Inflation and Disinflation


Fiscal policy is related to inflation, which occurs when the prices of goods and services rise steadily throughout the economy. Although many factors (such as increases in the prices of imported goods) contribute to inflation, government borrowing is major factor. When the government borrows great sums of money to bolster the economy, the total amount of money circulating tends to increase. With more money chasing the same quantity of goods and services, inflation increases too.

Theoretically, the government is supposed to pay back its debt during inflationary times, thereby taking some of the excess money out of the economy and slowing inflation to moderate level. This system worked throughout 1950s and 1960s, but during the 1970s, inflation kept building. By the end of the decade, prices were increasing by almost 14 percent a year.

Inflation of this magnitude brings an unproductive mind-set. People become motivated to buy “before the prices goes up,” even if they have to borrow money to do it. With greater competition for available money, interest rates increase to a level that makes business borrowing riskier and business expansion slower. Businesses and individuals alike begin spending on short-term items instead of investing in things like new factories and children’s education, which are more valuable to the nation’s economy in the long run.

Because of the peculiar psychology that accompanies high inflation, slowing it has always been difficult. In addition, the causes of inflation are complex, and the remedies can be painful. Nevertheless, several factors conspired to bring about a period of disinflation, a moderation in the inflation rate, during the 1980s.

Whether inflation will remain under control is debatable. The country is still vulnerable to outside shock. Bad weather could jack up food prices, and political upheavals could limit the supply and boost the price of vital raw materials. Also, government efforts to stimulate the economy could rekindle inflation. When the economy slumps, the government is inclined to increase the money supply, which tends to drive prices up.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

The Role of Diversification


Corporate diversification is everywhere. Virtually all of the Fortune 1,000 (the largest 1,000 corporations in the US) are diversified, many of them to a great extent. Some corporations consist of dozen—even hundreds—of different businesses. Besides such corporate giants, many smaller firms, some with only a handful of employees, also diversify.

What is the strategic role of diversification? Popular answers to this question have changed dramatically over the last several decades. During the 1960s, diversification fueled tremendous corporate growth as corporations bought up dozens of businesses, regardless of the good or service sold. Managers based this diversification on unrelated businesses on the assumption that good managers could manage any business, allowing the formation of huge conglomerates of completely unrelated businesses. In the 1970s, managers began to emphasize diversification based on balancing cash flow between businesses. Corporate managers attempted to diversify so that the resulting portfolio would offer a balance between businesses that produced excess cash flows and those that needed additional cash flows beyond what they could produce themselves. The 1980s brought a broad-based effort to restructure corporations, as managers stripped out unrelated businesses and focused on a narrower range of operations. Restructuring usually also involved downsizing, and the largest corporations shrank in relation to the rest of the economy. In the 1990s, corporations have once again taken an interest in using diversification to grow. But unlike the unrelated diversification that took place in the 1960s, the trend in the 1990s is to diversify into related businesses, or at least into businesses in which the strengths of a popular managerial team fit the needs of the new business being added to the corporation.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Yoking Technology with Market Opportunities


Developing new products that cost less or perform better has always been crucial for any technically based company. In our increasingly turbulent business environment, developing the know-how to keep pace with or even ahead of technological developments and competitors’ moves is more important than ever for several reasons. First, exploding technology is spawning new products and processes at an accelerating rate that threatens almost every product and process in place. Second, competition continues to intensify from abroad and a plethora of new startups and many substitute technologies that encroach on established products and processes. Third, product innovations that result in superior performance or cost advantages are the best means of protecting or building market position without sacrificing profit margins. This is especially true in today’s world when many industrial markets are flat or slow growth and excess capacity is commonplace.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Managing Cash and Liquidity


In a turbulent environment, cash returns are important, if not more important, than reported profit returns. Cash returns lead to liquidity, and liquidity is a top priority consideration whenever risks and uncertainties surround a business situation, as they do in so many cases today. Cash and liquidity put any company in a better position to withstand a surprise blow, adapt to sudden changes, and capitalize on the narrower windows of opportunity that are commonplace in a turbulent environment.

