We all want better business cash flow and we want it yesterday. You can’t plan for emergencies, geopolitics, or sudden problems that you have no control over. But you can mitigate risks of business cash flow problems by having the right tools at your side. Business cash flow planning can get you out of a jam and save your company. Take a look at our ultimate guide to business cash flow planning highlighting:
What is business cash flow planning?
Why is business cash flow planning important?
What are the three types of cash flows?
What are some business cash flow planning terms I need to know?
What are the different types of business cash flow planning methods?
What is the future of business cash flow planning?
How can I employ business cash flow planning at my company?
Who can help me with business cash flow planning?
What is Business Cash Flow Planning?
Business cash flow planning, also called cash flow management, occurs when you track how much money is coming in and out of your company at any given time.
The overall goal of business cash flow planning is to be able to predict how much money your company will have at some point in the future, so you can cover expenses and debts like payroll, purchase orders, rent/lease payments, and utilities.
Business cash flow indicates the changes in how much money your business has from one point to another. Cash flow planning keeps track of these figures, allows you to analyze them, and spot trends.
These trends are what you need to know for business cash flow planning, which gives you the ability to prepare ahead of time for any issues or problems.
For example, your business runs on a monthly invoicing method of receiving payments. At the beginning of the month, you record in your bank account that you have $175,000 cash on hand. You already know that you have regular monthly overhead that doesn’t change of about $95,500, including rent, software fees, payroll, and utilities.
You generally have purchase orders that come in from customers that total around $65,000. But this month was an increase of $15,000 more.
That will mean your cash flow, before the end of the following month, will be $500 in the red. That’s a good thing because you picked up $15,000 more in business. But you may have to juggle things or try to get some of those orders done sooner so you can have enough money in the bank instead of a negative balance.
Why is Business Cash Flow Planning Important?
Business cash flow planning or management lets you make sure your business has enough money to maintain its operations.
If you continually have too much money on hand and your business hasn’t grown in a while, you might use business cash flow planning to determine you should invest more money in marketing, a new product line, more sales staff, or on acquiring a competitor.
If you are continually juggling finances to make sure you keep enough money in the bank, your profit margins may be too slim. To solve this cash flow problem, you may have to raise prices, let go of some staff, find investors, or better optimize your cash flow management.
What Are The Three Types of Cash Flows?
You will hear about three different types of cash flows as you try to get a handle on business cash flow planning. Each one has distinct advantages and disadvantages.
Cash Flows from Operations
Cash flows from operations (CFO), also known as operating cash flows, entails cash flows that occur directly from the normal course of your business, such as when you sell goods or services. And also operating expenses such as payroll.
CFO is an excellent barometer of whether or not your firm has enough incoming funds to pay bills and operating expenses in any given month. There must be positive cash flow for a company to maintain its viability over the long term. Some months can’t be helped, like if you get a huge order (which is great). But for the most part, you want to have enough cash coming in to meet or exceed expenses by the end of the month.
Operating cash flow gives you an idea if you can afford capital improvements or expansions, particularly if you need to invest in more labor, machinery, or software. It can also lead you to the conclusion that you may need extra financing to expand.
CFO is also a useful metric when you want to segregate sales from cash received due to normal operations.
For instance, you just generated a huge sale from a new client. It boosts revenue and earnings. Additional revenue, however, doesn’t necessarily improve cash flow until you collect payments from the customer/client.
How to Calculate Operating Cash Flow
You can calculate CFO fairly simply using accounting or budget/planning software. Take the cash received from sales or invoices during the month and then subtract the operating expenses you paid over the same month.
You record the operating cash flow on a cash flow statement, which you may need when making reports to investors. Publicly traded companies are required to give cash flow statements every quarter and then annually after the fourth quarter in the United States for example.
Cash Flows From Investing
Cash flow from investing (CFI), also called investing cash flow, highlights the cash your company generated from investment-related activities.
Investment-related activities include:
Buying speculative assets, such as land, foreign currency, commodities, or precious metals.
Investing in securities, which include stocks, bonds, or stock options.
Selling securities or assets, such as land your company owns, machinery you no longer need, or being acquired by another company.
