Here's a question—and I have no idea if you're open to the idea, but I'm going to put it out there anyways: Have you ever considered that one of the most powerful cash-flow management techniques might be right under your nose?
Crowdsourcing information from across your company can give you valuable insights that can assist with your year-round cash-flow management and forecasting.
Let's dive into ways that the people you already have on your team can influence the cash you have coming in the door.
1. Do a departmental deep-dive.
If your company engages in project work, it's highly possible you're leaving critical cash flow on the table. Reach out to departments in your company that work on timelines, creative materials or project stages, and see if your billing policies reflect project milestones.
Milestone payments are among the many overlooked cash-flow management techniques that are ripe for creative-oriented businesses (think graphic designers or website developers) to put into action. They help create predictable cash flow throughout a project's lifespan.
They can also act as an incentive for clients to keep the collaborative wheels turning. Clients are more likely to engage—with approval or concerns—if they're on the hook for an upcoming payment.
2. Use polls to perform a vendor analysis.
When you're up in the C-suite, you probably don't see the orders that arrive to the office manager's desk.
Contrarily, your managers don't see what other managers are ordering—or vendors they're working with—unless your company has a centralized purchasing and vendor approval process. Even in those cases, duplicity and inefficiency can rear its ugly head and cost unnecessary coin.
Consider polling your departments and asking about their favorite vendors. Get lists of materials ordered or consultants paid on a regular basis. You might discover that you can consolidate recurring orders or multiple vendors providing the same product or service (one will inevitably be more cost-effective).
More importantly, you can encourage communication between departments during the review process. You might even be inspired to create a regular intercompany process where departments collaborate to share resources, cut costs and assess needs for the coming quarter. These are the type of cash-flow management techniques that work best: hands-on and a company-wide affair.
3. Look for idle equipment.
Every company has the place you go to find a <fill in the blank>. Maybe it's a room. Maybe it's the whole fifth floor. Bottom line is that there's a bunch of stuff you're not using and probably will never use. And that space can likely be better used for other more profitable endeavors.
Poll your departments for lists of legacy or idle equipment. Once you know what you have on-hand, there are a few different ideas for turning this idle equipment into actionable cash. From “friends and family" sales offered through employees to a photo gallery of your items for sale on your Facebook page to Craigslist ads, resale and up-cycling is one of the most forgotten cash-flow management techniques out there.
The best part is, once again, endeavors like surplus sales get your company communicating across departmental borders.
Once again, crowdsourcing proves a powerful way to up your cash flow ante.
4. Look for excess inventory.
Speaking of idle equipment, you might have dollar bills sitting on shelves in your warehouse.
If you're a merchandise-based organization, speak to your fulfillment and production departments about establishing a regular review period to liquidate excess inventory.
The people who handle order picking and fulfillment know more about your inventory than you do, guaranteed. They're better than a spreadsheet or tracking system because they have eyes on every shelf, every day. They even know which shelves never get eyes on them (which are exactly what you're looking for here).
Use your team to identify excess inventory and inquire about long-standing patterns of surplus that they might see. Then, set a liquidation strategy for excess. In some cases, vendors might issue credit for excess raw materials. With consumer goods, you can explore a wide variety of flash sale-type sites that will happily turn your excess inventory into cash.
By crowdsourcing excess inventory, you also open a dialogue that is a valuable asset to your company-wide cache of cash-flow management techniques. The people responsible for day-to-day fulfillment can collaborate with those in marketing and production to prevent future excesses, thus freeing up dollars previously spent on goods that would likely be liquidated for a higher profit purpose.
Now, how will you use the power of crowdsourcing within your company to identify cash flow management techniques? It all begins with creating a culture of inclusion, where the next great idea for building a fiscally healthy company might come from any person in any department and at any time.
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