Tag Archives: Inventory

How Do You Build in a Declining Market? Five Solutions

Situation: Revenue for a product and craft business has been slipping. At the same time, their competition has been disappearing. It is clear to the CEO that demand is and will continue to be present because of the market that the company serves. The question is how to maintain the profitability to survive long-term. How do you build in a declining market?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The keys to recovery in a business like this will be in two areas: improving sales and increasing margins.
  • To increase sales the choices are more aggressive marketing and selling to existing customers or creating new markets like previous generations did when they started the business. Consider services that you could bundle with your products to augment the ways that customers use them. It will be the responsibility of your sales and marketing teams to demonstrate these product/service bundles to increase sales both to new and existing customers. This will help to solve the revenue slippage.
  • The other side is ongoing efforts to reduce cost which will, in turn, improve your margins. Costs can be reduced in creative ways that are not obvious. These include improvements in purchasing, reduction of waste, recycling of component materials, and inventory controls. It will be the responsibility of your production, purchasing and inventory management teams to develop these solutions. Assure that these teams are recognized and rewarded for their solutions.
  • Look at the segments of your product offering. Are they declining at the same rate or are there differences? This will help you to focus your efforts, as a company, to grow market share even if the overall market is declining.
  • Other suggestions for increasing sales:
    • Take advantage of the craft trends. Do this with NEW talent – not tired talent.
    • Consider partnerships and collaborations.
    • Set up contests and craft classes.
    • Look at how other industries promote to the craft industry and follow their lead.
    • Consider kitted craft products.

How Do You Close the Books on Time? Four Suggestions

Situation: A company has experienced delays in closing their annual books for years. Inability to complete final inventory is the critical factor. In recent years it has taken four months or more to get final numbers for the year. How do you close the books on time?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • It is important to put a system into place well in advance of fiscal year end. A key part of this is to conduct final inventory so that it is done smoothly and accurately either immediately prior to or following the end of the fiscal year. Retail or wholesale operations normally complete final inventory within 30 days of fiscal year end.
  • If your inventory includes both large and small value items, ask whether you have to count everything. Based on past inventory it may be that small items that do not substantially impact final inventory can either be eliminated from the count or handled on an exception basis.
  • Consider a system of doing monthly or rotating monthly inventory smaller sets of items that make up perhaps 60% of sales, and quarterly inventory on an additional larger set of items that together with the first groups make up perhaps 80% of sales. By completing inventory of these items more frequently, the company will not only have a better handle on total inventory, but is also likely to be more accurate at the end of the year. At year-end inventory add those items that make up the final 20% of sales to the inventory count.
  • Again, depending upon the nature of the inventory, it may not be necessary to count items that, as groups, are valued under $500 per group. Seek expert advice from your accountant on this point.

How Much Inventory Should You Carry? Six Considerations

Situation: A company has been offered the opportunity to buy a container of raw material from China at what may be a favorable price compared to local supply. This raw material will last 6-12 months at current and anticipated production rates. Does it make sense to purchase 6-12 months of raw material inventory in advance? How much inventory should you carry?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • This is a fairly straightforward economic question. What are the risks and costs of purchasing this large lot of inventory vs. purchasing month-to-month? Here are the factors to include in your evaluation:

o    What is the cost difference of a container versus local supply?

o    Another option is to commit in advance to 6-12 months’ supply from the current supplier. What pricing will the local supplier offer for committed regular purchases?

o    How many months of inventory are required if you need to change suppliers?

o    What is the viability of the local vs. the foreign supplier? If you cease purchasing from the current supplier for 6-12 months will they remain a viable supplier? Similarly, can you count on the foreign supplier long-term?

o    What is your cost of capital, and what is the tax effect of significant inventory at the end of the tax year?

o    If you purchase a container, what is the exposure to overstock of certain sizes of product? What is the carrying cost of this overstock?

  • Do the numbers and negotiate between the two suppliers.

Category: Manufacturing & Operations

Key Words: Inventory, Purchase, Advance, Container, Carry, Cost, Commit, Supplier, Tax, Negotiate

How Do You Control Expenses As You Grow? Four Foci

Interview with Andy Wallace, CEO, Maxx Metals

Situation: A company, noting that business conditions have improved, is planning for growth. This means keeping current customers and taking on the next tier of customers. They are also focused on improving customer service and the customer service experience. All of this costs money. How do you control expenses as you grow?

