In times of change, it can be difficult to see how to maintain your business cash flow, especially if you’re facing a radical drop in customers and sales.
The C.A.S.H.F.L.O.W. formula can help manage your business in difficult times.
The number one person in most small businesses is you.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with media reporting, limit news access to once a day and choose reliable sources only. Look to the essentials.
Remember to care for the people living with you and offer support to those who don’t. Supporting one another is a great way to feel better.
It’s time to count your blessings. What do you have that you can work with? You may have upcoming expenses you’re uncertain about, so work out how to preserve your cash for as long as possible.
See whether you can:
- make part payments starting today (confirm any new arrangements in writing)
- request a temporary freeze on recurring expenses
- put a pause on certain monthly subscriptions
- use up all of your existing supplies before purchasing more
- find a better way to deliver products and services, such as online or by home delivery
- thank customers and clients for their valued business and explain how you’ll be working in coming months.
Understanding your business means understanding all of your stakeholders, not just suppliers, distributors and customers. You may be part of referral networks. If you reconnect with these people, you might source new ways of working together.
You could start a local co-operative where selected people discount their services by 40% but you all use one another’s services in the immediate short term. This means that you save 40% on the usual cost and still earn 60% of your own income. This is ideal for service-based businesses.
Paying for quality services usually generates a return on investment. For example, say you hire a business coach and they show you how to increase profits by 5 per cent. If the cost of the session is less than the increase in profit, that's already an improvement.
Improve productivity and profit margins with better systems and procedures. Consider interstate and international sources of clients or customers and find new tools to deliver your products and services. You’ll save time and money by not travelling to appointments.
There are plenty of free and low-cost resources to help improve your marketing and operations or manage financial matters.
Be prudent and don’t splash cash on ‘silver bullets’. See if you can make do with an online tool’s free option in the immediate short term. Make an informed decision about a paid subscription if you see direct value in the offering and can use it on an ongoing basis.
See if recurring service providers can offer a better rate. Think about your regular expenses, from leasing and energy costs through to your kitchen supplies. There’s money to be saved if you ask.
While the government stimulus package allows for tax deductions on new equipment purchases, think carefully before upgrading. It may be better to preserve cash for the immediate short term and see how things are in a few weeks’ time.
Consult with your staff and contractors and seek their input into possible ways forward. They probably know you quite well and may have fantastic suggestions that an external person won’t see.
If you know you can ride the waves of uncertainty for now, support those that may not be able to.
That doesn’t mean feeling responsible for someone who hasn’t been prudent in the past. But there could be a way to join forces with other small businesses to find fair and reasonable ways to work together.
Talk to competitors and non-competing complementary product and service providers to find ways to collaborate and continue. A crisis can be the catalyst for a conversation you’ve been afraid to have in the past.
If there’s an overload of business, find someone local to take on some of that work rather than automatically overextending yourself. If a local business you know is overrun with demand, find a way to help them at a rate they can afford.
What can you do right now that will help in the longer term? Do you need to make brave decisions in the coming weeks? No time is ever wasted and there is always a way to move forward, even if it involves a few backward steps right now.
What can you learn from the current challenges? If you don’t have backup funds for the next 3 to 6 months, consider how you’ll create a kitty of readily accessible cash in future.
You may or may not be able to afford ongoing income protection insurance premiums, but knowing that you can ride a challenging 3-month wave brings peace of mind. Income protection policies may only pay out after 3 months of reduced capacity anyway.
Having all of your eggs in one basket is dangerous for any business. Securing multiple income streams reduces risk. If some of these income streams are passive, recurring or based on contracts, this can help.
Living day-to day for love rather than money eventually takes its toll. If what you do is not profitable, reassess your options. That doesn’t mean changing everything overnight, but a few selected tweaks could make a big difference.
When a crisis occurs, there will be challenges, but there will be opportunities as well.
A crisis can give the final motivational push you need to make changes. Perhaps you could use the time to:
- evaluate what’s most important in your life
- find a way to do more with less
- complete online studies and refresh your skills
- address what’s been ‘wrong’ for some time
- learn how to work from home so that in future you can work from any location.
It’s understandable to be anxious about replacing an income stream that’s suddenly stopped. Taking action is one of the best ways to overcome anxiety. If you have something to do that will help in future, it’s not a waste of time.
Work out ways to put yourself in a holding pattern rather than head towards a crash landing. Figure out how to survive in the short term first so you can sleep at night.
Make tough phone calls and explain what is happening so that solutions can be found before your situation becomes more difficult.
You’ll work well if you maintain routines, eat and sleep well and of course, include physical activity or exercise in every day.
Don’t focus on being busy, focus on being productive. Ask yourself what will ultimately provide you with a return on investment for your time and money. Consider consulting a trusted advisor, coach or mentor.
Understand the real value you can share and how that can generate revenue in a variety of different ways. For example, if you have access to a delivery vehicle, this could be a resource that some other local businesses could find very helpful. While you may be paid per hour instead of for your value, it could be a way to get by for now.
Ask around. Do your research. Think laterally. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Make your offerings as accessible as possible. Consider using your website and social media channels more effectively.
Finally, remember that this too shall pass. If you focus on C.A.S.H.F.L.O.W. you stand a very good chance of finding new opportunities that you never considered yesterday.