Tips for Improving Cash Flow

Cash flow is one of the biggest sources of stress for business owners. While cash management is essential to a healthy business, it is only one of the aspects business owners need to address to have a healthy and profitable business. From getting a loan to collecting aging accounts receivable, there are many ways to improve cash flow.  Here are a few that any business can incorporate, even when they’re flush with cash. Need to hire? Add inventory? Move? Cash is king. Healthy cash flow will put you in the driver’s seat to make strategic moves, and be a stronger negotiator. Best of all, more cash reduces stress.

Let’s examine some easy-to-implement strategies for improving cash flow:

Stay on top of what you are owed

  • Can you invoice sooner to better match the timing of work performed?
  • What about the invoice cadence?  Consider invoicing semimonthly versus monthly.
  • Make it hurt for them to pay you late.  It hurts you, be clear about penalties for late payments.
  • On large projects, ask for a deposit for materials.
  • Require payment in full before you release the final product.
  • Be precise with billing.  If you’re not keeping track, you may be missing out on the money you are owed.
  • Set up ACH, and take the thought out of bill pay by having your customers on an autopay option (incentivize this!)

Put off paying others until the last minute

  • Who needs to be paid first and why? Be sure you’re paying the accounts with penalties first and putting off more lenient ones until your cash flow recovers.
  • Ask for an early pay discount wherever you can.
  • Use online bill pay to pay at the 11th hour.

Use debt to your advantage

  • Refinance old debt.
  • Look at alternative lending options.  Consider factoring, or accounts receivable loans.
  • Pay as many vendors on a credit card as possible. Bonus: You’ll get an extra month to pay and points for flights!

Look at expenses and prices

  • It may be time to increase pricing.  Have your costs gone up? When was the last time you increased prices? 
  • Ask vendors what you can do for a discount. Recurring payments? ACH? a longer contract? You’ve gotta give to get.
  • Partner with others in your industry. Volume purchases or referring companies can get you favorable discounts.

Get the whole company on board

  • From the assistant to the CFO, get the whole team on board with a rolling 12-month cash flow forecast. Many small businesses fail due to a lack of planning and control over cash resources.  Having a more detailed 13-week cash flow plan can give you a heads up before you’re really strapped for cash. 
  • Segment suppliers, customers, and inventory. Don’t try to tackle your cash flow as a whole. Do you have too much cash tied up in products that sell seasonally?
  • Enlist the help of an experienced CFO to set you up for success so you can have more time to focus on running your business. Enlisting an outside expert will generate much more cash than it will cost.
  • Ask everyone for ideas on where you can cut back.  You may be spending on software that everyone hates or a retreat no one wants to go on.  Ask and listen.

Today we are talking about the 8 components of creating a business plan. Starting a business is both exciting and challenging. You can design your own career, be your own boss, and pursue your passion. But, according to the Small Business Administration, only two-thirds of businesses survive at least two years. About half survive at least five years.

Want to know the secret to start off on the right foot?  It’s a killer business plan. You need to define your strategy and tactics for establishing a business with a strong financial foundation.

Are you feeling unsure or overwhelmed about how to get started? Don’t worry. Momentum CFO can help. Let’s start by learning the 8 essential components of a killer business plan. 

1 | Executive Summary

The Executive Summary is the first section of your business plan. It’s a concise and compelling summary of all the other  sections of your plan. It’s the first content section of your business plan, but it should be the last thing you write. Make it short and sweet. Give the reader the big picture of what your business is all about.

2 | Business Description and Mission

Second, describe your business and its mission. Why are you starting the business? When will you launch it? What is your mission? Your vision? Describe your business goals. Make sure your goals are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time bound.

Provide this information, along with facts about where your business is located, how it’s organized as a legal entity, and your contact information.

3 | Products and Services

Third, the Products and Services section is where you describe the products and/or services you’ll sell. What is their purpose? Why are they unique? How will you price them? 

New business owners often initially set their prices by “gut feel”.  They don’t do the research and analysis required to ensure that their pricing is profitable. Pricing analysis is complex. But, it’s also crucial to the success of your business. Engage an experienced CFO to develop a profitable pricing framework.

4 | Market Research and Competitive Analysis

Fourth, use the Market Research section to describe a problem or need exists in your industry and how your business addresses it. What are the key attributes of your ideal customer? Be specific. The more specific you are, the easier it will be to design a targeted marketing and sales strategy.

