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Six Ways to Manage Cash Flow as a Seasonal Business Owner

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Updated: Monday, May 21, 2012 - 13:23
Created: Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - 06:53

Do you operate a seasonal business? If your revenue peaks and declines depending on the time of year, or you only operate your business during a certain season—then you can be considered a seasonal a business owner.

If this is you, then you know that monitoring and managing your cash flow and revenues through these fluctuations is essential. Below are six ways you can better plan and manage for the ebb and flow of seasonal business cash flow.  

Make a Budget that Includes Cash Flow Projection

Every business operates off a set budget, but if you operate a seasonal business it’s important to include a cash flow projection template as part of your financial planning process. This will help alleviate the guesswork involved in predicting your income and outgoings over the year, and inform you of the best ways to conserve cash flow throughout the year.

If you can, plan your cash flow over a year.  Use historical reports from previous years to forecast your revenue, your busiest months, and your estimated sales for each month. You’ll also need to consider your fixed expenses (rent, utilities, etc.) and your variable expenses (salaries, inventory, taxes, etc.) as well as when these variable expenses will hit.

Now that you have a view of your revenues and outgoings you can develop strategies to manage cash flow throughout the year.

Steam Roll Your Invoicing

One way of expediting the flow of cash as you head into your quiet season is to modify your invoicing policies. If you can, try to secure a percentage payment upfront. This will also help you deal with slow paying customers. This article also offers tips:Getting your Customers to Pay-Up: Tips for Protecting Yourself from Non-Paying Clients.

Negotiate Flexible Payment Terms from Your Suppliers

Just as you want to expedite the flow of cash in, you should also consider negotiating extended payment terms from your suppliers. This is especially useful as you head into your busy season and incur most of your variable expenses (inventory, marketing, etc.). The trouble is you won’t see any immediate returns on those investments until your revenues kick in, so an extended payment plan can help ease the pain of these pre-season costs.

Find Alternative Sources of Income

Earning income from alternative sources or diversifying your products or services to include ones that will be popular during your off-season is a great way of keeping cash flowing and your business top of mind. Don’t forget to check whether you need any additional business licenses or permits to do this, SBA.gov's "Permit Me" tool can help you find the paperwork that you might need.

Consider a Short-Term Loan or Line of Credit

Government-backed small business loans are a useful option if your cash flow projections show potential tight spots in your calendar. One option to consider is the Small Business Administration (SBA) CAPLine Loans umbrella program which helps small businesses meet their short-term and cyclical working-capital needs. Part of the CAPLine program is the Seasonal Line short-term working capital loan program which provides advances against anticipated inventory and accounts receivable to help businesses with seasonal sales fluctuations. Read more about the SBA Loan Application Process.

Another option is a revolving line of credit (RLC). An RLC is a flexible method of borrowing cash for your seasonal small business needs. It is very similar to a credit card in the sense that an RLC has an established credit limit that you can borrow up to, only without a plastic card. Learn more about The Basics of Revolving Lines of Credit.

Use Your Downtime for Planning

Use your off-season wisely. Regroup, review, and plan ahead to ensure a profitable busy season. How did your business perform against its plans? Did your marketing campaigns pan out as well as you’d hoped? What new products and services can you introduce in the new season? What’s the competition up to? How can you position yourself against them? 

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Type: Community Blog