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For SMEs it doesn’t always pay to DIY

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In increasingly competitive domestic and international markets, Australian SMEs have grown accustomed to running lean. Small business owners double up as HR Managers, salespeople or CFOs and as such are applying a do-it-yourself (DIY) attitude to many aspects of their business in search of larger profit margins and competitive advantage.

According to a recent survey*, 32 per cent of Australian SMEs engaged in international trade actually plan to decrease headcount in 2015, with just 2 per cent intending to increase numbers.

There is nothing new about the ‘doing more with less’ strategy, but what happens when a business operator who has for years been ‘doing more with less’ decides to ‘do even more with even less?’

The result is time-poor individuals engaging in activities that are outside their core competencies… and that can lead to disaster, particularly in the area of FX Management where tens of thousands of dollars and a company’s cash flow is at stake.

Each time an importer or exporter closes an international deal they leave themselves exposed to the complexities of the FX market, which saw the Australian dollar drop approximately 22 per cent (against the US dollar) since May 2014. FX markets are in a constant state of flux and can move in favour or against a business quickly and unpredictably.

For instance, in the case of an AUD $150,000 purchase, a 90 day settlement and a 4 per cent drop in the Australian dollar, an importer can see his/her purchase increase to $156,000, thus compromising profit margins and endangering cash-flow.

With this in mind, it’s little wonder that many SME operators struggle to sleep at night as they ponder the implications of previous purchases, upcoming sales and past exchange rates compared with current exchange rates.

In order to gain visibility over cash flow projections, businesses need to have systems in place to manage foreign invoices and the risks they present. But if an SME operator doesn’t have the time or the expertise to do so his/herself, implementing a cash management strategy with an expert financial institution is a prudent option.

By partnering with a financial institution to hedge currencies or fix FX rates in advance, a business can manage the risk and insure itself against sudden shifts in the FX market and protect/project cash-flow, which is the lifeblood of any SME.

But best of all, it can help SME owners get a good night’s sleep.

*The research, conducted by East & Partners, surveyed the international trade and foreign exchange practices of 2,379 Australian SME that import/export in Western Union Business Solutions’ proprietary study. The research categorized businesses based on an annual enterprise turnover of up to A$100 million.

About the Author:

Justin Logan is Country Manager, Australia, at Western Union Business Solutions. A leader in global payment services, Western Union Business Solutions enables companies of all sizes to send and receive international payments and manage global cash flow, creating unique solutions tailored to suit their individual needs.