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  Richard Branson said, “Never take your eyes off the cash flow because it’s the lifeblood of any business.” How true? Cash flow plays an important role in the continued sustenance of any business. Without it, business is as good as dead. This is why it is important for any entrepreneur wishing to do business successfully, especially in Nigeria, to pay critical attention to their cash flow and how they manage it. It does not matter what type or level of business you run currently. Managing cash flow effectively is crucial for sustaining operations and achieving long-term success.
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This article provides practical and easy-to-follow tips tailored to the unique challenges and opportunities most Nigerian entrepreneurs face in business. Understanding and implementing these strategies will help you ensure that your business remains financially healthy and ready to grow.

Understanding Cash Flow

Cash flow refers to the movement of money in and out of your business. It encompasses all the cash your business receives (inflows) and spends (outflows) over a specific period. Positive cash flow means your business brings in more money than it is spending, while negative cash flow indicates the opposite. Effective cash flow management ensures you have enough liquidity to cover expenses and invest in growth opportunities.

Importance of Managing Cash Flow

As an entrepreneur in Nigeria, it is important to recognize that managing cash flow is critical due to the economic volatility and the often unpredictable nature of the Nigerian market. Effective cash flow management ensures your business can meet its financial obligations, such as paying suppliers, employees, and other operational expenses. It also provides the liquidity to invest in new opportunities and scale your business. Poor cash flow management, on the other hand, can lead to missed payments, strained relationships with vendors, and in severe cases, business failure. By staying on top of your cash flow, you can navigate challenges more smoothly and take advantage of opportunities. Notable entrepreneurs such as General Electric Motors’ former CEO, Jack Welsh, and Michael Dell, founder of Dell Technologies, recognize the importance of cash flow to any business.
“If I had to run a company on three measures, those measures would be customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and cash flow,” Welsh stated.
“We were always focused on our profit and loss statement. But cash flow was not a regularly discussed topic. It was as if we were driving along, watching only the speedometer, when in fact we were running of gas.”
Michael Dell

Practical Tips for Managing Cash Flow

Monitor Cash Flow Regularly

The first step in effectively managing cash flow is to keep a close watch over it. As an entrepreneur, you can’t afford to not know how you’re doing when it comes to your financial inflows and outflows. So, regularly review your cash flow statements to understand your financial position. This will allow you to identify trends, spot potential problems early, and make informed decisions. Track your income and expenses weekly, monthly, or quarterly, depending on your business size and complexity. There are so many accounting software or even simple spreadsheets that can help you in doing this effectively. Software such as QuickBooks, Xero, or Ajo Money can help you keep track of your finances efficiently.

Forecast Future Cash Flow

Cash flow forecasting in business is the process of estimating the flow of cash in and out of your business over a future period. This helps you anticipate future cash needs and plan accordingly. To create cash flow projections, pay attention to historical data and upcoming expenses. Consider different scenarios, such as best-case, worst-case, and most likely outcomes, to prepare for various possibilities. This approach is proactive and allows you to identify potential cash shortfalls and take corrective measures ahead of time.
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Improve Invoicing Practices

One common cash flow issue for Nigerian businesses is delayed payments. To mitigate this, establish clear invoicing practices. Ensure that you invoice clients promptly after delivering goods or services. Delayed invoicing can lead to delayed payments, which can strain your cash flow. Implement a system for following up on overdue invoices. One of the strategies you can adopt to improve early payments is to consider offering discounts for early payments. Additionally, clearly outline your payment terms in contracts and ensure your clients understand and accept them before going forward with the business.

Control Your Expenses

One major mistake most entrepreneurs make in business is that they only focus on their income, without paying much attention to their expenses. For as long as the business is generating inflows, they believe they are safe and nothing can be further from the truth as this. Managing cash flow effectively also requires you to keep your expenses in check. Regularly review your business expenses and identify areas where you can cut costs without compromising quality. Negotiate better terms with suppliers, seek out discounts for bulk purchases, and avoid unnecessary expenditures. Find ways to keep your overheads low. This will go a long way in ensuring that more of your revenue turns into profit.

Maintain a Cash Reserve or Emergency Fund

Business is full of risks and you can never effectively forecast or make provisions for all the risks there are to face in your business. This is why it is important to build a cash reserve or emergency fund. Doing this will help you cover unexpected expenses and economic downturns. Aim to set aside enough money to cover at least three to six months’ worth of operating expenses. This financial cushion can help you go steady through periods of low revenue or tough times, just as we have it currently in Nigeria, without disrupting your business operations.

Diversify Your Revenue Streams

There is a popular axiom about not putting all your eggs in one basket. I guess we could rephrase that to communicate not depending on one fowl to collect all your eggs. Now, this is not speaking about setting up multiple businesses, no. But, finding ways to create other sources of revenue into your business. Relying on a single revenue source can be risky. Find ways to diversify your income streams to ensure a steady cash flow. For instance, you can look for new products or services that complement your existing offerings or you can look for opportunities to expand into new markets or customer segments. Assuming you run a walk-in restaurant. You can create other revenue streams into your business by offering outdoor cooking for events or you can offer special cooking services targeted at homes where you cook and deliver to homes. You can also stock and sell drinks to your customers. You can also set up a mini-shopping plaza that allows your customers to shop while they eat. Diversifying your revenue streams can provide a buffer against market fluctuations and reduce the impact of seasonal variations.

Manage Inventory Efficiently

For businesses dealing with physical products, efficient inventory management is maintained to maintain healthy cash flow. Overstocking ties up cash that could be used elsewhere, while understocking can lead to missed sales opportunities. Use inventory management software to track stock levels and demand patterns. You may consider adopting a just-in-time inventory system, which reduces the amount of money tied up in inventory. In recent months in Nigeria, prices of goods have been fluctuating, changing almost daily. Most businesses that stock up at a high supply cost often have challenges selling when prices change downwards. So, it’s important to ensure you have an efficient way of managing this.

Consider External Funding

Sometimes, managing cash flow requires external funding, especially if you encounter temporary cash flow shortages. As an entrepreneur, you can consider various funding options such as bank loans, angel investors, venture capital, or government grants. Before seeking external funding, ensure that you have a clear repayment plan in place and that the terms and interest rates are favourable for your business. Ensure that the financing solution is sustainable and will not lead to further financial strain. Also, when you access external credit or funding, it is important to ensure such funds are used judiciously. When you use external funds wisely, it can help bridge cash flow gaps and support growth initiatives in your business.
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Concluding Thoughts

Managing cash flow is a critical aspect of running a successful business. This article has provided you with practical and effective tips for managing your cash flow. By implementing these tips, you can ensure that your business remains financially stable, with eyes on growth.
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This article was first published on 27th June 2024


Ifegwu-Mbonu Victor is a Personal Growth and Leadership Trainer who provides training and coaching to individuals and organizations.

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