Cure “Cash Crunch”: Increase Cash Flow And Liquidity

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A temporary cash crunch situation is something that occurs in the ordinary course of business in most every organization, especially when the business is of a seasonal nature or when the businesses is in a rapid stage of growth, i.e., inundated with purchase orders but without sufficient cash to fill them and to also pay recurring expenses. But if a cash crunch situation is chronic, a diagnosis of the reason must be made, and appropriate actions must be taken. This article will give you the ability to do both.

Bear in mind that when I speak of revenues, I mean total sales, both as computed on the cash basis and the accrual basis, but when I speak of expenses, I actually mean cash outflows of every nature. Throw away the accounting and auditing textbooks for just a bit so that we can deal with bare bones economic reality. Also by current, I mean as either generated or paid in the ordinary course of operations.

Preliminary Feasibility Analysis:

Most every enterprise experiences a period or periods of cash crunch, especially if those businesses are either seasonal or rapidly-growing companies which are generating purchase orders, but do not have adequate cash to fill them while still meeting their obligations, such as payroll, occupancy and the like. There are remedies for both of these situations because they are either predictable or can be financed with short-term debt to enable them to either withstand the “tight season” or to let their cash flow catch up with their market demand.

If cash crunch is chronic, and is an ongoing problem, there is something wrong with the business on a fundamental level. Either revenues are too low, or current expenses (outflows — remember that we’re using lose terminology here) are too high.

If the expenses or outflows are not truly for operations but payable to a lender in the form of , for example, a short-term self-amortizing debt where the payments are large and swollen with principal, the lender may be negotiated with to arrive at an interest-only loan with a provision for a rollover of the principal at the end of its term (optimal for maximizing utilizable cash flow), or possibly a longer amortization period where the payments are lower, conserving more cash flow for operations.

Sometimes a business is improperly capitalized and it requires equity to be infused in order to retire debt. Many businesses which have good fundamentals need to de-leverage themselves by retiring existing debt with equity. This is appropriate unless the equity is used to cover current expenses.

The test is this: If you deduct the debt payments from the total current outflows, and you subtract the number obtained thereby from the revenues, the resulting number should be positive. This means that the business is not properly capitalized, but is probably fundamentally sound. These companies are good candidates for refinancing.

If the number obtained is still negative, then it is highly likely that the business is fundamentally unsound, either due to its core purpose, mismanagement or some improper assumptions which have gone uncorrected for too long. Revenues can be increased by increasing sales through better marketing and sales, or by increasing prices if the market will tolerate this.

When certain food or beverage prices are suddenly increased, a restaurant may hike up its prices  and say, for example that “due to the increase in the cost to us of coffee, we are sorry to have to raise the price per cup to $2.25. If the market tolerates this it is a wonderful strategy, especially if done in steps, or if accompanied by a re-packaging or the product or service to somehow differentiate it from what it was previously. The perception of added-value tends to justify an increase in price.

The other possibility is more difficult, and the prospects less pleasant: You may have to negotiate with your employees (or terminate some of their positions), cut back on the use of your contractors, or re-negotiate costs with your vendors. Vendors can often be persuaded to reduce their charges by 1) indicating that the situation is temporary, and that they’ll receive a premium after you’ve reached a certain sales level or after a certain amount of time has passed or 2) an incentive wherein the vendor participates in either your revenue when you’ve reached a certain threshold, or in you company’s ownership (this is an example of a partial vertical integration strategy).

The acid test of  the fundamental soundness of any simple business model is this: If debt service is eliminated, do revenues exceed current expenses. Put more realistically, without considering debt, do your revenues (where the earnings process is complete and they are either in the form of cash or accounts receivable) consistently exceed your ordinary current operating outflows including product (inventory purchases as required) or service purchases? If not, can they be restructured to fit the aforementioned  parameters? If the answer to both questions is “no,” your business model is fatally flawed, and that must be dealt with — we’ll discuss this at another time.

