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Finance experts discuss the financial solutions available out there for businesses – and the most important investments you can make now

Written by Latifa Yedroudj on Thursday, 22 July 2021. Posted in Scaling up, Interviews

How do you navigate your financial growth journey for the best results? Is it more important to have a structured plan or take action with a vision in mind?

How do you navigate your financial growth journey for the best results? Is it more important to have a structured plan or take action with a vision in mind? 

With uncertainty still lying ahead, how can businesses find the best financial solution that suits both their short-term and long-term needs? Speaking on the second day Elite Business’ live event on March 12 on the Financial Management panel was Ciaran O’Donnell, founder of The Virtual FD, Deri Llewellyn-Davies, Founder of BGI Group, Phil Hobden, Head of Education at Capitalise, Jenny Knighting, CEO & Founder of Nutcracker Agency and Paul Conway, Director of Growth for New Business and Partnerships at Bottomline spoke about the best investments you can make during this uncertain time – and whether it is more important to make a structured plan or take action when it comes to financial solutions. 

With final lockdown restrictions now lifted, many businesses have opened their doors and resumed operations back to normal, however, there is uncertainty still looming across many sectors. Is it important to plan or take action? Should businesses have one plan or many plans? Jenny Knighting, CEO & Founder of Nutcracker Agency said it depends on your business, but believes having too many plans may cause you to get overwhelmed and freeze instead of taking action to achieve results.

“I think it really depends on the type of business; I think for example when you’re talking about raising capital you need to have lots of different scenarios. However, in some businesses that would just mean nothing got done. So, I think it depends on how big the business is, how complicated the financial setup and what their core needs are. If it’s fairly straightforward in a sense of their P&L, you can simply work out how many deals you need, how many customers you need, etc. If you’re getting seed investment for millions that may be different, so I don’t think it’s one-size-fits-all,” Jenny, CEO & Founder of Nutcracker, said.  

There is an array of financing options for businesses to choose from. However, do they understand what is available to them? Phil Hobden, Head of Education at Capitalise believes SMEs do not understand their options as well as they should. However, he recommended businesses look at invoice finance as he believes it is the key to moving the market forward in today’s world. “No, they absolutely don’t," Phil said, speaking about whether businesses understand their finances. "And more so this is why we partner with accountants because they need a North Star to give them that support. Because when you’re looking at something on a spreadsheet, you miss what you actually might need to support the business and I think if someone can lens out and look at that, that is so important.” 

He added: “For businesses that operate in the B2B space is invoice finance. It’s still got a horrific reputation back from the 90s of factoring and being a distressed product, but it’s not. And modern technological invoice finance is fantastic... It’s taking an invoice and obtaining funding against it, be it a whole debtor book or a single invoice... But it’s something that we believe at Capitalise will be key to the market moving forward and moving out of where we are today.” 

What are businesses spending their money on? People and technology, Paul Conway, Director of Growth for New Business and Partnerships at Bottomline said. But the most important investment of all should be their customers. “Businesses are spending money on technology because they want to improve their services,” Paul Conway, Director of Growth for New Business and Partnerships at Bottomline said. “They’re making larger investments in people as well. I do concur there is some really exceptional talent out there at the moment. I think now is a great time, going back to what people were saying earlier, I think now is actually the time to brave. Because you are going to set yourself up for the future. And the single biggest investment is your customers and to understand them. Are you talking to them? Most of the problems people have the answer to when they listen to their customers. We’re currently doing a big programme where we’re going around talking to our customers asking them to complete surveys around their payment pains, what’s important to them, collecting cash features quite heavily. What can we do to help them?” 

How do you choose the right bank for your business? A bank is not a size-fits-all for every business, Deri Llewellyn-Davies, Founder of BGI Group said. Every business has different needs and requirements, and a bank should serve you to help achieve the goals you have set. Deri advised businesses to really dig deep and find out how their bank will benefit them in the long run because it is a journey, not a race – and finding the right bank is a key component in your firm’s financial growth. 

“We should be interviewing our banks like we interview our employees or anyone else we’re going to hire, and I think this is the missing trick,” Deri said. “I was taught it by a mentor 15 years ago and it’s served me incredibly well. I sit down with the bank and the first question I’m asking is ‘how are you going to bring value to my business?’ And that is a showstopper for the high street banks! But that is a really important question. Because if I am going on a journey of scale and I’m going on an exciting journey of growth, I need my bank by my side, I need my financial director by my side, I need my accountant by my side and we all got to be on the journey together, and the bank is an important part of that. All the clients I advise and all my businesses, we have different banks. Because there is not one bank fitting or businesses, and different banks are needed for different purposes.”

About the Author

Latifa Yedroudj

Latifa Yedroudj

Latifa Yedroudj has joined the Elite team to fully immerse herself in the business side of journalism, a strong passion of hers cultivated from young having co-run her mother's start up business since she was 18. Her interests lie in a wide range of subjects, including start ups, business, travel, and anything entrepreneurial she can get her hands on. She has worked for some of the biggest names in journalism including The Guardian and The Mirror. Follow her on @latifayed on Twitter for her latest journo rants.

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