Updated: Jul 6, 2020
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It is crucial for SMEs to manage their cash flows well in order to survive.
In this article, you’ll find useful and practical tips on how you can increase the cash flow into your business and reduce the cash flow out of your business, so that you’ll have sufficient funds to keep your business running smoothly during this trying period.
1. Increase Inward Cash Flow
1.1. Draw up a low-cost & long-term marketing strategy aimed at building trust
It is important for your business to have a marketing strategy, regardless of the type of product or service your business offers. If you do not market your product or service, you can be sure that your competitor will be the ones to get in front of your target customer and potentially make the sale.
But wait, before you rush to spend on Google or social media ads, ask yourself => If my ad gets in front of a potential customer, does it contain valuable information that will likely get his/her attention?
Our world is super noisy, with 101 different notifications trying to grab our attention all at once. If you succeed to get in front of your target audience and have nothing to give that will truly benefit them, it will just be a waste of money spending on the ads.
So, make sure to draw up your marketing plan before you put it into action. It must be effective and it does not have to be costly.
As Seth Godin rightly puts it, we live in a low-trust world.
The most important question in marketing something to someone who hasn't purchased it before is,
"Do they trust me enough to believe my promises?"
Without that, you have nothing.
If you have awareness but people haven't bought from you before, it's likely they don't trust you as much as you would hope.
Try this suggestion from Seth Godin
Think of the customers you would like to serve (who specifically are you selling to?) and find out what information would benefit them. What would they be interested in? What would capture their attention?
Create a document containing the information that would really interest and benefit your potential customers.
Make sure this document is so informative and useful that your potential customer would want to share it with his/her contacts.
Share this document with your potential customers.
This activity builds trust with your potential customers and they will remember you when they next need something from what you offer.
Watch this 1-hour interview with Seth Godin for a fresh perspective on marketing.
With an effective marketing strategy, you will get the attention of your potential customers and it will only be a matter of time for them to convert and become your paying customers.
1.2. Become a pre-approved vendor for government grants
There are several government grants available now and any business would be keen to utilize them.
If you are an Infocomm Media (ICM) vendor, you should explore becoming a pre-approved vendor for your IT solutions. Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) is a government grant that supports companies keen on adopting IT solutions and equipment to enhance business processes.
Being a pre-approved vendor will allow your qualified customers to purchase your products and services with funding of up to 80% from the government. This will immediately put you in a position way in front of your competition.
What if you are not an ICM vendor? You could be a training provider, a logistics company or an accounting firm, the point is to make it easy for your potential customer to get the government grant to purchase your product or service.
For example, if you are a training provider, you may want to get familiar with the SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit (SFEC) and the application process so that you can help your potential customer obtain the funding with ease. Doing this will definitely help to close more training sales.
Check out the list of government grants available and determine if any of the grants can be utilized by your potential customer to purchase your product or service.
Besides government grants, there may be grants available from professional bodies, trade associations and business chambers related to your industry area that you should explore.
1.3. Prepare your business for work-from-home scenarios to ensure business continuity
Was your business able to continue operating during the circuit breaker period? Could your employees continue working from home? Was there a disruption in your delivery of products or services?
All these questions will help to determine if your business is ready to take on another round of lock down, should it happen again. There is much uncertainty around the Covid-19 landscape for the following months and there has already been speculations that a second lock down could happen after the general elections and during the winter months in some parts of the world.
If you asked me, I would say take advantage of cloud-based solutions right now.
An SME would typically rely on 2 to 3 business applications for operational and accounting needs. If your business apps and company files are sitting in servers and storages that are physically located in your office, I would strongly suggest for you to move those apps and files to the cloud so that you and your employees will be able to access those apps from anywhere using any computer with an internet connection.
At Gill Technologies, we help SMEs move to the cloud and work with them to manage the change. If you are keen to find out more about our services, please visit our website.
1.4. Explore available financing options for your business
If you haven’t yet revised your projected cash flow statements to reflect the current business and economic conditions affecting your business, you should really get that done!
A projected cash flow statement that accurately reflects your current conditions will help you determine if you will run into cash flow issues down the road. That will give you time in advance to find a suitable solution.
Here is a list of financing options that you may wish to explore:
2. Reduce Outward Cash Flow
2.1. Take full advantage of government grants
As a business, you would want to get up to date and familiar with all the various government grants presently available and apply for those that are suitable for you.
