Let’s talk cash flow. Cash flow relates to available funds and resources and is the lifeblood of your horse business and if you aren’t able to maintain a cash flow that supports your operations, it is unlikely you’ll ever get to the point of profiting from them. If your cash flow is good, it means that your costs are in order, your sales and collections are working together, and your margins are protected. If you have bad cash flow it means you have decreased liquidity, excessive short-term debt, missed discounts and/or slowed collections. Here are 12 tips to help you improve your cash flow.
1) Start thinking more about strategizing about your cash flow ahead of time, rather than finding yourself in a cash crunch over and over. Prepare a cash flow forecast annually. This helps you to really think through what equipment you might need to purchase in the next year, and what property and building maintenance will be required. It gives you a chance to evaluate income trends you’ve experienced and how those might play out in the next year. This, in turn, allows you to brainstorm about changes you may need to make in your programs and services.
2) Make it easier for people to pay you by taking credit cards. Don’t extend credit to your clients, as this puts you in an awkward situation of having to send additional invoices and ends up costing you even more because of the delay.
3) Ask for payment up front. Bill your boarders at the beginning of the month instead of the end. After all, you have had to spend money in advance of the month for feed and bedding supplies to have on hand. Similarly, bundle your services, lessons, training, coaching, etc. and create packages that also result in your clients paying you in advance as well.
4) Go up on your rates. If you haven’t increased your rates in a while, your expenses have probably increased and are gobbling up more of your margins than you are aware of. Craft an honest letter to your clients about the increase and when it will go into effect. It’s a good idea to give them a month’s notice so that they have time to make adjustments in their budget as well.
5) Collect your accounts receivable more quickly by instituting late payment fees. Charging late fees provides an incentive for your clients to pay you on time. Once you’ve instituted late fees, be sure that you do use them, or you won’t be taken seriously.
6) Pay your suppliers with a credit card. This pushes these bills off another 20 days, which gives you more time to sell services and/or horses, as well as collect money due from your clients. Use this strategy if you are able to pay your credit card balance monthly so that you don’t incur finance charges. If you’re able to get discounts from your suppliers by paying your bill in a shorter amount of time, take advantage of the double advantage that paying with your credit card can offer—more time to pay as well as the financial savings of the discount.
7) Create new offerings that allow you to generate revenue repeatedly without requiring you to repeat your time investment. For example, eBooks, audio series, and videos fit this category. Conducting a webinar or teleseminar falls into this realm as well, as they are recordable and can be subsequently sold as information products.
8) Attract new clients. Try using Groupon or Living Social. These “deal-of-the-day” online sites give you exposure to new prospects in your region. Many of the new students won’t stay past this initial deal, but some will. Put together a deal that offers at least three lessons—people have a tendency to stay as students if you have the chance to show them more than just one ride. If possible set up a mechanism for these folks to schedule their lessons online. It will save you a lot of time playing phone tag. Also be clear about your policies and barn rules regarding scheduling, cancellations and dress code and have it posted on your website and in your Groupon or Living Social offer.
9) Check your inventory. This includes tack, horses, equipment, riding clothes etc. Do you have stuff you’re not using? Have a used tack and clothing sale to move these items along. Invite others to participate too, as your clients are likely to have some items to sell as well. You could offer to sell their items on consignment, or charge a small fee for them to set up a table during the sale. This is a one-time event, but can ease a short-term cash flow need. If you want to offer ongoing sales of such items, learn how to use EBay and set up a store front there.
10) Try crowd funding. Indiegogo.com and Kickstarter.com are examples of sites where you can raise money for a project you’re working on. Check out these two examples focused on horses: www.indiegogo.com/TX4HHorseBowl and www.kickstarter.com/projects/1630667333/horsedrawn-farm-delivery?ref=live.
11) Get a loan. There will be interest to be repaid as well, but sometimes a short-term loan can help you get by a crunch time. For example, if you buy all your hay during hay season and store what you need for the entire year on your property, you may need to finance the hay payment. You can take a cash advance on your credit card, arrange for a line of credit at your bank for such occasions, or check out Prosper.com
12) Invest your overflow. Let your money work for you to earn you more.
Creating a healthy cash flow for any business is a challenging proposition. One method is to consider client strategies, and then supplier strategies, and then financing strategies, and last-but-not-least, investing strategies. Most horse businesses run into a cash flow crunch at one time or another. Projections and strategizing help to diminish those times.
Lisa Derby Oden has been providing business development, marketing, and nonprofit consulting services to the horse industry since 1995. Oden is author of “Growing Your Horse Business” and “Bang for Your Buck: Making $ense of Marketing for Your Horse Business,” and partner in the CD series “Inventing Your Horse Career.” She can be reached at: (603) 878-1694; email at Lisa@blueribbonconsulting.com; or visit her website at www.blueribbonconsulting.com.