If your business is short on cash, the money you need might already be there—locked up in stock, assets or your debtors’ books. You might be able to unlock funds within your business in these three areas.
|1| Sell, manage or convert assets to cash
Your assets include debtors, stock, pre-paid expenses, vehicles, plant and equipment, fittings and property.
Each of these is a possible source of funds ready for you to unlock.
Everyone who’s a late payer and owes you money is cash waiting to be collected.
Here’s how to get your cash sooner:
- Send invoices promptly: This is your future cash flow, and you need to receive it as soon as possible. Slow invoicing means delayed payment. Don’t let invoicing work accumulate until the end of the month. Invoice as soon as you ship, send goods or complete a task.
- Accept relevant mobile payments: This will speed up the payment cycle.
- Email your invoices: It’s faster, saves printing and postage, and gets your invoice into customers’ payment cycles earlier.
- Don’t send statements: Many businesses cut out the extra step of sending statements simply by printing at the bottom of the invoice: “Please pay on this invoice as no statement will be sent.” Can you do this with your business?
- Change the terms: Change the terms for some of your customers or for new customers. Can you reduce your payment terms from 30 days to seven days from the invoice date? What about payment on delivery?
- Follow up: Always follow up promptly and consistently when invoices aren’t paid by their due date. Be polite but firm. If you don’t have time to do this, appoint someone to do it for you.
- Credit check new customers: If you haven’t been doing this, now’s a good time to start. Credit checking can eliminate bad debt problems at the start. Make sure new customers sign acceptance of your credit terms.
- Consider offering a prompt payment discount: Try offering a discount to your customers if they pay early. Discounts can be an option for high-margin operations. You have to work out whether the use of money that you unlock earlier is worth the discount you’re offering.
Do you have excessive capital tied up in stock? This can occur in two ways:
- You’re carrying high levels of items that you could obtain from suppliers at short notice.
- You have too many slow-moving stock items (and too few fast-moving items).
Better management will reduce both problems and free up cash:
- Review stock levels. Regularly review your stock levels, stock turnover rates and purchasing policies to see if you can hold less stock without impacting your business.
- Hold a sale. It might pay to reduce old stock to unlock money quickly.
- If you need additional funds to purchase more inventory, replace slow-moving stock with faster-selling lines.
Fixed assets can often lock up a significant amount of cash.
Do you put all your assets to full use? Can you sell off little-used assets and hire the equipment when it’s needed? Can you lease vehicles instead of buying them?
|2| Collect from customers earlier to unlock cash
Don’t forget your customers can be a source of business funds. Apart from improving your debt collection tactics (above), try these strategies:
- Pay by credit card: Ask some of your credit customers if they’d be willing pay you by using their business credit card. You must pay a credit transaction commission, but you get your cash right away to use in your business.
- Ask for cash: If it’s relevant for your industry, consider encouraging customers to pay with cash to keep the funds inside your business rather than locked up in accounts receivable.
- Get progress payments: If you supply goods or services over a period, try to secure progress payments. This ensures you get some cash flow during a project instead of waiting until the end of a project or delivery period to invoice—and then still waiting at least another 30 days for payment. There’s another benefit here too. If the business you’re dealing with fails, you at least have payment for work you’ve completed.
|3| Hold suppliers accountable
Finally, consider your suppliers as a possible funding source:
- Take back surplus stock: Will they take back some stock if you ordered too much for current trading conditions? They might help you out of a temporary tight spot if you explain that you have a temporary cash-flow crisis.
- Extended credit: Try asking for extended payment terms to allow you to sell the goods before you must pay.
- Split the order: Ask the supplier to split the order in two. Offer to pay regular credit terms on half of the order and 90 days or longer on the other half.
Your suppliers will be more likely to agree to these arrangements if you’ve paid them promptly in the past.
It’s always good practice to keep on good terms with key suppliers. That way, they’ll be more likely to help you when times are tough.