The small business owners, Christmas woe.
Christmas comes but once a year… but for many small business owners, that’s one too many times. Whilst many of us are reveling in the festive season with family and friends, for the small business owner it can be a time of long hours, high stress and no cash.
Long Christmas work hours often generate high sales but Christmas can also mean additional business costs. Whilst strong sales are always desired, what businesses really want is payment. This time of year can put painful pressure on cash flow due to:
- Sales that are on credit. We all know what happens in Australia in January – the nation goes to the beach and no one pays those outstanding accounts.
- Inventories built up during the lead up months in anticipation of strong sales – but now you have to pay for the stock you’re selling.
- Staff working long hours and you need them to – but wages and overtime have to be paid now. Many staff go on extended leave in January which places further pressure on cash flow.
So how can you turn your Christmas cash flow woes into a sack-of-cash under the Christmas tree instead?
- Plan and prepare for seasonal fluctuations. I am a strong advocate of annual cash flow forecasts to understand the impact of Christmas and seasonality to a business. An accurate forecast allows you to make informed decisions prior to cash evaporating
- Communicate with your banks and funding partners. Using a cash flow forecast you can illustrate the impact of seasonality on your business and arrange short term extensions to overdraft and other facilities.
- Talk to your major suppliers and be proactive if additional time is required to pay the overdue accounts. Your business will be important to them but debt collectors don’t go on holidays, so don’t bury your head in the sand in January.
- Manage your customers Ensure that you are selling to people who can and will pay. Be proactive in chasing payments and consider what incentives you might be able to put in place for early payment. Understand that many businesses will shut in late December and do your best to ensure you’re top of their list this Christmas.
- Make payment easy Ensure that you can offer credit card, BPay and other means of payment. No more cheques in the mail – make sure you can take payments online and over the phone.
- Manage your inventory in the lead up to Christmas What you buy in November you’ll pay for in January. So make sure you’ve sold it by December! Or don’t buy it.