When running your business, you shouldn’t focus solely on profitability. Cash flow is just as important a financial metric as revenue and profits. Your entity may be making profits by the hour or the day. But if your cash flow is negative, you may run out of cash to fund operations and pay employees.
How to Manage Cash Flow for Your Small Business
Cash flow is essentially the pulse of your business. Monitoring this financial metric allows you to evaluate the amount of money coming in and going out of your business. It also enables you to assess whether you are spending more than you are making or vice versa.
Strive to stay on top of your cash flow analysis to ensure you always have sufficient cash to cover your business costs and expenses. In this post, we provide 19 tips to help you develop a healthy and positive cash flow.
1. Understand Your Expenses
The first step you need to take to manage your cash flow better is to track your expenses. Monitoring and understanding your business expenses will give you a clear picture of the amount of money you spend and where it goes. It will enable you to stick to your budget and cut off any unnecessary costs that eat up your profits.
Expense tracking is one way to ensure you have a positive cash flow. Start keeping a record of your expense transactions. Note them down on a booklet or Microsoft Excel. You can also use an expense tracking app or software.
2. Learn Your Cash-flow Cycle
The flow of money in and out of an entity is often predictable. All you need to do is check the previous accounting periods. Your cash flow in the last financial year is more or less the same as the current year if you didn’t add any expenses.
Strive to understand your cash flow cycle to ensure you always have enough cash for operations. Monitor your revenue, expenses, receivables, and payables. Doing so will enable you to understand the flow of money in your business. It will also help you forecast your cash flow if you want to buy new equipment or add another expense.
3. Keep Business and Personal Finances Separate
Mixing your business and personal finances is not a good idea. Besides making you look less professional, it becomes challenging to track your business transactions.
You might also run into trouble with the IRS if they come knocking to audit your business. If that happens, you will need to show proof of your business expenses and income, so good record-keeping is crucial. Strive to separate your personal and business finances to make it easy to monitor your business cash in-flow and out-flow.
4. Match Receivables to Payables
Receivables are money owed to your business by customers who bought goods but haven’t paid for them yet. Payables, by contrast, are funds you owe another firm or vendor for the purchase of goods and services. You need to match these two to ensure the funds owed by customers don’t go higher than what you owe.
Also, the timeframe for receiving accounts receivables should not be longer than your payables. For example, you shouldn’t allow your customers to pay after four months when your suppliers expect you to pay in a month. Doing so will cause you to run out of cash.
5. Move Your Inventory Quickly
Another way to improve your cash flow is by improving your inventory turnover rate. Aim to have just enough inventory to ensure you don’t suffer a shortage but not too high that it takes longer to sell.
Having excess inventory ties up your capital. It reduces your cash flow since most of your cash is in your stock. Excess inventory may also require extra holding space, thus increasing storage costs. Your goal should be to unload business inventory quickly to free up cash for operations and other investments.
6. Consider Invoice Financing
Invoice financing is one way to borrow money from a lender by using your invoices and account receivables as collateral. This form of borrowing works best if your customers are taking longer to pay what they owe you or a majority of your cash is tied up in your accounts receivables.
Instead of waiting in frustration for the customer to pay, you can go to a lender and ask for a short-term loan, then issue your accounts receivables as collateral.
7. Choose the Right Payroll Cycle
The most common payroll cycles are monthly, weekly, and bi-weekly. Choose a payroll cycle that matches your revenue stream. For example, if your business makes revenue daily, you can afford to pay your staff weekly. If, however, your revenue stream is slow, it wouldn’t be a good idea to pay them weekly or bi-weekly. You may run out of cash before your upcoming cash in-flow.
8. Negotiate Your Payments with Suppliers
Your suppliers may be in a position to offer better payment terms. Ask them if they can extend the time required to pay for supplies. Having extended payment terms will mean that you can sort out your payables and invoices later rather than sooner. It will allow you to have more working capital to cover operation costs and expenses.
