May 1, 2020
Develop red light systems to warn you automatically if something needs querying:
Building productive relationships with your key suppliers is important, so they are prepared to extend extra credit to you when you need it.
If you have a properly set up accounting software, then it should be relatively easy to view your red flags weekly, monthly (or any period you set).
Identify the causes and take action
Below are some common causes and possible solutions of a cash crisis you may need to solve:
• A significant client hasn't paid on time - Implement stricter credit control and better debt collection procedures. Contact them to ensure you have the right purchase order, and the invoice has been sent to the right person. Even check if your contact has forgotten to pass on your invoice, or they too could be undergoing hardships at the moment.
• A rise in the cost of production has eroded your profit margin - Try and source less expensive materials or supplies or decide if you need to raise your price. Monitor your gross profit margin for any further profit slippage.
• Your construction business overheads have blown out - Identify specific expenses that have increased and see how you can reduce them. Regularly monitoring your net profit margins to spot any out-of-proportion increases so you can take timely action.
• Jobs have been slower than predicted - Review your marketing plan and sales campaigns. Alternatively, if you can't see any future improvement in immediate sales, consider other markets and targets.
There may be other causes such as the failure of a major contract or you bought a large asset at the wrong time, and you now need that cash reserve for working capital. In each case, understand the cause and the action you're taking to avoid a repeat, such as diversifying your customer base or using your cash flow statements and forecasts to time purchases more appropriately.
If you do find yourself in a cash crisis (it's a temporary hitch, and the business is still sound), there are several funding options to consider, ranging from self-financing or bank loans to finding a business partner. The relative attractiveness of each option will depend on the size of your cash flow shortfall and how long you're likely to need the cash.
Before you look for external sources of funding, however, can you free up cash from within your business? For example:
• Offer clients a discount for early payment or ask them to pay immediately.
• Offer clients to pay by credit card when usually you don't.
• Ask suppliers to take back excess stock and credit or give you longer credit terms.
• Sell underused assets and rent the equipment instead, as and when required.
• Downgrade or sell vehicles and lease instead.
• Reduce your drawings from the business until revenues improve.
• Your accountant and advisers may be able to suggest other ways to release the locked-up cash in your construction company.
If you need a business loan and have a good banking track record, it could be little more than a formality to get a higher overdraft facility or access to a business loan to tide you over. If you're going to need quite a lot more money, you'll likely have to present a more detailed business plan and financial forecasts.
If you have cash tied up in unpaid invoicing, you might qualify for invoice finance. This facility enables you with immediate access up to 80 percent of the value of any unpaid invoices that your business might have. It helps free cash flow by releasing money from unpaid invoices as and when you need it.
Partners and investors
If your business can't afford to service loan repayments out of surplus cash flow, then it may need more capital so you could consider taking on a business partner to invest in your construction business. There are advantages but also pitfalls to avoid. Get expert advice first from your accountant and your lawyer – they may know of suitable investors. Be aware that you'll need to share the ownership of your business if you go down this path.
Family and friends
You could ask family, friends, or business colleagues to help out with a temporary or longer-term loan. It's best to put the agreement in writing and get everyone to sign it so that both sides are clear on what has been agreed upon. Be aware that this sort of arrangement could strain personal or working relationships if things go wrong, so treat it as a last option.
The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering Relief Options as of this writing, due to Coronavirus (COVID-19). Let us know if you need assistance, and we will do our best to help you, whether you're a client or not. Fill out the form on the right or send me an email.
Managing cash in a crisis is stressful for any construction business owner. Still, you do have options starting with preventative measures such as cash flow statements and forecasts and sourcing finance.
About The Author:
Sharie DeHart, QPA is the co-founder of Business Consulting And Accounting in Lynnwood, Washington. She is the leading expert in managing outsourced construction bookkeeping and accounting services companies and cash management accounting for small construction companies across the USA. She encourages Contractors and Construction Company Owners to stay current on their tax obligations and offers insights on how to manage the remaining cash flow to operate and grow their construction company sales and profits so they can put more money in the bank. Call 1-800-361-1770 or firstname.lastname@example.org