Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) need a stable cash flow to run their operations smoothly and meet customer expectations. However, boosting cash flow can be a significant challenge, especially since the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and inflationary pressures in the UK have translated into a decline in consumer spending. On top of a 0.4% dip in sales online and offline, small business owners have to grapple with increasing operating costs and energy bills.
Small businesses need to find solutions to alleviate the financial headaches and gain a bit of breathing room. Here are a few ideas on how small businesses can improve their cash flow strategies and aim for greater success and growth.
Evaluate cash flow patterns
Cash flow mainly refers to how money moves into and out of your small business—from earning from sales and investments to paying for rent, taxes, and salaries. As long as you’re consistent with tracking your income and outgoing expenses over a set period (by week, month, or quarter), you’ll be able to perform a cash flow analysis and identify patterns and trends across your financial history.
Using spreadsheets or cloud-based software can even help you make cash flow forecasts, so you can plan ahead and set aside funds for future business slowdowns. For example, if you notice that you tend to run out of cash towards the end of the month, you can adjust your payment terms with suppliers or look into opening a business line of credit for quick-access funds.
Expand payment methods
Regardless if your SME does business via e-commerce platforms or physical stores, you have every incentive to invest in expanding and diversifying your payment methods beyond cash. Findings from the FinTech Magazine’s report on cashless payments show that more than 50% of Brits now prefer this payment method due to its ease of use and convenience. SMEs should thus capitalise on this growing demographic and facilitate better cash flow.
In this light, your choice of payment solutions for small businesses can range from card machines that allow you to transact with customers from anywhere in the shop premises to online payment gateways that ensure a quick and frictionless checkout process. The safety and security of your customers’ banking information are crucial in adopting these payment channels to increase loyalty and repeat business.
Some entrepreneurs are hesitant about raising prices for fear of losing existing customers and failing to attract new ones, but it’s possible to do so without hurting your sales. You can use traditional and social media marketing to communicate to your customers about the price hike ahead of time. This transparency makes it more likely for customers to be more understanding instead of being caught off guard by the price changes.
It also helps to emphasise an added value to make the price more reasonable, e.g. a longer warranty for the product or an additional hour of service. Introducing different pricing options can also help your customers remain loyal to your business, especially now that Buy Now Pay Later schemes like Klarna have increased demand in the UK among young adults.
Maximise tax credits
The UK government also uses tax relief to incentivise SMEs to undertake research and development (R&D) that innovates and improves their business. In order to maximise the SME R&D tax relief scheme, your business can file claims for activities which include but are not limited to employees wages and associated costs, pensions costs, software costs, materials, and utilities. You need to ensure that these expenditures occur under a qualifying project and are eligible for tax relief. Otherwise, you risk having your business investigated for possible fraud.
In this regard, you can get in touch with Hamilton Wood & Company’s resident R&D Tax Credit Specialists. Our specialists can help you identify eligible projects with recoverable elements and generally advise and guide you through the entire claims and rewards process.