Five simple strategies to build business resiliency.
The growth trajectory of a business can be disrupted in many ways. Here are some strategies that can help you navigate everyday challenges and opportunities, as well as the tectonic shifts that can make or break a business.
Owners who stay current on issues affecting the economy, their market, and their customers are better prepared to address changing conditions. They know when to adjust a product line, streamline a process, or find a safer, more efficient way to pay invoices.
Paying vendors with single-use electronic credit cards, rather than checks, has been a winning strategy for St. Louis-based Alberici Group, one of the nation’s largest construction companies.
“The fraud prevention and other benefits of a single-use card really caught our attention,” says Jim Bredenkoetter, Alberici’s controller. “Even though our vendors would get paid faster with this approach, we knew it wouldn’t necessarily work with everyone’s business model,” he says. For example, some aren’t set up to accept credit cards.
Alberici’s banking partner, Commerce Bank, helped identify accepting vendors, scope the program’s size and perform the other due diligence. “The closer we looked, the more sense it made to move forward,” says Richard Jaggers, Alberici’s chief financial officer. Within six weeks of implementation, approximately 250 of the firm’s vendors had enrolled.
A strong cash position is important to businesses that want to grow without taking on excess risk. The more cash you have on hand, the easier it is to move quickly on opportunities, exit unprofitable activities or plan for what’s ahead.
One way to improve your cash position is by using tools that monitor the funds entering and leaving your business.
Nebraska Medicine, another client, improved cash flow and reduced its patient debt load from $10 million to $2 million by using Commerce Bank’s no-interest Health Services Financing (HSF®) program. Sheila Augustine, Nebraska Medicine’s director of patient financial services, credits the HSF® program’s lower-than-average default rate to Commerce’s strong credit culture.
Being equipped also means having credit available should needs arise. Alberici has five partner banks, including Commerce, to support its credit needs. “Our credit facility serves as a safety net,” explains Bredenkoetter. “Even though our balance sheet is strong, we like the fact that it’s there when we need it.”
Be a problem-solver.
Consider the conundrum facing a nonprofit hospital that serves many uninsured patients and many cancer patients — both groups with higher-than-average out-of-pocket expenses. How do you collect debts from low-income patients, providing the cash flow needed to care for more patients?
That was the dilemma facing officials at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Historically, the hospital gave these patients up to 12 months to pay. Those who defaulted were referred to collection agencies, resulting in significant uncollected debt.
To solve this problem, hospital officials turned to Commerce Bank, which recommended an extended, no-interest loan program patients can use to finance hospital bills. Since then, patient stress and bad debt have declined.
“Commerce created a solution that is both patient-friendly and hospital-friendly,” says Anne Goodwill Pritchett, senior vice president of revenue cycle operations at the medical center’s parent organization. “Serious illness is hard enough. The health services financing (HSF®) loan takes away their financial concerns.”
Be relationship driven.
A business does not grow strong by accident. Solid relationships with employees, vendors, customers and financial partners usually bolster that success.
Rather than shop for the lowest rate, for example, successful businesses often prefer to build a strong relationship with one bank. A shared history builds connections and understanding. A bank with a vested interest in your business can provide cost-saving insights and solutions.
Consider Nebraska Medicine, which has worked with Commerce since 2004 and became the first health system in the country to implement the bank’s electronic accounts payable card program. “Commerce is a great partner,” says Augustine. “They made implementation easy, even providing IT resources with setup.” In fact, the health system has added a number of additional Commerce solutions since.
Officials from the City of Richmond Heights, Missouri, also attest to the value of relationship banking. "Commerce is able to focus on our municipal needs and offer ideas we haven’t considered,” says Sara Fox, the city’s finance director. Jerry Rohr, chair of the city’s police and firefighter pension fund, “Year after year, we see the same faces so there’s a familiarity, a comfort level, and also a level of expertise that we appreciate.”
A resilient business is proactive. It anticipates and finds solutions to challenges, pivoting when necessary.
Proactive business owners tend to seek guidance from professionals who have solved similar challenges before. Commerce Bank is frequently called on to help build business resiliency. The bank’s investments in people, technology and innovative products allows Commerce to make your goals its goals, resulting in strong relationships that support long-term business success.
At Commerce Bank, we look at challenges as opportunities to innovate and see disruption as a chance to uncover new ways to add value. We value long-term relationships and strive to know your business well. We are ready to take on challenges and opportunities together, offering creative solutions to the challenges you face every day. Learn more at commercebank.com/BuiltForBusiness.
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