How to maximize your cash flow as an entrepreneur
By ATB Financial 16 August 2019 3 min read
As a business owner, you know that it’s not always enough to make sure your books balance at the end of the year or the end of the month. When it comes to paying your employees, purchasing raw materials and taking advantage of expansion opportunities, timing is everything. Sometimes you need the money NOW.
Maintaining access to a steady cash flow is key to all aspects of running and developing a successful business, but it’s especially crucial during phases of growth. When you’ve finally stopped seeing red and started turning a profit, your business needs more—not less—access to working capital to support new employees, more extensive inventories, bulk purchases, preferred payment terms for loyal clients, new locations, etc.
If you manage your cash flow wisely, you’ll reduce your dependence on quick collections and give yourself some breathing room to explore strategies that take a little longer to pay off, such as offering bulk discounts or payment terms to loyal clients, experimenting with a new service model or investing in product development.
So how do you maximize and manage your cash flow?
Sit down and take a look at what your money-in versus money-out has looked like over the past couple of years (or months, if you are just starting out). You’ll probably notice some predictable ups and downs. Use this information to forecast your cash flows for the next 12 months and create a plan for any anticipated tight spots.
Effective forecasting also extends to your inventory. Once you’ve determined what sells well, and when, you can plan accordingly so that you don’t run out of stock OR waste time, space and money storing product you can’t move.
Being familiar with your established patterns of sending and receiving payments can help you decide whether to require payment on receipt or allow for a grace period (usually 30 days) before payment.
Clearly communicate your payment terms with your clients and vendors, invoice promptly and pursue overdue invoices. On the flip side, make sure you know when the payments you need to make are due, and budget accordingly.
Applying for a loan, line of credit or business credit card is a great way to bolster your cash flow while building credit as a business. Improving your credit not only increases your eligibility for more significant financing down the road, it can also help you qualify for lower interest rates.
Cheques vs a business credit card
While many entrepreneurs still use cheques for their business to business transactions, this practice is on the decline—and for good reason. Business credit cards like Alberta BusinessCard™ and Alberta Rewards BusinessCard™ can offer significant advantages over paper cheques. What kind of advantages, you ask?
- 21-day grace period. Sometimes your accounts receivable and accounts payable don’t line up. A business credit card can help you manage these gaps by giving you 21 days to generate the cash you used to pay for materials or services upfront.
- Instant processing. Unlike a cheque, which can be held at the bank or take days or weeks to arrive in the mail, there’s no delay on a credit card payment. Cheques can be delayed by days depending on processing time and time spent in the mail.
- Ease of accounting. Because a business credit card is already linked to your other accounts when you sign up for online banking, it’s easy to see your total financial picture at a glance—without consulting a spreadsheet or hunting through old receipts and invoices.
- Digital convenience. A business credit card allows you to make online and international payments without the hassle of mailing a cheque or ordering an electronic transfer.
- Rewards. Certain business credit cards, such as the Alberta Rewards BusinessCard ™ offer rewards on payments. Some rewards can help directly with cash flow—for instance, if you earn airline miles or travel dollars on your business credit card, you can use the rewards to book flights or accommodations when cash is tight.
""We exclusively use our Alberta Rewards MasterCard for all of our purchases, including many of our inventory purchases. It gives us additional time to pay for our inventory and we receive points for every dollar we spend, which means our travel costs to visit manufacturing partners are covered.""
Dustin, Local Laundry co-founder
Of course, as with any form of credit, it’s important to exercise caution with a business credit card.
- Keep your personal and business expenses separate; avoid using your business credit card for personal purchases.
- Carefully consider who should have access to your business credit card and what your purchasing limits and internal protocols should be.
If you want to start maximizing your cash flow, start at step one and forecast your cash flow with our Cash Flow Canvas. Want more advice to help you with your business? Our Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting a Business is full of resources and advice for emerging entrepreneurs like you.