No matter how big a company is or how much revenue it generates, it can fail if it has a cash flow problem. Cash flow is the amount of money flowing in and out of your business during any given time period—and you need to keep an eye on it. It’s critical to have enough money entering your business in time for you to pay your bills and cover other expenses when they’re due.
Cash Flow Statement – A Tool for Monitoring Your Small Business’s Cash Flow
The cash flow statement is a financial report that enables you to see the sources of cash flowing into your business—and how you are using your money—over a specified period of time. Businesses that have enough working capital available at all times to cover their operating costs are said to be “cash flow positive.”
Cash flow statements provide critical insight into the financial health of your business that you cannot alone get from looking at balance sheets and profit and loss statements. For example, if you’re a sole proprietor or single-member LLC owner who takes owner’s draws rather than paychecks from your business, your owner’s draw amounts probably aren’t included in your P&L. However, they do show up as money flowing from your business on cash flow statements.
If you’re using accounting software like QuickBooks, FreshBooks, XERO or another tool, you can easily generate cash flow statements. If not, SCORE has a template you can use to create a 12-month cash flow statement.
Because most businesses receive income and pay bills monthly, it’s beneficial to review cash flow regularly throughout the year.
How to Improve Your Small Business’s Cash Flow
What if you find your monthly cash flow is negative or barely covering costs in time? Below are some ways to improve cash flow.
1. Ask for down payments on projects.
If your business invoices customers on a project basis, ask for a portion of the billable amount upfront. Doing so will help ensure you’re not waiting until project completion for all income. Also, consider billing for any completed work to-date when clients delay an assignment mid-project. The key is to try to have your customers pay you for your goods and services as close as possible to when you provided those goods and services.
2. Send invoices immediately.
Rather than sending all client invoices at the end of the month, consider sending them as soon as you’ve finished your work or provided a product to a customer.
3. Adjust your terms of payment.
Another way to convert sales into cash more quickly is to shorten your net due date on your customer invoices. If your contracts allow it, for example, consider changing from a net 30 to a net 15 due date.
4. Accept payment by credit card or PayPal.
Although these options come with a small transaction fee, they can help you get paid more quickly than waiting for a customer to process a check payment.
5. Offer a discount for paying early.
To incentivize customers to pay quickly, consider offering a small discount. For example, some companies provide a 2 percent discount if an invoice is paid in 10 days.
6. Follow up with customers who have overdue accounts.
Sometimes invoices slip through the cracks and well-meaning customers forget to pay them. A polite reminder may be enough to get that money flowing into your business.
7. Negotiate with vendors and suppliers.
Adjustments on the accounts payable end of things can make a difference in cash flow, too. Consider asking your vendors and suppliers if they’re willing to extend due dates to accommodate your receivables better. They may also be willing to offer your business more favorable pricing if you commit to a longer-term agreement.
“Cash is King,” So Treat Your Cash Flow With Respect
If you need help understanding the financial health of your business, seek the expertise of an accounting professional. Also, contact SCORE; our experienced mentors are here to offer insight and guidance to help your business succeed.