5 Key Reasons You’re Having Cash Flow Problems

Why is cash flow so important to your business? What about profits? Or revenue? Or sales figures? They’re all an integral part of your financial picture, but a positive cash flow is essential to your company’s financial well-being.

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Why is cash flow so important to your business? What about profits? Or revenue? Or sales figures? They’re all an integral part of your financial picture, but a positive cash flow is essential to your company’s financial well-being.

A strong cash flow enables you to pay debts in a timely manner, reinvest in the business, provide distributions to owners, pay expenses, and create a buffer that protects against financial challenges that might arise in the future.

So, how is your cash flow? If it’s weak or problematic, here are several key reasons that could be hurting your business.

Cash Flow Problem #1: Money is slipping out the door without your knowledge.

To make sure that doesn’t happen, closely examine and then monitor your cash controls. Make sure you understand who in the company can:

  • Access and sign physical checks on company check stock
  • Get to the company’s banking relationships (cash accounts, credit cards, lines of credit, etc.) online
  • Talk with your bank about any account
  • Access your vault and petty cash drawers (if you have them)
  • Use your inventory or capital asset supplies
  • Spend money using a company debit, credit, prepaid, etc. card
  • Authorize EFTs or wires
  • Approve AP payments  

Owners and/or the CEO are the only people who should have uncontrolled access to company funds.  Anyone else, including C-level finance or operations employees should have some kind of budgetary limits. Cash expenditures should definitely have the approval of one or two individuals who are ultimately responsible for how and where it’s spent.


Cash Flow Problem #2: Not collecting payments from customers in a timely manner.


It’s not unusual to allow customers to pay after the sale of goods or services, but that means you’re essentially offering them credit backed by your company. Before you go out on that limb, it’s important to perform due diligence to ensure that customers are creditworthy.

You should also tackle accounts receivables before they become a headache, instead of waiting until customers are in arrears for thousands of dollars. Take care of any delinquent receivables immediately.

Make sure you have explicit conditions for the terms you offer — and make sure your customers have agreed to them — so you’re able to charge late fees, reasonable interest, and have options to pursue collections if customers fail to pay on time. Remember: Regulations are in place to determine what a business can charge as a late fee or interest.

Remember that a collection agency will take a portion of the money they recover. So, make this a last resort.

Cash Flow Problem #3: Losing track of your overhead costs.

EXPENSES

Expenses can hide from you if you aren’t vigilant. For example, are you still paying for software subscriptions you’re no longer using? Doing a regular inventory of every expense can help you see where you stand.

Also, ask yourself: are you are getting real value for what you’re paying? Let’s say you’re spending $100 per day on LinkedIn marketing. Are you getting market penetration, qualified sales leads, or direct sales out of it? If not, you’re throwing good money after bad.

If your business requires inventory or capital assets, are you tracking those carefully to ensure that what you’re spending to replenish or add additional assets isn’t more than it needs to be? And are you maintaining an appropriate level of inventory? Too much means you risk the possibility of having overspent on what could turn out to be obsolete inventory; too little risks losing sales because you don’t have enough inventory to fill orders promptly.

Also, if you purchase an asset that doesn’t generate revenue or looks as though it won’t in the future, it’s costing you money. So, either don’t buy assets you don’t really need or unload them if they’re not providing any economic benefit.

LABOR COSTS

The cost of labor is generally your biggest overhead expense.  Are you paying your people too much? Or not enough to keep them? Compensation surveys are a good place to start to see if you are in the pay range you should be for your industry.

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics has some information that could be helpful
  • Companies such as Salary.com have packages you can purchase with a more detailed analysis than you’ll find on the BLS site

Another way to look at your labor costs is by finding out if your labor force is being used properly.  Do your people have the right skills to complete their assigned tasks? Does everyone have enough work to do? If not, you might consider trimming your workforce. But if your employees are routinely overloaded, you might want to consider adding staff. Even though that will add costs, it can be a more economically smart move in the long run.

