Cash Flow Tips to Help Every Construction Small Business Owner Grow

From high equipment costs to labor shortages and seasonal fluctuations, construction companies face unique challenges regardless of size. In fact, the industry has one of the highest concentrations of small businesses. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 60 percent of construction workers work for small businesses with fewer than 50 employees. For these smaller firms, getting access to capital to grow their business and managing cash flow are necessities. From a recent survey, 28 percent of construction firms cite cash flow as the biggest challenge during their first year in business—a concern that outweighs finding new customers. To curb common challenges, here are tips that can enhance cash flow.

Get Paid Faster

Although the industry standard is to bill clients in three or four large installments during the course of a job, consider billing clients after each small step: for demolition, sheet rocking, windows, insulation, plumbing, electrical work and so on. This will help you receive a steady income so you can best plan and forecast cash flow. Your customers will likely prefer this method of payment too because it allows them to split up their bills into smaller, more manageable sums.

Consider Your Funding Options

Because banks often require old bank statements and dated tax returns, it can be challenging for business owners lacking long credit histories to get access to funding. In addition, small businesses are oftentimes overlooked by banks favoring bigger companies seeking larger loans.
Many small business owners have begun using online lending platforms that look at their live data to approve funding. These innovations allow for wider and more varied types of business loans, faster access to working capital and evaluation processes that consider a company’s current business performance instead of dated documents.

For example, when Diana Lewis, a construction business owner in Florida, needed to hire additional employees and buy new equipment for D&J Erosion Control. She applied for a small business loan through her bank but only received a portion of what she asked for. Through online lending, Lewis was approved for a flexible line of credit that matched her business needs. Getting the access to the funding she needed allowed D&J Erosion Control’s revenue to double in just one year.

Seek Certifications

Like most construction companies her business’ size, Lewis relied on personal connections for her first jobs. But she soon realized she’d have to reach out in different ways if she wanted her business to grow.

Lewis learned as a woman business owner she could apply to the state for what’s known as a DBE (disadvantaged business enterprise) certification. Because companies are required to offer a certain percentage of their work to DBEs, Lewis’ company could guarantee work with the new certification. Many states have certifications for veteran-owned businesses, women- and minority-owned business enterprises, and businesses in an underutilized area or HUBZone-certified businesses. For more information about certifications that may work for you, browse the Small Business Administration’s Certification Guide.

Find a Mentor

Most small business owners learn how to manage their cash flow challenges through trial and error. You can reduce common mistakes by seeking advice. A mentor or advisor can help you keep an eye on your longer-term goals, anticipate upcoming expenses and give objective advice about cash flow issues.

A 2018 survey of small business owners found that an overwhelming majority (92 percent) believe that mentors have a direct impact on the growth and survival of their business. Yet, only 22 percent of small businesses owners reported having mentors when they started their business. For those searching a mentor, try connecting with industry contacts on LinkedIn or visit your local Small Business Development Center. The SCORE Association’s “Counselors to America’s Small Business” is also a great program that matches volunteer business counselors with aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners.

About the Author

Aditya Narula
Aditya Narula leads the Customer Success department for Kabbage, an organization that provides small businesses with lines of credit.

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