Posts tagged ‘career coach’

September 7, 2011

Embracing Failure

Written by Alicia Marie Fruin

I have heard it said that “if you can’t do it right, then don’t do it at all.”

I wonder how important it really is to always get it “right”? How many times does this philosophy keep us from just taking the next step? Could this just be a strategy designed to play it safe? Do we really think “if I am careful I won’t fail”? Really?

I find that ironic since failure is inevitable.  You will fail…I will fail. We will all hit ceilings of achievement. We will all get stuck. We will all fail now and then. If you are playing in the game of business at all, it will happen. Every choice, effort and move you make has to line up just right to get your intended outcome. It makes sense that it will not happen at times. What is this notion that it is bad to fail really about? Each time we don’t hit our goal it allows us to learn, tweak, re-align our actions and go for it again.

As a business coach, I have noticed that people who are very accomplished have a healthy relationship with failure. They embrace it, watch for it, learn from their mistakes and move on.  Sometimes they even publicize their failures, modeling the kind of leadership they want to see in their employees. They seem to know and understand that who they are is not their job, their business or their results.

Most of us only see these high powered, accomplished individuals when they are in the public and enjoying some measure of success. We do not see the every day struggles, disappointments and failures. On the weekly phone calls with my clients, I have a privileged point of view. I hear the challenges, hesitation, the pain, the disappointment as well as the wins, successes and accomplishments.

Accomplished people seem to understand a simple truth. They are not their mistakes and they are not their behaviors. Both mistakes and behaviors are changeable. They know in their heart that when they fail at something, they are not a failure. When they make a mistake, they are not a mistake. When they do something wrong, they are not wrong. They seem to understand that who they are as a human being is constant. They are people who can fall down, smile, pick themselves up and keep going.

I have also noticed that successful people seem less likely to avoid their emotions such as rejection, guilt, self-doubt, fear, overwhelm and dissatisfaction. Instead they just allow and move through their emotions like a hot knife through butter staying their course regardless of the fear. One of my clients, let’s call him “Joe” would say, “It’s just part of the ride. It is normal to have fear sometimes, to feel lost sometimes, and to be disappointed. I wouldn’t trade any of this for a dull cubicle and a steady paycheck”.

Mastery is a succession of failures, not wins. You have to be bad at something and keep going to master it. Failure and success are events. Whatever emotion or circumstance has been stopping you; I encourage you to embrace the possibility of failure and the emotion that goes with that. If you wait till it feels safe you will have waited too long.  Just take your next step towards your goals today and then again tomorrow and the next day and the next day.

People Biz, Inc. is a coaching and training company that helps clients to achieve measurable transformation in realizing their personal and professional goals. Owner Alicia Marie Fruin has since been coaching, training and helping business owners for over 11 years. Her years of experience as a professional coach, workshop leader and entrepreneur have allowed her to help businesses reach their optimal potential, improving productivity and increasing profits. More information on coaching and training services offered by People Biz, Inc. can be found online at www.peoplebizinc.com or by calling (512) 989-2230.

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December 21, 2010

So, you were fired. Now what?

So, you were fired.  Now what?  How will you explain it when you interview?

How do you respond to a job interview question about why you left your last job, when the answer is that you were fired?  This question is dreaded by everyone who has ever been laid off.  But it doesn’t have to be that way…

There are many questions that job seekers are asked. “What salary are you looking for?” is a common one.  “Why should we hire you?” is another.  And “Why did you leave your last job?” – this one can leave you spluttering if you were fired and don’t know how to answer, and most people don’t!  After they’ve stumbled through a few answers, trying in vain to phrase it in an acceptable way and are not invited back for a second interview, their fears are confirmed.  No one will hire them because they’ve been fired.

But that’s not what is really happening.  The problem is not that they were fired, but how they answered the question.

We don’t stay at a job our entire lives like our grandparents did.  Not only is it common to change jobs, some believe it’s the best way to leverage salary and a career.  Most of the changes may be of your own volition – odds are a few changes will involve being fired or laid-off.

Companies are bought out, they merge, they down-size, and they consolidate, which means inevitably there’s a duplication of staff.  It can be as simple as the new president wanting to bring in his own team.  He probably didn’t even look at your capabilities; he just decided you were “outta there”.  These departures aren’t as difficult to explain, and your answer can be relatively easy.

