When it comes to issuing business advice and guidance, the UK government surely leads the way with no shortage of solid, sharp and concise publications providing food for thought for even the most experienced of business operators. But the advice is not limited to companies operating purely within the home market. Far from it. From markets in the United States all the way to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the Persian Gulf and beyond, the UK government stands ready to provide both information and contacts in order to make overseas operations as stress-free an experience as possible.
A good example of the level of advice available is the series of easy-to-read business cash flow guides produced by the Institute of Credit Management (ICM) in association with the UK government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). The guides, all 10 of them, are designed to provide simple and practical support to help businesses help themselves. The advice is straightforward and speedy with simple check lists and top tips. They should prove invaluable for business owners everywhere, whether based in the US, the UK or the UAE. Best of all, they’re free.
The eighth guide in the series, for example, entitled “When cash runs short”, begins by pointing out the truism – not always obvious or fully appreciated by even the most experienced among us – that cash keeps business in business. However healthy the order book and profit margin, if a business runs out of cash it won’t be able to pay its suppliers, its wages, or its overheads and it will fail.
The guide asks the business owner if they can answer yes to a number of questions, for example:
Do you have sufficient cash or finance availability to meet commitments as they fall due?
Are you confident that this will remain the case for the foreseeable future?
Do you have, and update regularly, a cash flow forecast to ensure you stay within your financing facilities?
Are your major customers paying you promptly and not putting you under pressure to extend payment terms?
Top tips follow such as the necessity to plan cash flow requirements to allow for differences in the payment terms offered by suppliers and those given to customers; the need to stringently monitor cash flow plans to signal problems as early as possible; and the importance then of speaking to the bank or financier as soon as a problem is spotted so that a greater range of remedial options can be explored. It all makes a great deal of sense. Well worth the read.
For anyone looking to explore overseas markets, such as the UAE, the first port of call should be the website of the UK government’s UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) department which is chock-full of advice and business contact numbers. It also lists some of the latest business opportunities available.
The UKTI has no shortage of publications either which are designed to give any business owner looking to set up a new overseas venture a real head start. Again, the extensive range of publications is not only free, but they should also prove useful to non-UK business owners too.