Cash flow is the lifeblood of a business. Every successful company needs a steady source of income and cash on hand to pay bills and make payroll. Unfortunately, many business owners struggle with cash flow problems. Often, it's through no fault of their own, but it's important to know how to effectively deal with the factors that are stopping the flow.
According to a survey from office supply retailer Staples, 28% of small business owners say they lose sleep over cash flow problems; 48% say they pay others before paying themselves; and 28% had experienced cash flow problems such as postponing hiring.
Cash flow doesn't have to be complicated. Indeed, most cash flow problems have common causes. The following are the four factors that are most often at the root of cash flow problems, as well as advice on how to avoid or overcome them.
1. Not Paying Attention to Expenses - Many businesses end up in a cash flow crunch due to unexpected expenses (for example, costly repairs to equipment, replacing malfunctioning technology or a natural disaster) or too much money going out each month (such as ongoing expenses that have quietly crept up to an unsustainable level). Resolving a cash flow crisis requires that business leadership take a renewed, vigorous look at their ongoing cost structure. Every business owner should have a rigorous process in place to track expenses on a monthly basis and project future expenses for the months ahead. A good business accountant can work with you to make sure you have an eye on the overall health of your business cash flow and are better positioned to anticipate challenges as they arise.
2. Uncertainty about Future Cash Flow - Some businesses are so caught up in the day-to-day grind of getting work done and paying bills that they don’t take time to anticipate what's coming in the next few months. Maintaining healthy cash flow requires a long-term vision. Most accounting experts recommend that every business maintain a six-month cash flow projection with expected revenue and expenses, while also adjusting for any seasonal peaks and valleys.
3. Slow-Paying Customers - Many cash flow problems are caused by a delay in receivables, such as when a company’s customers or clients are slow in paying their bills. Far too many companies allow their customers to become delinquent in paying them, often without fully realizing the problem until it is having a major impact on their cash flow. Business owners need to put consistent policies and procedures in place to ensure that customers pay in a timely fashion. It's especially important to clarify your payment terms and expectations on every invoice, whether that’s “payment due within 30 days” or “payment due upon receipt.” Don’t assume that your customers automatically know what to expect be clear about when you expect to be paid for your products or services.
- What is small business invoice financing?
Although you may never have heard of this type of small business financing, it can be a valuable solution for your small business. As the name implies, invoice financing allows you to obtain an advance against the value of your business’s unpaid invoices. Here’s a closer look at how it works and what situations it’s useful for.
- Where does small business invoice financing add value?
There are many situations where invoice financing can help. Invoice financing works best for small businesses that don’t get paid right away, but instead invoice their customers and wait to receive payment in 30, 60 or 90 days (or even later).
Sometimes, waiting for those customers to pay you can really put a crimp in your cash flow. After-all, if more money is flowing out than flowing in, you are setting yourself up for a cash crunch; which is why many small businesses wind up out of business. Theoretically, your business is doing well because you have lots of outstanding invoices, but in reality, you don’t have the cash on hand to handle immediate expenses such as payroll and inventory. This is where invoice financing comes in handy. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE
4. No Plan for Collections - There comes a point when a slow-paying customer turns into a delinquent customer. What then? Many businesses do not have a standard process in place to collect on unpaid bills. It doesn't have to be complicated or time-consuming; it’s often a matter of scheduling collections into the overall sales process and making it part of ongoing daily business operations. Sometimes customers are slow in paying because you haven’t reminded them the money is due. It’s unfortunate that business owners need to remind customers that they owe money, but sometimes that little push is all you need to collect outstanding funds.
Cash flow problems are best avoided, but even if your business is experiencing a cash-flow crisis, there are several things you can do to get back on track. By implementing some basic processes to ensure timely invoices, collecting on unpaid bills and maintaining clear-eyed projections about your company’s future revenue and expenses, you can keep the cash flowing, and the company growing, for years to come.
Uneven cash flow is one of the biggest challenges of small businesses throughout all industries. In a perfect world, you’d walk into your local bank and walk out with a business loan long before you wound up in a cash crunch. Well, those days are long gone and not coming back any time soon, if at all. If you haven’t been in business at least two years, or lack good credit and collateral, chances are a traditional bank loan is never going to happen.
In order to deal with this shortfall, a cash flow loan may be your best option. For this type of business financing, lenders provide you funds and use your future expected cash flow as collateral for the loan. You’re essentially borrowing from cash that you expect to receive in the future by giving the lender the rights to a predetermined amount of these receivables. These are primarily used for working capital or take advantage of short-term ROI opportunities. Your credit scores will usually be checked, but they play less of a role. As the name indicates, the lender is more concerned with inspecting your cash flow (usually bank statements) to approve your application. Turnaround time is another great feature of a cash flow loan, as funding usually takes place in a matter of days.
A cash flow loan may be used for any business expense, but some common uses are:
- Working capital
- High ROI short-term opportunities
- Purchasing highly-discounted inventory
- Business expansion
Short-term cash flow loans are best used for short-term projects that would divert money from day-to-day expenses but ultimately grow your business, like taking on a big contract with a major company or adding extra seating in your restaurant. If you need cash fast, a cash flow loan may be your lifeline.
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