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Cash Flow

Cash is King: Managing Cash Flow for Business Survival and Growth

In the end, business survival and growth almost always come back to the same thing: cash!

Greg Fisher

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Part 1

Description of Cash Cycle Analysis

The cash cycle represents the use of cash in the day-to-day operations of the business. A cash cycle analysis is a process of looking at how cash might be unnecessarily locked up in the workings of the business. Within any business, there are three areas where cash may be getting unnecessarily ‘trapped’:

1. Accounts receivable

What customers owe for what you’ve sold on credit. This represents money that ‘belongs’ to your business but is currently inaccessible for operating the business.

2. Inventory

Materials, work-in-process, and finished goods on hand for manufacturing and distribution companies or unbilled services for work already performed but not yet invoiced for service firms.

3. Accounts payable

What you owe suppliers for what you’ve bought on credit. This is an area where, if you fully utilise the credit given to you by suppliers, you can release extra cash into your business.

In doing a cash cycle analysis one carefully analyses how much cash is locked up in each of these elements of the business and then works to unlock this cash in a safe and responsible way. How do you perform a cash cycle analysis to unlock cash within your business?

Step 1

Calculate the cash days for each element of the cash cycle

The first step is to understand how many days’ worth of cash are locked up in each element of the cash cycle. The cash locked up in accounts receivable is calculated as the accounts receivable balance divided by the average sales per day. The cash locked up in inventory is calculated as the inventory balance, divided by the average daily cost of sales; and the cash days in accounts payable is the accounts payable balance divided by the average daily cost of sales (see the equations below for the calculation of these amounts). The total days in the cash cycle can then be calculated as accounts receivable days, plus the inventory days less the accounts payable days.

Step 2

Assess whether the number of days’ cash in each element of the cash cycle is reasonable

All businesses need to have some cash tied up in the cash cycle but the key to effective financial management is to reduce the overall days tied up in the cash cycle to a competitive level. Therefore to have more cash to grow the business you need to try to reduce the number of days in accounts receivable and inventory and to increase the number of days in accounts payable within a range that is reasonable and sensible.

Having calculated the number of days in each element of the cash cycle in step 1, the next step is to assess your business days in each element of the cash cycle in relation to:

  • The number of days in prior periods to see if cash management is improving or declining
  • The number of days provided for in firm policies (the policies of your firm for accounts receivable and inventory and the policies of your suppliers for accounts payable)
  • The number of days of other firms in the industry  (see alongside)

By comparing the days in each element of the cash cycle over time, one can see whether you have been more or less effective at managing your cash over time. By comparing days to firm policies you can assess if firm policies are actually being implemented and by assessing the days’ cash in comparison to others in the industry you can assess whether you are competitive compared to other firms.

Step 3

Set targets for managing each element of the cash cycle

Most people discover that there is room for improvement with respect to the amount of cash tied up in accounts receivable, accounts payable or inventory. The next step is to set targets to improve these balances. The targets for these amounts should be reasonable within the industry in which the firm operates. You should set targets that are ambitious but not so unreasonable that you are unable to operate effectively. For example it may be an industry norm to expect customers to pay invoices on 30 days. It is then unreasonable to set a target of 15 days for accounts receivable. You may need to keep a certain amount of inventory on hand to maintain customer service levels; it is then destructive to set targets that reduce inventory levels to levels that are dangerously low. It is also unwise to set a target to pay accounts payable on 50 days if your supplier’s policy is 30 days; you will just develop poor relations with your supplier.

Step 4

Start managing each element of the cash cycle

Having set targets for improvement, it is time to go to work on managing these balances to achieve the targets that you have set for your business.

To reduce accounts receivable you could:

  • Look to get invoices out more efficiently (eg by email). Incentivise the people in accounts to send out invoices as quickly as possible.
  • Adjust the credit policy to reduce the number of days’ credit allowed to customers (but only do this if it will not have a significant negative effect on sales).
  • Actively follow-up with customers to collect receivables within the credit terms that you have given them.
  • Incentivise customers to pay early (eg by offering discounts or rewards).

