By now, most entrepreneurs have heard the old saying, "Businesses don't fail -- they just run out of money." While that saying often holds the most salience for fledgling ventures, it can and does apply to most small businesses and growing companies as well. The steps you take to deftly allocate your company's capital today can help ensure that you'll still have that company six months, six years, or six decades down the line.
The New York Times and AllBusiness
recently provided a list of tips for the best ways to manage cash flow. Most of the solutions that suggest frugality and thriftiness are somewhat intuitive -- limiting spending, avoiding wastefulness, keeping your inventory at practical levels and, for the austerity-minded, foregoing a salary. The most compelling suggestions on the list, however, are those rooted in strategic planning.
A strategic assessment of your business and some clever maneuvering can put your company in line to truly maximize each dollar. Crafting financial projections that anticipate your expenses and revenues for the next 12 months can help you determine if and when you'll need more capital. The formation of contingency plans that account for the worst case scenarios can prepare you for the unexpected.
One mistake many business owners make is purchasing equipment when it can be leased instead. While a cursory look at leasing vs. buying will reveal that leasing is usually more expensive over time, the leasing process prevents you from needing to shell out large sums of upfront capital, which then frees that capital to be allocated towards other important areas.
Lastly, effective cash flow management entails knowing what areas require patience, and which need to be expedited. When it comes to bringing on new employees, try to wait as long as you can. As permanent hires are a serious commitment of resources, it's recommended that you first strive to increase current employee productivity, investigate independent contractors, or even outsource some of the less essential aspects of your enterprise. On the other hand, when it comes to receiving customer payments, it behooves you to make these exchanges happen as soon as possible. Incentivize or reward early/timely payments, and don't shy away from penalizing late payments.