• Thomas Russell

Experts offer keys to having proper financial tools in place

Ray AllegrezzaRay Allegrezza, right, editorin- chief of Furniture/Today, moderates the Mastering the Money discussion with panelists Jon Lucas, left, of CIT, Suneet Paul of NewComLink and Dan Schneider of SIB Development and Consulting.
NAPLES, Fla. - Often a great idea combined with an intelligent strategy and strong execution can make for a successful business.
     But three financial experts speaking at Furniture/Today's annual leadership conference here noted that the best laid plans can fall flat without the proper financial tools in place.
     Panelists included Dan Schneider, founder of SIB Development & Consulting; Suneet Paul, cofounder and CEO of NewCom- Link, and Jon Lucas, president of CIT Trade Finance.
     Schneider's business analyzes the fixed monthly costs of various businesses, looking for ways to save money over the short and long terms. Paul's business helps identify financing options for consumers wanting to purchase big-ticket durable goods such as furniture. CIT Trade Finance has been a financial service provider to the furniture industry for more than 100 years, Lucas said.
     The experts spoke on topics ranging from the services their businesses provide, to the outlook for the industry.
    Schneider noted that some business do not know they are overpaying some vendors until a company like his comes in to identify areas where they can save money. Some vendors, for example, are overcharging customers based on specific terms in contracts. Sometimes, he said, executives who are proud of having achieved a new deal fail to communicate to accounts payable the new rates to expect.
     Paul noted that customers who end up being declined for credit at a particular retailer likely won't come back to that store. His firm helps identify other financing options available to consumers with less than stellar credit ratings, which in turn, can help close a sale.
     "We offer different tools for different customers," he said comparing the credit toolbox to a Swiss Army knife. "Think about how you can maximize that revenue."
     Lucas identified several trends occurring in the industry that could lead to further growth beyond the high single to double digit growth most of his clients are experiencing this year.
     "We hope to see that continue in 2014," he said.
     Among the trends he sees happening in the industry right now include:
     A large amount of financing is available at low rates. However, many businesses remain afraid of risk due to the uncertainties in Washington, D.C., as well as ongoing high unemployment in certain regions.
    With rising labor costs in Asia and cost savings with sourcing overseas diminishing, he sees some manufacturing continuing to return to the U.S. This, combined with higher freight costs from overseas and more automation in U.S. plants, is helping propel interest in domestic production.
     Still, managing production costs can be a challenge. "When you are leveraging your balance sheet, you have to move your inventory fast," he said.
     Despite some of the challenges, Lucas said, his company is excited to be in the industry serving both retailers and manufacturers. Many of his clients, he said, also see positive things on the horizon.
     "The overall economy is growing at a slow pace, but our clients are optimistic," he said.

Thomas RussellThomas Russell | Associate Editor, FurnitureToday

I'm Tom Russell and have worked at Furniture/Today since August 2003. Since then, I have covered the international side of the business from a logistics and sourcing standpoint. Since then, I also have visited several furniture trade shows and manufacturing plants in Asia, which has helped me gain perspective about the industry in that part of the world. As I continue covering the import side of the business, I look forward to building on that knowledge base through conversations with industry officials and future overseas plant tours. From time to time, I will file news and other industry perspectives online and, as always, welcome your response to these Web postings.

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