To manage the inventory levels downward you could:

  • Identify what inventory you need regularly and what you need less regularly and manage it accordingly, with lower inventory balances for stock that you seldom need.
  • Keep smaller amounts of stock on hand and set up relationships with suppliers where they agree to provide goods more regularly in smaller batches.
  • Identify slow moving and obsolete stock and provide incentives to move it off the floor.

To release cash within the accounts receivable balance, you could:

  • Ensure that you are using the credit terms that customers provide.
  • Negotiate longer credit terms with customers.

If the targets that you set are reasonable and you implement these tactics in a reasonable and responsible way, over time you should be able to reduce the amount of cash tied up in the cash cycle to achieve your goals and have more cash to build the business.

Step 5

Review progress

The cash cycle needs to be reviewed and managed on an ongoing basis. It is amazing how easy it is for the accounts receivable and inventory balance to creep up if unchecked, thereby sucking cash out of the business. The cash cycle numbers — accounts receivable days, inventory days and accounts payable days — should become part of the monthly management dashboard for any business. Managers who observe that these numbers are moving in the wrong direction should immediately investigate and take action to rectify the situation. In this way you can ensure that the business has as much cash as possible to continually fuel growth. »Many times managers think that a cash injection into a business must come from outside the organisation — they desperately apply for bank loans or try to contact a long lost rich uncle to invest in the business. The reality is that you can often engineer extra cash from inside your business if you just manage your finances more effectively. What can you do to ensure that you have adequate cash to keep your business alive? In this article we will highlight a specific process for managing and unlocking cash in your business.

Accessing financial data on other firms in your industry

The easiest place to find financial information about other firms in your industry is to look at the financial statements of firms that are listed on the JSE or AltX exchange.

These firms are required to publish their annual financial statements so their financial information can be accessed via one of the following sources:

  • The company website — usually under the investor relations section
  • The Moneyweb website — go to the website (www.moneyweb.co.za); in the top right corner go to “CLICK-A-COMPANY”; click on the names of the companies that you are interested in and then look for SENS announcements further down the page that contain financial results for the company. From these announcements you can get information required to calculate the number of days in accounts recievable, inventory and/or accounts payable.

Part 2

Case Study

Presto Print

Presto Print is a local printing business doing bulk printing jobs for small and medium size businesses. Samantha Graham, the manager of Presto Print, wants to expand the business but to do so she needs to buy two new printing machines valued at R110 000. She was convinced that she would need to get a bank loan to buy the additional machines but her corporate banker was not getting back to her with an answer on her request for finance.

Getting frustrated she wondered whether there was another option. An examination of her recent set of financial statements reveals that there may be.

Step 2

Assess whether the number of days’ cash in each element of the cash cycle is reasonable

Based on the table of comparisons, it is evident that Samantha Graham needs to implement better accounts receivable management practices at Presto Print. The number of days’ cash in accounts receivable is creeping up over time and it is much higher than the firm policy and the industry average. It also appears that there is room for improvement in her inventory management practices.

She has too many days’ worth of cash tied up in inventory compared to the industry average and she has never established an inventory management policy specifying how much inventory she intends to keep on hand. There appears to be less opportunity to release cash through the accounts payable balance. It would be irresponsible to extend it much higher than its current level as her suppliers credit policy is for outstanding invoices to be paid on 30 days.

Step 3

Set targets for managing each element of the cash cycle

The next step is to set targets for how many days’ cash Presto Print should aim to have tied up in each element of the cash cycle. Based on the assessment of the industry averages and the firm policies and after consultation with the other employees in her business, Samantha Graham decided to set the following targets:

  • Accounts receivable days:  36 days
  • Inventory days: 30 days
  • Accounts payable days: 35 days

To achieve these targets she would need to reduce accounts receivable by 11,93 days, which would result in (R2 101 085 /365 days) x 11,93 days = R68 673 extra cash. If she reduced inventory down to 30 days she would release another (R845 095/365 days) x 38,92 days = R90 113 worth of cash into the business. Therefore, through careful management of the accounts receivable and inventory balance there is the potential to release more than R150 000 worth of cash into the business at current business levels.