The instances that cause real concern feel very personal, even when they aren’t. You are the only one who was dismissed, and what’s more, you know they’ll replace you.  You’re caught off guard, angry, and frightened.  In an instant, you’re on the defensive, which is usually where people remain. And that’s exactly what causes the problem.  Interviewers can spot “victim” mentality from a mile away.  

Firing isn’t always about the individual, even though that’s who is impacted the most.  Sometimes it’s about the boss—especially bosses with issues.  It might be about poor performance, but that’s not always negative. It could be the result of having different philosophies.  For instance, the company may value those who work weekends, nights and holidays.  You prefer to balance your life.

Once you’re fired, you can’t change the circumstances.  But you can control how you view them.  While departmental or companywide layoffs are easier to explain, they can also cause damage.  You wonder, “If I’d been really good, wouldn’t they have found another spot for me?”  In addition, you’re in an insecure place that sometimes is difficult to adjust to.

Take some time to clear some tears or anger.  If you’re tempted to recoil, rehash, threaten revenge or otherwise communicate with your previous employer, don’t.  Remember two words: reference and reputation.  Don’t burn your bridges!  Leave the company gracefully.

During this time you have given yourself, detach yourself from the event and honestly examine what happened. Look at the facts.  That’s the only way you’re going to get any insight and begin adjusting your thoughts and perspective.  There are hundreds of reasons for dismissal, so there is no perfect answer.

The first step, as trite as it sounds, is to look at it as a blessing – an opportunity to grow or move on.  It may take some time to see, but no matter how bad it looks or feels, something good will come of it.  Maybe it will be a better job, a chance to grow, a new business, or the realization that you hated your career – who knows?

If you’re too busy being the angry and defensive victim, not only will you miss the chance to capitalize on the positive outcome, but you’ll also keep experiencing negative consequences.  When you’re in a victimized frame of mind, you’ll miss recognizing an opportunity and continue to perpetuate your unemployment.

The unequivocal rule in an interview is to tell the truth.  If they discover you lied, you’ll be wondering for a long time how you’ll pay your bills.  So when you’re asked why you left, tell them you were fired.  Forthright brevity is best.  It’s all in how you phrase it.  The trick is a shift in perspective, which is easier when you’ve purged the defensiveness and shame.

Don’t give a long, rambling story or blame the company, your boss, or anyone else.  Take full responsibility.  Do not be a victim in any way shape or form.  Did you learn from the experience?  Then by all means, say so. It is okay to say the role, company, or job was not a good fit for me.  Not every job is right for every person.  There are philosophical differences, chemistry problems, tough spots, and bosses who are difficult and self-absorbed.

Regardless of the reason, it wasn’t your perfect job, or you weren’t quite what they needed.  The great thing is that it was recognized (in whatever form) and everyone is moving on.  The goal is to be real about what works for you and why the firing took place.

Let’s examine two answers to the question: “Why did you leave your last job?”

“I don’t know.  I was doing my job.  Most everyone liked me.  They always came to me for advice instead of our boss.  When the other manager left, they promoted the assistant.  She’s maybe about 28.  I guess they thought she’d be good just because she’d been there a long time, but she really was a shrew.  I think she hated me.  She was always talking down to me.  She never did this with the “higher ups”.  One time she took credit for one of my projects.  She’s the one that should have left!  I’m glad to be out of there.”

“I was fired, actually.  The assistant manager was promoted to manager because she had seniority and she was very good at her job.  Unfortunately, she was young and perhaps she thought respect was automatically accorded instead of earned, because when everyone else began coming to me instead of her, it didn’t seem to sit well with her.  Despite that I excelled in my responsibilities and met my goals, she let me go.  I’m sorry to have had to leave the company.  I did learn that I could have been a better communicator and I could have built a relationship with her.  That could have saved my job.  Next time I will work harder on that instead of assume someone knows my intentions.”

Can you spot the differences?  As the interviewer, what would you think?

