Small Business

10 Cash-Flow Red Flags to Watch Out For

Having a solid grasp of the money you're owed—and when—is a must for every small business owner. These signs might indicate that your bank account is about to run low

Written by Kara Aaserud


Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

It’s not always clear that a business is about to run out of money. If any of these statements could have come from your mouth, it’s time to take another look at your cash flow management strategy.

1. Running low

“We’re currently operating with less than three times our monthly expenditures available as cash in the bank.”

2. Running late

“More than half of our receivables are unpaid 90 days after the date of invoice, despite our best efforts to politely request remittance.”

3. Working with mystery customers

“We have no formal processes in place to gauge core clients’ ability to pay us. We don’t ask for credit applications before we start work for them and have no way of checking their credit ratings.”

4. Getting more for less

“One of our long-term clients has suddenly started paying us much more slowly than it used to but is ordering more than ever before.”

5. Being passed the buck

“Our clients often ask us for extensions on their invoices while they’re waiting to receive money from their own clients.” (The business equivalent of, “Don’t worry, buddy, I swear I’ll get you for this pizza later.”)

6. Arresting your own development

“We’ve been in business for more than five years—well past the startup stress zone—but our operating expenses routinely eclipse our gross sales.”

7. Flying blind

“We can’t create a rolling budget because we don’t have a system in place to accurately collect financial operating data.”

8. Maxing out

“We’re very reliant on our line of credit for cash flow, and we’ve already had to go to the bank to ask for a limit increase more than once.”

9. Crossing your fingers

“A major client has told us they don’t care what the cost is, they just want the job done; moreover, they won’t even discuss the expected tally, telling us “we can talk money at the end.””

10. Maintaining radio silence

“There is little to no communication between our sales and finance departments.”

This article is from the April 2016 issue of Canadian Business. Subscribe now!


What’s your best cash flow management or cost control tip? Share it with your fellow entrepreneurs by commenting below.

Originally appeared on