Analyze your main competitors. How long have they been in business? What is their market share? What advantages do they have over your business and vice versa?

5 | Marketing and Sales Strategy

Fifth, the Marketing and Sales Strategy section details your plan for acquiring new customers. New business owners are often overly optimistic about how many customers they can bring on in their first year. That’s why is vital to develop a comprehensive sales and marketing strategy.

In this section, describe your overall marketing strategy. Explain the specific tactics you’ll use to drive brand awareness and sales.  How will you reach your target customers? What advertising and promotion channels will you use? Will you develop an awesome website? Ensure it’s optimized for search? Run social media marketing campaigns? Use print or online ads? 

Think about this carefully. You need enough customers to have a viable business.

6 | Organization and Management

The Organization and Management section is up next. Provide information about yourself and your leadership team here. Lenders and investors want to be assured that leadership is competent.

Describe your education and experience. What are your notable achievements? Are you a member of relevant professional organizations? What makes you suited to run this business? Highlight your accomplishments. Next, do the same for other key leaders in your organization.

7 | Financials

The Financials section is an extremely important part of your business plan. How will you fund your business? 

Some business owners “bootstrap”, putting their own money into the business. Others seek funds from friends and family. Business owners with larger capital requirements may seek angel or private equity investment. Still others will apply for small business or personal loans.

Developing a business plan for your small business

Are you seeking capital from outside sources? Know that lenders and investors will scrutinize the Financials section. It helps them decide whether to lend to you or invest in your business. Include schedules such as a profit and loss projection and a cash flow projection.

There are several important parts of the Financials section. Don’t have a financial background? Engage a CFO to help. It’s important to get this section right. You can’t run a profitable business without a detailed financial plan.

8 | Finishing Touches: Table of Contents and Appendix

The final subject in our 8 components of a business plan: include a Table of Contents at the beginning of your business plan. Add an Appendix section at the end. Next, include important supporting documents. These may include your financial projections, business licenses, the resumes of you and your leadership team, etc.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, starting a new business is exciting! It takes careful planning to do it well. Momentum CFO’s startup planning and implementation services put you on the path to achieving long-term success. 

Our Smart Start Strategy service includes a tailor-made road map for successfully starting your business. It covers:

  • Smart Start checklist of crucial startup tasks
  • One-on-one financial strategy sessions 
  • A comprehensive written business plan 
  • Financial projections for your first year in business
  • Recommendations for financing your business

Ready to get started? Book a free consultation today!BOOK YOUR CONSULTATION


Be sure to check out our other resources for small business: https://momentumcfo.com/cfo-resources/embed/#?secret=DrIUkEHE8W

In this post, I’ll share 6 ways for small business owners to increase profits. We know that, when comes to profit, small business owners often feel like they’re on a roller coaster ride. Whether you’re just starting up or you have an established business, you’re likely experiencing some ups and downs. 

One year your profit is great and the next year you might not be able to avoid a loss. This is especially true when unexpected events like the coronavirus pandemic throw a wrench in your plans.

If you’re unsure if the sum of all the financial decisions you’ve made will ultimately equal a profit or loss at the end of the year, here are some concrete steps you can take to put yourself on the path to consistent profits. 


1 | Set a Goal and Make a Plan

Setting attainable financial goals is the cornerstone of a well run small business

First, start with the basics.  Set a goal for increasing profit. What are you trying to achieve? Do you want to increase your small business’s profit by 10% compared to last year? Hit a specific number by a certain date? Make your goal specific, realistic, and time-bound. Realistic goal setting is the most important of the ways for small business owners to increase profits over the long run.

After you’ve set a goal, creating a financial plan is a vital next step.  As Antoine de Saint Exupery wrote, “A goal without a plan is just a wish”. A financial plan is like GPS for your small business.  It helps you:

  • Chart the course to your desired destination 
  • Navigate roadblocks you encounter along the way
  • Measure whether you are on track to achieve your profit goals

A CFO will develop a financial plan based on knowledge of your business, goals, historical financial performance, and what’s feasible in the current economic environment.  Not working with a CFO just yet due to budget constraints? We offer consulting services, along with packages specifically for start-ups and small businesses. 

