How to Boost Cash Flow in the Current Business Climate
With business uncertainty at an all-time high, boosting cash flow has become more important than ever before. Proactive Credit & Collections teams are quickly learning how to evolve their processes and reporting to respond to this market volatility while working with customers to manage outstanding bills.
I recently had the opportunity to speak at Teampay’s Agile Finance Summit with Group Financial Controller for Argus Media, Sebastian Wagner. We discussed some of the best practices Sebastian and his team have found effective for maintaining an agile Credit & Collections process, and how they’ve led to better visibility into cash flow.
Teampay Presents: The Agile Finance Summit
What has changed the most for you and your team now versus 3-4 months ago?
Collaboration is the number one thing that has changed massively in our organization. The real-time information we in finance can now get from our customer success and sales teams is invaluable. The information they provide us from customer conversations helps finance and treasury better evaluate risk and predict what cash flows will be and when cash inflows will take place.
What kind of real-time information are you trying to gather, and how has that information made it back into your cash flow forecasts?
If there is any information related to payment dates, invoices, or any red flags around customer health that we, customer success, or sales notices; this information is automatically sent to our collections and finance teams in the Tesorio platform in real-time to utilize in forecasting.
What other kinds of information are you coaching other departments to gather to help you have a more predictable view of your cash inflows?
The key thing to know is when to expect payments and any risk factors that may impact payments. Our reps are trained to get their contacts to commit to payment dates (promise-to-pay dates). It’s less cumbersome for our customers if it comes from sales and customer success because there is an existing relationship there. We feel it’s typically better if it’s not someone who has “credit control” on their email signature making the ask.
Companies have been traditionally forecasting out of excel. What are some things that you’ve seen change to facilitate a new way of doing things?
The cloud is an integral part of our business. Having offline spreadsheets (systems) is an issue. If you have a tool like Tesorio that’s integrated with the right systems, everyone can get the same information instantly. This pandemic and its impact on business have accelerated the speed at which we are moving everything we can into the cloud.
What have you done differently to manage your team and keep team morale high? What things has your company implemented?
I have daily communication with my team. Having video calls to discuss strategy and context has proven much more useful than email communication to convey what needs to get done and why. We also have weekly virtual happy hours that are optional to give people a chance to have the casual, life conversations they could before when we were still in the office.
Also, our CFO has implemented informal chats to allow everyone to have an opportunity to be heard in the current environment. Our editorial team sends out various articles with resources for activities outside of work. It’s important to find a balance between your work life and home life when the lines are getting easily blurred in this new remote period.
Have you seen an increase in DSO over the past several months?
When the pandemic started we expected an increase in DSO, but we actually saw a decrease in DSO thanks to using Tesorio. We definitely implemented it at the right time. Our consistent communication with our customers helps us catch problems early and react quickly with resolutions like relaxing payment terms or implementing a payment plan. Doing this not only helps us get paid but also helps us maintain and even improve customer relationships.
Can you tell us a little more about how you’re using AR automation and the benefits you’re realizing?
We’re using Tesorio primarily to help us with our collections. Tesorio supports our collections and AR teams to organize and automate campaigns making our day-to-day efficient and effective. It allows us to log promise-to-pay dates, create campaigns to follow-up with customers after certain aging, assign tasks for our different teams, and create strategic reporting with all of this information within the tool.
What do you think some of the biggest challenges collections are facing to create forecasts during the current business climate?
The challenges are the same as they were previously, just more severe and fundamental. Companies should make an effort to understand the leading indicators of their business so they can track those rather than the outputs. It’s one of the hardest things to identify, and one of the most important for your future revenue growth.
Who do you find is more interested in the level of reporting from the finance organization than they were before?
Way more people are looking at cash flow forecasts. Everyone is interested in DSO from the CFO, CEO, COO, down to sales and account managers which I’ve never seen before. Cash has become not just a treasury thing, but a company thing.
What other tactical advice would you like to share for the folks on the front lines?
With this pandemic, as bad as it is, view it as an opportunity to rethink what you are doing and whether what you are doing is the right thing or if there is a better way. It’s all about embracing different departments, the cloud, your team working from home, and technology.
It’s not about doing something new, but looking at how you can be more effective and efficient in your current processes.
View this and other sessions from the Agile Finance Summit here.