Business owners make a profound local impact, as we learned in a recent ICB Financial Sense Blog. They provide jobs, increase the tax base of the community, offer a unique local flair, and many times, give back to the communities who support them. However, none of this would be possible without the business having a solid financial footing.
Managing cash flow can be a big challenge for many businesses. Bills and employee salaries need to be paid no matter how sales are doing. Here are six strategies for improving cash flow to bolster your business through the good times, and the not so good:
Streamline Payment Processing
When it comes to maximizing cash flow, one of the first things you should assess is how you are accepting payments. Creating invoices, printing, mailing and then ensuring they are received can be extremely costly and time consuming. Do you have software that can electronically invoice your clients and track payments? Are you offering discounts for timely payments? By offering incentives to clients for prompt payment (even a 1-2% discount) you aren’t only enhancing your cash flow, you are also reducing the time spent on tracking down delinquent accounts. For those that aren’t paying promptly, add on an interest charge or penalty on past due accounts to help your business recoup lost income.
Consider Alternate Payment Methods
Instead of only accepting checks for payments, have you considered setting up electronic payments? Through ACH origination with your bank, your business can automatically pull payments from your clients with their permission. You can also accept ACH payments from other businesses who wish to initiate payment through their bank. To mitigate fraud, talk to your banker about setting up a separate Zero Balance Account (ZBA) to collect these payments. Using a ZBA limits your risk of fraud, and if you do experience fraud, your main operating account number is not involved.
ACH Origination can also help you make payments to your vendors/clients. You can schedule your payment to arrive on the date due without having to worry about lost checks in the mail or mail fraud. Have you asked your vendors for better terms or discounts if you pay in full within a certain amount of days? It never hurts to ask…you may receive a helpful discount and they benefit from being paid sooner!
Utilize Business Credit Cards
Much like consumer credit cards, your banker can help you apply for a business credit card with rewards. Business credit card programs can help you keep your expenses separate from your personal finances, track spending and manage cash flow. Different cards offer different reward programs and there are hundreds of options for business credit cards. Work with your banker to make sure you have a credit card that best fits your business needs to maximize reward earnings. For example, one option might have a higher percentage of reward points for gas stations or restaurants or office supply stores, another rewards option may be a flat percentage rewarded for all of your purchases.
- Set up an auto payment so that you don’t inadvertently make a late payment.
- Know when and if the rewards expire, no sense in earning them if you lose them.
- Business credit cards also allow you the flexibility to assign a card to employees to use, you can set limits and track spending.
Accept Credit Cards for Payments
This seems like a no-brainer now days, but believe it or not, there are still businesses that take cash payments only. However, research has shown that customers spend more when given the option to use credit/debit cards over cash. By partnering with a trusted merchant services (credit card) provider, you have the potential to increase sales, avoid returned checks, and save time tracking lost funds - therefore controlling your funds instead of letting them control you.
- Depending on your business model, ask about mobile capabilities and online software options, this can eliminate the need for a traditional credit card machine.
- Be diligent and verify the software costs, contract terms, monthly fees and early termination fees with your merchant provider before signing a contract.
- Ask about the customer service they provide for if/when you have an issue.
- Find out if they will they assist you with PCI compliance. This can be a large and unnecessary additional cost on your business if you fail to become PCI compliant.
Re-evaluate Business Costs
Certain expenses, like heat, water and electric have fixed rates each month, but have you asked for a second opinion on your insurance costs recently? How about your phone/internet package? Do your due diligence and request quotes from other vendors to ensure you aren’t overpaying. Re-evaluating your day to day business costs can save you time and money in the future.
- Ensure suppliers are charging you correctly.
- Identify alternative options for high priced suppliers/vendors or negotiate rates/payment terms.
- Eliminate organizational inefficiencies.
- Use updated software with technological advances, this can help you streamline your business processes and increase efficiency. The right software will allow you to see all accounts payable and accounts receivables and other defining details of your business on one spreadsheet, so you can budget and project future cash flow.
Open a Business Line of Credit
A business line of credit allows your business immediate access to funds for unexpected expenses, and you only pay interest on what is being borrowed. The business line of credit is revolving - so you can borrow, repay and borrow again in the future when the need arises. It’s a good idea to set up your business line of credit before you need it. Ideally, a line of credit should be discussed with your banker when business is good and your numbers are strong, as this will mitigate the potential approval if your business has a tougher year. By establishing a strong relationship with your banker, they better understand your business needs and can be a valuable resource to set you up with the banking services that will best support your business.
Schedule a Cash Flow Assessment
Want some help starting the process? Our no-obligation Cash Flow Assessment is designed to help you better understand where in your organization you can modify processes and leverage services to make your cash work harder for you. Click the button below to get started!