March 30, 2023
Vice President and Editor-in-Chief, CO—
For businesses of any size, properly managing cash flow can make the difference between success and failure. And while you can’t always anticipate what the future will bring, there are steps entrepreneurs can take to ensure you stay up-to-date on your business’s cash flow.
During this installment of CO— Strategy Studio, industry experts shared insights for small business owners looking to better manage and understand their cash flow through technology and smart habits.
Begin Collecting Data and Use Software That Will Grow With Your Business
Danielle Thieret, Founder and Chief Fun Officer of We Crush Events, recommends adopting a CRM to automate processes by syncing with invoicing platforms and help make managing cash flow simple.
“We truly live and die by our CRM,” Thieret said. “For us, [a CRM is] a financial tool to have great visibility across the company and to keep our cash flow in check… We can pull AR (Accounts Receivable) and AP (Accounts Payable) reports, look at our gross profits, our margins, and [employees] can see their commissions, which is equally as important…. It ties all of our financial data into one place and allows us to effectively manage and operate through all of our remote employees.”
Despite some small business owners believing they don’t need a CRM due to their size or age, Thieret believes using one can positively impact a business from the start and ultimately become its lifeline.
“The biggest regret I have as a business owner is that we didn't get a CRM from day one,” Thieret said. “We waited a few years to do so, which ultimately cost us money, time, [and] energy.”
Tom Kelly, Director of Analyst Relations for Oracle Netsuite, also sees the value in utilizing technology to streamline processes and recommends small business owners make a habit of using it daily.
“The nice thing about a lot of the technology that's out there today is you can connect things like your bank account and… your payroll provider,” Kelly told CO—. “You can have a lot of these connections that'll make the heavy lifting somewhat easier for you.”
Ensuring You Have Adequate Capital Requires Good Relationship Management
Particularly for businesses like Thieret’s that are responsible for bridging a gap between paying vendors and waiting for payment from customers, ensuring adequate cash flow is crucial to its survival.
“Rule number one… do not, under any circumstance, let your clients pay late,” Thieret said. “We really stand our ground on our payment structures and due dates with our clients and ensure that they understand them when they go to contract with them.”
For clients that don’t pay on time, Thieret suggests implementing penalties so this behavior does not become a habit.
Another way to ensure a business maintains positive cash flow, according to Kelly, is to set up automated systems that charge customers automatically regularly.
“Even if you're a service company or whatever, come up with creative ways to do certain things … [like] memberships or [subscriptions], where you are literally charging the credit cards every month,” Kelly added. “It’s a matter of [setting up] an annuity-type cash flow you can somewhat rely on.”
Have Cash on Hand, Even When You Don’t Need It
Managing your cash flow is equally important throughout good and bad financial times. To ensure you aren’t strapped for cash, Kelly believes “you need to have money to borrow money.” Therefore, entrepreneurs should work with a bank to borrow money when they have it, not when they need it.
“Make sure you're staying on top of things and keeping your ducks in a row to the extent you can,” Kelly advised. “But then again, remember that certain impacts on your business can be a lot more profound when you 'need' them because… the bank's gonna make it a lot tougher for you to get that money, and the money they’re going to be offered isn’t going to be cheap.”
In addition to ensuring payments come in as expected, Thieret recommended businesses have a reserve of cash to cover their business's operating costs in an emergency.
“We aim to have a three- to four-month runway in cash flow at all times,” Thieret said. “We are constantly looking at our accounts payable, accounts receivable, what's coming in, [and] what events have closed, so that we have a really good gauge on that runway. If we're falling short and not feeling good about where we stand, we will make immediate changes.”