Small Business Cash Flow Management Tips

cashflow management small business owners

For any small business, maintaining healthy cash flow is crucial to success and survival. With tight profit margins the norm for most SMEs, ensuring a consistent stream of working capital is essential to meet immediate financial obligations like payroll, rent, supplies, and other expenses. When cash flow runs dry, it can spell disaster.

That’s why UK business owners must make cash flow management a top priority, regardless of structure. By implementing key strategies to accelerate incoming payments and control outgoing cash, small enterprises can take charge of their financial lifeline. This enables them to reinvest, pursue growth opportunities, and gain an advantage over competitors.

In this article, we’ll explore several highly effective methods to improve small business cash flow in the UK.

Implement Direct Debit Payments

One of the easiest ways to ensure predictable payments from customers is by offering direct debit as a payment option. This authorizes automatic bank account withdrawals on a set schedule with preapproval. Customers benefit from the convenience while your business gains payment reliability.

In 2022, according to a study by UK Finance, 4.7 billion direct debit payments were collected, highlighting its widespread growing usage. Offering direct debit facilities can be set up quickly through reputable providers like GoCardless at a low cost. Just be sure to communicate payment dates clearly and simply offer it as an option. Some customers refuse to pay by DD so you don’t want to lose potential customers.

Impose Shorter Payment Terms

Standard payment terms can stretch out 30 days or longer from invoice date. This leaves a problematic gap where your business is waiting for sizable payments. Shortening payment terms is an impactful way to accelerate cash inflow. Requiring settlement within 7, 14 or 21 days will keep receivables turning over faster.

Just be sure to make this clear upfront in your contracts and invoices. You may consider offering a small discount for customers who pay more quickly such as within 10 days. The incentive can make this an appealing cash flow solution on both sides of the transaction. Monitor closely to ensure shortened terms are adhered to.

Accept Card Payments

Enabling customer payments by credit or debit card, both online and in your physical premises, allows money to start flowing to your business much more swiftly. While there are processing fees involved, the benefit of getting paid in 1-2 business days rather than waiting weeks for checks often makes card acceptance well worth it.

Solutions like Stripe allow card payments at low cost. You’ll also want to enable PayPal, Apple Pay and other quick payment options. Just be sure your accounting accounts for card fees separately so they don’t distort your profit margin tracking.

Pay Suppliers Closer to Deadline

Just as receiving customer payments quickly is ideal, you can strategically delay outgoing payments to suppliers to hold onto capital longer. Of course you still need to pay on time to maintain positive relationships and credit.

But by paying at the 30 day mark rather than immediately at 15 days, you keep funds available for other urgent needs. This cash float technique requires diligent tracking of invoice due dates. Automated accounting systems can help avoid any risk of late fees.

Consider a Company Credit Card

Business credit cards can be a double-edged sword when it comes to cash flow. Balances left unpaid will only worsen your situation. However, used strategically, credit card points, miles and other incentives can help shore up working capital.

Putting all allowable business spend on cards that offer cash back or travel rewards means you can redeem those sums as a cash infusion when needed. Just be sure to pay off balances in full each month.

Conduct Customer Due Diligence

Lastly, an important cash flow protection tactic is vetting the paying reliability of customers, especially larger accounts. Request trade and bank references, run credit checks, and ask for a deposit upfront if their creditworthiness is uncertain. I like to use Company Check to see a customers profile and history.

It’s also wise to diversify your customer base, so one big non-paying account can’t cripple your cash flow. Limiting total revenue from any one client to 10% or 20% helps reduce this risk.

By implementing strategies like direct debit, shortened payment terms, card acceptance, and supplier float – along with diligent customer qualification – UK small businesses can take control of cash flow. Maintaining working capital is vital for short-term survival and long-term success.

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