Going Paperless

Becoming a paperless office makes complete economic, practical and sustainable sense. Traditionally in business we use LOTS of paper; from quotes, purchase orders, invoices, and all the other documents that may be unique to your business. With new regulation in many industries too, the paper trail just seems to be getting longer and it may be hard to get your head around taking all that paper out of the system, but it is possible.

Each business will be different depending on their business model and size; however there is no reason that any business could not reduce paper consumption. At Ecolease we reduced paper by 95%, the 5 % being printed contracts for signing.

For me the biggest benefit is knowing we run a truly contemporary & nimble office ready to handle the rapid pace of business. The paperless system without a doubt has made us incredibly efficient and productive and enabled our lean little organisation to handle a high volume of transactions.

I encourage you to give it a go if you are not already, it really isn’t that hard and the benefits are worth it. Imagine the reduction in your stationery bill every month!

Here are some of the other benefits we have found:

  • Flexibility to do business wherever you and your clients are
  • Faster delivery of information and service
  • Faster time to completion of each transaction
  • Better Access to information 24/7
  • Reduced cost of print, post, handling
  • Reduced costs associated with storing files including fewer filing cabinets and less floor-space
  • Better staff “head space” means better productivity due to neater desks and less office clutter
  • Better document security means you can control who has access to files and comply with privacy laws
  • Better disaster recovery and mobility means your business is much less vulnerable to such things as fire or flood. An entire firm’s files can be backed up on a laptop or in the cloud.

MAKING THE CHANGE

In our experience at Ecolease, the conversion to becoming a paperless office required a “paradigm shift” around how we delivered our service and most importantly, around deep seated work habits (mostly mine!).

Once we sat down and really looked at where we could strip back the paper trail and replace it with a digital one, it didn’t take much to incorporate new work practice. The main thing is everyone has to be on board and open to change (scary!)

Without going into huge amount of detail, here are some hints on how to do it.

Invest in good technology

Software:

  • PDF Converter package (must have)
  • Online Accounting Software such as XERO (handy to have)
  • Mobile/Internet Banking (handy to have)

Hardware:

  • Dual monitors for all staff (must have especially for processing staff) – this alone improves productivity and efficiency 10 fold, you won’t look back once working from dual extended monitors
  • Good quality scanner (initially there will be lots of scanning of old files)

Plan with the team

Sit down with the team and look at every step and every document used to complete a single transaction: from initial enquiry to post sale care.

Work out what document really needs to be printed and what doesn’t. Be ruthless. Less paper means less handling and more time spent on delivering good service and getting on to the next transaction. It also means better margins in possibly a shrinking margin environment.

Here is a good article on going paperless by Xero Software which is quite comprehensive and helpful.

Strategies To Improve Your Profit

Profit is at the core of success for any business, so it follows that all business owners, directors and CEO’s are constantly thinking about how they can improve their profit – or at least they should be! Improving profitability requires looking at business performance on a far wider perspective than simply growing revenue.

Although there are a range of different factors which come into play when looking for opportunities to increase profit, fundamentally there are four major strategies that a business should consider:

  • review pricing strategy;
  • reduce direct costs;
  • reduce indirect or overhead costs;
  • increase sales volume (selling more without significantly impacting on pricing, direct costs or overheads).

Within this framework the following initiatives may be useful and effective to help make your business more profitable:

  • Analyse every area of gross profit to understand where the biggest opportunities lie, and to determine how to reduce or eliminate less profitable activities;
  • Analyse profitability by customer, product, revenue, SKU etc. to gain the best understanding of what is driving the business and where profits or losses are being generated;
  • Increase prices – for example assuming a company has a GP of 15%, and prices are increased by 5%, sales volume would have to decrease by 25% or more before the company would be generating less profit;
  • Systematically and continuously measure, report and analyse KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to identify negative trends at an early stage, and then determine strategies to combat these trends;
  • Review pricing arrangements with existing suppliers;
  • Research alternative suppliers across all areas of the business;
  • Research sources of grant funding;
  • Determine eligibility of R&D (Research & Development) tax incentives;
  • Develop effective incentive schemes for staff to encourage productivity and to manage risk;
  • Analyse competitor activity;Review significant overheads and non-productive processes to identify opportunities to reduce expenditure;
  • For exporters and importers, Investigate exchange rate hedging;
  • Create a realistic and achievable business (action) plan and communicate this plan to all employees;
  • Investigate online selling;
  • Explore cost effective ways of marketing (social media etc);
  • Continuously forecast where the business is heading (and compare to business plans to identify reasons for key variances);
  • Develop customer relationship monitoring systems and customer retention strategies to prevent any potential loss of revenue.

