Money Matters

Build liquidity with a business savings plan

With World Savings Day coming up, it's a good time to unpack why and how you should be saving money in your business.

Man working in florists

Managing cash effectively is crucial to your business’s success. When the goal is to create sustainable wealth, you’ll want to cut costs and save money wherever possible. Often that means coming up with creative ways to operate more efficiently without compromising service or quality.

As accountant Jasper Basson says: “Building wealth is not sexy; it’s boringly consistent. Your daily principles are what grows your net asset value.”

So, with the silly season upon us, it’s a good time to unpack why and how you should be saving money in your business.

Good reasons to save money in business

  • It helps you prepare for unexpected events and circumstances. From replacing broken equipment to riding out a global pandemic, having a financial safety net can see your business through challenging times without forcing you into debt.
  • You can earn compound interest. Higher interest rates are not ideal if you have debt, but they’re wonderful if you stash your money in an interest-bearing savings account. The higher the rates, the more interest you earn on your savings—and the more interest you make on your interest. It’s free money!
  • It’s easier to achieve your business goals. Suppose you want to open another store, launch a new product, or expand into another territory—all these things cost money. A business plan outlining your goals will give you an idea of how much money you need to achieve them, giving you a savings target to work towards.
  • You can keep operating during slow periods. Some businesses are seasonal or cyclical. If you sell beachwear, for example, you probably do better in summer and experience a slowdown in sales in winter. Saving for rainy and cold days takes the financial pressure off, so you can use the time for other things, like marketing or revising your business plan.

How much should I save?

The short answer? It depends.

As a general rule, most accountants advise that you save enough money to cover three to six months’ worth of expenses. Others suggest you invest a portion of your profits (around 10%) every month.

But the exact amount you should save depends on a number of things, including:

  • The stage of your business. Start-ups generally have more expenses and need more money to capture market share and fuel their growth. On the other hand, established businesses face less uncertainty and can save more.
  • Your business goals. Suppose your goal is to expand into new markets by opening another brick-and-mortar store or creating an e-commerce website. The former will likely cost more and take longer to save up for.
  • Your industry and business model. A business that sells and ships products will likely have higher operating costs than a business that sells software subscription services. It’s easier for subscription-based companies to predict how much money they’ll make and how much they can save than for companies that sell consumer goods, whose sales depend on how much people want them.
  • Your cash flow needs. How much cash do you need to cover monthly expenses, including rent, salaries, insurance, and utilities? If you’re not sure, doing a cash flow forecasting exercise is a good idea. When you understand the present, planning for the future is easier.

What are the benefits of saving money for my business?

We’ve covered why it’s essential to save money in business and how much you should save, but there are several other benefits of stashing your cash, such as:

  • The ability to make strategic business decisions quickly. Being cash-flow positive gives you more agility and flexibility, so you can take advantage of opportunities as they come up, like buying another company, putting down a deposit on a new asset, or investing in new technology and product innovation when an idea hits.
  • Improved credit rating. Having cash in reserve reduces your need to borrow money for unexpected expenses. The less you borrow, the less likely you’ll fall behind on payments, the better your credit rating—and the better your chances of securing finance when you really need it.
  • It makes business valuation easier. Historical cash flow is one of the first things potential investors and finance providers look at when assessing the value of your business. Investors often look at expected future cash flow as an indication of how much money your business might make in the future.
  • It lets you give back to your community. When you’re using all your resources to stay afloat, there’s little—if any—left to help others. After all, you can’t give if you don’t have. But as your savings grow, you free up your financial capacity to give back and invest in your community. And with companies being increasingly judged on their purpose and impact on the world, your customers want to feel like they’re part of something bigger.

Tips for saving money in business

When it comes to saving money in business, there are obvious and not-so-obvious ways.

Obviously, you’ll want to:

  • Cut costs wherever possible
  • Embrace remote and hybrid working and telecommuting
  • Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate: Ask suppliers for a discount if you pay early and upfront
  • Set financial goals and stick to a budget
  • Create a business plan to keep you focused. Explain how saving money will help you reach your business goals, be ready for the unexpected, keep your business running when sales are low, and earn interest.
  • Shop around: Get at least three quotes for everything you’re considering buying

Not-so-obvious ways to save money in business:

  • Share costs with other businesses. If you have more office space than you need, you could sublet to other companies. You could also split the costs of a full-page newspaper advert and advertise both businesses.
  • Use freelancers. You can buy just about anything as a service these days, including marketing managers, accountants, copywriters, and financial officers. Not only do you get immediate access to highly skilled individuals, but it also works out cheaper because you only pay for what you need, and you eliminate a bunch of costs that come with hiring someone full-time.
  • Learn a new skill. You could pay a consultant to teach you how to do something, like paid social media advertising or bookkeeping. You’ll not only learn a new skill, but you’ll also save money doing the thing yourself in future because you won’t need to outsource it.
  • Barter. You have something that someone else needs, and someone else has something that you need, so why not trade? If you’re an accountant, you could do the books for a marketing agency in exchange for marketing advice or blog posts for your website.
  • Trick yourself into saving. Overestimate your expenses in your budget and save whatever is left over at the end of the month.
  • Focus on customer retention, not acquisition. This sounds counterintuitive—what business doesn’t want new customers? But acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one, and increasing retention by 5% can increase profits between 25% and 95%. It’s a no-brainer.
  • Give away your expertise. Again, this also seems counterintuitive, but sharing your expert knowledge and advice with other business owners increases your exposure in the market and builds your reputation as a trusted advisor, so it pays off in the long term and saves on marketing costs. Ways to do this include publishing blogs on LinkedIn, speaking at conferences, and writing articles for industry publications.
  • Change your technology. On-premise software is more expensive to maintain and puts your data at risk. Switching to cloud-based accounting software has numerous benefits, including automatic and accurate data capture, easy tax compliance, and a real-time overview of your cash flow and expenses. What’s more, you can easily pull reports and forecasts to show investors and financiers that you’re on top of your cash flow game.
  • Speak to an accountant. Did you know that if you use a personal device for work purposes, you can claim the depreciation as a tax deduction? And did you know that if you employ young people, you can reduce your overall Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) contribution to SARS? Tax is a complicated beast, and you could be missing out on a host of rebates and incentives simply because you didn’t know they existed. Chat with an accountant about ways to reduce your tax bill.

Assuring liquidity for whatever happens next

The power of saving money for future growth cannot be underestimated. Some business investments and purchases can only be made after years of saving. Like Jasper says, building wealth is boringly consistent.

But there will also be times when your business will be tested—COVID-19, loadshedding, and global recessions come to mind. Having cash on hand takes the pressure off so that you can respond faster and recover quicker when things change.