What Franchise’s resident business agony aunt Angie Coates, founder and CEO of Monkey Music, answers your business and entrepreneurial conundrums
My business is starting to grow rapidly. What’s the best way to keep an eye on cash flow?
Phases of rapid growth make the tough times worthwhile! However, they can also be dangerous, lulling business owners into a false sense of security. Overinvestment in the next phase of growth may lead to costs outpacing income and create potential cash flow issues.
Most business owners will gravitate to what they enjoy and look to minimise their involvement in what they feel others could do better. I’m no exception and still take every opportunity to make a difference to people’s lives and get creative with our brand identity.
My attitude to finance has changed, though. In the early days of my business, finance meetings were not my favourite as I felt they stood in the way of me cracking on with what I wanted to do.
But having sailed a little close to the wind on one occasion, I realise now that if the cash runs out there would be no business and no one to blame except myself. After that experience, I made finance and cash flow my joint top priority alongside building the brand and customer experience.
These days, I meet the finance team weekly to review cash flow and conduct a broad analysis of some key areas of financial performance. We review our management accounts in detail monthly and delve deep into various performance-related financial reports.
What to measure will depend on your business. My wonderful finance team and I have worked together so that I get both the information I want and the information they believe I need, all presented in a consistent way that’s quick and easy for me to digest.
Those reports enable me to be strategic in my approach and inform all decisions, as they tell me what cash we have available to do more exciting things.
Now that I’m all over our financials, and cash flow, in particular, it makes running the business more fun as I feel in control, even when the numbers are not what I’d hoped for. So to answer your question: work with your finance team to understand what you need to know and how often, ask them to present it in a way that works for you and then be ruthless in prioritising it.
Some of my staff have started to work remotely. While productivity remains high, how can I ensure it’s maintained?
Lockdown has resulted in growing staff expectations around flexible working and while I, like many others, have observed productivity gains in some areas of the business I share your concern that remote working may compromise productivity longer term.
However, unless we offer some degree of flexible working we won’t be able to attract and retain the best people. Nonetheless, I worry that communication across the team may suffer, our culture may become diluted, processes will become less smooth and creativity compromised.
I’ve spent a lot of time talking to my team about which aspects of remote working have worked best for them and why. We are now looking to marry as many of those elements as possible with the things we feel are best done in the office.
Although it isn’t realistic to tailor our remote working policy perfectly to every individual’s wishes, what we create will be an improvement for everyone and we’ll refine it over time.
If we can make people happier about the structure of their working day/week without compromising the long-term functioning of the business, everyone wins. The biggest challenge is that whatever we include in our remote working policy, it needs to be both fair and transparent otherwise it will cause problems.