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Friday, December 19, 2008

Small Business Tip .... How To Manage Cash Flow

Cash is king right? When in business .... ANY size business .... managing your cash flow is key to survival, not just growth. So .... how do you best go about ensuring you have your ducks in a row? Read on folks .... and pay attention.

Before you consider improving parts of the process, it’s important to bring the entire process under control. The process is the simultaneous timing of receipts and payments. How do you know if you’re in control? For most companies you could say you’re in control if you can predict cash balances within 10% accuracy, over the next 30 days.

Any business can get into control fairly easy but it takes a little discipline. Start by preparing a realistic schedule of receipts summarized by week. Typically these are outstanding customer invoices. Schedule receipts based on customers past payment patterns not you terms. Don’t kid yourself, in this environment plan for delayed customer payments.

Next prepared a weekly schedule of payments your business will be making over the next 30 days. Be sure to include all your expected payments such as payroll, payments to suppliers, installment loans, etc. Rank payments by penalty to pay beyond terms.

Finally, starting with your current cash balance, prepare a weekly schedule that adds your receipts and subtracts your payments. This will provide a weekly projected cash balance.

Update the forecast every week using new cash balances. In weeks where receipts were below forecast you have to consider slowing down your payments. When you see a heavy cash receipts week coming near you should attempt to confirm that customers will be paying as you are planning.

Once your cash management is under control here’s a few ways to improve the cash flow:

1 . Calling customers in advance
2. Make collections a priority with your sales team
3. Corrected invoices slow receipts. Monitor invoice corrections closely. Make sure invoices are accurate and in format acceptable to the customer
4. Reduce credit limits for customers paying slow due to their own cash problems.
5. Stick to your payment schedule for major items
6. Be reliable. Communicate clearly and in advance to all stake holders when moving off agreed terms. This includes employees, lenders, shareholders, and suppliers.
7. Include your management team in the process. You’ll need their help and support to be successful.
8. Control on what you can control.
9. Delay unnecessary spending indefinitely. Ask yourself if the expenditure is not made will it kill the company in the next three months? Three months later if you're still alive, ask the question again.

There you go .... now you have a plan. It's up to you to put it into action.

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