You must work out a comfortable response.  Rewrite it, rephrase it, and test it.  Be able to say it calmly and sincerely.  If you notice hesitation or discomfort, your words and your attitude (possibly both) need an adjustment.  There is no good or bad.  There’s only perspective, which is your choice.  Firing is considered “bad,” but what’s bad about being fired when a boss has issues?  What’s bad about protecting a customer or not compromising your ethics?  What’s bad about being asked to leave because the position description changed and doesn’t fit your job preferences or skills?  What’s bad about being fired from a sales job for lousy numbers when you hate selling (and realize later that you’re relieved to be gone)?

One last bit of advice:  talk through your responses to interview questions with an objective supporter, like a career counselor or a career coach.  Sometimes we can gain perspective by having a conversation with a neutral party.

Alicia Marie
People Biz, Inc.

December 9, 2010

Targeted Transitions Program

Join Career Coach Deborah Huyer for Targeted Transitions, a teleclass  program specifically designed for professionals who have decided to make a transition, or for those currently seeking new opportunities.

MODULE 1:  Taking Aim“Without knowing where you want to go, you’ll end up nowhere or somewhere you don’t want to be!”

  • Creating your definition of success
  • Understanding the role of culture in company fit
  • Creating a job search strategy, pipeline and spreadsheet to identify roadblocks
  • Creating your elevator pitch and why
  • When are you networking? Always
  • Time commitments
  • Dealing with rejection  – lots of it

MODULE 2:  Targeting your Resume“One size does not fit all.  Being everything to everyone is vanilla – how do you stand out from the crowd?”

  • Understanding your unique value proposition and translating it into a basic resume
  • Tailoring your resume to specific opportunities
  • Resume do’s and don’ts
  • Understanding key words and competencies
  • Researching the company and employees
  • Writing cover letters

MODULE 3: Opening Doors“Getting past the black hole of Applicant Tracking Systems, or how to find and be found.”

  • Employee referrals and networking
  • Job boards and social media
  • Posting your resume
  • Applying for positions
  • The role of key competencies in search criteria

MODULE 4:  You have an interview…now what?“How do you plan for unknown questions and inexperienced interviewers, and have your value shine through?”  Hint: you do not wing it.

  • Preparing for a phone screen or in person interview
  • Anticipating questions based on the job description
  • Preparing for commonly asked questions
  • How to talk yourself out of the job
  • Follow-up

MODULE 5:  Sealing the Deal“It’s yours to lose now.  Learn how to deal with references and negotiating the offer.   By the way, not everything is negotiable!”

  • Requesting and providing references
  • When to talk salary and benefits
  • When and what to negotiate
  • Paperwork / contracts and agreements

WHY DEBORAH?
In addition to her talent as a teacher and her training as a professional coach, she knows the other side of recruiting, having managed recruiting for the past 12 years.  This is a perspective you will not get from traditional sources!

Click here for pricing and to create your customized Targeted Transitions Program.

HR PROFESSIONALS:
This program can also be an affordable outplacement option designed to help your employees in transition.
Click here for more info

Module 1 starts on January 12!  See our calendar for the full schedule.

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December 3, 2010

One size does not fit all…

Deborah Huyer - Career Coach

One size does not fit all…when it comes to your resume, that is.

If you are using the same resume for all your job applications, you are doing both yourself and the recruiters a great disservice. 

Here’s why.

Think about your professional career.  You have a wealth of knowledge, skills and experience, all of which cannot possibly be covered in your resume.   (If you could, it would be far too long for someone to wade through, since you only have about 60 seconds to get their attention.)  So you need to pick and choose what you think is the best summary of what you bring to the table.  But what if those that you picked are not relevant to the job you are applying for, and other things that you left off are?

Every time you apply for a position, you need to customize your resume to highlight what past skills and experiences are relevant to that job opportunity.  If you are not doing this, you are wasting a great opportunity for not only you, but the recruiter trying to read through your resume to see if you have what they are looking for.   It’s an opportunity lost.

Isn’t that cheating?  NO!

You’re doing them a favor. How can a recruiter possibly know all of the experience and successes you’ve had in your career by reading through a two page document?  They can’t.  You need to connect the dots between what they are looking for and what you have done in the past.  You need to print out the job description and highlight everything that they are looking for, then you need to identify where and when you have been successful in those areas, and highlight them in your resume.  That’s not lying or cheating – it’s actually the opposite!  You need to be able to provide specific examples once you get to the interview stage.

Doesn’t that take a lot of time?  YES!

