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ADP Report: Job Creation Proceeds At Turtle Pace

Slow and steady may win the race but the pace of job creation by the US economy  continues to move along at turtle speed.  For the 20 million unemployed and underemployed people the pace of job creation remains painfully slow as revealed by ADP ‘s National Employment Report for October. During the month, private sector employment increased by 43,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis. ADP also revised its employment report for September stating that the economy lost only 2,000 jobs rather then the 39,000 it had previously reported.  Following ADP’s upward revision the private sector has produced 41,000 new jobs during the past 61 days.  For the worlds leading economy with a GDP of almost $15 trillion the lackluster growth in job creation is a troubling indicator of an anemic jobless economic recovery.

The October report arrests the September decline in job growth that reversed  seven consecutive months of positive job creation.  During that time the economy averaged employment gains of 34,000 new private sector jobs per month. This rate of job creation does little to reduce the negative overhang  a 10% unemployment rate is having on economic  growth.   A stabilized and expanding labor market is a key ingredient for a sustained economic recovery. Over the past three years the economy lost over 9 million jobs. For a robust recovery to occur the economy needs to create 200,000 jobs per month for the next four years to return the job market to its pre-recession levels.

As we reported last month the expiration of the Federal stimulus program will force state and local governments to layoff  workers.  Sluggish job creation continues to pressure depleted unemployment funds and the expiration of benefits for many of the unemployed is draining buying power from the economy.

Soft consumer demand  threatens retailers and leisure industry segments and has a spillover effect  on the housing market.  Joblessness is a principal factor in mortgage defaults and contributes to the growing inventory of foreclosed properties held by banks.  The ADP report indicates that during October the US economy shed an additional 23,000 construction jobs. It is estimated that it will take 24 months for the housing market to absorb the existing inventory of foreclosed properties. A  healthy turnaround in the construction  industry will  move in step with the improvement in the housing market conditions.

A sustained recovery will require sector leadership by Small and Mid-Size Enterprises (SME)  as principal drivers of job creation.   SME’s  sector strength has traditionally been in the construction, specialty retail, leisure and service sectors.  Among these segments  only the services sector continues to be a consistent driver for job creation.

Macroeconomic Factors

The principal macroeconomic factors impairing recovery are the continued high unemployment rate, weakness in the housing market, tax policy and deepening fiscal crisis of state, local and federal governments.   The results of this weeks mid-term election and the return of congress to Republican control will encourage the federal government to pursue fiscally conservative policies that will dramatically cut spending and taxes for the small businesses and the middle class.  In the short term spending cuts in federal programs will result in layoffs and cuts in entitlement programs will remove purchasing power from the demand side of the market.  It is believed that the tax cuts to businesses will provide the necessary incentive for SME’s to invest capital surpluses back into the company to stimulate job creation.

Highlights of the ADP Report for October include:

Private sector employment increased by 43,000

Employment in the service-providing sector rose 77,000

Employment in the goods-producing sector declined 34,000

Employment in the manufacturing sector declined 12,000

Construction employment declined 23,000

Large businesses with 500 or more workers declined 2,000

Medium-size businesses, defined as those with between 50 and 499 workers increased 24,000

Employment among small-size businesses with fewer than 50 workers, increased 21,000

Overview of Numbers

The 45,000 jobs created by the SME sectors reverses a decline from September and offsets the 2,000 job cuts by large companies.  The strong growth of service sector  jobs is a positive development.  However the continued softness of goods producing segments and manufacturing continues to indicate the continued decline of  US industrial capacity.  The strong rebound in services  may be the result of the expanding practice of companies utilizing outside contractors to fill human capital requirements.  These types of jobs may mask an underemployed and  transient labor pool forced to accept work at  lower wage scales.

The stock market continues to perform well.  Yesterdays QE2 initiative by the Fed to pump $600 billion into the banking system may allay bankers credit risk concerns and ease lending restrictions to capital starved SME’s.  Despite a projected GDP growth rate of 2%, ADP’s employment figures indicates that the economy continues to dwell at the bottom of an extreme down economic cycle. The danger of a double dip recession still lurks as a remote possibility.  Interest rates remain at historic lows and inflation continues to be benign but its danger grows as a weak dollar continues to flounder forcing oil prices to climb while government debt levels continue to spiral upward.  The balance sheets of large corporate entities remain flush with cash.  Analysts estimate that over $1 Trillion in cash swells corporate treasuries remaining underemployed on lazy corporate balance sheets.  The low interest rate environment  has allowed companies to pursue  deleveraging strategies  considerably strengthening the capital structure of corporate America.  To the dismay of politicians and the unemployed,  economists speculate that deployment of this cash is still a few quarters away from finding its way into the real economy.

Solutions from Sum2

Sum2 offers SME’s the Profit|Optimizer to help them manage risk, devise recovery strategies and make better informed capital allocation decisions.

For information on the construction and use of the ADP Report, please visit the methodology section of the ADP National Employment Report website.

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Risk: unemployment, recession, recovery, SME

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November 5, 2010 Posted by | ADP, banking, business, economics, manufacturing, Profit|Optimizer, SME, unemployment | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

ADP Jobs Report: Reversal of Fortune

ADP has released its National Employment Report for September. During the month, private sector employment decreased by 39,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis. After an upward revision of 10,000 new jobs created for August, the September numbers are a reversal from employment trends that seemed to be stabilizing by arresting two years of employment declines. For seven consecutive moths the economy was creating average employment gains of 34,000 private sector jobs. The September numbers reverses that trend and raises concern about the strength of the economic recovery.

