Article | August 18, 2021
Treasury management or more generally Supply Chain Finance management is still a neglected topic at many SMEs.
While large international corporations make the investment into expensive treasury management solutions (often part of their ERP solution) and even setup their own In-House Banks, this is considerably more difficult for the mid-corp segment and even more so for the smaller segment of the SMEs. Often SMEs lack the funding, time and expertise to deploy those platforms and often those platforms lack the flexibility required by an SME.
Nonetheless in this globalized competitive market with fast moving cash, even SMEs are in need of an effective treasury management. Every SME has its own specific challenges, due to its specific payment cycles and cash reserves. Nonetheless most SMEs (estimated to about three-quarters) still do their treasury management via (complex) Excel sheets, requiring a lot of manual effort. This gap forms a big opportunity (in Europe SMEs account for more than half of all gross value added) for incumbent banks and Fintechs to offer easy and user-friendly tooling for this. In recent years, more and more Fintech players try indeed to provide an answer to this gap, often via SaaS platforms, which connect easily to the customer’s banks (via Open Banking APIs) and for which the setup cost is limited.
The gains for an SME in optimizing their treasury processes can be very substantial. A good treasury management can reduce costs in multiple ways:
Reduce working capital by reducing the time to collect money from customers, by reducing inventory and/or by paying suppliers only at the payment due dates.
Reduce unpaid invoices by a better follow-up and good debt collection techniques
Reduce penalties (such as administration costs or late-payment interests) due to late payments and indirectly also improve the relationship with suppliers.
Reduce effort (resource workload) for financial management, like the follow-up of payments of incoming and outgoing invoices, automated generation of payment instructions for incoming invoices…
Optimized cash management allowing to keep on your current account only the required cash amount to run your business, thus allowing to invest excess cash, but also to avoid requiring short-term debt when too much cash is invested (and blocked in medium- to long-term assets)
Reduce foreign currency costs and exposure risks by keeping the right reserves of foreign currencies, applying hedging (like swaps or options) techniques, correctly taking forex rate fluctuations into account in future cash flow predictions…
Reduce transaction commissions for bank transactions, by selecting the right banking products, but also by using the right banking partner(s) (especially for international foreign currency payments big price differences exist between different banking parties)
Reduce cost of fraud by improving control, transparency and accountability via a pro-active, automated monitoring of all cash flows, allowing to detect anomalies as soon as possible
This can be achieved in multiple ways:
Setup and optimize the processes and tooling with the help of specialized services companies (like e.g. the offering of BelPay)
Setup or acquire software solutions (often in the form of SaaS offerings, i.e. Treasury in a Box) for cash & liquidity management, like invoice generation and follow-up (including invoice and payment matching), debt collection, incoming invoice processing (including payment), cash pooling, cash forecasting/capital planning… These software tools allow a more pro-active treasury management and reduce manual effort by automating certain steps in these processes. Examples of such platforms are HighRadius, Gtreasury, CashForce, Kyriba, Nomentia, Monite, Pair Finance, AiVidens… But there are also more specialized tools, offering only a specific service, like debt collection (e.g. Virteo, recovr, Pair Finance, TrueAccord, CollectAI, CollectionHub, inDebted, Attunely…), digitalization (through OCR) of paper invoices (e.g. Tangentia, Contract.fit, Metamaze, Klippa, SimpleOCR…), expense management (e.g. Payhawk, Rydoo, Expensify, Spendesk, Pleo, Circula…), account aggregation and payment initiation (e.g. Isabel 6/Ponto)…
Capture revenue by allowing customers to pay for products or services in a way that is most efficient for them and for the SME, allowing to increase sales, but also to ensure the best possible payment ratio. This includes solutions like digital onboarding and management of Direct Debits (e.g. via Twikey or DigiTeal), including a Pay button (e.g. via Twikey or POM) in invoices which allows to pay the invoice with a pre-filled credit transfer, card payment or other payment option, integration with PSPs (like Adyen, Mollie, MultiSafePay, Ingenico, Stripe…) for online payments, digital invoicing allowing to combine invoicing and payment (e.g. PEPPOL platform or offering invoices with immediate payment option via UnifiedPost, ZoomIt or Doccle), "Buy Now, Pay Later" solutions (like Klarna or AfterPay) or new solutions like PSD2 Payment Initiation or the upcoming new scheme of SEPA Request to Pay (SRTP).
