Cash flow can be a challenge for any seasonal business. In the world of snow and ice removal, unpredictable weather patterns and demanding clients create even more headaches for business owners.
Stable cash flow during the winter months may seem like a pipe dream, but it doesn’t have to be. And prioritizing the steady influx of cash needed to run your business helps you stay organized, pay bills on time, and have money to reinvest or cover unexpected expenses.
Learn more about the importance of healthy cash flow—and strategies for improving yours year-round—in our blog post, “Solve your landscaping company’s cash flow problems with these 6 tips.”
If you’re looking for ways to increase your company’s cash flow during snow and ice season, here’s a few tips that don’t require power over the skies.
Revamping your invoicing process is one of the best ways to improve cash flow.
First, evaluate your current system to find the speedbumps. Do invoices require approval by an individual whose busy schedule holds up the process? Is your accounting team having to track down paper time sheets? Once you know where the problems are, come up with a solution to speed things up. (Developing a new approval process or implementing software like Aspire that automatically connects reported hours to projects, for example.)
You want to get invoices out the door as quickly as possible, especially during snow season. If you have several winter storms in a row, clients may forget about work you’ve done by the time they receive the invoice weeks later—or think it’s an accidental duplicate and ignore it. Invoicing quickly and accurately can help you avoid these kinds of situations.
Accept multiple forms of payment
Make it as easy as possible for customers to pay once they receive an invoice. Allow them to pay using cash, check, credit card, or automatic (ACH) payments. Offering the option to pay online isn’t just convenient for clients—it’s also a great way to get money into your account a lot faster.
Once you’ve submitted an invoice, follow up on it. Be courteous but firm in your communication with customers.
Feature the due date prominently on your original invoice, then send a gentle reminder a week or so before the deadline. If the due date passes without payment, begin regular follow-ups. (For advice on what to do if clients don’t pay, see this blog post on cash flow management.)
Use seasonal contracts
There are a variety of pricing models available for snow and ice contractors, but seasonal and multi-season contracts offer some of the best options for maintaining steady cash flow.
If possible, try to line up enough guaranteed income through contracts to at least break even (covering expenses as if all billable hours were used). That way you won’t have to worry about losing money during the winter months. And any jobs you accept to fulfill remaining billable hours beyond those base contracts—regardless of the pricing arrangement—just contribute to profits.
Spread out your costs
Don’t wait until the last minute to purchase materials and equipment needed for snow and ice removal. Budget for these costs and try to spread them out throughout the year.
The Snow and Ice Management Association (SIMA) offers a variety of free educational resources, including a best practices procurement timeline with detailed instructions to help service providers prepare for the winter season.
Have back-up plans in place
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, things go wrong. You can’t get enough contracts, a mild winter dries up possibilities for work, and cash flow grinds to a halt.
When that happens, it’s important to have back-up plans (like cash reserves or lines of credit) in place. In addition to these stopgap measures, you could prepare a list of options for responding when incoming cash slows to a drip, including limiting expenses or waiting until the last-minute to pay bills.
If you anticipate problems like these, try to head them off before the season arrives by looking for ways to cut costs, using subcontractors, or renting equipment instead of purchasing it.
Managing cash flow during snow and ice season is difficult, but these strategies can help. If you want to go a step further, consider Aspire business management software. With its ability to handle every aspect of the process from conducting site audits and managing materials to setting up contracts, connecting with subcontractors, and scheduling snow events, Aspire’s robust snow and ice management features help users save valuable time and money during the winter months.
Watch the video below to hear how Aspire Landscape helped Signature Landscape in Kansas City close out snow events in one week (instead of the previous 3-4).
Interested in learning how Aspire Landscape can help meet the needs of your snow and ice business? Request a personalized demo today!