If you won’t take the time (an hour) to research and customize your resume for that position, why should they invest time in interviewing you?  Just remember to rename each version of your resume with the company name that you are applying to and file it away so that you have a copy for reference when the recruiter calls.  (And they will, because you’ve made their job easy for them!)

That’s if you can get your resume through the Applicant Tracking System…  Want to know why your resume goes into the black hole of technology, never to be seen by a recruiter? 

I invite you to join my upcoming TeleClass, “Targeting Your Resume: How to Stand Out from the Crowd” on January 19th.  Call 512-989-2230 for details, or send an information request to register@peoplebizinc.com

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Article by Deborah Huyer

Deborah has over 20 years of experience as an HR leader, business manager, entrepreneur and consultant, giving her the ability to effectively coach her clients to higher levels of performance and success.

July 13, 2010

Death of a dinosaur: The end of the annual performance review- and the birth of Organizational Coaching

Ask An Expert – Join Alicia Marie as she interviews Executive Coach, Deborah Huyer Aug 25th at 4pm CST 

” Death of a dinosaur: The end of the annual performance review- and the birth of Organizational Coaching

The business world is growing and changing at ever quickening speeds, yet there has been little change in performance management over the past 10 years to adapt to these changes.Like the platypus, the annual performance review has not kept up with the speed of change and finds itself stagnant, obsolete and ineffective in meeting today’s needs. For many companies it is a slow and painful death bringing too little relevant information, too late to make a difference.  Weeks of lost productivity, gathering feedback, filling out forms,  uncomfortable meetings, and mismatched expectations is hated and reviled by managers and employees alike. New and ever changing business challenges, need a new performance management approach that is relevant, agile and iterative –  leading to continuous growth and results. Until performance management is an integrated business process like project management, software development, and general accounting procedures, it will remain a slow moving dinosaur, ambling its way towards extinction – unfortunately taking many  businesses with it. Learn more about Integrative performance coaching (organizational coaching) in this interview. 

RSVP by calling  (512) 989-2230 or by sending an email to reserve@peoplebizinc.com 

You will call in at l: (724) 444-7444,  Call ID:  64981,  Pin: 1#   – The call is free.

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October 14, 2009

Dr. Maria Nemeth will be our next guest in the Ask an Expert series!

Join Alicia Marie as she interviews Dr. Maria Nemeth on “The Energy of Money”

Maria Nemeth, Ph.D., MCC, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Master Certified Coach, is an internationally recognized speaker, author and seminar leader. She is the founder and Creative Director of the Academy for Coaching Excellence. For more than 20 years, Dr. Nemeth has trained professional coaches, ministers, clinicians, executives, teachers, and private individuals using the coaching methods and skills that she has designed. Her courses and workshops have been taken by thousands of people who report significant, even miraculous, changes in their lives as a result of her teachings.

Maria is the author of The Energy of Money: A Spiritual Guide to Financial and Personal Fulfillment, which is available in five languages. Her nine-hour audio cassette series, The Energy of Money, won the 1999 Audie Award for Best Personal Development Series.

In addition to her overseeing the Academy, Dr. Nemeth presents at conferences and organizations worldwide. Her work emphasizes clear communication and empowers people to take authentic action to produce extraordinary outcomes.

Check out Maria’s interview on YouTube.

Tuesday, October 27th @ 3-4pm CST
No cost to attend. Reserve your space today!

Call (512)989-2230 or email rsvp@profitconsultingco.com.
To join the session, dial (724)444-7444
Call ID: 64981 / Pin: 1#

September 10, 2009

What You Pay Attention To Grows

We have all taken a beaten from the media this last year. All the negative news about the economy and the recession can be overwhelming. I even had one anxious client say, “It feels like the world is coming to an end.”

Take a moment to think of something that happened in your past that seemed very bad at the time, but now in retrospect you see what a blessing it was.

I absolutely know that the challenges we are facing economically now will look like a blessing in retrospect. Businesses will get stronger and leaner. Families will come together. Governments will change. People will remember what faith is. Programs and non-profits will emerge as well as all the positive change we cannot yet see.

I invite all of you to step into hope and give up the worry and concern. How effective can you be when you are worried? How productive are you when you are anxious? How creative are you when you are upset?

