The BER Months phenomenon doesn’t just concern Filipino consumers in terms of the endless bazaar and retail-sale shopping, reunions, and bumper-to-bumper traffic. It has a ripple effect on every Filipino, especially business owners.
Last Christmas, the inflation carried over from the previous quarter did not stop Filipinos and their balikbayan family members from having a Merry Christmas filled with lots of food and booze. While 43 percent of Filipinos are said to do their shopping only in December, retail stores weren’t the only places crowded by hoards, but also countless KTV bars and restaurants. Whatever the economic situation, Filipinos will surely find a way to celebrate with family and friends.
As Christmas 2019 approaches and with a strong economy that saw our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grow to 6.2 percent in the 3rd quarter, we can expect Filipinos to make good use of their 13th month bonuses. Companies driving this growth would also be expected to have a bigger budget for more lavish parties or give better corporate items to their partners and employees.
However, they say no matter how prepared we think we all are for the BER Months, Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) owners can never be one hundred percent sure. Filipino consumers are also known to cram their orders and this year won’t be an exception.
The backlog problem
Increasing orders typically force business owners to use all of their working capital or funds to meet the demand “for now” and hope to get repaid by clients for pending invoices soon enough. Expecting to receive a payment ahead of time and on time, however, is rarely the case. This is just one cause of a backlog and there are much more reasons for business owners to fear the consequences of tight cash flow.
For printing company A, this year’s challenge is realising that most of their production staff are taking leaves at the same time. Although they were able to ask some to forego their calendared leaves for another date, the others didn’t budge as they already had flights booked and their leaves had in fact been approved. What will the company do with the influx of orders coming in? It might not be able to fulfil its commitments to produce orders and worse, with employees gone and lost opportunities, they still need to have enough funds to pay their salaries and bonuses in the midst of a negative cash flow spike.
For shipping company B, they may have forecasted that high-demand for say, online shopping, and are well-stocked and staffed for the task, but a simple fender bender along EDSA could potentially impact their delivery and delay shipping orders to the dismay of their loyal customers.
For construction company C, they would simply have to turn down proposals if they don’t have any more cash to spend for materials and daily wages for labor.
Turning a challenge into an opportunity
Christmas season is historically one of the best seasons to gain higher sales for businesses, even outside the Philippines. We’re not the only ones who get in a BER Months frenzy and this is actually an opportune time for SMEs. Business owners simply have to prepare for the stress and possible operational disruptions that they would experience.
First thing a seasoned entrepreneur would say is always have a plan B and plan C. knowing your options and alternate solutions for every part of your supply chain is key, not just during the BER Months but for every day.
Tighten controls by forecasting. Corporations aren’t the only ones expected to do a yearly planning. SMEs must also factor in costs like bonuses and parties, holiday public advisories that would impact the business, etc. Take into account the holiday schedule of your suppliers as well that could impact your production.
Be prudent in your spending. You don’t have to pay or purchase everything you may think you need during the Christmas season. Prioritise expenditures that will impact your cash flow positively first.
If you can, try to find a way to get repaid on time. Make it your collections team’s KPI to find a creative way to get your clients to pay on time, apart from just nagging them by phone and email (this almost never works).
Short-term loans are a business owners’ best bet when it comes to end-of-year cash flow problems. The quickest and most typical kind would be getting Invoice Financing to access cash you are owed at the moment. Another would be Purchase Order Financing which temporarily funds your clients’ increased orders for the season. Many business owners have already done this and continue to get financed for their invoices and purchase orders throughout the year as this type of loan doesn’t require collateral.
If you’re experiencing the same backlog in your business, you may consider help from FinTech companies like First Circle. First Circle provides fast, convenient, and reliable financing. We are trusted by the Philippine government as a finance partner of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). First Circle is one of the registered FinTech companies licensed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the Philippines.