50% of Small Businesses Fail because of poor Cash Flow Management!

Cash Flow Management

“Cash is king” is an adage often used to highlight the importance of cash flow management, especially for small businesses.

Statistics show that over 50% of businesses fail and, more often than not, these are profitable businesses that failed to ensure that the money coming in each month was greater than the money going out.

Believe it or not, your Cash Flow Statement is actually far more important than your Profit & Loss Statement. Your P&L will show you a dollar profit value but it doesn’t tell you how you’ve spent your money or how much cash has come in that period. Sure, your profits are important as they do ultimately increase your cash but they are not the only things that impact your cash flow. Equally, it’s not enough to just be checking your bank balance daily.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Let’s just consider the following, imagine you are running a profitable business and you decide to buy a new business asset. If you spent that money without paying attention to your cash flow and it turned out that you actually needed that for the payroll run the same week then you could be unable to pay your employees. In a small business, sometimes staff do understand that they may need to wait a day or two to get paid (though their bills still need paying) but, if this has happened before, they may well end up quitting. In a panic, to ensure your services are maintained, you then start taking up their jobs, as well as your own, putting your business at risk. In this scenario, you need to be focusing on collecting any outstanding cash owed by your customers and, at the same time, generating new business. Instead, you’re working even more hours on the wrong things. Let’s go a step further, perhaps your customers start noticing a decline in service and look to move their business away from you!  Your problems are starting to compound, you’ve lost staff, lost customers, struggling to pay your remaining staff and now there’s also critical bills that also need paying. It all too quickly becomes a downward spiral effect that is difficult, if not impossible, to break.

What does the cash flow statement show?

Your cash flow statement will show you where your money is coming from (cash inflow) and where it is being spent (cash outflow) with a focus on your bank statements and loans, unpaid customer invoices, inventory (if applicable), unpaid supplier invoices and your credit terms. The report itself is probably the most confusing to read for a small business owner but your accountant really needs to lay things out in layman’s terms for you so you can work on the key areas that will improve your cash flow.

Your business is in great shape if the cash inflow is consistently higher than the cash outflows but that shouldn’t lead to any complacency as there will inevitably be times where your outflow may be greater than your inflow. Effective, cash management ensures that these times are short lived as you will have an active plan to ensure that is the case.

 And how will that help my cash flow?

There’s a number of things that can be done to improve your cash flow situation but you’ll only properly start focusing on these when you understand what is happening and what needs to be improved.

Here’s just a couple of tips to consider:

1.    Stating the obvious, but the absolutely first step is to ensure you are issuing invoices and collecting payments promptly.

  • If you send regular monthly invoices to your customers, you can set up you accounting system to automatically create these
  • Additionally, if you are incurring expenses that you need to bill back to your customers, your accounting system should be able to mark these for you so you can easily prepare the customer invoice
  • Give customers the option to automatically pay the invoice online, e.g. Paypal, ACH payments, so checks don’t get lost in the post
  • Schedule regular reminders of payments due for your customers

2.    Paying your bills smartly.

  • Use the payment terms to its fullest so, if you have a 30-day term on a bill, use the 30 days unless your supplier offers an attractive discount option for early payment
  • Elect for automated payments either with your supplier or using the payment options within your accounting system to pay on the due date - not earlier or later

3.    Build up cash reserves

  • There’ll always be a time lag between sales and receiving payments but the dates your bills are due for payment isn’t going to change because you haven’t received money from your customers so you need to plan to have a baseline balance in your bank account to get you through those times
  • If necessary, arrange a line of credit with your bank so you have the ability to borrow money for a short period of time

4.    Introduce cash flow planning

  • Develop both short-term (weekly & monthly) and annual cash flow projections so you can manage your cash and properly plan the investments your business needs to reach your growth targets. This is even more critical if you have a seasonal business or running a project based business that receives payments only at defined milestone stages of delivery.

And the Result?

Having a strong cash flow will give you the ability to invest in the growth of your business – be it expanding to new locations, bringing on smart employees who will add to your growth potential and many others. With an excess cash flow, you can be proactive in your decision making instead of working in a reactive way discussed in the earlier example of what could go wrong.

You will be able to enjoy flexibility in decision making – you will know whether you can afford to make critical purchases in the short term as opposed to waiting, as well as being able to manage any unexpected challenges should they arise.

Having a strong cash flow will also make your business more appealing to a lender, if you need to borrow additional funds, or even to a buyer if you are considering selling your business at some time in the future.