Of course, I believe that positive thinking is important for many reasons. If only for your peace of mind, I invite you to stay focused on what is right, what is working and what is good in your business and in your life. What you pay attention to grows and thrives!

August 27, 2009

Leadership Institute

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WHAT: M3 Race Leadership Institute
Nurture and Enhance the power of community to successfully grow your business and yourself.

WHEN: Thursday, September 24th thru Saturday, September 26th, 2009

WHERE: Office Depot headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida.

We at Count Me In believe that entrepreneurship equals leadership, and so do our partners at Office Depot. Leadership takes vision and discipline, creativity and tenacity, risk-taking, earth-shaking, courage, confidence and commitment. It also takes a strong community– this one. Our Leadership Institute will help you successfully grow your business and yourself.

Featured Workshop: Select, Hire & Retain Top Talent – Alicia Marie Fruin

Want To Create Your Dream Team? Now you can! In this workshop you will:
• Craft a strategic plan to build your team
• Learn how to profile roles and write accurate job descriptions
• Design targeted job ads that attract the right people
• Develop the skills to recognize and retain top talent
• Get great interviewing tips and a FREE CD of materials you can use in your business.

Here’s what you’ll experience:

* Two tracks of powerful workshops taught by experts in their fields
* Elevator Business Pitch Updates
* Vendor Matching by WBENC connecting your product or service with corporations, universities, hospitals or government agencies interested in doing business with you. (Separate registration required– Click here to register)
* Panels, speakers and some creative surprises
* Plus lots of time to share with and learn from each other, one of the hallmarks of the Count Me In community
* Shuttle service between hotel and Office Depot available
* Valet Parking at Office Depot

Click here to register!

August 21, 2009

Letting Go…

One of our Leading Change Participants generously agreed to let me post her article on Letting Go .The focus of the Leading Change program is developing our emotional intelligence so we can be better leaders.    

Letting Go by Karina Miller  

I like to think I’m good at letting go, but what I’ve realized lately is that letting go of friends, moving homes and changing jobs frequently, and being what I thought was highly resilient through any change thrown at me isn’t the same thing as letting go. I’m good at change that doesn’t result in real change — changing the surface things and letting go of small annoyances. I’m good at surviving. I have come to understand lately that being “good at change” and survival is not the same thing as creating big, meaningful breakthroughs. I had simply become very good at creating the illusion of letting go and dealing with change. 

A ropes course I took last year helped me begin to understand the true meaning of letting go. It was a powerful analogy for the physical sensation of letting go of something my core physiology and psychology truly thought was required for sheer survival. I was harnessed to a very solid line, standing on a log, about 40 feet up in the trees. I had practiced sitting in my harness and knew that there was no way to fall. My conscious intellect “knew” that letting go of the ropes that connected my harness to the main line wouldn’t hurt a thing. Letting go of my death grip on those ropes would actually free up energy to help with my balance and focus, which would in turn improve my performance dramatically. Yet it was literally one of the the hardest physical, mental, and emotional things I’ve ever done. I was terrified and on the verge of breaking down into a puddle of tears.

It felt similar to many past experiences of clearly irrational fear, panic, and depression. With the help of an excellent coach, I finally, and very slowly, eased my grip and let go entirely. I also learned to request the support I needed from my coach – at the mechanical, strategic, and deep “feeling” levels of learning. 

Once I actually let go and felt the sensation of letting go throughout my body, I was able to work through the course to the limit of my true physical abilities and continue the process of letting go of fear. I felt much freer and was able to move forward, establish challenging goals, and do things I never thought were possible – including effectively coaching others who were more skilled than me. The same has been true of letting go of my suffering and resistance to the fear of shame. 

Several months later I saw the aftermath of harmful “letting go” when a man let go of the Aurora Bridge rail from the outside and fell hundreds of feet to his death, right next to me. Although letting go of the ropes felt similar to causing myself to plunge to certain death, the difference between letting go of my hardcore grip on habits, thoughts, emotions, fears, and hurts that limit me from living a fully engaged life, and making very poor choices that conflict with my values or go so far as to inflict harm or death on myself or anyone else were stark. My survival mechanism doesn’t always know the difference. Sometimes it feels like letting go of something I’ve held onto tightly my entire life will literally cause my death. But, my brain and heart can tell the difference if I really listen. By deepening my understanding of my fears, opinions, stories, and hypocrisies through coaching, feedback from others, and deep personal reflection, and then letting go of them, I have started understanding the possibilities for true freedom, deep love, authenticity, and true engagement in my life.