Step 4

Go to work at managing each element of the cash cycle

Having established reasonable targets for each element of the cash cycle, the next step is to aggressively manage these elements of the business to achieve the targets.

To do this, Samantha Graham first shared the targets with all her staff and explained why and how the management of these elements of the business would have a significant positive impact on the business. Furthermore, she promised that if they achieved the targets and maintained them for six months she would take them and their partners out for a dinner at a fancy restaurant and grant each of them two extra days of paid leave in the following year.

Thereafter, she worked with her accountant to put more processes in place to get invoices out quicker and to follow up on payments five days before they are due, on the day they are due and every two days after they are overdue. She also reviewed her debtors book over the last two years and identified the clients that were most guilty of paying very late. She called each one up and had a friendly but firm conversation with them saying that she was thrilled to have their business but then reminding them of the policies and asking them in a nice way to please try to comply.

Furthermore, she reviewed the inventory balances for the past two years and discovered that they were keeping large amounts of paper on hand that was very seldom requested by clients. She identified all the paper that fell into this category and called her supplier asking if they would be willing to take some of it back at a discount as payment for some of Presto Print’s recent purchases. They agreed! She then categorised all the paper and ink that they stored on hand according to how regularly it was used. She set targets for the amount of each category of inventory

they would keep on hand. She then called Presto Print’s suppliers to confirm how long it would take them to deliver paper and ink from the time of order. Using this information she set reorder levels for each category of inventory. She made the reorder levels clear to all her staff and instructed them to inform her when they reached the reorder levels. After seven months of implementing these simple but effective tactics, the accounts receivable and inventory levels were nearing their targets and Samantha had much more free cash flow in the business to fund growth and capital acquisitions.

Step 5

Review progress

After a few months, Samantha asked her accountant to create a simple weekly report that would give her the weekly sales, the number and amount of invoices sent out that week, the accounts receivable balance, the inventory balances by category and the accounts payable balance. This information gave her much richer insight into her business and allowed her to make highly informed management decisions. She put the targets for accounts receivable days, inventory days and accounts payable days up on a large whiteboard in the office. Each month she filled in the actual balance next to the target so that all employees could see how close they were to achieving the target.

Greg Fisher, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Management & Entrepreneurship Department at the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. He teaches courses on Strategy, Entrepreneurship, and Turnaround Management. He has a PhD in Strategy and Entrepreneurship from the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington in Seattle and an MBA from the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS). He is also a visiting lecturer at GIBS.

Cash Flow

How You Can Make Your Unit Trusts Work For You

How investing in unit trusts can help you build your nest egg while remaining focused on your business.

Nadine Todd

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What should be an investor’s strategy when it comes to unit trusts?

Pieter Koekemoer:

A financial plan starts with clearly defining your objectives. It’s easier to get what you need when you know what you want. Unit trust funds are regulated investment vehicles that can meet the full range of investor needs. Once you know how long you want to invest, it becomes possible to narrow down to the appropriate set of options.

The key thing to get right is to take the level of risk appropriate to your needs. Taking on too much risk means that you may have less capital than expected when you need it. However, too little risk and you will eventually end up with much less capital than was possible. Generally, investors are well served with an investment in multi-asset funds (also called balanced funds) with a suitable risk budget.

These funds are diversified across all the asset classes and require less ongoing decision-making from the investor’s point of view and can be more responsive to a changing environment. This allows you to focus on building your business and getting on with your life while your nest egg accumulates over time.