 2 | Understand Your Numbers

Zoom in on your financial numbers.  Understanding them is a critical building block toward profitability.

Understanding your numbers and how they affect the profitability of your business is one of the most important ways for small business owners to increase profits. But where should you start? Well, your bookkeeper records all the financial transactions that occurred during the month. In addition, she should provide a few basic financial reports that summarize what happened.  

Need a good bookkeeper? We’re happy to recommend a few great ones here in San Diego.  Drop us an email.

If you didn’t study finance, you may feel intimidated or confused by those bookkeeping or financial roll-up reports. You are not alone.  If you don’t know the differences between an income statement (a.k.a “P&L”), balance sheet, or statement of cash flows, not to worry.  Ask for help. Here at Momentum CFO, we conduct monthly financial review meetings for all of our clients. What’s included:

  • Easily understandable charts so you can visualize your financial results
  • Analysis of your financials, and an explanation of why they occurred (in plain English vs. finance jargon)
  • Identifying early warning signs of potential problems that can decrease profitability
  • Comparing the results to your plan to ensure you achieve your goals
  • Providing clear recommendations for improving profit

3 | Evaluate Your Pricing

Balancing value and price is key to correct pricing

A third way to boost profit is evaluate your pricing strategy. You may learn that your products or services aren’t optimally priced. 

How did you originally set your prices? Was it based on “gut feel”? Did you research current market conditions and your competitors’ pricing?  

If you don’t have a clear advantage over your competitors, too-high prices can result in lower sales volume. Customers can buy a similar, lower-priced product or service elsewhere.

If your pricing is too low, your sales volume may be high, but you’re probably leaving money on the table that could boost your bottom line.     

In addition, when you set your prices, did you account for all your costs of doing business?  Your total costs aren’t just the direct costs of the labor and materials it takes to produce your product or service.  You also need to factor your general business overhead expenses (e.g. rent, office supplies, software applications, administrative staff support, etc.) into your pricing. 

Your prices should reflect your direct costs, indirect costs, and an appropriate markup to generate a profit.  If you haven’t had a moment to really sit down and figure all this out, fill out our contact form and let’s see how we can help! And remember pricing is one of the subtle yet powerful ways for small business owners to increase profits over time. 

4 | Analyze Product and Service Profitability

Momentum CFO can help you chart a path to profitability.

Do you know which of your products and services are the most and least profitable?  It’s not uncommon for small business owners to be unaware that they’re losing money on some of their products and services. Some business owners deliberately sell their products at a loss to gain market share from their competitors. However, unprofitable sales aren’t a sustainable long-term solution.

Analyzing product and service profitability involves reviewing your prices, discounts, and the total costs of your products and services. When you know how much profit or loss you’re generating, you can make better decisions about what to do next. Working with a financial consultant or a CFO can help you with your pricing and discounting strategies. Furthermore, they can identify ways to reduce your costs of production and delivery.  

5 | Take a Close Look at Expenses

If you’re looking for ways to increase profit, take a close look at your monthly expenses. To boost your profit by cutting expenses, first identify which of your expenses are necessities for running your business. Necessities include expenses such as rent, cost of goods to produce your products, and business insurance. 

Second, look for expenses you can reduce or eliminate. Ask yourself questions like am I:

  • Paying a recurring monthly fee for a product or service I no longer use? 
  • Spending too much on meals and entertainment?  
  • Setting spending limits for my employees? Or, are they buying whatever they want, whenever they want? 

Few small business owners relish cutting costs because it implies that they must give up something. We can help you be creative and find ways to reduce your expenses! Some tactics we’ve used with other clients include:

  • Renegotiating contracts with your suppliers
  • Refinancing high-interest rate debt (more on this below)
  • Analyzing the return on your investment on marketing or other services intended to increase sales

6 | Refinance High Interest Rate Debt

Refinance your high interest rate date to increase your profitiblity

Small business owners often finance the growth of their business with loans. However, high loan interest expense can substantially decrease your profit. 

Are you generating a consistent annual profit? If not, you’ll have limited options for securing a loan. Furthermore, if you don’t meet the lending criteria set by commonly known financial institutions, you might turn to smaller online lenders. These are a great option for small businesses and startups. However, small online lenders provide that much-needed cash at a high cost. In addition, loans from these lenders frequently carry high double-digit interest rates that can exceed 30% APR.  Reducing high-interest debt is one of the more powerful ways for small business owners to increase profits.

