by Stuart Crawford
Cash is King” was one of the first lessons I learned from a mentor early on in my life as an entrepreneur. “Never underestimate the importance of having a cash reserve in the bank”, he said. What Arlin Sorensen meant when he took me aside was too make sure that we kept a cash reserve on hand for a rainy day — just like Mom always tried to teach me. Did I listen to him or my mother? Sometimes. But I still needed to cut my teeth and learn the hard lesson of having money in the bank for myself.
During the economic meltdown in 2009, it was hard, if not impossible, for the small business owner to acquire the needed capital or credit in order to stay afloat. Who survived? Don’t look at me; I struggled throughout the entire financial catastrophe during the tail end of the new millennium. But I did look around to see who continued to run successful businesses, while many of us were simply trying to stop the bleeding.
The businesses that survived understood the importance of cash flow and continued to serve their clients, fulfill orders, pay for goods and services and weather the storm while those of us who ignored the warning signs scraped to get by.
Going through tough financial times, I look at my business differently now. Like many business owners, I have come to understand the importance of having liquid cash in my bank account or somewhere close by that is readily available, just in case. Credit is helpful too, but healthy cash flow is a must in order for your small business to thrive.
Here are some easy ways to help preserve cash flow in your business:
- Invest in assets that appreciate and lease those items that depreciate. As a technology provider, I am always sharing the benefits of leasing IT equipment versus purchasing. There is no sense in investing $50,000 of hard-earned cash into office furniture or any other asset that loses value when it will be worth next to nothing in five or so years. Leasing technology or any other form of equipment offers you a monthly payment instead of paying upfront for the goods and services. Plus, leasing has some very attractive tax benefits. One of the top leasing firms in Canada is London, Ontario’s Catalyst Financial Partners. You can check them out at http://www.catalystfc.com.
- Keep your receivables under control. I am shocked to see how many small business owners continue to extend credit in the form of 120-day receivables with their clients. You are not the bank and no small business deserves to be kept at bay for any length of time for monies owed to them. Get a grip on your receivables now.
- Move to the cloud. The average small business doesn’t need to invest their business savings into a bunch of IT equipment that never gets used to its fullest capacity. My small business is 100% in the cloud — from our email services, telephone systems and even our customer relationship management software. What does that mean? Simply put, that means that all the software and applications we use are accessed and shared over the Internet. The cloud allows you to keep up to date with the latest technology and pay a low monthly fee for it. Many of your IT systems today can be moved online and out of your office.
As a business owner, you can be the most innovative entrepreneur, have the most stellar rolodex and provide a customer experience that’s the talk of the town; but if you don’t know how to manage your cash flow – you don’t have a business.
Stuart Crawford, president and chief marketing officers, Ulistic Inc. After a 9 year military career which saw Stuart rapidly accelerate through the ranks finishing as a Master Corporal in the Canadian Signal Corp Stuart went to work putting into practice the leadership and character traits he learned through his time with the Canadian Forces. He is a member of Editorial Advisory Board of ITBusiness.ca