You’re up and running but projects are taking longer than you expected. You’re running into problems that are chipping away at your finances. Customers aren’t paying as quickly as you thought they would. Expenses don’t stop and wait for you to have money. Opportunities to buy materials at an attractive price don’t wait until you have money. These and other issues affect your ability to keep yourself in growth mode. Here are three tips on where you can start having a positive affect on your cash flow.
1. Cash Cow. Looking at your operation, there’s something that is an entry-level product or something that you created in-house to streamline your own processes. Consider putting some emphasis on the quick products that can create a steady flow of income. A high-tech company had a test unit that field engineers took out into remote areas to test the strength of the product. No thought had been given to the marketability of that simple unit and it had the potential to generate sales in remote areas around the world. It was the most inexpensive item that the company built and had never been considered as a product. Another company had a little program that helped their own test engineers with their work. It was another unidentified product that could generate steady income. The owner of a small recruiting firm created a program to simplify his job. With very little effort, it could be used to manage any small business. The last time I saw him, he said that he had sold a number of the programs and made millions with them. It may not even be the business you’re in but there could be a steady income generator hiding in your operation.
2. Changes. This is not about bringing in more money. It’s about plugging leaks. My father was a General Contractor when I was a baby. The first and only project he ever had was a beautiful home in Marin County in Northern California. Dad had a partner – George. George was a customer pleaser. While Dad was out buying materials, George would be ripping out the bathroom because the homeowner realized they didn’t like the color of the floor to ceiling tile as much as they thought they would. Of course, that meant that the coordinating floor tiles had to go, too. George always promised there would be no charge for changes. The project made the cover of Better Homes & Gardens but it drove Dad and George into bankruptcy. If you were building a bridge between two cities you would have agreement on the specifications, completion date, and costs. If, when you were 90% done, the Mayors came to you and said they made a mistake and should have had one more lane in each direction, you could probably say, “No problem. We planned for future expansion in the design.” When the Mayors wanted assurance that you would still complete the job by the same deadline and for the same costs, you would discuss the increased time and money. You may not be building anything as big as a bridge but don’t let change requests eat up your cash.
3. Connections. Keeping your nose to the grindstone does a couple things. It wears you out and it prevents you from discovering information outside of your company that might have a significant effect on your operation. One small company struggling with cash flow issues didn’t have anyone available for networking. They brought in an operations management consultant whose marketing efforts were all about networking. As problems came up in conversation, the consultant had connections who had answers. Some zoning issues that created a safety problem for the employees had a surprising solution when the consultant mentioned the issue to a networking contact who was a commercial building contractor. The consultant knew an attorney who specialized in another area the company needed help with. A casual conversation between the consultant and a networking contact revealed a previously unidentified market for the customer’s product. All three of those happened over a two-day period as a result of the consultant’s ongoing networking efforts. It’s worth your time to stay connected to people outside of your company.
Conclusion: These kinds of solutions can be an ongoing benefit for your business with clear, concise communication of the problems that are restricting your cash flow. Keep your eye out for the kinds of opportunities you’ve seen here.