We excel at working with small business owners to generate higher, consistent profits so you can qualify for loans at reasonable rates. Furthermore, we’ve helped numerous clients refinance and consolidate loans. 

As an example, we recently helped a small business reduce their monthly debt payments by over 70%! Now that’s a good return on investment!  

Final Thoughts

A business can’t stay in business for the long term without healthy profits. Therefore, by taking the steps outlined above, you can reap additional benefits such as:

  • Opportunities to grow and expand to new markets or locations
  • Ability to hire more employees and incur new expenses that help you grow
  • Better chances of being able to borrow money at reasonable rates
  • Ability to attract better investors
  • More cash in the bank 
  • Increase in the market value of your business
  • Peace of mind that you are on the path to financial success

Need more help boosting your profit?   Book your free consultation today and let’s work together to grow your business profitably!

If you’re like most small business owners, you are suffering from cash flow challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic.  With lots of money going out the door and much less coming in, what should you do to cope with the coronavirus cash flow crunch? 

In this article, we’ll discuss four critical steps to take to ensure your business survives this unprecedented time:

  1. Forecast cash flow
  2. Adapt your business practices to generate income
  3. Cut costs
  4. Apply for financial assistance programs

1 | Forecast Cash Flow

Cash deficits are the #1 reason businesses fail. COVID-19 is exacerbating the problem. How long will it take for your business to run out of cash if you have reduced or no income in the near future? You will surely feel stressed and anxious if you don’t have a good handle on how much money you need to sustain your operations. 

The solution is a cash flow forecast that predicts future inflows and outflows of cash.  By looking ahead, you’ll eliminate the much of the uncertainty about the cash you’ll have on hand next week or three months from now.  Not sure of how to set this up?  Reach out and we can help! 

Remember, do not manage cash simply by checking your bank account balance. A bank account balance is simply a snapshot in time that doesn’t provide insight into how much cash you’ll have in the future.   

Want to set up your own cash flow forecast? Great! Here’s how to create a basic cash flow forecast:

  • Start with your beginning bank account balance for the time period at hand, whether it’s the current week or month. 
  • List all your inflows of cash from sales, loans, or other sources. 
  • List all your outflows of cash such as payroll, rent, and credit card payments. 
  • Add your total cash inflows to and subtract your total cash outflows from your beginning bank balance. Then you will have a forecast of your ending account balance for the time period. 

Still feeling overwhelmed, don’t have a bookkeeper, let alone a CFO?  We offer services for both startups and small businesses. In addition, we already have experience helping businesses reopen and bringing them out of their cash flow crunch due to COVID-19. 

2 | Adapt Your Business Practices to Generate Income

Many states have ordered non-essential businesses to close. If your business was forced to close, and you are still suffering a loss of income, it’s time to get creative.  Brainstorm how you can continue to offer your products and services in a different way. For many, this many mean switching to e-commerce services or product sales. 

Do you typically meet clients in person? Determine if you can deliver your services online via video conference instead. Were you selling products at a storefront? Well, you might be able to promote digital gift cards or offer delivery services! 

Either way,  set up safe, socially-distanced options for your customers to continue to work with you. Stay top of mind. And, don’t overlook the power of social media to do this. Offer special promotions to keep clients engaged. 

Be sure to stay on top of your accounts receivable and follow up with customers who are late on payments. Bill customers as soon as you deliver your product or service. Consider using a factoring company (factor) to get an advance on the receivables your customers owe you before their payments are due to you. For more information on factors, see our article on cash flow

3 | Cut Costs to Increase Cash Flow

If you’re suffering from a severe cash-flow shortage, cost-cutting is essential. What should you do? First, reduce or eliminate all non-essential expenses.  Postpone major purchases. Sell excess inventory. Delay payments to vendors as much as possible. 

Rent and payroll are the two biggest operating expenses most businesses incur. Ask your landlord or mortgage lender if you can defer payments to a future date. Some lenders are offering rate reductions on existing debt. Payment deferments of up to six months are available on Small Business Administration 7(a) and 504 business loans and microloans.  Learn more about SBA loan deferments. 