A stabilized labor market is a key ingredient to a sustained economic recovery. Over the past three years the economy lost over 9 million jobs. For a robust recovery to occur the economy needs to create 200,000 jobs per month for the next four years to return the job market to its pre-recession levels.

The Federal stimulus program that directed funds to state and local governments to help stem layoffs has now expired. This will result in further belt tightening by local government agencies and will result in layoffs of employees to meet the fiscal restraint imposed by the poor economy.  This will exacerbate the unemployment problem and further impede the buying power and tax revenues.  This will continue to hurt the retail industry and local governments sales tax receipts.

The reduction in the government work force is symptomatic of the reconfiguration of the economy. During the past decade government employment increased dramatically. Its pairing down will put added pressure on the private sector to incubate new industries to drive the recovery. Manufacturing and the growth industries of the past decade will be hard pressed to create the level of job creation a robust recovery requires.

The ADP report indicates that since its peak in January of 2007, construction employment has lost 2,297,000 jobs. Construction trades along with credit marketing, retailing, community banking and services supporting these sectors have been dramatically weakened and downsized in the wake of the recession. The private sector led by small and mid-size enterprises (SME) will need to incubate growth industries to create jobs and lead the country out of the doldrums of the flailing economic recovery.

Macroeconomic Factors

The principal macroeconomic factors impairing recovery are the continued high unemployment rate, continued weakness in the housing market, persistent deflation concerns, tax policy and deepening fiscal crisis of state, local and federal governments.  The economic impact of the Gulf oil spill was immediate and dramatic to the local aqua-cultural industries, fishing and regional tourist industries. The long term effects of the spill on the ecological communities of the Gulf is yet to be determined.  The geopolitical uncertainty of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, persistent worries about Iran’s nuclear program and the sovereign debt crisis of the weaker EU member states are persistent concerns weighing on capital market participants.

Highlights of the ADP Report for September include:

Estimates non-farm private employment in the service-providing sector decreased by 39,000.

Employment in the goods-producing sector declined 45,000

Employment in the manufacturing sector declined 17,000

Construction employment declined 28,000

Employment in the services sector rose 6,000.

Large businesses with 500 or more workers declined 11,000

Medium-size businesses, defined as those with between 50 and 499 workers declined 14,000

Employment among small-size businesses with fewer than 50 workers, declined 14,000

Overview of Numbers

Job loss in the SME sector is troubling. SMEs are the backbone of the construction and retail industries and the continued weakness of these sectors weighs on their ability to become a driver of consistent job growth. The continued deterioration of the financial health of SMEs and their ability to marshal resources from depleted balance sheets and limited credit lines may be impairing the ability to mount an effective response to the dire economic conditions.

Despite the backdrop of the stock markets stellar performance during September, ADP’s employment figures indicates that the economy continues to dwell at the bottom of an extreme down economic cycle. The danger of a double dip recession still lurks as a possibility.  The balance sheets of large corporate entities are flush with cash.  Some analysts estimate that over $1 Trillion in cash swells corporate coffers.  Some economists speculate that deployment this cash is critical to the economic upturn and still a few quarters away from finding its way into the real economy.

Solutions from Sum2

Sum2 offers SME’s the Profit|Optimizer to help them manage risk, devise recovery strategies and make better informed capital allocation decisions.

For information on the construction and use of the ADP Report, please visit the methodology section of the ADP National Employment Report website.

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Risk: unemployment, recession, recovery, SME

October 7, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Using the Z Score to Manage Corporate Financial Health

We use Altman’s Z Score as our measurement tool to assess a company’s financial condition. It incorporates fundamental financial analysis, offers a consistent measurement methodology across all business segments, and an enhanced level of transparency by use of fully disclosed and open calculation model.

Z Score Advantages

The Z Score provides a quantitative measurement into a company’s financial health. The Z Score highlights factors contributing to a company’s financial health and uncovers emerging trends that indicate improvements or deterioration in financial condition.

The Z Score is a critical tool business managers use to assess financial health. It helps managers align business strategies with capital allocation decisions and provide transparency of financial condition to lenders and equity capital providers. Business managers use the Z Score to raise capital and secure credit. The Z Score is an effective tool to demonstrate credit worthiness to bankers and soundness of business model to investors.

The Z Score is based on actual financial information derived from the operating performance of the business enterprise. It avoids biases of subjective assessments, conflicts of interest, brand and large company bias. The Z Score employs no theoretical assumptions or market inputs external to the company’s financial statements. This provides users of the Z Score with a consistent view and understanding of a company’s true financial health.

Background

The Z Score was first developed by NYU Professor Edward Altman. The Z Score methodology was developed to provide a more effective financial assessment tool for credit risk analysts and lenders. It is employed by credit professionals to mitigate risk in debt portfolios and by lenders to extend loans. It is widely utilized because it uses multiple variables to measure the financial health and credit worthiness of a borrower. The Z Score is an open system. This allows users of the Z Score to understand the variables employed in the algorithm. All the mysteries and added cost of “proprietary black box” systems are avoided empowering users to enjoy the benefits of a proven credit decision tool based solely on solid financial analysis.

The Z Score is also an effective tool to analyze the financial health and credit worthiness of private companies. It has gained wide acceptance from auditors, management accountants, courts, and database systems used for loan evaluation. The formula’s approach has been used in a variety of contexts and countries. Forty years of public scrutiny speaks highly of its validity.

