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5 TIPS TO KEEP CASH FLOW GOING IN A GROWING BUSINESS

Your top priority as a business owner has to be to keep the money flowing in, because you can’t provide a great product or service if there’s no cash to support your endeavor. A 2014 report by CB Insights highlights this, noting that the second most common reason startups fail is because they run out of cash.

“Think of your financial statements like a group of friends. Cash flow is the friend whose advice we never want, but know it’s what we need — and it will always be the brutal truth,” says Walt Jones, principal of SEQ Advisory Group, a strategy and management consulting firm in Washington, D.C.

Here are five tips to help you better manage your money and keep the cash flowing in as you grow your business.

Make It Easy to Pay You Quickly

You should avoid any roadblocks, big or small, that could give a client an excuse to wait to pay. Set up incentives and automation that will help people pay you faster.

“Talk with your bank about online invoicing solutions,” Jones says. “This will give your customers the option to pay online as well as receive reminders when invoices are past due.” You can also offer auto-payments as an option.

Accepting credit cards is faster and more convenient than paper checks, and automated payments allow you to forecast better because you know you will be receiving payments at a certain time on a regular basis, Jones says.

You may also want to consider offering discounts for early or full payment as another incentive for people to pay you quickly.

Seek Out the Best Deals

No one wants to pay more than they have to for anything, and buying things for your business shouldn’t be any different. So look for discounts from suppliers or work out payment plans with extended due dates if possible.

“Ask about volume discounts and retainer fees for service providers,” Jones says. “If you can establish a relationship and demonstrate to the vendor that this could be a long-term business arrangement, it’s a great opportunity to get favorable rates.”

Also, look for any method of cutting costs that won’t sacrifice the quality of your product or service.

Keep the Bigger Picture in Mind

Staying on top of your cash flow means more than just checking your bank and credit card balances, as those won’t tell the whole story. Prudent cash management requires understanding how and when cash flows in and out of your business.

Be diligent about maintaining accurate financial records and keep a sharp eye on your current cash position, Jones says. “The account balance can be deceiving in that it only shows what has posted to the account,” he says. “If there are outstanding checks or transactions that the bank hasn’t posted, it will give you an inaccurate picture of your cash position.”

Some bookkeeping systems can link to your accounts so you can see what has posted and what has been logged in your ledger, he says, noting that this is helpful as long as you keep things regularly updated.

Stay Lean, Even in the Good Times

After a few good months, beware of the temptation to spend just because the money is there. Continue to seek ways to control costs so you can build a cash reserve.

A reserve can help you avoid taking on more debt or just get you through a tough month. Your mandatory monthly expenses, like payroll and rent, will come due whether you have money or not, so try to keep funds on hand that can cover those things in a pinch.

Arrange Lines of Credit — Before You Need Them

The times when business is good provide another, less obvious way to prepare for lean times: Apply for credit. It is far easier to get the bank to extend you credit when your finances are strong than when you’re in dire straights.

“For those instances when machinery breaks or other operational replacements are necessary, you won’t want to deplete your cash reserves,” Jones says. “Work with your bank on best financing, credit options and rates. Business-banker relationships can be key in finding the right resources for your growing business.”

Start building those relationships sooner rather than later. You may find that the long-term health of your company depends on them.

Stephen Loy