Negative investment cash flow might occur due to investments in the long-term growth of your company, like research and development (R&D). This is not always a good thing to do because your research and development needs to pay off at some point.
Cash Flows From Financing
Cash flows from financing (CFF), otherwise known as financing cash flows, highlight the net flows of business cash coming from funding sources that you generally pay with interest.
Financing activities for your company include issuing debt that people can buy, equity, and paying dividends to investors.
Cash flow from financing gives your investors or potential investors insights into your firm’s financial strength and capital structure.
What Are Some Business Cash Flow Planning Terms I Need to Know?
You will need to understand several business cash flow planning terms so you can get a feel for the process and what it takes. Knowing these terms can help you dive into further research or have conversations with a financial planner.
Accounts Payable (AP)
Accounts payable represents the money your business owes to your vendors, service providers, or tax entities. This stems from a contractual business relationship where someone delivers goods or services to you, and you pay them upon receipt of those goods or services. Under your contract terms, you will pay the vendor shortly after you receive what you ordered.
This is essentially what you owe to other businesses. Paying for these goods and services technically weakens your business cash flow, which is why some businesses pay accounts payable late so they have a better cash flow outlook during any given month.
Accounts Receivable (AR)
The opposite of accounts payable, this is the money that your customers owe you after you produce goods or services.
For example, you might produce 10,000 stem bolts for a client in two weeks, and then it takes another week for the batch to arrive at the customer’s destination. Your customer pays you for the stem bolts once they receive them and verify it meets the standards of the purchase order they place.
Accrual Basis of Accounting
The accrual basis of accounting measures the financial position and performance of your business by understanding economic events regardless of when cash transactions occur.
You match revenues to expenses at the time during which the transaction occurs as opposed to when cash payments/transactions are made (or received). This method shows how current cash inflows and outflows are combined with future expected cash inflows and outflows to give a more accurate picture of a company’s current financial condition.
Aged Debt, Aged Debtors & The Aged Debtors Report
Aged debt represents overdue money you pay back based on the agreed payback period, which is commonly 14 days, 30 days, 60 days, or as much as 90 days.
Aged debtors are the ones responsible for paying this type of debt.
You’ll find an aged debtors report in formal accounting circles, and it lists your aged debtors and their aged debt. The report usually groups aged debt by how overdue it is, like less than 30 days overdue, 31 to 60 days overdue, and 61 to 90 days overdue.
Your fixed assets are long-term tangible pieces of property that you own and use in the production of your company’s income. It’s not expected to be converted to cash any sooner than one year.
Fixed assets include land, corporate offices, or brand-new machinery or vehicles.
Also called written-off debt, bad debt is money that you owe to a business or a customer owes to you that either party is unable to pay. Usually, bad debts are written off by a business as a tax deduction.
Think of a balance sheet as a financial statement that summarizes your company’s assets, liabilities and equity in shareholders at a given point in time.
Balance sheets, usually generated quarterly for reporting, give investors ideas as to what your business owns and owes as well as the amount invested in the company that belongs to stockholders and shareholders.
For example, your balance sheet may look like $5 million in assets, $2 million in liabilities, and $2 million in stock sold, which would give you $1 million in profits or liquid capital.
Bank reconciliation compares your company’s accounting records to what official bank statements say to ensure they match. When an accountant or report notices a difference in these numbers, it may indicate fraud or a need to update your accounting records
Ideally, you should reconcile your bank account daily, but usually this happens monthly in terms of reporting.
This is a computerized tool that enables the payment processing for companies.
For example, billing software will generate quotes, invoices, and contracts automatically, while also sending out notices to customers at specified timeframes.
You may hear billing software referred to as invoicing software. You’ll find this functionality in your accounting software typically.
You’ll hear the phrase bottom line a lot in cash flow planning.
It’s the net income for your company, and the term stems from the layout of an income statement because the bottom line is where you see the net income calculation.
Burn rate indicates the rate at which a newer company utilizes its venture capital as overhead before generating its own positive cash flow from operations. It’s a measure of negative cash flow.
Calculate the burn rate thusly:
(Starting Balance – Ending Balance) / # Months = Burn Rate
$1.6 million – $1.1 million / 5 months = $100,000/month
Business agility measures your company’s ability to make decisions followed by quick action, particularly if the decisions involve money transfers.
