How Your Small Business Can Sustain Long-Term Growth with a Healthy Cash-Flow

A positive cash flow—when more cash is flowing into your business than out of your business—is a sign of financial wellness and efficient management. It is a vital piece of the puzzle to sustaining long-term growth. Read on for some strategies to help maintain a positive cash-flow.

Plan Ahead

Implement a cash flow projection. This is a basic spreadsheet that you can use as a general guide for forecasting cash flow. It will help to realistically estimate when money will be coming into the business, when it will be going out, and what you’ll have remaining once expenses are accounted for and income is recorded. The key word, however, is estimate. While it isn’t meant to be a precise projection, it should help you anticipate your cash flow for the coming months.

Knowing ahead of time if a cash shortfall is in the forecast will allow you to perhaps negotiate upcoming payment dates or even obtain a loan before that deficit is realized.

On the other hand, if a surplus is projected, take the opportunity to set funds aside for future deficit periods. A projected surplus might also be the right time to invest in the following:

  • Employees: If retaining knowledgeable and valuable employees means offering raises or bonuses, the investment is worth it. The expense would likely be less than hiring new staff, not to mention the time investment of training new employees.
  • Technology: Look for ways you can automate and simplify processes with technology. Depending on your business, this could mean establishing a remote-work infrastructure, focusing on higher-value business goals, or promoting efficiency through operational changes.
  • New opportunities. You can’t predict when unexpected opportunities and prospects for growth will come along, so take advantage of these opportunities when you’re in the position to do so.

Invest in Accounting Skills

In order to stay current on the status of your cash flow, basic accounting skills are non-negotiable. If payables and receivables, inventory, debt, and cost-and-profit aren’t your forte, be willing to take a course in business accounting or find a way to implement hiring an accountant into your budget.

Keep Track of Cash Flow Daily

Sales and revenue may command your interest and attention, but daily cash monitoring will help you avoid unpleasant surprises. Use your cash flow projection to know your projected cash flow for the next 30 to 60 days. Daily check-ins will allow you to catch any downwards trends and take action. Follow up on overdue invoices, scale back on any non-essential purchases, and make any needed adjustments to get your cash flow moving in an upward trend.

Boost Receivables

A solid (and probably obvious) strategy to increase cash flow is to increase sales with established and new customers, but business growth takes time. In the short term, try these methods to incentivize clients to pay sooner:

  • Generate and send out invoices as soon as possible
  • Offer discounts for quick payment
  • Follow up with customers who tend to stall payment

Continually Aim for a Healthy Cash Flow

Managing a positive cash flow prepares your business to adapt to changing market conditions, fluctuating economies, and periods of growth as well as stagnant seasons without needing to rely on loans and investors. Once your investments are consistently heading in the right direction, a positive cash flow should gain momentum and spur a rhythm of sustained company growth.

How Construction Firms Can Make the Payroll Process More Accurate and Efficient

Payroll is often one of the most complex administrative tasks for a construction firm. At any given time, you may have employees at differing pay rates working across a range of job sites. By streamlining your payroll process, you will save time and ensure that employees are getting paid accurately and on time.

Implement Digital Time Tracking

Payroll processes done by hand, such as moving data from timecards to payroll software, are time consuming and allow for error. Try implementing digital time tracking in place of handwritten timecards and spreadsheets. This will help to slash time, cut down on manual error, and eliminate the task of interpreting handwriting. Catching and fixing errors, like missing hours or break time, is also easier with digital time tracking.

Many time systems have progressed in modern offerings such as geofencing, which improves labor cost data and employee accountability. Construction firms that do government work can log work classifications, verify wage decisions, and manage reporting more efficiently.

Establish a Reliable Payroll Checklist

Make a step-by-step checklist that includes each task in the payroll process. These tasks typically cover:

  • compiling hours
  • double-checking data
  • pay and withholdings
  • distributing funds.

Firms that do prevailing wage work must also manage:

  • verifying wage agreements
  • work classifications
  • handling fringe benefits.

Cross off each task as it is completed and make a note of any problems that cropped up, then you can review your process and make changes for improvement.

Streamline Technology

If your company uses multiple platforms for various administrative tasks, you are likely creating more work and more room for error. For instance, be sure you are using a digital time and attendance system that exports out to a payroll and reporting system. This eliminates the extra work it takes to transfer the data. There are also platforms designed to handle the specific tasks associated with prevailing wage work.

Limit Preventable Mistakes

With a lot of variables to keep track of in the payroll process, your goal should be to focus on limiting preventable mistakes. Try making a list of the most common payroll mistakes you’ve noticed, and double check those areas before finalizing payroll.

The payroll process is easy to overlook until something goes wrong and you waste valuable time and resources trying to correct errors. An efficient and accurate process can promote compliance, reduce risk, and lay a foundation for growth.

The Pros and Cons of Borrowing Against a 401(k) for a Down Payment on a Mortgage

If you’re in the market for a new house, you might be wondering if you can tap into your workplace 401(k) to cover the down payment. The short answer is yes, but there are definite disadvantages in doing so. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons to this approach.