July 16, 2009

Happiness Is Positive Cash Flow!

“Cash flow, not profits, is the lifeblood of your business. Project it, monitor it, and manage it well before serious trouble starts to brew.”

In today’s uncertain economy with ever rising interest rates, many small businesses with limited financial training are having problems staying alive, let alone prospering. In fact, 63% of new businesses don’t survive six years– and most work-at-home people fail within 6 months!

The primary reason is bad cash management. Too many self-employed people neglect their cash flow until it is too late to recover. So the big question is: How will you manage your cash flow effectively? If you are not sure, then you are on shaky ground.

Let’s break down these tips one at a time.

Fast Collection

In your business, you should collect money as fast as you can. To do so, try these four things:

• Try to speed up customer orders by having them e-mail their orders to you straight from your website.
• Send out your invoices the same day goods are shipped, not a week or two later.
• Indicate on your invoice when payment is due, and specify the penalty interest for late payment. Enforce late fees.

Deposit Money Fast!

This seems only obvious, but it’s extremely important.

Always deposit checks the same day they are received. Don’t hold checks until the next day because you lose one day’s float. Key point: you can lose three days of float by not depositing Friday’s checks until Monday.

• Compare pricing for merchant credit card services; run credit cards as soon as payment due.
• Obtain availability of 0 to 2 days on deposited checks. Don’t let your bank give you the customer availability of 1 to 5 days. Be persistent. Ask the bank for its “availability schedule” and scan it to be sure you’re receiving fast availability of two days or less.
• Each bank has its own availability schedule. This is used to assign check availability to consumers, business (commercial accounts), and large corporate accounts. Availability is the number of days until you can use the money deposited by check as cash. For example, a $1,000 check deposited today and assigned a one-day availability can be withdrawn as cash tomorrow.
• Don’t deposit checks in a bank’s Automated Teller Machine or use the Night Depository since you have no evidence that you actually deposited the checks you said you did. Remember, you only receive a receipt that shows the time and dollar amount on the deposit at the ATM, and you get no receipt at the Night Depositor.
• Ask your bank about its deadline for receiving availability on deposited checks. Some banks may require a deposit of an encoded check by 2 p.m., even though the bank is open to 5 p.m. Make sure you make this deadline, otherwise you lose one day’s float.
• Before using a bank’s ATM for check deposits, find out the bank’s availability deadline. Some banks have a 12 noon cut-off time which means that any checks deposited later are considered to be deposited the next day! In that case, you lose an entire day’s float, even though you did your bit to get the checks cashed.

Have a Super Tight Accounts Receivable Policy

Many people think it is no big deal to neglect accounts receivable until bills are collectible. This is bad cash flow policy. Here are seven excellent tips for handling accounts receivable:

• Check the financial health of a new customer before offering them credit. One way of doing this is by using a rating service, such as Dun & Bradstreet (1-800-234-3867).
• Ask a new customer for five business references and don’t neglect to call them.
• Don’t offer too generous discounts, such as 3% for payment in 10 days. A better rate is 1.5% cash discount. It costs you less.
• Charge a “late fee” of 2% per month to customers who pay late and charge back customers who take discounts after the discount periods.
• Follow up on late payers with phone calls and letters. These may seem a bit extreme, but the first letter should go out the very day the amount is one day late! After 30 days late, start this sequence:
     o send out a letter from your attorney
     o turn over the account to a collection agency
     o use a collection attorney
• Don’t send out new merchandise if bills remain unpaid. Remember that bad debts hurt your bottom line! Be vigilant and try to get at least periodic payments from slow payers.
• Instruct your bank to automatically deposit “returned checks.” Ask your bank if they offer Return Item box service. If they do, then use it to redeposit your check and charge back the bank return item free to your customer.

These seven steps are tough and unrelenting, but they may make the difference between a positive cash flow month and a sluggish month for your business.

