How to turn around a struggling business

Tips to improve business cashflow

Guide

If your business is finding it hard to pay its debts, you need to make sure you are collecting all the money that is due to you.

Have a system to quickly identify when payments become late and always chase them up. You have the right to charge interest on all late payments.

If you lose control of debts owed to you, then your debt-to-asset ratio will increase, resulting in most of your business assets being financed through debt. Your debt-to-asset ratio is your total liabilities divided by your total assets. If your business has a high debt-to-asset ratio it can be dangerous, especially if creditors start to demand repayment of debt.

Improving cashflow

There are lots of ways you can tighten up your cashflow and get your customers to pay on time:

  • Payment terms - you need to agree terms and conditions with your customers that set out items such as credit limits and when you expect to receive payment. Having clarity on these issues makes it obvious when a payment becomes late. For more information, see invoicing and payment terms.
  • Invoices - send out invoices promptly with all information clearly set out, eg amount due, payment due date. If you do not send an invoice, you will not get paid, and if you send an invoice with confusing information you are simply giving your customer an excuse to query and delay.
  • Recovering debts - if you can't get your customer to pay you, there are a number of options available to you. See ensure customers pay you on time.
  • Factoring - when trying to recover unpaid debt you can sell invoices to a third party, in a process called factoring. Another method of getting cash quickly is invoice discounting, which is only open to certain types of businesses. Both of these incur costs, but could be considered as a way to release capital. See factoring and invoice discounting.
  • Credit checks - if you take on new customers to improve sales, make sure you run credit checks. You do not want to add a bad payer to your existing problems. See credit checking your customers and setting credit limits.
  • Cashflow forecast - keep and maintain a cashflow forecast, so you know when money is due to come and go out of your business.

For more information, see cashflow management.

Overtrading 

However tempting it might be to attempt to turn your business around by simply pushing for more sales, you should first assess whether your cashflow can handle a sudden increase in trade.

If you take on more business than your cashflow or current assets can cope with, you could be at risk of overtrading. Overtrading occurs when you try to fulfil an increase in orders without having the working capital to cover the costs involved - eg overtime, extra stock and supplies - before the money from sales comes in. Overtrading is extremely serious and could cause your business to fail. See avoid the problems of overtrading.