As your small business grows, make sure to adjust the responsibilities of your existing staff.  Failing to do this can easily lead to team members becoming disengaged and lowering the overall effectiveness of your staff — and that will increase your costs.

COST OF BENEFITS

Are you offering more ancillary benefits to your employees than you can afford?  The smaller your company is, the more difficult and costly it can be to provide rich benefits. Retirement plan matching, HSA or HRA contributions, generous paid time off — it all needs to be examined thoroughly because benefits spend can quickly add up, especially for a small business. Working with a benefits advisor, health care expert, and financial planner with retirement plan experience can help you make the best possible decisions.

Keep track of both your net and gross profit margin. Examine them regularly to see if there are trends. The difference between net and gross profit margins will indicate if your overhead costs are out of line.

Cash Flow Problem #4: Using an outdated pricing model or strategy.

What you charge for your product or service versus the direct and indirect costs to produce that product or services dictates your net profit and, in turn, your cash flow.

  • Examine what your competitors charge and review industry pricing standards to make sure you’re in the appropriate price range.
  • Watch the inflationary rate, interest rate, and fiscal policies or regulations imposed by various government entities and weigh how those affect costs against your pricing structure.
  • The inflationary rate is most often seen in the form of the consumer price index (CPI). Broadly speaking, if the CPI in your sector indicates a 4% increase in the trailing 12 month period, you can expect that your costs would rise a commensurate amount and you will be losing profit margin — and cash flow — unless you increase your pricing model accordingly.
  • The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes CPI data monthly at bls.gov/cpi/. It also offers the “Economy at a Glance,” which can provide top level data in an easy-to-digest format.
  • Fiscal policies and regulation changes can have an impact on your pricing as well. For example, minimum wage hikes, tax rate changes, or additional occupational licensing requirements could affect your customers' ability or willingness to pay your prices or maintain current purchase levels.

Don’t forget to adjust pricing on your existing customers. The further you fall behind on raising prices to current customers, the longer it will take to get them up to where you want your pricing to be. And the more irritated customers may become with constant price hikes when they were accustomed to no changes.

Ensure that your contractual agreements with all of your customers provide you the flexibility to adjust pricing in some fashion.

Cash Flow Problem #5: You have a high rate of customer churn.

A high churn rate presents multiple problems for any business:

  • As customers leave, your overall revenues will be reduced until you replace those customers with new ones.
  • It costs more to replace an existing customer than it does to keep the ones you have.  A marketing metric called Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) summarizes these costs and can illustrate just how much money you’re spending to get new customers.
  • The time and energy it requires to land new customers can also often lead to a worse experience for your existing customers, which can drive some of them away.

It is critical to ask, “Why are my customers are leaving?”  Some customers may be open to sharing why, especially if prompted during the exit process.  Other times, you’ll need to internalize the question and self-examine the business.  Do your offerings not provide the same value they once did or is your offering becoming stale in the marketplace?  Open a dialogue with some of your best customers to get their thoughts on the relationship and what your business is providing them.  Look at all your workforce that interacts with customers.  Is there a theme where certain client-facing staff have higher rates of customers leaving?  This could be indicative of a people problem.  Does your offering have unresolved issues (ie: glitches in proprietary software) that is causing a poor user experience for your customers?  Ideally, testing would take care of issues prior to a product launch, but if issues come up later are you actively communicating with your customers, so they feel at ease?  These are just some of the questions you can ask to try to identify the root cause of customer churn.

Keep your cash flowing.

We’ve given you a basic look at what can put your cash flow in jeopardy and what you can do to keep it healthy and strong. If you would like to know more — or if you have questions — please contact us at hello@accountinuity.com. Spend an hour with our team of experts. No charge and no obligation.

Accountinuity is the financial and accounting team for growth-minded entrepreneurs seeking to profitably scale their business. We deliver complete flexibility in how businesses use our services and because we can manage every aspect of their accounting operations, they can focus on growing their business.

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