Home arrow Newsletter arrow VOLUME 1, ISSUE 6 FEBRUARY 2013

Six signs of impending Cash Flow problems:

Cash flow is the lifeblood of all businesses. It is the rare business owner who has not at some point in his or her career experienced the clammy hands and elevated blood pressure associated with trying to meet a payroll. But how does one tell when the day-to-day challenges of running a company have given over to the pressures of operating a business that may be in the early stages of failing? Here are three subtle, and three not-so-subtle indicators :   

  1. Your debt-to-asset ratio is increasing : It is not uncommon for businesses to borrow money to finance equipment, buildings and other assets, including inventory.Image However, if your ratio of debt to total assets is increasing, you may be at risk of becoming over-leveraged.Although acceptable debt levels vary from industry to industry, a ratio of 50% or greater can be an omen of impending trouble.

  2.  Your bank will not loan you any more money : We have all heard the story that banks only lend money to people who donít need it. In reality, most banks are not in the business of making high risk loans. Your bankerís reluctance to provide you additional debt is a sign that this outside third party may not think your business is as healthy as you think it is.

  3.  Slowing inventory turnover : If you are in the business of selling products, having inventory on the shelves longer may be a negative indicator.

  4.  Net losses : Itís not uncommon for start-ups to experience losses in the early stages of a venture. A start-up company is typically funded from outside resources until it reaches its breakeven point. In the case of later stage businesses, most owners try to minimize net profit for tax purposes by taking advantage of depreciation and other elements of the tax code. But if your business is routinely losing money in real terms, this is a not-so-subtle indication of trouble.

  5.  Cash flow problems : Chronic cash flow shortages can also signal an ailing business. Indicators include average accounts payable aging that exceed 30 days. ImageIn this case, you are financing your short term cash flow shortfalls on the backs of your vendors. Another sign of cash flow problems is when the practice of writing cheques on the due date and then not mailing them until the bank account is replenished becomes a routine cash management tool. A current ratio, which is the comparison of current assets to current liabilities, of lower than 1 to 1 can also be an indicator of cash flow problems.

  6.  Youíre no longer having fun : Not everyone has the luxury of waking up in the morning and looking forward to going to work. However, if your business has come to feel like a millstone around your neck, it may be time to reassess your career options. So, what can you do if you find that your business is not performing as well as it should? Your first reaction might be to try to sell it.However, itís difficult to sell a weak or failing business and itís unlikely you will recoup your investment. A better idea would be to conduct a thorough business analysis of the company and develop a plan of action to turn it around. This may well include enlisting the help of outside professionals who have the skills and experience to help you identify and implement changes that can keep your business from getting deeper in trouble.

Create happy employees in a jammed ladder :

Do your employees drag themselves into work? Your employees' morale may need a boost. After all, low morale can lead to poor cooperation, low productivity and increased turnover -- and ultimately hinder a business from reaching its goals.

While a seasoned and stable workforce certainly has its advantages, a lack of fluctuation can make it harder to provide employees at all stages of the career ladder with the ongoing challenges they need to continue to grow professionally.

But promotions arenít the only way to keep your staff moving forward in their careers. Consider these low-cost or no-cost steps you can take to ensure employees continue to expand their skills and increase their value to your firm, commit.

 Fire-up training and development : Many firms have skimped on their commitment to training and continuing education in recent years. Unreversed, this trend could prove counter to companiesí best interests. Although many workers may be content in their positions or hesitant to move on, as the job market strengthens in many professional fields, retention is becoming more of an issue. Firms need to solidify employeesí loyalty by offering benefits that help them upgrade their skills and advance their careers.

 Grow laterally : When employees expand their skill sets -- may be they earn an in-demand certification or obtain specialized training in an area where thereís a dearth of practitioners --it broadens opportunities for everyone and may enable your firm to branch into serving a new market segment or offering a new service. As opportunities expand, employees can move into new roles, making more room for others to move up and take on different responsibilities.

 Job enrichment : Even if there are not many opportunities to move into new roles at your firm, consider whether you can restructure certain jobs or responsibilities Imageto allow employees to continue to build new skills, experience fresh challenges, and stay engaged in their work. Another way to keep things fresh might be to periodically rotate client accounts among staff members. This requires professionals to get up to speed on a new clientís challenges, procedures, and so forth, which can help to rekindle their interest level and motivation. It can also be a positive for clients, who benefit from having a fresh perspective and set of eyes applied to their business.

 Creative titles : Roles and responsibilities often change over time, whether intentionally or not. If you have long-time employees who have taken on added duties but have not actually moved into a new position because of a lack of openings, consider offering a title promotion that reflects the growing importance of these individuals to your firm. It could be something as simple as adding a ďseniorĒ designation to someoneís title or formalizing a role that has been evolving over time.

These are some of the strategies that can help you to strengthen both your employees and your firm. Your top performers have already made an investment in your firm ó and you in them. It only makes sense for both parties to continue to build on that investment.


