Tag Archives: robyn barrett


5 ways businesses can increase revenue

Don’t confuse increasing sales with increasing revenue, while the two are related one does not guarantee the other. For most companies, the goal is to increase sales, but the real goal needs to be increasing revenue.

The economic landscape during the last few years has made it more difficult for small business to get a bigger piece of the pie. Although the situation and opportunities available will vary by industry. Fortunately, regardless of the industry, there are always ways to increase the bottom line.

Here are five strategies that you can implement that can help boost revenues:

Review terms:

Consider offering better terms to targeted customers as an incentive for them to purchase more of your products or services. This can be particularly effective with bigger profile clients that are in need of more.  Thus, it is more advantageous to both parties when you offer terms; but only extend this privilege to credit worthy customers. Before extending an offer, research your database of clients and include a clause that stipulates if a payment is late you can charge a late fee.

Increase accounts receivable turnover: 

Make sure your organization has a good collections process in place to ensure that invoices are paid timely. If you are selling on terms you don’t “earn” the money until after you have been paid (most business think that after the sale is booked they can move onto the next deal).


Review your core competencies and look for ways you can re-invent the wheel within your business. If your business currently specializes in manufacturing stuffed animals for children, research how feasible it would be to adapt and expand into another market i.e. manufacturing stuffed toys for pets.

Review pricing:

Are the price points for your goods or services too low? If you have not adjusted your pricing in the last five years, and your costs are increasing, you need to review the pricing structure of your goods or services to make sure you are not giving away all of your margin.

Get rid of “bad” customers:

If a customer is costing you money, it may be time to cut ties. Review your total customer base and determine where you make the most money. Concentrate on the profitable customers and focus on building a pipeline of customers along the same lines. When analyzing who to keep and who to walk away from look at the bottom line –customers that take lots of unnecessary deductions, never pay on time should or cost you in other ways, should not be customers.

While each of these strategies can be implemented individually, you can implement several of them simultaneously for greater impact on revenues. The key to success as a small business is to constantly listen to the marketplace and adapt your products, services and operations to meet the growing needs of your current and potential customers.


ASU honors top ASU-bred entrepreneurs

Arizona State University has been gaining a nationwide reputation as a breeding ground for entrepreneurs. Accordingly, next week, the W. P. Carey School of Business at ASU is holding its first-ever Sun Devil Select event, to honor some of the country’s top ASU alum-owned and alum-run businesses. Seventeen firms from a variety of industries will be recognized for their achievements.

“We’re honoring organizations that demonstrate innovation, growth and entrepreneurial spirit,” explains Sidnee Peck, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at the W. P. Carey School of Business, which is hosting the event. “The inaugural Sun Devil Select class includes firms from Chicago, the Los Angeles area, Kansas City, Dallas and the Phoenix area.”

The winning firms and alums are:

  • Betablox – Weston Bergmann is an angel investor and the founder and chief executive officer of this Kansas City-based group that helps select startups navigate through their first stages of business.
  • Dunn Transportation – Margaret Dunn is founder and president of this transportation company, which owns Scottsdale’s popular Ollie the Trolley and an executive coach service.
  • Fan Interactive Marketing – Joel McFadden serves as chief operating officer for this California firm specializing in customer relationship management, interactive marketing, database knowledge and email deployment.
  • FSW Funding – Robyn Barrett is the managing member of Factors Southwest, LLC, an independently owned factoring firm in Phoenix that helps small to mid-size businesses to secure funding.
  • Higher Ed Growth – Frank Healy is president and chief executive officer of this Tempe company that helps schools reach enrollment goals by using proprietary technology.
  • Homeowners Financial Group USA – William Rogers is chief executive officer of this family-oriented, award-winning mortgage company based in Scottsdale.
  • Infusionsoft – Marc Chesley serves as chief technology officer for this Chandler-based sales-and-marketing software firm recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest-growing private companies in the United States eight years in a row.
  • itSynergy – Michael Cocanower is founder and president of this Phoenix IT consulting firm with more than 200 clients.
  • Off Madison Ave – David Anderson is co-founder and chief executive officer of this Phoenix-based marketing and advertising firm with clients that include Nike and LifeLock. 
  • Print.Save.Repeat. – Errol Berry is co-founder and chief executive officer of this Chandler toner-cartridge manufacturer that focuses on recycling and saving businesses money on printing.
  • RedShelf – Tim Haitaian is co-founder and chief financial officer of this Chicago-based company that partners with publishers and college bookstores to more easily and affordably deliver eTextbooks.
  • Signature Technology Group – Charles Layne serves as president and chief executive officer of Phoenix-based STG, which provides data-center services that support more than 300,000 devices across North America.
  • Skin Script Skin Care – Lisa VanBockern is the owner of this Tempe skin care company that makes natural clinical products designed to address anti-aging, sun damage, acne and other issues.
  • Skyhook – Dallin Harris is founder and chief executive officer of this Mesa-based Internet marketing firm that has worked with clients including AT&T, Subway and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
  • Tiempo Development – Cliff Schertz is president and chief executive officer of this Tempe company that provides software firms with an integrated platform of services to accelerate how they develop, deploy and support their products.
  • Vetscience/Fruitables Pet Food – David DeLorenzo serves as president of this Dallas company that makes natural dog treats.
  • Western Window Systems – Scott Gates is president and chief operating officer of this Phoenix-based window and door manufacturer that has been making energy-efficient products for more than 50 years.