Poor cash flow can prevent your company from being agile, which can hinder your opportunities to make investments, buy a competitor, or avoid risks.
Capital refers to your company’s financial resources available for use.
It could be the financial value of assets, such as $100,000 piece of equipment, or real estate such as a $3 million factory. It might also mean cash, human capital (employees) and even invoices.
Cash Conversion Cycle
Your cash conversion cycle showcases how your company’s dollars are invested in materials, resources, and other items.
For example, you can sell raw materials or products to generate cash, such as making bread and selling it every day.
Short conversion cycles mean you put cash back into your company in short amount of time, like a day or a week. Long conversion cycles may take months or even years, such as when inventory remains unsold and the company stores it for a long period of time.
Cash Flow Forecast
Your cash flow forecast, the ultimate goal of cash flow planning, represents cash flow for your company in a given future time period, usually 12 months.
It outlines your company’s financial planning and notes potential problems, such as seasonal ebbs and flows or an older piece of equipment coming offline, so that your business can take action to mitigate the problems.
You have several ways to forecast your cash flow, which benefits your business so you can be ready for difficulties ahead when they actually happen.
Cash Flow Position
Your cash flow position, or a cash position, simply measures how much money your company has at a particular point in time.
It can measure highly liquid assets, such as food products you sell at a restaurant or inventory you sell online, in addition to having money in the bank.
Having a positive cash flow position is good. However, a very high cash flow position might mean you’re not investing enough money to grow the business.
Cash Flow Projection
A breakdown of the money you expect to come in and out of your business. It includes projected income from sales, contracts, and invoices paid as well as expenses you intend to pay.
Cash Flow Statement
Your cash flow statement (CFS), also known as a cash flow report, indicates how much money you have available to run your company, how much cash moves in and out of the business, where the cash comes from, where it’s going to, and when the cash moves.
Cash flow statements form the basis for cash flow planning because they allow you to think ahead as a business owner. You can pinpoint what time of month or year your company generates more cash or less cash, to give you an idea of when to make smart, long-term decisions to mitigate ebbs and flows.
Cash on Hand
Money immediately available for your company to spend as needed.
Generally, it’s the money in your bank account.
Credit control is when you ensure a customer pays the funds they owe your company.
You’ll see this term used alongside accounts receivable, debtor management, and debtor tracking.
You can send reminders via email or phone call to get customers to pay you, or take other measures if they don’t respond.
Your credit limit represents the maximum amount of goods or services your business will give to a customer (or a business gives to you) before someone needs to make a payment. Credit limits are usually set in writing when contracts are drawn up. It allows a business to control the risk of not being paid on time or at all.
Also known as payment terms, credit terms lay out the rules and groundwork between a business and customers that outline specifically when payments must be made.
Credit terms are usually in increments of months, such as 30, 60, or 90 days following the delivery of goods or services.
However, business and customers can agree on any payment terms as they see fit.
Current assets are listed on a balance sheet, and they include cash, accounts receivable, inventory, securities, liquid assets you can turn into cash quickly, and prepaid expenses you can get refunds for if needed.
On a balance sheet, you can typically list assets that can be converted to cash within one year’s time.
Current liabilities include your company debts or obligations due within a year from now as shown on your balance sheet.
Current liabilities include short-term debt, accounts payable, accrued liabilities, and more debts that you can pay off within a year.
This is the amount you borrowed from a lender or investor that your company still owes, which is separate from interest.
Typical loan terms agree that the beginning of the loan front-loads higher interest payments versus principal payments to ensure creditors can recoup more of their money should your company default on the debt.
Depreciation is an income tax deduction you can take as part of business expenses. It covers the cost of owning certain property to allow for wear and tear, deterioration, or having something become obsolete.
The IRS usually sets depreciation rates every year.
Things that depreciate are vehicles, farm equipment, heavy equipment, factory equipment, computers, mobile devices, and anything that has moving parts that needs regular maintenance.
Equity represents stock or other security as part interest in ownership.
On your company’s balance sheet, equity is shown as the amount of cash or funds contributed to your company’s cash flow by stockholders or investors, plus any retained earnings or losses in the course of business.
