Tips on using better cash management to help improve cash flow.
Most growing companies are so preoccupied with sales that they miss tremendous opportunities with the cash they have -- or could have -- on hand. "Your goal, quite simply, should be to identify every dollar you don't need to pay today's bills and to keep that money invested to improve your cash flow," says Paul Bernstein, a cash-management consultant in New York City. Here are two bank products he recommends for every growth company; check on fees for each with your bank:
A lockbox. This is a post-office box for receiving remittances. "Your bank maintains a post-office box for your customers to send their payments to, empties the lockbox frequently, and immediately deposits any checks into your account," Bernstein explains. Funds become available faster than if they're first sent to your office. A related tip: if you have customers in several regions, consider multiple lockboxes, so you can knock days off the mail time, too.
A controlled-disbursement account. Here's an example: At 10 a.m., your bank tells you the total dollar amount of the checks that will clear from your account that day. Then you transfer to your checking account only as much money as you need to cover those checks, leaving the rest of your funds invested elsewhere. "If you just keep funds waiting in your account until your checks clear," Bernstein emphasizes, "you're wasting the chance to make money." -- Jill Andresky Fraser