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What is asset finance and how can it help your SME

The first concern of any business is balancing costs and expenses alongside retention and profit – in actual fact, mere survival. Obviously, the aim is to have more of the latter and less of the former: at the very least, you want them to even out in a way that allows you at least some profit. There are many ways to help achieve this, but one important way is to consider asset finance, due to every business needing assets in the first place to at all survive.

Asset finance

In order for you to even function, a business requires assets. Assets are usually considered to be those things like equipment, cars, etc., that allow you to do the business at all. However, when starting a business, obtaining the best assets – which allows you to do the best business – can be difficult, if not impossible. After all, you’ve put a lot of money down already into the business; now you need even more to merely make it function.

Asset finance is an umbrella term about financial solutions to obtain assets without incurring too much of a penalty, if done and chosen correctly. One financial assistance site notes:

“Many businesses don’t have enough available cash to consider an outright purchase, making asset finance a necessity. Even if you can afford it, you want to put your money to good use and investing cash in assets leaves you with less working capital to finance operations or explore new growth opportunities. The flexibility of asset finance allows you to align repayments to suit your cash flow and you may be able to claim tax deductions.”

Thus, there is a way to work on obtaining the desired assets while also keeping your costs lower.

Options

But, as we noted, asset finance is an umbrella term.

For example, you get the option of leasing the asset. This is, as the name suggests, paying to use the item. At no point, of course, do you own it. There is usually no deposit, but that depends; further you are tied to a certain amount of time, since this means the lender obtains a profit from their leasing service.

The obvious advantage is that you can acquire new items that help your services quickly. You can even sometimes have the option to own the product, if you have enough money – though that’s not the point of leasing itself.

There is also “hire purchase”, which means:

“Giving you a fixed or variable rate, with this option you generally pay the VAT and an initial deposit at the start – followed by a simple, structured repayment profile designed to facilitate cash flow.”

Thus, at the end you own the asset entirely, but manage your payment in a way that makes the least impact on your cashflow.

Impact on business

As a growing business, you need to be doing all you can to keep costs low. And asset finance, and its different options and perspectives, as well as the option to acquire said assets, makes for an important consideration. Of course, if you had the money in the first place, it would be best to purchase – but that can be an option for later, when your business has grown and the assets are in place to secure a financially viable future.

3 must-haves for a small business

The business of being in business is no easy feat. There are so many factors to take into consideration to ensure the profitability of an offering. From attracting customers, retaining them, converting them to purchase goods, to having them return for additional purchases are all the functions a business owner needs to tend to. Not forgetting the all-important after sales service.

When businesses are run alone, business owners often find themselves struggling to tend to these essential business functions optimally. The introduction of business convenience mechanisms is thus vital to the survival of small businesses. These mechanisms, largely electronic based, help business owners to effectively manage and grow their businesses.

Business software

Back in the day, businesses manually recorded all sales and other important business related information. Today, this is no longer necessary and in fact, it is deemed very burdensome to do so. With the introduction of software packages to see to these tasks, business owners are provided with convenient accounting software to record transactions and manage the finances of their businesses easily. In addition, businesses can easily pull reports to gauge the growth of the business.

The core of a business is its customers, and managing customer information is thus vital to the success of a business. Customer relationship software is a must-have for businesses to retain their customer base as it can track customer purchase behavior, the profiling of clientele and also assists in regular engagements with them. There are a number of different software packages available for businesses, but the use of these packages is essential for businesses to run efficiently.

Security

Theft is rife within businesses and proper precautions need to be taken to ensure that no financial losses are sustained as a result. One surefire way to curb theft is the presence of closed circuit cameras. As much as it can help identify perpetrators in the event of theft, it can also act as a deterrent for burglars who are looking to pocket merchandise or equipment. Other deterrents such as alarm systems, security gates and window protection also add to the overall security of a business.

If a business sees a large amount of foot traffic, the installation of turnstiles also adds an element of safety as it gives customers one way to enter and exit. This limits the chances of someone entering and exiting the store without paying as they will need to exit at a designated point. Moreover, intelligent turnstiles can assist the business owner with important customer information through tracking the amount of people who enter the business. For example, if a business sees a certain amount of traffic into the business, but this traffic doesn’t convert into sales, there is likely to be a problem with the price of goods or how appealing the merchandise is to customers. By knowing this information, a business owner can easily adapt his or her strategy to convert these mere feet into once-off or repeat customers.

A website

A website for a small business is essential. However, the development of a website alone is not enough – it needs to be found by those who are looking for it. For this reason, content on the website needs to be optimized for search engines and also be free from any vagueness.  By its very nature, a website exposes a business to prospective customers like no other channel or platform would. It gives visitors an indication of what the business offers and where to find the business. This mechanism, if used properly, can be a major driver for sales and can serve as a means for growth too.

The mistake most small business owners make is to create a website and leave it unchanged forever. A website needs to be updated regularly so that it can be more appealing to its viewers, but more importantly, so that it can rank better when searched for in Google. Lastly, a website should be seen as the windows to a business, if it is covered and the contents of the store is not visible, people are less likely to enter and make a purchase. Should it be clear, with the contents of the store visible, it is more appealing to passersby and would probably result in a sale of some kind.

Getting a Business off the Ground on a Shoestring Budget

During the start-up phase, it’s vital for a business owner to keep a close eye on the books. Running into financial trouble can crash a business long before it’s taken off. To help keep your business out of the red, keep these tips in mind:

Work from home or a shared office space

The benefit of working from home is obvious – you don’t have to rent a premises and pay the overheads that come with it in addition to your home. It’s not everyone that can work from home though, so those who want to avoid distractions at home or who prefer to have people around, can look into shared office spaces. These business hubs are popping up everywhere and provide, at the very least, a desk and chair to rent. You’ll share the space with other entrepreneurs or freelancers, which will also give you the opportunity to network.

Barter with other businesses

Business owners are often told to negotiate discounts, but bartering works just as well, if not better. During a barter you’ll offer your service in exchange for someone else’s service or product. Say, for instance, you’re a web developer who would like signage done on your car. You can then approach a signage company and offer to develop their website in exchange for a vehicle wrap. It’s a deal both businesses will benefit from.

Employ with care

Only employ people once it’s really necessary and when you can afford it. You’ll most likely find that you’ll be able to take care of admin and other menial tasks yourself in the first few months. Assess the business’s needs after four to six months to see whether an employee is needed to fill a gap. Thereafter, take it month by month, but never employ more people than is necessary.

Be a budget-conscious marketer

There are many ways to create awareness of your business without spending half of the monthly budget. You can use networking as an advertising tool and have business cards on you at all times. Invest in email marketing, run a competition or start a referral program with existing customers. Even if you have only one customer, that one customer can lead to one more.

Pay and get paid quickly

Cash flow is what keeps a business afloat, so take care of yours. Part of it is paying creditors on time, so that interest is not accrued on outstanding debts. The other part is getting paid, which is often a headache. Help debtors pay on time by issuing invoices quickly or by setting up electronic payments for them. Don’t try and sell this to them by telling why it’s good for your business – do it by telling them how it will benefit their business.

These cover all the business basics, but should make a huge difference to the bank balance at the end of the month. Continue doing business frugally until you’re out of the woods, but keep the lessons you learn as reminders for times when the cash is not flowing as freely as it should.

This advice was brought to you by Digicash in the interest of the financial health of your business.