Z Score Formula

The Z Score method examines liquidity, profitability, reinvested earnings and leverage which are integrated into a single composite score. It can be used with past, current or projected data as it requires no external inputs such as GDP or Market Price.

The Z Score uses a series of data points from a company’s balance sheet. It uses the data points to create and score ratios. These ratios are weighted and aggregated to compile a Z Score.

Z Score = 3.25 + 6.56(X1) + 3.26(X2) + 6.72(X3) + 1.05(X4) where

X1 = Working Capital / Total Assets
X2 = Retained Earnings / Total Assets
X3 = Earnings Before Interest & Tax / Total Assets
X4 = Total Book Equity /Total Liabilities

If you divide 1 by X4 then add 1 the result is the company’s total leverage.

The higher the score the more financially sound the company.

Z Score Ratings cutoff scores used in classifications:

AAA     8.15             AA        7.30

A          6.65              BBB     5.85

BB        4.95             B            4.15

CCC     3.20             D           3.19

Credit Worthiness and Cost Of Capital

Lenders and credit analysts use Z Scores because they are effective indicators and predictors of loan defaults. it is an important risk mitigation tool and helps them to better price credit products based on borrowers credit worthiness.

Utilizing a 10 year corporate mortality table demonstrates how Z Score ratings correlate to defaults. Those with a rating of A or better have a 10 year failure rate that ranges from .03% to .082%. The failure rate for those with a BBB rating jumps to 9.63%. BB, B and CCC failure rates are 19.69%, 37.26% and 58.63% respectively. These tables will differ slightly as each producer uses different criteria but overall they are quite similar.

Borrowers with higher Z Scores ratings will have a better chance of obtaining financing and secure a lower cost of capital and preferred interest rates because lenders will have greater confidence in being paid back their principal and interest. Financial wellness is an indication of strong company management and that effective governance controls are in place.

Managing Business Decisions to Improve Financial Health

The Z Score is also a critical business tool managers utilize to make informed business decisions to improve the financial health of the business. The Z Score helps managers assess the factors contributing to poor financial health. Z Score factors that contribute to under-performance; working capital, earnings retention, profitability and leverage can be isolated. This enables managers to initiate actions to improve the score of these factors contributing to financial distress. Targeting actions to specific under-performing stress factors allows managers to make capital allocation decisions that mitigate principal risk factors and produce optimal returns.

Focus areas for managers to improve Z Score are transactions that effect earnings/(losses), capital expenditures, equity and debt transactions.

The most common transactions include:

  1. Earnings (Net Earnings) increases working capital and equity.
  2. Adjust EBIT by adding back interest expense.
  3. Adjust EBIT by adding back income tax expense.
  4. Depreciation and amortization expense is already included in the earnings number so it won’t have an additional effect on earnings or equity but it will increase working capital as noncash items previously deducted.
  5. Capital Expenditures (fixed asset purchases) decrease working capital as cash is used to pay for them (whether the source is existing cash or new cash acquired from debt).
  6. Short term debt transactions have no effect on working capital as there are offsetting changes in both current assets and liabilities but does change total liabilities and total assets.
  7. Acquiring new long term debt increases working capital, total liabilities and total assets.
  8. Typical equity transactions (other than earnings, which we have already accounted for) are dividends paid to stockholders resulting in decreases to working capital and equity.
  9. New contributed capital increases working capital and equity.

Scenario Analysis

Using the Z Score financial managers can actively manage their balance sheet by considering transactions and initiatives designed to impact financial wellness. Considerable attention needs to be placed on how losses, sale of fixed assets and long term debt payments effect financial condition.

In the above we included the basic transactions that would likely occur but you can do the same for any scenario by applying the same concept. It may take a little practice to think in these groupings but you’ll shortly find yourself with the ability to project any event. The effects can be measured and revised as necessary by adjusting the contemplated transactions. Remember that several variables exist and that a combination of choices might be necessary to keep your financial strength at the desired level.

Any projection should include the calculation and comparison of key metrics to historical results to ensure that assumptions have been correctly calculated. Significant deviations from prior results should have adequate explanations. Maintaining a strong working capital position can offset the negative effects from increased debt, increased assets and minor earning declines.

Sum2′s Profit|Optimizer

Sum2 publishes the Profit|Optimizer.  The Profit|Optimizer is a risk assessment and opportunity discovery tool for small and mid-sized businesses.  It assists managers to identify and manage risk factors confronting their business. The goal of the Profit|Optimizer is to help business mangers demonstrate creditworthiness to lenders and make make informed capital allocation decisions.

Sum2 boasts a worldwide clientele of small and mid-sized business managers, bankers, CPA’s and risk management consultants that utilize the Profit|Optimizer to help their clients raise capital with effective risk governance.

Cautions

Financial models are not infallible and should be used in conjunction with common sense and with an awareness of market conditions. It is important to understand your model so that other considerations can be incorporated when necessary. Note that most models (Z score included) use a proxy (working capital) for liquidity which works well until there are severe disruptions in credit markets as recently encountered. Use caution with all models. Use extreme caution when using a proprietary black box system where you can’t understand all the components. Are these users aware or ignorant of possible issues?

Trust but verify seems like a prudent policy.

Conclusions

The Z Score is a valuable management tool to proactively assess the financial condition of the company’s balance sheet, uncover factors that are stressing the balance sheet and initiate actions to improve the financial wellness and credit worthiness of the firm. All business decisions and actions are ultimately revealed in the company’s balance sheet. The Z Score measures the effectiveness of business decisions. It empowers managers to anticipate changes occurring in credit worthiness and proactively manage changes in financial condition.