Your company’s fixed cost does not change over time, even with an increase or decrease in the amount of goods or services you produce.
Fixed costs are expenses your company must pay independent of business activity, and it’s one of the two components of the total cost of a good or service along with variable cost.
Examples include labor, utilities, rent, insurance, and debt payments that go into the fixed costs when determining prices.
Gross profit represents your company’s revenue minus the costs.
Also known as residual profit, it’s calculated after selling products or services and deducting the costs associated with producing them, marketing them, and selling them.
Also known as a profit and loss statement or statement of revenue and expense, this is a financial statement measuring your company’s financial performance over a month, quarter, or year.
Income statements give a summary of how your business incurs revenue and expenses through operations and non-operational activities.
Interest is a fee paid, listed as a percentage or a dollars-and-cents amount, for using or borrowing another party’s money.
If your company is the borrower, you pay interest for a loan. If you’re a lender, you receive interest as income.
Typically, more interest is paid at the beginning of loan periods instead of the end. Interest rates may be higher based on creditworthiness.
Your company’s invoices are commercial, legally binding documents that itemize transactions between a buyer and seller.
Invoices have standard information, such as:
How many items purchased
Price for the items or services
Any sales tax
Any extra notes
Invoices may also state any credit terms if the goods or services were purchased on credit by specifying when payments will be made, by whom and with what method of payment.
An invoice is also called a bill, statement, or sales invoice.
Liquidity measures the degree by which an asset or security can be bought quickly if it is to be sold without affecting the asset’s overall price.
Liquidity is high if there is a lot of market activity, such as when higher-than-normal amounts of stocks are bought and sold. Liquidity is low when the opposite is true.
Assets that your company can easily buy or sell are called liquid assets.
Think of a liquid asset as something you can convert to cash quickly. It’s also called marketability, and it’s measured by using liquidity ratios.
Net profit represents your company’s bottom line.
It shows how much your business makes on sales after expenses, interest, costs, and taxes.
Ratio of Cash Flow
Also known as the operating cash flow ratio, this number measures the number of times your company can pay off its current debts with the cash your business can generate within that specific time period.
A higher number above 1 is good in this case. It means you can pay off your short-term debts multiple times because your business generated more cash in a period than your liabilities.
For example, a cash flow ratio of 1.5 in one month means you can pay off 1.5 times your current liabilities in a month. If your current liabilities are $5,000, you can afford to pay off $7,500 of those liabilities with the cash you generate in that month.
A variable cost represents corporate expenses that vary with production output.
As the name implies, these costs fluctuate depending on your company’s production volume.
Variable costs go up as production increases and go down as production decreases.
Variable costs can be things that change, such as the cost of raw materials, logistics, and labor (particularly overtime or hiring new people).
Your fixed costs plus variable costs equal total costs when shown on a balance sheet.
A vendor is a party, business, or company in the supply chain that sells goods or services to another business, company, or party.
This term describes an entity that someone pays to perform a service or deliver a good. For example, your company buys raw materials from a vendor so you can make your air conditioning motors.
A vendor can operate both as the supplier of goods (seller) and a manufacturer because they would obtain raw materials from a vendor further down the supply chain while selling products on the other end of the supply chain.
What are the different types of business cash flow planning methods?
There are two types of business cash flow planning methods.
Direct Method of Cash Flow
The direct method of cash flow planning and reporting indicates when you list the actual cash inflows and outflows (income and expenses) your business made during a month, quarter, or year.
This is a common choice for smaller companies.
Indirect Method of Cash Flow
The indirect method of cash flow planning and reporting utilizes ebbs and flows, increases and decreases, in the line times of a balance sheet. It converts the accrual method of accounting to the cash method of accounting for easier number crunching on a cash flow statement.
This method is commonly used by large companies.
What is the future of business cash flow planning?
With the increasing global economic uncertainty and volatility, there is a growing trend in the usage of business budgeting and planning software solutions that provide valuable insight beyond what the primary accounting and ERP systems provide.
Who can help me with business cash flow planning?
insightsoftware has several solutions for you that help your company budget for the future and analyze your finances to come up with a solid plan customized to your company’s situation.