For thousands of small to medium sized businesses, cash flow is probably the single most important aspect of financial management. And yet when it comes to planning and forecasting, it often receives scant attention. Indeed, many businesses unfortunately only realise how crucial cash flow is when problems occur.
We recently blogged about Crowdmix, the London-based start-up that went into administration. It’s a sad fact that many businesses fail within their first year. This can’t always be prevented: starting a business is tough. But there are certainly things you can do to avoid disaster.
Profit is important to all businesses, but don’t underestimate the importance of cash flow either.
When Tesco was exposed for its long payment delays, it exposed an ugly trend among large businesses: delay, delay and delay some more, until your supplier is on its knees. And while the supermarket provided an extreme example of this unethical practice, a shockingly large percentage of global businesses see late payment to suppliers as a “fact of life”.
Where do small businesses turn for help when they suffer due to late payment? Under new government plans, there could soon be a Small Business Conciliation Service tasked with tackling that precise problem.
That's not its official name as yet - and in fact, you could be forgiven for thinking you already know of a 'conciliation service' for small business disputes, in the form of mediation.
This Saturday December 6th is Small Business Saturday, an annual initiative to support small businesses throughout the UK, and it's not just about visiting your local independent gift shop.
Much of the focus will be on the nation's high streets and town centres, where free parking and special offers will encourage many people to finish off their Christmas shopping at small independent retailers.
Last week, the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 gained royal assent, meaning broadly speaking, the various measures that have already been outlined by BIS, the Insolvency Service and other government departments should be brought into law without any major changes.
What does this mean for creditors? Actually there are some broad sweeping measures, and some more specific ones, which should combine to tip the balance more fairly in the direction of creditors.
The payment practices of the UK's biggest companies have been under scrutiny for a while now, with voluntary efforts such as the Prompt Payment Code attracting criticism for being 'toothless' in terms of enforcement action.
Meanwhile though, nobody really wants to see a situation where it is mandatory to take late payers to court, or to enforce penalties and interest - after all, sometimes you might simply want to extend the deadline as a gesture of good faith to a valued customer.
The smallest firms in the UK are being paid late, in some cases by over a year, due to a lack of urgency and a sense of awkwardness about chasing clients for payment, new figures suggest.
A survey carried out by online accounts software provider FreeAgent revealed that just one in seven micro-businesses that issue invoices have never had to deal with an instance of late payment.
We all know healthy cash flow is the life blood of any small business, but when your cash flow is interrupted, survival depends on having funds in reserve - and the same is true of your customers.
So it helps to know how many small businesses out there have savings set aside 'for a rainy day', and how many would be unable to pay you if their own income was interrupted.
The figures don't make for encouraging reading - according to a report from British personal and commercial banking providers Aldermore, fewer than one in three businesses have a savings account at all.
Of those that do, 21% have less than £5,000 saved, and 7% have nothing at all.
A publicly accessible database of company directorships could soon become a reality, following the conclusion of a consultation by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
The proposals outline plans for a central registry of company beneficial ownership information - including details of trustees, where relevant, and of individuals with ownership of more than 25% of the shares in a company, or the equivalent proportion of its voting rights.