Armed with a tool to calculate future financial positions managers have the latitude to better manage outstanding receivables, improve liquidity and lower their cost of capital. Calls for capital, negotiations for funding or decisions in setting credit policy can now be made from a knowledgeable position with a set of supporting facts.

The Z Score gives business managers an important negotiating tool to defend their credit rating during capital raises when excess leverage or deficient levels of working capital and equity are present.

This post was authored by CreditAides.

This post was edited by Sum2llc

Risk: small business lending, credit risk, commercial lending, SME

July 22, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

NFIB Index: Small Business Optimism Improves

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) has just released the Small Business Economic Trends Report for June 2010. The report published since 1973 measures small business sentiment on numerous economic and business factors that confront small businesses.

This months report indicates that small business optimism continues to improve.  The NFIB index rose 1.6 points to 92.2 recording the highest level of the index since September of 2008.

During the month seven of the 10 index components rose, with job creation and capital expenditure plans recording minuscule increases.  The Index rose above the 90 level for the first time in 21 months ending the longest period of negative sentiment in the four decade history of the index.

Though seven of the ten index components rose, small business job creation remains weak.  The  hemorrhaging  of job losses has abated employment opportunities with small businesses is not materializing.  Employment is a critical component of the Index and is understood as an important sign of economic recovery.  During the month small businesses continued to layoff workers registering a negative .5 per respondent.   This records the weakest reading for small business employment for the past three months.  The NFIB Index corroborates employment trends recently reported by ADP’s National Employment Report and the Department of Labor.  The small business sector is not contributing to private sector employment growth.  This is a troubling concern because it is widely understood that small businesses need to be a leading driver for job creation to sustain economic recovery.  As we stated last month, historically small businesses have been the major driver in job creation following recessions.  The poor job creation reading by the index  continues to be a  contra indicator of economic recovery. Small business owners are by nature and temperament optimistic and the report indicates that small businesses are still very cautious about allocation capital for jobs to meet improving business conditions.

Highlights of the Report:

  • Jobs:   9% percent of respondents reported unfilled job openings. Over the next three months, 7 % plan to reduce employment and 14 % plan to create new jobs.
  • Credit:  32% of respondents looking for financing report difficulties in arranging credit.  13% reported loans harder to get than in their last attempt. Overall, 92% of the owners reported all their credit needs met.
  • Profits: 17%of respondents reported higher earnings while 49% of respondents reported a decline in profits.
  • Prices:   14% reported raising average selling prices, and 28% reported average price reductions.
  • Capital Spending:  A net 20% of respondents planned to make a capital expenditure within the next three months, 5% planned a facilities expansion and a net 8% expect business conditions to improve over the next six months.
  • Sales: 23% of all owners reported higher sales while 38% reported lower sales.

Overview of the Report

The NFIB Optimism Index records that small business sentiment and business conditions are improving  but hint that small businesses are not fully participating in a vibrant economic recovery story.  The survey indicates that small businesses remain reluctant to create new jobs.  Until this improves, demand in the larger economy and stimulation drivers for small business growth will remain weak.

Earnings and capital expenditures tend to correlate in the absence of  subdued credit channels.  More businesses are required to self fund expansion initiatives and capital expenditures.  With earnings down small businesses spending will remain weak creating yet another headwind to market demand for goods and services.

As government stimulus programs come to a close it is crucial that small and mid-sized businesses (SME) become a lead driver in the recovery.   Though the NFIB index indicates that business conditions and sentiment is improving the financial health and overall psychology of the sector seems ambivalent to its critical role in economic recovery scenarios.

About the NFIB Index

Components of the Optimism Index include: Labor Markets, Capital Spending, Inventory and Sales, Inflation, Profits and Wages and Credit Markets.  This months survey recorded the responses of 823 NFIB members and concluded May 31.

The NFIB Research Foundation has collected Small Business Economic Trends Data with Quarterly surveys since 1973 and monthly surveys since1986. The sample is drawn from the membership files of the NFIB.

The NFIB Report can be downloaded from the Sum2 website. NFIB Optimism Index

Solutions from Sum2

Sum2 offers risk management and opportunity discovery tools to SME’s.  The Profit|Optimizer helps SME’s manage risk, devise recovery strategies and make better informed capital allocation decisions.

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Risk: SME, small business, economic recovery, NFIB

June 9, 2010 Posted by | economics, NFIB, Profit|Optimizer, recession, risk management, small business, SME, unemployment | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

ADP Reports Third Consecutive Month of Job Gains

ADP has released its National Employment Report for May.   Non-farm private employment increased 55,000 during  the month on a seasonally adjusted basis.   ADP also reported an upward revision of 33,000 jobs for March, bringing the number of new jobs created during the month to 65,000.  The three consecutive net employment gains reported by ADP indicates that while the number of new job creation remains modest, positive momentum is developing.

A stabilized labor market is a key ingredient to a sustained economic recovery.  The economy lost over 9 million jobs during the recession and recovery will require the creation of 200,000 new jobs per month for the next 4 years to get back to pre-recession employment levels.  Last years massive Federal stimulus programs directed funds to state and local governments to help stem layoffs. The expiration of those programs will force fiscally challenged local governments to resort to austerity measures that will require the public sector to trim jobs.

Macroeconomic factors continue to be challenging the economic recovery.  The sovereign fiscal crisis in Europe, slowing growth in China, tepid credit markets and political uncertainty counterbalance the positive effects of a stabilizing housing market, low interest rates and benign  inflation.

