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Cash flow caveats during the COVID19 crisis by Ricky Sevta

May 7th, 2020

Monitoring cash flow, particularly during the next three to four months, is critical for navigating your way through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cash is king, especially now that the coronavirus has created widespread uncertainty about supply chains, buyer confidence, and when the world will finally escape from this pandemic.

“Cash flow management and preservation should be your No.1 financial priority right now.”

Even during good times, trade industries grapple with factors beyond their control, such as supply chain glitches, project delays, late payments, labor blowout, and other obstacles. These situations are more likely to become common during a pandemic and manufacturers are also more likely to extend lead times and delivery/pickup arrangements to job sites, all of which will result in delays, extensions and ultimately overrun in estimated labor.

Besides devising contingency plans for those interruptions, trade businesses should look at multiple scenarios for their cash flow, such as what their balance sheet looks like at 75% of current output, at 50%, and so on.

Working through those situations can be the beginning of not only figuring what costs to cut to keep the doors open, but also determining if you can afford to sell your services at the reduced profit margin. simPRO’s comprehensive reporting provides multiple opportunities to figure out how to manage these challenges in your business. The best practice is to start with the basics which you can find in this blog, five simPRO reports for better decision making during COVID-19.

Paying the bills

Keeping consistent vs better cash flow

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A source of pride for some businesses is their reputation for paying wages every week/month and their suppliers within 30 days. That’s a great practice for being the business-of-choice among subcontractors, but it is also a habit that can turn into a self-inflicted wound on your cash position when the market slows.

So how do you keep your reputation and manage the flow of cash? Approach suppliers about extending payment terms to 60 or 90 days. Labor-intensive trades with large payrolls probably can’t afford to be so lenient. But suppliers may be in a better cash position, and if the business has a good relationship with them, they may be more flexible.

Make plans for finances

While the current cost of money is favorable for borrowers, businesses should huddle with their accountants or bank managers now—rather than when their account balance declines—and prepare applications for a bank line of credit, a bridge loan, or a small-business loan.

Don't finance client projects

Stop work on the projects if client payments aren't up to date. Again, simPRO’s reporting functionality can give you insight into un-invoiced and unpaid work that remains on your books with a few clicks. Don’t continue the work until the current stages are invoiced and paid to ensure that you are not left out of pocket should your customer not be able to pay in the future.

Perform daily project reviews

And, confirm that costs and billings are up to date and client-approved so the project can progress to the next milestone that triggers a scheduled payment by the client. If the project isn't approaching a payment milestone and you’re under-billed on the project, you must bill the client and communicate with them daily until that money is in the bank.

“Good relationships now mean a stronger position for negotiation later.”

Invest in cloud-based technology

It’s tempting to think of a recession as a time to play it safe. However, downturns present a perfect time for the adoption of new technologies.

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Why invest in technology during a recession when money is tight? Simple - it’s because your opportunity cost is lower than it would be in good times.

When the economy is in great shape, a business has every incentive to produce as much as it can. And if it diverts resources to invest in new technologies, it may be leaving money on the table. But when fewer people are willing to buy what you’re selling, operations need not be kept humming at maximum capacity, which frees up the operating budget to fund technology initiatives without dampening sales. For that reason, adopting technology costs less, in a sense, during a recession.

A job management solution, especially cloud-based systems, can streamline your business and make it more transparent, flexible and efficient. One of the first reasons to prioritize digital transformation ahead of or during a downturn is that improved analytics can help management better understand the business, how the recession is affecting it, and where there’s potential for operational improvements.

The second reason is that digital technology can help cut costs. Businesses should review their workflow and automate administration tasks leveraging off easily available integration tools and adopting data-driven decision making.

The third reason is that digital technology investments make businesses more agile and therefore better able to handle the uncertainty and rapid change that comes with a recession.

“Cloud-based solutions streamline operations and provide certainty in decision making.”

Businesses that have already made an investment in digital technology and streamlining business workflows may be better able to understand the threat they face and respond more quickly.

As we have previously seen, recessions can create wide and long-standing performance gaps between businesses. Research has found that digital technology can do the same. Businesses that have neglected digital transformation may find that the next recession makes those gaps insurmountable.

Discover more benefits of new adopting new technology in our blog, Benefits of cloud-based operations management software in a crisis.

Future proof your business during this current crisis and into the future. Contact simPRO to find out how a cloud-based solution could streamline your business.

Ricky Sevta

Author - Ricky Sevta

As General Manager, Ricky is responsible for the continual growth of simPRO in New Zealand. Ricky’s breadth of experience gained both within Australia and New Zealand has helped to transform the way businesses in the Electrical, HVAC and building services industries operate; enabling them to communicate, collaborate and create value whilst also meeting the technical, financial and sustainability challenges of the future.

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