Benefits of Borrowing from a 401(k) to Make a Down Payment on a House

  • You’re borrowing from yourself rather than another lender, which means you might not be losing as much money on interest payments as you would if you acquire the funds through other means, like taking out a larger home loan to cover your down payment costs.
  • The loan approval is typically hassle-free. Provided your workplace plan allows for loans, and you do indeed have sufficient funds in your 401(k), your credit score and other financial credentials shouldn’t impact your ability to borrow against it.
  • The process is typically quick. Every plan is different and works on its own timeframe, but once you’ve decided to borrow from your 401(k), it’s usually just a matter of filling out a few forms to gain quick access to the funds.
  • More money for a down payment may equal more options. Borrowing against your 401(k) plan will allow for a larger down payment, which will allow for wider options when it comes to mortgage lenders. It could also help you qualify for a better interest rate as well as help you dodge Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI).

A Note on PMI

PMI is customarily required when you have a conventional loan and make a down payment of less than 20 percent of the home’s purchase price. The most common way to pay for PMI is a monthly premium that is added to your mortgage payment.  Because it protects the lender and not the borrower, many home owners want to avoid this added expense, but some choose to see it as just another expense of owning a home.

Disadvantages of Borrowing from a 401(k)

  • You are diminishing your retirement savings, both in its immediate drop in balance and its future growth potential. Most likely, the return on investment (ROI) you would gain by keeping your money invested would be greater than the ROI from the interest you pay yourself (or the appreciation on your house).
  • Your budget will take a hit. You are required to repay the 401(k) loan, which means that a portion of your future paychecks will go toward repayment. That means less money at your disposal for other expenses, such as homeownership costs.
  • You will be on a repayment deadline. Borrowers typically get five years to repay a 401(k) loan. Depending on the size of your loan, you could potentially face large monthly payments in order to meet the repayment deadline.
  • Inability to repay the loan will result in penalties. Your loan will be treated as a withdrawal if you are unable to pay it back in full by the deadline, which means that you will owe income taxes on it. You will also be subject to a 10% penalty associated with early withdrawals unless you were older than 59 ½ when you took the money out.
  • Beware of the cost of leaving your job before the loan is paid. If you quit your job or experience a layoff, the entire loan amount will need to be paid by the due date for filing taxes that year. This could result in a need to repay the loan quickly in order to avoid penalties.

How Does Biden Plan to Change the Way the US Taxes Unrealized Capital Gains at Death?

President Biden campaigned on a promise to accomplish his progressive agenda by never raising taxes on citizens making less than $400,000 annually. However, his recent proposal to tax unrealized capital gains at death may impact a broader group. Here’s what to know.

What Are Capital Gains?

A capital gain is the rise in the value of an asset over time. For example, if you buy stock for $50 and its value increases to $200, you have accumulated a capital gain of $150. If you were to sell that stock, the $150 gain is said to be “realized”, but if you were to hold onto it, the gain would be considered “unrealized”.

Biden’s Plan

Biden’s plan to levy a tax on unrealized appreciation of assets passed on at death would be done in a move that eliminates a tax-planning tactic known as a “step-up in basis”. The “step-up in basis” permits heirs to minimize taxes when they sell holdings they’ve inherited because current law dictates that any gains accrued during their lifetimes go tax-free. By taxing the unrealized gain at death, this loophole would be closed and heirs would get hit with taxes upon the transfer. This means that appreciated assets transferred at death would be subject to two taxes: a capital gains tax and an estate tax. While it’s possible that the capital gains tax could be deductible in calculating the estate tax, the total tax increase would be substantial for appreciated assets held at death.

Increasing the Capital Gains Tax

The capital gains tax under Biden’s plan would be more severe than the current framework. The plan would raise the total top rate on capital gains, currently 23.8% for most assets, to 40.8%. It would apply the same tax to unrealized capital gains at death, exempting the first $1 million ($2 million for a married couple) plus $250,000 for a personal residence.

Exceptions and Special Rules

  • As noted above, the first $1 million of unrealized gains ($2 million for married couples) would be exempt, as would gains on a personal residence of up to $250,000 ($500,000 for a married couple).
  • Taxes on assets transferred to a spouse would be delayed until the surviving spouse dies or sells the inherited assets. Assets donated to charity would be exempt.
  • Personal property like household furnishings and personal effects (not including collectibles) would be exempt.
  • Some small business stock could be exempt.
  • Taxes would be deferred for most family-owned companies until the business is sold or no longer controlled by the family.
  • Assets held by trusts and partnerships would be subject to different rules.
  • Generally, the tax would pertain to those who die after December 31, 2021.

A Small Number of the Under-$400,000 Set Could be Affected

This plan could interfere with Biden’s oath to avoid increasing taxes on those with incomes below $400,000. Although most descendants will inherit estates far less than the $1 million threshold, there is a subset of citizens with large unrealized gains who live on relatively low incomes. Think of a retiree who depends on Social Security and various savings, but still holds decades-old high-earning stocks. Or consider a widow who has very little assets other than the house that has appreciated in value significantly during the years she’s lived there. If the “step-up in basis” is eliminated by the time an heir inherits the house, they may be subject to significant taxable gains.