Improve integration between accountancy software (and/or accountant) and the cash management solutions and associated bank accounts. Solutions like Silverfin, TOCO, Yuki, OkiOki, Billit, Furoo, Clearfacts, Billtobox, sevDesk, Candis… can provide (a part of) a solution to this.
Usage of solutions for cash management (e.g. international cashpooling, sweep accounts…) and more general treasury management services offered by banks to their customers. These can be incumbent banks or new Fintechs, which specialize in the niche of serving SME customers. Examples are Tide, Qonto, Azlo, Arival, Fyrst…
Reducing costs of international payments and forex transactions via new Fintech offers, like XE.com, TransferWise, CurrencyTransfer.com, WorldFirst, iBanFirst, Ebury…, but also via specialized software tools, like Kantox, FiREapps, Money Mover, Acumatica…
Get cheaper financing via specialized credit institutions and banks (e.g. OakNorth, CapitalBox…), by issuing commercial paper (short-term paper) or long-term debt, via crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending (e.g. Funding Circle, Auxmoney, LendingCrowd, Iwoca, Look&Fin, Crowdcube…), via Credit Lombard loans or inventory-based loans (e.g. Finventory) or via invoice factoring (e.g. Edebex, Previse, Optimum Finance, GapCap, BlueVine, BillFront, Crowdz…). There are also more and more marketplaces and comparators assisting SMEs to find the best financing option, e.g. Funding Options, BusinessComparison, Crowdz…
Improve risk management (like currency risk, interest-rate risk, market risk, credit risk, counterparty risk…) via trade finance, like bank guarantees (cfr. Ebury), via better authorization and fraud detection mechanisms (detecting patterns and anomalies) or by better assessing counterparty risk (e.g. DueDil, InsideView, PitchBook…)
Apply tax optimizations, by optimizing for different tax regimes worldwide and also optimizing for tax deductions (like e.g. generate revenue on entities which have collected losses in the past)
Clearly the Fintech market for SMEs is in full evolution, but still quite immature. As a result dozens of offers exist, making it very difficult for SMEs (which was one of the reasons in the first place they work with Excel) to select the best and right offering(s) for their company. As such there is a big market for consultancy and other services firms, specialized in helping SMEs to improve their treasury management processes.
Article | July 9, 2021
The effect of COVID-19, the pandemic nationwide, was inevitable and became a catalyst for every business's digital transformation, irrespective of a large, small, or medium-sized business. 2020 saw a boom in digital transformation and escalated demand for artificial intelligence (AI). A few years back, artificial intelligence for small businesses was just a buzzword for owners, and today it is a new reality of our day-to-day life. Many companies have recognized the extensive benefits of AI. As the growing power of AI for small business owners has been considered, they have integrated them to achieve their goals.
Artificial intelligence, also called machine learning, offers small businesses the opportunity to become profitable, efficient, and effective. With time and evolution in technology, AI delivers results and has become affordable for small businesses. The unprecedented nature of the pandemic crisis brought in a set of new challenges and forced small companies to change and improvise their business strategies. This crisis led AI and machine learning to play a substantial role in various aspects of businesses.
According to statistics, the artificial intelligence industry will be worth $190 billion by 2025, with global spending on AI systems already reaching $57 billion by 2021. The machine learning and deep learning segment accounted for nearly 65% of the market in 2019.
According to ReportCrux Market Research, the global demand for artificial intelligence in the IoT market estimated to be around $ 2.64 billion in 2019, revenues are expected to be around $ 15.72 billion by the end of 2027, representing a 25.0% CAGR from 2020 to 2027.
