It is common for entrepreneurs and new business persons to have very high expectations of their businesses in the beginning. They are often excited about how they will uniquely market the business and provide customers with something they have not tried before. A practical entrepreneur will look at both sides, the positive and negative. While there is nothing wrong with keeping your expectations high, it’s the “hope for the best and prepares for the worst” that seems to work more in life, both professional and personal.
So, it does not matter how unique your product is or how perfectly you have designed a plan to approach your target audience; you will always need some cash in reserve for the hard times. The more important question is “how much money should you have in reserve for a small business?”
How Do You Calculate the Size of Your Reserve?
The first thing you need to know here is that there are different types of businesses and thus they need to do their calculations differently. Your first decision has to be whether you want your reserve to be enough to cover three months of costs or six months of costs. Finance experts have varying opinions, but it is up to you to decide whether it is going to be three or six months. Once you have made that decision, it is time you calculate the size of the reserve you will need. The information coming ahead is based on a six month’s reserve strategy.
As mentioned earlier, different businesses have to make calculations differently. If you are a business with running that remains pretty much the same throughout the year, you just have to look at your cash flow rate from the cash flow statement. Reviewing at least six months of statements is a good idea. If your expenses vary only slightly month after month, all you have to do is come up with an average of those six months of expenses. This will be the monthly expense of your business. Now, just multiply this average by six because you want to keep a reserve of six months.
However, you have to calculate differently for a seasonal business. Again, you will look at the cash flow statement of the past six months, but this time you will not find the average of all the six months. You will separate the month with the highest costs (expenses) and the months with low expenses. Take the five regular months and calculate the average monthly cost based on the data you have. Now, to calculate your six month’s reserve, multiply the average you have just calculated with five, and then add the cost of the highest month to that product.
What if you are a new business and you don’t have cash flow or burn rate reports for past six months. In this scenario, you will have to do the math even more strictly. You will have to work on projections and estimates. Calculate what your monthly expenses will be and base the size of your reserve on that projection. Of course, you should make adjustments as soon as you realize that your expenses or more or less than what you had projected once your business starts running.
What about Keeping a Bigger Cash Reserve?
The cash reserve is a cushion for your business and why wouldn’t you want the cushion to be bigger? Here is the thing; keeping a reserve that attempts to cover more than six months of expenses is going to be harmful to your business. What you will end up doing is putting the money that you can use in your business for its progress in the cash reserve where it will wait for the hard times to come before you can use it.
What you might not realize is that you could use the same money for business development, better marketing, and further expansion. Experts say you should not touch your cash reserves unless there is no other way out. With that in mind, you might never touch your cash reserves and use them to expand your business even when you have the opportunity.
Building a Cash Reserve
The biggest challenge is building a cash reserve because it is more like an expense for your business. You have to put some money from your profits into a separate account that serves as your business’ cash reserve account. What this means is that you will have to live with shrunken profits for some time. However, planning these things can help you. For example, fund your business wisely right from day one.
Unless your business explodes and becomes a big thing right from day one, you have to rely on proper financing to grow your cash reserves. One thing you want to keep in mind here is that your cash reserve is not just for the hard times, but it can help you on other occasions as well. Let’s say your company makes napkins, and a worldwide fast food chain places an order that goes way beyond your capacity. How do you arrange the materials to fulfill that order? While financing is an option, it is much better and safer to rely on your own cash reserves like many big companies do.
It is a mistake that many new small business owners make when they think they won’t need any reserves in the back. Things can go wrong in a thousand different ways and you cannot predict all of them. You don’t want to be scrambling for cash or loan right from the second month of starting your business. It is best to have a financial advisor with you right from the start who will tell you how you can build your cash reserve without affecting the ongoing progress of your business and completely eating away your profits.
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