5 min read

Jobs to be Done: How to equip US SMBs with the right tools to track and manage cash flow

11:FS Customer Strategy and Research Team

This is the second instalment of a 6 part series that explores the Jobs to be Done (JTBD) for US SMBs that we identified in our recent research. Each blog post explores one of the jobs and how we examined it with a JTBD canvas. If you missed the first post that explains JTBD and the canvas, check it out before reading this.

JTBD #1 | Track and manage cash flow in a coherent way

Positive cash flow is key to a sustainable business. A business can have the most well-designed products and innovative new services, but if it doesn’t have a firm grip on its incomings and outgoings then it’s not going to survive for very long.

But managing cash flow is not all that easy, particularly for business owners that don’t have much experience. It’s about more than just tracking the money coming into and out of the business, it’s about actively managing it — spotting opportunities to cut costs; paying down debt and anticipating future spending.

Cash flow management, unsurprisingly, ranks highly in terms of its importance to SMB owners and how difficult they find it to get the job done. For many, managing the financial side of the business is a necessary evil. It’s not where their interest or talent lies, but requires significant time and attention as part of the day-to-day running of the business.

There are plenty of tools available to help SMBs track and manage their cash flow, but there’s still a long way to go before SMBs are truly supported carrying out this activity. SMB owners want services to help them stay on top of their finances, but they haven’t found them yet. This creates an exciting opportunity for financial services providers to give them what they need.

How we drew up the canvas

Current state

The current state for this job focuses on the pain involved with manually managing a complex financial ecosystem. Business owners are having to deal with a whole bunch of different variables that are constantly changing, and if they get it wrong it could make or break their business.

Contextual triggers

A change in circumstances, such as a new product launch, change of supplier or increase in customers, can force businesses to reassess their cash management processes and take a more organised approach to their finances.

Barriers to behavioural change

Inertia is a major barrier to getting this job done. Often, as the business has evolved over time, owners have developed complex processes to manage their finances on multiple platforms. The fear of trying something new when the stakes are so high can make change seem impossible.

Desired state

SMB owners want to feel in control of their finances. The goal is to get to a point where they are spending as few hours as possible managing money, and more time actually running their business.

You can download our canvas pack here.

How the job is evolving

The COVID-19 pandemic has left many SMBs in a precarious cash position — unable to make payroll, rent payments or cover bills due to a lack of income. Tracking and managing cash flow in a coherent way, an important JTBD before COVID-19, is therefore now more critical than ever for SMB owners in order to keep their businesses afloat.

Hear from a US SMB owner, Vivian Chan, Co-founder of East Meets Dress, about their cash flow experience post-Covid:

Cash flow management was particularly important for businesses seeking US government relief loans, such as those offered under the Paycheck Protection Programme (PPP), as they had to provide accurate bookkeeping records in order to qualify for support.

Digital service providers, such as Square and Kabbage, were quick off the mark to provide innovative, instant cash flow solutions for businesses, from gift cards to grants. But this isn’t going to be enough to solve the problem for SMBs. As government relief dries up and bills demand repayment, SMBs will be looking for solutions to help them regain control of their cash flow.

In the next normal, the lack of financial services that truly meet the cash flow management needs of SMBs will become more apparent. Those financial providers that respond quickly to fill these gaps in the market will be well positioned to grow their business by attracting new and underserved SMB customers.

More in this series:

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