Magdeleen Cornelissen:

South African investors are privileged to enjoy access to a vast number of unit trust funds, easily accessible via various investment platforms. The law of unintended consequences, however, can cause investors without a proper investment strategy to use inappropriate funds to address their needs. To ensure that a investor selects a suitable unit trust fund, the investment strategy should focus on the term of the investment, appetite for risk, as well as the possible future investment withdrawal requirements.

This could provide the investor with insight into the type of funds to include in the portfolio to ensure a desired future outcome. Investors must gain insight into the mandate of the funds considered, to ensure that the fund strategy is aligned with the investment strategy.

Dr Vladimir Nedeljkovic:

Investors today are exposed to a bewildering choice of unit trusts and other investment vehicles (ETFs, hedge funds, linked policies etc.), utilising different investment approaches (single manager, multi-manager, active, passive, smart beta…), and investing in various asset classes (equities, bonds, property, multi-asset/balanced). For non-professional investors, this choice may potentially prove paralysing.

One way to deal with this ‘paradox of choice’ (an observation that more choice often leads to sub-optimal decisions) is to focus not on the funds themselves, but on the actual needs motivating the investments. Every investor should, inter alia, reflect on the following questions: What am I investing for (a holiday, a car, my children’s education, retirement)? When will I need the money (is my investment horizon one year, five years, twenty years and so on)? How sensitive am I to investment losses (what is my risk profile? Am I prepared to risk ups and downs in my current investment returns for the potential higher returns in the future)? Only after answering these questions can the process of selecting the appropriate investment vehicles and strategies start.

Related: Equity or Property Unit Trusts?

How does this differ from other investment vehicles?

Magdeleen:

Each investment vehicle is associated with a unique set of rules. Before investing in any investment vehicle, it is important to understand the rules of the product. What stands out about a unit trust investment is the fact that the product is open-ended and that investors have access to their capital. In contrast to retirement investment products, no asset allocation restrictions apply, which makes the investment vehicle appropriate to address a vast number of investor needs.

Pieter:

Investor strategy is not defined by the vehicle used to implement the plan but by your needs. The primary benefits of investing in unit trusts over other options relate to transparency, investor-focused regulation and liquidity. All the fund managers offering unit trusts have to disclose detailed information about funds in a standardised and comparable format (think objectives, risks, approach, fees and past performance).

This information is always just a Google search away for all funds. Unit trust managers have a statutory duty to act with skill, care and diligence in the interests of their investors. If you want to change providers, you can do so at will, with your money back in your bank account in a couple of days, in nearly all cases without incurring direct exit or switching costs.

Vladimir:

Collective investment schemes (CIS) are investment products allowing multiple investors to pool their money into single portfolios. Long-only, standard unit trusts were the first CISs to be offered to investors in South Africa (today there are other collective investment schemes available, such as Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), hedge funds, and so on). With collective investment schemes, each investor has a proportional stake in the CIS portfolio, based on his or her contributions. They are, therefore, suitable for investors who do not have the time, money or expertise to make direct investments into the market.

What research should an investor do before choosing the right unit trust investment for their investment goals and risk appetite?

investor-adviceVladimir:

When selecting their investments, investors often try to time the market and focus only on the funds with the best recent performance. This can lead to overall suboptimal investment performance. Research shows that due to reversion to mean, the best performing funds over one period are more likely to underperform over the next one. In contrast, investors should start with defining their desired investment outcomes (discretionary or compulsory, time horizon, return targets, risk appetite) and, in conjunction with a financial advisor, select the fund managers and funds that have the highest chance of satisfying those outcomes.

Pieter:

The textbook answer will be to define an investment strategy and then to evaluate the different implementation options by researching the 5Ps (philosophy, process, people, performance and price). This can be a tedious and time-consuming task, so many investors choose to delegate this decision to an advisor. Others short-hand the process by relying on well-known managers with a proven investment track record or alternatively to have no manager at all and putting their faith in the efficiency of markets by investing in a passive fund.

