There’s a saying in business: bad cash flow sinks more companies than weak order books - and it’s as true today as ever.
Cash flow supports everything from everyday operations, to investment in equipment and technology, to shareholder dividends and loan repayments. Quite simply, without adequate cash flow, your business can’t function.
But cash flow is vulnerable on many fronts, so in this short piece we take a look at what the threats are, and give you some hints and tips on how to avoid them.
Seasonal slowdowns and late payments
As it’s that time of year, consider the effects of the summer holiday season on your cashflow: typically, reduced demand for what you sell, reduced sales income, and slower payment cycles.
The latter – like all late payments – can be a grade-A cash flow killer, but there’s a number of things you can do to reduce the risk.
Try introducing a small discount in return for early payment, for example – that way, you may get your cash beforeyour payer disappears on holiday, and in a more timely fashion over the rest of the year!
Make it easier for customers to pay with multiple, flexible payment methods. These include debit and credit cards, PayPal, with its favourable payment schedules, and Direct Debit for products or services you can feasibly sell on a monthly payment or indeed subscription basis.
There are transaction costs for all these methods apart from Direct Debit, but their ability to accelerate buyer payment – and even increase expenditure - is well documented.
Non-payers – a risky business
Of course, those customers who don’t pay at all are the riskiest for your cash flow.
It can be difficult to establish customers’ precise payment history and creditworthiness, but you can at least look the business up on Companies House to make sure it’s legitimate, its finances are in order, and it’s not facing its own cash flow problems.
Your accountant can help you do some of the digging around this, and furnish you with a reliable opinion on whether it’s prudent to proceed.
Weak invoicing and collection
If your invoicing, reminder, and collection processes are less than prompt, cost-of-sales starts to bite into your cashflow.
Consider using software to automate invoicing the instant the sale is closed, track payments, and send reminders – without costly manual intervention from you or your teams.
Do always make sure you agree payment terms with your customer first, on a written contract. Without this, it’s much more difficult to chase payments or pursue them legally.
And on the topic of chasing, credit control can be a hugely time-consuming task, so consider bringing in someone to look after this for you. (We offer this service through the Chamber, and it can pay for itself, and then some).
Join us to get cash flow help
This article isn’t a cure-all for your cash flow woes, but it gives you some watchouts to support you through cash-strapped times. And here at the Chamber, supporting businesses is what we’re all about.
From networking events, to Member2Member special offers, to our targeted Meet the Buyer programme, we’re here to enable local businesses to build the relationships that help them sell and buy effectively.
And with experts in every field imaginable in our membership – and yes, cash flow and accounting are amongst them! – plus webinars, workshops, and online learning resources, whatever’s causing you a problem, or indeed heralding an opportunity, you can rely on us to help.
For more information on how to become a member, please visit www.chamber-business.com or call our friendly team on 01582 522448.