Irregular schedules and incomes are just part of the job for many small business owners and entrepreneurs. During the summer months, this is especially true, as business slows and your best clients may be planning their summer getaways. If summer is your quiet season, then it’s key that your year-round revenues sustain you through the cash flow quiet months. It’s also critical that you implement effective cash flow management in order to ensure those revenues keep coming back stronger year after year.
Here are some tips for preventing a cash flow crisis this summer.
Organize your finances
If you commonly run into cash flow management problems during your quiet season, then its clear you must do something about it. Spend some time reviewing your cash flow statements to see how the inflow and outflow of cash tracks historically. Use that data to inform your cash flow forecast. You should also draw on your knowledge of market factors, sales cycles, and expense patterns to better predict when you’re likely to feel the cash flow pinch so that you can put strategies in place to mitigate the impact. Finally, if you’ve been putting off certain tasks until you aren’t so busy, well, now might be the perfect time.
Don’t pay your bills until they’re due
This might sound obvious, but it’s so easy to pay bills on autopilot when we receive them that it’s worth mentioning. Preserve your cash flow by paying as close to the net term date as possible.
Do everything possible to get paid faster
The flip side of the last tip is to do everything in your power to make sure your own bills aren’t left collecting dust on your clients’ desk. From invoicing as soon as a project is completed, to being diligent in your collections, cash flow management starts with practicing effective accounts receivable procedures all year. This will ensure that you’re in the best situation possible during the slower summer months. (Need more ideas? Here are 10 tips for how to get paid faster.)
Have a financial fallback plan
All quiet seasons come to an end, but seasonal businesses still incur costs, especially as you ramp up for busier times. Short-term financing is a useful cash flow management option to consider. For example, the SBA offers a loan program designed to help small businesses meet short-term and working capital needs like purchase orders, inventory, labor, and materials. SBA loans are administered through banks, so start your search there.
Another option is to secure business line of credit in advance of your quiet season. This can be borrowed against when you need the cash and paid back when you don’t.
If your financial cushion is depleted and cash flow is getting tight, fintech services like Fundbox can help. Fundbox provides lines of credit, as well as advance payments against your outstanding invoices. Applications require zero paperwork to get started, and you can find out how much credit you qualify for without risking your personal credit. If approved, you can draw funds directly to your business bank account, then pay it back in installments over 12 or 24 weeks, giving you access to the funds you need—fast.
Stay in Touch with Customers
Summer is the perfect time to improve your email and social media marketing efforts, create great new marketing content (like blogs, videos, or podcasts), and build your prospect database so that when your busy season returns, you are the first one your customers and prospects turn to with their needs.
Kick Off Your Seasonal Marketing Earlier
It always surprises me how often seasonal businesses are late to kick off their selling season marketing campaigns. In a fast-moving economy, the early bird gets the worm.
I’m not advocating you start selling winter gear in August, but take a regular look at your seasonal marketing. Could you extend your season by kicking off your pre-season marketing earlier and then closing out with end-of-season sales—effectively reducing the length of your quiet season?
Create Some Off-Season Excitement
Instead of riding out the quiet season, look for ways to kick-start your sales during the summer lull. Retail businesses could keep enticing existing customers to come back by offering freebies for a limited time. This will give customers a taste of new product lines and show your appreciation for their business. Host an open house, a networking event, or an educational event to showcase your products—this will attract new and existing customers alike.
If you’re in a service-related business, consider adding complementary products or services to your portfolio.
Diversify Your Market
Are there niche markets that you don’t normally serve that you could explore during your quiet season and even continue to serve year-round? If your regular customers head to the beach during the summer, could you diversify or offer specials that target those who stay behind? What about markets outside your region, ones less affected by seasonality? You might be able to serve different needs year-round with some creative thinking.
During slow seasons, it is important that you develop the most effective cash flow management tools that work for your small business. With your tool belt prepared, you can ensure that short term slumps won’t hinder your long term success.
A version of this article originally appeared on the Fundbox small business blog.
Contributor: Irene Malatesta, Content strategist at Fundbox, passionate about working with entrepreneurs and mission-driven businesses to bring stories to life. Fundbox is dedicated to helping small businesses grow by democratizing access to credit.
The SmallBizRising Blog is designed to be an educational content hub pulling information, best practices and practical advice for the small business owner and features topics including accounting, marketing, technology and more. Be sure to subscribe to stay up to date with new content as it is posted. The blog was created by The Neat Company and receives contributed content from a group of contributing companies that provide technology, services and solutions to small businesses.