Cash Flow Tight? How to Fight Back!

Lee Lister

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You may be internet based, mail order or a local merchant with 150 employees; you've got to know how to keep your business alive and kicking, during economic recessions and down times. Anytime the cash flow in a business, starts to dry up you need to ensure that you have tight control over your expenditure, profits and marketing.

1) Protect yourself from expenditures made on sudden impulse. We've all bought merchandise or services we really didn't need simply because we were in the mood, or perhaps in response to the advertising or the persuasiveness of the salesperson. Then we “wake up" a couple of days later and find that we've committed hundreds of dollars of business funds for an item or service that's not essential to the success of our business. Remember the mantra “think thrice – buy once. ” Ask yourself “Do we need it? What benefits will it bring the company? What is the real cost? What won’t we be able to buy if we buy this?”

You must be professional and very choosy with people trying to sell you luxuries for your business. When business is booming, you undoubtedly will allow sales people to show you new models of equipment or a new line of supplies; but when your business is down, always concentrate on the basics. However, remember to remain courteous and allow these sellers to consider you a friend and call back at another time.

2) Regularly Review your Accounts. Your company's books should be detailed and whoever maintains them should be able to generate information such as your return on your investment, as well as the turnover on your accounts receivable and inventory. Such management information should focus in depth on every item within your financial statement that makes up your core business and your major expenses. If you regularly review your management reports, you should uncover any potential financial problems before they become a problem.

3) Regularly Collect Money Due to You. It has always been good business sense to pay as late as possible. Conversely it is also good business sense to collect money due immediately. You will find that most of your customers have the money to pay at least some of what they owe you immediately. Whilst maintaining a courteous attitude, don't be hesitant, or be too much of a “nice guy" when it comes to collecting money.

To improve your cash flow and the number of accounts receivable in your files to a minimum, you should call your debtors on the phone and remind them of the money due. You might also ask for some kind of explanation as to why they're falling behind. If you develop such a habit as part of your operating procedure, you'll find your invoices will magically be at the top of the piles of bills to pay. Needless to say, don’t keep supplying goods to clients that are NOT paying their bills. Helping out those that can’t pay their bills may build up good will for the future. Consider bartering with them so that they provide you with something your business needs in exchange for writing off some of the debt. Consider changing your condition of sale so that you can charge interest on debts that are outstanding for too long.

4) Maintain and build upon your Credit Rating. It is good business practice, but something which few business owners do, to methodically build a credit rating with your local banks. Particularly when you have a good cash flow, you should borrow $100 to $1,000 from your banks every 90 days or so. Simply borrow the money, and place it in an interest bearing account, and then pay it all back at least a month or so before it's due. By doing this, you will increase the borrowing power of your business and strengthen your ability to obtain needed financing on short notice when you really need it.

5) Join Local Associations. This is great for networking. Join your industry's local and national trade associations. Most of these organizations have a wealth of information available on everything from details on your competitors to average industry sales figures, new products, services, and trends.

If you are given a membership certificate or wall plaque, you should display these conspicuously on you office wall. Customers like to see such “seals of approval" and feel additional confidence in your business when they see them.

6) Take Advantage of any Free Business Advice Available. Many trade organizations and government groups provide free business counseling on a number of subjects. Similarly you may be able to swap your particular services for another company’s services, benefiting you both. The Small Business Administration (SBA) publishes many excellent booklets, checklists and brochures on quite a large variety of businesses. These publications are available through the U. S. Government Printing Office. Similarly many local universities and some private organizations hold seminars at minimal or no cost. You should search through local trade publications, newspapers and the internet for availability. Your local SBA should always be your first port of call.

7) Review your Business Direction. Running a business is like driving a car over a regularly changing landscape. You have to be constantly aware and make many small changes to meet new challenges. You should regularly review where you business is heading, what your competitors are doing and how what you are selling is being received. Talk to your customers, talk to your ex customers and find out what you can do to keep on the road ahead.

8) Identify New Markets. This may be as simple as advertising elsewhere, slightly changing your advertising materials or how you describe your product. Alternatively you might want to product a whole new product altogether. Keep informed of what is happening in your market, what your potential customers want and are telling you and respond to that need. Review your pricing and see if a change will make a difference to your sales.

9) Take Regular Inventory Checks. If your cash flow is tight, it could be that you have thousands of $’s sitting in your warehouse or stock room. Regular stock taking to check what you have in your stores, how much they are worth and what volume of each item has been sold will identify for you where your money is being tied up. If you have too much stock it is the same as storing dollar bills in your stock room – and of course inflation is making them worth less and less. Hold a sale or give products away with other products as a loss leader, bundle poorly selling products with others as a “special item” to lessen your overstock and turn dead money into money in your pocket!

10) Ensure you have Management back up. If at all possible, you should have your spouse, partner or trusted friend, work in the business with you for at least three or four weeks per year. Then, if for any reason you are not available to run the business, they will be familiar with the running of your business and able to maintain it. Similarly they will be in a position to offer objective advice when you may need it.

Remember in times of low cash flow – you should direct your efforts to improvement, control and enhancements.


© Copyright 2005 Biz Guru LLC Lee Lister, writes as The Biz Guru, for a number of web sites including her own sites With over 20 year’s management and business consultancy experience with businesses large and small as well as being a serial entrepreneur, she now helps others set up, develop and market their businesses. Also visit for our internet marketing solutions or for our business information products.

This article may be freely distributed if this resource box stays attached.



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