This doesn’t mean that profits and profit growth are not important. The whole purpose of any business enterprise is to maximize profits and profit growth, but this objective will  not be achieved if business unit managers do not focus more time and attention on managing their cash and liquidity. Any entrepreneur that has lived through a start-up knows the importance of cash and liquidity. The entrepreneur knows from experience that a business can go bankrupt even while it is reporting profits. But it will never go bankrupt as long as its cash and liquidity positions are strong. Most corporate executives understand this point also, but many do not follow through to make sure it is sufficiently stressed or understood at the operating level. This is where the problem lies. Most business unit managers who operate under a corporate umbrella tend to overlook the importance of managing their own cash and liquidity and look instead to the corporation as a never ending source of funds.

The results are apparent in most corporations. Capital expenditure proposals tend to be a “wish list” often justified on project volume gains or cost savings that never occur. Working capital is allowed to build without adequate regard for carrying costs on the cash commitment. In short, overinvestment in plant and equipment, and working capital often serves as a buffer to cover sloppy business practices and control. These are practices that inevitably lead to an investment base that is too big for the business and to marginal profit returns.

Many operating managers in a corporation are not even aware of the costs incurred while excess capital is tied up in the business. This is not an exaggeration. Just ask any four or five business unit managers how much it costs to carry their inventory. Most of them will acknowledge an interest cost of, say 7—8 percent, but few will recognize that total carrying costs, which include storage, taxes, obsolescence, and shrink, actually run closer to 30 percent in today’s environment. We would also bet that none of them have such charges against their earnings, even though it is a very legitimate cost of doing business.

Not every company operates this way. Most corporate executives are not tough minded or rigorous enough in challenging cash commitments, and most business unit managers have more cash tied up in their business than required.

Ideally, every manager should think like a small business entrepreneur with his or her own money at risk. If this were the case, we would not see so many companies with bloated balance sheets and marginal returns. Left on their own, most business unit managers do not think this way, however. Life is not easier when you can draw almost at will on coroprate resources to meet the payroll, build inventories, and buy supplies, tooling and a lot of equipment. Under such conditions you don’t have to worry very much about how to make ends meet.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Disambiguating Cash Budget


Most people plan expenditures for food, clothing, and other needs on the basis of expected income. Along with these short-term plans, many individuals and families use income estimates to plan for long-term activities, such as college expenses, the purchase of a house or car. This process of planning for the financial needs of the future is called budgeting. A budget, whether formal or informal, is a plan for utilization of anticipated resources.

The budget of a business serves much the same function as an individual or family budget. Like a personal or family budget, a business budget plans the expenditure of anticipated funds for immediate and long-term goals.

One budget common to both large and small businesses is called the cash budget. The cash budget is a detailed plan showing how cash resources will be acquired and used over a specific time period. For many companies, this time period is monthly for the first three months of the budget period, then quarterly for the remainder of the year. A typical cash budget is composed of four major sections:

  1. The receipts section. This section consists of the sum of the opening cash balance and estimated cash receipts for the budget period. For many firms, the major source of cash receipts is sales.
  2. The disbursement section. This section consists of all estimated cash payments for the budget period. Examples are payments for labor and materials, taxes, equipment purchases, and advertising.
  3. The cash excess or cash deficiency section. The entries in this section represent the difference between the totals of the receipts section and the disbursements section. If receipts are greater than disbursements, there is an excess of cash. If receipts are less than disbursements, there is a cash deficiency.
  4. The financing section. This section gives an account of any borrowing or loan repayments projected to take place during the budget period.

While the cash budget is useful to all companies, it is especially helpful to small firms because management can exercise more control in matching income with disbursements, in negotiating loans with the most favorable interest rates and terms, and in planning investments when there is an excess of cash.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please contact www.asifjmir.com