The economic impact of the Gulf oil spill will not be confined to the region. The local aqua-cultural industries, fishing and tourism to the region has been immediately impacted by the spill.  A prolonged duration of the event will have a profound impact on the economies of the entire Caribbean. The economies and fiscal stability of American cities such as Pensacola, Mobile, Tampa,  New Orleans and Key West are directly threatened by the unfolding events.  Cities and regions along the Texas Coast and Mexico also remain remain at risk and share the unfortunate distinction of being in the probability cross hairs of suffering extreme toxic damage as a result of a hurricane.  Shipping lanes and the closure of ports due to oil contamination could impact America’s vital agricultural industry.  The moratorium on deep water drilling has placed pressure on the oils services sector and may impact the industries long term financial health.   The impact on the price of oil and refined petroleum products remains to be seen.

Highlights of the ADP  report include:

Estimates non-farm private employment in the service-providing sector increased by 55,000.

Employment in the goods-producing sector declined 23,000

Employment in the manufacturing sector rose 15,000

Employment in the services sector rose 78,000.

Large businesses with 500 or more workers  added 3,000 jobs

Medium-size businesses, defined as those with between 50 and 499 workers increased by 39,000

Employment among small-size businesses with fewer than 50 workers, increased by 13,000

Overview of Numbers

The net gain of 52,000 jobs in the small and mid-sized enterprise (SME) sector, compared to the creation of 3,000 jobs in large enterprises is a telling statistic about the changing topology of the US job market.   During the past decade, a large proportion of job growth occurred in the public and small mid-size enterprises (SME) sector.  Large businesses have led the way in implementing lean enterprises and have outsourced and off shored many jobs and business functions to accomplish this. Job creation by SME’s during the past month represented over 90% of new job creation.  America’s reinvention and economic renaissance must be led by the SME sector.  It is vital that capital formation initiatives and credit availability is positioned to foster the growth and development of the SME sector.

This months ADP report is an indication that the US economy continues at the bottom of an extreme down economic cycle.  The danger of a double dip recession unfortunately still lurks as a possibility.  The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the potential of market contagion from EU credit distress, China’s slowdown and the anemic rate of job creation in the wake of massive government expenditures and budget deficits presents continuing challenges to a sustained and robust recovery in the United States.

Solutions from Sum2

Sum2 offers SME’s the Profit|Optimizer to help them manage risk, devise recovery strategies and make better informed capital allocation decisions.

For information on the construction and use of the ADP Report, please visit the methodology section of the ADP National Employment Report website.

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Risk: unemployment, recession, recovery, SME

June 3, 2010 Posted by | ADP, Profit|Optimizer, risk management, Sum2, unemployment | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Small Business Optimism Rising

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) has just released the Small Business Economic Trends Report for May 2010. The report published since 1973 measures small business sentiment on numerous economic and business factors that confront small businesses.

This months report indicates that small business optimism is improving. The NFIB index rose 3.8 points in April.  The rise boosted the optimism Index above the 90 level for the first time in 21 months.  The NFIB Index has never registered  such a protracted  reading of negative sentiment in the four decade history of the index.

During April nine of the ten index components rose, an indication  of  improving conditions of most business factors.  The single exception  was employment sentiment which continued to signal small businesses remain cautious on creating new jobs.  Historically, small businesses have been the major driver in job creation following recessions.  The poor job creation reading by the index  continues to be a  contra indicator of economic recovery. Small business owners are by nature and temperament optimistic and the report indicates that small businesses are still very cautious about allocation capital for jobs to meet improving business conditions.

Highlights of the Report:

  • Jobs:   Average employment per firm was negative 0.18 in April.  Average employment has fallen each month since July 2008.   Eleven percent of survey respondents reported unfilled job openings.   During the next quarter 7 percent plan layoffs and 14 percent plan to create new jobs.
  • Credit: The index reports that 31 percent of regular borrowers  report difficulties in arranging credit.  A net 14 percent reported difficulty in getting loans.  Overall, 91 percent of the owners reported all their credit needs met or they did not need to access credit.  Only 4 percent of the owners reported finance as their top business problem (down 1 point).  Pre-1983, as many as 37 percent cited financing and interest rates as their top problem.
  • Profits: Respondents reported profits improved by 12 points in April.  14 percent reported profits higher (up 5 points), and 51 percent reported profits falling (down 7 points).   Of the owners reporting higher earnings, 57 percent cited stronger sales as the primary cause and 7 percent each credited lower labor costs, material costs and higher selling prices.   For those reporting lower earnings compared to the previous three months, 57 percent cited weaker sales, 4 percent blamed rising labor costs, 6 percent higher materials costs, 2 percent higher insurance costs, and 6 percent blamed lower selling prices.
  • Prices: Fifteen percent of respondents reported raising average selling prices, but 24 percent reported average price reductions.  April is the 17th consecutive month in which more owners reported cutting average selling prices that raising them.

Components of the Optimism Index include: Labor Markets, Capital Spending, Inventory and Sales, Inflation, Profits and Wages, Credit Markets

The NFIB Report can be downloaded from the Sum2 website. NFIB Optimism Index

The NFIB Research Foundation has collected Small Business Economic Trends Data with Quarterly surveys since 1973 and monthly surveys since1986. The sample is drawn from the membership files of the NFIB.

Solutions from Sum2

Sum2 offers SME’s the Profit|Optimizer to  manage risk, devise recovery strategies and make better informed capital allocation decisions.