Lastly, in this exceptionally low-interest rate environment, consider consolidating and refinancing any existing debt at a lower rate to save on interest expense. Contact your lender or finance professional for assistance. 

To learn more about how we’re helping businesses reopen post COVID-19, contact us at 858.284.0314 or schedule your free financial consultation.

4 | Apply for Financial Assistance

The Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loans are federal financial assistance programs available to small business owners. 

SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans are available to businesses and non-profit organizations suffering losses from COVID-19. The funds from disaster loans can be used to pay your employees, vendors, and creditors.  Disaster loans provide up to $150,000 in assistance for business owners and have favorable terms including low-interest rates, and long payback periods.

The Paycheck Protection Program provides forgivable loans to small businesses to pay their employees during the pandemic. The loan amount is based on 2.5 times your average monthly payroll cost. The entire loan amount will be forgiven (you don’t have to repay it) if you use the proceeds to pay for payroll costs, rent, mortgage interest, and utility costs and you maintain staffing and compensation levels. 

Contact your local bank to find out if it is participating in the program.  Get all of the details about the Paycheck Protection Program.

In addition to exploring federal assistance programs,  research financial assistance programs that are specific to your industry and location. Special funds have been established for businesses in various industries. In some areas, local government agencies are also providing assistance. 

For example, the City of San Diego’s Small Business Relief Fund is available to local businesses affected by COVID-19. The fund provides grants and forgivable or low to zero interest rate loans to eligible small businesses. 

Final Thoughts on Increasing Your Cash Flow

This is a stressful time for most small business owners as we are all navigating uncharted waters. Don’t hesitate to drop us a message about how we might be able to work together to get you through this cash flow crunch.

Editor’s note: This article was last updated on June 9, 2020. It reflects loan forgiveness changes outlined in the Payment Protection Program Flexibility Act.

If you’re like many small business owners, you may be struggling to retain employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, federal financial assistance programs can help. In this article, we’ll discuss the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

What is the Paycheck Protection Program?

The Paycheck Protection Program provides forgivable loans to small businesses. You may be wondering, how big of a loan can you get? Up to 2.5 times your average monthly payroll costs.

Ready for the great news? The entire loan amount will be forgiven if you meet the forgiveness criteria. Forgiveness means you don’t have to repay the loan.

Who can apply for the Paycheck Protection Program?

In general, small businesses with fewer than 500 employees, non profits, and veterans organizations. Sole proprietors, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals may also apply. 

In certain circumstances, businesses with more than 500 employees are eligible. Learn more about the SBA’s size standards for small businesses. 

Unlike other types of business loans, no collateral or personal guarantee is required for PPP loans. 

How must PPP funds be used? 

The primary goal of the Paycheck Protection Program is to help small business owners continue to pay their employees. 

Business owners must spend 60% of PPP funds they receive on payroll-related expenses. They must do so within 24 weeks after receiving the loan. No more than 40% of the funds can be spent on rent, mortgage interest, and utilities. 

Your loan won’t be fully forgiven if you don’t use all of your PPP funds on approved expenses. There are also restrictions on decreasing headcount or wages that may limit your ability to achieve 100% loan forgiveness. 

How do I apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan?

Don’t delay in applying for a PPP loan. Loans are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The CARES Act initially allocated $350 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program. Later, lawmakers approved an additional $310 billion of funding.

Most lenders began accepting applications for Paycheck Protection Program loans in early April 2020. Which organizations can accept PPP applications? SBA lenders, federally insured depository institutions, and other regulated lenders approved by the Treasury. Find an approved lender here. 

First, see if you can apply with the financial institution you bank with. Some lenders will only take applications from their current customers. They may also require borrowers to meet other criteria. This may include having an existing lending relationship with them. 

If you don’t qualify, you can still apply with another lender that has different borrowing requirements. 

What if my PPP loan isn’t forgiven?

If you’re required to repay your loan, repayment starts 6 months after receiving the funds. 

Payments are deferred for 6 months. But, 1% annual interest will begin accruing immediately. Full repayment is due 5 years after receiving the loan. There is no pre-payment penalty for repaying it sooner. 

About Momentum CFO

Momentum CFO is a boutique firm specializing in outsourced Chief Financial Officer services for small to mid-size businesses. We bring the benefits of Fortune 500 financial expertise to your business without the expense of hiring a full-time CFO. 