Disburse Your Money Slowly

Just the opposite of collecting at the earliest possible moment, you should never pay a day sooner than you have to, unless you get a discount for doing so. A lot of people believe in staying ahead of bills and paying them as early as possible, but that’s just poor cash management. You want to keep your money in your hands as long as you can. Here are five suggestions to slow down your disbursements:

• Pay your invoices on the last day they’re due, not before.
• Try to mail your payment on Thursday or Friday to pick up a few extra days mail float over the weekend.
• Use business credit cards for travel, lodging, meals, and small expenses for yourself and your employees. With credit cards you typically don’t have to make payment until 25 days after receiving the statement. Use this float by investing the money. In total, you can typically keep your money invested for 45 days from date of purchase.
• Don’t issue advances to employees. Have them use their personal credit cards or business cards, if you provide them.
• Now, many small businesses neglect to reconcile their monthly bank statements or assume that the bank never makes a mistake. Banks do make mistakes, and you must stay on top of your disbursement to control your cash flow. If you are one of those people who simply can’t stand to balance you check book, you can use a bank’s standard account reconcilement services for a low monthly price — $50 to $100 base charge and 5 to 7 cents a check.

No Extra Money in Your Bank Account

Many businesses make the mistake of keeping too much money in their bank accounts to pay for bank services. This money could be used more effectively elsewhere — such as to pay off a loan or to invest at a more competitive rate. Many businesses have no idea how much money to leave in the bank or what alternatives they have to compensate the bank. Take some time to find out what your minimum balance needs to be.

Get an Account Analysis Statement

How do you know how much money (bankers refer to this as “balances”) to leave in your checking account to pay for bank’s services? That’s a question that more business owners should be asking themselves.

• First, get a price list which shows how much your bank charges for services like account maintenance, checks deposited, checks paid, stop payments and wire transfers.
• Ask the bank to send you a monthly “Account Analysis Statement.” The analysis statement contains the average balance levels for the month — both the ledger and the available balance — as well as a listing of services used, their transaction volumes and cost. This statement should be obtained in addition to the regular monthly bank statement.
• Look at the account analysis to see whether you are overcompensating the bank. Then pull out any excess funds and invest them in a high-yielding money market mutual fund, for example.

A word of advice: Smaller banks may not know what you are talking about when you ask for an account analysis. Larger banks often offer such a statement, but you have to ask for it. And don’t let them charge you for this kind of statement since it is only an invoice.

Inventory is Not Cash

Every item you have sitting on your shelf should eventually be transformed into cash in your bank account, and the sooner the better. As long as it’s inventory, it’s basically dead weight. If it is not moving, you’re not having cash flow.

Here are six recommendations to minimize the cost of your inventory:

• Attempt to forecast as accurately as you can the day, week and month what you expect to sell. There is software for this.
• If you are dealing in more than one item, determine which item accounts for 80% of your sales. Then minimize ordering other items that are selling poorly or infrequently.
• Determine how fast you can get inventory, once you order it. Try to order as late as you can. Some firms can use “just-in-time” inventory which enables them to receive their order the day they need it.
• Determine your economic order quantity and don’t order too much inventory just to save a few pennies.
• Shop around and make sure you are getting competitive prices.
• Develop a policy for determining obsolete inventory, and how you can get rid of it. The best way to get rid of dead inventory is to sell it whatever you can get for it, even if that’s only 10 percent of what you paid for it. At least it will generate cash flow.

Don’t Forget Continuity Sales

Once of the most exceptional ways of controlling and improving cash flow well into the future is by employing something called continuity of sales or services.

Continuity sales are simply a contract to purchase products or services on an installment basis for a fixed period of time.

The best example of a continuity sale is a magazine subscription. 12, 24, or 36 issues delivered each month for X amount of dollars. The bigger the subscription, they better deal you get. The publisher gets more money up front, and the customer gets a better deal in the long run. Continuity can apply to anything.

Let’s say you own a dry cleaning business. How about an annual deal to clean 5 shirts or blouses per week for set amount of money? Get people to pay your for the entire week up front for a lot of fast cash flow. You’ll trade a discount for getting business, but you’ll ensure a steady cash flow for months to come. Continuity works with just about any kind of product or service you are offering, from dry cleaning to our personal consulting service.

You can structure payments for continuity sales on almost any basis, but it’s best by far to go for complete payment up front. After all, the discount is based on a customer’s commitment, and they’ll be a lot more committed with their money on the line.