Risk: sme, small business, economic recovery

May 11, 2010 Posted by | credit, Profit|Optimizer, small business, SME, Sum2 | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Commercial Loans: Be Prepared

The tough conditions in the credit markets require small businesses to communicate and demonstrate their credit worthiness to satisfy exacting credit risk requirements of lenders. Credit channels are open and loans are being made but strict federal regulations and heightened risk aversion by lenders places additional burdens on borrowers to demonstrate they are a good credit risk.

“You have to be prepared,” said Robert Seiwert, a senior vice president with the American Bankers Association. “If you have a viable business model and the banker feels that this business model is going to work in this new economy, you have a very good chance of getting financing. But you have to be ready to show that it will work.”

“Small and medium-sized businesses are the lifeblood of the U.S. economy.  Their ability to prosper and grow is key to job creation to help our nation recover from the economic slowdown. But with the number of bad loans mushrooming in recent years because of the economic downturn, federal regulators have put in more stringent guidelines for qualifying for financing.”, stated Ken Lewis CEO of Bank of America.

Communication with Lenders is Key

Maintaining an open line of communication with your credit providers is key.  During times of prosperity the lines of communication are open; but during times when businesses face adversity the phone stops ringing and lenders start to get nervous.  When business conditions get difficult businesses need to communicate with greater frequency and openness with their lenders.  Bankers don’t like surprises.

Reason to Communicate: Risk Assessment

The entrepreneurial nature of small business owners make them natural risk takers.  They have an unshakable belief in the fail safe nature of their ideas and have strong ego identification with their business.  This often makes them blind to the risks lingering within the business enterprise.  Their innate optimism may also cloud an ability to objectively analyze business risks and prevent them from seizing opportunities as a result of poor assessment capabilities.

Conducting a disciplined risk assessment and opportunity discovery exercise will uncover the risks and opportunities present in the enterprise and in the markets that the business serves.  This risk assessment is a great opportunity to communicate to lenders and credit providers that business management are capable risk managers and are a worthy credit risk.  Lenders will be impressed by the transparency of your risk governance practice and will be more disposed to provide financing for projects and opportunities that will propel future growth

Banks are looking for businesses that are prepared with their financial and business plans. Business owners must present a clear purpose for the loan tied to clearly defined business objectives.   The risk assessment exercise is a vital tool that assists in the construction of a business plan that builds  lender’s confidence in your business.  The assessment will reveal the largest risk factors confronting your business and outline clearly defined opportunities that promises optimal returns on loan capital.

Its music to a bankers ears that clients are managing risk well and have identified the most promising opportunities  for business investments.  It is usually a recipe for success and that will allow you and your banker to develop a trusted business relationship based on honesty and transparency.

Sum2’s Profit|Optimizer

Sum2 publishes the Profit|Optimizer.  The Profit|Optimizer is a risk assessment and opportunity discovery tool for small and mid-sized businesses.  It assists managers to identify and manage risk factors confronting their business. The goal of the Profit|Optimizer is to help business mangers demonstrate creditworthiness to lenders and make make informed capital allocation decisions.

Sum2 boasts a worldwide clientele of small and mid-sized business managers, bankers, CPA’s and risk management consultants that utilize the Profit|Optimizer to help their clients raise capital with effective risk governance.  Subscribe to The Profit|Optimizer here: Profit|Optimizer

Risk: small business, SME, credit, bank,

May 3, 2010 Posted by | banking, credit, Profit|Optimizer, risk management, small business, SME, Sum2 | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Profitability of Patriotism: SME Lending

What a  difference a year makes.  A year ago the banks came crawling to Washington begging for a massive capital infusion to avoid an Armageddon of the global financial system.  They sent out an urgent SOS for a $750 billion life preserver of tax payers money to keep the banking system liquid.  Our country’s chief bursar Hank Paulson, designed a craft that would help the banks remain afloat.  Into the market maelstrom Mr. Paulson launched the USS TARP as the vehicle to save our  distressed ship of state.  The TARP would prove itself to be our arc of national economic salvation.  The success of the TARP has allowed the banks to generate profits in one of the most prolific turnarounds since Rocky Balboa’s heartbreaking split decision loss to Apollo Creed.  Some of the banks have repaid the TARP loans to the Fed.  Now as Christmas approaches and this incredible year closes bankers have visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in their heads as they dream about how they will spend this years bonus payments based on record breaking profitability.   President Obama wants the banks to show some love and return the favor by sharing more of their recapitalized balance sheets by lending money to small and mid-size enterprises (SME).

Yesterday President Obama held a banking summit in Washington DC.  Mr. Obama wanted to use the occasion to shame the “fat cat bankers” to expand their lending activities to SMEs.  A few of the bigger cats were no shows.  They got fogged in at Kennedy Airport.  They called in to attend the summit by phone.    Clearly shame was not the correct motivational devise to encourage the bankers to begin lending to  SMEs.    Perhaps the President should have appealed to the bankers sense of patriotism; because now is the time that all good bankers must come to the aid of their country.  Failing that, perhaps Mr. Obama should make a business case that SME lending  is good for profits.   A vibrant SME sector is a powerful driver for wealth creation and economic recovery.    A beneficial and perhaps unintended consequence of this endeavor is  the economic security and political stability of the nation.  These  are the  worthy concerns of all true patriots and form a common ground where bankers and government can engage the issues that undermine our national security.