In Summary

All accounting systems today produce Cash Flow Statements and, in large organizations these may often go un-reviewed monthly but it is critical that small businesses don’t fall into the trap. Regardless of how great your business model or what your profits are, as a business owner you need to review the Cash Flow Statement each and every month so you can make the right decisions for your business and look at also implementing cash flow planning so you can make your business everything you dreamed it would be.

 

Do you have an accurate picture of your company’s cash flow? Do you prepare periodic cash flow statements and cash flow analysis? Do you have any other tips to share that helped you?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Business Growth - The Answer is Out There...

You’ll have heard this before from many accountants and bookkeepers - hire me and we'll help you grow your business! You are probably thinking how on earth can a bookkeeper or an accountant help me grow my business? And if the majority of the online ads (on all social media sites) are to be believed, growth is only possible by throwing all your money into digital marketing - so why on earth would you worry about your financial accounts?

For all businesses, small or large, your financials are the backbone and if you are not tracking your accounts on (at least) a monthly basis, in at least a similar level of details as you are your online ads and SEO performance, then, believe it or not, you really are missing opportunities to grow your business.

There are 3 key financial statements - your Balance Sheet, your Cash Flow Statement and your Profit & Loss (P&L) but, sadly, not all of the answers you need to grow your business are obvious in these 3 reports alone.

Not that we’re dismissing these reports as they are the foundation point to getting the right answers and, before we go into what you really need to achieve the promised growth, let’s start by looking at what information you should be getting from these - at a very high level:

1.     The Balance Sheet gives you a “snapshot” of your company’s financial position at a specific point in time showing what your business owns as well as what you owe to others along with the value of your investment in your business. If you need to secure additional funding, say from your bank or potential investors, they will pay particular detail to your balance sheet results.

2.     The Cash Flow Statement looks at the actual cash flowing in and out of the company so, for example, your revenues may look great but if your customers are not paying you then you’ll be suffering from poorer than expected cash flow. Cash is king so tracking the fact that you are consistently generating more cash income than the amount of cash going out of your business is critical.

3.     The P&L Statement details out your revenues and expenses during your financial year. All related revenue and expenses for a particular accounting period need to be matched so you have a clear view on the money you are making (or losing) during the period being reported.

NOW, here’s an important point to note – your P&L will show you your bottom line profit but, in isolation of further analysis, it will not tell you the detail of what component of your business was profitable or what area of your business is draining those profits.

So, crunch point, what do you actually need to really be able to grow. All of the above will give you a heads up over your competition that are not reviewing these financial reports and perhaps you are getting some ratio analysis on the data within these but if you are truly looking for insights that will enable business growth then you need to be covering the following as well.

1.     Look Internally

Customer Analysis (though this same analysis is also valid for your Products and Services). Drill down into your customer profitability so you know exactly where your profits are coming from and those customers who are draining them, so you can focus on the right customers with the right solutions so you increase your business profitability and your competitive advantage. Armed with this level of analysis, there are 4 key things that you can put into action:

  • Once you know who your most profitable customers are, you can focus your marketing spend on winning more of them and not waste your dollars on retaining unprofitable customers. Likewise, you need to make sure you are not spending money on retaining loss making customers.
  • Based on customer profitability you can review any discounting policies you may be offering, or even consider offering, to improve your bottom line.
  • One of the key reasons that customers are unprofitable is because the cost of working with them, post sales, is out of step with the profit they have generated at the time of the sale. This can be anything from customers continually calling in with queries or, conversely, your sales people calling too frequently on customers or prospects that have limited potential to convert. Introducing online self-serve sales and service channels could be an option to eliminate the overhead time and money. And if you don’t have that level of business to justify these types of sales and service channels, explore other ways to reduce the amount of time you are having to spend on these customers.
  • Many customers fail to generate you good profits as they only place small orders but they do this regularly but the cost to your business of fulfilling the smaller orders means you are making a loss. Reviewing minimum order quantities can go a long way to keeping the cost of doing business with a customer is aligned to the amount of business they give you. Alongside this, you can also look at incentivizing your customers to change their behavior to buy less frequently but with a level of business that does mean you can generate the right level of profits for your business.

Profitability analysis shouldn't be difficult to time consuming as you likely already have most of the data you need so if you are not going to this level of detail within your financial accounts then you are missing an opportunity to make decisions that will truly impact and improve your bottom line.

