Cash flow is the lifeblood of any business, and managing it effectively can mean the difference between make or break.
When we refer to cash flow management, we’re talking about making sure there is enough cash available to cover all your outgoing expenses. If your outgoings are more than your sales and you run out of cash to pay staff or suppliers, your business will risk insolvency.
Even if you’re profitable, good cash flow management requires effective forecasting for the longer term and preparing for any potential financial pressures, such as seasonal dips, a large order coming up or a need to invest in new equipment.
It’s also worth having a contingency plan in place that can kick in to protect cash flow in the event of unexpected or unforeseen financial pressures. This could include situations such as equipment breakdown, suppliers or customers going out of business, or the late payment of invoices.
Improving cash flow
The good news is there are several measures you can take to improve cash flow. Good cash flow management mainly comes down to having a solid grasp of your company’s income and outgoings, identifying any potential future risks, and ensuring plans are in place to tackle and prepare for this.
It often pays to make sure you are constantly reviewing all expenses and costs to ensure that;
a) they are still necessary and
b) you are getting good value for money.
It could be that shopping around for things like utilities, bank accounts and contracted services could save money and improve cash flow, and you may also have legacy payments for services that are no longer needed.
Credit control procedures are also a vital part of the cash flow process. Late payment of invoices and waiting to receive cash for services provided can be crippling to businesses, yet it continues to be a significant problem.
Making sure you have robust credit control procedures in place is the first step towards mitigating this problem — and it might be as simple as setting up automatic invoice reminders.
How business finance can help improve cash flow
Once you have exhausted the operational changes that are within your power, there may still be external factors impacting your cash flow that are out of your control — or you might want to invest money in growing your business without risking your day-to-day cash. If that’s the case, there’s a range of funding options available that can help put the control firmly back in your hands.
Here’s a quick introduction to some of the funding options you might want to look at to help you maintain working levels of cash flow.
Unsecured business loans
If you need an injection of cash fast, either to seize an opportunity or to cover an unexpected cost, then an unsecured business loan could be an option.
If you are looking for an unsecured business loan, you will find that lenders generally place a greater emphasis on your trading history. You will probably be asked to provide a personal guarantee, but because there’s no security involved they can be arranged quickly.
It’s also worth noting that this flexibility usually means unsecured loans come at a higher cost.
As mentioned above, late payment of invoices can be a serious issue, especially if you only have a handful of clients. Some larger companies take up to 90 days to pay their suppliers, which can make it really difficult for smaller businesses — you don’t want to wait that long, but you don’t want to rock the boat and risk losing the business either.
Invoice finance is a really effective way of tackling this problem, by releasing the cash owed to you in unpaid invoices.
The lender takes the burden of the debt for you, so as soon as you raise an invoice, they forward you the majority of the money owed. When the invoice is settled by the customer, the lender will forward you the rest of the money minus their fee.
Revolving credit facilities
If your funding needs are a bit less predictable, revolving credit facilities can work well when you need extra cash for the short-term.
Revolving credit facilities are a rolling agreement, so they’re like an overdraft without the bank account, or a loan that can be renewed automatically.
Working within an overall credit limit set by the lender, you can withdraw money as and when you need it. Once you’ve paid some back, you can often ‘top up’ and withdraw more, making it a good solution for short-term cash flow gaps.
Cash flow is vital for any business and managing it effectively could be key to the future success of your company.
Good cash flow management involves identifying potential pressures and making sure measures are in place to overcome them – which could mean seeking some outside funding.
There are many funding options available that can help both with day-to-day cash flow management and unexpected issues, and this is something well worth exploring.