The President had a full agenda to cover with the bank executives.  Executive compensation, residential mortgage defaults, TARP repayment plans, bank capitalization and small business lending were some of the key topics.  Mr. Obama was intent on chastising the reprobate bankers about their penny pinching credit policies toward small businesses.  Mr. Obama conveyed to bankers that the country was still confronted with major economic problems.  Now that the banks capital  base has been stabilized with Treasury supplied funding they must get some skin into the game and belly up to the bar by making more loans to SMEs.

According to the FDIC, lending by U.S. banks fell by 2.8 percent in the third quarter.  This is the largest drop since 1984 and the fifth consecutive quarter in which banks have reduced lending.   The decline in lending is a serious  barrier to economic recovery.  Banks reduced the amount of money extended to their customers by $210.4 billion between July and September, cutting back in almost every category, from mortgage lending to funding for corporations.  The TARP was intended to spur new lending and the FDIC observed that the largest recipients of aid  were responsible for a disproportionate share of the decline in lending. FDIC Chairman Sheila C. Bair stated,   “We need to see banks making more loans to their business customers.”

The withdrawal of $210 billion in credit from the market is a major impediment for economic growth.  The trend to delever credit exposures is a consequence of the credit bubble and is a sign of prudent management of credit risk.  But the reduction of lending activity impedes economic activity and poses barriers to SME capital formation.  If the third quarter reduction in credit withdrawal were annualized the amount of capital removed from the credit markets is about 7% of GDP.  This coupled with the declining business revenues due to recession creates a huge headwind for SMEs.  It is believed that 14% of SMEs are in distress and without expanded access to credit, defaults and  bankruptcies will continue to rise.  Massive business failures by SMEs shrinks market opportunities for banks and threatens their financial health  and long term sustainability.

The number one reason why financial institutions turn down a SME for business loans is due to risk assessment. A bank will look at a number of factors to determine how likely a business will or will not be able to return the money it has borrowed.

SME business managers must conduct a thorough risk assessment if it wishes to attract loan capital from banks.  Uncovering the risks and opportunities associated with products and markets, business functions, macroeconomic risks and understanding the critical success factors and measurements that create competitive advantage are cornerstones of effective risk management.  Bankers need assurances that managers understand the market dynamics and risk factors present in their business and how they will be managed to repay credit providers. Bankers need confidence that managers have identified the key initiatives that maintain profitability.  Bankers will gladly extend credit to SMEs that can validate that credit capital is being deployed effectively by astute managers.  Bankers will approve loans when they are confident that SME managers are making prudent capital allocation decisions that are based on a diligent risk/reward assessment.

Sum2 offers products that combine qualitative risk assessment applications with Z-Score quantitative metrics to assess the risk profile and financial health of SMEs.   The Profit|Optimizer calibrates qualitative and quantitative risk scoring  tools; placing a powerful business management tool into the hands of SME  managers.   SME managers  can  demonstrate  to bankers that their requests for credit capital is based on a thorough risk assessment and opportunity discovery exercise and will be effective stewards of loan capital.

On a macro level SME managers must vastly improve their risk management and corporate governance cultures to attract the credit capital of banks.  Through programs like the Profit|Optimizer,  SME’s can position themselves to participate in credit markets with the full faith of friendly bankers.  SME lending is a critical pillar to a sustained economic recovery and stability of our banking system.  Now is the time for all bankers  to come to the aid of their country by opening up credit channels to SMEs to restore  economic growth and the wealth of our  nation.

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Risk: banking, credit, SME

December 15, 2009 Posted by | banking, credit crisis, economics, FDIC, government, SME, TARP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Deloitte’s Nine Principles of Risk Intelligence

risk_triangleIs your business risk intelligent?  A review of  the following principles offers company executives a concise outline of objectives central to a risk intelligent enterprise.   Deloitte recently published White Paper, Effective Integration, Enhanced Decision Making, The Risk Intelligent Tax Executive outlined the following nine fundamental principles.

Nine fundamental principles of a Risk Intelligence Program

1. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, a common definition of risk, which addresses both value preservation and value creation, is used consistently throughout the organization.

2. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, a common risk framework supported by appropriate standards is used throughout the organization to manage risks.

3. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, key roles, responsibilities, and authority relating to risk management are clearly defined and delineated within the organization.

4. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, a common risk management infrastructure is used to support the business units and functions in the performance of their risk responsibilities.

5. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, governing bodies (e.g., boards, audit committees, etc.) have appropriate transparency and visibility into the organization’s risk management practices to discharge their responsibilities.

6. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, executive management is charged with primary responsibility for designing, implementing, and maintaining an effective risk program.

7. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, business units (departments, agencies, etc.) are responsible for the performance of their business and the management of risks they take within the risk framework established by executive management.

8. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, certain functions (e.g., Finance, Legal, Tax, IT, HR, etc.) have a pervasive impact on the business and provide support to the business units as it relates to the organization’s risk program.

9. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, certain functions (e.g., internal audit, risk management, compliance, etc.) provide objective assurance as well as monitor and report on the effectiveness of an organization’s risk program to governing bodies and executive management.

Sum2’s business mission is to help small and mid-sized enterprises (SME) become risk intelligent enterprises.  Sum2’s product suites enables managers to implement sound risk management practices guided by these principles of risk intelligence.  We firmly believe that consistent practice of sound risk management  holds the key to profitability and long term sustainable growth.

Sum2’s Profit|Optimizer product series provides mangers a consistent framework and scoring methodology to assess, aggregate and price risk, identify actions, assign responsibility and align business functions to mitigate risks and achieve business goals.

