Money- and time-saving tips to boost your small business's cash flow

Even if your customers have turned away from paying with bills and coins, cash flow is as much as ever the circulatory system of any business. As the payments come in, out they go to cover expenses: rent, utilities, loans, supplies, payroll. (Hopefully, with something left over to turn a profit!)

If the books balance out but your cash flow seems anemic, it may be time to give your system a checkup. Here are three things that deserve a look.

Billing: Updating billing practices is a sure way to remind your customers and clients of their obligation to you so you can get payment turned in more quickly.

* Save time and money by making it easier for customers to settle up. Offer electronic payment options, like mobile payment and automated withdrawals. Minnwest Bank offers convenient and affordable options like merchant card processing and mobile pay.

* Send invoices immediately upon providing service and products. Even better, offer a small discount for early and day-of-service payment.

* For overdue payments, establish a follow-up schedule of phone calls and notices. Tip: Maintain a friendly but firm tone, because a legitimate reason may be preventing payment.

* Streamline and simplify these processes and try one of the many software or online products that let you do your accounting, invoicing and payment processing, all from a single platform. Here, you will find some with free options, ideal for those starting out with a small client base.

Payroll: If you’re still issuing paper paychecks, switching to a direct deposit system saves time on labor and eliminates the costs associated with issuing checks. Also, if you're paying employees every other week, switching to monthly or bi-monthly is one cost saving solution, because fewer transactions will be needed.

Forecasting: Paying suppliers and other expenses on time is a top priority. But many entrepreneurs experience soft markets and slow seasons. To make sure you have enough to cover these expenses, have a backup plan ready, whether it comes in the form of cash reserves or a line of credit. Forecasting also makes it easier to identify trends in business volume, so you can re-budget accordingly. Free tools to help you plan are available at SCORE.org, a nonprofit that provides mentors and resources to small-business owners, including a free downloadable workbook to help you plan your financial projections.

Finally, it always pays to establish a good relationship with your banker. Turn to Minnwest Bank for all your cash flow and lending needs to keep your business strong and thriving. After all, we live and work here, too, so we’re invested in your success!

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