Moving forward, before you hit the core topic of this blog, here are few additional aspects you need to know about AI and small businesses.
AI and small businesses
Today AI is the new headline of every business news and has become a prevalent technology adapted by almost every industry. However, before delving into the implications of machine learning and artificial intelligence for small businesses, let me throw some light on what artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are.
AI is creating computer systems capable of performing tasks that generally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and language translation.
Machine learning is defined as “an artificial intelligence application that allows systems to learn and improve based on experience without being programmed automatically.”
AI and machine learning have become a mainstay of the new business world. Yet, as per the common misconception, this technology is still considered for bigger businesses with big budget to spend. However, as technology advances, artificial intelligence for small businesses has become more affordable, making it an industry reality for them as well.
According to the 2018 Vistage survey on the role of AI for small businesses, 13.6% of small-to-medium companies (SMBs) are currently using AI technologies to improve business operations and customer engagement. In addition, according to another survey of CEOs from small and medium-sized businesses, 29.5% of CEOs support AI technology.
Artificial intelligence has gained trust from few big names such as Bill Gates and Elon Musk.
AI and deep machine learning can be implemented through AI tools and AI software across different parts of business operations. AI tools help streamline all the processes of the business, thus transform the industry. AI tools for small companies benefit in various ways, including helping to improve sales and marketing efforts, improving recruitment and HR activities, and automating customer service and communications.
Here is how artificial intelligence (AI) can help your small businesses improve your performance efficiency.
Top 5 artificial intelligence recommendations for small businesses in 2021
Since the digital approach towards business operations, machine learning and artificial intelligence for small business operations are changing. However, it necessitates a well-planned marketing strategy for small businesses to maintain a personal touch in their approach. As a result, customer-relationship management (CRM) systems play an essential role in gathering customer data across various omni-channels such as email, social media platforms, and phone. This customer data aids in the improvement and automation of the sales process.
HubSpot CRM and Salesforce have incorporated AI into their technology; these AI-infused CRM for small businesses can help their owners in analyzing customer feedback. As a result, marketing and lead generation activities will be adjusted based on that information.
AI-infused CRMs not only improve lead generation results, but they have also begun to demonstrate how AI can be used to acquire marketing and sales-relevant insights, as well as to improve the customer acquisition process.
Effortless data-driven predictions and decision-making
Data plays a key role for businesses in the decision-making process. The data-driven approach helps to improve decisions, but for this, the companies need to recognize and adapt artificial intelligence (AI) into their workflow. Data holds the insight that enables better decisions, integration of AI and machine learning in workflow validates effortless data-driven predictions and more robust decision making for further actions.
The question is, how does AI help in the decision-making process based on data? Here is the solution; firstly, AI examines massive amounts of data and then provides insights to business owners, who make decisions based on this information. Then, do you see how artificial intelligence for small businesses in workflow simplifies decision-making and makes data-driven predictions with ease.
Application of artificial intelligence (AI) in human resource
The human resource was the most unexpected department into which artificial intelligence (AI) crept. Effective implementation of AI tools in human resources helps to streamline the hiring and onboarding process. Furthermore, it is beneficial to obtain employee feedback on how HR can improve the hiring process.
AI tools for small businesses offer their marketing teams to handle repetitive and tedious tasks like data entry, cleaning up extensive data, and testing sales campaigns' efficiency. In addition, artificial intelligence for small businesses empowers them to optimize their staff output.
AI-powered customer service
The big players in online retail are no longer the only ones. Small and medium-sized businesses are also gradually becoming a significant part of selling their products or services on an online portal. In the form of conversational platforms such as chatbots, IVRs, and visual bots, AI can enable proactive customer self-service. First, however, it is necessary to develop personalized customer service for their satisfaction. This can be done with the help of integration of the most used AI-powered chatbots.
