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3 C’s for Running a Sustainable Small Business

Among the many hats small business owners wear, one of the most challenging is that of CFO. In a recent Intuit survey, 25% of small business owners listed “paying my bills” as the top concern that keeps them up at night. Additionally, cash flow (33%) and financial planning (24%) were the top two concerns among North American small business owners in Visa’s 2012 Small Business Cash Management Survey[1]. Keeping track of what’s coming in versus what’s going out can easily be managed by remembering the three C’s:

  • Cash flow
  • Control
  • Convenience

Cash Flow

Many small business owners associate poor cash flow with declining sales, yet that isn’t always the case. In fact, fast-growth companies can be especially vulnerable. Maximizing income while keeping expenses under control is vital; accepting and using electronic forms of payment can help. According to Visa’s 2012 Cash Management Survey, 75% of small business owners found electronic payments improved cash management processes – an increase over 2010 when 59% of small business owners recognized the benefits. A few other simple tips to help you manage cash flow include:

  • Monitor Your Finances – Keep accurate records and track your monthly sales.
  • Forecast – Estimate your quarterly expenses and regularly modify projections.
  • Take Quick Corrective Action – If you notice a problem – no matter how small – in your financial analysis, take immediate steps to correct the problem and get back on track.


A critically objective viewpoint is paramount to running a healthy business. Attention to detail and knowledge of your company’s operations are essential. As a small business owner, you need to have control of your environment, but you also need strong control of inventory and spending. Take a look at your monthly expenses and search for cuts that can be made without harming the business. When it comes to growth, exercise caution and add employees slowly. Finally, don’t go overboard on inventory by buying more than you need. This can deprive your company of valuable cash.


Time is money and often in short supply for the entrepreneur wearing multiple hats throughout the day. Small business owners need convenient technology to help boost efficiency. More than 370 million hours are saved by small businesses that use mobile apps to help manage their operations, and another 725 million employee hours are saved annually with the apps, according to a study by the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council.

These three simple “C’s” may seem like common sense, but they can easily be overlooked in the whirlwind of your business day. Keeping a keen eye on cash flow, spending controls and adopting convenient measures are sure ways to stay focused on running a sustainable business.


Disclaimer:  Research and practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal, financial, tax or other advice.  When implementing any new financial strategy or practice, you should consult with your financial advisors. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.

[1] Survey conducted online by in May 2012; n=600 small business owners in the United States and Canada with annual sales less than $25 million.

Janet ZablockHead of Global Small Business, Visa Inc.
Janet directs the development and implementation of the strategic vision for Visa Business products targeted at the SMB segment. Previously, she was Head of Commercial Specialized Sales for Visa Inc. and has also held a variety of other corporate positions at Bank of America and McDonalds Corporation. | @VisaSmallBiz | More from Janet

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Discussion (2) Comment

  1. C James GardinerVisitor

    Commitment…if I can add another “C” in there. Small businesses do not realize how important cash in their business until it’s too late. You have to watch cash flow like a hawk and treat it as if your business depends on it…because it really does.

  2. virendra singhVisitor

    What do you see as the root cause of failures to institute continuous improvement? How have you seen workers overcome their fear of work changes?


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