9. Finance Large Purchases Instead of Paying Cash
If you want to make a large purchase, for example, buying expensive equipment, consider leasing instead. Buying the asset will tie up your cash and reduce your working capital. It may take you a while to recoup funds. Alternatively, you can decide to buy the assets using a loan or another equity investment.
10. Collect Receivables Quickly
One popular way to improve your cash flow is by encouraging customers to pay their receivables quickly. Offer them discounts to pay in advance or in full. By doing so, you receive cash faster and thus increase your working capital.
11. Manage Your Credit Policies Carefully
As you extend credit to customers, ensure they stick to your set payment terms. Don’t give your customers leeway to delay payments. Be firm with your credit policy and manage it carefully. Send invoices immediately and check to see who paid and who hasn’t yet. And when a customer fails to pay on time, follow up immediately.
12. Consider a Line of Credit
Having a line of credit allows you to get quick cash whenever you need it. This form of loan financing is flexible and accessible for many small businesses. You get to access working capital whenever you run low or need to make a quick payment. You also may not be required to have collateral or a high credit score. A line of credit is a quick way to access money to finance operations as your wait for customers to pay receivables.
13. Monitor Your Cash Flow Regularly
Implement a better system for managing cash flow. Instead of monitoring it after every financial quarter, try monthly or weekly tracking. Next up, compare different months or weeks to see when you are most likely to have a low cash flow. For example, you may find out that your customers prefer to make purchases or pay receivables at the beginning of the month since this is the period when they have more disposable income.
14. Cut Costs
A great way to take your cash flow from negative to positive is by cutting unnecessary costs. Your aim should be to have more cash coming into your business than leaving. Assess your costs and expenses to see which ones you don’t need. For example, you may find out that you are paying more on a subscription you can do without, or your payroll is too high.
15. Cash In on Assets
Are there any equipment or assets you don’t need or no longer use? Consider selling them to add more cash to your business.
16. Ask For Deposits or Partial Payments on Large Orders or Long-Term Contracts
Asking for a deposit is beneficial in a couple of ways. It makes the client or customer invested in the project and thus less likely to back out. It also reduces the chances of the customer not making a payment and provides you with cash to fund the project, among other business operations. A deposit or partial payment provides you with working capital and thus increases your cash flow.
17. Establish a Protocol
Try and establish a protocol for both when your cash flow is positive and negative. Doing so will enable you to bounce back quicker when cash flow is low and manage your cash better when you have a surplus. For example, you can try setting a buffer fund and only access it when your cash flow drops to a certain level. Alternatively, you can also insert cash in your buffer when you have a surplus.
18. Forecast Expenses and Earnings
As we mentioned earlier, you can predict your cash flow and revenue using statements from previous accounting periods. Try and understand your cash flow cycle and use the information you gather to forecast earnings and revenue. Forecasting will help ensure you don’t encounter any surprises. It will also enable you to budget on the amount of cash you need and how fast or slow to spend it.
19. Take Steps to Prevent Fraud
Business fraud can manifest in many ways. It can happen through direct theft of cash or inventory by an employee. It can also occur when employees fake figures in records and financial statements, claim bogus costs and expenses or misuse your working capital. Whichever the case, you need to take measures to prevent any fraud from occurring in your business.
Have a code of ethics that employees should follow. Also, audit your records and statements periodically. While you’re at it, check your business bank account statement to assess if they match your records.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do you have any questions regarding cash flow analysis in a business? Our FAQ section will cover them.
1. Why does cash flow matter?
Monitoring your cash flow helps you track how much money is coming in and out of your business. It enables you to manage your spending to ensure you don’t spend more than your earn, and you always have cash on hand for day-to-day business activities.
Every business needs cash to fund operations, buy inventory and supplies, and pay employees, among other things. You may be making a profit, but without cash, you won’t be able to manage your expenses.
2. What is operating cash flow?
Operating cash flow is the amount of money moving in and out of an entity with regard to normal business activities. This type of cash flow focuses on cash generated from an entity’s operating activities, for example, paying salaries and suppliers and receiving money from a customer for goods sold.
