How to manage your day-to-day cash flow

Do not attempt to grow your business out of cash flow

Forget profits and turnover: cash flow is the lifeblood of any business. It’s important to keep in the black. Learning this early on will put you and your business venture in good standing for the future and make you develop good habits. This guide will show you how to keep on top of your cash flow.

What you need to do

  • Identify the source of your incomings; determine the destination of your outgoings; then work out exactly how much you get in – and how much goes out.
  • A cash flow projection is generally divided into short periods of weeks or months, and is usually done for a year or a quarter in advance.
  • You need to forecast realistically: if you manage your business to a clear business plan and use a budget with an achievable break-even point to track your actual business performance against your plans. This way, you’ll see any issues which are likely to arise early.
  • Make sure you make regular cash flow projections so you can make any financial arrangements for known expenses before you need the money: you might consider using accounting software to help you with this.

What to include in your cashflow forecast

  • Opening and closing bank balances
  • Payments
  • Receipts

How to keep money coming in

  • The aim is to have more cash coming in than going out. So keep your overheads lean and establish a clear credit policy for your customers, setting out your payment terms
  • Issue invoices on time: build due dates into your budget and cashflow plans, and make sure you chase payments up
  • Consider offering discounts for prompt payment, and charging penalty interest on late payments
  • Working out how much finance you will need and where you will get it from early on will help you keep money coming into your account

How to stay on top of cash flow

  • Face your problems squarely as they occur and don’t let your worries pile up. Shoving your paperwork in a shoe box and hoping it will go away is not a solution: it won’t.
  • Have a warning system in place so you are alerted if you are heading towards the red
  • Consider the frequency with which you pay suppliers, tax etc. – it is often possible to make your payment terms more flexible
  • Similarly, wage payment can be timed to sync with incomings, which will help keep your books on an even keel
  • Regularly checking your bank accounts using online or mobile baking means you will know exactly what is going in and coming out of your account, and when it’s happening.

Common problems

The kind of issues that spark cash flow problems are detailed below:

  • Inadequate credit controls
    It’s a good idea to run a credit check on first-time customers so you don’t get any nasty surprises. Too many debtors will lead to trouble.
  • Overtrading
    Be careful you only take on as much business as you can manage
  • Excessive credit or financing
    Remember, borrowing money costs: try to keep it to a minimum
  • Holding excessive stock
    If you often have more stock than you can sell, think about changing your patterns of ordering
  • Poor marketing
    Falling or slowing sales should act as a warning sign: take action
  • Sub-standard management accounting
    If you keep tidy accounts, you should be able to foresee impending cash flow crises
  • Lax invoicing and ordering procedures
    Maintain a measured and regular contact with your customers

Checklist

  • Ensure your cash flow budgets are up to date
  • Arrange appropriate financing before you need it
  • Negotiate favorable credit terms with suppliers: offering regular orders can help
  • Establish a clear credit policy for customers
    • Issue invoices on time
    • Do not become lax about chasing debt
    • Avoid laying out a lot of cash for unnecessary quantities of stock
    • Consider all funding options: factoring, invoice discounting, hire purchase, loans, leasing’s and mortgages
    • Use overdrafts for short-term requirements
    • FAQ
    • Do I need an accountant to draw up my cash flow forecasts?
      It is never a bad idea to get expert advice, and an accountant can certainly help you draw up your forecasts. But you do not need an accountant to draw up cash flow forecasts. You should be able to draw up and revise your own forecasts quite easily – especially if you have accounting software.
    • I see a possible cash flow crisis coming down the road: what can I do?
      You can ensure you have a safety net in place to catch your fall while you fix the problem. Arrange finance – an overdraft or emergency fund – so that a one or even two-month dip cannot hurt your business.

    I have been a great advocate for the accountancy/finance package developed by Xero. It will provide everything necessary to manage your business against the critical success features of financial controls.