Many small business owners are investing in this process to provide customer communication and service. Chatbots use natural language (NLP) processing technology of the machine learning tool.
Since the introduction of deep learning in AI, it has become a need of an hour to deliver better results to customers, as approximately 30% of all online retail transactions are made on a mobile phone. Most small businesses are utilizing AI to provide customers with first-hand product experience.
According to Gartner, “46% of SMBs (surveyed) are currently using or plan to use a chatbot within the next two years.” Another 21% of the small and medium-sized businesses polled were evaluating chatbots for use, according to the study. Chatbots is like a sales and customer rep working 24/7 for you.
Among the many artificial intelligence for small businesses available, this relieves stress and allows you to devote your time to more critical tasks. For example, with AI-powered customer service, you can simplify many tasks, facilitate customer communication and customer experience.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, most businesses turned online, giving rise to online data storage by companies both big and small. Thus, exposing them to new cyber threats to business and consumer data, which are called cyber-attacks. One of the most talked-about cyber-attacks in 2019 is ‘Ransomware,’ a form of malicious software that is often deployed via social engineering tactics.
According to the survey, ransomware attacks increased 350% globally in 2018, and ransomware attacks are expected to cost $6 trillion per year by 2021.
For small businesses with a minimal budget to spend on cybersecurity or sudden ransom, such attacks can be devastating. According to recent reports, 60% of small businesses that suffer a cyberattack go out of business within six months. But luckily, cybersecurity powered by AI may provide some relief from these attacks. AI-powered cybersecurity programs look for unusual activity or cyber threats detected and can stop the attacks or raise alerts earlier.
You can revitalize and empower your small business by employing artificial intelligence for small businesses to meticulously maintain an account database, stay in touch with customers, or protect your company from hackers.
AI is the future of businesses
In the future, AI can transform how businesses interact with customers, compete with one another, and grow in the market. On the other hand, the pandemic served as a catalyst for businesses to embrace the business benefits of artificial intelligence (AI). As a result, what would typically take years to implement on a large scale was completed in a matter of weeks and months. According to survey by Salesforce research, 51% of customers say their expectations of companies are now being influenced by AI.
According to a report, the global artificial intelligence (AI) market was worth 28.42 billion USD in 2019. According to the same report, the AI market will be worth 99.98 billion USD by 2023, with a compound annual growth rate of 34.86%.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence for small businesses help their owners reduce manual work and increase productivity with little effort and in a short period.
Can small businesses use AI?
Yes, small businesses can use AI and need an hour to implement it in their process. Small business owners can use artificial intelligence (AI) to provide the first-hand experience of their products or services to their customers. AI helps small businesses to handle repetitive and tedious tasks with great ease.
How can small businesses benefit from AI?
Implementation of AI in a small business can help to improve sales and marketing, streamline HR tasks, automate customer communication, provide cybersecurity from unpredictable threats, etc. Thus, artificial intelligence for small businesses can completely transform their position in the market.
How is AI implemented in small businesses?
AI technology can be implemented in small businesses using various AI-based tools, applications, or software.
"name": "Can small businesses use AI?",
"text": "Yes, small businesses can use AI and need an hour to implement it in their process. Small business owners can use artificial intelligence (AI) to provide the first-hand experience of their products or services to their customers. AI helps small businesses to handle repetitive and tedious tasks with great ease."
"name": "How can small businesses benefit from AI?",
"text": "Implementation of AI in a small business can help to improve sales and marketing, streamline HR tasks, automate customer communication, provide cybersecurity from unpredictable threats, etc. Thus, artificial intelligence for small businesses can completely transform their position in the market."
"name": "How is AI implemented in small businesses?",
"text": "AI technology can be implemented in small businesses using various AI-based tools, applications, or software."
Article | July 29, 2021
The first and crucial part of building your small business is setting up finance for your business. Overhead costs for small businesses are also included in this broad category of business finance. An old proverb, “You need to spend money to make money,” gels perfectly with the business notion.