3. What is free cash flow?
Free cash flow refers to the cash available to pay creditors and issue dividends to investors and shareholders. It’s the money that remains after an entity pays its operating costs and expenses and makes short-term and long-term investments using the funds generated from sales revenue.
4. What is a cash flow statement?
A cash flow statement is a financial statement used to analyze an entity’s cash flow. It’s one of the three essential financial statements that help evaluate an entity’s performance. The cash flow statement monitors all incoming and outgoing cash in a business during a given period.
5. How to read cash flow statement
The cash flow statement is broken down into three sections: cash flow from operations (operating cash flow), cash flow from investing, and cash flow from financing.
As mentioned above, cash flow from operations focuses on money from normal business activities. Cash flow from investing represents all funds related to the investing activities of the entity, for example, buying new equipment, acquiring assets, or purchasing bonds and stocks. Cash flow from financing deals with cash related to how a business finances itself, for example, borrowing and repaying debt, receiving equity investment, and issuing dividends. The total cash flow, also known as the net cash flow, is the total of these three sections.
6. What causes cash flow problems?
Cash flow problems occur when a business lacks cash at hand or in the bank to pay its expenses and liabilities. This problem may arise for many reasons, but the most common ones include having more expense than revenue, giving customers too much credit, and not making enough sales. It can also occur due to over-investing or using all your money to repay debt.
7. How do I calculate my operating cash flow (OCF)?
Here is the formula for calculating cash flow from operations:
operating cash flow = *operating income + **depreciation – taxes + changes in working capital
*Operating income is the money you make after deducting operating expenses from revenue.
**Depreciation refers to the value an asset loses over time.
When managing your business, try not to focus solely on sales and profits. You need to monitor your cash flow to ensure you don’t run out of cash to run operations and pay expenses. By managing your cash flow, you will see how money moves within your business.
There are many methods and strategies that you can implement to manage cash flow. You can cut unnecessary costs, negotiate payment terms with suppliers, or encourage your customers to pay in advance. You can also establish a cash flow protocol or sell unnecessary equipment and assets. It’s crucial to monitor your cash flow cycle to ensure you always have cash at hand for operations.
Below you’ll find a unique collection of resources that will help you broaden your exposure to managing your cash flow. In addition, many of the links lead to Google search results showing the latest and most popular publications available.
Starting off with a cash flow template is one way to get started. The advantage of a template is everything is already set up for you. You just fill in the blanks. You also gain a better understanding without making mistakes. Once you have your template set up, you can modify it to meet your needs.
Look at the latest search results for cash flow templates for a small business.
Looking into tools available for cash flow management is an excellent idea. Rather than start from scratch, you can take a few minutes to see what’s available and decide which tools will work best. But, again, you don’t have to start from scratch. There are many tools available on the market, and spending some time on research may help you develop a tool that you use for years to come.
When looking at tools, I suggest you search for reviews for the one that appeals to you. This will allow you to see what other users experienced. Then, from the reviews, you’ll get an overview of the quality, which may keep you from wasting your time with tools that have problems.
Have a look at the latest search results for cash flow management tools for a small business
Another option to expand your knowledge of cash flow management is to browse the latest and most popular publications. There are two links below one is a Google book search, and the other is books from Amazon. You may want to take a few minutes to see the latest publications.
Taking a course in cash flow management is another option to expand your knowledge and expertise. You may want to enlist in a self-paced study course, or you may be looking for one with an instructor. Take a look at the link below to see if any courses appeal to you. Here again, search for reviews for any course before enrolling.
Google News is a great tool to find information the media covers related to cash flow. You’ll get the latest stories along with archived ones.
You can even set up a Google Alert that will send you a message when something new appears related to cash flow.
YouTube is an excellent site for visual learners. To expand your knowledge and cash flow management, you can spend some time on YouTube to go through the available videos. Also, keep an eye out for related topics provided by YouTube that can help you expand your knowledge.