How can you continue to generate cash during hard times? We have seen almost everything in our lives change and it’s pivoted the world around us, our businesses, and every interaction that we have with our family and friends. When it comes to business though, we still need to keep pushing forward. More specifically, we will be talking about where you need to start in evaluating your cash flow and accounts receivable, how we can get creative, and take a look at your sales and marketing.
What we cover in this episode:
- 00:26 – Introduction
- 05:14 – Have a handle on your cash flow
- 07:33 – Evaluate your AR (Accounts Receivable)
- 13:47 – Get creative
- 25:56 – Sales and marketing
- 30:12 – Refinancing as an option
- 30:37 – Help your community
Have a handle on your cash flow
The first topic we want to tackle is getting a baseline on your cash flow as it stands now. You have to know where you stand with cash today before you can plan for the future. You also have to know the components that will change your current situation. If you have AR (accounts receivable) or AP (accounts payable), you have to know that those factors are going to change how your cash ebbs and flows in your business. It’s important to know what affects inclining cash or declining cash and where and when that’s going to hit.
From there, you can create a solid contingency plan, with a reasonable amount of certainty moving forward. No one can estimate with exact precision where cash is going, especially given our current environment in the midst of a pandemic at the time of the release of this episode. By establishing a foundational idea of where, you will see better results in the long run. Having this information makes you a more sound decision maker, especially from a business perspective.
If you’re interested in learning more about cash flow, please take a look at some of our earlier episodes. We actually grouped them all together by topic, so you can take a look at our cash flow topics in episode #21 through, episode #23.
Cash Flow Template
This free template will help you establish a basic cash flow spreadsheet.
Complete with instructions, this straight forward template shows inflows and outflows that will help you manage your cash flow on a monthly basis.
Evaluate your AR (accounts receivable)
We mentioned AR as a part of your cash flow, but what can we look at when it comes to AR? Some business owners don’t have a sense of what’s in their accounts receivable and may not look at it on a monthly basis or know how to manage AR.
What is AR?: Accounts receivable is what people owe you. If you generate invoices for customers and there are invoices that are unpaid, the unpaid amounts would be your accounts receivable. Many software programs like QuickBooks Online or QuickBooks Desktop will auto generate accounts receivable reports for you. Each business and each industry has different standards.
Why you need to manage AR: Communication is key when it comes to accounts receivable. You need to know who owes you and how much they owe you, because this pandemic is affecting them too. You need to be having conversations with your clients to know how they are doing on cash flow as well so you can plan accordingly. It doesn’t mean you have to write that off, but then you’ll know they can’t pay right now.
How to collect faster: The goal when look at accounts receivable is to collect as much as possible right now. One potential solution could be to offer a 1% or 2% discount if clients pay right away. Because we don’t know what the economy is going to look like in four weeks or even six weeks, collecting money now at a slight discount is worth more to your business. We’d like to think that we are on the downhill slide of recovering from everything, but the future is unknown. Is there some way that you can motivate people to pay you now as opposed to giving them the full 30 days? In 30 days, they might not be able to pay you, but today they might be able to pay you 75% of the bill. We encourage you to come up with something that would allow you to increase your cash flow now.
Looking at your report: Typically, your accounts receivable report is grouped into different categories, 1 to 30, 31 to 60, and 60 to 90 days of outstanding balances. It gives you a snapshot of clients who are current and clients who are one month late, two months late and so on. This is something that needs to be managed regularly so that you can collect as much as possible, because your chances of collecting decrease dramatically as your collections get older. Take a look at our sample report with notes to the right for what you should be looking at when you pull this report.
Make it easy to pay: We want to make it easy for people to pay you. Don’t limit how people can pay by only offering one option. If your clients have to call you and end up playing phone tag to pay their invoice every month, it will cause frustration. They just want to pay their bill and you want the money. Quickbooks Online is a convenient option available that allows for electronic payments. While you must pay a small amount in merchant fees if they use their credit card, you’re getting paid in a way that is convenient for you and your clients. Try not to get hung up on fees when looking at solutions that will allow you to get your money faster and more efficiently. There are other companies that help with collecting payments and paying bills too. Bill.com is a bigger program that we use to manage our AR and our AP, but you can use Paypal, or Stripe. Square is another program that integrates with QuickBooks and you don’t necessarily need to slide a card in person to collect payment. It allows you to email your client an invoice and ties directly into your accounting software.
We’ve seen so many examples of businesses getting creative. They’re not closing up shop simply because they cannot continue with “business as usual.” They are creating ways to keep their business going. The current situation with Coronavirus forced many to scramble and get creative quickly, but finding ways to create revenue and adapt is a skill that extends beyond a global pandemic. Obviously, this is going to vary by industry and the type of business you run, but think about what you could do to pivot and continue to serve the people who need your services in a time like this.
Offer services or courses through virtual meeting: We have seen some service-based businesses hosting Zoom meetings. They are putting together instructional videos and interacting with their client base. Not only does it help produce income, but it also keeps your clients engaged with you. Classes for yoga, sewing, guitar and more are being held via Zoom as a way to stay connected and still provide your service.
DIY kits: Many people are stuck at home right now looking for things to do. If you have products or materials that you think people could use, now could be the perfect time to package them and offer a DIY kit. This works well with things like cookie decorating or painting kits.
Clean and sell: People are also taking the time to purge their homes right now. They want to clean their house, garage, attic, and basement of items. So, if you have something that could potentially be an income producer for you, use that as an income source to sell some items you have around your house.