As you can see, there are many strategies and initiatives to put in place to help increase your profit, and in fact almost every area of your business will somehow impact that bottom line. Small changes can sometimes make drastic differences to profit, so it is definitely worthwhile to looking into some of the above strategies and see where you can apply them to your business.

– Tips by Camryn Turner (Director of Finance Free TV Australia Limited)

Cashflow Tips from the CFO Centre

Poor Cash Flow is the Biggest Threat to a Business

Fact is, 4 out of every 5 businesses fail due to poor cash flow management. It therefore stands to reason that cashflow management should be the number one priority for every business owner.

Every business owner needs to understand the cash impact of decisions and have in place a clearly defined and well managed strategy to avoid running into cash flow problems. Having the right cash flow management processes in place and being able to spot peaks and troughs in trading is one of the most critical components of the finance team. Company success hinges on an understanding of the organisation’s current and future cash-flow needs, and it is particularly during times of change that a healthy forward cash-flow is needed.

Installing systems to help manage cash can be done very quickly and at relatively little expense. Cash flow management should not be seen as a short-term fix to a problem, but should be part of the fabric of the business; a systematic approach, which should underpin every business wishing to ensure long-term stability.

There are many aspects to cash flow management but by way of a summary, some key aspects which should be considered are:

  • Review the scope of your cash flow challenges (funding sources, key projects, business expansion plans);
  • Create internal and external communication plans to make sure all parties are kept fully informed (bankers, suppliers, customers);
  • Ensure that the bank is reconciled and accounts are up to date;
  • Limit and consolidate your outbound payments to simplify the cash flow management process;
  • Determine immediate cost saving opportunities within the business;
  • Communicate with the bank so they are ‘on side’;
  • Discuss bank facilities with bank manager such as increased overdraft or other lending possibilities (you may have more options than you are aware of);
  • Devise a new short term cash flow visibility plan (cash flow statement) so that decision makers can see the cash impact of projected trading and investment decisions in advance
  • Review payments owed and devise strategy to accelerate inbound cash flow
  • Review outbound payments to suppliers and devise strategy to ensure suppliers are kept happy and to limit outbound payments where possible
  • Work with you to identify hidden or underperforming assets which can be monetized.

All the above is well and good, but many small to medium enterprises (SMEs) simply cannot afford top quality finance personnel to help drive and implement these type of finance strategies. However, this doesn’t always have to be the case – more and more businesses have discovered the affordable way to have CFO skill-set with a part-time, outsourced CFO.

For the cost of a junior admin person, a small business can have access to high calibre CFO’s with extensive commercial, strategic and financial expertise to help accelerate growth, manage risk, bring stability and control to finance departments as well as to provide more meaningful reporting to enable better decision making and stronger business performance.

To find out more, get in touch with Ecolease, who will introduce you to the CFO Centre to arrange a no cost discovery session at your business premises.

Ecolease Source Funding for AVS Solar Installation

Sydney, Australia, December 1, 2014 – Ecolease, a leading provider of equipment finance and emerging supplier of alternate energy finance solutions, recently sourced finance to enable Australian Visual Solutions (AVS) to invest in a large solar panel installation for their Head Quarters in Dandenong, Victoria.

Australian Visual Solutions is a leading supplier to the Australian print and signage industry, with operations nationwide and infrastructure based at their Dandenong facility.

