According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, only half of new startups survive the first five years of business. That means that half fail, many times due to financial missteps.
Cash flow is a major factor in a business’ success. Regardless of its size, a business’ cash flow drives everyday operations, expansion and purchasing power. As most businesses face continued unpredictability in the local economy, managing the ups and downs of cash flow can have a major impact on reaching goals.
Few business owners realize what untapped — and often free — resources are available to help them manage finances and stimulate positive cash flow.
“Businesses — especially the more than one million small businesses in Illinois — are major contributors to our state’s economy,” said Margie Lawless, Senior Vice President of Small Business Banking, BMO Harris. “We feel a huge sense of responsibility in providing strategic counsel and vital financial tools that will help them grow their businesses and ultimately grow our local economies.”
To help businesses meet the challenge of effectively managing accounts payable and accounts receivable, Lawless offers five simple tips to get business owners on the right track in 2012.
- Pay your company first. A cash reserve can go a long way in making certain that in times of low cash flow, you are able to continue day-to-day operations.
- Create a budget and track expenses. Even if a business’ profit is more than the monthly expenses, it’s important to keep a budget and continually track monthly operating costs and income. Always knowing the state of your business’ finances allows you to spot red flags and issues before they become unmanageable.
- Don’t let past-due accounts slide. If you’re having trouble with receiving payment, re-invoice three to five days after the account is overdue. The longer a business waits to get paid, the less likely they are to receive all of the payment or even get the funds.
- Focus on your largest debtors. Invoice customers who owe the most first.
- Consider giving a discount for paying within 20 days. Depending on the nature of your business, it might make sense to offer a slight discount for those who pay by credit or debit within 20 days of the invoice.
In addition to cash-flow management, financing can help provide business capital. Understanding financial options can help manage everyday expenses and purchasing needs. There are three primary ways to meet financing needs.
- Business loans. For businesses that meet all credit and financial criteria, a conventional business loan allows for an infusion of cash that can help a business expand, buy necessary equipment or meet cash needs. SBA loans can be a great option for many businesses. For information on SBA loans, visit www.sba.gov.
- Credit card. A business credit card can be used for everyday spending and has a set repayment schedule.
- Credit line. A credit line can provide cash in a crunch to help cover the cost of operating expenses, unexpected expenditures or the purchase of additional inventory. A line of credit is not the right option for the purchase of capital assets, which might be better suited for a business loan. A credit line is great for purchases that are too large for a credit card but are not large enough to warrant a business loan.
Staying on top of finances can help a business run more smoothly, and using the right credit vehicles can assist with other cash flow options to fit individual needs.
About BMO Harris Bank
Based in Chicago, BMO Harris Bank N.A. provides a broad range of personal banking products and solutions through approximately 700 branches and approximately 1,350 ATMs in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Nevada, Arizona and Florida. BMO Harris Bank’s commercial banking team provides a combination of sector expertise, local knowledge and mid-market focus throughout the U.S. Deposit and loan products and services provided by BMO Harris Bank N.A. Member FDIC. BMO Harris Bank(SM) is a trade name used by BMO Harris Bank N.A. BMO Harris Bank is part of BMO Financial Group, a North American financial organization with 1,600 branches, and a retail deposit base of approximately $180 billion.
To learn more, visit www.sbomag.com.