The Sun Devil Select Class of 2015 will be recognized at a special invitation-only luncheon on ASU’s Tempe campus on March 20. They will reconnect with their alma mater and spend time networking with each other and current ASU students, including some budding entrepreneurs. They will also meet Amy Hillman, dean of the W. P. Carey School of Business; Christine Wilkinson, head of the ASU Alumni Association and ASU senior vice president and secretary; and Mitzi Montoya, vice president and university dean for entrepreneurship and innovation.

Sun Devil Select is just one focus of the Center for Entrepreneurship, which helps hundreds of businesses each year. The center offers companies the chance to recruit and meet with top student talent, while also allowing students to get hands-on business-creation experience. The center is self-funded and utilizes community sponsorships to sustain its activities. For more information, visit wpcarey.asu.edu/entrepreneurship.

business practices

Increase cash flow and bottom line in 2015

As 2014 comes to a close it is important to reevaluate your business model and consider the steps you need to take in the New Year to increase cash flow and boost your bottom line. Cash flow is crucial to a company’s survival. Having sufficient funds on hand will not only ensure that creditors, employees and others can be paid, access to cash is a necessity for business growth.

If you have a CFO or a financial advisor sit down and speak with them. Find out if there are any opportunities for increasing cash flow through restructuring a portion of the company’s assets that may be idle. If you don’t have this option here is a checklist that you can work through to ensure that your business model boosts your bottom line in 2015:

Prepare a realistic forecast

If business is growing, don’t just focus on the top line. Are you controlling costs? Are you ready for expected growth? If sales double, do you need to purchase fixed assets? If so, you need to think about how to finance new assets. Bottom line: forecast not just sales but what it will take to attain the sales.

Evaluate selling terms

Are your terms too generous? Business standards are Net 30 but maybe you offered better terms when you were starting out in order to win new business. Now is a good time to see if the selling terms still make sense. If you can reduce the collection time, that is money in your pocket.

Segment your business

Business is always evolving. For example, a company may have started selling widgets direct to consumers and it is now also selling wholesale. If you add new lines of business you should look at the two sales channels separately. See what is making more money or losing money. It might make sense to set up the wholesale operations under a different legal entity, since payment will probably be on terms. You may need to finance the wholesale business differently than the direct to consumer model, where revenue is typically collected in cash or from credit card payments.

Review your customer portfolio

Who are your best customers and why?  Rank customers by profitability and sales volume. Is there a large variance between the most and least profitable customers? If so, why? Analyzing your customers will help you speed up your sales cycle. Being clear on why your customers choose to buy from you and highlighting those advantages in your sales process can aid in reducing resistance and move people to buy more quickly.

Improve the invoicing process

Almost everyone can make improvements to the invoicing process. Every company should strive to get invoices out earlier and double check that they are being sent to the right person. If you only send invoices once a month to an Accounts Payable (AP) PO Box, chances are high that payments are slow.  Review and confirm who the correct AP contacts are for all customers. AP tends to be a very transient department, with people are moving into new positions all the time. Make sure your contact is the right one before sending the next set of invoices to the black hole.

Seek ways to save

You may consider deferring founders’ compensation. Making this temporary move will free up cash, and in most cases your business will more than pay you back in the long run. Eliminate unnecessary expenses such as online or print subscriptions you are not reading, these cash flow negatives can help give a slump a much needed boost. Give your customers incentives to build a long term relationship with you by offering annual discounts. Try offering a one month discount to them for paying a year in advance.

The first quarter of the year can be busy, especially when you are trying to establish new practices, while staying on top of everyday demands. To avoid becoming overwhelmed, set realistic objectives outlining what you can and cannot do. Begin by preparing a realistic forecast, and remember the mantra, “Fail to prepare; prepare to fail.”