If you increased your sales volume, increased your prices to customers, eliminated any idle personnel, negotiated with your suppliers, and gotten your bank loan replaced with equity, then you still may be suffering because your customers are not paying you on a timely basis, while you’re paying your vendors promptly.

If your average days to payment on your accounts receivable is 55, and your average days to payment of your current expenses is 35, that 20-day discrepancy can be killing your business, depending upon your profit margins. Sadly, you can’t pay your vendors with your receivables. There are two things to be done to eliminate that 20-day discrepancy:

1) Collect the receivables faster; and

2) Pay your vendors more slowly.

That gap between average days that your business waits to collect its receivables, and the average days its takes to pay its vendors must be reduced to zero, or to a negative number.

You can collect your receivables faster by offering some of your less creditworthy customers less credit, and giving some of your better, faster-paying customers more credit. You can offer early payment incentives or cash payment discounts. You can collect partial payments in cash. Use some imagination. Any of these approaches alone or in combination will cut that 55 days significantly if you focus on achieving this.

You might even get a line of credit up to some percentage of your “acceptable” accounts receivable,  factor your receivables, or utilize single invoice financing in order to get that number down a great deal further. Often the real cost of factoring or similar arrangements is about equal to what you might sacrifice if all of your customers took advantage of a discount for paying in less than 30 days.

To eliminate turning a simple article into a doctoral dissertation, suffice it to say that slowing down payments to your vendors requires some diplomacy, some negotiation, and some creativity — but then, if you are in business in these times, you must have an abundance of creativity.

Quick, Easy Metrics:

1) Your average collection days on your receivables (it’s a weighted average) should equal or exceed your average payment days on your current bills;

2) Your average collections days on your receivables divided by your average payment days on your current bills should be equal to or (hopefully) greater than 1.0;

3) The value of all of your cash and all of your receivables divided by the amount of your current bills should always be significantly greater than 1.0 (i.e., no contribution margin). While this is not a measure of cash availability, it is a measure of your gross profit on sales. The bigger the dividend produced by this computation, the greater your basic profit margin and the greater the contribution of your sales to ultimately cover fixed overhead.

The idea is to avoid a cash crunch (assuming that your basic business concept is fundamentally sound) by collecting and hoarding as much cash as you can, and holding off on the payment of bills as long as you can. Remember:  If you business is sound, a cash crunch crisis is a phenomenon only created by bad timing. And it’s quite curable.


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If Detroit Were My Turnaround Client

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IF DETROIT WERE MY TURNAROUND CLIENT

If only Detroit were one of my Turnaround Business Clients (sigh), either the bankruptcy might have been avoided, or its method of conducting its “Municipal Business” might have been radically changed some time ago.  There should have been much more oversight, checks and balances in all aspects of management, and operation, financial and forensic audits by a competent independent third party firm on a short notice basis. But then, the sad aspect of the public sector is that is by no means as accountable, or as interested in its investors (the taxpayers), as would be a simple medium-sized company.

When you combine poor accounting (and a lack of individual accountability), a lack of variance analysis, a lack of integrity in leadership, the absence of a formalized budgetary review process, the informality of fiduciary authority and a plethora of useless contracts for services and purchases that were not of benefit to the client [in a business they either call that “Other People’s Money” (OPM), which doesn’t really have to be accounted for directly if there’s enough of it (and who is keeping count as the nectar pours through the sieve? And more importantly, who knows what the total available capital for expenses and expenditures actually is?), or, in the worst case breach of fiduciary duty, fraud and embezzlement.

Goodness, if taxpayers realized that they were really shareholders, with the right to demand an accounting, a reconciliation, and an explanation of any ‘treasury leakage’ either through negligence or through political favors paid for at the expense of the populace. — DEC at 1Turnaround.

What follows is my curating and rather extensive and opinionated commentary regarding an article which I found in my inbox from Scoop.It!, a wonderful source of excellent articles and opportunities to really get a grand view of the topics which interest me, and are of crucial importance to my clients.