The key issue is finding a partner that you can trust to look after your interests in what is in essence a multi-decade undertaking with an uncertain outcome. As an aside, the debate between active and passive managers is fairly noisy and very public. It is important that you have a good filter to interpret the information you find online. Active managers try to beat the market, while passive managers attempt to replicate the market return. Both sides will point to the power of compounding to support their case. A difference of just more than 1% in the rate of return achieved can add up to 50% to the value of your capital at retirement. Passive managers will emphasise price as the key evaluation metric, while active managers will emphasise value (defined as the after-fee return received by the investor). At Coronation, we have a high conviction level that value will continue to trump price over the long term.

Related: The Truth About Unit Trusts

Magdeleen:

As a starting point, it is important to gain insight into the investment philosophy of the management team of the funds considered. Investors must understand the objectives of the funds. This would definitely require them to do some research on the fund manager considered. There are a number of risk measures that can be analysed. Be careful to not focus only on the ‘winners’ as historic performance is not always a true reflection of possible future outcomes. Spend some time to understand your own investor behaviour, specifically focusing on your tolerance for volatility, and your need for a certain outcome. Once you have done this, you will be one step closer to knowing which type of fund would suit your needs.

What should investors with a low appetite for risk consider?

Vladimir:

In general, such investors should consider money market funds or balanced funds with a lower percentage of equity holdings.

Pieter:

The most important question you should ask yourself is whether your risk appetite (your willingness to take risk) is aligned with your ability to take risk. If your investment portfolio is more conservative than is necessary, you are likely to incur a significant opportunity cost in the form of foregone returns. Investors who need both income and growth from their investment portfolio (i.e. most retirees) and investors wanting to fund near-term or medium-term commitments are the investors who typically face the most significant risk constraints.

Retirees need balanced portfolios with some form of downside protection against extreme market events, which would typically be described as medium or low equity balanced funds in the unit trust context. Investors with near-term objectives should consider managed income funds.

Magdeleen:

I am always tempted to have a conversation with risk-averse investors about the fact that shying away from assets perceived to be risky can actually cause them to increase the risk of not reaching their long-term goals. This is especially true after taking into account the effect of taxation and inflation. However, I have respect for the fact that not all investors feel it necessary to take on risk in an effort to generate additional alpha in their portfolio.

This type of investor will benefit from funds with a low-risk classification, consisting mainly of interest-bearing instruments. Care must be taken, even within the funds classified as low-risk, as there are instances where short-term shocks are still experienced within some of these funds, especially in the case of rapidly increasing interest rates.

What should investors with a high appetite for risk consider?

Magdeleen:

Be mindful of the investment term. I cannot emphasise this enough. Short-term investments should not include assets associated with volatility. If you have a high appetite for risk, give your investment portfolio sufficient time to digest the fluctuations in the value that can occur from time to time. In addition to this, I would also encourage investors to be mindful of the fact that the stock market is not a place in which we play with money. It requires knowledge, patience, and an ability to distinguish between the noise that occurs in the market from time to time and facts that actually play a role in the valuations of shares. Having a high appetite for risk is sometimes your biggest asset, but it can quickly turn into a liability if not managed correctly.

Related: Does a Retirement Annuity Make Financial Sense?

Pieter:

Take enough risk, ensure you diversify across local and international assets and stay the course despite temporary disappointment with investment outcomes. The past few years have been unusual, as equity markets delivered lower returns than expected. Losing faith in shares would be the wrong lesson to draw from this. Periods of weaker return typically coincide with fundamentals that are supportive of better future returns. Those that remain committed tend to do better over time as it is notoriously difficult to time markets. Also make sure that you maximise the tax breaks available to investors. Use your R33 000 annual tax-free investor allowance to invest in long-term growth funds, which will be described as high equity or flexible multi-asset funds.

