I love movies. There's nothing better than nestling back in a big, soft chair in a darkened theater, popcorn at the ready, as the previews crank up and your brain settles down for a few hours of solid entertainment.
The kerfuffle over MoviePass--a subscription-based movie ticketing service that promises customers unlimited movies for a mere $9.95 a month and recently went bankrupt--is sad but instructive.
MoviePass is is facing a host of problems, but none more troubling than the simple fact that they've literally run out of money. An eleventh-hour loan to the tune of $5 million dollars has, for the moment, staved off total disaster, but most prognostications for the future of the company are decidedly negative.
There's a lesson here for small business owners. The gist of it is as follows: Don't run out of money. Easier said than done, I know, but may I humbly suggest four simple strategies for keeping your coffers full:
1. Monitor your business checking account.
To maintain the health of a thing--whether it has to do with your physical well-being, your personal and professional relationships, your finances,have to monitor that thing.
You have to keep an eye on it; you have to touch bases on a regular basis. My company's 2018 Business Banking survey showed that 60 percent of small business owners who have a business bank account check it daily.
Join the club. Frequent monitoring allows you to notice trends, foresee future problems, and assess the financing you'll need to cover expenses and avoid clawing frantically for that eleventh-hour loan.
2. Face the problem before it starts.
According to the Federal Reserve 2017 Small Business Credit Survey, uneven cash flow is one of the more pressing reasons that entrepreneurs look to borrow money. I can definitely relate--when I started my first small business almost 20 years ago, my cash flow was barely a trickle.
This was due in large part to the fact that I had zero credit history and had to pay for everything out of my own pocket. Avoid this predicament at all costs. Even if business is booming, a day will come when affordable financing will be the only bulwark standing between you and a gnarly scrape.
So begin preparing now, today. Build those personal and business credit scores, be painstaking and thorough. Give lenders a reason to believe in you.
3. Have a backup plan.
Once I'd been in business for a while, I was able to qualify for a decent line of credit. The same thing could have been accomplished with a business credit card.
Full disclosure: My company focuses on business credit and financing. Still, it's a solid backup plan. In the event that cash flow issues arose--always a possibility--I was able to soften them because I had $10,000 in reserve.
Compare this to the desperate, sweaty maneuver of applying for a payday loan and surrendering to the draconian requirements such transactions involve. It's far better to cultivate a rainy day mentality, which involves playing the long game and establishing a legitimate fail-safe well before you're desperate and sweaty.
4. Consider other financing options.
Should worse come to worst and you're unprepared for a cash crunch, a payday loan is not your sole option for an immediate cash influx. In the case of MoviePass, its loan was to cover payments to their vendors.
A smart small business would establish solid business credit and then ask their vendors for payment terms--for example, 30-, 60-, or 90-day grace periods which would give them room to cover their bills without interest (not to mention a stress-related aneurysm).
Invoice financing could be another immediate option. Let's say you have a dawdling customer who insists on paying you for your killer product a full three months after the fact. Invoice financing would allow you to cover the gap between delivering that product and receiving payment.
MoviePass is currently dominating the headlines, a feat that most small businesses--thankfully or otherwise--will never have to emulate. But their example should ring alarm bells in every entrepreneur who hopes to make their mark on the world.
Your cash flow issues may not be as public, but they'll steal your sleep, ache your head, and dog your progress as much as if you were on the front page of The New York Times. Tackle them now. Educate yourself. In the meantime, I'll see you at the movies.