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What Should You Do When You’ve Got a Cash Crunch? A Proven Method to Deconstruct and Solve Your Cashflow Issues

One of the most common challenges I hear from business owners is having cashflow issues.  The good news is often this comes from growing rapidly where you’ve got to put out money for inventory or services and are waiting to be paid but because of how fast you’re growing there’s a shortfall.  So long as you’re really profitable that’s a short term problem though it can still sink you.

Worse is when you’re struggling from a temporary downturn in your finances.

In either case it can be incredibly stressful, sometimes scary and overwhelming and in either case you need to take action.

The question becomes what do you do when you’ve tapped all the accounts and the well has run dry?

As with most problems in business and in life it becomes a lot easier not to mention less overwhelming if you can deconstruct it into small actionable pieces so here’s the formula I’ve used successfully again and again in my own life, with my own businesses and with clients and friends.

 

Step #1 – Separate Incoming and Outgoing

You have two parts of this equation what’s going out or supposed to go out and what’s coming in or what you can bring in.  In other words

  1. What can be done to lower your obligations?
  2. What can be done to bring in funds?

These are really two separate issues either one of which could solve your problem but most likely you’ll solve it through a combination of the two.

Your goal here is going to be to brainstorm and then apply solutions in each area and breaking it down helps you to brainstorm more options.

With that in mind you’ve separated out the outgoing from incoming but it helps to break it down further to determine possible solutions for each area.

Richucation Tip – Start by making a detailed list of all your obligations how much they are and when they are payable

 

Step #2 – Deconstruct Possible Solutions to Your Obligations

Though it might not seem immediately obvious…or maybe it is there’s a few different options in terms of how you can deal with your obligations in these circumstances.  You can deconstruct these into essentially two things that can be done:

  1. Reduce Expenses – in other words find ways so you don’t have as much you’ll have to pay out
  2. Push Back Expenses – in other words find ways so you can pay expenses that you can’t eliminate later than they are normally due in order to buy yourself breathing room and time to bring in more cash to cover those obligations

This is fairly obvious right?  You can address some of your cash shortfall by not having to put so much out at all.  Or you can push back those obligations until you’ve had time to bring in more money.  This later only works assuming you’re profitable in the long run, that you’ll be bringing in more money than you’re spending on a regular basis though sometimes it buys you the time to make more money.

 

We’re off to a good start but we can deconstruct the problem and brainstorm solutions even further.

There are basically three ways you can reduce your expenses:

  1. Finding unnecessary expenses and removing them – this should be a monthly practice in your business for you and all your managers to help keep expense from becoming bloated
  2. Negotiating to make expenses go away – this might look like calling up a creditor and saying “look I’m not going to be able to pay and going to have to default at which point you’ll get nothing, I can offer you 50% if you’ll take that instead”. Alternatively, you can call active suppliers and say “hey we’re shopping for better pricing if you want to keep our business I need you to come down on these numbers.  Often this can get you a 5%-10% discount if you’re a good long term customer who’s valuable to them and assuming you haven’t done this in the past.  Again, this is a practice you should be doing regularly in your business.
  3. Finding another place to meet the need without the cost – this is essentially a case of moving an expense from you to someone else. For example, maybe rather than providing employees with cell phones and computers they use their own along with their home internet connection and perhaps you reimburse them for any extra costs or help subsidize their cost so it’s a win – win.  Often, there’s someone else who already has the resource you need and you can use it without any real excess expense to them or split it with them for a win-win.  This can be particularly useful for women who are suffering from personal cash crunches as often guys will take them for dinner, give them rides, etc.

For a very personal example of this when I was at my brokest all my credit cards were maxed and had been frozen except one and I remember buying just over $19 of groceries and shaking as I scanned my last credit card not sure if it would go through.  During that time, I had to resort to eating my roommate’s Kraft dinner because I couldn’t afford my own thinking “I’ll buy him some when I’ve got money”.  I got packets to ketchup from McDonald’s and toilet paper from public washrooms, rides from friends to save on gas, etc.  Chances are you aren’t in that desperate a situation and hopefully never will be but it’s an example of how sometimes people have resources that you can get from them to temporarily decrease what you need to put out.

Richucation Tip – Refer to Richucation resources on the “3 Dimensions of Value”, “The Cost Halo”, “The 6 Resources”, and “The 5 Ways to Get Great Deals”.

We can also put you in touch with financial experts to analyze your expenses and help you cut costs.

 

In terms of pushing back expenses a lot of bills are due but you can get away without paying them on time if you’re desperate.  In my case because I couldn’t pay most of them when I was at my worst I’d figure out which ones I couldn’t avoid paying because they were going to cut off the services and I’d pay those while leaving the others.

One thing to note is often if you’re a good customer and call whoever you owe the money to they are happy to extend you terms so you can avoid paying for 90 or 120 days.  Not always possible but it’s often an option again to help buy some breathing room.  Costco literally builds part of their business model off of these terms because they’ll buy inventory on payment terms, sell it then invest the money to get a return before they have to repay.

This is very common when you take over a struggling or failing business.  For example, when I purchased a spa I met with the landlord and said “hey, the spa isn’t doing well, they’ll default on the rent unless I do something about it and you’ll lose out.  I need you to work with me here.”  It’s much better than the alternative for them so they’ll usually work with you.