Vladimir: Investors with a high-risk appetite tend to focus on equity funds, high equity balanced funds, as well as flexible funds and funds providing offshore exposure, depending on their circumstances. Such investors might start looking further afield, into RIHFs (retail investor hedge funds) and similar vehicles.

How much of an investor’s portfolio should typically be in unit trusts and why?

Pieter:

This depends on circumstances. Unit trusts are suitable as the sole investment structure for that portion of your balance sheet invested in listed assets. While entrepreneurs will always be tempted to go all-in to support their business ventures, it makes sense to diversify risk into a more diversified portfolio of investments. Creditor protection is also an important consideration. Holding your unit trusts via a retirement annuity fund may be a suitable response to this risk management need.

Vladimir:

This is difficult to answer without having a full picture of the circumstances of the investor, but that percentage is likely to be high, if one combines direct discretionary investment into the unit trusts with the indirect exposure via retirement vehicles.


This information is not advice, as defined in the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services Act 37 of 2002. Collective investment schemes (unit trusts) are generally medium to long-term investments. The value of participatory interests (units) or the investment may go down as well as up. Past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance. Collective investment schemes are traded at ruling prices and can engage in borrowing and scrip lending. The collective investment scheme may borrow up to 10% of the market value of the portfolio to bridge insufficient liquidity. The Managers do not provide any guarantee, either with respect to the capital or the return of a portfolio. Different classes of participatory interests may apply to portfolios and are subject to different fees and charges. Any forecasts and/or commentary in this document are not guaranteed to occur.

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Cash Flow

7 Things Every Entrepreneur Should Know About Managing Cash In The Business

Every entrepreneur needs to know how to prepare for cash, manage it effectively and mitigate fraud.

Chris Ogden

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Cash is complicated. It can’t be tracked properly, it opens up avenues for fraud, it gets stolen, and it is difficult to manage. It’s also an unfortunate reality that, in South Africa, cash payments and transactions are both inevitable and essential. So how can the entrepreneur overcome the challenges of handling cash? Here are seven ways…

1. Digitise

There are many ways to manage payments in the market today. You can Snapscan, you can Zapper, you can EFT and you can use an app to send money from a wallet to a mobile number. The problem is that none of these options recognise the fact that cash is still the leading method of payment in most markets. So, to really accommodate cash, the entrepreneur needs to look to digital solutions.

You can still physically collect cash, but digitise the transactional information so that you can easily identify the transaction and reconcile the cash collector.

Related: 5 Cash Management Tactics Small Businesses Use To Become Bigger Businesses

2. Protect the consumer

Ensuring that every cash transaction is tracked digitally means that you are protecting the consumer if the cash or transaction are lost. There is always the question – how can you service your customers post-payment without proof on your side? Ensure that your cash transactions are audited and accounted for to ensure you can recon accurately.

3. Don’t be a target

High collection points – those points where a lot of cash is collected and held – tend to become targets. Try to avoid putting your business in line of sight by using tools that can either limit the use of high collection points or that can alert the relevant security authorities if a theft occurs. Again, it comes down to digital tools to monitor, track and alert the right people at the right time.

4. Teach your customers

It’s one thing to invest into a bevy of tools and services to protect your transactions and consumers, another to let consumers make any number of silly mistakes. Teach your customers about fraud, potential risks, things to look out for and trust. They shouldn’t hand over their cash without the collector using the right tools or app and should be wary of any transaction that doesn’t have these protections built in.

Related: Improve Your Cash Flow: Manage Your VAT

5. Test and adapt

Invariably, those who want to commit fraud are equally committed to doing so. They will find loopholes and gaps that allow them to take advantage of you and your customers. Your best bet is to constantly test and adapt your systems, to build metrics in-house that measure inconsistencies and report back on any issues.

People are very creative and will find a way of helping themselves to cash that isn’t theirs.

6. Negotiate

Cash is expensive to manage so find ways of negotiating better deals with banks so you get the best fees. Cash-in-transit is expensive, but often necessary when it comes to large cash deposits.