Advice from Andy Wallace:

  • As a small business, you can’t spend more than you have. You need to focus on all expenses from supplies to workers compensation. Major expenses are inventory and payroll. You need to focus on the line items, control the little things and control the big things.
    • There are three areas that we monitor frequently: inventory control systems, overtime, and assuring that safety is first to reduce accidents and control workers compensation costs.
  • Employees respect employers who respect them and their families. Recently we had an employee who was called by school because their child was sick. We told the employee to take the rest of the day off to take care of the child. The employee was back in an hour, having made other arrangements for the child’s care.
  • As you grow your payroll, hire the right folks with the right skills. Take time and don’t rush – you need to fill the position with the right person. As a small company having the right skills is important and reduces the costs for training and on-boarding new employees.
    • Important skills for us vary by position but include solid computer and technology skills; attention to detail, as well as writing, communication and math skills; the ability to multitask and respond positively to interruptions.
  • The culture of our company is extremely important. It’s the foundation of the company and we want to perpetuate it. Culture starts at the top with the leadership as examples for the employees to follow. It can’t be “do as I say, not what I do.” Employees know who arrives early and stays late, who is attentive to details. If we don’t set the right tone as leaders of the company, we can’t expect them to follow.

You can contact Andy Wallace at andy@maxxmetals.com

Key Words: Plan, Growth, Expenses, Inventory, Payroll, Overtime, Workers Comp, Respect, Skills, Writing, Communication, Culture

How Do You Boost Short-term Cash to Finance Growth? Two Approaches

Situation: The Company is seeing an upswing in work and backlog, but doesn’t have cash on hand to support the work. The bank won’t increase our credit line. How can we increase cash flow and better position ourselves with the bank?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • First, try to speed payments from customers or delay payment to vendors.
    • Add a schedule of values to contracts to prompt earlier payment. Sweeten early pay terms.
    • Ask for money up front to cover out of pocket costs.
    • Ask vendors for additional time. They’d rather be paid later than not paid at all and can be surprisingly supportive if approached honestly.
    • Negotiate terms with customers and suppliers in advance. This gives you additional information to take to your bank.
    • Slow down longer pay term sales by raising prices to finance your cash flow needs.
  • Study the ratios that your bank requires in your line of credit agreement. Adjust assets and expenses to fit these requirements.
    • Can you time your sales between quarters to smooth performance?
    • Update inventory counts. Look for uncounted inventory.
    • Look at your equipment. Have you been expensing or depreciating it? Shifting big items to a depreciated basis can benefit cash flow statements.
    • Once you’ve gathered this information, see if your accountant can update or restate recent statements. You may be able to generate enough impact to go back to your current bank or approach a new bank to secure a larger credit line.

Key Words: Cash-Flow, Bank, Credit Line, Payments, Payables, Vendors, Early-Pay Terms, Terms, Inventory, Depreciation 

Great Deal on a New Space . . . Now We Must Move! Five Recommendations

Situation: The Company has taken advantage of favorable lease rates to secure a larger space. How can they minimize work flow disruption during the move?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Plan the move in detail: electrical, intranet and telephone needs; office space and facilities; design or production space and facilities.
    • If you can’t move everything over a short period of time – a 3-day weekend – consider moving in steps – a series of discrete moves over time, each with its own requirements and timetable.
  • If you carry inventory, pre-build inventory to see you through critical steps of the move.
    • If you have a major customer with strict delivery deadlines, try to negotiate a delivery window during which you can conduct the move.
    • Determine if there is seasonality to order delivery that makes a particular time of year more convenient to move critical operations.
    • Custom work will require special planning.
  • If you plan to upgrade equipment, consider purchasing, installing and operating the new equipment in the new location instead of your existing location.
  • If you will be leasing the new facilities – maybe even if you are purchasing – ask the new lesser or seller to provide cash to:
    • Finance delayed shipments at a price discount,
    • Cover expenses of the move and outfitting the new location to your needs.
  • Consider converting to a wireless intranet and telephone system to avoid the expense of wiring the new facility.
    • Look at plug and go options.

Key Words: Planning, Location, Work Flow, Inventory, Technology, Customer Service, Logistics