Obviously, not all expenses can be eliminated or even pushed back but usually across all your expenses it can provide extra breathing room.

 

Step 3 – Breakdown Possible Options For Bringing In Funds

When you’ve exhausted all your options to cut expenses and push back expenses you’re left with bringing money in.  Once again there are lots of ways to bring money in and most people having dug deep enough into all the available options so breaking those down will help you become more resourceful.

 

Option #1 – Make Money

The first place to start when you need to bring in extra money is to ask yourself is there any quick cash I can generate?  In other words, can I make some quick sales and get paid right away?

When I was at my lowest for example I made a deal with a friend to sell some of his services and sold to someone I knew (close network so easy sale) then got the client to write a check to me.  I’d negotiated a 50% commission but needed to keep every penny because I needed it all and it was only after a few months that I’d regained enough to my friend his 50% share.  It wasn’t ideal but it helped me.

The important thing being “is there someone who needs something where I can provide a referral and get compensated for it for some quick money” (some kind of affiliate arrangement).  Can you do some sort of discount or promotion to generate rapid sales?  Or do you have a list of existing customers who you could offer something additional to?  I’ve done this with raising money for investments on a few occasions, as well as numerous other things.  I don’t believe it makes a good long term business model but for short term cash it’s useful.

This can actually help generate another revenue stream for your business if done well.

 

Option #2 – Sell Assets

I hate to do this one because whereas #1 is adding to your wealth to cover expenses after selling assets you’re impoverished.  That being said it’s a method of getting some quick cash in some circumstances.  For example, maybe you’ve got excess inventory or equipment you can sell off, maybe you’ve got investments that can be liquidated.  Maybe it’s possible to sell some things you own and rent instead (for example selling vehicles to generate cash and then leasing to replace them).

This is the least favourable and in fact the main danger of short term cashflow issues is that you need to sell assets at a loss in order to cover obligations, which is the reason for bank reserve requirements.  On the other hand, it beats being forced into bankruptcy, taken to court for obligations, etc.

In business perhaps the most common asset to sell is part of the business in trade for an equity investment.  This is sometimes a great way to go but also be careful it’s a long term obligation to a short term problem.  You want to ensure you’re getting long term value out of the investment.

 

Option #3 – Borrow Money

I’d rather not do this but sometimes it’s the only option and it’s worth exploring the options here.

The question of course is “from who and on what basis will they make the loan?”  Goodwill or unsecured credit only go so far where loans are concerned.

I’ve lent enough people money over the years to know that if it’s being lent based on goodwill unsecured I’m often at risk of not recouping my investment so if they are personal loans I’ll generally consider it a gift to help a friend and simply be grateful if I do get paid back or else make sure I’ve got some sort of security.

Richucation Tip – Contact us on advice for loan structuring to make sure you get paid back

This being said most people aren’t sufficiently creative here.  We’ve worked with clients who have cashflow issues and have credit that’s been destroyed or other outstanding issues that mean they can’t get money from a bank but we’ve been able to facilitate loans internally through the Richucation network.

The key here becomes “what can you offer as collateral?”

Very often people have latent assets they can borrow against in one form or another that protect the lender while allowing you to get the money you need.

Remember we were talking earlier about assets and not wanting to sell them?  Often, if you’ve got short term cashflow needs you can borrow against them instead.  Or you can sell them to someone at a discount with a lease to buy option in place so you’re both protected.  You get your cash short term; they get a rate of return but also an asset they can sell if you default and recoup their money.

Another example is the pre-sale of services.  A Richucation client early in his career approached a client and convinced them to lend him money for a venture based on providing services for the coming year.  I’ll do this in some cases where I’m extending private loans and concerned about repayment specifying that I can take repayment either as cash or services at my option.  I’m somewhat protected and the person gets the money they need, win-win.

You can also factor accounts receivables if you’ve got some steady or committed income.

Most of the time people who are looking for money don’t think enough from the perspective of the lender and the lender’s desire to protect their investment and earn a return.  They’ll make promises that aren’t necessarily realistic while at the same time failing to offer protection.  If you can offer protection to the lender that more than covers them, you can usually get someone to extend the loan.

Richucation Tip – Contact us if you need assistance determining how to borrow money

You’ll want to identify who might lend to you and what you can offer to help make the loan a no brainer for them.

 

Option 4 – Receive Gifts

This really applies primarily to personal cashflow issues as opposed to corporate ones but is still worth mentioning.  Although it’s usually not an option sometimes you’ve got people who are willing to help you out and ask nothing in return.

If you’re in a personal cashflow crunch brainstorm who all might fit in this category for you to help you get over the hump.  Sometimes it’s a bunch of people each making a small contribution, the movie “Cinderella Man” is a great example of this.

 

Step 4 – Use All These Strategies Together

Generally, if cashflow issues are serious no one strategy will work on its own so brainstorm solutions in all of them and then start implementing if nothing else you’ve got backup plans if one or two options fail.

As a basic rule prioritize making money and reducing expenses first, then pushing back obligations, then borrowing and only as a last resort selling assets.

Contact us for personalized assistance.