The Fourth Quarter Games Have Begun!

By Anita Campbell - It's almost exactly the middle of the 4th quarter of the fiscal year for most American companies. The race for 4th quarter earnings and cash flow numbers is well underway. And you know what that means!

CFO Magazine recently wrote about the fourth quarter dash for cash, noting:

Let the games begin.

The working capital games, that is. Right now, companies all over America, in every industry, are beginning a dash for cash. If past is prologue, many companies will go to great lengths to slash their working capital in the fourth quarter. The goal: to paint a beautiful picture of their cash flows by December 31 -- one suitable for framing in the annual report.

To that end, companies will grant extremely favorable terms to customers, and make liberal use of discounts and rebates. They will step up their collection efforts, even as they hold back on paying their vendors. They will push inventory orders back on suppliers. They will do everything they can, in short, to free up cash from receivables, payables, and inventory, the components of working capital.

So what does this mean to you and your clients? Well, it depends on the size of the company you work for or represent.

If you are on the side of small companies that sell products and services to these big corporations, then you're on the receiving end of these cash machinations.

Notice the part I bolded in the quote above, about holding payables. Yep, it's going to be the small vendors' payables that get held.

There's a good chance that if your small company or client hasn't been paid by now by big customers, they are not going to receive payments until after January 1, 2008. Or at the very least December's payable will be held back.

The thing to tell your clients is, in the words of Michael Corleone, "it's just business." Chances are, the corporate contact who hires the small vendor isn't even aware that Finance is holding payables. You see, that internal corporate contact is not in charge. Finance-with-a-capital-F is running the show until the 4th quarter ends.

When I was young and naive in the corporate world, it wasn't until I got calls from my vendors and service providers asking "what gives" that I learned that Finance was holding payables. Of course, eventually I just came to expect it every 4th quarter. But there usually wasn't much I could do to speed things up. It wasn't my call.

Now that I run my own small business and know that other small businesses and independent contractors rely on me, too, in their food chain, I really feel caught in the middle of the Q4 cash dash. Like many small businesses, I often feel wedged between outstanding invoices owed me and the bills my company owes.

So what's a small vendor to do? Batten down the hatches and watch your own cash like a hawk in Q4. If necessary, make sure lines of credit are flowing to make it through to 2008 when the payables faucet turns on again.

You know the drill ... just make sure your small-business clients do, too.

Bloggers crew

Steve Knowles has spent 25 years in business and practice in the UK, but he also worked in the states and the years haven't dulled his way of seeing an alternative view to everyone else, and every day is a new adventure.

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Joel M. Ungar, CPA is a lifelong resident of the Detroit area and a graduate of The University of Michigan. He is a principal with Silberstein Ungar, PLLC, a Top 15 auditor of SEC public reporting companies.

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Allan Boress, CPA, with over 25 years as a practitioner and consultant to the accounting profession. Mr. Boress is the author of 12 published books in 6 different languages, including a best-seller, The "I-Hate-Selling" Book.

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Larry Perry, CPA, CPA Firm Support Services, LLC, is the author of accounting and auditing manuals, author and presenter of live staff training seminars, and author of webcast and self-study CPE programs. He blogs about small audits, reviews, and compilations.

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Sandra Wiley, COO and Shareholder, is ranked by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her prominent role as an industry expert on HR and training as well as influence as a management and planning consultant. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant's Alliance. Sandra is a certified Kolbe™ trainer who advises firms on building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff.
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Maria Calabrese, CIR, Human Resources manager for Fazio, Mannuzza, Roche, Tankel, LaPilusa, LLC in Cranford, New Jersey, Maria's topics revolve around the world of: Mentoring, Performance management, and The "Y Generation," a.k.a. "The whY generation".

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William Brighenti is a CPA, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified [Business] Valuation Analyst, operating an accounting, tax, and QuickBooks consulting firm in Hartford, Connecticut, Accountants CPA Hartford.

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Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA, is the publisher of TaxMama.com, and author of the weekly syndicated Ask TaxMama column. She provides answers to tax questions from taxpayers and tax professionals worldwide.

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Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP is the CPA Programs Leader for Intacct Corporation responsible for leading the CPA/BPO Partners nationally.

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Brian Strahle is the owner of LEVERAGE SALT, LLC where he provides state and local tax technical services to accounting firms, law firms and tax research organizations across the United States. He also writes a weekly column in Tax Analysts State tax Notes entitled, "The SALT Effect." For more info, visit his website: www.leveragestateandlocaltax.com
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Scott H. Cytron, ABC, is president of Cytron and Company, known for helping companies and organizations improve their bottom line through a hybrid of strategic public relations, communications, marketing programs and top-notch client service. An accredited consultant, Scott works with companies, organizations and individuals in professional services (accounting, finance, medical, legal, engineering), high-tech and B2B/B2C product/service sales.
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Rita Keller is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker, author, mentor and blogger. She has over 30 years hands-on experience in CPA firm management, marketing, technology and administrative operations.

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Stacy Kildal is the mom of two fantastic kids, an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Certified Enterprise Solutions ProAdvisor, Sleeter Group Certified Consultant, a nationally recognized member of the Intuit Trainer and Writer Network, and co-host of RadioFree QuickBooks.
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Michael Alter's blog specializes in providing practical advice to those who seek greater profitability and practice management tactics that enhance deeper client relationships.
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Sally Glick, CMO, Principal, Marketer of the Year in 2003 and AAM Hall of Famer in 2007, leads a lively discussion of the constantly expanding roles of marketing and the professional marketers that drive this initiative in accounting firms of all sizes.

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The IMA Young Professionals Blog features the insights of IMA’s Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.

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FEI Financial Reporting Blog provides highlights from SEC, PCAOB, FASB, IASB, and other regulatory news, including reporting under Sarbanes-Oxley Sect 404. It is written by Edith Orenstein, Director of Technical Policy Analysis at FEI.

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Sue Anderson has 30 years of experience in continuing education for accountants. Currently she is the program director for online CPE provider CPE Link.

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Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members.

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Caleb Newquist is the Editor-in-Chief of Sift Media US, overseeing content for both AccountingWEB and Going Concern.
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Leita Hart-Fanta, CPA, CGFM, and CGAP is the author of "The Yellow Book Interpreted" and owner of Yellowbook-CPE.com a website devoted to training for governmental auditors.

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AccountingWEB is more than just a U.S. team of journalists and financial and technology experts - we have an international side, too! Members of our British team who publish AccountingWEB.co.uk share their ideas, insights, and perspectives from across the pond.

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