Government grants are a great source of funding as you do not have to provide any collateral, do not have to repay the amounts granted to your company, do not have to fork out interest payments and do not have to incur finance costs.
The Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) is currently the most popular grant among SMEs. It provides up to 80% funding for companies to implement Covid-19 business continuity measures such as:
Online collaboration tools
Virtual meeting and telephony tools
Queue management systems
Temperature screening solutions
To save you some time, I have consolidated the key info of selected government grants in the table below. Please visit this page to check out the full details of all available grants.
2.2. Review & reduce excess expenses
Our work culture and the market landscape has changed dramatically with the measures brought about by the global pandemic. With employees working from home, a transport allowance may not seem necessary for now. If you have previously committed to $X amount of marketing expenditure, you may want to review that accordingly too. Well, these are just two examples.
Look at where your business is currently spending money, and consider which expenses are avoidable or reducible. It’s also important to consider the impact any reduction of expenditure will have on the quality of your business.
I’d suggest getting your last 6 months’ P&L figures generated month-by-month and displayed on a single view. That will make it easier to compare the numbers from the pre-circuit-breaker months through to the post-circuit-breaker months.
2.3. Train existing staff & equip them with new relevant skills
As a leader of your company, you are best placed to be in the vanguard of change and make a positive impact to the people you lead by upgrading the capabilities of your employees and equipping them with new skills. Doing this allows your organisation to reap the greatest benefit if you can successfully transform your workforce in this way.
Many leading businesses are realizing that they cannot hire all the new skills they need. The better solution is to look internally and develop talent you already have, as this approach is often not only quicker and more financially prudent but also good for morale and the company’s long-term attractiveness to potential recruits.
When developing a training road map for your employees, you need to match that to your business goals as well as your employee’s personal development goals. Each employee should upgrade at least 2 types of skills:
For example, an accountant might take up advanced accounting courses specific to the industry and a course on mastering Excel or a course on Data Analytics.
A good starting point to explore the plethora of courses available is the mySkillsfuture website.
Some of the courses are available at sponsored rates and you can even find super useful courses that are free of charge!
Another useful online learning site is Udemy – this learning portal is jam packed with value and the average price of a course is S$20!!
Do check out the Enhanced Training Support for SMEs where you can receive up to 90% course fee grant.
2.4. Use freelancers to access new skills immediately without increasing headcount liability
While you upgrade the skillset of your existing employees, it will take time for the employee to be ready with that new skill. Before that happens, you could consider engaging a freelancer. Hiring freelancers via online platforms has become one of the quick and easy ways to get a job done.
You are not limited by geographical borders when searching for the best expertise
You can access freelancers with top expertise without a need to permanently employ them
There is no need to apply for employment permits or visas
You only pay for what you need to get a job done.
You will most likely not be able to meet the freelancer in person, so discussions will have to be held via online methods.
That said, here are some tips to help you land your first freelance hire:
Do not use freelancers for data-sensitive tasks or projects.
Go through past reviews of the freelancer. Some reviews will appear to be generic. Look for those that offer genuine feedback, be it good or bad.
Some feedback are immediate red flags. For example, the screenshot shows a very negative feedback that immediately suggests we should not hire this freelancer.
Use ratings of freelancers as a guide.
If the price is too low, it most likely means that it’s too good to be true.
Get into an audio or video call with the freelancer to assess his/her communication ability and make sure he/she knows what he/she needs to accomplish.
Be extremely clear and get mutual agreement on the scope of work and what you consider to be work completed.
Break down the work into milestones wherever possible.
Discuss deadlines before mutually committing to the agreed dates.
Start with a small engagement to test out the freelancer, before committing to the whole project.
Keep all communications within the platform so everything gets recorded and you can get help if you run into problems with the freelancer.
If your experience was a good one, leave a good review for the benefit of the freelancer.
If your experience was a bad one, exercise good judgement and leave an honest review for the benefit of the next hirer.
Here are some freelancer platforms worth checking out:
Running a business is always going to be full of challenges and this one is no different.
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
– Arthur Ashe
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At Gill Technologies, we provide services to manage and transform IT for SMEs, by using modern Microsoft cloud technologies; keeping employees productive, safeguarding confidential company data, protecting against cyber threats, and providing business intelligence to business leaders.