Why a Roth IRA Might Be the Best Retirement Account for Beginners

One of the easiest ways to start saving for retirement is through a Roth IRA, and some would say it’s the smartest move a beginner saver can make. A Roth IRA could be a better choice than a 401(k) or a traditional IRA for a few key reasons.

Roth IRA: A Primer

A Roth IRA is an individual retirement account (IRA) that permits qualified withdrawals on a tax-free basis provided specific conditions are reached. The greatest distinction between a Roth IRA and a traditional IRA is that Roth IRAs are funded with after-tax dollars. While the contributions are not tax-deductible, this account offers tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals in retirement. As long as you have owned your Roth IRA account for 5 years and you’re age 59 ½ or older, you are allowed to withdraw your money without owing federal taxes. In 2021, you can contribute up to $6,000 to a Roth IRA ($7,000 if you are age 50 or older and eligible for catch-up contributions). This is lower than the limit for a 401(k) but it’s still a sizable amount to help keep you on track for a secure retirement.

Roth IRA Advantages

  • No RMDs. Unlike 401(k)s and traditional IRAs, which are subject to required minimum distribution (RMD) withdrawals after age 72 (and penalties if you fail to make the withdrawals), there are no RMDs with Roth IRAs, so you can withdraw funds on your own schedule.
  • No time limit. You may invest money into your account for as many years as you have earned income that qualifies. This includes wages, salaries, commissions, and bonuses from an employer. If you are self-employed or in a business partnership, this would include net earnings from your business, less any deduction authorized for contributions made to retirement plans on the individual’s behalf and further reduced by 50% of the individual’s self-employment taxes. Funds pertaining to divorce, such as alimony, child support, or in a settlement, may also be contributed.
  • No employer-plan restrictions. Regardless of whether you are covered by an employer’s retirement plan, such as a 401(k), you are still eligible to contribute the maximum annual amount to a Roth IRA as long as you don’t exceed the IRS’s income limits. For 2021, those with modified adjusted gross incomes (MAGI) below $140,000 (single filers) or $208,000 (married filing jointly) are eligible.
  • No Impact on Social Security. Whereas distributions from a 401(k) or traditional IRA contribute to determining if your Social Security benefits are taxed (that happens once income hits a certain limit), Roth IRA distributions do not. This means that your Roth IRA withdrawals will never affect your Social Security checks.
  • No taxes for heirs. You may pass your Roth IRA on to your beneficiaries, and their withdrawals will be tax-free. (If you inherit a Roth IRA, you are required to take RMDs, but they are tax-free as long as the original account owner held the account for at least 5 years.)

Before You Invest in a Roth IRA

An important element to keep in mind is the 401(k) match. If your employer matches 401(k) contributions, make sure you take full advantage of this free investment money before investing in a Roth IRA.

How Veterinary Clinics Can Add to Their Bottom Line with a Retail Business

Clients consistently turn to veterinarians for advice and assurance on products, pet food, and pharmaceuticals for their pets, so a retail business that can add to your clinic’s bottom line is a natural step for many. Below are some tips to help implement a retail business for your practice.

Be Selective with Products

Evaluate your product offerings and determine which ones move quickly. Focus on items that are backed by your medical team, turn over quickly (less than six months but ideally in a month or two), and are favored by clients. If you routinely recommend over-the-counter products during appointments, have them accessible for your clients to take home that day. Limiting choices to what your team specifically and commonly recommends helps to manage inventory and develop trust with clients. Even in the case of products that clients can buy at a pet store or grocery store, like Nylabone chews or nail trimmers, if they are readily available at their vet’s office, clients are typically happy to check that item off their list and support a small business in the process.

Implement a Loyalty Program

Consider implementing a loyalty program where clients receive a “freebie” when they reach a certain dollar amount. These freebies could be an account credit, a service such as a free nail trim, or a product that retails for under a certain threshold. This is a simple strategy to boost sales in a way that will help staff guide clients to products that they would likely buy anyway while helping them reach their dollar goal for the loyalty program.

Keep It Focused

Keep it small in the beginning by viewing your retail offerings as an expansion to the services you’re already providing. Focus on stocking products that are important to your clients and esteemed by doctors and staff. This approach will help garner more repeat clients, more foot traffic, and a better-established relationship with clients.

In addition to over-the-counter healthcare products and general pet merchandise, be sure not to discount in-clinic pharmacy sales. Veterinarians do the work of attending conferences, communicating with drug manufacturers, and determining which products are best for their clients and pets. Instead of directing clients to drugstore pharmacies or, worse, online sites where they could unknowingly purchase less-than-ideal products to save some money, why not stock the products you’re recommending? This isn’t to say you should stock every product ever mentioned in every appointment, but it should be fairly easy to run some reports through your software to determine which products have the highest turnover. This will tell you which products are important to have on hand for customers.

The Bottom Line

Though you may not be able to increase your cost more than 35% of wholesale value in order to be in range with competitors, a positive cash flow on product sales is worth it in the end for your bottom line. Perhaps most importantly, clients and their pets are getting exactly what they need from the veterinarian they trust.