To learn more, contact us at 858.284.0314 or schedule your free financial consultation.

As a small business owner experiencing a loss of revenue from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, you’re probably losing sleep at night wondering how your business will survive in these uncertain times. The mental narrative playing on repeat in your head may sound something like this:

“Coronavirus is crushing my business! How will I serve my customers? Am I going to lose even more of them? And my employees… will I have to lay them off? I’m not sure I can afford my next payroll. What about my bills and debt payments? I could lose my business! ” 

These concerns are enough to make anyone feel worried and anxious. Fortunately, disaster loans are available to help businesses weather the pandemic’s impact. 

What are Disaster Loans?

Note: the following information was sourced from the SBA’s website and was updated on July 21, 2o2o.

Disaster loans help businesses recover from physical and economic damages caused by a disaster such as a hurricane, flood, or in these times, COVID-19. 

The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) to businesses and non-profit organizations suffering losses from COVID-19. These loans provide essential cash to help keep your business afloat. The funds from disaster loans can be used to pay your employees, vendors, and creditors. 

The SBA’s economic injury disaster loans provide emergency funding for business owners and have favorable terms including low interest rates and long payback periods. The interest rate for disaster loans is 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for private non-profit organizations. The length of the loan payback period will vary based on your ability to repay it, and can be as long as 30 years. 

Which Businesses are Eligible?

Small business owners in all U.S. states and territories are currently eligible to apply, provided that your business meets the SBA’s size standards. In general, to be considered a small business, you must not have more than 500 employees, but there are exceptions. Use the SBA’s Size Standards Tool to find out whether your business qualifies. 

SBA Disaster Loan Process

How to Apply for a Disaster Loan

You can apply for an SBA disaster loan online, by mail, in person at a disaster center, or by calling the SBA Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955.  The SBA recently introduced a streamlined application process.  Click here to access the application. 

Be sure to have your financial statements on hand before you apply. Among other things, you’ll be asked for information about your revenue and cost of goods sold, for the twelve months prior to the date of the disaster. The SBA defined January 31, 2020 as the disaster date. 

What Happens Next? 

After you submit your loan application, an SBA loan officer will review your credit, verify your eligibility, and approve or deny your loan application. If your application is approved, congratulations! It’s time to move on to the loan closing process and receive funding. 

You’ll receive an e-mail from the SBA that directs you to log into their website. There, you’ll have an opportunity to decide if you want to receive all or only some of the total loan amount that was approved.

What Else Should I Do?

Regardless of whether you’re approved for a disaster loan, there are other things you can do to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. 

  • Maintaining a cash forecast  that predicts your business’s future inflows and outflows of cash is vital to the health of your business.  By looking ahead, you’ll eliminate the much of the uncertainty and anxiety about what your business can afford in future. Check out our previous article for more tips on cash flow
  • You should also reduce or eliminate all non-essential expenses. If you’re running out of cash and have a line of credit, now is the time to draw funds from it. 
  • Consider seeking professional financial guidance to help you through this challenging time. While it may seem like one more expense you can’t afford, professional help may save your business from permanent closure. An experienced CFO will ensure that today’s problems don’t snowball into bigger ones down the road. If you need assistance coping with the financial fallout of COVID-19, engage a CFO today.  

About Momentum CFO

Momentum CFO is a boutique firm specializing in outsourced Chief Financial Officer services for small to mid-size businesses. We help business owners increase profit, improve cash flow, plan, and make smart financial decisions. Enjoy the benefits of Fortune 500 financial expertise without the expense of hiring a full-time CFO.

“Entrepreneurs believe that profit is what matters most… But profit is secondary. Cash flow matters most.”  – Peter Drucker

Cash is truly the lifeblood of your business.  Without it, there’s no money to hire employees, buy supplies, or repay debt.  According to a US Bank study, 82% of businesses that fail do so because of cash flow problems.  Don’t be a statistic- learn six cash flow mistakes that can sink your business, and how to avoid them.

1 | Overestimating Sales 

If you have a financial plan for your business that projects your income, expenses, and expected profit, congratulations! You’re on the right track.  However, if your sales projections are overly optimistic, you may find yourself short on cash.  If you’re counting on every one of those sales to materialize in order to afford your business expenses, take a step back.  Most businesses don’t generate significant sales in their first few months (or sometimes years) of operation.  

