Thursday, March 1, 2012

Uncovering your business's hidden cash

Hiding the settlement cash by Toby Simkin
Hiding the settlement cash, a photo by Toby Simkin on Flickr.
Few businesses are throwing cash around the way they used to - gone are some of the flashier perks of being an executive, like club memberships and frequent conferences in conveniently tropical destinations. Things have been tight enough for long enough that some of the would-be fundamentals are even shrinking or at risk of doing so - fully employer-paid premiums and low deductibles on employee health plans, for instance.

Cash is king, and when it's in short supply, it's emperor of the realm.  Yet substantially more of it is in businesses than owners and managers realize.  It's tucked away in the cracks and crevices of work processes.  Here are just a few examples:
  • Raw goods on hand for the manufacture of several different products. 
  • Finished goods in inventory, stored and awaiting a customer order.
  • Accounts receivable that are paying slowly - or not at all.
  • Circuitous process of order-to-production-to-packaging-to-shipping.
When looking for hidden cash, process is often the culprit that's been stashing away the packs of tens, hundreds, even thousands of dollars.  Even when companies are aware of the waste involved in excess inventories, or of the potential efficiencies of applying technology to certain portions of their processes, they often forget to look inside the business processes, where the sneaky cash thief has secreted extra bucks on the side.

Service businesses might think they are exempt from the hidden cash issue, but not so.  They might not be buying product for manufacturing, but they are often consuming goods in the course of providing service.  In addition,  service businesses have to capitalize on time, which is a finite resource.  Customer throughput with efficiency and effectiveness saves resources (cash) and reduced cycle times create opportunities to serve more customers within a specified time window - which generates more cash more rapidly.

Before you borrow, before you take on a partner to inject additional capital, before you spend cash to invest in automation or other technology, take a close look at your business's core processes.  Look on the business and support services as well as the production side of the house.  Ask the people doing the work to identify the potholes, wasted steps, ineffective hand-offs between functions, etc.  Hire a process improvement specialist (that's Summit) to help your staff reinvent the steps they take to get the job done.  Your investment in process improvement can take as much as 80% or more out of the time needed to do the job, and literally can unlock millions of dollars from the nooks and crannies of your business operations.
Summit provides the structure through which work teams can analyze, improve, reinvent, and implement cycle time reduction for key processes.  That work can result in faster delivery, better quality, less cost, and less employee and customer frustration.

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