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好市多教你如何加快资金周转

Verne Harnish 2013年12月26日

企业发展需要消耗大量的资金,因而缩短资金周转周期能有效地加速公司成长。怎样加快资金周转?好市多有三条宝贵的经验。

    所有企业都可以向好市多(Costco)学习重要的一课。好市多是一家快速成长的仓储零售商,在截至今年9月的财年中获得1030亿美元销售收入,税前盈利达30亿美元。它的会员费收入为23亿美元,约占企业利润的75%。

    如此巨大的现金流使好市多有钱开设新店,通过建新店,好市多有望获得15%的投资回报。而且会员续约费收入毫无放缓的迹象。好市多首席财务官、执行副总裁理查德•加兰蒂说:“我们的会员续约率年年攀升,现在已经超过了90%。”这也难怪,毕竟,好市多仅在产品成本价基础上加价约11%向顾客销售。另外,这家公司还推出了大受欢迎的高级会员计划,参与者需要缴纳比普通会员更高的会费,但他们能够获得额外的折扣和奖励。这个计划大大提升了顾客的忠诚度,而且带来了大量的会员费收入。

    正如我此前所写,创业的头号定律就是增长需要资金。为了推动企业快速增长,必须缩短资金周转周期。简单地说,资金周转周期就是你收回投资于企业的1美元所需要的时间。而像好市多这样,寻找到内部产生现金的来源,使企业快速获得现金收入,能够加速资金周转周期。如此一来,就能推迟企业不得不四处求人、借钱来发展的时点。要知道,四处借钱会大大减缓企业发展速度,而且往往徒劳无功。

    下面是另外几种缩短资金周转周期的策略。

    1. 缩短销售周期。要知道,发掘客户可是一笔不菲的成本。绝大部分公司都忽略了一点:开展销售的速度越快,公司获得回报的速度就也越快(当然,将竞争对手拒之门外的可能性也就越大)。光靠邮件绝对不够,拿起电话、或者与客户面对面交流才是正道。与其辗转反复地花上3天时间邮件沟通,不如花上20分钟打一通电话,它能让你更轻松地拿下订单。

    2.不要犯错。很少有老板能意识到,从商品交付到发票送出的这段时间,即便是非常细微的错误,也可能严重拖慢回款速度。一个对错误耿耿于怀的顾客绝不会爽快地掏钱。

    许多新创新业在递送发票这个环节都犯了错误。他们实在太忙了,忙着生产,忙着销售,于是一些文字性的繁杂工作就被疏忽了。哪怕一家大企业,就算是发票用错格式这类小儿科错误都会延缓回款好几周,甚至几个月。

    如果自己不能搞定发票,那就请专业人士来帮忙。他们应该对客户与应收账款有关的财务系统了若指掌,确保你的发票准确无误,能非常迅速地递送到客户手中。据我所知,有一家公司聘请了一位专家负责应收账款系统,使得整个公司的现金周转周期缩短了15天之多。虽然你必须多付出一个人的薪水,但物有所值。在应收帐款方面精打细算看起来没错,实际是因小失大。

    Every business can learn an important lesson from Costco. The fast-growing warehouse retailer did $103 billion in sales in the fiscal year ending in September, with pre-tax earnings of $3 billion. Membership fees brought in $2.3 billion -- equal to about 75% of its profit.

    That influx of cash helps the company pay for new stores, where it looks to get about a 15% cash-on-cash return on investment in building them. And renewals show no signs of slowing down. "Our membership renewal rates have gone up each year and now exceed 90%," notes CFO and executive vice president Richard Galanti. That's not surprising, given that Costco only charges customers a markup on its products of about 11%. Those in Costco's (COST) popular Executive Membership program, which charges a higher membership fee than its basic membership, get extra discounts and rewards -- a great loyalty builder that keeps those membership fees rolling in.

    As I've written before, the first entrepreneurial law of gravity is that growth sucks cash. To fuel rapid growth, you've got to master the cash conversion cycle -- which, simply put, is the time it takes to get a dollar back that you've spent on the business. Finding a source of internally generated cash to get money into the business quickly, as Costco has done, can speed that cycle. It delays the point at which you have to go out and beg and borrow money to grow, a project that can slow you down greatly and doesn't always bear fruit.

    Here are some other strategies to make the cash conversion cycle work in your favor.

    1. Shorten the sales cycle. It can cost you a lot of money to go after customers. Most companies don't think about the fact that the faster you can land a sale, the quicker you can get a return on that investment (and the more likely you are to block competitors from getting there first). Get off email and pick up the phone or meet your customer face to face. Spending 20 minutes this way will bring you closer to a sale more quickly than going back and forth by email for three days.

    2. Eliminate errors. Most entrepreneurs don't think about how even tiny mistakes -- anywhere from the delivery of the product to the invoice -- can slow payments dramatically. A customer who is upset about an error you made is going to be slower to pay.

    Many entrepreneurial companies get sloppy about sending out invoices. They're so busy making and selling things that their paperwork starts to slip. Even something as simple as using the wrong format for an invoice can delay your payment for weeks or months at a big company.

    If you can't stay on top of invoicing, hire someone to help you. This person should get to know the accounts payable people at any big companies you serve, and make sure your invoices are structured right, so they flow through clients' systems as quickly as possible. At one company I know, hiring a pro to handle accounts receivable helped cut 15 days out of its cash conversion cycle. Yes, you will have to pay an extra person to do this job -- but it's worth it. Shortchanging your accounts payable function is pennywise, but dollar foolish.

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