I’ve seen plenty of businesses with cash flow problems. It usually starts with deferred payment of creditors, followed by missed employee super obligations, then late payment of the quarterly BAS. And by the time it gets to this point, it’s difficult to break the cycle.

Cash is king. We all know the saying, and it’s true. A profitable business with strong cash flow and healthy cash reserves is far more likely to be successful and weather the storms that invariably hit businesses.

There are loads of technical tools and software designed to help you manage your business cash flow. But that’s all they are – tools. They don’t solve your cash flow problems. This requires a concerted effort from you, the business owner, and some strong discipline.

But first things first – cash flow management won’t save an unprofitable business. If your business has no prospect of making sustainable profits, you should immediately seek advice around your strategy, operations and costs.

If you’re profitable, then disciplined cash flow management will guide you through the known seasonal fluctuations and prepare your business to cope with other unforeseen circumstances.

The first step to good cash flow management is to prepare a monthly forecast. This is essential. You might choose to forecast cash flow or profit, or even set a budget and work out your break-even sales level. This will show you when the dips are coming and give you a benchmark to compare to on a regular basis. Any variances can then be used to regularly analyse and improve your trading performance.

Your forecast doesn’t need to be complicated. You might manage this yourself, or your accountant or a good bookkeeper will be able to help.

While analysing your results, you’ll be constantly looking for ways to improve cash flow. Here’s some things you might look for:

  • Are you invoicing your clients immediately?
  • Do your invoices show a clear due date for payment?
  • Can you encourage more credit card sales? They settle quicker.
  • Can you introduce and promote pre-paid sales vouchers?
  • Have you thought about using after-pay services (but weigh up the costs)?
  • Do you offer multiple payment methods?
  • Do you hold stale stock (if so, discount it and move it on)?
  • Are you incurring heavy interest charges on credit cards?
  • Can you trim some excess costs?
  • Is there a more efficient way to do things?

Most accounting software now offers budgeting features, auto reminders for debtors, daily bank feeds, automated posting rules, and mobile device invoicing. These features can be used to ensure your data is always up to date so you can monitor your performance and make informed decisions immediately.

And make sure your software is in the cloud, so you can share your data with us, and get instant advice when it’s needed most.

Preparing a Business Forecast is one of FAJ’s new Planning and Growth services. Click here for more information.

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