‘When you’re in business the issues you face can change from week to week; and that’s even more true in the current economic climate,” says Alan Wink of Amper, Politziner, and Mattia. The certified public accounting and consulting firm has several offices in New Jersey as well as in New York and Philadelphia.
Wink will speak on “Reinvigorating and Recharging Your Business,” Thursday, September 10, at 8:30 a.m. at the Fairleigh Dickinson University Family Business Forum. The free program will be held at the school’s Rothman Institute. For reservations call 973-443-8880. Bob Lemaire of Sun National Bank will be a co-speaker.
Complacency is not an effective way to ensure your business goals are being met, says Wink.
As a director of three groups at Amper, Politziner, and Mattia, Wink works in the areas of management consulting, private equity, and technology, and providing strategic business advisory services to companies in a variety of industries. He received his bachelor’s degree in accounting as well as an MBA from Rutgers and has 20 years of financial and consulting experience. He served as director of the interfunctional management consulting program at Rutgers Graduate School of Management, a program he helped build into one of the largest business school-based management consulting practices in the country. He began his career in accounting, spending six years on the audit staff of a large multinational accounting firm and a Fortune 500 company. He left accounting “to expand his horizons in the area of corporate finance,” he says.
He spent several years as director of financial analysis for AmBase Corporation and is also a past vice president of Capricorn Management. He has worked with many early-stage and expansion-stage companies on developing appropriate capital structure for their position in the business life cycle.
Influencing topline growth. “Service is a critical, if not the most important, aspect of any business. We must always remember to treat every customer, large or small, as if they are our most important client,” Wink says.
But in a down economy, many clients might be looking for concessions, and it is also important to look carefully at who the customer is, and what their needs are before answering. “Concessions can range from new payment terms to a faster delivery schedule. Things the customer might never have needed to ask for before,” he says.
Businesses should not have a blanket policy toward anything a customer requests. “It’s important to treat each customer and their request on an individual basis,” Wink says. “Look at who is asking and what they are asking for.” He suggests that businesses make a “customer profit study,” looking at each customer individually in areas such as profit margin, number of returns, number of special requests or concessions, and timely payment. The study will make it easier to determine the answer when a customer asks for a concession.
“You should be ready to make a concession to someone who has been a good customer for a number of years,” Wink says. “But you might also look at your marginal clients.”
Motivating employees. “Your employees are your best asset,” says Wink. While it might be a business truism, it is also an important item for every employer to remember. “Happy employees make for a good company.”
Particularly these days, when unemployment is high and profits might be lower than usual, it is easy for an employer to take his workers for granted, thinking that they will be reluctant to leave at a time when the job market is weak. This is a short-sighted view, Wink says. While employees might stay for now, as soon as the economy turns around, unhappy employees will be quick to look for a new place of employment.
Unfortunately, many employers think that the only way to keep an employee happy is to offer a raise, and with money tight, that might not be possible. There are many other things that employers can do to keep their staff happy, says Wink, and many cost no additional money.
One of the best ways to keep employees happy is to make them feel that they are an important part of the team. Praise them. Allow them to be a part of the decision-making process. Also, don’t punish honest mistakes. “It only stifles creativity,” adds Wink.
De-leverage the balance sheet. “Many good companies today are selling products, have a good profit margin, and are controlling costs, but they are burdened by enormous debt,” Wink says. In the past 10 years or so many “mid-market” firms leveraged their businesses and now are paying the price. “Every company today needs to be doing as much as it can to reduce the debt.”
A company without a lot of debt can “get through a hiccup like losing one major client a lot easier than a company that is highly leveraged,” he adds. Smart companies today are putting off major expenditures if possible and using any extra cash to pay down debt.
“The people I know in banking tell me they have never been busier, but because they are looking more closely at the loans, they have also never turned down so many people.” One of the biggest red flags is a company borrowing to pay off another loan.
Growth through acquisition. One way to increase growth is organically, by increasing sales and profits, but another excellent method is through acquisition, says Wink. Companies that have been conservative in recent years and currently have capital reserves should seriously consider acquiring competitors who are in a weaker position.
“If you have the capital and don’t have to borrow money, now is a great time to acquire another company. Prices are down and many excellent companies can be acquired for bargain prices,” says Wink. “Some of the best deals can be made when times are tough.”
Complacency, he says, is one of the biggest enemies of business. “Remember that you must always be ready to tweak what you are doing — and that is more true today than ever before.”