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Our Top 10 Cash Flow Tips

Tuesday, June 01, 2010   By Mike Reddy



From a business coaching perspective one of the major concerns about running a business is the need to sustain a positive cashflow.  Here are 10 essential tips.

Know your business’ balance sheet thoroughly.
This may sound obvious, but, as your accountant can confirm, many business people don’t know how cash flow works and its significance to keeping their operation afloat. Many owners focus on their business’ profit and loss statement alone. It’s a potentially fatal mistake because healthy profits can mask an impending cash flow crisis. Profit and loss statements don’t usually contain the information required to make an adequate cash flow projection. For that, you’re going to need a structured balance sheet that includes all the influencing factors including debts, interest payments, inventory and so on. This is the basis for your cash flow projection which represents an “educated guess” at the likely incomings and outgoings over the period of time you have selected to map out.  For this reason, as a business coach my main focus is on the balance sheet.

Set up a cash flow budget.
You need to focus on forward planning to generate a “best guess” about likely future sales and expenses. There are some cash flow software tools around, but you can also set up your own programme in Excel.  If you’re not familiar and skilled with Excel software, ask your accountant for help to set it up properly initially. The Shape Your Business coaching programme includes this as an integral part of monitoring your results, so we can help you select suitable cash flow software.

Review and update cash flow budgets regularly
. It’s your best insurance against potential cash shortages. If your business has a predictable cash flow, then cash flow budgeting on a quarterly basis is often enough. If you’re already visiting your accountant for other tax related matters, then you can get a cash flow budget prepared at the same time. The rule of thumb is that the greater the cash flow uncertainty a business faces, the more often a new cash flow budget should be prepared. As a business coach we use this process to factor in the expected improvements from the changes we are helping you to make.  

If cash is really tight, you might need to move to weekly projections, and decide which invoices you’ll pay and whom you need to get payment from as soon as possible. Watch bank balances and make sure you don’t have cheques sitting on a desk waiting to be deposited. This can be time consuming, but you won’t be the first business that has had to do that from time to time.

Rapid growth sounds good but, ironically, too much of this good thing can bring on a cash crunch – which takes many business owners by surprise. A sudden spurt in sales is often accompanied by a run down in stock in-hand and debtors not being tracked or followed up when they go overdue. Strong sales one month often means a cash shortage next month. By monitoring the business’ cash status you can arrange credit from suppliers and banks to cover the temporary shortfalls. However, these arrangements take time to set up so you need to be prepared in advance.

Set your credit terms carefully
. If the nature of your business requires offering credit, then it is important to set clear limits to your terms of credit.

Get payments in quickly
. Master the art of debtor management. Let debtors know how much time remains before due dates. Stay in close touch with major debtors as payment deadlines approach. Offer small discounts for early payment as an incentive.

Pay your creditors strategically.
Take advantage of credit terms and prioritise payments according to the consequences involved in going overdue. Wages, taxes and direct debits are at the top of the list for on-time payment; key suppliers may be prepared to wait a while to keep your business. Don’t pay early just to get a discounted price unless getting the discount is better than being without the cash.

Plan for the lumps
. Be aware of when lean cash flow patches are coming up and plan accordingly. Avoid funding major purchases from your business’ working capital unless you are sure you have the cash to cover it.

Get finance products working to your benefit.
Overdrafts, premium funding, lease facilities and cash flow funding products can all be excellent tools to help match a business’ cash supply with planned outlays. Even the business credit card can be a good way to ease the squeeze as long as you are sure the debt can be paid before interest kicks in.

Don’t incur tax and other statutory penalties
. Save yourself the money and the stress!

Keep your hands out of the till.
Make cash drawings for personal purposes according to conservative cash flow forecasts.

Mike Reddy is a Chartered Accountant, business coach and advisor helping businesses in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Gold Coast to easily increase their profits and cash flow. He is currently President of the North Sydney Chamber of Commerce, a Regional Councillor for Sydney North East and a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Sydney leadership team. As well as advising businesses, Mike presents business development seminars and webinars and is regularly contacted by the media to comment on small business matters. You can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.