If you've ever lain awake at night wondering how you're going to pay your bills and keep your business's doors open, you're not alone. Sleepless nights are common among owners of fast-growing companies.
Business concerns, including cash flow, keep 35 percent of entrepreneurs awake at night, according to a recent report from Kabbage, an automated business funding platform. Worse, 63 percent of respondents report being "regularly stressed or have anxiety due to cash flow concerns." And it's not for lack of experience--survey participants reported running successful companies for an average of more than 10 years.
"Having owned multiple small businesses before founding Kabbage, I am intimately familiar with cash flow challenges," said Rob Frohwein, Kabbage's CEO. "Sleepless nights were my reality when waiting on customer checks and thinking through needed expenditures."
Three common financial concerns often drive anxiety. Fortunately, there are ways to manage each.
1. With a tight labor market making it more costly to hire and keep good help, your best solution may be to bring on just-in-time workers, says Alexander Lowry, executive director of the Master of Science in Financial Analysis program at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. These are workers with specific skill sets you bring on only when you need them to perform specific tasks. "That's the beauty of the gig economy, which has made it possible to distance yourself from the traditional concerns that have kept entrepreneurs up at night," he says. Sites like Upwork and TaskRabbit connect you with flex talent and help you control labor costs before you're ready to bring on another full-time employee.
2. Your business will stall if you don't keep up with supplier bills, so Lowry suggests some short-term solutions to free up cash. "Take yourself off payroll temporarily," he says, assuming you can afford to do so. That will ease some cash flow pressure internally.
Negotiating discounts for early payment can also help reduce costs and shore up your bank account. Stay on top of payments your business is due to ensure an uninterrupted inflow of cash. And, while not an ideal option, asking suppliers for additional time to pay could also buy some time.
If you're coping with the lag time between billing a client and receiving payment, a factoring firm can help by buying your accounts receivable at a large discount. Consider this option carefully, however.While you'll get needed cash quickly, you'll forego much of the profit you earned.
3. Keeping inventory in stock is the quintessential chicken and egg issue: You need inventory to sell to generate revenue, but you need revenue to pay for products or raw materials to sell. Finding a way to keep items in stock so as not to miss out on sales and without going bankrupt is the quintessential entrepreneurial conundrum.
Building relationships with competitors can help, Lowry says. Instead of placing a large, expensive order from your distributor, inquire about buying from other companies that sell the same stock. If you can negotiate a discount for a longer-term relationship, the companies can essentially split the profit margin.
If ongoing cash-flow fluctuations are an issue, a small business line of credit might be the key to leveling the ups and downs that are typical in rapid-growth companies. For example, Kabbage is able to approve small businesses to access funding in minutes, avoiding the paper-heavy process typically found with a bank. By infusing capital into your business, you can meet your obligations, invest strategically in growth and remove the burden of solving for the uncertainties of cash flow. Such a cash cushion just might be the ticket to help you end those sleepless nights.