Sum2’s IARP, helps managers to assess and manage the rising threat of tax risk exposures that present significant compliance risk to the enterprise.

We welcome an opportunity to help you erect a risk intelligence enterprise.

Risk: risk management, business intelligence, compliance, sustainability, profitability

November 11, 2009 Posted by | branding, business continuity, compliance, IARP, operations, regulatory, reputational risk, risk management, SME, sound practices, Sum2 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Sum2 Announces Business Alliance with CreditAides

sum2 risk managementSum2, LLC is pleased to announce that they will begin to offer the corporate rating products of CreditAides. CreditAides is an independent corporate rating and research firm that provides financial health assessment reports and credit risk analysis ratings on companies using the Z-Score methodology. The CreditAides reporting system is a predictive tool that helps managers gain insights into the financial health of a company.  The insights help managers identify a company’s ability to remain competitive and financially sound while measuring the impact of business initiatives to achieve profitability and growth.

James McCallum, the President of Sum2 stated, “The CreditAides quantitative assessment tool is a wonderful compliment to the qualitative risk assessment applications offered in the Profit|Optimizer.  Now our clients have a recognized standard to measure the financial impact and returns on capital allocation decisions they implemented as a result of a Profit|Optimizer review.  The challenging business cycle requires that managers allocate capital to a few select initiatives.  It is critical that managers fund initiatives that mitigate the greatest risk and provide the potential of optimal returns.  The combination of CreditAides reports with the Profit|Optimizer will provide our clients with the ability to discern the optimal initiatives to fund and measure the effectiveness of their capital allocation decisions.”

The Profit|Optimizer guides business managers through an thorough enterprise risk assessment.   Uncovering the risks and opportunities associated with products and markets, business functions,  numerous macro risks and critical success factors are key components of  effective enterprise risk management (ERM).  ERM requires the assessment and aggregation of hundreds of risk factors.  The Profit|Optimizer helps managers identify the key initiatives that will  help to maintain profitability and sustainable growth.  The use of CreditAides provides an important measurement tool to affirm and validate that managers have made correct bets on capital allocation decisions.

Z-Score Financial Analysis Tool

The Z-Score formula for predicting bankruptcy was developed by Edward I. Altman a Professor of Finance at New York University.  The Z-Score is used to assess the financial health of companies and the probability of  bankruptcy.   The Z-score uses multiple corporate income and balance sheet values to score  the financial health of a company. The use of  Z-scores is a strategic tool managers use to measure and validate the effectiveness of their business strategy.

Risk Assessment and Opportunity Discovery

The recession has created macroeconomic conditions that are causing widespread business failures.  Small and mid-size business enterprises (SME) require effective risk management tools to effectively manage business threats to survive extreme business downturns.  Assessing, measuring, aggregating, prioritizing, pricing and initiating actions are the tactical means risk managers use to support the business objectives of the enterprise.  Sound risk management practices are central to a healthy corporate governance culture and are central to maintaining profitability and long term sustainable growth for the business enterprise.

The Profit|Optimizer

Profit|Optimizer helps managers assess risk factors and uncover opportunities that are always present in the business environment. The product is based on Basel II working group recommendations that outline optimal risk profiles of SMEs.  The Profit|Optimizer incorporates four focus areas.

1.) product and market dynamics (products, clients, competition, supply chain, market segments)

2.) business functions (management, sales and marketing, operations, facilities, IT, HR, accounting)

3.) critical success factors (generic and specific)

4.) macro risk factors (macroeconomic, STEEPLE, SWOT, segment benchmarks, business plan optimization)

SME’s lack of agility and reluctance to change has made it difficult for these businesses to survive severe market conditions. There are tremendous market forces at work in the current business environment that are creating dangers and opportunities for SMEs if they can effectively assess and adapt.  Business managers must be astute and exacting how they allocate the precious capital resources required to achieve business objectives.  The Profit|Optimizer helps managers make better capital allocation decisions.  CreditAides provides fiscal metrics to validate or adjust business strategy and initiatives.   Sum2’s risk assessment products coupled with the measurement tools provided by CreditAides creates a leading edge solution for SME risk management.  The ease of use and superior value proposition  of the combined solution is unsurpassed in the market.

About CreditAides

CreditAides (www.creditaides.com) online business analysis and credit assessment portal provides business managers with important insights into the financial health of their company. Automated financial analysis improves efficiency of the business enterprise.  CreditAides reports are used to assess the financial health of clients, supply chain and used to demonstrate financial health and credit worthiness to credit and equity providers.

True underlying financial health of companies has never been harder to identify and never been of greater importance. Across both equity and credit markets, understanding relative financial strengths of companies is paramount for effective business decisions.  Good decisions cannot be made without good quality information generated by incisive tools.

About Sum2, LLC

Sum2 (www.sum2.com) was founded in 2002 to promote the commercial application of corporate sound practices. Sum2 manufactures, aggregates, packages and distributes innovative sound practice digital content products to select channels and market segments. Sum2’s sound practice products address risk management, corporate governance, shareholder communications and regulatory compliance. Sum2’s objective is to assist businesses and industries to implement sound practices to create value for company stakeholders and demonstrate corporate governance excellence to assure profitability and long term sustainable growth.

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Risk: bankruptcy, default, market, credit

November 5, 2009 Posted by | banking, Basel II, business, credit, CreditAides, recession, risk management, SME, sound practices, Sum2, sustainability | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment