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How to improve cash flow: 8 methods 2022

As the financial implications of the pandemic come into force in 2022, many business owners will face difficulties improving their cash flow. It’s no secret that cash flow remains  the lifeline for a business, especially in times of economic strain.

So, we’ve put together this guide of how business owners can improve cash flow in 2022.

8 methods to improving your cash flow:

  • Review your cash flow now
  • Have cash flow as a key KPI
  • Improve the speed of payments
  • Examine for unnecessary expenditure
  • Consider short-term lending
  • Improve your cash flow forecasting
  • Keep selling and marketing
  • Get a support network

1. Where is your cash flow now?

To improve something, you need to understand where you currently are. Where is your cash flow now? Make sure to be evidence-based. Look at your past performance, including your sales behaviour and customer behaviours, and think about how that might change this year.

  • When was the last time you scrutinised your cashflow forecast?
  • Have you evaluated your sales process and metrics?
  • Are you absolutely clear on any changes to supply costs?
  • Have you got the right balance between price and quality in your supply chain?

Once you understand where you are, you can take the right steps to improve your cash flow.

2. Have cash flow as a key KPI


A key approach to maximising your cash flow is to measure it.

Every company should have cash flow as a one of their SMART KPIs. It is a vital component of your business’ financial health and therefore needs to be monitored. This means you need to keep an up-to-date forecast (see step 6 of this guide) and understand your critical requirements and costs.

3. Look to improve the speed of your payments


There’s nothing worse than not having money in the bank when you’ve provided the service already. Therefore, in 2022, look to improve the speed of payment. Think about your options; could payments be staged or “payment plans” introduced to regularise cash flow streams? Another avenue is to collect the payment of invoices via direct debit so you’re not waiting on a customer. You could also consider a subscription model to improve profits.

Additionally, look for opportunities to pivot your business model. Business owners should always be prepared to seize opportunities. Look for opportunities that have a high financial impact (profit margin) paired with a low organisational impact/cost, and that can be accomplished in the short-term. There might be low-risk, high impact projects to pursue, while longer-term projects need to be furloughed.  

4. Examine for unnecessary expenditure


Look to reduce your business expenses.

Start being savvier about your outgoings and ask yourself which costs could be cut. Of course, it’s important to motivate and look after your people, but consider what expenses are appropriate rather than just signing them off. Or ask yourself - is a service you’re using, such as an online tool or a supplier, the most competitive in the market? Try and examine everything you’re spending and go regularly through it with a magnifying glass to avoid wastage. That will significantly help to improve your cash flow.

5. Consider short-term lending


Factoring or other forms of short-term lending will allow bottlenecks or known financial pressure points in your business to be worked around without significant cost. Locking in debt at low interest rates will serve you in the long term and in the immediate future by deferring your outbound cash flow.

We recommend seeking a financial adviser who could advise on a range of options.

6. Improve your cash flow forecasting


Your cashflow forecast will let you know how healthy (or otherwise) your business is now and will be in the future.  It is vital that you don’t see a cashflow forecast as a one-off exercise, but something that must be updated and maintained, to give you an ongoing understanding of your cash position.

Don’t forget that not all flows are regular – remember to include your estimated annual Corporation Tax payment and your quarterly VAT payments.  Insurance payments may be an annual charge – forecast them, or possibly even consider paying on a monthly basis, to soften the impact on your cash.

Too much time and effort can be spent forecasting too far in advance, where uncertainty begins to lessen the usefulness of a forecast.  Forecast an appropriate time ahead, eg a 12-month rolling forecast may work for your business.  If, however, your business has long-term projects, or requires significant capital investment, then a multiple year forecast may be better for you.

There are some great software options to automate your cashflow – some may already be available in the financial accounting package you use in your business.  Either way, making use of automation here can save you time and effort.

You also need to factor price inflation and other cost increases into your forecast.  This can have a major impact on your cashflow.  2022 is set to see higher inflation than we’ve had in many years, alongside increases in the Minimum Wage and National Insurance contributions, all of which will impact cash as well as your bottom-line profit.

It’s time to take control of your cash flow forecasting with this free webinar from TAB.

7. Keep marketing and selling


It’s no surprise that if you sell more and the rest of your costs are stable, your cash flow will improve. Your marketing budget should not be one of the first items on the expense chopping block. More than ever, times of economic strain are when you should lean into creating an effective marketing plan. Tap into the current pain point for your customer base and find innovative ways to solve their problems. 

Last month, we had Andy Bounds, author of The Jelly Effect speak at our international conference. He said to focus on your 'afters' - what will your customers benefit from after using your product or service? Look to weave that into your communication strategy.

Companies that clearly understand customer needs, and pivot to adjust strategies, products, and services in response to shifting demand, are more likely to flourish both during and after a recession. By listening to your customers, you’ll find new opportunities and quickly adapt your marketing and sales efforts to capitalise on them. Your cash flow will thank you for it.

8. Get a support network


Cash flow is one of the biggest challenges business owners must tackle. In a recent LinkedIn poll, 44% of people said it was their largest financial challenge. It’s also difficult to know if you’re making the right decisions when it comes to improving your cash flow.

So, we recommend seeking the opinions of others. This might be through a peer advisory board, like one here at TAB, or a good financial adviser, or your board of directors. By coming together with people who will understand your cash flow dilemmas, you’re more likely to maximise on your cash flow potential in 2022.

Read Anna-Marie Eardley’s story.  Through an introduction from TAB, Anna-Marie got a new financial consultant. This helped her to streamline her business’ crippling accountancy costs and other company outgoings to improve financial performance.

Don’t tackle cash flow alone – seek the support of others!

Additional resources

To get a real handle on your cash flow, we recommend The Economist Guide to Cash Management by John Tennet. It thoroughly explains six critical aspects of effective management of cash and cash flow.

Struggling sales, the difficulty to improving your cash flow? Read our business guide: Top sales challenges for SME business owners.

For the current economic climate, consider our guide: nine steps to protect your business.

And finally...

A tip from Allen Munro, TAB member and director at Interpath Advisory.

"The old adage of “Cash is King” has never been more relevant in these uncertain times and visibility is key.

Robust, accurate cash flow information underpins operational, tactical and strategic decision making and so a business with robust short-term cash flow forecast tools and controls will always stand a much better chance of success.

For example the ability to see the impact of contracts won, or lost, on cashflow allows businesses to make better, well informed decisions and can help prevent the cash shortfalls that every business wants to avoid."

Thank you to these contributors to this article: Helen Mill, Ed Reid, Peter Harris, Jonathan O'Shea, Mags Fuller, and Allen Munro

 

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