No doubt you have heard the saying “Cash Is King” when talking about business. Cash is the lifeblood of a company. Many companies face struggles with cash flow at different stages in the business’s development. It is a common and expected challenge but there are systems and practices you can put in place to help manage your cash flow issues more effectively.
Understanding Company Finances
The single most important thing an owner can implement that will help with cash flow is a good bookkeeping system and strong financial discipline to keep accurate, up to date records and reporting. There are many great online systems and tools that make bookkeeping a simple task. Accurate records give you important information you need to make decisions. Your financial reports also provide crucial information about the health and current state of your business should you need to apply for a line of credit or business loan.
Financial forecasting is important for all businesses but it is especially important for start-ups and new businesses. In order to survive the lean times one has to understand sales cycles, customer payment terms and how future financial obligations such as tax and duty payments will affect cash flow. When you learn how to forecast income and obligations based on historical data it can help to identify a pending cash flow problem early enough for you to take corrective action.
Unlocking Cash By Managing Your Inventory
You can free up cash for your company by optimizing your inventory. This requires developing a fine balance between demand and stock supply. Many companies hold too much stock and consequently tie up too much of their cash flow. On the other hand, too little inventory and you may risk meeting customers’ expectations. The good news is that with so many automated online inventory management programs the tools are there to help you reduce unnecessary inventory while improving your cash flow, customer service and sales. Let’s take a simple example of why inventory management is so important to a company’s cash flow. If a company has inventory valued at a $1,000,000 and uses an automated inventory system that on average reduces most inventories by 30% to optimize inventory levels it saves the company $300,000 and that is a significant impact on cash flow.
Optimizing inventory does not simply mean cutting stock. It means focusing on stocking the items customers want most. This will expedite turn around times, improve service levels, customer satisfaction and reduce emergency shipments and costs. With real time data you can reduce planning time and improve productivity , improve vendor relationships and often reduce your cost of goods because vendors will be able to rely on your ordering schedule. Automated inventory management can help you unlock the cash sitting on your shelves collecting nothing more than dust.
Uncover Cash in Your Accounts Receivable
Accounts receivable are crucial to your working capital. They represent how fast cash comes in to the company and gets applied to the appropriate invoice. Implementing a strong A/R process that leverages key technologies to speed up the receipt of customer payments is one way to increase your cash flow.
The top four capabilities to drive A/R performance include:
Your Accounts Receivables process should integrate billing and collections so that no duplicate data is needed.
Implement the same procedures throughout your company for every process that affects the cash conversion cycle
Centralize the Accounts Receivables function so that you have real time visibility to all outstanding invoices, statuses, and exceptions. When you have a clear picture of what the current status of you A?R Accounts are you can take quick action to expedite customer payments.
- Electronic banking relationships
With secure access to your banking portal or a direct feed from your bank you can pull the latest updated data to stay on top of your A/R accounts.
Generate Invoices Quickly
The key to improving your cash flow is to invoice customers as quickly as possible. You want to turn work into cash and in order to do so you have to bill your customers in a timely manner. Lots of companies are cash poor because they fail to invoice their customers for work completed or it takes several months to invoice the customer.
It is a good practice to implement a customer follow-up process that includes a phone call one week after the invoice is generated and mailed to ensure the customer has received the invoice. Beyond that, you should also have a strict policy for following up on overdue bills at 30 and 45 days that includes written communications or collection action.
Turning Invoices Into Quick Cash with Factoring and Invoice Discounting
To help unlock more cash in your company you can use debt factoring or invoice discounting. This is a quick and effective way to raise cash quickly. The other good thing about debt factoring is that is a funding source that is available to just about any type of business that provides goods or services using credit terms to their customers.
Debt factoring is a simple financial transaction in which a business sells its accounts receivables or invoices to a third party called a factor at a discounted rate. The company receives cash for the sale of their accounts receivables. If a company prefers they can borrow against their accounts receivable by using their accounts receivable as collateral for a loan. This is referred to as invoice discounting in the US. In the UK the only real difference between factoring and invoice discounting is confidentiality.
With a factoring arrangement the factor or provider of the cash puts a credit management system in place on behalf of your company to collect the outstanding customer invoices whereas with invoice discounting your company retains the obligation to collect on the invoices. Because of this obligation factoring is generally the better choice for start-ups and young businesses because young companies rarely have sufficient credit management systems to handle collections.
Inventory management and working your accounts receivables are two great ways of unlocking cash stuck within your business. Working accounts receivables to collect payment faster, to get rid of non-paying customers or customers that hold unrealistic expectations in terms of price or requirements should be a regular part of your financial practice. Factoring and invoice discounting are two very helpful options for start-ups or young businesses to free up working capital. When your company is cash poor focus on turning your completed work into cash and get your inventory under control so you do not leave money sitting on the shelf.