By Susan M. Heathfield

People in every workplace talk about building the team, working as a team, and my team, but few understand how to create the experience of team work or how to develop an effective team. It has a lot to do with your understanding of the mission or objectives of your organization.

No matter what you call your team-based improvement effort: continuous improvement, total quality, lean manufacturing or self-directed work teams, you are striving to improve results for customers. If your team improvement efforts are not living up to your expectations, this self-diagnosing checklist may tell you why. Successful team building, that creates effective, focused work teams, requires attention to each of the following:

  1. Clear Expectations :
    The first C is clear expectations. Expectations should be clarified at all levels, both within the team and with the organization in which the team works. Has executive leadership clearly communicated its expectations for the teamís performance and expected outcomes? ImageDo team members understand why the team was created? Is the organization demonstrating constancy of purpose in supporting the team with resources of people, time and money? Does the work of the team receive sufficient emphasis as a priority in terms of the time, discussion, attention and interest directed its way by executive leaders?
  2.  Context :
    The second C is context. Team members need to understand why a team approach was selected for the project and how the work fits into the total context of the organization. Team members should understand why they have been asked to participate on a team. The team should also understand its role Ėwhether large or small Ėin helping the organization meet its goals. Understanding their importance in the context of the organizational big picture will go a long way in getting buy-in from team members.
  3.  Commitment :
    The third C is commitment. Commitment of all the team members is important for success.Getting team members to understand the importance of the teamís mission and expected outcomes is very important. Most team members want to feel like they are contributing to the organization.

  4.  Competence :
    The fourth C is competence. Team members must have the necessary knowledge, skills, and resources to accomplish their mission. Does the team feel that it has the appropriate people participating? Does the team feel that its members have the knowledge, skill and capability to address the issues for which the team was formed? If not, does the team have access to training or education or information that will help it gains the requisite knowledge? Selection of the right people, training to help team members gain the needed skills and finding the needed resources is very important.

  5.  Charter :
    The fifth C is charter. The charter is usually a written and widely distributed document that defines what the team is going to do and how it will go about doing it. Charters also define the scope of the work to be performed and the timeline in which it will be accomplished. When defining a charter for a team, it will be important for team members to define individual areas of responsibility. No team should proceed unless it has the support of organizational leadership.

  6.  Control :
    The sixth C is control. Balancing creativity and control in accomplishing goals can be tricky. The team should have freedom and empowerment to take ownership of its tasks, but ultimately this freedom must be balanced with the organizationís expectations of the team. Boundaries like timeframes and budgets must be understood by all team members in order to control expectations.

  7.  Collaboration :
    The seventh C is collaboration. Collaboration is essential for a team to function effectively. Can the team approach problem solving, process improvement, goal setting and measurement jointly? Has the team established group norms or rules of conduct in areas such as conflict resolution, consensus decision making and meeting management?

  8.  Communication :
    The eighth C is communication. Good communication is important both within the team itself as well as with the organization Imagein which the team is working. Are team members clear about the priority of their tasks? Is there an established method for the teams to give feedback and receive honest performance feedback? Does the organization regularly provide important information that the team needs? Do team members bring diverse opinions to the table? Are necessary conflicts raised and addressed?

  9.  Creative Innovation :
    The ninth C is creative innovation. Most team projects are not just cut and dried operations, but require some creativity to accomplish. Keep in mind that project managers are considered change agents, and people will react positively or negatively to change depending on how it affects them. Attention should also be given to the culture of the organization. It may be conservative and not value creative thinking or new ideas. Or it may be more innovative and progressive, so be sure you know what is considered a reasonable risk in order to make improvements.

  10.  Consequences :
    The tenth C is consequences. Team members must recognize that they have accountability for accomplishing the teamís goals. To foster that accountability there need to be reasonable consequences for their actions. Do team members feel responsible and accountable for team achievements? Are rewards and recognition supplied when teams are successful? And finally, ďcan contributors see their impact on increased organization success?

  11.  Coordination :
    The eleventh C is coordination. A team is not just a collection of individuals, but a group that is responsible for coordinated activities. A team needs to know whether it will report to central or project leadership. It also needs to know if it will receive assistance from an external leadership team. Have priorities and resource allocation been planned across departments? Do teams understand the concept of the internal customer -the next process, anyone to whom they provide a product or a service? Are cross-functional and multi-department teams common and working together effectively?

  12.  Cultural Change :
    The twelfth and final C is cultural change. To be successful, healthcare IT implementations will need to utilize a team approach, but this approach may represent a change in the organizationís culture. Ask yourself these questions to ensure that you have thought about how cultural change might impact the success of your team:
    Does the organization recognize that the team-based, collaborative, empowering, enabling organizational culture of the future is different from the traditional, hierarchical organization it may currently be?
    Is the organization planning to change, or in the process of changing, how it rewards, recognizes, appraises, hires, develops, plans with, motivates and manages the people it employs?

     SUCCESS = Paying attention to the twelve Cís

    Giving your attention to each of these twelve areas helps to ensure that work teams contribute most effectively to every project's success.



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