American Trucking Associations launched the Small Carrier Program, a new membership benefit aimed at generating greater purchasing power for small carriers. Companies earning $11 million or less in annual revenue and private fleets with 100 or fewer trucks can receive rebates of up to 3 cents per gallon for fuel purchased at more than 500 truck stops; rebates of up to $1,000 on new and used trucks; and additional discounts on tires, parts, mobile communications, technology, insurance, legal services, office supplies and lodging.
Half the U.S. states have toll roads or are planning them, and public support is among the factors that allow for successful implementation, the U.S. Government Accountability Office concluded. The GAO report is available in PDF format at this site.
Monthly collection of duties and fees by U.S. Customs and Border Protection has topped $5 billion as the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) monthly payment feature completes its second year of operation, says Louis Samenfink, director of CBP’s cargo systems program office. Samenfink says many companies find monthly statements more convenient than paying by the shipment.
AmeriQuest announced the launch of Online Invoice Approval in conjunction with Corcentric. The system is designed to help companies reduce paper-based transaction costs by allowing them to receive and approve invoices electronically.
No matter how hard you try to produce profits every quarter, eventually you’ll have some disappointing financial news to deliver to your lenders. Perhaps the expansion did not move along as quickly as planned, costs of a building project were well beyond projections, or the promising new customer went elsewhere. Handle the communication poorly, and your loans will not be renewed. Handle it well, and you can start your business turnaround off on the best foot possible. Here’s how to make bad news go down more smoothly:
Never surprise. Frequent contact with bankers is always the best policy, and you certainly need to let them know about challenges early on. A day or two before you meet, call to say that you will be presenting disappointing news and a plan to work through it. Tell them who from your team will be at the meeting. That will help your lender decide who to bring from his side, such as a credit analyst or a supervisor, and save a second meeting to cover the same ground.
Prepare the presentation. Think through how you will deliver the whats, hows and whys of your problem and what you have done and will do to fix it. You are under a microscope, and every nuance counts. A calm and confident demeanor sends a powerful message. Don’t be overly optimistic, but never be gloomy.
Take your team along. Consider taking a key partner or shareholder, your top internal financial officer and, most likely, your external CPA to the meeting. Carefully parcel out your presentation among your own team members. Questions always come up, and lenders want to see that your top stakeholders understand what happened, and that they support your plan to work through it.
Don’t sugarcoat. The plain, unvarnished truth is best. Say exactly what happened, and do not use euphemisms. Tell all the bad news up front, and then spend time explaining it. For example: “We have restated our earnings for the prior year, and have a significant loss for this current year, and our projections show us returning to profitability in six more months.” Of highest importance to bankers is to understand who is owed how much, and if critical things like payroll taxes are being deposited.
Take personal responsibility. This is critical. Effective leaders admit their mistakes, and doing so builds credibility. “Spinning” in an attempt to avert embarrassment will gain you nothing. If the situation demands it, apologize for the poor performance and how it may have strained your relationship with them. Never blame someone else or an external event; that diminishes your credibility. And if you really want to show you are serious, show it by making a personal sacrifice or putting personal resources into the company.
Lay out your plan of action. Once you deliver the bad financial news, move quickly to your go-forward strategy. How will you finance operations? What customers, accounts or jobs are supporting you? What is the status of your relationship with key customers and employees, and do you have their support? Where have you cut nonessential people, low-profit or low-priority customers or expenses? What have you already done, what is next, and what is your timeline? How will you handle regulatory and licensing pressures, if any?
Understand the lender’s position. Bank officers’ careers are on the line if your business turns south. Many banks use a 1-to-10 credit scoring system, with 10 being the best. A score as low as 4 or 5 or 6 may take your situation out of your usual banker’s hands, and place you with a specialist. Should your financial results lower your credit score, talk about and understand how you stand on this scale, and what it means for your future with this lender.
Kill them with paper. The more detail, the better. Lenders and their supporting credit analysts need detail backing up their analysis – provide it to them. Back up financials with receivables lists, customer lists with sales made in the period, payables lists, debt schedules and future contracts or work. Projections of the current year are critical, even if summarized in simple form.
Ask for continued support. You need your lender’s help, so ask for it. Set up follow-up communications and timelines of status reports. Ask what additional information they may need, and make yourself available for their questions. Even if they don’t call, plan on calling them weekly and giving an update.
Whatever your bad news, delivering it properly can help you begin your turnaround on the right foot.
“Delivering Bad News,” by J. Larry Tyler, as published in the Healthcare Finance Management Association’s periodical “Executive Insights”; website
“How to Deliver Bad News to Your Customer,” by David Stein, as published on EyesOnSales.com; website
“Ten Steps to a Successful Turnaround,” and other articles directed at aiding in turnaround of a business after disappointing financial results, courtesy of BusinessTown.com; website