AVS Solar Install
AVS Offices and Solar Installation

 

Cameron Sutherland, CEO of AVS commented about the recent decision to install solar – “It is important to us that our main server and phone systems do not get affected by power failures and blackouts. The solar solution is not only good for the environment, it is also good business sense.”

AVS installed a 50kW system, which will provide for all the energy needs of their Dandenong operations. “This will hopefully save in excess of 90% of our electricity bills,” said Shaji Cheriyan CFO at AVS. “In principle, our investment will pay back in under 4 years, and the benefits should flow through for more than 20 years.Ecolease was founded with the vision of helping small to medium businesses access funding for alternate energy solutions and this has now become a reality as Ecolease have access to a range of lenders to provide finance for such equipment.

“It has taken 5 years to get to this stage where we have lenders that are willing to fund this type of equipment,” said Marian Taggart-Holland, Director at Ecolease. “When I first started Ecolease I was excited at the prospect of helping businesses access funding for solar and other alternate energy plant and equipment.”

“I am very excited that we now have a panel of lenders where we can source funding for our small to mid size business customers, for alternate energy equipment, along with all the other equipment and vehicle finance solutions.”

AVS has traditionally used Ecolease for financing its own equipment and printing equipment for customers. “Ecolease have always been a very good supplier to our industry for wide format printers,” commented Sutherland.

This solar finance was a new territory for the relationship, however Marian and the team at Ecolease did what they do best – understand the business, source the right finance provider and make the process as simple as possible.

Cheriyan attests to this, commenting, “As usual Ecolease understands the business needs and found the right lender. They were pretty quick, and always kept us in the picture with respect to pros and cons with various lending propositions.”

Sutherland concludes, “Interestingly, there is nice synergy in the fact that all our company overheads run through the solar panel install, and Ecolease provide finance for the solar, and all our other equipment.”

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Roland Rental celebrates $5mil milestone

Leading industry supplier Roland DG Australia announced that its successful finance program, Roland Rental, recently achieved a milestone of financing over $5 million dollars of Roland equipment in the last financial year.

Roland Rental enables customers to purchase Roland equipment without the upfront investment. The unique program takes the hassle out of finance through industry knowledge, fast approvals and simple documentation, making it easy for customers to upgrade their technology and expand their business.

President and Director of Roland DG Australia, John Wall, commented “Over the course of its 7 year history, Roland Rental has established itself as a leading finance provider to the signage industry, and this $5 million milestone is a testament to that.”

Roland Rental prides itself on delivering a 95% approval rate and fast turn-around times. A claim supported by a recent customer who had finance approved and settled in just 25 hours.

One of the keys to this success is industry knowledge. “We’ve learnt a lot over the last 7 years about print businesses and the signage industry,” said Marian Taggart-Holland of Roland Rental. “We understand that finance is one headache that business owners don’t need to deal with – so we take this headache away and make finance simple.”

Marian and her team will once again be attending Visual Impact in Homebush, Sydney on 9-11 September, and will be offering special trade show rates*. With no financials required^ and obligation free pre-approvals, it is the perfect opportunity for customers to find out how easy and affordable purchasing Roland equipment can be.

“Through this simple approval process, and affordable payments, we have helped hundreds of signage businesses to get hold of the equipment they need to grow their business,” commented Marian.

Chat to Marian at Visual Impact on the Roland DG stand, or for more information visit www.rolanddg.com.au/rental

EOFY – Planning now could save you precious dollars later

by Simon Shepherd of Morgans Financial Limited

Don’t leave it to the last minute before thinking about tax effective strategies for your financial year end planning. Your tax planning should start early; below is a suggested timetable:

During April and May

• Start thinking about what deductible expenses you have incurred this year
• Do you have copies of receipts for any claimable expenses, including medical costs?
• Do you have copies of all your investment distribution/dividend statements?
• If you own property, do you have paperwork up to date in relation to rent, depreciation and expenses?
• Review your small business paperwork, if applicable
• Talk to your adviser to identify strategies you can put in place before June 30
• Review your CGT position from previous years; can you use carried forward losses to reduce this year’s realised capital gains?
• Review the performance of shares in your portfolio for the year to date; should you be taking profits or clearing out dead wood from your portfolio?
• Think about superannuation strategies, in particular contribution limits
• Consider your wealth protection needs; have your personal circumstances changed in a way which means you should review insurance cover?

