If you’ve experienced a sudden change in cash flow or an unexpected expense, it can throw off your plans for your business. In some cases, it could impact your long-term goals. But in a worst-case scenario, it can have immediate ramifications, including not being able to make payroll.
Not only would a late paycheck anger your employees, but it could also be a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) and incur legal penalties. What’s more, employees may also be able to file a state wage claim against you.
So, if payday is coming up and you’re not sure you can make payroll, it’s critical that you have a plan to get the cash you need when you and your employees need it. Here are seven things you can do to achieve that goal.
1. Settle your accounts receivables
If you have past-due payments in your accounts receivable, reach out to your customers to request immediate payment. If they are unable or unwilling, consider offering a discount to settle promptly.
You can even consider offering discounts to customers who aren’t yet past due to see if they’d be willing to pay early.
2. Request an extension on accounts payable
If you’ve always made payments to your suppliers on time, they may be willing to give you a break on upcoming payments. By getting an extension on your payment terms, you can use that cash instead to pay your employees.
If you go this route, though, it’s essential that you have a plan to meet the new payment due date from your suppliers. Asking for an extension then missing the payment anyway could cause even more problems for your business.
3. Liquidate surplus inventory
If you have extra inventory, and selling it won’t jeopardize your business further, consider selling it to get a quick infusion of cash.
Contact a liquidation company, and also look at prices for your products on eBay and Amazon to see which channel offers the best profit. You likely won’t get as much money from selling surplus inventory this way as you would selling it to customers.
But the lost profit might be worth avoiding potential penalties and legal fees.
4. Get a business line of credit
If you don’t already have a line of credit to help with cash flow problems, now is the time to consider one.
The way a business line of credit works — you can use it, pay it off and then use it again — makes it possible to get the cash you need now, plus provide you with a safety net if you have cash flow problems in the future.
Keep in mind, though, that you may need to put up equipment, inventory, or property as collateral for the line of credit. The lender will also typically look at the health of your business, your business credit history, and even your personal credit score to determine if you’re creditworthy.
5. Apply for a small business loan
If you feel like your current cash flow problems are an outlier, and you don’t anticipate needing a line of credit for the future, a small business loan may be a better choice.
While it can sometimes take weeks or even months to get funding through some business loans, several small business lenders offer more immediate funding.
Note, however, that it can be tough to get a small business loan if your business is new or doesn’t meet certain revenue minimums. You’ll also have a hard time getting capital if your personal credit score isn’t in good shape. You can check your personal and business scores for free with Nav.
But if you can get approved, even higher-interest business loans could be worth it to avoid the consequences of not paying your employees on time.
6. Borrow from friends or family
If you need cash now and don’t have time to go through the process of applying for a business loan or line of credit, consider asking a trusted family member or friend for a short-term loan.
Understand, however, that doing this can strain a relationship, especially if you end up struggling to pay them back. So, it’s important to treat this loan like you would any other. Draw up a contract and agree on terms, including payments and interest.
Then make it a priority to pay back the loan on time, or even early if possible.
7. Use your business credit card
Some business credit cards allow you to take out a cash advance, which you can use to make payroll. While this option is convenient if you don’t already have a business line of credit or a business loan in the works, it’s generally best to use it as a last resort.
That’s because credit card cash advances often come with an upfront fee plus a high interest rate. What’s more, credit card issuers typically don’t offer grace periods on cash advances like they do with regular purchases. So, interest would start accruing immediately.
Again, all of these costs may pale in comparison to the potential legal fees and penalties that could come from missing payroll. But if you have cheaper options, consider those first.
Which option should you choose?
There’s no one best solution to cash flow problems, so it’s important that you consider all of these options and find the best one for your business.
In general, it’s best if you can manage to meet payroll without borrowing money. Even if you have to skip your own paycheck to make payroll for your employees, it could be better than the alternative.
But if you have no other options to get the capital you need, compare the pros and cons of business lines of credit, small business loans, and business credit cards.
Consider whether this is a one-time need or if you might have cash shortages again in the future. Also, look at the potential costs in the form of fees and interest. You may still end up with an expensive loan, but if that’s the cheapest solution available, you’ve done right by your business.
This article was originally written on September 6, 2018 and updated on December 10, 2020.