Business owners spend a lot of money creating a product or service, which is considered “direct costs.” Some expenses are not directly related to the creation of a product or service but aid in the operation of your business; these are referred to as "overhead costs" or "indirect costs." However, from an accounting standpoint, overhead costs are not considered expenses at all.
Small business owners have a lot of costs to consider especially overhead costs. Here are a few examples of overhead costs: a business license, accounts payable, invoices, office supplies, accounting, and legal fees, bank fees, and many more to pen down.
Business owners are behooved to be careful and make sure that their expenses should not outweigh their income. Business overhead is one area that most businesses face, and it is worth investigating further and managing it accordingly.
Overhead expenses consume most of the remaining space on your profit and loss statement. However, cutting your overhead costs will improve your business finances.
Let us further discuss few aspects of overhead costs and how to reduce overhead costs for small businesses.
What Are Overhead Costs?
Overhead costs are the indirect but requisite expenses for running a business. These costs do not directly generate revenue for the company, but they do not change as your business grows. Overhead costs must be borne even if no products or services are produced or sold for a period and cannot be
Here are few examples of overhead costs for small businesses:
Electricity bill, gas, water, internet, etc.
Rent for office spaces, warehouses, etc.
Business licenses and permits
Marketing and advertising materials.
Salaries and wages
Insurance for vehicles, employees, and properties.
The key is to keep track of your overhead costs and not let them interfere with your efforts to grow your business and turn a profit.
Once your concept of direct and indirect costs is cleared, the calculation of overhead costs becomes relatively easy.
Types of Overhead Costs
The overhead costs are divided into three main categories that can directly affect your small business fixed costs, variable costs, and semi-variable costs. Fixed costs are easily trackable. Below are few types of overhead costs for small businesses.
Fixed Overhead Costs
The majority of your business expenses fall under fixed overhead costs and do not change regardless of the profit earned by the company or change in the level of output; it remains the same each month. Fixed costs are easily tracked and managed as well.
Fixed costs are pretty predictable and are required to keep a business running smoothly.
Few examples of fixed overhead costs
Renting a manufacturing facility or a corporate office.
Fixed asset depreciation expenses.
Software subscription fees.
Fixed overhead costs are stable and do not deviate from the amounts budgeted for them. However, there are a few exceptions, such as if sales exceed what the company budgeted for, in which case fixed overhead costs may rise as new managers and administrative staff are hired. More employees are added to the company.
Similarly, if you decide to purchase a few additional pieces of machinery to increase production, this will result in a permanent change in fixed overhead costs.
Variable Overhead Costs
Variable overhead costs are those that change depending on the business activity, such as sales volume. Variable costs rise as your sales rise and fall as your sales fall. Variable overhead costs, as opposed to fixed overhead costs, vary from month to month.
Here are some examples of variable overhead costs:
Maintenance of equipment.
Unless the number of workers increases or decreases with production volumes, the labor involved in the production, or direct labor, may not be a variable cost.
Semi-Variable Overhead Costs
Semi-variable overhead costs have qualities of both fixed costs and variable costs. A business may incur such costs at any time, though the exact cost will vary depending on the level of business activity.
Utilities are classified as a semi-variable expense. These costs are only fixed up to a certain level of output. For example, the office’s electricity bill is a monthly cost but varies as per the season.
Semi-variable overhead costs include:
Utilities (power and water costs).
Company vehicle expenses (i.e., gas).
Ways to Reduce Your Overhead Costs
Going paperless is a simple way to save money. Although it may not appear to be a high cost, paper and ink do add up. Instead, adopt technology such as a cloud-based system to store all of your vital corporate data online. This will save you time and money while also allowing you to keep track of details for a more extended period. In addition, going paperless is cost-effective too.
However, going digital also reduces clutter and makes it easier for business owners to stay organized. In the event of a computer or program failure, make sure you have a backup of all your documents.