7. Invest in a payment solution

Digital payment solutions aren’t always possible, but try to employ one that is easy to use and that can be gradually introduced to your customers. Adoption may be slow – it can take years to achieve low cash/high digital payments – but it will benefit you and your business in the long term.

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Cash Flow

5 Cash Management Tactics Small Businesses Use To Become Bigger Businesses

Reaching your highest potential as a business owner depends on maintaining positive cash flow.

Lisa Stevens

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You may have heard the phrase “Cash flow is the blood that keeps a business alive.” This couldn’t be truer, as consistent positive cash flow can help a business owner pay expenses, invest in new opportunities or grow a business.

Fortunately, as small-business-owner optimism remains high, most owners expect a healthy cash flow this year. The January 2018 Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index found 77 percent of small-business owners rated their company’s cash flow as very good or somewhat good over the past 12 months, up from 73 percent in November 2017.

To help with managing cash flow, here are five tips you should consider:

1. Spread out your payments

Paying all your business bills at the same time rather than spreading them out can drain your disposable income and leave you at risk of not being able to pay your creditors and suppliers if an unexpected expense occurs.

Instead, try paying your bills closer to the due dates and negotiate with your vendors to see if you can extend your payables to 60 or 90 days.

Also, be sure to pay your most important bills, such as rent and payroll, before paying less important bills.

Related: 8 Ways to Avoid Cash Flow Surprises That Could Kill Your Business

Check with your vendor to see if you can receive discounts for paying any bills early. Remember to pay all your bills before the due date to maintain a good credit standing.

2. Collect payments quickly

Another way to improve cash flow is to incentivise customers to pay early by offering discounts.

Other techniques for collecting payments quickly include requiring deposits from your customers when taking orders and offering online payment options.

Thanks to advancements in technology, there are multiple ways for your customers to complete quick and efficient transactions with your business. One example is electronic billing, which allows for you to customize invoices and set up automatic payment reminders for customers.

credit-policy3. Establish a strict credit policy

It’s important to be wise about extending credit as a business. A non-paying customer can be a hefty expense to a small-business owner.

Establish a written set of standards for determining who is eligible for credit, and enforce those standards rigidly.

Also, be sure to require a credit check for all new customers before extending credit and monitor your accounts to identify late payers early so you can offer them a variety of payment options. These options might include a credit card charge or a payment plan.

4. Align your payroll cycle with your revenue stream

Some businesses, such as restaurants and retailers, generate daily revenue and can more easily cover the expense needed for weekly payroll.

Related: 5 Marketing Missteps That Make Cash Flow And Business Growth Stumble

For others, such as manufacturers, this could be a challenge, and you may benefit from paying employees less frequently, provided applicable wage laws allow you to do so. Refer to your state Department of Labor for pay frequency information.

5. Plan ahead for cash shortages

Expect the unexpected. Typically cash flow will vary, and unexpected expenses will occur even for established businesses.

Keeping a rainy day fund with three to six months of basic operating expenses in a reserve can prepare you for slow periods and emergencies.

Another option is to use a business credit card or business line of credit to pay for everyday expenses and help bridge gaps in cash flow.  Be sure to monitor your expenses with online banking and monthly statements.

Related: How Amazon Is Keeping It Lean

One important tool for planning ahead is a cash flow forecast, usually a one-year prediction of how cash will move in and out of the business. This helps business owners evaluate how profitable future sales will be, and provides an overview of what needs to be done to reach your goals.

In its simplest form, a cash flow forecast should show where cash balances will be at certain points in the future so you can anticipate and prevent cash shortages. To get started, organize your payables and receivables on a spreadsheet to see where money is coming and going.

Ultimately, reaching your highest potential as a business owner and being able to serve your customers effectively depends on maintaining positive cash flow. Following the tips above may help keep your business financially strong and position your company for success.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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