No matter the size of a company, cashflow is the blood that keeps operations pumping.
If cash veins run dry, owners face some tough decisions about payroll, creditors and order fulfillment. It can rip a company apart very quickly.
Dealing with cashflow is something a small business owner needs to be constantly thinking about, and talking about with their financial advisor. Because, as Tesla founder Elon Musk explained in an interview at DellWorld a few years ago, when you need access to capital the most, it's unlikely you'll be able to secure it.
In 2008 Tesla looked like it was on its last legs, Musk explains times were tight and the company was looking at how it could innovate its way out of a cashflow induced death.
Musk explained that during the Summer of 2008, right when the financial markets fell apart, he was trying to raise Tesla's next round of funding. He says it was the most difficult time for the car maker.
"Just when we needed money, we weren't able to raise any money," Musk said.
"Trying to raise funding for a startup electric car company in the face of General Motors going bankrupt was a very challenging endeavor."
The company wasn't able to raise any outside capital, leaving Musk with one option: to invest all his own personal finances into Tesla. He was forced to borrow funds from friends for living expenses and if Tesla didn't work out, he would've found himself in deep financial trouble.
"Because I was willing to invest everything that I had, the other investors in the company were willing to put up the other half of the money that was needed to keep Tesla alive," he said.
Musk managed to close the financing round on the last hour of the last day that it was possible: 6pm, Christmas Eve, 2008.
"We would've gone bankrupt a few days after Christmas," he said.
Musk was by no means alone when it comes to cashflow troubles. A recent survey of business owners commissioned by my company, Xero, found that the main reason businesses shuttered was the result of financial problems.
But there are a few strategies small business owners can implement to ensure a cash crunch isn't the death of you.
While for the regular small business owner, predicting a global financial crisis or larger macro economic events is usually outside our pay grades, it doesn't stop these events from affecting every single one of us personally.
It means that establishing emergency funding mechanisms, like an overdraft facility, long before you need them, is critical to survive the unexpected.
If you're funding your business with venture capital, always raise before you need to. You'll be able to negotiate better terms, attract smarter money and not appear desperate because you're hours from shuttering.
Setting up, and sticking to, strict terms of trade are an important way to keep the cash coming in the door. Harnessing little tech features like Invoice Reminders can make this process much simpler.
Remember, it's much easier to access capital when you don't need it, rather than attempting to set up these processes during your dark days.