       

Editorial: What Detroit’s crisis can teach others Avoiding bankruptcy requires confronting crises early, focusing on taxpayers and making realistic promises

                                                                   From [original article source]                                                                                               www.thesilentmajorityus.com                                                                                       –

Detroit News: Detroit’s fall into bankruptcy is being pitched as a cautionary tale for governments at every level. And while there are extraordinary circumstances unique to the Motor City, there are…

Douglas E. Castle’s insight, as Curator:       

I am in full accord with the writer’s point of view as it concerns Detroit, specifically, and as it concerns all businesses and organizations which have fiduciary responsibilities. Sadly. election politics as well as organizational office politics tend to bring out some unsupported or unsupportable promises which ultimately will become perceived as lies. In any business or organizational structure (For-Profit and Not-For-Profit) you cannot make empty promises, as they will cost you all of your negotiating power (based largely in credibility), and possibly your career when the truth comes out.

Let’s assume that we are following a sensible business protocol, and that we are responsible to the Board, our colleagues, our employees, our customers (or constituents), our creditors and our investors. A methodical approach must be undertaken — it is sad that these politically-oriented individuals don’t examine the financial position and projections of the governments or businesses which they are trying to get the opportunity to lead prior to embarking on their campaigns.

A general rule to start with is that you cannot ever make a promise which is unconditional, especially if it is dependent upon the promises of others (grants, investments, lots of new business revenues, a technological breakthrough and the like). Make fewer promises of good and plenty, and more commitments to fixing problems at their source to ensure safety, stability and success.

Aside: Not to ridicule anyone at the federal government level, but you can’t make inferences to “getting out of debt by increasing borrowing,’ or balancing the budget and helping businesses by increasing taxes on the poorer and middle classes and reducing services to them as well!

Never make a commitment that you do not intend to keep, and that you do not have a plan (a method) to keep. Exaggerate costs and the length of estimated completion or delivery time frames – it makes it easier to be a hero.

In terms of examining, monitoring, course-correcting and maintaining or improving the  enterprise (whether it is government or non-government, For-Profit or Not-For-Profit), the protocols are universal.

Of course, in the case of all-too-many governmental subdivisions and entities, there is tremendous complexity, inadequate supervision, and labyrinthine accounting, authorization and record keeping. There’s too much capital, and too many persons with access to it, without proper oversight. A large number of seemingly trivial expenses and expenditures can eventually accumulate into a cavernous loss. This waste (being kind with my choice of terminology) is taxpayer money — in private enterprise, the shareholders would be taking the company’s management to court for this type of abuse. They would be speaking of breach of trust, breach of fiduciary duty, diversion of funds, fraud and possibly embezzlement.

I believe that Detroit is the first host organism to fall victim to an epidemic , and that municipal bankruptcies will be hooping up like crocuses in early springtime. And we’ll get closer to the truth about the extent of the federal deficit and the value of the U.S. dollar, fresh off of the press. That’s a scenario for The Global Futurist Blog to paint.

But then, I’ve gotten off of my focus. Let’s return to a standard fiduciary management protocol where each individual in the chain of command or hierarchy structure is responsible — truly responsible — at every level:

1) If a responsible individual sees or suspects a problem, it must be reported immediately to the appropriate persons of supervisory authority;

2) That person of supervisory authority should follow through with vigilance and persistence to see to it that the problem is solved before it wastes any more money and before it worsens;

3) The problem must be expediently fixed, and noted as such – after all, every minute of loss is a drain on profitability and solvency;

4) If there are too many systemic problems, and the organization’s current financials as well as its proformas (always have worst-case, realistic-case forecasts handy; they should be created frequently as assumptions and conditions change; they are a powerful management tool, and an early warning system) are not looking good, senior management must gather the right experts, both from inside of the organization and from senior management’s “A” list of outside professionals, and;

5) Re-examine the organization’s entire business model in terms of S.W.O.T. analysis, critical path dependencies analysis, and possible displacement (or antiquated assumptions) analysis. Look to prune your sunk costs and nonproductive recurring costs;

Note: From this point forward in my discussion, I’ll address this issue as if the business (even if it is the business of running a municipality) were yours, and that you were the executive ultimately in charge.