While it’s great to have a “best case scenario” financial plan for your business, it’s also important to have a more conservative backup plan.  Identify expenses that you can reduce, postpone, or eliminate if sales aren’t as strong as you expected, and immediately cut costs when needed. 

2 | Overdue Customer Invoices

You’ve made the sale and sent the invoice… now you need your customers to pay you on time so you can pay your own business expenses. 

To avoid coming up short, review your accounts receivable (A/R) aging report each month and contact customers that have overdue invoices.  Include consequences such as late payment fees in all your customer contracts, such as 3% of the invoiced amount for each month that the invoice remains unpaid.  Set clear collections policies for unpaid invoices and be diligent about following up. 

3 | Out of Sync Payment Terms

If the payment terms you offer your customers are significantly different than those you have with your vendors, you’ll quickly wind up with a cash flow deficit.  For example, if you give your customers 45 days to pay your invoices but your vendors require you to pay in 15 days, you’ll need extra cash on hand to cover the 30-day gap in payment terms.  

To close the gap, renegotiate your contracts with customers and vendors.  If that’s not possible, consider offering your customers a small early payment discount, typically 1 – 3%, to give them an incentive to pay invoices before they’re due.  

If out of sync payment terms are a consistent problem, invoice factoring may be a solution.  Factoring companies advance qualified businesses short-term cash secured by the value of customer invoices.  Here’s how it works: You send your customer an invoice for $25,000 that’s due in 60 days. The factoring company advances you $25,000 immediately, and then collects payment from your customer when it’s due.  As with any type of financing, be sure you fully understand the costs of the factoring arrangement.  Factoring companies generally offer their services in exchange for a percentage of the invoice value.

4 | Not Having a Cash Flow Forecast

When you first started your business, managing cash flow may have seemed as simple as ensuring you had enough money in your bank account to cover your expenses.  But a bank account balance is simply a snapshot in time that doesn’t provide insight into how much cash you’ll have in the future.  

The solution is a cash flow forecast that predicts future inflows and outflows of cash.  By looking ahead, you’ll eliminate the much of the uncertainty about the cash you’ll have on hand next month or six months from now.  You’ll be able to pinpoint times when you expect a cash flow deficit and create a plan to ensure it doesn’t put your business in jeopardy.  

5 | Not Having a Backup Plan

Cash crunches are sometimes inevitable.  It’s impossible to predict the future with perfect accuracy, so it’s crucial to have a cash cushion or “emergency fund” to fall back on when you have a cash deficit.  Your emergency fund should include enough cash to fund at least 3 months’ worth of operating expenses.  Keep the funds in an account that isn’t at risk of losing value, such as a savings account.  

You can also consider applying for a line of credit that you can draw from when your cash flow forecast indicates that there will be a deficit.  Interest rates for lines of credit are variable, so stay on top of your borrowing costs by reviewing your monthly statements.  

6 | Not Knowing Your Numbers

Last but not least, you must know your numbers to have positive cash flow and a profitable business. It’s tempting to put managing your finances on the back burner while you focus on generating the revenue needed to sustain your business. But without a solid understanding of your monthly financial performance, it’s difficult to pinpoint problems and determine how to adjust course when things don’t go as planned. 

Each month, review your cash flow statement, which reflects your inflows and outflows of cash, and your P&L, which details your income, expenses, and resulting profit or loss.  Those two reports will give you an understanding of your sources and uses of cash. 

Final Thoughts

Maintaining healthy cash flow is a common challenge for entrepreneurs.  If you stay on top of your finances and regularly update your cash flow forecast, you’ll set yourself up for future success.  If you have a cash flow problem and aren’t sure what to do next, make it a priority to engage a qualified financial professional.  When you have little cash to begin with, it may seem counterproductive to spend more of it.  But just as a doctor helps you get well when you’re sick, an experienced CFO can help your business return to financial health.  Engage a CFO today.  Your bank account will thank you! 

About Momentum CFO

Momentum CFO is a boutique firm specializing in outsourced Chief Financial Officer services for small to mid-size businesses. We bring the benefits of Fortune 500 financial expertise to your business without the expense of hiring a full-time CFO. 

To learn more, contact us at 858.284.0314 or schedule your free financial consultation.