Cash flow is always top of mind for small business owners, but sometimes, financial problems seem to materialize overnight. This often happens when owners don’t monitor cash flow property, and therefore, don’t always recognize there’s an issue until it’s too late. Advanced planning and appropriate tracking tools can help position you for a healthy financial outlook, and Keetria offers the following guidance on making it work for you.
Watch Your Numbers
Cash flow can vary from one season to another, and there are myriad factors that can influence the amount of revenue that comes through your business. Tracking your income and your accounts payable will help you identify trends, in addition to helping you monitor overall finances — both practices that will keep you aware of and in control of your company’s finances. According to the Prince’s Trust, this starts with smart business planning, utilizing the right software tools to track cash flow, and making the commitment to regularly review your books to ensure you know where you stand.
Use the Right Software
There are numerous moving parts in a small business budget, so find a software program that will help you monitor trends, as well as segment categories and set benchmarks with which to measure your finances. Being able to recognize at a glance the various income categories in your business will help you spot red flags as soon as they arise and allow you to take proactive steps to mitigate the damage. This process will also help you with short and long-term planning, as well as identifying products or services that sell well versus those that underperform. This type of strategic planning can pay big dividends down the line.
Mind Your Money …
Of course, part of tracking your money also involves having a degree of fiduciary responsibility. Make calculated purchasing choices based on market research, consumer demand, and by assessing your own finances. Regularly review pricing structures and inventory and revisit vendor and supplier contracts on a regular basis to ensure you’re getting the best deals. While it’s wise to invest in staff members who will help build your business, it’s smart to look for redundancy in roles so you can ensure you aren’t filling positions you don’t really need. Sometimes contractors and freelancers can take the place of full-time employees.
… But Mind it Carefully
While a common inclination is to slash your budget to ribbons, this can backfire. Items that usually end up on the chopping block include deeply reducing your marketing budget or hitting pause on employee development. In dire circumstances, these might make sense, but avoid measures that could ultimately hurt your bottom line. Instead, look for ways to mindfully reduce costs.
For example, instead of seeking an outsider to find solutions to business issues, turn to your staff instead to find a path forward. This creates more buy-in and can even increase morale if a collaborative effort improves processes. When it comes to marketing, ask your team to explore more cost-effective processes like tapping into the free aspects of social media or even the less expensive paid social media. Your team can even take advantage of free tools like an Instagram post generator. Rather than forking over cash for a graphic designer, your staff can create captivating posts that are polished and professional in a matter of minutes.
Follow-Up on Accounts
Small business owners often have personal relationships with their customers, which can make it uncomfortable if there are outstanding invoices you need to collect. Make sure your bills all spell out your terms and conditions and make it easy for customers to pay you by giving them multiple options — electronic, debit, check, cash, or bank transfer. If payments are slow, let customers know you understand their dilemma, but reiterate your company policy and, if necessary, utilize a collection agency to intervene on your behalf. You may be able to salvage the relationship and still get paid, all by removing yourself from the transaction.
Make Regular Audits
Once you have your cash flow monitoring well in hand and your budget shored up, you can devote time to segmenting your various revenue streams and looking for ways to grow your business. Regular audits can help you make educated decisions about how well your business is performing, where you’re losing money, or spending too much. Operational decisions can be made from this knowledge — like expanding the business, or alternatively, downsizing, or going strictly online. Staying ahead of the cash curve will help ensure that all of the business decisions you make are informed ones.
Small businesses often operate on a shoestring budget, making financial monitoring all the more important. Maintaining good standing with creditors and suppliers and not allowing yourself to become over-leveraged will keep you on the right path to long-term business success.
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