Cash flow is an important element of any small business. To effectively manage your cash flow, you need to be aware of all the aspects that can affect it and how they impact your business. The best way to achieve this is by understanding what might cause fluctuations in cash flow and coming up with solutions ahead of time for each negative event so as not to be caught off guard if one occurs. This article will discuss some common factors that may reduce or increase your company’s cash flow and provide tips on how to handle crunches when they arise.
What is Cash Flow?
In quite simple terms, cash flow is the money flowing in and out of your business each month. Small businesses need to strike a balance between accounts payable and accounts receivable to ensure that more money comes in than goes out each month. Although cash flow is related to net income, they have some key differences.
Net income refers to the earnings of a business during a period after considering all expenses incurred during the period. Net income includes sales recognized but not collected until subsequent months. In addition, net income likely includes a monthly depreciation charge which is a non-cash item. These are important to consider when comparing net income to your operating cash flow.
Why is Cash Flow Important?
Understanding how your business generates and uses cash can help you better navigate the growth of your company. Analyzing your cash flow helps you see how well your business is performing and how much liquidity your business has.
Having cash on hand puts you in a better financial position, adds stability, and gives you better purchasing power. Your cash flow determines how quickly you can expand your business. Additionally, having positive cash flow that leads to a surplus makes you a worthwhile investment for banks or investors.
Tips for Boosting Your Business’ Cash Flow
You should have a plan for every day; when the unexpected happens, you should be able to react. There are three areas to focus on for boosting cash flow.
- Keep an eye on customer retention rates, customers are the backbone of any business, and if you have a low customer retention rate, it is time to look at what is going on. Customers are the lifeblood of any company. They provide the revenue that funds your business, and they keep you in business.
- Find out what is lacking in the market and offer new products and categories to augment your current offerings. You may be able to charge a higher price for new or improving on existing items.
- Reach out to new suppliers or renegotiate prices with an existing vendor. Even offering to pay early could result in getting a small discount, which is almost always worth taking.
- Find ways to automate, or even outsource, parts of your operations.
- Find less expensive suppliers that have nothing to do with the product you sell. You do not want to sacrifice product quality for a lower price since this affects your image and reputation in the market. Focus on costs such as office supplies or a less expensive insurance provider.
- Be open about what your cash flow is like with your team. They will need to know what is going on if cash flow is already tight or if it becomes tight. They can help your business quickly find ways to cut expenses or reinvest profits into projects with high rates of return.
- Find ways to increase your return on assets. Smart business owners track their return on assets because it reveals how effectively you are investing in your business.
- Manage inventories through buying more efficiently or increasing inventory turnover. When you buy efficiently your customer is the focal point, which makes it easier to make more sales.
An interesting observation by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto helps explain how best to manage cash flow. He noticed that 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by 20 percent of the population. He further noticed that it happened in nature in that 80 percent of the peas in his garden were produced from 20 percent of the pods.
What does this have to do with cash flow management? Look at your business: it is likely that the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, is in play. Do 80 percent of your sales come from 20 percent of you customers? If so, it might make sense to cut out some of your more high-maintenance, low profitability clients. Your ratios may be different but understanding roughly 80 percent of an output results from almost 20 percent of an input gives you a competitive advantage on where to look to focus your effort and resources.
By keeping an eye on your expenses, income, and operational efficiency you can predict when you might need a little extra cash coming in or going out. You can even use a budgeting tool to help with this process. You will see how much money is coming in each month and where all the money is going out each month, so it is easy for you to make changes if needed.