep good relations with your vendors but make sure that an expense is not widely out of whack)

I welcome all thoughts comments and feedback!


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