Effective Ways for Small Businesses to Avoid Cash Flow Problems
Without steady cash flow most businesses will fail to thrive, especially small businesses and start-ups. We've all heard the phrase "Cash Is King" and that's certainly true for established businesses, but for new businesses just getting started cash flow is even more important. Sadly, many new businesses fail to realize just how devastating cash flow problems can be to a business trying to establish themselves in the market. In fact, many businesses die a sad and lonely death simply because of bad cash management, and these are businesses that would otherwise have survived had they not experienced cash flow problems. Statistics show that 82% of businesses fail because they were unable to manage their cash. That's a tragic figure, especially when there are effective ways for new, small, and even large businesses to avoid these problems.
So, let's take a look at some important rules that small businesses should be aware of to ensure they never have to face liquidity.
No. 1: It's Cash That Sustains Business Growth
So many businesses don't consider cash flow an issue because they see the orders flooding in; however, many growing companies do experience cash flow problems. Increased sales generally mean increased costs to deliver orders; plus, in order to support the new volume of business other sections of a business typically need to grow. Your business may appear to be highly successful as orders continue coming in, but keep in mind that the faster your business grows the more financing it will need.
No. 2: Margins Are Just Accounting - They're Not Cash!
We know that accounting, and accountants, can be pretty creative with figures because there's nothing shareholders and board members love more than hearing about the industry-leading margins you're achieving; but your board members and shareholders are not the ones who have to find the money to meet payroll and pay your landlord. Margins don't pay your employees. Your sales may be booked down when your customer's order is delivered, but how long will it be before you receive payment? 30, 60, 90 days, or even longer? If your customers are not paying you and you're struggling to pay your expenses, your business is now in survival mode. Keep in mind that you may have great accounting margins but still have an empty bank account.
No. 3: When You're Selling B2B (Business-to-Business) Cash Flow Problems Will Likely Be Your First Issue
The more sales you make the more money you make, but when you're selling B2B it's not always that simple. Yes, you sell and deliver goods or services to another business and provide them with an invoice, and your customer will pay the invoice at a later date. But how much later? If you chase the business too hard for payment they'll probably never work with you again, so you could receive payment months later. You're not going to pass up businesses who buy with high volume, so you have no choice but to wait. So, you end up with a cash flow problem.
No. 4: Cash Flow Problems Can Occur Very Quickly
It doesn't take much for cash flow management to become a serious problem, so monitor your cash flow very carefully. Determine how much of your working capital is locked into receivables, inventories, raw materials, and so on; and know exactly how much money is required to meet both your sales targets and operating expenses. You may have made the sales but that doesn't mean you have the cash, and you may have paid for inventory but that doesn't mean it's automatically a cost of goods sold.
No. 5: Your Inventory Ties up Cash
You can't sell your goods until you've purchased or built them and, whether your goods are sold or not, your vendor still expects to be paid. This means that your inventory is locking up your cash. You could eventually make two times or even three times your money on your inventory, but margins do not equal cash.
No. 6: You Must Be Practical About Working Capital
Working capital is the figure left over when current liabilities are deducted from current assets, which means it's the money you have in your bank account available for meeting operating costs, paying vendors, and buying inventory - all the while waiting for your business customers to pay your invoices. Understanding and grasping the concept of working capital is a very necessary survival skill in business because being able to maintain sufficient cash to pay your own financial responsibilities whilst dealing with all the unknowns in business can be very tricky.
No. 7: Be Clear on What "Accounts Receivable" Actually Are
The money owed to you by your customers is called accounts receivable, which means the money that's sitting in your customer's bank account that belongs to you is called receivables. Just like inventory, the amount of money in your accounts receivable column is money you don't have. Certainly, you've done the deal and you've sent the invoice, but now you're waiting to be paid. You must remain very vigilant until such time as the invoice has been settled and the money is physically in your bank account.
8. Monitor the Health of Your Business Very Closely
Three aspects of your business that require close monitoring include -
-Inventory Turnover: Measure how long your inventory stays on your balance sheet without being converted to cash;
-Collection Days: Measure how long it takes to receive payment for services rendered or goods sold;
-Payment Days: Keep a record of how long you wait before paying suppliers.
Now, make a plan. Project these figures out to 12 or 18 months ahead then compare your plan to what actually occurs. This is a really great way of gaining some insight into your own business.
No. 9: Prepare for Financing before You Actually Need It
Don't wait until you need financing to start reaching out to finance companies. Contact companies who provide financing, especially credit line financing, and look for products where interest is not payable if the money is not used. Don't wait for your business to have cash flow issues. Waiting until you urgently need cash or a loan will subject you to higher interest rates and dodgy terms. Start the process while your business is healthy, which will allow you to negotiate finance terms from a position of strength. We strongly suggest you be proactive and find a partner ready to finance your business; a partner that's prepared to grow with you.