Properly managing cash flow is one of the most important elements of keeping your business running smoothly. You need money for myriad things, from employee salaries to utility bills, and if it isn’t there when we need it to be, our business can suffer in numerous ways. It can slow growth, compromise relationships with clients or vendors, and set the stage for poor financial decisions with long-term consequences. Cash flow issues can kill even a prospering business, and addressing these problems needs to be a top priority.
This suggestion may seem quite obvious, but much of our trouble when it comes to business finances is falling into habits, patterns and the like without stopping to evaluate the situation as a whole. We are just so used to doing things in a certain manner, we don’t realize the error of our ways. So, the first thing you need to do is take stock of your situation.
What is going on with your accounts payable—how much money is outstanding from late payments? Are the due dates of vendor payments causing issue because you still haven’t been paid by clients yet? What are all your expenses, and when are they due? What specific financial issues are you having right now in regards to cash flow? You need to comb through your finances and see what is happening in every nook and cranny.
Get Your AR Department in Order
If your business is the one of many who extends credit to customers, you know all too well that you have not truly made a sale until the invoice gets marked as paid. The credit system is advantageous to both parties, particularly the customer, but definitely has its drawbacks on the provider side.
Having worked for a collection agency several years ago, I saw firsthand how many businesses poorly manage their receivables. The amounts of money some of them had outstanding, and for the amount of time, was shocking to me. That they had done so little to collect it was even more so.
This can be a tricky area because we can get weird with money-we worry about alienating and offending customers by broaching the subject of late payments. But, you are owed this money and have the right to collect it. It doesn’t require you to be mean or demanding—you just need to act quickly so your bill is made a priority. The key is developing a set system that is put in place each and every time a payment is late.
If you are really struggling, you might want to look into options such as receivables financing, where a lender can pay you the bulk of your invoice up front, and then takes payment directly from your customer—naturally, this comes with a fee so you must consider the cost of this immediate cash infusion. This type of thing is best as a short-term solution, not a permanent method of improving cash flow.
Hold Onto Cash as Long as Possible
There is definitely a pleasant feeling that comes along with paying bills as soon as we receive them, rather than waiting until their due date. But, if you are struggling with your cash flow, you might want to consider this practice, unless paying early brings some significant benefit of course. But, if the only thing you are getting out of it is a psychological boost, just pay on the due date instead. So long as you pay on time, you are golden. Hold onto that money for as long as you can so you have it for your various needs. And, don’t worry about the mental benefit being lost because once your cash flow starts improving, you will probably feel even better. The bills will still be paid on time, and you are in a better position to run your business.