This article originally appeared in Forbes.com.
Cash flow is the lifeblood of every business, and it’s a challenge for most business owners to manage even under normal circumstances. It’s much more difficult when we’re dealing with economic uncertainty following this pandemic.
And yet, in a time like this, managing your cash flow is critical. Consistent cash flow gives you the ability to adapt and adjust to the changing economy. On the other hand, lack of available cash limits your options and puts your business at risk.
Here are four cash-flow strategies to keep your business healthy:
1. Invoice your clients on a timely basis. The sooner you ask your clients and customers to pay, the sooner the cash shows up in your bank account. Develop the discipline of invoicing your clients on a set schedule. Many of my clients are lawyers, and I coach them to send invoices on the 15th and 30th of each month. This becomes a habit, and it prevents cash flow gaps from developing.
2. Review your accounts receivable on a weekly basis. Following up with your clients who haven’t paid their invoices isn’t always pleasant… I understand! But you can’t afford to let unpaid invoices pile up. Check in with clients who are past due and help them make a plan. Covid-19 has been a disruption for everyone, and if your clients are facing cash flow challenges of their own, they may need your understanding and flexibility. Helping them to create a realistic plan increases the likelihood that they’ll eventually be able to pay in full — and, most importantly, be a longtime client.
3. Use a line of credit to fill the cash flow gaps, not to operate your business. A line of credit can be an effective tool to manage cash flow, but it can also spiral out of control if you’re not careful. I encourage my clients to use their line of credit only as a bridge until payment arrives from a client. For example, if you know that you have a $10,000 payment arriving in 30 days and you need to meet some financial obligations in the meantime, you can draw on your line of credit. When that payment arrives, replace the funds so you will have it the next time you need it. Many business owners get themselves in trouble by using their line of credit too liberally — they eventually run out of available credit, and then they are stuck. Your line of credit is a valuable tool, but it’s important that you use it carefully.
4. Credit cards: Proceed with caution. Credit cards can be a valuable tool if used wisely, but they can be detrimental to your business if they get out of hand, since interest rates are typically very high. Using credit cards wisely gives you short-term financial flexibility, and you can often earn rewards and other benefits. You must develop the discipline to reach a goal to pay your balance in full each month. This allows you to avoid paying interest, create some extra financial flexibility and earn credit card points that you can use for other things. I’ve used my credit card points to pay for many vacations over the years.
Cash flow management is an important skill that every business owner needs to master. It’s especially difficult in the wake of Covid-19. Managing your cash flow effectively could be the difference between your business surviving this crisis or closing its doors for good. These tips can help.