It is way more than important. Its absolutely and undeniably the most essential part of building a successful business. It sounds a bit cliche, but worth repeating, over and over again, because it seems many don’t get it the first, second, third time: Cash is the “life blood” that keeps a business operating. Cash flow analysis is not rocket science (well some of it is), but most of the time I find that businesses just don’t spend the time to deal with this. If cash drys up, the business fails. OK, you know that. You’ve probably experienced dried up cash multiple times. What are you going to do about it in 2009?
I am telling business owners to put professional development money into their 2009 budget. Part of that should be related to managing finances better. I am also telling business owners to put the right amount of money in their budgets to take their accounting and financial infrastructure and capabilities to the next level in 2009. I tell them to move the needle of financial sophistication in your company to help you be more successful and keep more cash. If they don’t want to, I tell them they better brush up their resume.
Its not self-serving, its about their business. Everywhere I read or hear, they are talking about invest in your company now, invest in your house now (same concepts, really). 2009 with the current economic climate is the time to get your house in order, so to speak. Find a competent advisor you can trust, just do it early this year so you can look back at 2009 and say, “I’m sure glad I did that”.
Failure to properly plan cash flow is a leading causes of small business failure. Many CEOs call me when their problems are so great it takes more time and money to dig out of crisis mode. Without fail, every new client I help says, “I sure wish I would have had you on board a year ago.” or something like that. But this is not about me.
Below I help you see a little about the basics you can use to help you manage your cash flow. Cash flow management issues are calling your name. Listen to them. Don’t let them win by keeping you awake at night or having them cause your business to fail.
Your business’ monetary supply can exist either as cash on hand or in a business checking account available to meet expenses. A sufficient cash flow covers your business by meeting obligations (i.e., paying bills), serving as a cushion in case of emergencies, and providing investment capital.
The Operating Cycle
The operating cycle is the system through which cash flows, from the purchase of inventory through the collection of accounts receivable. It measures the flow of assets into cash.
For example, your operating cycle may begin with both cash and inventory on hand. Typically, additional inventory is purchased on account to guarantee that you will not deplete your stock as sales are made. Your sales will consist of cash sales and accounts receivable credit sales, usually paid 30 days after the original purchase date.
This applies to both the inventory you purchase and the products you sell. When you make payment for inventory, both cash and accounts payable are reduced. Thirty days after the sale of your inventory, receivables are usually collected, increasing your cash. Now your cash has completed its flow through the operating cycle, and the process is ready to begin again.
Cash and other balance-sheet items that convert into cash within 12 months are referred to as current assets. Typical current assets include cash, marketable securities, receivables and prepaid expenses.
Cash-flow analysis should show whether your daily operations generate enough cash to meet your obligations, and how major outflows of cash to pay your obligations relate to major inflows of cash from sales. As a result, you can tell if inflows and outflows from your operation combine to result in a positive cash flow or in a net drain. Any significant changes over time will also appear. Understanding this will lead to better control of your cash flows and will allow adequate time to plan and prepare for the growth of your business.
It is best to have enough cash on hand each month to pay the cash obligations of the following month. A monthly cash-flow projection helps to identify and eliminate deficiencies or surpluses in cash and to compare actual figures to past months. When cash-flow deficiencies are found, business financial plans must be altered to provide more cash. When excess cash is revealed, it might indicate excessive borrowing or idle money that could be invested. The objective is to develop a plan that will provide a well-balanced cash flow.
Planning a Positive Cash Flow
Your business can increase cash reserves in a number of ways.
Collecting receivables: Actively manage accounts receivable and quickly collect overdue accounts. You stand to lose revenues if your collection policies are not aggressive. The longer your customer’s balance remains unpaid, the less likely it is that you will receive full payment.
Tightening credit requirements: As credit and terms become more stringent, more customers must pay cash for their purchases, thereby increasing the cash on hand and reducing the bad-debt expense. While tightening credit is helpful in the short run, it may not be advantageous in the long run. Looser credit allows more customers the opportunity to purchase your products or services. You should measure, however, any consequent increase in sales against a possible increase in bad-debt expenses.
Taking out short-term loans: Loans, lines, lending from various financial institutions or investors are often necessary for covering short-term cash-flow problems. Revolving credit lines, equity loans, notes are types of credit used in this situation.
Increasing your sales: This seems so obvious I almost left it out. Just that Increased sales would appear to increase cash flow. However, the opposite is almost always true. if large portions of your sales are made on credit, when sales increase, your accounts receivable increase, not your cash. Meanwhile, inventory is depleted and must be replaced. Because receivables usually will not be collected until 30 days after sales, a substantial increase in sales can quickly deplete your firm’s cash reserves.