Just about every business has times when orders are coming in the door fast and furious, and other times when work slows to a crawl. But what happens when seasonal cash flow cycles happen several times a year – and not just during the traditional summer or holiday seasons? For tax and finance professionals, managing spikes in demand – and making sure that seasonal business cash flow remains stable – is a year-round exercise. Below, tax and accounting professionals explain how they keep their businesses on an even keel in spite of the swings in business.
Add new services to stay busy all year
“In the accounting business, your revenue chart basically looks like a hockey stick,” says Ernie Mayhorn, owner of Capital Tax Solutions in Carson City, Nev., of his business’s various peak demand periods. His business has a range of clients: “everyone from kids with new jobs to million-dollar corporations,” he explains. That means Ernie isn’t just busy around the traditional April 15 tax filing deadline. He also helps clients navigate tax extension deadlines, corporate tax filings, and quarterly tax payments all year-round.
“You’re dead calm through the winter and into February, then things spike in March,” Ernie says. “Then it’s calm again until September and October, when business taxes and late filers come around.”
To even out the “hockey stick” revenue cycles, Ernie finds money-making opportunities for slow periods. Ernie has added new services that are less affected by tax deadlines, such as payroll accounting and financial and retirement planning. “We want to offer a complete package of services to current clients but also bring in new ones,” he says.
Plan for payroll year-round
Getting staffed up for tax season is what drove Amber León, founder of PEAR Accounting Solution in Napa, Calif. to explore a line of credit. The good news was that the accounting business she’d started as a single mom was growing; the bad news was that the added cost of a new employee squeezed PEAR’s cash flow. “I was working a lot, yet I couldn’t pay myself,” Amber recalls. Today, with six part-time employees, she uses a line of credit to cover seasonal business expenses like additional payroll.
Tina Garza, founder of Accountingprose in Denver, wants her team to be able to handle the extra work if the business hits `a growth spurt – like clients who need help at tax time or want new services like payroll accounting. In 2012, Tina was a one-person shop; today, she has 10 employees.
Adding employees is really the only way to respond to accounting deadlines – but it also means taking care of payroll no matter what curve balls are thrown at her business. She relies on a line of credit to pay for new hires while waiting for client payments. “I don’t see us slowing down anytime soon,” Tina says.
Account for payment delays
Because the ups and downs of tax time also affect his clients, Ernie sometimes needs to be flexible when waiting for payments. “People are really stretched when tax bills are due, so being able to carry over their invoices for a month or two can really help them,” he says. That’s another way his line of credit comes in handy, since he can pay bills even if client payments are delayed. “I don’t want to miss out on opportunities to win someone’s business,” he says.
Ernie, Amber and Tina all play the long game when it comes to seasonal business challenges – that is, maintaining stable finances even as tax and accounting deadlines come and go.
Aditya Narula is the head of customer experience at Kabbage. Kabbage has pioneered a financial services data and technology platform to provide access to automated funding to small businesses in minutes. Since 2011, the company has helped more than 185,000 small businesses access more than $7 billion.