We really challenge you to think about what you can offer even if you think it might not work. Reach out to your client base or your past clients to see if they would be interested in taking a virtual class or whatever offering you think would be helpful. It’s beneficial for you and your business so you can continue to generate cash flow, but it can be even more beneficial for those in need of your services. People are working from home and homeschooling children, so if you can allow them some time to focus on what they’d like to do, that can be a tremendous gift.
The clients who are able to benefit from your talents and skills will definitely appreciate it during these times. People are going to remember the services they received. The fact that you’re doing things for the right reasons will also shine through. It’s not just because we can generate cash, but we adapt to continue sharing our passion and serving those we care about.
Now, what if you have considered the solutions above and you cannot offer services online or create kits to send out? Maybe there isn’t really anything for you to do right now. Take this time to really refocus and when things open up, you can re-launching or pivot if needed and if you take this time to plan, you will be ready to go when you’re able to reopen.
Sales and marketing
How are you showing up in the world?: How are you communicating to the world about what it is that you do? Are you all doom and gloom? Are you acknowledging what’s happening in the world and what your clients are going through, or are you just carrying on like nothing’s happening? Obviously, it depends on the type of service that you’re providing or the type of product, but it’s really important to take a step back and think about the conversation you need to have with your clients. Ask yourself, what’s the conversation that you want to have with your community?
It’s important to be real with everybody, but also maintain a level of positivity. Try to avoid being all doom and gloom because we have enough of that in the media. It’s important to be a cheerleader for your clients and be that person that says “You can do this. You can get through this. Here are some tools and here’s what I have to offer to help you through this.” How can you show up for your community and provide that service? People need you and you need to figure out how to do that. So, take a step back and analyze that.
Another question that you can ask yourself is, “Will you be proud of the things that you offered and the conversations that you had when you look back six months or a year from now?” And, obviously, you always want the answer to that to be yes, so do your best to reflect on what you’re doing for your clients and community.
Structure of your pricing and packages: Does the structure and pricing of your packages serve your community well in the current environment? This does not necessarily mean you should discount your services but you should be analyzing how you can modify it, even if it’s a short-term modification. For example, is there a way you can create a smaller package to make it a bit more affordable?
Do your best to meet the needs of your clients right now. We owe it to ourselves, our clients, the public and the community to really evaluate who we are, what we do and how we do it. Ask some close friends, who will be honest with you, for feedback. There are many different alternatives to look at but it also has to be something that you’re comfortable with trying. All this while remembering that we’re not giving ourselves or our services away. People will value you in the same way that you value yourself. If you give everything away, people will think there’s no value placed on what you’re giving. We think we’re doing something good but in essence they don’t realize how much time or how many resources it took to create what you’ve done. Poll your crowd, poll your friends, and poll other businesses to find ways that you could possibly modify, change or try something new and see what works.
Refinancing as an option
Interest rates are low right now, so while this isn’t necessarily generating cash, it’s a great place to look to keep more of your cash in your pocket. The rates are historically low for both personal and commercial mortgages. Talk to your banker and explore the possibilities available to you.
Help your community
If you are in a good cash position right now, don’t forget to help your community. It is very important to keep your family safe, fed, and protected and we do not want to downplay the importance of that security. However, with anything in life, we can’t let one situation consume who we are and take control of everything around us. There are so many ways you can support your community. Maybe you can drop a meal off to somebody who just lost their job, or donate your time or money into a group helping in your area. If we can all bind together and find ways to help somebody else, it will help ease the pain many are feeling right now.
The charitable investments that we make now may not change our business today or tomorrow, but those kinds of investments in our clients, communities and our families will have returns later. Your clients won’t forget the time that you took to help them through this situation. It might not be cash that you see coming in right now, but it might be cash that’s definitely going to be generated three months down the road because people aren’t going to forget. It’s important for you to have your cash, but your client won’t forget that you gave grace to them when they owed you money. You never know how the tides are going to turn and you may need grace yourself later on down the road.
This is a time for us to really reach inside of who we are and find a new way, be innovative, because we’re entrepreneurs. It’s part of our core being of who we are. We have to find a different way, be creative and be able to rise above this situation that’s going on. Because if we can rise above this, the next thing that comes our way, we’re just going to go even further.
Today’s discussion is focused on how to generate cash during difficult times. We start the conversation by stressing the importance of knowing where you stand with cash flow so you can properly prepare for the future, as much as possible in today’s environment. One part of cash flow that is crucial, and sometimes overlooked, is AR (accounts receivable). We break down what this is, what you need to look for and offer a sample accounts receivable report.
Next, we talk about getting creative in your business. The entire world has changed around us in a matter of weeks and we need to have the ability to adapt as business owners. In order to make the necessary changes to stay relevant and deliver what our clients really need, we need to keep our heads up and look at what is happening and open your mind to other possibilities that may not have been possible or necessary in the past. We also recommend taking a look at your pricing and packages. Without giving your services away, is there another way you could change or update your pricing or packages to be a better fit for the world as it stands today.
Next, sales and marketing needs to continue happening. The strategy you take and conversations you have will definitely be different and very individualized depending on your industry, company services and clients. It’s important to take a step back and analyze what needs to change.
Mortgage rates are very low right now and while this won’t necessarily generate cash, we do mention possibly refinancing a personal or commercial mortgage in order to keep more cash in your pocket. Lastly, we talk about helping out your community. If you have the opportunity, step up and be a part of the solution to ease some of the pain we are seeing around us.