Greg Charlwood, managing director of Australian Invoice Finance, outlines some top tips for managing cash flow over the festive period.
Christmas is, by far, the busiest time of the year for the retail and hospitality industries. However, businesses operating in other sectors often find that sales slow and customers take longer to pay invoices during the holiday season.
Many suppliers also close for an extended period at this time of year, meaning that small businesses may need to pay suppliers prior to the Christmas break in order to have product to sell while their suppliers are closed.
Whether your business is large or small, well-established or in start-up mode, it is prudent to take a planned approach to managing cashflow during the holiday season. Here are few tips for keeping on top of cashflow management during the Christmas/New Year holiday period.
It is easy to let your business admin slip in the lead-up to Christmas, with all the personal commitments to attend to like parties and buying food and presents. However, this is the most important time of the year to stay on top of your invoicing. You may find that many customers will be slow to pay because their businesses are closed over the Christmas period.
If you’ve been thinking about moving to a cloud-based accounting system, it’s worth making the transition before the end of the year. Software like Xero and MYOB allows you to set up automated reminders for overdue payments, even if you’re away from the office.
Be clear with customers that you expect them to pay within the pre-arranged credit terms over the Christmas period. Consider contacting regular slow payers a few days before payment is due to confirm that they’ll be paying on time. The phone is usually a more effective method than email; if you’re not comfortable having this conversation with your customers, your bookkeeper may be able to assist.
If December and January are traditionally quiet months for your small business, take a close look at expenses to see if there’s any spending that can wait until February or March, when you’re back into your regular trading rhythm.
End of year celebrations and staff Christmas bonuses are two common areas that many business owners don’t plan for and can create a cashflow squeeze. This burden can be eased by setting up a regular fortnightly or monthly payment plan so you’re contributing to these costs throughout the year.
With many small businesses facing cash flow shortages due to the holiday period, it’s a good idea to have a strategy for accessing additional capital if you need it, such as a line of credit. Invoice finance can take the pressure off when cashflow is tight.
Invoice finance is specifically designed to turn your unpaid invoices into cash to pay supplier accounts and other operating expenses.
If sales are a little slow over Christmas, use the time wisely to hit the ground running in the new year.
For business owners, the pre-Christmas slowdown is a great time to work through the to-do list you’ve been compiling all year. This might include taking a thorough inventory, searching for more suitable funding alternatives, completing a comprehensive competitor analysis or researching the market for new products and suppliers.
Greg has been in the invoice financing industry for more than 30 years and is very knowledgeable about the challenges small businesses face. Greg founded and was head of two of Australia’s major invoice finance businesses. For nearly 10 years he was on the international board of Bibby Financial Services and was CEO of the group’s Asian and Australasian businesses. Greg has twice been chairman of the Debtor and Invoice Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand and is a past director of the Turnaround Management Association of Australia.
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