Most financial tools do a good job of showing small businesses where they've been and how well they're faring at any given moment. The future remains elusive, however, and it's a blind spot that can have a disastrous effect on the bottom line.
"About 40 percent of small businesses have a working capital cash crisis in the first [three] years," said Dave Kurrasch, vice president and general manager of Small Business Payments Company, the U.S. subsidiary of Acxsys, a Canadian payments services company. The culprit: poor planning due to shoddy (or non-existent) forecasting tools.
A Cloud-based Small Business Forecasting Tool
Recognizing this "pain point for small businesses," Kurrasch's company launched a software-as-a-service (SaaS) product in October called Small Business Workbench (branding experts they are not, joked Kurrasch). But the former Wells Fargo bank executive prides himself on bringing products to market the do what it says on the label.
"At the heart of the workbench is a simple-to-use cash forecasting tool," Kurrasch told Small Business Computing. After an initial setup, the cloud-based solution takes over and provides small business owners with a projection of how much cash they can expect to be sitting on as the days, weeks and months roll on.
Sounds basic, but Small Business Workbench belies a software foundation—developed in-house and featuring built-in intelligence—that surfaces potential issues well before small business owners find themselves scrambling for cash, explained Kurrasch. In short, the product makes it practically impossible for money troubles to sneak up on a small business.
Short of an accident, disaster or other unexpected occurrence—which is what business insurance is for—Small Business Workbench lets you view your projected cash position well into the future. The solution "talks to QuickBooks and other accounting systems," said Kurrasch, analyzes income, payroll, payables and accounts receivable and develops a forecast that factors in how each affects the other.
As a result, business owners can see problems cropping up a mile away and take advantage of the extra time to deal with them. You set a minimum dollar threshold, and when Small Business Workbench detects that cash positions will dip below that limit, it issues an alert.
This capability is enhanced with the product's "Trigger Marketing" recommendation feature. The recommendations, delivered via text message or email, let small business owners "maximize their working capital or address potential cash flow problems," said the company in a statement. If the program predicts a surplus, for instance, it will suggest investing it for a better return.
When they're not under the gun, small business owners make better decisions, asserted Kurrasch. For instance, he said, shops facing a cash crunch may opt to offer select customers a discount on their invoice if they pay quickly instead of taking on more debt to make payroll.
Small Business Workbench launched in October as a "white label" product for banks, but the company is now casting a wider net. "We're close to finishing our implementation to the Intuit Marketplace," meaning that QuickBooks users can add cash flow forecasting to their toolkits.
Releases for other popular app stores are in the works. Plus, the company is also working on "apps for every part of the working capital process" including inventory and payroll.
Small Business Workbench apps for popular financial and cloud app stores are expected to roll out in the coming months.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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