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Intuit released “The State of Small Business Cash Flow”, a global study focused on the behaviors, attitudes and status of cash flow challenges experienced by small businesses and the self-employed.

The study found that the majority of small businesses around the world (61%) struggle with cash flow, and nearly a third (32%) are unable to either pay vendors, pay back pending loans, or pay themselves or their employees due to cash flow issues.

This is true in spite of recent tax cuts, regulatory rollbacks and other stimulus policies that have benefitted small businesses, with 2 out of 5 small business owners (42%) saying they’ve experienced cash flow issues in the last year.

Furthermore, 69% of small business owners say they have been kept up at night by ongoing concerns about their cash flow status.

“Every day, small business owners fight to deliver amazing products and services for their customers, but – with 50 percent of small businesses going out of business within five years of opening their doors – the odds are stacked against them.”

“The top reason for failure is the cash flow crunch and lack of flexible options. With this survey, we set out to understand the why and how behind the crunch, and what Intuit QuickBooks can do to help.”

Alex Chriss, EVP and General Manager, Small Business and Self-Employed Group

Stunting Business and Economic Growth

Achieving a perfect balance of money in and money out (i.e. cash flow) – and ensuring expenses don’t become more than revenue or profits – can be a challenge for small business owners.

And the impact that negative cash flow has on small businesses is profound. Many small companies are operating on margins so thin that frequent lost opportunities will put them on the path to closing shop.

On average, US small business owners are losing $43,394 annually by foregoing a project or sales due to issues created by insufficient cash flow.

Additionally, more than half of US (52%) and UK (51%) small business owners’ companies have lost $10,000 or more by foregoing a project or sales specifically due to issues created by insufficient cash flow.

This is also true for half of Australian small businesses (50%), 41% of Canadian small businesses, 23% of Indian small businesses.

Additionally, the inability to pay vendors, loans or employees – a situation encountered by a third of small businesses due to insufficient cash flow – damages the very relationships that small businesses and the self-employed depend on to succeed.

In fact, labor costs, like paying employees or contractors, are often the single largest expense for small businesses, and none can afford to alienate employees or have high turnover rates.

Among those who have had cash flow issues, more than 2 in 5 (43%) small business owners frequently have been at risk of not being able to pay their employees by payday.

What’s Driving Cash Flow Problems for Small Businesses and the Self-Employed

For many small businesses and self-employed workers who struggle with cash flow, the problem isn’t that they don’t have funds in the pipeline – it’s that they don’t have the funds readily available for real-time expenses.

One third (33%) of US small business owners estimate their company currently has more than $20,000 in outstanding receivables, and the average US small business has $53,399 in outstanding receivables.

When examining many small businesses’ billing practices, these high figures in outstanding receivables begin to make sense.

For example, more than half of small businesses globally (53%) bill customers for goods/services on a specific date, compared to 47% that utilize advanced payment – charging customers for goods/services before or at the time of receiving them.

Furthermore, nearly two thirds (66%) of small business owners report that the time it takes the money to process after receiving a payment has the largest impact on their company’s cash flow, compared to not getting paid by customers or clients within the terms of the payment system (34%).

Finally, nearly a third of small businesses (31%) estimate it takes more than 30 days to get paid, by customers, clients, vendors or banks. During this month of lag businesses still need to cover expenses including overhead and labor costs – thus creating cash flow woes.

READ MORE: PayPal Announces Funds Now to Help Improve Small Business Cash Flow

Do you experience cash flow crunches in your business? Please use the comments section below or head over to our Facebook Group for Small Business Sellers and interact with other small business owners.

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