2.     Look Externally

Benchmarking your business against your industry norms, or even your direct competition, will give you insights as to where you stand today and identify areas where you can improve your business performance for both growth and your bottom line – beyond those identified from your internal analysis.

There are financial metrics – taken from the 3 key financial statements that are universally important – Profit Margin, Liquidity Ratios, Turnover Ratios such as how long it takes to collect cash from invoicing and how long it takes to pay suppliers, and others that are industry specific.  

And it’s not enough to do this just as a one-time exercise – you owe it to your business to look into this regularly.

Comparing your business to your competition and industry peers once a year is suboptimal. Your top competition and your industry is always changing and evolving even if your business isn’t. The more frequently you can benchmark, the quicker you’ll see trends and be able to take action that improves your bottom-line.

So, how do you go about getting the answers for growth that you need? Sadly, a recent report from NSA’s 2016-17 Income and Fees of Accountants and Tax Preparers in Public Practice Survey Report showed that CPA’s main income stream (57%) comes from tax preparation and only 6.2% of their time is spent on financial statement preparation and bookkeeping advisory services so it really is highly unlikely that you will be able to get the level of attention that you need for this type of analysis that will help you grow your business. Instead, you need Management Accounting services from companies that specialize in what you actually need.

The rise of cloud accounting software has provided the automation required to process the key financial statements with close to minimal effort so, with the right partner, experienced in management accountancy, you can get the analysis required by outsourcing these services. Going in-house for a small business doesn’t make sense as you will incur unnecessary overheads, such as payroll expenses and employee benefits. With outsourcing, you will have access to deeper expertise, up to date insights into the latest technologies that will further automate your business processes and a partner who is committed to your success - after all, their success is completely couples with yours!  

Call us now on (310) 465 9248 or email us at jackie@allcentsconsulting.com to learn how to get on the growth path for your business starting today!

Automate your Accounting for Greater Profits and Business Insights

As a business owner, every minute of your day has value so automating as much of your daily processing as possible will not only streamline your business but allow you to focus on your customers and business growth.

Accounting and bookkeeping are probably one of the most cumbersome requirements for any business and not done just to meet your tax requirements. Your financial results are pretty much the backbone of your business operations and, as such, for you to be as successful as possible you need real-time access to this information so you can make the right decisions for growth.

By focusing on your accounts, you will understand what is happening within your business and why, along with clarity on your cash flow so your business can improve income and reduce aged debts to boost your cash situation for the better. Better still, you will be able to plan your future business goals and expenses so you have a roadmap to help you get from where your business is today to where it wants to be.

Automating your accounting will not mean that your bookkeeping systems will run themselves but it will save you significant time.

It may also be worth considering outsourcing this to an external consultant who will bring you the insight you deserve and partner with you by acting as a Virtual Finance Director and a trusted advisor to help you achieve your goals, as well as ridding you the hassle that comes along with bookkeeping.

Regardless of whether you keep this in-house or do decide to outsource your accounts, here’s a few key options to consider:

  • Cut Out the Paper
  • Get the Right Accounting Software
  • Put Collecting Your Money and Paying Your Bills on Autopilot
  • Outsource Your Books to a Virtual Bookkeeper

Make Your Business Paperless in 2017

It's a New Year and, for many, this is the perfect time to implement improvements to their business. So imagine what it mean to your business and your accounting to be paperless? Better still, go paperless AND use the cloud to eliminate your data entry!

Introducing Hubdoc - your Digital Assistant for your 21st Century Business...

With Hubdoc you can stop chasing your monthly statements and recurring invoices. Sit back and relax while Hubdoc automatically fetches them for you and organizes them in folders just the way you need them.

Because all your documents are stored securely in the cloud, they are always easy to access and integrate with your other business apps so you can streamline your business processes.

For your paper receipts, simply take pictures of them with the Hubdoc mobile app or scan them the old fashion way and upload them to the site.

Hubdoc converts all your documents into data that you can use across your business, letting you say goodbye to your paperwork and data entry forever!

Learn more at https://www.allcentsbookkeeping.com/hubdoc and say goodbye to your paperwork and data entry in 2017!

The Joys of Virtual Bookkeeping

Starting a business is the biggest joy in a young hopeful entrepreneurs life, it should not be filled with the stress of having to deal with all the big numbers of keeping the business running.

Let us be the ones to deal with that so you can deal with the joys of your business.

Read More