Going paperless is an intelligent decision to reduce overhead costs for small businesses because of few advantages such as being environmentally friendly, easy access, and digital file system easy to organize.
Create a Systematic Purchasing Process
It's a good idea to appoint one person in the company to handle, examine, and authorize purchases so that he can see all the expenses that management plans to incur before they're paid. In addition, negotiating contracts and placing office supply orders should be the responsibility of this person.
By putting one person in charge of purchasing, that individual can devote all of their time to finding the most incredible deals. The individual in charge of purchasing should be a skilled negotiator who is not hesitant to ask for a discount. Request that your purchasing manager go shopping for better prices on the things you buy frequently. Consider rewarding your purchasing agent with a bonus if they achieve specific cost-cutting goals without sacrificing quality.
Purchasing equipment such as computers, photocopiers, and other necessities every year is a significant expenditure. As a result, leasing equipment is frequently the best option for businesses looking to reduce monthly costs. Renting or leasing equipment makes it easier to upgrade to newer versions of computers and other equipment. Additionally, while leasing, costs such as equipment repairs and maintenance will be reduced if not eliminated.
Tax benefits are frequently available for equipment leases. In addition, depending on the lease, you may be able to claim your payments as a business expense by utilizing specific legal provisions.
Leasing equipment is one of the most productive ways to reduce your overhead costs for small businesses.
Market to Your Existing Customers
Marketing to your existing customers can be a good strategy to reduce costs. This step reduces your marketing costs and shows that you care about rewarding loyalty, which gives your brand a boost.
Customers who are happy with your products or services are more inclined to tell their friends and family about them, and word of mouth is still the most effective marketing method.
Organic promotion from peers is more likely to be trusted by potential customers than paid advertising.
Choose a Business Credit Card That Suits You
Choose the best business credit card that suits you for your business expenses. Your company can benefit from credit cards in several ways. For example, Cash-back benefits, travel miles, or a point system are all available on cards targeted for corporate use.
When buying office supplies and paying for travel expenses with a credit card, these incentives can pile up quickly. First, examine the annual fees and interest rates associated with your credit card. Then, it could be time to apply for no-fee credit cards with lower interest rates.
Choose a credit card that is ideal for your company, particularly in credit limits, interest rates, and fees. This could be one of the methods to your cost-cutting.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What are typical overhead costs?
Overheads are business costs associated with the day-to-day operation of the business. Accounting fees, insurance, advertising, legal fees, interest, labor burden, rent, supplies, repairs, taxes, travel expenses, phone bills, and utilities are examples of overhead expenses.
How do you calculate overhead costs for a small business?
Divide the total overhead costs of the business in a month by the monthly sales to calculate the overhead rate. To calculate your overhead rate, multiply this figure by 100. A lower overhead rate indicates greater efficiency and profits.
Are overheads fixed costs?
Typically, overhead does not fluctuate with increases in product production, which is why it is a fixed cost. Mortgage or rent for buildings such as the corporate office are examples of fixed costs.
"name": "How to write resolutions for small businesses?",
"text": "Examine all aspects of your small business from the previous year to create a solid list of resolutions for the coming year. Consider your successes and failures and work to alleviate them."
"name": "What is a resolution for a business?",
"text": "In business, a resolution is a proposal made during a meeting of the company's shareholders or directors. It is discussed, and its approval represents an official confirmation of any action that the company will take. Resolutions are classified into four types: elective, extraordinary, unique, and ordinary."
"name": "Why should every business have a resolution?",
"text": "Resolutions help to focus your efforts and energy on new goals and reaching new heights. In addition, resolutions enable business owners to understand where they can increase efficiency and grow over the coming year."
Article | April 9, 2020
Spring cleaning isn’t just for the home. If you run a small business, spring is the ideal time to take a fresh look at your website and do some tidying up. Your business website needs an update from time to time to ensure it looks good, functions correctly, and supports your marketing goals. With this in mind, here is a 15-point checklist for spring cleaning your website, covering website performance, content, and usability.