6) Reconstruct the organization’s business model with the help of the assembled expert committee, create a realistic, turnaround reconstruction plan, promulgate it to all of the involved and affected individuals, as well as to all other parties doing business or trade with the organization. Let them know of the changes, what the time frames really are, what sacrifices or compromises they will have to make lest the team effort fail (Note: If you’re a charismatic, credible, strongly committed leader, you will convince every individual, from the board room down to the janitorial staff that they are each, and all, partners in the the success of the business, and that necessary sacrifices may have to made to bring stability and better results for the benefit of all). Take a serious tone, especially when asking for sacrifices and compromises. Make everyone feel like a stakeholder and an employee or an agent of help;

7) Work the new plan to the letter, diligently, faithfully and without deviation. Report to all of your “partners” frequently as results come in and new forecasts are made. Your diligence, conscientiousness and candor in terms of reporting frequency and transparency will be appreciated and might make potentially hostile parties feel more like allies in a group project and a united effort. That latter is the effect for which you should strive – it justifies the sacrifices and compromises…and to make it even more potent, be certain that the C-Suite occupants, senior executives and the directors make visible meaningful sacrifices as well. You don’t want to look like a “too-big-to-fail” company that the U.S. government just bailed out [grin];

8) Demonstrate by variance analysis (projected versus actual results) how you are actually achieving the goals set forth in your turnaround business plan, and how you have converted waste and losses to a positive, potentially distributable fund balance;

9) From that positive pool of hard-won cash, reward all of the parties who have cooperated in the effort (at a sensible level,and not just to the senior most executives and directors, but to all of the participants, sacrificers and compromisers who have made it possible. Everyone enjoys a participatory celebration of success and a feeling of having participated in a victory…everyone! The object:

Demonstrate in distributable dollars and cents that the tough cuts have paid off in terms of solvency, stability and a positive cash flow. A great leader (as opposed to a basically attired career politician) rallies his forces for a job successfully done, reminds them that their efforts need to continue, and also reviews the victorious results of the variance analysis — show them how inflows have increased and how outflows have decreased. Make them all feel like stakeholders.

10) Promise to continue on course, and to remain vigilant and practical, as well as honest and tough. Continue to restructure and turnaround the business periodically with a “no sacred cows” and a zero-based budgeting approach. These techniques and tools work.

Douglas E. Castle  http://DouglasECastleBlog.com

Contact The Curator  https://getglobaledge.wufoo.com/forms/k7s0a7/

View DOUGLAS E. CASTLE’s profile on LinkedIn at   http://www.LinkedIn.com/in/douglascastle  ;

Follow @DECastleAdvisor on Twitter http://twitter.com/DECastleAdvisor
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D.E.Castle's Daily Business Advisory Wrap-Up.
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This site is the Management Consultants' and Chief Reconstruction Officers' best all-industry guide to analyzing, diagnosing, devising a strategy, creating either an Action Plan or an Emergence Plan and overseeing and monitoring the successful implementation of either in order to ensure the client organization's optimal, sustainable profitability. These plans are always made scalable to accommodate the size and needs of the client, whether it is fast-growing young company with an aggressive and ambitious agenda, or whether it is an older, larger, well-established business which is experiencing problems or which is at a crucial decision making point in its evolution as an entity, and which requires sound advice (and often implementation oversight and assertive "hands-on" assistance in the form of a powerful third-party representative agent or a an expert in the art of negotiation as its appointed "point person") regarding its next steps. In the alternative, Douglas E. Castle is expert at helping fast-track, rapidly emerging companies to growth through acquisitions, mergers, licensing, branding and both domestic and international strategic joint ventures to access better, more efficient supply chain sourcing and to open up wider global markets to dramatically increase the scope of possible new revenue opportunities.


