Understanding Business Cash Flow
The term ' cash flow ' is widely used and somewhat widely misinterpreted
. Its a specialized term in business and has often confusing definitions. The most pure form is the cash flow statement for any firm. At its simplest its a ' cash in' and ' cash out' analysis. Key to this analysis though is the timing of the receipt of funds. Any good business cash flow statement or projection will show projected inflows and outflows over a period of time - usually annually.
We mentioned wide misinterpretation. That is because it is often confused with other accounting terms such as 'profits ', ' income ', and 'revenue'. Naturally real cash is the life blood of an business. We don't pay our bills with ' revenue'!.
So, yes, our firm makes things, we sell them, and eventually we receive payment. During that time we are paying out cash to employees, suppliers, and also waiting to get paid ourselves. We are only able to pay our bills as a business with real cash!
When businesses prepare a cash flow statement they list their monthly expenses, both fixed and estimated, and then focus on anticipating when customers will pay invoices, thereby generating cash. Naturally there has to be some solid work around any assumptions in that whole process - for example:
Are the projected sales going to be realized
Will the payments from those sales be made on time
How much can be drawn out of the business in the meantime
As most business owners who have borrowed already know this type of document is probably the most important one that the bank or finance company wants to see.
Business owners therefore need to properly understand the total ' cash flow cyccle ' That cycle consists of purchasing inventory, booking receivables around the sales that are made, and then collecting hose receivables. Simply right? Not really, the true challenge is in the following: ' TIMING'!
Many textbooks in finance have been written around the mis-timing of the cash flow cycle - where large and once great companies went bankrupt by misunderstanding the subject of our article.
Most lay people find it very difficult to comprehend that a company that is profitable can go bankrupt. As we have discovered that can absolutely happen as financial managers confuse profits from a sale from receipt of cash from a sale. If the cash pipe is ' blocked ' problems will occur!
In summary, any business owners or financial managers understanding of the business cycle and proper cash flow will add value to the success of the business from a financial perspective.
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