In June

• Collate the relevant paperwork (receipts, dividend statements, holding statements, buy or sell contract notes)
• Co-ordinate and finalise your tax effective strategies with your adviser
• Talk to your adviser about a portfolio management service that will make next year’s paperwork and tax time simple
• Ensure any super contributions you wish to make this year are deposited to your super account before June 30

Please note: we are not registered tax agents and cannot provide specific tax advice. Any tax planning strategies discussed in this document should only be considered as a part of your overall wealth management and/or retirement planning. It is very important you seek further advice on any tax consequences these or other strategies may have on your personal circumstances from a registered tax agent.

Contact Simon on [email protected]  or 02 8116 1780  if you wish to discuss your year end planning in more detail.

Privacy Series: Changes to the Law

On 12 March 2014, the federal Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act) changed. This law regulates how your personal information is handled by Australian Government agencies (not state and territory government agencies) and the private sector, including large businesses, credit bodies (like banks), not-for-profits and private health service providers.

The new Privacy Act includes changes in three main areas.

• A new set of privacy principles. These are called the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) and they govern how your personal information must be handled. There are a number of important changes, including in the areas of privacy policies, direct marketing and overseas disclosure of personal information.

• Comprehensive credit reporting. Changes to the credit reporting affect everyone — anyone who has a credit card, store card or uses a telecommunications service provider has a credit report, and the information that goes onto it now can have an impact on your ability to get credit in the future.

• Enhanced powers for the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). The OAIC now has greater powers to resolve investigations and promote privacy compliance.

You can’t exercise or enforce your rights if you don’t know what they are — visit the OAIC website to find out about changes to the law.

Privacy policies

It is now a requirement that all government agencies and private sector organisations that are covered by the Privacy Act must have a clearly expressed and up-to-date privacy policy.

Privacy policies can be long and complex, and most of us don’t read them, but a good policy will tell you what you need to know before you provide your personal information.

So, before you decide to share your personal information read the privacy policy to find out:

• what personal information is collected
• if sensitive information is likely to be collected
• if your personal information is likely to be shared with a third party
• if personal information will be disclosed overseas
• how your personal information will be used and disclosed
• how personal information is stored and managed
• how you can access and correct your personal information
• how you can make a privacy complaint.

Online shopping and banking, social media, mobile apps, e-Gov services, loyalty cards and competitions can provide benefits but make sure you’re not losing control of your personal information. You should never sign-up to something where you hand over your personal details without first reading the privacy policy.

Direct marketing 

Australian Government agencies and private sector organisations are only allowed to use your personal information for direct marketing in certain circumstances.

If they do, they have to give you a simple way to opt-out, and they have to action your opt-out request within a reasonable period of time. They also have to tell you where they got your information if you ask.

Cross border disclosure

Many of the services we use on a daily basis have overseas components to their business.

If your personal information is held by an business or agency that is covered by the Privacy Act, and they disclose it to an overseas organisation or agency they need to make sure that it will be handled in accordance with Australian privacy law.

If your personal information is mishandled by the overseas recipient, the business or agency that disclosed your information may be legally responsible for this.

These obligations don’t apply in some circumstances, such as where you specifically agree to your information being disclosed to an overseas organisation or agency. So get informed, and make sure you know what you are agreeing to!

Access and correction

You now have greater rights to access your personal information, and to correct it if it’s wrong. Government agencies and organisations must respond to a request for access or correction within a reasonable period of time (this is 30 days for agencies, and the OAIC considers that 30 days is reasonable for businesses too), and they have to give you reasons in writing if they refuse to give you access.

