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Creative ways to improve your cash flow despite a global pandemic (we’re serious)

(FINANCE) Keeping the lights on has become a major priority for many businesses country wide, so how do you keep your cash flow up during this crisis?

cash flow

More than ever, cash is king. How can you stimulate cash flow in this era? How do you turn a trickle into a flow?

Business is down globally, with large and small businesses struggling with cash flow and supply chains everywhere you look. People are staying home and trying to spend less money, as many of them have lost their jobs or income.

We’ve rounded up the best advice from several sources to help you make some sense of it all–and hopefully some money, too. Nothing is foolproof, but we sincerely hope these tips help you and your business hang in there. These times are challenging, but we know things will improve eventually.

One piece of advice each of these experts notes is to look at your business differently during this period. One way to do this is to prioritize short-term gains vs. long-term plans. This doesn’t mean to act recklessly, but rather to evolve a little. Let’s face it, if you aren’t bringing in money and reining in costs at this point, you may not survive to bear that long-awaited fruit of your labor.

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An outstanding example is the restaurant industry. Since most restaurants around the country have shifted to takeout only, the ones who are staying open have been creative in transforming their business model. Some clever shapeshifting I’ve seen in restaurants include: offering family packages, offering meal kits (i.e., uncooked meat, pasta, and sauces to be cooked at home), offering a popup market for basic groceries, offering virtual tastings (where you pick up the food, and they conduct the tasting or class online), giving discounts on gift cards, and offering cocktail kits.

Another key factor is to treat people well during this time: employees, customers, and suppliers alike will remember your behavior during the crisis once we return to better days. Remember, they are likely hurting, too. Ask yourself how you can best bring value to them while taking care of your bottom line.

Here is some specific advice we’ve collected from experts such as The Harvard Business Review, Deloitte, KPMG, and ECG Management Consultants.

  • Adjust variable costs to the extent possible. Of course, curtail non-essential company travel plans, training, meetings, and entertainment costs. Looking at labor costs, it is more challenging. Yet, try shifting contract work to permanent employees as a cost-saving–and employee-saving measure. Consider encouraging employees to take available paid leave, and encourage voluntary unpaid leave.
  • Verify your own lines of credit. Make sure your sources of financing are going to remain available to you.
  • Be cautious and do plan ahead with your inventory. You want to confirm that your supply chain of essentials is likely to remain reliable, but plan for a disruption. You may want to seek out additional sources or viable alternative products and raw materials. You need to be able to continue to supply YOUR customers.
  • Look realistically at any possible delays in your payables. Check in your area–you may be able to defer utility payments temporarily, or make a mutually agreed-upon arrangement with one or more of your suppliers to change the way you pay them. Do not do this willy-nilly, though–those supplier relationships are crucial, and you definitely want to keep the actual lights on.
  • Review your invoice and collection practices. At all costs, invoice on time with clear payment terms.
  • Consider your customers, their payment history, and reliability. Ask yourself–or them–how hard hit their industry is, how likely they are to struggle with payments. An honest, up-front conversation about ensuring payments (even if through a new agreement, like the ones you want to make with your suppliers).
  • Elect to deduct 2020 Disaster Losses on your 2019 taxes. Section 165(i) allows for this accelerated loss deduction on your tax return.
  • If you own or run a larger company or one with an almost certain return to good times and can afford it, you may even benefit in the future by pausing or greatly reducing your larger salary in order to keep paying employees and keep the company flush. I know, I know, this option sucks, but it garners good will among employees and the community that should ideally come back to reward you sooner rather than later. Save the company’s butt? You get a juicy bonus on the flip side, no doubt!
  • Throw out the rule book for some things. Waiting to release a product or content for a traditionally optimal time? Reconsider that–would people benefit from it? If it’s software, training, or intellectual property such as a book, musical content, or film, get that out the door NOW. People want it and need it. This means new customers! You may want to offer these cheaper than usual or even free, as an investment in the future.

Look into funding through no-interest or low-interest loans and grants. In addition to the SBA Disaster Loan government loan, search for additional sources of funding through private sector grants. Here’s a partial list of entities offering this type of relief, particularly for small businesses.

  1. Facebook is offering $100 million in small business grants, given in cash and also some Facebook ad credits.
  2. Amazon is offering $5 million in a Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund for Seattle businesses.
  3. Kiva, the international microloan organization that offers small businesses zero-percent interest loans of up to $15,000.00, has recently expanded their loans available to U.S. entrepreneurs.
  4. The Opportunity Fund offers grants and low-interest loans mainly to small businesses owned by underserved entities, such as women and minorities. They are expanding their resources in light of the coronavirus impact.

I hope these tips help you with your business. I’m not only a writer cranking out content, but I’m also a small-business owner biting my nails over the income loss this has brought. I’d love to hear any ideas you have that you’re implementing for cash flow and survival. I want us all to make it!

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Joleen Jernigan is an ever-curious writer, grammar nerd, and social media strategist with a background in training, education, and educational publishing. A native Texan, Joleen has traveled extensively, worked in six countries, and holds an MA in Teaching English as a Second Language. She lives in Austin and constantly seeks out the best the city has to offer.

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