The historically low interest rates that Americans have enjoyed over the last several years could well become a thing of the past as actions taken by the Federal Reserve to curb inflation make their way through the broader economy. Here's a look at the potential impact on small businesses and some steps they may need to take to ensure their viability.
Prepare for a Decline in Sales
Paying more interest to lenders can leave customers with less disposable income, forcing them to cut back on their spending. This, in turn, will reduce sales and earnings for many businesses. Businesses that sell luxury goods and services may be hit particularly hard since consumers typically cut back on these items first.
Anticipate Paying More for Business Loans
As rates rise, it will become more expensive for your company to borrow money. A review of your company's current debt payment schedule and future borrowing needs can help you analyze the potential impact of higher rates on your company's finances.
Reevaluate Expansion Plans
If you had plans for expanding your physical or online footprint, you may have to reconsider. The additional expenses involved in financing the expansion combined with a decline in consumer spending could make any plans for expansion less feasible.
Focus on Cash Flow
Although the direction of the economy is difficult to predict, it may be smart to look for areas where your business can reduce expenses to conserve money and build up its cash reserves. Your business could also see if it can renegotiate some loans, especially those with variable interest rates.
Tighten Accounts Receivable
Some of your customers may respond to rising interest rates by waiting longer to settle outstanding bills. If you experience an uptick in customer payment delays, you may need to tighten your payment systems so that customers are billed immediately after receiving goods or services and are then contacted every 10 days or so with a new bill. Consider adding late charges after nonpayment beyond 30 days.
A period of rising interest rates is uncharted territory for many small businesses. It can help to have the input of an experienced financial professional as you try to navigate challenging times.