A fact sheet that summarises the changes is available on the OAIC website

More in our Privacy Series: Top 10 Privacy Tips; Social Media & Identity Theft; and The Truth About Your Credit Report

Privacy Series: Social Media & Identity Theft

PAW2014

Social Media

Social networking sites are one of the key places for sharing personal information. There’s no problem with staying in touch with friends on social media but you need to be aware of the risks and protect yourself and your friends.
The 2013 OAIC Community attitudes to privacy survey shows that 60% of young people think that online services, including social media, are the greatest risk to privacy right now. And 33% of young people have posted something on social media that they later regretted.
Social media sites have privacy policies — so make sure you read the terms and conditions, and adjust your privacy settings, so that you are only sharing with friends and people you trust.
Think about the consequences of your actions — your digital identity is real, and once something is out there it’s almost impossible to take it back.
It’s also important to respect your friends and the people around you — think before you post, tag or share photos or information about other people.

EcoleaseID Theft

ID theft and fraud are on the rise in Australia, and the availability of personal information in the online environment makes it more important than ever to protect your identity.
If an organisation or person wants to collect personal information from you, ask why the information is required, what they will do with it and who will it be disclosed to:
• Only give your personal information to an organisation that you trust
• Only give out as much personal information as you need to.
• Think twice before posting any personal information about yourself online.
• Make sure the anti-virus software on your computer is up-to-date, and make sure your network is protected by a firewall.
• Keep an eye on your credit card and bank statements for suspicious transactions.
• Minimise the amount of personal information you carry around, especially at places where it is likely to get lost or stolen, such as the beach, clubs etc.
• Shred all documents you no longer need that contain personal information
• Use the privacy settings on social networking sites.
• Watch out for scams! Consider signing up for SCAMwatch, or the StaySmartOnline alert service, which are free email alert services provided by the Australian Government
• Check your credit report with the following major credit reporting bodies:
o Veda
o Dun and Bradstreet
o Experian

More in our Privacy Series:  Changes To The Law; Top 10 Privacy Tips; and The Truth About Your Credit Report

Privacy Series: Top 10 Privacy Tips

PAW2014

1. Ask why your information is needed — what are they going to use it for?

2. Think before you disclose — you may not need to hand out your personal information

3. Don’t put large amounts of personal information on social networking sites

4. Check your records — make sure the information held about you is correct and up‑to‑date

5. Read privacy policies — can be boring, but informative!

6. Don’t leave your personal information lying around — shred old mail and records that are no longer required

7. Sign up to the ‘Do Not Call Register’ to stop direct market phone calls — visit  www.donotcall.gov.au

8. Check for encryption and use secure payment methods when shopping online

9. Tick the ‘opt out’ box on forms if you don’t want to receive marketing communications.

10. Know your privacy rights — visit www.oaic.gov.au

More in our Privacy Series: Changes to the Law; Social Media & Identity Theft; and The Truth About Your Credit Report

Privacy Series: The Truth About Your Credit Report

PAW2014

These days, everyone uses credit on a daily basis — credit and store cards, Paypal, even utility bills are a credit line.

The ability to get credit is something we take for granted, but if something goes wrong it’s usually at the worst possible time — just as you’re about to commit to a large purchase, or even a house.

The 12 March 2014 changes to the Privacy Act included some big changes to the way that the credit system works in Australia. Some aspects remain the same, and some are different, but the key things to remember are:
• You have the right to access and request corrections to the information held about you by credit reporting bodies (the organisations that track people’s credit worthiness) and credit providers (banks, mortgage brokers etc).
• In some cases if you are more than 14 days late on a bill, this information may be added to your credit report — this is your repayment history. This is NOT a default.
• If you are more than 60 days late on a bill, this is a default and may be recorded on your credit report if the credit provider has followed a certain procedure.
• A default cannot be recorded for an amount that is less than $150, or if you are under 18.
• A ‘credit repair’ agency cannot get information that is correct removed from your credit report.
• If there is incorrect information in your credit report, you can directly request a correction — you do not need to use a ‘credit repair’ agency for this.

A series of detailed fact sheets about credit reporting will soon be available on the OAIC website

More in our Privacy Series: Changes to the Law; Top 10 Privacy Tips; and Social Media & Identity Theft