When new businesses fail, cash flow is the killer in the vast majority of cases. Cash flow problems don’t just appear out of the blue; they creep up on you slowly. Small businesses stay strongest and enjoy the most stability by keeping the cash coming in on a consistent, steady basis.
It’s tempting to think that as long as your business is profitable, everything’s okay, but resist the urge. The problem with profit is timing: It often turns up too late. The balance sheet for a swimsuit business might look rosy for June, July, and August, but there are many salaries and suppliers to pay before then.
We’ve noticed that all successful businesses have something in common — the ability to fine-tune the flow of funds in and out of their doors. And whether you’re a one-man band or a brick-and-mortar brand, you can benefit from learning what Sage Payment Solutions clients do to avoid cash-flow crunches and keep growing despite the killer odds.
Tighten your belt, then work hidden sources of cash
What should you do when a cash flow problem looms? Your first instinct is probably to reduce your expenses and tighten your belt. And you’d be right. Your next step should be identifying hidden sources of cash. Three key areas to focus on are customers, stock, and suppliers.
It costs on average five times more to acquire a new customer than it does to encourage a repeat purchase from an existing one. So, to stimulate sales, promote your wares or services to your biggest fans and proven purchasers — your past or current customers.
Here are some things you could try:
- Progress payments: If you’re a service business, ask if you can invoice for progress payments instead of waiting until the end of a project to invoice, and then waiting another 30 days for payment.
- Cash only: If you’re starting a new business, consider establishing it on a cash-only basis to keep funds inside the business rather than locking them up in invoices.
- Account customers: If you offer an account/credit facility, ask customers if they would be willing to use their credit cards instead. They still get 30–55 days’ credit before having to pay, but you’d get your cash much sooner. You’ll need to pay commission, but otherwise, it’s almost as good as a cash transaction.
- Promotions: Offer a pre-season sale, free delivery, or a straightforward price promo (discount or BOGOF, for example).
- Online: Promotions online can get very quick results as long as you’re set up to take online payments. Sage Payment Solutions offers a flexible checkout form you can seamlessly integrate into your website.
Stocking up to the right level is a fine art and it can take new business owners some time to get it right.
The big danger is buying more than you need and finding that it doesn’t sell quickly enough. Technically, it’s still a bankable asset but not a liquid one (i.e., you can’t pay bills and salaries with it).
- Give it your attention: Regularly review stock levels, stock turnover rates, and purchasing policies.
- The three basics:
- Don’t keep too many items you can get from suppliers at short notice.
- Don’t have too many slow-moving items.
- Make sure you’re well stocked with your fastest-moving goods.
- Get rid of stock: Can you free up cash by having a sale? Offer heavy discounts on slow-moving stock items for a quick cash injection.
- Take it back: Ask suppliers if they’ll take back some surplus stock. Be upfront about your temporary cash flow crisis and they might help you as a goodwill gesture to build a positive relationship.
As long as suppliers are convinced your cash flow problem is a blip and not the beginning of the end, it’s in their interest to help you stay in business.
- Extended payment terms: Ask for 60–90 day payment terms.
- Friendly payment terms: Ask for “sale or return” terms — where you have to sell the items before you have to pay.
- Installments: Ask if you can pay in installments rather than in one lump sum.
- Discount: Just ask for some money off your order. Don’t be too cavalier or aggressive about it, though.
- Buying power: Bear in mind that suppliers are more likely to be flexible if you’re making a big order. Negotiate with them.
- Goodwill: Suppliers might be more understanding if you’ve paid them promptly in the past.
Visit Sage Payment Solutions’ site to learn more.