Get more cash

Avoiding a Cash Flow Crisis

Maximizing profits and growth while also maintaining adequate cash flow is one of the most difficult challenges a young business faces, but it’s also one of the most important.
The old adage that “cash is king” has never been truer given today’s challenges for securing a funds or attracting investors.

To utilize capital to spur growth and avoid a cash flow crisis consider the following guidelines:

Prioritize cash flow

Determine how much cash your company should have on hand at all times. (A general rule of thumb: shoot for at least enough to cover operating expenses for three to six months.) Then make it a top priority to meet that goal week after week. Without cash, even a rapidly growing company won’t last long.


If you have more than enough cash-on-hand, consider using excess capital to grow your business. Fail to invest in capacity and you risk failing to meet growing demand. On the other hand, overestimate demand, invest too much capital or invest it poorly and you could kill your business entirely.

Spend wisely

It’s easy to rationalize spending money on infrastructure, equipment or new hires that will make doing business easier or more convenient, but if it won’t directly lead to more or new revenue flow, it’s probably too risky. Look at it this way: small and new businesses can usually only afford to spend on projects that will bring in more money than they cost. You don’t want to spend $100 to make $50.

Plan for accounts receivable growth

If you’re anticipating growth, be sure your billing department is prepared. As the number of clients increases, it becomes harder to keep close track of each account; without oversight, an increasing percentage of clients may become delinquent on payments. When this happens, cash flow can slow to a trickle even if business is good and sales are up. You might be surprised to learn some up-and-coming companies are profitable right until they file for bankruptcy, thanks to such accounts receivable problems.


Closely monitor which customers have outstanding debts, and develop a working plan of action for pursuing delinquent accounts. You don’t want to lose clients by being inappropriately aggressive. On the other hand, without payment you could lose your business. If your company consistently has problems collecting payments, consider changing your billing structure. That might mean requiring new clients to pay some money upfront, integrating a retainer or subscription fee or making payments due sooner after delivery.

Keep track

Consider implementing a financial dashboard system to assess your business’ cash flow on a weekly basis, and use what you learn to inform spending decisions. For example, if the amount of cash-on-hand is shrinking, examine the numbers to find out why. Are you spending too much on incidental costs? Are clients consistently late making payments? You can’t fix the problem until you identify it, and you can’t accurately identify it without data.

Even if your business is thriving, you still need to keep a watchful eye on cash flow. Fast-growing companies get into trouble when cash-on-hand dwindles, sometimes going from profitable businesses to bankrupt ones overnight. (For real world examples, check out these interesting case studies that recently appeared in Inc. Magazine.) Make cash a priority, and you can grow your business without going out of business.

Robyn Barrett is founder and managing member of FSW Funding, specializing in factor financing for small to mid-size companies. For more information, visit www.fswfunding.com.

Economic concepts

Managing Deductions: Steps to increase revenue

Unfortunately, it is common for customers to pay less than they owe, taking deductions off their bills or underpaying their invoices. For small businesses, this can create a significant loss in revenue and problems with cash flow. Some businesses have reported losing as much as 10 percent of their gross sales to deductions. Fortunately, companies can take steps to address and resolve these issues.

Reasons for deductions

Customer deductions can point to systemic issues such as quality control or a lack of communication between departments. Other organizational problems that may contribute to customer deductions include: poor relationships with trading partners, incorrect invoicing, shipping irregularities, problems with order fulfillment or inadequate order processing methods.

Some companies automatically write off deductions under a predetermined amount. However, savvy customers sometimes catch on and deduct amounts slightly below that threshold. Others take discounts on terms like two percent 10 net 30 even when they are paying bills monthly.

Large retailers are implementing more stringent compliance standards, leading to more deductions. For example, Wal-Mart introduced its Must Arrive by Date program in 2010. Suppliers who fail to deliver goods to Wal-Mart within a four-day window more than 90 percent of the time during a month are automatically docked 3 percent of the cost of goods sold. Since Wal-Mart is a leader in the retail industry, other companies are likely to follow a similar policy.

Deductions can be divided into three categories:

• Intentional deductions are sales-related and include advertising, markdown allowances, and special promotions. These deductions are considered the “cost of doing business” and are usually legitimate, so opportunities for recovering money are limited.
• Preventable deductions are frequently associated with compliance issues, such as shipping too early, too late or using the wrong carrier. These are easy deductions to address. A quick investigation can pinpoint where operations are failing, and correct the issue.
• Unauthorized deductions occur when customers short-pay their invoices because of pricing, returns, or full and concealed carton shortages. These are also deductions which can be prevented when proper oversight is in place.

