Several customers owe you money, but you have no idea when those payments will arrive. Meanwhile, your vendors and contractors are contacting you daily to pay your own invoices. For small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs), this is an all-too-common cash-flow conundrum.
A recent Kabbage survey of 500 successful entrepreneurs showed cash-flow issues are front of mind for SMB owners. Of the respondents surveyed, 63 percent said they are regularly stressed or have anxiety due to cash-flow concerns. Yet, respondents have run successful companies for an average of 10.5 years.
"Being able to pay the bills means everything to vendors," says Simon Mikhail of Si-Pie Pizzeria in Chicago. "Vendors talk to each other about their customers. It's important for me to build a good reputation with them."
Financial shortages often arise when business owners don't have a clear picture of their financial ledgers. They don't know what funds are expected and when. They may not understand how much of their cash is tied up in inventory that isn't moving. And they may be faced with unanticipated costs.
"I think all businesses come up against financial issues where you have a purchase order, but you don't have the money to buy the materials up front," says Adam Gatchel of Southern Lights Electric in Nashville. "At least that's how it was for us, and that's what ultimately led us to look for some funding."
Fortunately, there are a number of powerful-but-affordable technologies available to help you better anticipate receivables and cash inflow, while better timing payments and cash outflow to help your business better manage its finances:
Better ledger management. Know what you're owed and what's due at all times with accounting software like Freshbooks or Xero, which also help with budget tracking. Their mobile apps allow you to issue invoices immediately and pay bills from your smartphone.
Financial institution apps. Use your bank's mobile app to "easily implement a cash-flow management system," says Mike Michalowicz, author of Profit First. This free tool is available from most banks, but many small business owners don't take advantage of the ability to monitor their accounts and manage their money from anywhere. Kabbage, an automated small business cash-flow platform, also offers a mobile app that lets small business owners apply for immediate access to lines of credit to bridge cash flow gaps or invest in opportunities.
Mobile deposits. Eliminate trips to the bank by taking advantage of mobile deposits. Checks can be scanned and credited instantly via your smartphone.
Expense monitoring. The popular Mint platform for staying on top of your personal finances is just as effective for small business. Connect your business accounts to your free Mint account and get instant access to details regarding where your money is coming from and where it's going. Avoid late fees and overdraft charges by setting up alerts.
Online payment platforms. Payment processing platforms allow businesses to accept payment on the fly, with a card reader attached to a smartphone or through an online link. Funds can then be transferred to a business checking account as needed, potentially speeding up your receivables process.
Inventory tracking software. New systems help take care of inventory, orders and shipping to save small businesses time and better understand their cash positions.
For example, most of VMAC Van Maintenance & Auto Care fleet customers pay their invoices 45 to 90 days after billing. But to keep vehicles maintained and serviced, owner Ernie Liverman has to invest in supplies while waiting to be paid. "I buy 600 gallons of oil at one time," he says. "At times I have as much as $60,000 in accounts receivable, but I still have to pay the electric bill and my suppliers."
Scheduling apps. Time tracking software simplifies the scheduling process and makes disseminating employee schedules easy and fast. Optimizing staffing levels helps maintain customer satisfaction without sky-high labor costs. Apps like Buddy Punch, When I Work (free for up to 75 employees), and Deputy can all be integrated with your payroll provider.
By meticulously managing your invoicing, collections, and expenses, you can help even out cash-flow surges and shortages. Take advantage of the technology solutions, which can help you join the 37 percent of small business owners who aren't panicking about paying their bills this month.