Improving Cash Flow in Tough Times

A common challenge for many small businesses is the feast-or-famine nature of managing cash flow.  Poor cash flow can mean certain doom of an otherwise healthy business.

Beware, a cash flow crunch can sneak up on you if you aren’t prepared.  It can affect a company experiencing a slowdown or one that is rapidly expanding.

Here’s a list of a few simple ways to improve your cash flow position:

Accept Responsibility For Minding Your Company’s Cash Flow – Even if you hire an accountant to help keep the books, don’t expect them to tell you everything you need to know.  Stay informed and educate yourself on how best to manage your business finances.

Bill Promptly and Accurately – Billing right away for your products or services will only help to facilitate a prompt payment. Also, avoiding billing errors and mistakes will not only increase payment turnaround, but will help to build trust with your customer.  There’s nothing like regular billing errors to strain a business relationship.

Actively Monitor Your Cash Flow – You should always know the financial status of your business (monthly sales, expenses for the month, how quickly clients are paying, etc.).

Avoid Slow Pay/No Pay Customers – Don’t be shy about checking credit references or even paying for a credit check if the client is significant enough.

Regularly Analyze Your Finances and Adjust Your Strategy Accordingly – Actively monitoring your cash flow helps catch small problems before they become unmanageable.  If something is off, start asking questions until you get answers.  The answers will help to define your business strategy.

Organize Backup Financing or Cash Reserves – Invoice Factoring, lines of credit or even equity financing can help get you through a cash flow crunch.

Lease Instead of Purchase – Although leasing costs more in the long run, buying on an installment basis means less cash up front and can be a boon to your cash flow.

Control Spending – Look over your expenses and see where you can trim the fat without causing the business to suffer. Add employees slowly and cautiously. Watch inventory and be careful not to over stock (this can easily bleed your company of cash).

Accelerate Receivables – Don’t be shy about asking customers for advance payments and reward early payers with a discount. Just putting out friendly reminder calls (“Did you get my bill, when can I expect payment?”) can significantly augment your cash flow.

Keith Mabe is Vice President of Operations at Charter Capital, a leading invoice factoring company for small to mid-sized businesses. Headquartered in Houston, Texas, Charter Capital provides accounts receivable financing and asset-based lending for major industries including freight and transportation, consulting firms, service providers, staffing firms, distributors and manufacturers, an oil and gas service companies.