Solutions to reduce deductions

Once business owners review current practices they can create best practice guidelines and invite team members to be part of the solution. Order fulfillment steps can include:
• Establishing checks and balances to ensure correct quantities, prices and sizes
• Inspecting products and cartons before shipping
• Reviewing customer’s compliance requirements to make sure all shipping, packing and labeling requirements are met
• Examining invoices to ensure documents contain correct purchase orders, invoice numbers and clearly defined payment terms
• Automating the accounts receivable process to better identify, document, track and resolve deductions

Deductions can be the result of any number of errors in a company’s process. Conducting a root cause analysis to reveal why customers are taking deductions can help determine appropriate recovery efforts and thresholds for automatic write-offs. Until the right tools and solutions are implemented, company revenue and cash flow will be in jeopardy.

Robyn Barrett is founder and managing member of FSW Funding, specializing in factor financing for small to mid-size companies. For more information, visit www.fswfunding.com.

Coldwell Banker

How to establish trust with your bank

According to a recent survey, financial services and banks were noted as the least-trusted industries in 2012.  Despite the fact that the financial crisis occurred five years ago, people are still concerned about the reliability of banks.

The 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer had more than 30,000 online respondents, in which only 46% of U.S. respondents said they trusted the financial services industry, and only 41% said they trusted banks. Clearly, the last few years tainted the banking industry’s image, and it is taking time for public perception to change.

Despite what the public may think due to the history with the bank crisis and the bad press, banks are not inherently sneaky or dishonest. But like any business, it comes down to building relationships.

To establish trust with your bank, there are a few precautions you can take that will help to set the foundation for a strong relationship.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

When you are establishing your business, don’t have all your banking relationships at one bank. For example, many bank documents will cross collateralize loans and bank accounts – both personal and business. Set up your operating business account at one bank and payroll at another. It is also a good idea to open personal accounts and loans at a completely different bank than your business.

Grow the relationship

While it is vital to have a great relationship with your primary banker, you need to move beyond that relationship in the bank. Bankers are transient and move positions within the bank or to another bank quite often. If you only build a relationship with your banker and your banker is promoted or leaves the bank, you will be left with no allies. Get to know your banker’s boss and associates. You never know who will be your banker tomorrow.

Know your bank

The relationship you are trying to establish is really with the bank, so take the time to learn about the banks you do business with. Understand the services they offer. Search the Internet to read blogs and reviews from happy and unhappy business customers. This will help you better understand if this bank is a good fit for you.

Sources and uses of cash

When you talk to a banker about the best loan for your company make sure the banker understands what the money will be used for. Don’t assume the banker knows. For example, if you need money to fund payroll and pay vendors, you need a working capital loan. A working capital loan is based on short-term assets (accounts receivable and inventory) and is used to finance short-term liabilities (payroll, accounts payable).  Don’t let a banker talk you into an SBA term loan to finance working capital. Match assets and liabilities – short term loans fund short-term liabilities and long term loans fund equipment and real estate.

Read the loan documents

So many smart business people are more concerned with the terms on their cell phone contract, but never bother to read or understand the details on a commercial bank loan. While most bank loan documents are standard and the bank may not make any changes, a business owner should still have an attorney review all the documents. The attorney’s role would be to advise you on what is in the documents – what are events of default?  What are cure periods? What should the business owner make sure they do in terms of financial reporting, notice of management or ownership change?  If you understand your loan documents, you will be better protected against surprises.

The public’s perception of the banking industry is clearly still hindered by the scandals, government accusations and lawsuits brought on by the financial crisis. Fortunately, the reality of the situation is better than it is perceived.

Regardless of the industry’s image, it is always best for business owners to take a proactive approach. Taking the time to get to know your bank is the key to building a long term successful relationship; one that you can feel confident in, where you can trust your financial service provider.


Robyn Barrett is founder and managing member of FSW Funding, formerly Factors Southwest LLC, specializing in factor financing for small to mid-size companies. For more information visit: www.fswfunding.com


financial statements

What Your Financial Statements Can Tell You About Your Company

You don’t have to be a CPA or rocket scientist to decipher the information on financial statements. If you have been intimidated or reluctant to take the time to learn to read your company’s financial statements, now is a great time to learn.

Below are a few quick and easy steps to untangle the web of financial reports like income statements, balance sheets and cash flow statements.

Income statement

Income statements can be used to make key decisions, such as whether to extend credit to new accounts; increase or decrease an existing line of credit; offer certain terms or discounts; and, most importantly, whether a company will get paid.

