In our experience, many eCommerce business owners place too much emphasis on revenue and not enough focus on cash flow.
This leads to cash crunches when it is time to place a big inventory order or pay the team that could be prevented.
If you find yourself in need of more working capital, there are three ways to increase cash flow:
- Increase your sales/revenue
- Cut expenses
- Seek out short-term financing
In this post, we’re going to share some actionable strategies to better manage your cash flow and increase eCommerce working capital in times of uncertainty.
What is cash flow management?
Simply put, cash flow is all of the money flowing in and out of the business in a given time period. And, cash flow management is the actionable tracking of cash inflows and outflows, along with analyzing cash flow trends and forecasting what’s going to happen.
Our favorite cash flow management system is the Profit First Framework. It helps people better organize where their cash is, budget their day to day costs, and know at a glance, ‘Okay, I’ve got X in operating expenses, and I’ve got Y for this month’s profit. So, I know I’m doing okay.’
Simply put, the Profit First Framework forces business owners to run a more profitable company, which usually means running a more streamlined operation in terms of the cash you’re spending for the money you bring in the door.
Pro Tip: We recommend having three to six months’ worth of cash to cover your expenses just as a backup. So, in times like these, if you have been running Profit First for a while, the benefits are showing up because you’ve got a buffer to help you through tough times.
Understand your baseline numbers
In order to do this effectively, you first need to know your baseline financial numbers.
Here at Bean Ninjas, we talk about knowing your numbers all the time. After all, how can you grow your business if you don’t have a clear picture of your cash position at any given time?
This is especially important in an economic downturn. The old adage – cash is king – is more important than ever right now. Often the best deals are available during a downturn, be it strategic business acquisitions, new hires, or supplier terms.
When you know how much money you are generating from new sales and how much money you are spending on expenses, you’ll know what you need to maintain your baseline.
How to read a cash flow statement
One key report in Xero that is invaluable for this process is your cash flow statement. A cash flow statement aims to have a holistic picture of all of the cash moving in (such as new sales) and out of the business (such as expenses).
For example, if you have delivered $10,000 worth of sales in Amazon during the last week of the month and you’re using accrual accounting, you booked those Amazon sales at month end, but that cash will not hit your bank account as the Amazon settlement will not post for another week. Then, there are the timing differences related to the accounting for the production and purchasing of inventory. Because you’ve spent the cash to produce or procure your product well before you will record the expenses (costs of goods sold).
The key is to look at the trends and make sure you understand why things are going up or down at any given time.
It is not always a bad thing if your expenses are going up. For example, if you are spending more on Facebook ads, that’s resulting in more sales and more cash in the bank, that’s great news. Your return on investment for that advertising channel is working.
Pro Tip: If you have 3-6 months of expenses in the bank, then we recommend looking at your cash flow statement monthly. And, if you are in a cash flow crunch,you should be looking at this weekly in addition to monitoring accounts receivables.
Build out cash flow forecasts
When you use the Profit First Framework combined with cash flow forecasting, it can be especially powerful because it gives you an extra level of detail, including:
- Your current cash position
- How much cash you will have to pay yourself
- How much cash you’ll have to pay your team
- How much cash you have set aside for your next large inventory purchase
- How much cash you have set aside for year-end taxes
- And, if your business will still be cash flow positive at a future point in time.
Then, you can forecast out different, future trends if sales increase or decrease by X%. For example, if your revenue drops by 40%, you know that you have to cut X amount in expenses if you want to remain cash-flow positive.
How to increase eCommerce working capital
We’re sharing the three main ways that you can improve cash flow in your business.
1. Increase cash flow from new sales and revenue streams
Sell more products and services
This could mean creating new products, selling more of your existing products, upselling, cross-selling, or getting more repeat sales from past customers.
Increase your prices
When’s the last time you increased your prices?
Has the demand of any of your products or services increased significantly?
Have you spent a bunch of time improving the quality of an existing product or service without raising your rates?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then it might be time to raise your prices. So, you are getting more cash in the bank from each sale you make (even if you are making less sales as a result of the price increase) .
Pro Tip: If you are considering raising your prices, make sure to think through your pricing strategy. A few things to think about are:
- Do the new numbers work?
- Is the market willing to pay your new prices?
- Will you be grandfathering pricing to recently purchased customers? And if so, what’s your messaging strategy look like?
Add a BNPL option to increase conversions
One way to increase average order value is to integrate with a buy now pay later option, like Klarna or Affirm.
In fact, brands see a 41% increase in average order value after integrating with Klarna.
Make free cash flow work for you
It is all about making your cash flow work for you. This could mean putting it in a high interest earning account or using it to get discounts for things like annual plans or providing working capital loans to suppliers you may be dependent on and in return negotiating interest payments or discounts on restock PO’s.
2. Cut any unnecessary expenses
Another way to increase free cash flow is to trim your expenses.
This starts by going through your Profit and Loss statement and making a list of all of your mandatory VS nice-to-have expenses. You want to go through each item and ask if it is adding value to the business.
Recurring software subscriptions are a really common area that people can find a lot of value from canceling a few things.
- Are there any recurring charges that you completely forgot about?
- Are you paying for the same subscription twice? For example, are your marketing and sales teams both using the same tool, but on different company cards?
- Can you consolidate any of the tools that you use? For example, if you have ten employees, do you really need two different project management software? Or could the whole company use one?
It is a good idea to audit your expenses at least a few times a year, and not just when you are in a cash crunch.
If you are really strapped for cash, you can also reduce spending on capital intensive projects. For example, this might mean putting your new website redesign on hold.
Or, for eCommerce clients, it could be holding a fire sale to reduce their stock levels to a more manageable level, so you have more cash in the bank and less sitting in your warehouse.
Pro Tip: It can be easy to go overboard with trimming expenses in a recession where you end up cutting too quickly and further reduce your growth. One of the most common places we see this is with advertising. Companies get scared when sales drop and turn off all of their ads – including the ones that still had a positive ROI. This means it may take longer for business to recover.
Negotiate more favorable terms with suppliers and vendors
If you have strong relationships with your vendors and suppliers, they may be able to help you out if you are struggling. This can include offering more favorable terms, pushing back payment deadlines, or offering a payment plan.
After all, if you proactively communicate any issue, it benefits them to work with you as opposed to dealing with the hassle of going to collections or small claims court.
3. Turn to short-term financing options
Another way to increase cash flow is through short-term financing options, such as taking out loans, running a crowdfunding campaign, using credit cards, or refinancing existing equity.
Apply for government loans
If you have to take on debt, government loans usually have the most favorable terms – outside of borrowing from friends and family.
For example, in this economic downturn, the U.S., Australian, and U.K. governments are all offering generous stimulus packages for small businesses.
Turn to revenue-based financing
Popularized by Wayflyer, this financing model allows eCommerce businesses to get funding for inventory or advertising expenses without giving up equity in their company.
For instance, see how Bean Ninjas customer UnderOutfit used 8fig to scale to 7 figures in under 12 months.
Use credit cards as a last resort
Because you can really rack up expenses on a credit card, it is best to use a line of credit as an absolute last resort.
If you do take on credit card debt, make a plan to pay down as much as you can every month until it is fully paid off.
These are just two of many short-term financing options. Check out our guide to short-term financing financing options for additional strategies and tactics.
In sum, the Profit First framework is a great way for eCommerce business owners to get better at managing their cash flow. It forces you to know your numbers and prioritize running a lean, profitable business.
The better you can get at managing your cash flow through these three strategies, the more likely you are to not only survive but to thrive in your business.