Business Restructurings, Turnarounds And Remobilization Of A Nation’s Economy

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Fixing our broken businesses and bolstering our true economic growth - Douglas E. Castle

 

In industrialized nations, particularly the USA, the prevailing attitude is in either 1) the instant success or in 2) the disposable item. That disposable item can be a small to medium-sized business which is experiencing some financial turmoil and might well be on the road to Reorganization pursuant to Chapter 13, and more often than not, to a Chapter 7 liquidation proceeding.

The terms and notions associated with business “repairs,” or outright cures such as turnarounds (i.e., turnarounds leading to sustainable solvency with a healthy and consistent positive cash flow), restructurings, negotiations, workouts, re-amortizations, debt-equity conversions, debt-service coverage increases, re-budgeting, a Re-Emergence Plan,  creditor settlements,  investor arrangements, employee buy-in /buyout plans, and management buy-in/buyout plans. [Please feel free to look under the DEFINITIONS Section in this blog’s navigation bar if any or all of the foregoing terms seem or seems unfamiliar to you.]

The calculus of this focus on start-ups to the extent that troubled businesses have become neglected or stigmatized as “corporate raider targets (Dell Computer, anyone?) or “extinct” simply because they are not genesis centers for new technologies, or because they do not have venture capital curb appeal (anyone interested in saving a ball bearing or paper clip manufacturing business? – I can hear your deafening silence as I watch [I can’t literally look at you through your computer or device, but I like to be as fearsome and awe-inspiring as possible] you look down in shame at the floor).

You don’t have to be a calculus superstar to visualize that a small start up entity might create five jobs this year, and fifteen next year, and perhaps a number more (if they are not bought up by Google, in which case, some of those jobs will likely evaporate into a consolidation), while saving the Cruddleston Corrugated Packaging business [fictitious, but which would possibly be located in in the “Rust Belt” of the USA or near Newark, New Jersey] might conserve 80 existing and productive jobs, and might create new employment (perhaps another 10 – 20 permanent full-time positions as well as some precious student internship training.

Perhaps the bloom is off of the proverbial rose when it comes to manufacturing and industrial businesses in the small ($1 million up to $100 million in sales revenues) to medium-sized ($100 million up to $500 million per year in sales revenues) sectors. Part of the difficulty is that these businesses cannot necessarily be fixed and set on the right trajectory without investing some serious analytic, planning and implementation time. Negotiations, correspondence, restructuring and a multitude of changes, some of which will be painful but which are necessary, will have to be implemented and monitored. This usually requires the retention of an outside specialist, in additional to legal counsel — there are a plethora of law firms, but very, very few positive-minded, tough turnaround advisors (or business leaders of this age in general) who understand that 1) not every business problem can be cured by throwing bundles of cash at it, and 2) that it is not pre-ordained by any “Higher Authority” that because a business has problems that they must be fatal.

If these prospectively viable turnaround clients fail (and it isn’t a failure which is based upon technological obsolescence or a colossal and uninsured legal judgment or settlement) it is because they were convinced that they could never recover, and that the path most frequently taken is either directly to Chapter 7 or being on Chapter 13 “life support” – with the expectation of a fatality so no restructuring and Re-Emergence Plan is even hinted at. Working to save the company and its jobs is definitely the road less traveled. Death of the entire mid-section of America — which is not the true subject addressed by the JOBS Act or anyone’s legislative, regulatory or professional menu —  has been occurring at an increasing rate, and is perceived as a self-fulfilling prophesy.

In my professional capacity, I am keenly aware that most company owners, management, directors or even legal counsel do not know who to turn to to perform this type of special precision surgery.

