Head of Accounting and Futrli COO discuss challenges and solutions for small businesses.

Read Dan and Helen’s thoughts on how SMEs can protect themselves during what is set to be a challenging year.

We caught up with Helen Cockle, Futrli’s Chief Operating Officer, and Dan Daly, Head of Accounting, and got their thoughts on the decisions SMEs can make to protect themselves in a climate of rising taxes, spending cuts, and tightening belts.

“Thanks for meeting up today! Let’s get to it; why are SMEs looking at a challenging 6 months ahead?”

Dan Daly, Head of Accounting, Futrli - “There are two linked key reasons for this really. First, we have high inflation, and second, costs are rising too. It’s something of a dual attack! These are situations that we can’t influence, but we can react accordingly by ensuring we are streamlined and best positioned to navigate an uncertain economic climate. It is this uncertainty that we can best look to protect against.”

Helen Cockle, Chief Operating Officer, Futrli - “The landscape is different now though. When Covid hit there was no warning. At least we know the tough times ahead are coming and we can prepare to navigate them. If Covid has taught us anything, it’s that things can change very quickly overnight, and unless you are in a position here you can become fighting fit it can be a really challenging period. While there is still uncertainty, we have the warning bells and it’s about reacting accordingly.”

DD - “If I can give an optimistic slant to this. It acts as a prompt, or an opportunity, to carry out some good housekeeping tasks that are worthwhile always carrying out and not just when triggered by significant economic events. Small businesses need to check in and ask: are you streamlining your operations to see you thrive in the long term and not just hanging on in there for survival?”

“Where are the quick wins for small businesses, Dan?”

DD - “Well, there are three key places to check in: pricing, costs, and real-time data. There is often a reluctance for businesses to assess their own pricing, but with inflation and costs of goods rising you simply must evaluate your prices. There are some very manageable ways of assessing your costs. Real-time data empowers you to make informed business decisions, especially in times of uncertainty.”

HC - “Yes Dan, there’s a case to be made for reviewing your products and services at the same time. During challenging times like this, it’s about streamlining the profitable services and removing or reducing some product lines that aren’t making the same margin.

A good example of this can be seen in a small business we work with in Brighton who are in the non-fast-fashion industry. They have started removing their seasonal product lines that require high upfront costs as it was draining their cash flow. They know the core products that sell really well, and they now focus on their core product lines for the moment.”

“Let’s discuss costs. What can small businesses do to revisit these areas of their business?”

HC - “Subscriptions can often be places where savings can immediately be had. We just went through this process as a business. Cancel what you no longer need and see if there are better or cheaper alternatives.”

DD - “On that, I would ask you if there were expenses for products or services that you don’t need anymore. You then need to look at which of those are perhaps luxuries and what are priorities. Once assessed, it may be time to let go of some of those luxuries. You should also have a conversation with those key suppliers about the expenses that are considered absolute priorities. Can you benefit your cash flow position? Can you lock in a price for a fixed amount of time? This gives you certainty about your margins.”

HC - “Exactly, this doesn’t have to be a difficult discussion either. Give your suppliers a win back, if the deal is right for you, you could offer exclusivity or a three-year deal.”

“How does real-time data help your pricing and costs then?”

DD - “Small businesses will benefit from understanding how their business operates on a granular level by syncing their entire financial operations into one prediction engine that is also affordable. You need to ensure that you have the clarity of data when looking at your pricing and margins per product. Beyond that, it helps to have the ability to build out flexible scenarios or what-ifs. It might sound quite daunting but with the solutions available, it can be achieved quite easily.”

HC - “The solution that we bring to the market does just that. It was built by a small business for small businesses. Forecasting has been central to Futrli’s success. If we hadn’t been constantly forecasting our own business, we wouldn’t be where we are today. We understand what small businesses are going through because we were there too. It’s critical to survival. You stop asking whether you are going to be ok because you can see what is happening.”

DD - “Exactly that, it’s so important to see where you are now. On Futrli’s platform, you can easily see where you are now and your direction for the future. You can create scenarios to test your decisions before making them in the real world. On the performance page, you can see the key metrics including the inflows and outflows of cash. This can all be visited daily, because the platform is always synced to your Quickbooks Online, Sage, or Xero ledger. It lets you know everything you need to know about your business.”

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