Since the impact of the Coronavirus began we have been in close contact with our client base with the number 1 question being asked: how do they continue to effectively manage cash flow during Covid-19?
We have been holding one to one video calls and discussing exact steps related to each client, but the five most effective and immediate steps we are recommending to manage cash flow during Covid-19 are as follows:
1. Have complete and effective control on your receivables
The strength of your cash flow will depend on the speed and consistency with which you will receive your customer payments. The added complexity is that, now, everyone is experiencing the same problems you will be having as it’s a wide pandemic. To that end how do you enforce a solid receivables policy taking into account the wider market conditions?
It’s important to bring a sense of realism into the discussions. Inviting your customers to be honest and getting a sense of any possible slowdown well ahead of due dates will enable you to discuss a mutually agreeable plan. Thereafter, given how fast things are moving it’s important to stay in touch. Simply hoping things will come in on the basis they have up to now won’t wash anymore. You need to be proactive and fast in your approach.
Payment plans on phased payments beat no payments every time so considering options and updating your own cash forecasts accordingly is also vitally important.
A common need we have encountered is that clients want a a layer of distance from core commercial contacts on their customer side and the credit control function on their side. This process works optimally with someone with the right balance of skills and experience. We are providing effective virtual credit control services for this reason to build that bridge in sometimes difficult conversations.
And customers are definitely paying if this is managed right. Today alone we have secured payments in for EUR 4,478.44, GBP 4,175.71, EUR 7,438.56 as just a few examples. All from customers, clients deemed very doubtful would be able to pay.
2. Review and prioritise all payables and extend credit via mutually acceptable discussions
The flip side of an effective receivables strategy is to manage all outgoings with the utmost pessimism on cash being received, effectively conserving cash for only the most critical payments.
We do not advocate the ostrich in the sand approach and just taking additional credit without permission will simply kick the ball down the park and leave an uncertainty on that liability.
Instead open a dialogue with suppliers to get more certainty on the timings. Some examples:
(a) speak to your bank regarding deferring any capital repayments or minimising to interest only for a period
(b) speak to HMRC and request a time to pay arrangement if short term VAT, Paye & NIC or Corporation Tax payments are placing too much strain on cashflow
(c) negotiate short term extensions to credit terms with suppliers and/or phased payments to split invoices up
(d) speak to landlords regarding postponing or reducing rent, especially if the office is now vacated and the running costs are significantly reduced on shared spaces
This week we have successfully managed to secure clients relief in all these areas simply by asking.
3. Review entire cost base under the new working and market conditions enforced by Covid-19
The impact of Covid-19 so far has been enforced office closures with staff working at home, inability to travel for external meetings and scaling back advertising, events and marketing.
Budgets should be reviewed under the new conditions of working to see where cash can be saved in the short term, and reallocated to essential and critical spend elsewhere.
By reviewing costs bottom up, i.e. literally seeing where spend is going in each expense category and asking the question “Can we do without this right now ?”, you can get an entire review of the cost base completed.
And remember it’s easy to add costs again when needed and the cash allows as you start to build the business out of survival mode.
4. Review all debt facilities in place and seek additional finance support if necessary
As noted above, reviewing and asking for relief on loans is being seen more favourably at present by banks. Taking that a step further would be to look at loan consolidation. We work with a number of lenders with easily accessible facilities and who have committed to supporting SMEs during the crisis. By simply replacing loans with more competitive facilities you can save on monthly repayments.
In addition, looking at new ways of leveraging assets on your balance sheet, e.g. via invoice discounting, can generate much needed short term cash. Flexible facilities through companies like Iwoca that allow you to pay interest only on what is used, and repay quickly without penalties, are excellent facilities for short term emergency finance. These can normally be applied for and paid out in 24-48 hours.
The government has also announced a suite of support in the form of emergency loans and grants. These funds are specifically for the purpose of Covid-19 impacts on businesses and we will be ensuring all affected clients are applying for this support.
5. Use an experienced Advisor to Manage Cash Flow during Covid-19
One of the most critical roles in a business at this time will be that of the person taking on cash flow management. This is going to be an intense, fast moving responsibility and needs a clear, experienced head at the helm.
It is not a shame for business owners to accept and admit they may not have that skill set. Managing a survival cash flow is a skill set most people won’t have had to encounter before. In Nuvem9 we have experienced ex CFO and COO skills, and we managed a multi national treasury through the 2008 financial crisis, plus many other cash crises. We are therefore stepping in and supporting businesses now and ensuring they make the right decisions along the way. This level of support could literally save your business.
To manage cash flow during Covid-19 you will need to act fast and effectively. We hope this guide has been useful and if you would like to discuss your specific needs we would welcome a consultation call to explain how we could potentially help your business ride through the difficulties. You can place an enquiry here or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.