The income statement records a company’s performance over a set period of time and starts with net operating income, sales or revenue, and ends with the net income. The net income is what the company earns after deducting expenses like the cost of goods sold, overhead and interest.

Key metrics to look at on the income statement include the interest coverage ratio and gross profit margin. The interest coverage ratio or times-interest-earned ratio lets you know if the company has enough money to cover the cost of its debt. The gross profit margin shows the company’s relationship between revenue and the cost of goods sold. You can use the percentages to gauge whether a company is incurring insufficient volume or excessive purchasing or labor costs.

You want both the interest coverage ratio and the gross profit margin to be high so that your company is not carrying too much debt and there is enough money to pay expenses.

Balance sheet

A balance sheet captures a company’s financial position at a specific point in time. This shows the company’s total assets such as cash, short-term investments, inventories and equipment; total liabilities like accounts and notes payable; and shareholders’ or owners’ equity. The quick ratio and the debt-to-equity ratio are important to note in the balance sheet.

Quick ratios are considered to be a more conservative measurement than the current assets ratio because inventories are excluded. Inventories are “less liquid” than cash, and if a company needed to sell its inventories to pay debt, it could be difficult to arrange a quick sale.

A high debt-to-equity ratio could indicate a company has aggressively financed its growth with debt. On the up side, if the borrowed money assisted with increased or improved operations, the company might generate more earnings.

Each industry is different, and it is essential to compare to its peers. Some industries have low gross margins which could be considered bad, but if it is an industry norm and the fixed costs are low, it should be less of a concern.

Cash flow statement

Cash flow statements tell where a company is getting cash and how they are using it. Cash flow statements are divided into three sections: operating, investing and financing activities. Some key information contained in cash flow statements comes from income statements and balance sheets.

Operating activities — cash and non-cash

The first line item is consolidated net income. You can add certain line items like depreciation and non-cash transactions to net income and subtract other items, such as deferred income taxes, to calculate how much cash a company has generated during a specific time period.

Investing activities — inflows or deposits

A cash flow statement’s investing activities section details a company’s property, plant and equipment purchases, sales of short-term investments, or the acquisition of a business during a specific time period.

Financing activities — outflows or payments

Understanding significant changes in a company’s cash flow can help you make informed decisions. You want to know whether your company’s cash is increasing or decreasing. Gains may signal an organization financed its debt and investments and had more money remaining than in the prior period. Similarly, if a company’s cash flow is decreasing, the organization may experience future cash flow management problems.

While you may still need to hire a professional to help you maintain your financial statements and documents, it is always good to have a general understanding of what each financial statement is used for. As a business owner, it is important to know the financial trends to determine if the numbers are increasing, declining or staying flat. Then you can be proactive and steer you company in the correct financial direction.

For more information about financial statements and/or FSW Funding, fswfunding.com.

Factoring Programs

Factoring Programs: Good News For Young Entrepreneurs

The lecture hall was packed, but students weren’t listening to a lecture; they were listening to what could possibly be their only chance at entrepreneurship: factoring programs.

It’s an old — and often misunderstood — strategy for young entrepreneurs whose capital and credit history aren’t as appealing to banks as they should be in order to qualify for loans.

Factoring programs allow for the advancement of funds for small businesses, such as those started by students, against an approved commercial invoice. The remainder is then given to the client once is the invoice is paid. These funds then assist small businesses by allowing them to raise capital, provide credit, etc.

For many students, factoring programs are the only options they have in financing their entrepreneurial projects.

In an interview after the lecture on factoring programs held on the Arizona State University campus, Robyn Barrett of FSW Funding, formerly Factors Southwest LLC, explained the interest of these young entrepreneurs in advancing their ideas and ambitions in the business world. “It’s great to work with people that are so passionate about their job, work and their company,” she said.

One of FSW Funding’s success stories involves a young man who came up with the idea of combining engineering and art to craft a product that he believes makes a difference: Refresh Glass. Refresh Glass products are entirely made from recycled glass. Thanks to factoring programs, Refresh Glass is now a growing business.

Robyn Barrett also says, however, that students must be prepared to take on these entrepreneurial projects, whether they are using factoring programs or not. Students must equip themselves with basic accounting principles. Barrett says that many entrepreneurial students lack these basic skills essential to their entrepreneurial success.

And so as student entrepreneurs walk through their graduation ceremony and their future awaits, they can now be more hopeful. Factoring programs may be an old and misunderstood strategy for financing, but it’s one they may be able to count on.

For more information on factoring programs provided by FSW Funding, formerly Factors Southwest LLC, visit factors-southwest.com.