Throughout my years of business and executive coaching, managing cash flow has been one of the major challenges that my clients – and most business owners – grapple with.
When times are tough, cash flow is tougher. So, the best time to solve a cash flow problem is before it happens, when times are good.
Here are my top 10 strategies for managing cash flow that you can implement in your business.
Structure your payment terms
Your first step going forward is to examine your cost of sales in each transaction process and map when you incur expenses and when you receive payment. You want your customer to cover your costs before you incur costs on their behalf.
Getting your customers to pay is one of the most obvious ways to improve cash flow. Ask for deposits, upfront payments or at the very least, milestone payments for long-term projects.
Discount for early payment
I am not a big fan of discounting, but if the objective is to get money in the bank, discounting is a good incentive. You may already have contracts with your customers for extended payment terms. If they can’t be renegotiated, offer a small discount for early settlement.
Stringent debt collection
Follow up on overdue payments immediately. Sometimes, a gentle reminder is all that is needed to get paid. Clients who already owe you money, and need to continue doing business with you, should be moved to COD terms and settle some of the outstanding debt to show good faith.
On the flip side, negotiate more favourable terms with your suppliers to delay payments. This is possible where you have a good track record of payment and in cases where you know they value your business. It is also possible when the product or service could easily be provided by your supplier’s competitor.
Again, this isn’t usually the advice I dispense… it is better to chase more income than to cut costs, but desperate circumstances call for desperate measures. Create a zero base budget where you go through each expense line item with a fine tooth comb to see how you can reduce costs without compromising your delivery and quality. This does NOT include marketing and business coaching, which should be seen as an investment, not an expense!
If you have had to downsize your workforce, and you are worried about growth in the future, it may be worth evaluating the viability of the function and possibly looking at outsourcing, hiring part time employees or contract workers. That way, you get the resources to do a job without the costs of full time salaries and benefits – especially when the work load drops.
To generate cash flow, offload slow selling stock and inventory at reduced prices to customers looking for a good deal. Alternatively, you can repurpose existing stock items so you can reduce your inventory and free up cash. Don’t increase stock unless you have orders for them.
Sell / lease idle equipment
Investigate the feasibility of selling some of your equipment that is not generating income, or lease it out to other businesses who might be cutting costs by sharing equipment rather than buying their own.
Adapt and diversify
Cash flow challenges force business owners to be creative. Look at what you do, and see how you can either find a new target market with your product or service or offer a solution to a new industry, aligned to your core strengths and capabilities.
There are loads of other strategies that I am currently working through with my clients, and each individual business has its own challenges and its own opportunities. If you need help identifying ways to improve your cash flow, I am here to help.
Have a great weekend.