Working Capital Management for Small Business Owners
Any business can have different sources of income and efficient management of the same can work wonders in the running of the business. While startup capital and fixed assets are typically long term, for the day-to-day running of any business, an efficient cash flow structure is necessary. In the light of the same, working capital becomes quite crucial for small business owners.
Working capital management is the relationship between a company’s short term assets and short term liabilities. In simpler terms, it is the way in which a company handles its income generation and expenses. For example, if your company deals in a lot of paperwork and you need prints of documents every second hour, that is an active expense happening almost every day. Getting an office printer would make the expenses considerably less, over the course of time.
Efficient working capital management ensures that any company can run smoothly while being able to repay maturing short-term debt and expenses that might rise in the near future. In working capital management, the most basic tasks revolve around managing inventories, accounts receivable and payable and cash. Inventories in our example can be ink cartridges, blank paper that can be used in the future. While your sales on credit can be a part of accounts receivable, if the printer was bought through a loan, the EMI would be part of the accounts payable. Cash is pretty self-explanatory and is basically used for expenses that can’t happen on credit or are quite diminutive.
The importance of cash for companies can never be expressed in enough words. Cash in hand is majorly used for three purposes, namely – Speculation, Precaution and Transaction. All the three are quite pivotal in deciding the growth of a small business.
Speculation is the scenario where having appropriate cash in hand can aid in taking benefits of special opportunities related to purchase. Suppose a small business is dealing in fireworks. They would normally have stock left from the past year Diwali in their inventory. Let’s presume the business is paying a monthly fee of INR 20000 for storing its stock in a warehouse. The annual fees come to INR 2.4 lakhs. During September, the business gets an offer to receive an amount of new stock (equal to the old stock) at a seasonal discounted price of INR 1.8 lakhs. Here, the cost of the new inventory is less than the carrying costs of the old stock. But it is actually more profitable for the business since the old stock has a depleted value now along with the carrying cost of 2.4 lakhs. The business will do much better if it purchases the new stock at a discount and disposes the old inventory at a discount to small retailers. That way, the business will be ready for the festive months ahead with a new stock that has a much higher chance of being sold out fast.
Precaution is when a business holds cash in hand to safeguard against unforeseen situations. Let’s consider our old example of the small business selling fireworks. Speculating on a booming sale in the festive months ahead, the business had bought in new stock on credit, hoping to settle the dues after the sales are done. But due to some state-wide problems, people didn’t celebrate as much and thus, didn’t buy much fireworks. But the business still has to honor its promise of repaying the dues, so it uses the cash in hand to do that.
Transaction is perhaps the simplest of the reasons why small businesses should have access to cash in hand. Every small item needed in a day-to-day operation of a business can’t be settled through online transactions. Cash in hand is required for sundry purchases that are then added up at the month end for the expenses.
Accounts receivables, cash in hand, inventories, marketable securities and prepayments are current assets that will become cash within 12 months and likewise, account payables, wages to be paid and unearned revenues are current liabilities that need to be settled within 12 months of time. Good working capital management involves keeping the current assets consistently higher than the current liabilities to avoid financial complications or operational problems. Here are some small tips that can help you manage your working capital in your company more effectively. Keeping an eye on these can allow your small business to prosper –
1. Take advantage of float – Float or floating capital is basically the difference between book balance and bank balance. Let’s suppose you have dues of INR 3 lakhs to settle by the 31st of October. However, only INR 1 lakh is supposed to be paid by the 5th of October. Considering that you have INR 3 lakhs cash in hand by September 27, you could use INR 2 lakhs as a short-term deposit if you have no other assured profitable short-term business venture that can pay within a month. The return could be less than INR 1000, but it’s better than nothing. If you like investments, you can check the market and invest in equities for a short term for getting better returns, but this is a riskier approach
2. JIT Inventory – Just-In-Time inventory allows a business to cut down on costs involved in storing stock. Materials are purchased and received in time for the production line or for sales. Though this is quite difficult to achieve, if your relationship with the supplier is good, you can manage this effectively
3. Sales on Credit – Here, your sales play a crucial role. The goal is to shorten the amount of time your customers can take to pay their bills. You could offer a period of 30 days till their bill is due and offer a promotion of 3% discount if the same bill is cleared in maybe, 10 days or less. This allows you to sell more in a short time and pushes your customers to pay earlier to get a discount of 3%
4. Alternative Funding – This method can include availing working capital from banks, NBFCs, asset-based lenders, crowdfunding. In most cases, a genuine business idea, long term efficiency and good revenue generation can get you access to alternative funding rather quickly
5. Timely payments to suppliers – This is the easiest and simplest rule to follow. It goes without saying that if you pay your suppliers their dues on time, you can negotiate better deals and get discounts on your purchases
6. Group Purchase – As a small business, you might not always have access to funds to buy stock at a discounted quantity, or you might not have the available storage to accommodate a bulk of material that you get at a discount. It is always a good idea to look for other small businesses in the state or region who do the same trade as you and pool in resources to get the stock from your supplier. That way, you don’t have to spend a lot and still get to avail the discount
7. Learn the benefits of e-procurement – If you are into electronics, electrical equipment, garments, gift items and the like, you can look into sites like mytradebox.com where you could find interesting items with heavy discounts on bulk orders. These can help you source items quickly at very affordable rates
Small businesses aren’t much different from regular, established business giants. They just have a smaller market footprint. While larger businesses have to deal with multiple rules and regulations that they have set for themselves, as a small business owner, you will be much more flexible in making changes to the processes that are followed in your business. Taking working capital management seriously and handling the details through which your cash flows are dealt will definitely make your business a more profitable one. This, combined with social media, ecommerce and data science can work wonders for your small business. But those are topics that will have their own articles. Follow our Lendingkart blog to be regularly updated about the same.
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