The problem is one of epic proportions. The following statistics for court bankruptcy filings of businesses were provided by The American Bankruptcy Institute for the entire United States, based upon data accumulated from judicial records:

Quarterly Business Filings by Year (1994-2012)

Year 1st Quarter 2nd Quarter 3rd Quarter 4th Quarter Total
1994 13,858 13,617 12,878 12,021 52,374
1995 13,123 12,216 12,648 12,891 51,878
1996 13,388 13,992 13,198 12,887 53,465
1997 13,831 13,991 13,456 12,653 53,931
1998 12,410 11,552 10,346 9,888 44,196
1999 9,180 10,378 8,986 9,020 37,564
2000 9,456 9,243 8,211 8,413 35,472
2001 10,005 10,330 9,537 10,013 40,099
2002 9,775 9,695 9,433 9,500 38,540
2003 8,814 9,331 8,446 8,294 35,037
2004 10,566 8,249 7,574 7,778 34,317
2005 8,063 8,736 9,476 12,798 39,201
2006 4,086 4,858 5,284 5,586 19,695
2007 6,280 6,705 7,167 7,985 28,322
2008 8,713 9,743 11,504 12,901 43,546
2009 14,319 16,014 15,177 15,020 60,837
2010 14,607 14,452 13,957 13,030 56,282
2011 12,376 12,304 11,705 11,149 47,806
2012 10,998 10,374 9,248

You’ll note that the highest number of filings was in 2009, one year following the central banking system and capital markets meltdown that decimated this country’s economy, with the rest of the Global Economy to follow soon thereafter.

One insidious implication, referring again to the above table, is that businesses in the United States (as well as their clients and consumers) were so dependent upon access to credit and the expectation of serial refinancing to prop up cash flow, that they had no cushion of equity in the form of cash reserves, and the other implication was that these companies were taking some liberties with what they considered to be collateral assets, profits and earnings.

These companies, and their legal representatives where virtually running to the courthouses to throw their businesses away. They were collapsing like dominoes, and the overwhelming negativity in the emotional drivers of the economy accelerated this flight to the express route. Many of these companies were unaware that possibilities existed for a reversal of their fortunes — and those who actually thought of the possibility of a means of saving the business by bringing an outside expert inside simply did not know where to find an expert.

Applying some simple and strictly hypothetical assumptions to the numbers set forth in the  above table for the second calendar quarter of 2012, let us say that :

  • 10% of the companies (that’s 1,037) could have been saved;
  • That each company, while operating at full capacity, had on average of 75 full-time employees;
  • That if all of those existing jobs could have been saved, the total of persons seeking unemployment assistance or very low-paying jobs would have been reduced [just for that quarter!] by 77,779.

I believe these numbers to be reasonable.

In sum, companies do not have to die for their mistakes, transgressions and lack of adequate stewardship. There is help for them. It shouldn’t be a secret.

Thank you for reading me and for sharing my articles with your colleagues, connections and contacts over your numerous social networks.

Douglas E. Castle

View DOUGLAS E. CASTLE's profile on LinkedIn

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Perspective Is Wisdom - Large
D.E.Castle's Daily Business Advisory Wrap-Up.
Skim It. But DON'T MISS It.
This site is the Management Consultants' and Chief Reconstruction Officers' best all-industry guide to analyzing, diagnosing, devising a strategy, creating either an Action Plan or an Emergence Plan and overseeing and monitoring the successful implementation of either in order to ensure the client organization's optimal, sustainable profitability. These plans are always made scalable to accommodate the size and needs of the client, whether it is fast-growing young company with an aggressive and ambitious agenda, or whether it is an older, larger, well-established business which is experiencing problems or which is at a crucial decision making point in its evolution as an entity, and which requires sound advice (and often implementation oversight and assertive "hands-on" assistance in the form of a powerful third-party representative agent or a an expert in the art of negotiation as its appointed "point person") regarding its next steps. In the alternative, Douglas E. Castle is expert at helping fast-track, rapidly emerging companies to growth through acquisitions, mergers, licensing, branding and both domestic and international strategic joint ventures to access better, more efficient supply chain sourcing and to open up wider global markets to dramatically increase the scope of possible new revenue opportunities.