Businesses advised to follow a five-point financial check-up to move ahead in 2012

With the festive season a distant memory, and thoughts fully focused on the year ahead, now is the ideal time to put your business through its paces with a financial health check-up, according to a business banking expert at Yorkshire Bank.

Many financial experts believe 2012 could be one of the most challenging years for business in recent history with the Gfk NOP Consumer Confidence Barometer indicating that confidence levels remain well below their 2005 peak as the UK continues to feel the implications of the economic crisis.

With such a challenging period ahead, Paul Reeves, managing partner at Yorkshire Bank’s Financial Solutions Centre (FSC) in Temple Row, Birmingham, said there are several measures businesses should be taking to ensure a prosperous 2012.

“It has been a difficult few years for business as the formidable shadow of the economic crisis continues to loom large, the pressure of which has never been more apparent than at the beginning of the year,” he said. 

“The traditional issues affecting first quarter business may be felt even more acutely for many companies approaching the end of the financing cycle.

“But while it may be a trying time, it also provides businesses with an opportunity to take stock. It’s never been more important to make plans now for the coming year, to review your financial position and consider future requirements.”

Paul recommends a five-point financial check-up to help businesses develop a plan which can stand up the challenges posed by 2012.

Target your money – Focusing on turnover is vanity and cash flow maintenance is key in a tight credit environment.  As the current business cycle draws to a close, it is important to consider how your debt is structured. Are you getting the most out of your current overdrafts and loans? If not, you’re losing money and tying up vital working capital in the process.

Many banks offer invoice financing or factoring services which can dramatically improve a company’s cash flow by releasing money as soon as an order is completed and an invoice raised, rather than having to wait for the customer to pay.

What’s the plan? – Are you on top of your company data?

Keeping an eye on your profit and loss account will allow you to identify issues before they become problems, and developing contingencies can mean the difference between failing and prospering. 

Consider additional funding – Ensuring the bank is up to speed with your plans by making regular contact can provide a great source of advice, as well as strengthening the relationship on which swift overdraft and loan extensions or refinancing may rely.

Re-evaluate expenses – Look at your overheads. Are you getting the best deal on utility prices? Could you switch to a different provider, or have you considered fuel hedging as an option?

Consider your premises. Are they being fully utilised? If not, could you opt to move, or find additional uses to generate income?

Do you need to reconsider company expenses? Are you getting the best value from your company cars or could you replace them with more efficient models or use asset finance to get a better deal?

Look to the future – It may be a difficult time for business now, but it pays to consider the long term. Have you considered launching new products or expanding into different markets? When business slows and becomes difficult it can be hard to take a long term view but investing time and resources now may be the key to future success.

Paul added: “The year ahead will be challenging as the pressures of first quarter trading continue to exert themselves and the economic crisis rumbles on,  while the effect of recent events in the Eurozone are yet to become completely apparent. 

“Even the largest organisations aren’t immune to the economic realities of issues such as debt refinancing and the likelihood is that even more big names will be affected in the future.

“Addressing the issues set out in this five point financial check-up now, will allow you to take stock of your current position and take action to make 2012 a successful year.”