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How can we fix our cash-flow problem?

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We were a pizza and grill near the university and relocated to a brand-new building across from the campus. While building, we ran into problems as the cost of materials rose and business slowed. We are now short on funds and make huge payments to subcontractors, which kills our cash flow. No bank is willing to help. We have strong sales--$3 million-plus--but not enough to pay everyone. We are short $400,000 on a $3 million project, with sales on the rise. Banks are scared to lend despite a track record that goes back seven years.
It sounds as if you are suffering from planning issues on a number of levels. First off, do you own the building or is it a retrofit? Either way, with your track record, you should be able to work something out with a bank, which leads me to wonder how you are presenting your case to the bankers.

Not to be too short, but if your financing plan is as sound as your construction plan, that is probably where you are running into trouble. In every project I've ever seen, construction costs always need allowances. Not adjusting for this causes problems--as you are experiencing right now. However, with your track record, you may be able to work with your suppliers on the vendor side to get some cash-flow accommodation, especially if you can't do it on the contractor side. That said, I'd also look for some accommodation on the contractor side. Anything you can do for outflow will give you some space to get creative on inflow.

On the revenue side, you need to find ways to increase sales. Do you have a database of past or current customers you can tap into? If you are near the university, can you sponsor a fundraiser or one-off event and take part of the proceeds? Can you raise prices or increase profit margins? Just be careful about cutting costs and, whatever you do, don't discount, because you are taking additional dollars off your bottom line.

Given your revenue numbers and time in business, you should have a number of options available to you--it's just a matter of looking again at how you are going about those options, and going directly to the people you’re working with to negotiate more favorable terms.

All the best.
Brad Sugars

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