Saturday, March 1, 2008

Small business cash flow problems, credit cards solutions?

More business go under because of the discrepancy between the inflow and outflow of cash. What good is it if you have $1000’s in accounts receivable if you cannot pay your debts and daily operating costs today? This affects both small and large businesses, it is the way you handle the difference that counts.

If you have a cash flow problem you need to look at your payment terms and contracts. See what you can change. Can you do a % discount on the receivables if your customers pay in 15 days instead of 30 days? This can speed up the turn around from invoice to cash in hand. Also take a look at your budget, can you decrease the discrepancy by changing your budget. There are lots of ways to improve cash flow.

However, no matter how good your cash flow is you still have to deal with slow payers and no payers. This can have a large impact on your cash flow. Large projects can also place a strain on cash flow. So how do you supplement your cash inflow with out ending up with a crippling debt load?

Budgeting always plays a big part of business. You budget your expected returns and expenses but always try to leave a cushion of cash to off set the unexpected. Like having to go to court to get payment or having to write off a large account receivable, or actually getting an unexpected contract. When budgeting alone is not enough and you have to look out side for an influx of cash what do you do? Where do you turn to, what options are open to you? Well that depends on your existing debt load, how much you need and for how long.

Selling your accounts receivables is a good way to get ready cash with out going into more debt. The question is, will any one buy them and at what % on the dollar will they buy them. What good is selling off our receivables at a loss? It might help now but in the long term loses you money and throws off your cash flow and budget. Only use this when things are dire or you are selling off bad accounts you expect to have to fight for, or wait a long time for, or not receive payment.

A loan or mortgage lets you pay it off over a long period of time. This is good if you expect a long time between spending the money and getting a return on it. It is also good if you expect a long-term cash inflow from this investment of cash. Not so good a choice if this is for a short-term solution.

Short-term solutions, for when you expect a quick turnaround, are line of credit, over drafts and credit cards. If used properly these are great tools for day-to-day operations. Like when you have a cheque to be cashed on Monday but payroll is due on Friday. These options need to be used in the short term, when you can pay them off in days or weeks, not months or years. Real problems arise when people use these short-term solutions for long-term problems. These options usually have higher rates of interest then loans and mortgages can eat deeply into your profits if not paid quickly.

You need to know what your money needs are and find a financing solution that is best for each situation. All the planning, barrowing and such will not work if you don’t have a good understanding of your cash flow, develop a good budget and follow it.

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